or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Peep Show

Just look at this headline in the Brattleboro (Vermont) Reformer:

Woodstock revisisted

No proofreaders in Brattleboro, apparently.

It was a long, tough day and I don't even have it in me to be properly sarcastic. What's the world coming to?

Here's something to cheer me up, though: a very amusing blog called Cake Wrecks, the kind of thing I wish I could write. It is, as the name suggests, a blog containing pictures of badly decorated cakes, such as this entry, which depicts and discusses an architecturally fascinating wedding cake based on a plane wreck (and there's a clause that has probably never occurred before in human history), containing, alas, this sentence:

Check out the details, folks: from the crashed plane and face-down henchman (my favorite) to the bad guy scaling the back and the bullet holes peppering the second tier, this is one detailed Bond diarama.

Oh, that last word.

One might think it ought to be "diarama", since "dia-", meaning "through", "thoroughly", or "apart", is very common in Greek borrowings into English and compounded words such as "diathermy" and "diagnosis". "Diorama" does indeed contain this prefix: it's a French word modeled on "panorama" and compounded of "dia-", "through", and Greek "orama", "view", from the verb "horan", "to look, to see". Since "diaorama" is not really possible in English, it had to lose one vowel or the other, and as it happens, it lost the "-a-".

The original dioramas, in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, were theatres whose scenery consisted of paintings on fabric, with transparent areas: other scenic elements would be projected onto these transparencies (that's the "through" sense of "dia-"), giving the illusion of a changing and very realistic scene from life. The current sense of the word, that of a three-dimensional reproduction of a scene, came eighty years later.


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