or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, December 26, 2008


And did Santa bring you everything you wanted?


Here's one of the things I'm bringing you: a good laugh! I am fairly sure I read this book

as a child, but not this version of it, which describes the internal operation of computers thus:

An instruction is fetched from the store by a bee and kept temporarily in a register while the kitten warms up....When the kitten is ready, the Encyclopedia Britannica is first consulted, then Wikipedia. If the answer is not obtained, the kitten hands control of the operation to the puppy, which then consults Google.

So go read it.


Here's the text on something I saw at work the other night, a package of scents for home-made soap:

This set of concentrated essential oils is specifically formulated to mix with and compliment each other.

A lot of people seem to have trouble with "compliment" and "complement", but they're not the same thing, and they haven't been for three hundred and fifty years.

"Compliment" as a verb means "to praise or congratulate". That's pretty much the only thing it means. The verb "complement", on the other hand, means "to bring to completion: to join with to make a whole", and once again, that's pretty much the only thing it means.

Both are originally from Latin "complere", "to fill up". "Complement", originally meaning "that which completes", is a direct steal by English from early fifteenth-century Old French, which in turn took it from the Latin word "complementum", with the same meaning. "Compliment", on the other hand, is from late sixteenth-century Italian "complimento" (note the different vowel), which meant "an expression of respect", derived from an older sense of completeness: "to complete or fulfill the obligations of civility." By the middle of the seventeenth century in English, the two words had gone their separate ways, with their different spellings, and they have been separate ever since.

There is no shame in having trouble distinguishing between two words. However, such mistakes are not supposed to make it into print, certainly not in packaging and advertising: this is why there used to be proofreaders and copy-editors, and why there still should be, since a spell-checker can't tell the difference.

If it helps to sort them out in your mind, you can think of "complement" as "complete-ment".


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