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Posts Tagged ‘names

“Hands have their own language”*…

 

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Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci

 

Most body parts come alone or in pairs. We have one nose, one tongue, and one navel. We sport two eyes, two knees, two feet, and so on. Fingers are a glaring exception—we’ve got a party of five on each side. This presents difficulties. When we want to single one out from the group—to specify which finger we slammed in the door, for instance—what do we do? We name them, naturally. But how?

This is a uniquely human problem. Pentadactyly—the condition of having five fingers—is pervasive in the biological world, but we are the only species that has the capacity (or occasion) to talk about those fingers. The problem is not just that we have five of them, but that they are so vexingly similar: they differ slightly in size and dexterity, but all have that pucker-knuckled, nail-capped look. How have people in different times and places solved this problem? How have they named the members of this confusable quintet? Answering this question offers a tour of the inventiveness of the human mind…

Our names for our fingers show a surprising depth of cultural variation—and similarity: “Where Do Finger Names Come From?

* Simon Van Booy

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As we dub our digits, we might send carefully-timed birthday greetings to a man with very accomplished fingers, Abraham-Louis Breguet; he was born on this date in 1747.  The leading horologist of his day, he introduced a number of formative innovation into watch- and clock-making.  He built the first gong spring (which decreased the size of repeater watches) and the first anti-shock device or “pare-chute” (which improved the reliability of his watches while making them less fragile).  He sold the first modern carriage clock to Napoleon Bonaparte, and created the first “tact watch” by which time could be read by touch.  And finally– and most impactfully– he built the first tourbillon (the self-winding mechanism that introduced the “perpétuelle” watch), which he patented in 1801.

220px-Abraham_Louis_Breguet_02 source

 

 

Written by LW

January 10, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton”*…

 

A section of the Endonym Map

 

An endonym is the name for a place, site or location in the language of the people who live there. These names may be officially designated by the local government or they may simply be widely used.

This map depicts endonyms of the countries of the world in their official or national languages. In cases where a country has more than one national or official language, the language that is most widely used by the local population is shown…

See and explore the whole world at  “Endonyms of the World.”

* George III

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As we contemplate connecting across cultural differences, we might recall that it was on this date in 1876 that Alexander Graham Bell first spoke through his experimental “telephone”– to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, in the next room.  Bell wrote in his notebook, “I then shouted into M [the mouthpiece] the following sentence: ‘Mr. Watson–come here–I want to see you.’ To my delight he came and declared that he had heard and understood what I said.”

Bell’s lab notebook, March 10, 1876

source

Written by LW

March 10, 2015 at 1:01 am

Where everybody knows your name…

Some have fame thrust upon them…

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Some just happen upon it along the way…

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Artist and scientist Stephen Von Worley has mashed up Google Maps and the Open Street Map Project to create a search tool that will let one find all of the streets in the U.S. that share one’s name (first name, for now… as a bonus, one also gets places and things).

One can visit Steve’s Data Pointed to find one’s namesakes…

As we rethink our routes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1965 that the FBI exonerated “Louie Louie,” declaring that the lyrics of the 1963 recording by The Kingsmen– widely rumored to be “dirty”— were in fact simply indecipherable.  After analyzing the disc at its intended 45 rpm and also at 33 1/3 and 78, and interviewing a member of the band, the FBI Laboratory declared the lyrics to be officially “unintelligible at any speed.”

In fact the song’s creator, Richard Berry, had released “Louie Louie” to mild regional success– and no lyrical controversy– a decade earlier.  But the FBI’s verdict notwithstanding, a cloud hovered over the tune: in 2005, the superintendent of the Benton Harbor, Michigan school system refused to let the marching band at one of the schools play the song in a parade; she later relented.

from the FBI’s “Louie Louie” file (source)

What’s in a (sur)name?…

From National Geographic:

for larger, interactive version, click on the image above, or here

A new view of the United States based on the distribution of common last names shows centuries of history and echoes some of America’s great immigration sagas. To compile this data, geographers at University College London used phone directories to find the predominant surnames in each state. Software then identified the probable provenances of the 181 names that emerged.

Many of these names came from Great Britain, reflecting the long head start the British had over many other settlers. The low diversity of names in parts of the British Isles also had an impact. Williams, for example, was a common name among Welsh immigrants—and is still among the top names in many American states.

But that’s not the only factor. Slaves often took their owners’ names, so about one in five Americans now named Smith are African American. In addition, many newcomers’ names were anglicized to ease assimilation. The map’s scale matters too. “If we did a map of New York like this,” says project member James Cheshire, “the diversity would be phenomenal”—a testament to that city’s role as a once-and-present gateway to America.

 

As we ruminate on roots, we might recall that it was on this date in 1654 that the Portuguese issued the Capitulation Protocol, giving Jewish and Dutch settlers three months to leave Brazil.  Approximately 150 Jewish families of Portuguese descent fled the Brazilian city of Recife, in the state of Pernambuco.  By September, twenty-three of these refugees had established the first community of Jews in New Amsterdam (now, of course, New York City).

These “Sephardim” (Jews of Spanish-Portuguese extraction) had followed a tortured path. In December 1496, following Ferdinand and Isabella’s Spanish example, King Manuel I of Portugal had expelled all Jews from Portugal, driving many to flee to more tolerant Holland.  From there, some migrated to Pernambuco, a colony of the Dutch West India Company in modern-day Brazil. That community flourished until the Dutch eventually surrendered Pernambuco to the Portuguese– and the Sephardim were again forced to flee.

After being driven ashore in Jamaica by Spanish ships, twenty-three members of the community, along with a group of Dutch Calvinists, made their way to New Netherland (New York)– another colony run by the Dutch West India Company.  Even then, the trials were not past: Peter Stuyvesant governor of New Netherland, feared that the indigent newcomers would burden the colony; but when he motioned to eject the Jewish newcomers, the Company (many of the shareholders of which were Jewish) refused his petition… and the wanderers found a home.

Accuratissima Brasiliæ tabula
[Inset of Pernambuco.]
by Hendrik Hondius, 1630
(source: Library of Congress)

 

Adventures in Naming…

One can’t choose one’s parents– nor the name with which those parents endow one. So one is stuck with the initials that come in the bargain.  (Your not-too-foresightful correspondent’s daughter, for instance, has the monogram “EWW”)

The founders of corporations and not-for-profits, however, can– and in this age of Twitter- and SMS-inspired compression, surely should– try to avoid the sorts of unfortunate double entendre created by the examples in Mental Floss’ “Initials That Meant More Than They Realized.”

As we apply ourselves anew to appellation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1939 that New York City’s 5,200-seat Hippodrome Theater closed its doors for the last time. Built in 1905, the Hippodrome was for a time the largest and most successful theater in New York, featuring lavish spectacles replete with elephants and other circus animals, diving horses, opulent sets, 500-strong choruses, and the most popular vaudeville artists of the day.

Harry Houdini and friend, performing at the Hippodrome (source: Library of Congress)

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