or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, December 31, 2010

A Whale of a Year

You were expecting some kind of end-of-the-year wrap-up? Expect again!

Today we have a word that poses a question that poses further questions and so on into some sort of infinite regress which I eventually managed to put a stop to.

We start with this awesome thing

which is available on craft-market Etsy and, being charming, was featured on Must Have Cute instead of Regretsy, which is where you find Etsy's misconceived, badly executed, or simply misspelled handicrafts, such as a greeting card which reads "Let Is Snow Let Is Snow Let It Snow" (two typos in nine words--very impressive), but which you can no longer see (on Regretsy, anyway) because its creator is humourless, self-important, and highly litigious, such an attractive combination of characteristics. (I wonder if she'll find this and threaten to sue me for slander. I wonder if she understands that being listed on Regretsy actually leads to more sales, even if those sales are to people who are buying the thing to laugh at it rather than simply enjoy its excellence. I wonder if she understands that such distinctions are irrelevant, because sales are sales and money is money.)

Anyway, narwhal. Wouldn't you think it ought to be "narwhale"? Where do you suppose that "-e" went?

It was never there to begin with. "Narwhal" originally a Scandinavian word, "narhvalr", which is a compound of "na", "corpse", and "hvalr", "whale". (The "corpse" part is from the colour of the animal, which is the same dead bleachy white as a human corpse.) Through the process of metathesis, the "-r-" drifted from the end into the middle of the word and turned it into "narhval", which is clearly the source of "narwhal".

Now, when you are looking into the word "whale", you are going to discover that the German word for this is "Wal", and there is no way you can see that and not think of "walrus", am I right? And what exactly might walruses have to do with whales? Nothing, exactly, except that--and this is so great--there was an Old Norse word for a whale, "hrosshvalr", which became in Old English "horschwael", which is so much like "horse-whale" that the Dutch had the very same idea, and since in their tongue "walvis" meant "whale" and "ros" meant "horse", they jammed the words together (in, it must be noted, a folk-etymological way, since horses never actually enter into the equation) into "walrus", which we eventually adopted, as we did with so many of their oceanic and seafaring words.

Now, when you consider that in English the letters "wh-" at the beginning of a word are, if you enunciate, pronounced "hw-", you might assume that there are lots of English words that used to begin with "hv-", and there are, and "whale" is one of them: in Old English it was "hwael"--all the letters there, but scrambled in a way that, fascinatingly, makes no difference whatever in pronunciation. "Hwael" stems ultimately from an ancient Germanic word, "khwalaz", which seems pretty likely to be related to the Latin word "squalus", which was a large fish.

And that is inevitably going to suggest at least one other English word, and for me it conjured up two, the first of which (perversely, since it not the obvious one) was "squalene", which is a fatty biochemical found in, among other places, human sebum, and I could not for the life of me imagine how this might be related to fish, until I learned that it is also found in shark-liver oil, and there's your connection with "squalus", because a shark is a large fish, is it not?

The other word that "squalus" will call to mind is "squalid", and here the etymology is extremely dubious, because there is no obvious connection between "large fish" and "demoralizing filth", except that Latin "squalare" used to mean "to be filthy: to be covered with a rough scaly layer", and that second part would seem to describe a fish pretty well, but who knows?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I'm Telling!

My output for this blog would not be significantly diminished if I just called it "Slate Fuck-Up of the Day".

Here's a sentence from one of Slate's two(!) advice columns:

It's Lisa and Tim who are your old friends here and therefore command your loyalty—not Vincent and Laura (the potential victims)—so I'd leave the tattle-tailing to someone else.

Now, the word "tattle-tale" (or, if you like, "tattletale") means someone who tattles on another by telling tales. Couldn't be more obvious. If you are determined to turn it into a gerund, which is probably not a good idea, then it would be "tattle-taling". Emphatically not "tattle-tailing".

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it, happy holidays (because there certainly are a bunch of them around this time of year) to those who don't. We don't here in my household, but we're happy to have a few days off with good food and plenty of time to relax.

I was brought up in a household where Christmas was Kind Of A Big Deal, To Say The Least, and so naturally I developed an affection for many of the trappings of the holiday, including the music. Here--and there will be a point to this, I promise--is my list of Top Eleven Christmas tunes, in no particular order.

1) "Angels We Have Heard on High," Amy Grant. Too many versions of this carol sound rather begrudging, but whatever Grant's problem in the very highest register, there's no doubt that this song sounds ecstatic, as it ought to. The Roches' a cappella version is a close second.

2) "Carol of the Bells," The Barra McNeils. This Canadian group breathes fresh life into the familiar Ukrainian carol with an exciting Celtic spin (and a misleading time-signature change).

3) "But who may abide the day of His coming," Messiah dir. Nicholas McGegan. Everyone else wants to hear the Hallelujah Chorus or perhaps the joyous "For unto us a child is born," but for my money, this is the highlight of Messiah: countertenor Drew Minter does it right, handling the vertiginous coloratura with aplomb and making the arrival of Jesus sound terrifying.

4) "Home on Christmas Day," Kristin Chenoweth. We've seen her live and she's tiny, but Chenoweth has got a big set of pipes: here she dials back the sheer size (well, somewhat) for an intimate, melancholic song to someone who can't be with her for Christmas. It is radiantly beautiful.

5) "Elf's Lament," Barenaked Ladies with Michael Bublé. Funny, charming, subversive, clever little song from the point of view of Santa's elves.

6) "From a Distance (Christmas version)," Bette Midler. God, I am such a sap, but even this once overplayed song, when reorchestrated and slightly re-worded, with snippets of Christmas carols ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night", ""Angels We Have Heard on High") tucked into it, turns into something lovely.

7) "December Will Be Magic Again," Kate Bush. Not a Christmas song, exactly, but it fits the season perfectly, by turns moody and joyful. When Kate sings "See how I fall....like the snow!" the second time around, you really feel as if December is magic.

8) "The Coventry Carol." I can't even tell you who performs it, but it's from a compilation called "Christmas Kids' Classics" put out by (I'm pretty sure) EMI. You know how it is: these days you rip all your CDs, and eventually you sell them or lend them out, and then you don't have the packaging or the liner notes or anything, and sometimes with an obscurity like this even the Internet isn't much help. I don't see how "The Coventry Carol" is a kids' song at all, because it's all about killing babies and so forth; but this a cappella version, with a fearsome basso line like the voice of doom ("All young children to SLAY", indeed), is morbidly thrilling and very Olde Englysshe.

9) "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," 101 Strings Orchestra. I know--how bourgeois, how grandparents. But someone rewrote the classic Christmas carol as a fugue, of all things, in the style of Weinberger, and it is deliciously unexpected.

10) "Santa Baby," Kylie Minogue. Of course we are all supposed to think Eartha Kitt's version is the best, but I have never heard a better one than this, which perfectly balances sex-kitten cooing and calculated greed. (We will not speak of the ickily Betty Boop-ish Madonna version, ever.)

11) "O Come O Come Emmanuel," Enya. Make fun all you want ("South Park" did), but with her glowing corona of multi-layered vocals, she finds the numinous in an often drab carol.

I see that I have managed to pretty well use up my annual supply of italics. And just in time for the end of the year!

Now, the Latin version of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" (which Enya performs after thoughtfully singing the English version for comparison) contains the word "Gaude", which is Latin for "Rejoice". When you look at the word, it is impossible not to think of the word "gaudy", isn't it? And yet "gaudy" means "showily vulgar and flashy", so far removed from the idea of rejoicing. And yet it is not that hard to see how the word could have evolved a string of meanings that supplemented and finally supplanted the original sense: maybe rejoice -> celebration -> decorations for celebrations -> shiny things -> vulgar shiny things.

Unfortunately, "gaudy" is a bit of an etymological mess. The "rejoice" sense seems clear enough, and Old English "gaudi" once meant a large ornamental rosary-bead (as opposed to the little beads that make up the main part of the rosary, and that once were made of the rose petals, rolled up tightly and dried, that gave the thing its name). But there is another line of evolution which is as follows: rejoice -> be merry -> a jest or trick -> a deception, which would naturally lead us to the sense of "false but made to look genuine", which gaudy things certainly might be--a large glass gemstone, a brass ring plated brightly in gold.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hilarity Ensues

Oh, Jack Chick, you old nut, you.

When you start poking into the source of a word, you never know where it will take you.

I am not exactly sure how the word "haw" came to mind, but it did. I knew it was the nictitating membrane in a cat's eye (so named for an ocular discharge--yuck--and of unknown origin), and of course it can be used to express laughter in print (see above), but that doesn't shine any light on the word which subsequently comes to mind, "hawthorn". Now, to look at it you'd think that it was decomposable into the word "haw" and "thorn", on the assumption that a hawthorn bush is or might be thorny, but such assumptions are not always correct.

In this case, though, they are. "Haw" is an Old English word for "hedge" or "enclosure", and the plant itself is thorny, all right. "Haw" in this sense comes from an ancient Germanic word, "khag", which shows up in a couple of interesting places: because it means "enclosure", it is ultimately the source of The Hague, a city in Holland (which they call Den Haag), and it also wormed its way into English as "hedge", which is delightful.

There are lots of Germans up where my mother lives: in fact, she married one. One of her close friends, who also married someone of Germanic stock, has the surname Hagedorn, which is the German word for hawthorn! And if you look at "khag" and then "Hagedorn" and "hawthorn", you can see the interconnections! Well, maybe you're not as excited as I was to learn that, but I still think it's neat.

And speaking of surnames: Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a story called "Rappaccini's Daughter", the introduction to which refers to a French author named M. de l'Aubepine, author of such works as "Contes deux fois racontées" and "Le Voyage Celeste a Chemin de Fer." Aubepine, as you might perhaps have guessed, is the French name for hawthorn (from Latin "alba spina", "white thorn"), and the works cited are French translations of Hawthorne's own works ("Twice-Told Tales" and "The Celestial Railroad").

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Found and Lost

I don't know about you, but I use Wikipedia all the time, like ten times a day at least, so I figure they've earned some money from me in their current fundraising drive, and so of course I made a donation. I'm not about to try to tell you how to spend your money, but maybe they should get a few of your charitable-donation bucks this holiday season, too. It may be flawed--you can't just take every single thing you read on it with faith, because it is created and edited by fallible human beings--but it still ranks as one of the greatest collaborative efforts in the history of humanity, and I hope it sticks around.


Another website I use kind of a lot is the Online Etymology Dictionary, because I couldn't always be bothered to go look something up in the OED or one of my etymological dictionaries or whatever. Just now I was reading a Slate article on password security and came across the following sentence:

In May, a twentysomething French hacker broke into several Twitter employees' e-mail accounts and stole a trove of meeting notes, strategy documents, and other confidential scribbles.

No, there's nothing wrong with it--a Christmas miracle!--but I briefly misread the word "trove" as "trouve", and then I had that blinding flash of insight: the French verb "trouver", "to find", is the source of English "trove"!

It obviously must be, so I went to the Online Etymology Dictionary to confirm this, and was horrified to read the following sentence:

As this usually meant ancient hordes, the term came to mean "treasure horde" in popular use.

No! No no no no no! "Horde" and "hoard" are not the same thing!

Friday, December 17, 2010

No Way!

It's an iPhone app that instantly translates signage. Just hold the camera up to the sign, and bang--English where there was Spanish before, or vice versa.

I mean, jeez. What's next, hoverbikes?

It's not perfect, but then, no machine translation is; it isn't going to be any good for you if you literally know nothing of the language being translated, because you have to run it through your own internal filter. But it could be really useful for a traveller who knows a little of the language and needs a boost.

It's going to need a lot of polishing before it's as useful as it plainly could be. Once they've accomplished that, and added French and German, that's it--I'm upgrading my two-year-old iPod touch for one with a camera. Because holycow that is amazing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hue and Cry

Here is a sentence from a piece on, yes, Slate.com about iPhone apps for kids:

It's actually a sweet story: The boy hues closely to his sense of justice and has a lot of fun putting out fires with the fire truck.

All I could think was, "You have got to be fucking kidding me. Is it even possible that an adult, and a presumably professional writer, doesn't know the difference between 'hue' and 'hew'?"

Well, apparently it is, because there's the proof, right there, along with proof, yet again, that no piece of writing is ever checked by another human before publication on Slate.

Both versions of "hue" in English are extremely old. "Hue", as in "colour", is from an Old English word, "hiw", which meant such things as "colour" and "beauty" and likely originated as a Sanskrit word, "chawi", with similar meanings. The "hue" of "hue and cry" is an old French word that meant "war cry" or "hunting cry", which makes "hue and cry" seem a little redundant, but there you go, that's language for you.

The word that Slate writer Michael Agger intended to use, "hew", is something else altogether. It may be familiar from the phrase "hewers of wood and drawers of water," a Biblical reference that was also once widely applied to Canadians, and it is also an Old English word, "heawan", "to hack or gash", which seems pretty clear. But the idiomatic verb form "to hew to" is, as so many modal verbs are, obscure, until you learn that when you hew to a line, you are cutting by following a straight line marked on a piece of wood, and any metaphorical sense--such as hewing to a sense of justice--is clear and obvious.

Maybe the writer didn't know the difference, or maybe he did and just slipped up, or maybe the computer's spellchecker was unnaturally stupid. But the mistake should not have made it into print, because someone should have caught it beforehand. It may or may not be the writer's fault, but I don't know who to blame, and I gotta blame someone.


On the other hand, here is a hypnotically fascinating piece on cannibalism (and not an error in it, as far as I can see). Read it!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Less Than Glowing Recommendation

From a Slate review of magazine gift-giving guides:

Dim Ideas: Pom-pom makers ($31 for 4—"the pom-sibilities are endless"), "quirky" Edison bulbs. ($8 each—seriously, why all the hardware-store recommendations? Next year, the florescent bulbs from Martha's assistant's cubicle.)

You may recall that a few months ago, Slate used "florescent", which is a word, when they meant to say "fluorescent", which is not the same thing at all. And here it is again!

Here is what I want for Christmas: I want someone in the Slate office to open up their spellchecker and manually delete "florescent", since it's almost never used.

Thank you in advance.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Will o' the Wisp

I don't know why the word "ephemeral" showed up in my brain this morning, but it did, and I spent a good ten minutes trying to pick it apart and figure out where it might have come from (I was in the shower, which doesn't require a whole lot of brainpower). "E-" is usually a shorted form of "ex-", "out of", in Latin words, but the "-ph-" suggested it was Greek, and I couldn't think of a single related word that seemed to have anything to do with the fleeting nature of ephemerality, so after taking a few wild stabs and basically just making stuff up I eventually gave up and did the research. It isn't as gratifying as figuring it out yourself, but it's more likely to be correct.

The only thing I got right was that it is in fact Greek, which was a pretty obvious assumption. As for the actual construction of it, I never could have guessed it, because it's formed from "epi-", "on" (as in "epicentre"), and "hemerai", "day", and it originally entered English as the phrase "ephemera febris", a fever that lasts a single day, and only later was enlarged to mean anything that is short-lived. The reason I couldn't identify any other common English words with this root is that there aren't any.

Monday, December 06, 2010


So on Sunday Jim and I were out running a few errands, and as expected the streets were full of cars and the malls were full of people, and as Jim and I don't celebrate Christmas, we could watch it all from a bemused and perhaps just slightly superior distance. I made some comment about the Christmas frenzy, and then it occurred to me, as it so often does, that I didn't know the source of the word that had just left my mouth.

"Frenzy" sounds sort of French, doesn't it? You can imagine some predecessor looking like "frenzie" or "frenessye" or something. And that turns out to be true: the word is French. But it's a lot more than that.

"Frenzy", or "phrenzy", is a very old word, dating from the mid-1300s: we did in fact adapt it from the French word "frenesie". Now, what about that "ph-" spelling, you may ask, and well you might: I know I did. And the reason it is there is that its original source is a Greek word, "phrenitikos", which, if you look closely, is obviously the source of "frenetic", a word meaning, and of course related to, "frenzied". Now, "phren-" occurs in a few other English words, including "schizophrenia", obviously, and also "phrenology", the pseudoscientific and antiquated analysis of one's personality through the bumps and contours of the skull. "Phren-", in fact, means "mind" or "reason", and so Greek "phrenitis" meant an inflammation of the brain, which of course would lead to strange and possibly frenzied behaviour. Another related English word was the splendid "phrenesis", "delirium", which made its bow in 1547 and is due for a revival, I think.

"Frenum" and "frenulum", though related to one another, are unrelated to "frenzy", surprisingly, considering that the main reason anybody untrained in medical language might know the word "frenulum" is that it is there is one just under the head of the penis (in an uncircumcised man). But no: the "phren-" that's all in your head has nothing to do with the "fren-" of "frenum", because "frenum" is the Latin word for "bridle", which a frenum presumably reminded some Roman doctor of. Human beings can have several other frena and frenula: there's one under the tongue and another in the brain, and women have one below the clitoris, exactly analogous to the one that men have. A frenulum, since you asked, is a little frenum. A frenum, since you asked, is a flap of skin that checks the movement of another part of the body.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

She Said

Ah, trusty Slate. You never let me down.

In this review of Black Swan, the new Darren Aronofsky movie, we find the following sentence:

One of Thomas' many refined cruelties is an ability to fan rivalries among his female dancers, and Nina soon becomes fixated on surpassing both Beth (Winona Ryder), a veteran female ballerina on the verge of retirement, and Lilly (Mila Kunis), a sultry, hard-partying younger member of the corps who seems to possess all the Odilian qualities that Nina lacks.

Now seriously, how did that sentence even get written, let alone past the eye of an editor and onto the page? How is even possible that the writer, Dana Stevens, did not notice that the second occurrence of the word "female" is as superfluous as any word could possibly be?

First of all, we have logic: if Nina is intent on surpassing another dancer, her target must of course be a female dancer, because male and female ballet dancers play very different roles. Second, we have nomenclature: the name Beth tells us that the veteran dancer is female. Third, we have gendered language: "ballerina" means "female dancer" and nothing else, with the male version being called a "danseur" or occasionally a "ballerino", which, if you know even the merest smattering of Italian, is self-evidently male, just as "ballerina" is self-evidently female.

Is Stevens paid by the word? Because I just don't get it otherwise.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Lower Education

Ah, trusty Failblog. You never let me down.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Christmas Kiss

I've just started reading Darwin's "On The Origin of Species"--high time, you might think--and was startled to see a spelling I had never encountered before: "misseltoe".

The word is more usually spelled "mistletoe", of course, but "misseltoe" seemed reasonable enough--not a typo, not a nonce spelling, but a previous or coexisting version of the word.

Since I couldn't think of any parallels to it ("missal" came to mind, of course, but without even bothering to look it up you can tell it must obviously come from Latin "missa", "[religious] mass"), I guessed that "misseltoe" was an earlier spelling, and the modern "mistletoe" had come about by way of analogy to "thistle". And my guess was quite wrong.

In fact, "mistel" was the Old English word for "mistletoe", sometimes lengthened to "misteltan", "tan" meaning "twig". Just as the "-t-" can be silent in such words as "thistle" and "gristle", it became silent in "mistel", which began to be spelled "missel" in addition to "mistel", and eventually "mistle-" as the ending degenerated from "-tan" to "-ta" and then eventually swelling back up to "-toe". In fact, the OED lists thirty-three different spellings for the word--"misselden", "myscelto", "misleden", and "messelto" are a few--and even though we expect dictionaries to lock down a single approved spelling, it's a miracle we could just settle on one. I'm surprised we don't have three or four parallel and acceptable versions of the word.

Just as "missal" is clearly unrelated, so too is "missile", from Latin "mittere", "to send", the source of such words as "transmit" (to send across) and "mission".

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Not Again

There are things about English that drive me crazy, not omissions but built-in features that shouldn't be there, and here are two of them.

1) I don't remember where this came up, but I saw it again in print: "woman" as an adjective. I can't help but think I've ranted about this before, but I also can't be bothered to check, and at any rate it's been a while, so here goes again. If we feel the need to specify the gender when describing a job a man holds (because otherwise one would assume it's a woman), we naturally prefix with the adjective "male": male nurse, male stripper, whatever. But when we do the same thing for women, we don't say "female", we say "woman": woman doctor, woman priest, whatever. Why? WHY? It's horrible.

On reflection, I see that we do the same thing with "child": "child prodigy", "child actor". But it doesn't feel the same somehow, probably because there isn't a matching adjectival form for "child": neither "childish" nor "childlike" are appropriate. "Male" and "female" are exactly parallel, as are "man" and "woman", and it seems to me that the rule ought to be that we use an adjective where an adjective might logically be used. "Female doctor", if you must, but not "woman doctor", which somehow sounds condescending, which is probably the point, or worse, like a doctor who specializes in women, as a brain surgeon operates only on brains.

2) Here is a bit from an ad on page 4 of the newest issue of Ready Made magazine:

See that first line? "Average-cup-of-joe drinker." I love that. I love the way English ropes words together with hyphens to make it indisputably obvious that a phrase is being turned into an adjective (as it is here), a noun, or whatever. But look at the last two lines!

"Coffee house" is a two-word noun that we could hyphenate together if we needed to make them into an adjective: "coffee-house ambiance", for instance. But the rule in English is that if we have an unhyphenated multi-word phrase that we need to hyphenate together with another word, we only put a hyphen between the last two words in a sort of trailer-hitch composition, leading to such horrors as that seen in the ad, "coffee house-quality drinks". And it grinds my gears. It's the rule, it's how it's done in English, but it looks so obviously wrong. How easy it would be to fuse everything together, as we normally do, with hyphens into a single phrase!

I am tempted when I write to just do it the way I want to, the way that it ought to be in English, the way that looks correct. But I don't, because that way lies anarchy. Instead I avoid such constructions altogether: I write around them. Sad that it has to be this way, but such is language.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


A foolish, avoidable error in a recent Farhad Manjoo column in usual suspect Slate:

I've got a 1-terrabyte USB drive that I keep connected to my main household machine, a fast Windows 7 desktop.

No, he doesn't. He's got a 1-terabyte drive.

The "tera-" in "terabyte" is Greek, as are all the prefixes for large numbers of bytes, which we will get to in a minute. Adding that extra "-r-" turns it into "terra", which is Latin for "earth" and completely unrelated to the Greek: instead, it's from the Indo-European "ters-", "dry", because the land is (self-evidently) dry as opposed to the sea. (The word "thirst" is also descended from this root.)

You know, for someone who is so devoted to computers, Manjoo doesn't seem to have much use for a spellchecker.

"Tera-" may look familiar to those with a taste for esoteric medicine, because it is also the root of the word "teratoma", literally a "monster tumor" which contains tissue such as hair or teeth. "Tera-" means "monster", and a terabyte, one thousand gigabytes, is a scarily large amount of data. Or used to be, before one-terabyte hard drives became standard equipment. (I've got one in my computer and another external backup drive connected to it.)

So here are all the big-number prefixes:

"kilo-", "one thousand", from "khiloi", with the same meaning. Also seen in "kilometre" and "kilogram".

"mega-", "one million", from "megas", "great". Also seen in "megaton" and "omega" ("big 'o'", as opposed to "omicron", "little 'o'").

"giga-", "one billion", from "gigas", "giant". Also seen in "gigantic".

"tera-", "one trillion", from "teras", "monster", as we have seen.

"peta-", "one quadrillion", derived from "penta-", "five", for the fifth big number.

"exa-", "one quintillion", derived from "hexa-", "six", for the sixth big number.

"zetta-", "one sextillion", derived from "zeta", the Greek name for (perversely) the last letter of the Roman alphabet, on the assumption that this was the last big number that would ever be needed. (Compare with the Commonwealth pronunciation of the last letter of the alphabet, "zed".)

"yotta-", "one septillion", derived from "iota", the Greek name for the second-last letter of the Latin alphabet, since "zeta" was already taken by someone who didn't think big enough.

I suppose this is also the place to point out that not every system uses the same names for big numbers such as billion and trillion. The North American system boosts the counter every three zeroes, as I have done above: billion ("bi-" for "two"), trillion ("tri-" for "three"), and so on. The British system interpolates French-derived numbers and boosts the counter every six zeroes: after million comes milliard, then billion, followed by billiard, and so on. It would probably be easier to reduce the whole thing to groups of agreed-upon terms--our billion is "one thousand million", our quadrillion "one thousand million million"--or to just use scientific notation.