In Passing: Charles Chibitty, 83
The last of the Commanche code talkers, who used the Commanche language to communicate sensitive information over the radio during World War II, died on 20 July.
The Navajo code talkers were more numerous and more famous. Navajo code talkers served in the Pacific Theater. Their lesser known Commanche comrades served in Europe. Choctaw Indians also served as code talkers. Both groups used their native languages, supplemented with coded terms for military jargon that did not exist in those languages, to send indecipherable messages faster than by using conventional codes.
The "code" spoken by the code talkers was not very complex and could have been broken had someone with knowledge of the language been listening, but the fact that almost no non-native speakers of those languages existed and the information they transmitted was tactical in nature and only useful for hours at best, the code talkers proved a very secure way to communicate.
"It’s strange, but growing up as a child I was forbidden to speak my native language at school," Chibitty said in 2002. "Later my country asked me to. My language helped win the war, and that makes me very proud."
This past Wednesday was the 36th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, what is likely to be considered, in centuries to come, the most historic event of the latter half of the 20th century. On 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin landed their lunar module, Eagle, in the Sea of Tranquility, while the third member of the team, Michael Collins, orbited the moon in the command module Columbia. The next day, Greenwich Mean Time, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on our planet’s closest neighbor.
Historic events are usually accompanied by historic words, if not at the moment in question, then sometime afterwards. In the case of the first lunar landing, many of the most famous words were scripted in advance. The most famous of these the famous sentence of Neil Armstrong’s spoken when he first stepped onto the lunar surface:
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That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.
Tour de France Terms
The Tour de France, or Le Tour, is without a doubt the most famous, and the most grueling, bicycle race in the world. Held each July since 1902 (with breaks during the world wars), this is the 92nd riding of the Tour. This year’s tour is 2,237 miles (3,600 km), broken up into 21 stages or daily rides. The tour’s route changes from year-to-year, running through different regions of France and with some stages in neighboring countries (this year it’s Germany). Of course, this year’s Tour is eagerly watched by many because it is Lance Armstrong’s last year riding the race. Armstrong has won the last six Tours, the only man to have won that many.
Traditionally, the race starts with short time trial of less than five miles called the prologue. A time trial is a stage where the cyclists ride individually, against the clock alone, without the assistance of teammates. Some time trials are team time trials, where each team rides as a group, but not alongside the other teams. This year, the prologue has been replaced with a longer, 12 mi (19 km) time trial. The final stage of the race is always along the Champs Elysees (literally the Elysian Fields), the famed Parisian avenue. Riders do three circuits of the street, each one about 15 kilometers long at very fast speeds. Winning this final stage is considered quite an honor.
Interesting, But Ultimately Useless
Then there is this website, devoted to Old English terms for information technology concepts:
Trojan War Terms
Most of us are familiar with at least some military slang. We hear it on the news, or in movies, we served in the military at some point. But this week we present a look at some terms associated with a war from very long ago.
These terms are English words and phrases that are associated with the Trojan War, a mythic conflict immortalized in Homer’s two epics The Iliad and The Odyssey and in Virgil’s Aeneid.
This week we present a short glossary of newspaper jargon terms:
above the fold, adj., used to describe an article placed on the top half of the front page, so it is visible when the paper is folded. Also below the fold.
agate, n., a small type used in newspapers primarily for statistics (sports, stocks), approximately 5.5 points (1/14 inch) high. An American term (the English equivalent is ruby type) dating to 1838, the name comes from a series of typefaces named after precious stones.
What is uptalking? Do you uptalk? The BBC can help you with the answers. Visit http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4116788.stm.
Words Of The Street
A toponym is a name of something that denotes a geographical place, usually the place of origin of the thing named. The words spa (a town in Belgium), Watergate (a hotel and office building, site of famous burglary), and rugby (a school in Britain) are toponyms for, respectively, a resort, a political scandal, and a sport.
Among toponyms, a few are street names that have come to be associated with industries and activities located there. Perhaps the most famous is Wall Street, the toponym meaning the US financial markets. The metaphorical use comes from the fact that many of the largest financial institutions have traditionally had their headquarters on that Manhattan Street. The metaphorical usage dates to 1841.
Theories & Intelligent Design
The Kansas State Board of Education is currently debating whether a theory called intelligent design should be used to present criticisms of evolution in Biology classes. The board, which has an evangelical Christian conservative majority, is widely expected to approve a measure that requires criticism of evolution be taught in Kansas schools, but the exact nature and wording of the new policy is still in the works.
The current push for intelligent design as an alternative to evolution has its roots in the US courts striking down the teaching of creation science. Creation science is the teaching of the literal text of Genesis as scientific truth. US federal courts have consistently ruled that creation science is a religious doctrine, not scientific truth and its instruction in public schools is a violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which forbids the establishment of a state religion. Intelligent design skirts this prohibition by not advocating any specific creation story, but rather simply argues that the complexity of nature requires that there be a designer; many organisms and biological structures are too complex to have come about by chance.
Despite the current push for intelligent design being a response to the courtroom failures of creation science, intelligent design is the older of the two terms; it even predates Darwin’s concept of evolution by natural selection. The Oxford English Dictionary dates intelligent design to 1847, in an article in Scientific American:
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The great store-house of naturethe innumerable and diversified objects there presented to our view give evidence of infinite skill and intelligent design in the adaptation to each other and to the nature of man.
OED Quarterly Update
Oxford University Press has published its June newsletter that outlines the changes to the OED online over the last quarter.
This quarter the entries from papula to Paul have been updated, along with a number of new entries from across the alphabet.
The newsletter also contains several interesting articles by Oxford’s library researchers that give insight into the process of creating dictionary entries.
The newsletter is available here.
Copyright 1997-2015, by David Wilton