or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I Dunno

Reader Frank writes about yesterday's discussion of a lot of words:

I thought the "pagus" derivation of pagan had been declared dubious by recent scholarship.

Could be. I don't read all the journals. In fact, I don't read any of the journals.

Bartleby says that "pagan" comes from "pagus", for the reasons I noted yesterday; Robert Claiborne's "The Roots of English" concurs, and adds that

paganus, countryman, hence civilian, [gives us] pagan (a "civilian" not in the army of Christ).

The OED says:

The explanation of L. paganus in the sense "non-Christian, heathen" as arising out of that of "villager, rustic" (supposedly indicating the fact that the ancient idolatry lingered on in the rural villages and hamlets after Christianity had been generally accepted in the towns and cities of the Roman Empire...) has been shown to be chronologically and historically untenable, for this use of the word goes back to Tertullian c 202, when paganism was still the public and dominant religion, and even appears, according to Lanciani, in an epitaph of the 2nd cent.

In a 1977 article, this author mentions three ideas about the meaning of the word:

1) "Paganus" meant, in classical Latin, "villager" and therefore "hick".
2) "Paganus" meant, as Claiborne says, "civilian" as opposed to "a member of the Army of Christ".
3) "Paganus" simply meant "outsider", with no pejorative connotations.

His own theory; that "paganus" was originally a sort of sophisticated pun, as in 2, but as time went by and the repression of paganism by the spread of Christianity increased, the word took on an increasingly hostile sense; someone who dared worship the false gods of the old religion.

But that was written in 1977. Am I missing something newer?


Just down the street from me there's a big building that's part Masonic lodge and part private club, as far as I know. Could be anything. A lot of people in evening dress go in from time to time through the side door, on which are stenciled the oddly capitalized words

   If          here for the
  Downstairs meeting,
        Please Ring
           the Bell

There's a gap between "If" and "here". It almost looks as if a word had been put there and later scraped away. I wonder what it could have been.

"Your", maybe?


After work this evening, I didn't feel like cooking, or doing much of anything, so we ate at the Dairy Queen nearby before catching the bus home. Here's what was written on the placemats:

® DQ and the ellipse shaped logo are trademarks of Am. D.Q. Corp.

"Ellipse shaped" should of course be "ellipse-shaped", but that's not what grabbed me and made me think, "Oh, no, you don't!" In case you're not quite as dissolute as we where fast food is concerned and have never seen the Dairy Queen logo, it looks like this:

On the left is the old logo. On the right is the new, improved version.

Neither of these is an ellipse.

An ellipse is a conic section: it's a curve. It doesn't have any pointy bits. The DQ logo does. If it isn't an ellipse, then what is it? It's not an ellipsoid, not a hyperboloid, not even a prolate spheroid: I checked. There's probably a name for the actual shape of the DQ logo, though I don't know what it is, but every imaginable geometric shape seems to have a name; I can't imagine why this wouldn't, either.


Blogger Frank said...

"But that was written in 1977. Am I missing something newer?"

No. Or, rather, I don't know, because I don't read the journals either. I was thinking of the OED thing; I've seen it before on other blogs.

Sunday, May 04, 2008 3:14:00 AM  

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