Random Thoughts

Defining a not-so-accurate language: English

... when you have nothing else to do, read this

from Don Norris

One day, a really hot summer day, when I had absolutely nothing to do, I discovered a cheapie puzzle book that was once an under-the-Christmas-tree-filler. You know the kind: A page of letters in columns and rows, from which we are to find words pertaining to specific subjects.

Today's pastime pursued "weights and measures", from which list I was to find two dozen words dealing with (you probably guessed) weights and measures. Simple, but it gave me pause to stretch my imagination: Like:

"Peck", "Pint" and "Pound". Which is bigger? Which will hold more? Like, who uses a pound of water. Or a pint of crackers. And a Peck is something I give my wife every day.

How about Mile, Millimeter, Minim and Micron. One doesn't walk a Millimeter, a Minim or a Micron. and just how long is a millimeter? -- half a step? -- a short walk? -- and does one need a "milli" to keep track of one's meters?

This word Minim: Oh, that's just a drop in the bucket -- I interpolate from Webster's Dictionary. A minim is also only a half note in music; it's also "the smallest liquid measure, about a drop", according to Webster, or it can be anything very minute -- not the timed minute, but the size of something very small. For which one must change not the spelling, but the pronounciation of MINute, or miNUTE.

Take the word "Peck". Like, a kiss on the cheek, or something a chicken does, or something a child does when confronted with vile-tasting veggies. But Webster also lists a Peck like this: Two cups make a pint; two pints make a quart and eight quarts makes a peck! Unless, of course you're in Europe, or most anywhere else on this globe. But finally, four pecks equals a bushel -- you know, one of those wooden baskets found on farms.

Which raises the question: How many ounces in a peck?

Better yet, let's consider Fathoms, Foots and Furlongs. How odd that if you have more than one foot, it becomes feets. But one cannot walk a fathom, or else he'd be all-at-sea. A fathom is six vertical feet, usually when measuring the depth of water. A furlong, in everyday English, is a distance a horse runs. Most other racing animals (dogs, pigs, turtles) do NOT run in furlongs, which is reserved for horses. In English-speaking countries, of course. Cats, on the other hand, don't run at all, except maybe away.

Here's another point to ponder: "Gallon, Grill, Grain and Gram. Gallon is, of course, a measure of how much gasoline we pour into our cars. Grill can be a cop-term, or the heating of hotdogs. Grain can be a direction ("run against the grain"), it can be a crop, or it can be the direction the wood in a tree grows. And everbody knows that Gram is your mother's mother, no matter how much she weighs.

The puzzle asks us to describe Hectare, Inch, and Kilo. Hectare is the crazy guy down the street,  an inch is something one does not give up, and a Kilo is a Japanese male, a quantity of booze, or, in Europe, a distance from here to there.

Enough Tomfoolery. I now have to submit (surrender, accept, hand-in) my document to our editors.

December 7, 2012

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