HD: 1947 Words
Posted: 07 December 2011 06:08 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Machmeters, biros, and Wonderbras

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Posted: 07 December 2011 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’m fairly sure Kafkaesque can be antedated, at least slightly.  Here is the start of a review of Franz Werfel’s Star of the Unborn from what Google says is a 1946 issue of The New Republic:

Someone else has called Star of the Unborn “Kafkaesque” (an epithet that will soon cover all kinds of fantasy in the same loose way that “Proustian,” among reviewers, already covers all kinds of introspectiveness...)

Since the Werfel book was published in that year, I think it’s probably correct.  Here is a use ("The same cry is heard from Anna Seghers’ Kafkaesque refugee in the novel Transit”) from what is said to be a 1944 issue of Accent magazine; Transit was published in 1944 and Volume 5 of Accent covers 1944-45, so again this seems accurate.  My best find is this, from Direction, Volumes 2-3 (1939): “A mysticism, more Catholic than Kafka-esque, mars the telling at the end.” The snippet view does not show that quote (so I can’t tell whether the hyphen is real or at a line break), but does show a review of Faulkner’s The Wild Palms, which was published in 1939.

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Posted: 07 December 2011 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Biro, n. In Britain, a ball-point pen is also known as a biro, after its inventor László Biró. The word is virtually unknown in the United States.

Hah. I was unaware of, and am surprised by, that.

On Wonderbra, I always figured it was named in joking reference to wunderbar, so I am surprised it was coined so soon after WW2.

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Posted: 08 December 2011 04:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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What an eventful year!  We’e really into modern times now (as far as I’m concerned, at any rate). I remember, when I saw the Kon-Tiki movie and read the book, thinking that I would have given ten years of my life to have been on that voyage (I am more cautious with my life nowadays, and drive 50 km to Tel Aviv with trepidation; though indeed, I suspect the drive’s probably more dangerous ;-) .

Biro
The reason the name “Biro” is hardly known in the US is perhaps because of the fact that Biro’s invention was pirated by an American entrepreneur, who made and sold ball-point pens in the US under a different name. In the UK in 1948, a genuine “Biro” pen-and-propelling-pencil set (in velvet-lined gift box) cost 3 pounds - a week’s wages for an unskilled worker (I received one as a birthday gift from a well-heeled uncle). The advertising slogan was “It writes underwater!” to which some wag inevitably added “and nowhere else”.....

Honcho
The origin of this word came as a complete surprise to me - I suppose because it sounds so much like rancho, poncho, etc. Thanks, Dave - your choice of words never fails to entertain and edify!

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Posted: 14 December 2011 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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November: Howard Hughes gets his Hughes H-1 seaplane, the “Spruce Goose,” the largest plane ever built, aloft for eight minutes in its only flight;

I don’t think it flew for nearly that long.  The plane’s Wikipedia article states that it flew for about a mile at a speed of 135 mph, which gives a flight time of a little under 27 seconds.  This site agrees on the distance but gives a top speed of 80 mph during the flight, which would result in a flight time of 45 seconds, still far less than eight minutes.  Assuming it did indeed fly for about a mile, to do so in eight minutes would require it to fly at 7.5 mph, which is obviously impossible.

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Posted: 14 December 2011 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Thanks. I’ll fix it. Different Wikipedia articles say different things.

(And on the Wikipedia page for the largest aircraft ever built, there are tons of incorrect statements. I’ve never seen a single Wikipedia page contradict itself so much.)

[ Edited: 14 December 2011 02:42 PM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 22 December 2011 03:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’ve been reading The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky.  It’s quite an interesting book but he just claimed that honcho comes from the Basque jauntxo, ‘a wealthy, powerful, rural landowner.’ Surely there would be some significant antedates to 1947 if that were the case.  Is this an etymology that has any other support than Kurlansky?

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Posted: 22 December 2011 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I don’t know who else claims the word is Basque, but that etymology is demonstrably wrong. The earliest cite in the OED is from a New Zealander who lived in Japan and the other early citations are all from American serviceman stationed there.

I haven’t read Kurlansky’s book, but I looked at a few reviews. Even the positive ones take him to task for his bias and Basque boosterism. Doesn’t sound like a trustworthy source to me.

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Posted: 23 December 2011 03:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I bought it based on the title alone.  It is a fun read, but I won’t file it under non-fiction.  It even has recipes.

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Posted: 23 December 2011 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I’d’ve certainly guessed honcho was Spanish. Ha.

BTW on a slightly related note, etymonline says, of “Hunky Dory”: “A theory from 1876, however, traces it to Honcho dori, said to be a street in Yokohama, Japan, where sailors went for diversions of the sort sailors enjoy.”

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Posted: 24 December 2011 04:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Hunky-dory is on the Big List. The Japanese origin is a reasonable conjecture, but there is no strong evidence for or against it. Personally, it sounds a bit too pat an explanation.

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