WOTD: money

I walked into the staff computer room at work today to find two colleagues having an interesting discussion about money. Or rather, how far would they go to get a large amount of it. How far I’d go depends on how big of a whore I am. Would I (they were anxious to know) come to a dead stop while walking down the aisle during my wedding ceremony and let out a huge loud fart if I got paid five million dollars? Of course I would. My god, I was expecting them to say a much lower number like, say, five thousand dollars.

Yeah, I’d do it for five thousand dollars. But not five hundred. My humiliation is worth more than that.

Anyway, one of the more interesting facts about modern money is that all of it is more or less worthless. This means it has no intrinsic value. In the past, there was no paper money and coins were made of precious metals such as gold and silver. These days coins are made of base metals, and with very few exceptions, the value of the coin is more than the materials that went into making it. The only reason why those worthless coins and pieces of paper in your wallet can be used to pay for stuff is because the government says they can. This is called a fiat system of currency, from the Latin word fiat, meaning, “let it be done.”

There’s a great song on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album called Money:

“Money. It’s a hit. Don’t give me that do goody good bullshit. I’m in the hi fidelity first class traveling set. And I think I need a Lear jet…”

Stay tuned…

WOTD: vegetable

Today’s word is a noun that is defined in general terms as, “any plant whose fruit, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, leaves, or flower parts are used as food.” It comes from the Late Latin word vegetābilis which means “able to live and grow.”

Basically a vegetable can be any edible part of any plant. This means that all fruits are vegetables. However, not all vegetables are fruits.

A fruit is the fleshy part of the plant that develops from the flower or blossom. The strawberry is a typical example of a fruit.  Fruits are meant to be eaten and are essential components of the plant’s reproductive system. The sweet fleshy part is merely window dressing for the all important seeds. Mother Nature has it all figured out, you see. In theory, an animal eats a fruit, seeds and all. Later on that same animal excretes those seeds completely intact and conveniently encased in their own little envelope of fertilizer.

Many of the things that we think of as vegetables are actually fruits. Examples include tomatoes, avocados, and red hot chili peppers. The fruit that is, not the band.

One of my favorite quotations is, “Knowledge is understanding that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”

The Swedish word for vegetable is “grönsak” (literally “green thing”) despite the fact that not all vegetables are green.

Remember to eat your veggies…

Rapture Rap

(As today is supposed to be the Rapture, I thought some Rapture-based poetry would be most appropriate. Not my own, this time. )

Fab Five Freddy told me everybody’s fly
DJ spinning I said “My, My”
Flash is fast,
Fash is cool,
Francois c’est pas flashe non due.
And you don’t stop,
Sure shot.
Go out to the parking lot,
And you get in your car,
And drive real far.
And you drive all night,
And then you see a light.
And it comes right down,
And it lands on the ground,
And out comes the man from Mars!
And you try to run,
But he’s got a gun,
And he shoots you dead,
And he eats your head.
And then you’re in the man from Mars!
You go out at night eating cars.
You eat Cadillacs,
Lincolns too,
Mercuries and Subarus.
And you don’t stop.
You keep on eating cars.
Then when there’s no more cars you go out at night,
And eat up bars where the people meet.
Face to face.
Dance cheek to cheek,
One to one,
Man to man,
Dance toe to toe.
Don’t move too slow ,
‘Cause the man from Mars is through with cars,
He’s eating bars,
Yeah wall to wall,
Door to door,
Hall to hall,
He’s gonna eat ’em all!
Rapture!
Be pure.
Take a tour through the sewer.
Don’t strain your brain.
Paint a train.
You’ll be singing in the rain.
Said don’t stop to the punk rock.

Well now you see what you wanna be,
Just have your party on TV.
‘Cause the man from Mars,
Won’t eat up bars where the TV’s on.
And now he’s gone back up to space,
Where he won’t have a hassle with the human race.
And you hip hop,
And you don’t stop,
Just blast off,
Sure shot!
Because the man from Mars stopped eating cars,
And eating bars,
And now he only eats guitars!
Get up!

(With thanks to Blondie and Debbie Harry)

WOTD: balaclava and other confusing words…

For some reason our British cousins have adopted this word, which according to Bill Bryson (author and keen observer of all things British from an American perspective), is a “truly bad word.” The American term is the decidedly less poetic but much clearer ski mask. Its “badness” lies in the fact that it really doesn’t sound like what it is:

“[It] could be almost anything – an obscure root vegetable, a type of geological formation peculiar to the Tibetian steppe, the basic unit of currenty in Albania, the sound of a large load of rocks coming out of the back of a dump truck, almost anything at all. It certainly doesn’t sound like something you would want to put on your head. No, the word you want for a kind of pull-down hat is haggis.”
Excerpt from I’m a Stranger Here Myself

He then goes on to explain that “haggis” has a warm and furry sound to it and that it doesn’t sound at all like a food. Furthermore, anyone who has ever tried it will attest that it doesn’t taste much like a food either.

This got me thinking about how many other words there are in the English language that don’t sound at all like what they are, and how confusing this can be for learners of it as a second language.

For example, why do we drive on the parkway, and park in the driveway?

Why do we say we’re getting ON or OFF the bus/train/plane when we’re really getting IN or OUT of it?

A pineapple is nothing like a pine nor like an apple. It doesn’t even come from a pine tree. How the hell did it get named that? And what about a grapefruit?

I’m sure there are many examples of weird words in Swedish as well, and the one I can think of at the moment is smörgås (sandwich) which translated literally into English means “butter goose.”

Finally, and with apologies for the indelicacy of the following language, why do we say we’re taking a shit when we’re actually LEAVING it?

Feel free to post your own examples of weird or inaccurate words in comments. Until next time…