or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, September 07, 2009

Simulated Knowledge

You want to know why I post so infrequently these days? It isn't the summer heat (this morning it was 5 degrees, which means fall is coming! Yay!), it isn't lack of things to talk about, it isn't even mere indolence. It's The Sims 3, which is an evil, evil game. It sucks up your life as you control one or more little proxy characters, running their lives, making sure they're fed and rested and have all the necessities of life--in other words, you're living a life vicariously through them, and that is wrong. But you can't stop playing! There's always one more hoop to jump through, one more job promotion, one more opportunity to fulfill, one more thing.

The game isn't perfect, though. Could have used one more perusal by the editor's gimlet eye. Here's a screen capture. (As always, you may click on the images to make them bigger and more readable.)

This is Gerry Silverstein. Vice cop, ace fisherman, award-winning cook, devoted husband, best-selling novelist, athlete, painter, all-around mensch. If he were a grammar cop, he would have busted some programmer for not having installed one single line of code so that "an" would be inserted in front of words that begin with a vowel instead of "a", and we wouldn't have things like "a Outstanding Vampire Fish".* (The program does the same when he catches "a Excellent Red Herring" or whatnot.)

And what have we here?

Gerry's compiling dossiers on suspicious town residents. Apparently they have something called "pasttimes", which isn't a programming error: it's just a plain old mistake.

The word "pastime", as it is correctly spelled, has, as should be evident, nothing to do with the past, making "pasttime" wrong and in fact impossible. A pastime is something that passes the time: we took the word as a calque** from French "passe-temps", turning into "passe tyme", then "passetyme" and eventually into the modern form.

Henry the Eighth wrote a song called "Passetyme with Gude Companye", and yes, he did write tunes. Of course he did; in the Renaissance, every educated person was expected to be conversant with a host of languages, skills, and art forms. Why do you think we have the term "Renaissance man"?

God, I hope Kate Beaton doesn't mind my posting her cartoons all the time but she is so completely awesome and genius, my absolute favourite online cartoonist.
* See the statue of the jaunty fellow with the gardening implement? Yeah, Gerry is fishing in the graveyard. Best place to catch Vampire Fish and Deathfish, doncha know. Sorry about the general darkness of the picture, but it is nighttime.

** A calque is the adoption of a word or phrase from one language into another by breaking the expression into its component pieces and literally translating them. English "honeymoon" was absorbed into French as "lune de miel", literally "honey moon" or "moon of honey". The English expression refers to the sweet first month of a marriage, "month" and "moon" being related in various and obvious ways.


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