or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, November 17, 2008


Today I was sitting on the bus and musing about this very blog, since by my calculations, it had been four days since my last posting, today being the fifth, and while I wasn't feeling guilty about it, exactly, I was feeling a little bad, because a blog feels like an obligation, even if there isn't anyone reading it (which suggests a modern version of that tree-falling-in-the-woods koan), and I am all about obligation.

Not even a minute later, a guy got on the bus, this tough little wiry old dude of maybe sixty, and what popped into my head was that the word that used to be used to describe someone like him is "banty". And then, of course, I began to wonder where that might have come from.

It was almost immediately obvious that it had to be a shortened, nicknamey form of the word "bantam", and that led to the question of where that word might have come from. It clearly wasn't English, and it almost as clearly wasn't from any of the usual suspect languages (Latin, Greek, French, German, Norse). It seemed kind of...islandy, I guess. West Indies? Probably not. Filipino? Yeah, it sounded like it might be Filipino (not that I really know anything about that language).

And I was right, if by "right" we mean "completely wrong". It's actually from Javanese; Bantam is the name of a village in South Indonesia, and in fact was the first Dutch settlement in the East Indies, and the miniature chickens which bear its name may have been brought to Europe from or through this port.

And "bantam", referring to a small (but presumably feisty) chicken, came to refer to a small, feisty, roostery person, and English, never one to skimp on adjectives, bypassed "bantamy" or "bantamish" and went straight to "banty" (which, I am amazed to note, Dictionary.com doesn't even list as a proper English word, though it so obviously is).


Blogger D.J. said...

Just because I'm not posting comments doesn't mean I'm not reading (both this and One Thousand Scents). And I'm sure Frank is around here somewhere, too. Your readership is legion!

In completely unrelated news, infants are exhausting. Um, again.

Monday, November 17, 2008 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger pyramus said...

Yay! Devoted readers!

You have an infant? You also have my congratulations and my sympathy. I don't know if you read Keith Knight's cartoon (it's on Salon every, I think, Wednesday), but he and his wife recently had a baby and he has some hair-raising stories about parental exhaustion, among other things. But most people I know with kids say they wouldn't trade it for anything.

Me, I'm more the uncle type. (The cool uncle, I hope.) The kind who borrows them for the day, buys them food they probably shouldn't have, takes them to movies or whatnot, basically spoils them rotten, and then gets to give them back at the end of it all. I like kids just fine in relatively small doses, but I'm very sure I couldn't live with one on a daily basis for eighteen years.

Monday, November 17, 2008 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

We're reading!

Monday, November 17, 2008 11:34:00 PM  

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