or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Opposition Speaks

Almost exactly a year ago I was snarling about the lousy faux Italian on a sub-shop sign. Today, someone left a comment on it, and since I have all comments e-mailed to me, I got to read it:

dude, you are a tool. get a life. nobody gives a shit about what you think. i cant believe this page came up when i typed in "pane di toasty"

I may well be a tool, but what do you call someone who from the comfortable seclusion of anonymity insults someone whom it would have been just as easy--easier--to ignore, someone who is only trying to increase the amount of accurate information in the world?

WikiAnswers says that the term "douchebag" "implies a variety of negative qualities, specifically arrogance and malice." Arrogance? Check. Malice? Check. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a douchebag.


I suppose I ought to be ashamed to admit that after having seen this video for a song called "Fireflies" by a person who performs under the name Owl City, and discovering that the song was stuck in my head, I actually bought the entire album, but I did.

You have to have a fairly high tolerance for adorableness, but there are some pretty good songs on the album ("Umbrella Beach" is preposterously catchy electropop). Some of it's pretty twee: "Dental Care" is just what you think it is*, and it contains the lines

I've been to the dentist
A thousand times, so I know the drill

Now, that's just too cute for words, but it does raise an interesting question: how does the "drill" in "know the drill" relate to a dentist's drill?

I was thinking about this while waiting at the bus stop, and here's what I came up with on my own: the mechanical drill came first, then the metaphorical sense of drilling a piece of information into someone's head; the military drill came after, because such a drill consists of actions repeated over and over until they become second nature, and then finally the idiom "to know the drill"--to have memorized any fixed set of actions. (There is a kind of monkey called a drill, which has a relative of which you will have heard called the mandrill: I was fairly sure these were unrelated.)

Drill-the-mechanical-borer did come first; there was never any doubt about that. Military drilling, though, is nearly as old, which is a surprise. The Online Etymology Dictionary says that it isn't related to the fairly obvious metaphorical notion of drilling an idea into someone's head, but instead comes from the repeated turns that soldiers make in a drill. The OED, I am sad to say, supports this, although it does qualify it with a "Prob." Still, I was probably wrong. But it wasn't for lack of trying.

*This made me think of two things: the band Shonen Knife, which has performed songs entitled "Cycling is Fun", "Mayonnaise Addiction", and "Cookie Day"**, and Solyman Brown, "The Poet Laureate of Dentistry", who in 1834 published a long poem entitled "Dentologia", and I would bet you good money that this is the first time the names Shonen Knife and Solyman Brown have ever been mentioned in the same sentence.

** Looking over the names of Shonen Knife songs made me think in turn of the episode of Mission Hill in which Jim goes to Japan and brings back such cultural oddities as Fun Fun Umbrella Juice and Anus Bar.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe your website was read by a member of Jersey Shore!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010 3:00:00 PM  

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