Memos from Ask Cool Daddy
Memo: I call them “classynyms,” and I don’t like them…never have. Poofed-up excuses for words that are supposed to impart a sense of what? sophistication? gentility swelligance? Instead, they end up looking pretentious and downright silly. Like using creme for cream…compleat for complete…putting an “e” on the end where it doesn’t belong, like towne, groupe, or the ubiquitous Ye Olde Shoppe, which I always pronounced “shop-EE,” just to show them what I think of that. Encyclopaedia? Phooey…why not got all the way and ligature it with encyclopædia? (Altho be careful: crême is even dumber than creme!) And any community that tacks on –By-the-Sea to the end of its name, come on! If you live there, how embarrassing.
Some are more subtle, like spelling it they way they do: Brasil, instead of the way we do: Brazil. Sergio Mendes and the Brasil ’66 got a pass because they were from there, you see. Therefore…any person, organization, or business that spells it Theater and not Theatre ought to get a sincere thank-you from you…they certainly do from me. But what I wanted to mention today was, there are some words that legitimately end in “-re.” Even so, they can cause problems. The one I stumbled across recently is another name for the iridescent substance mother-of-pearl…and that is: nacre. Unless you’re in the business…of pearls, that is…it’s not a word you probably use every day, and it’s always looked to me like NACK-ruh. But it’s correctly pronounced with a long A, and as if the -re were indeed an -er, as NAY-ker, sort of, but not quite, like “Don’t get your nacres in a twist.” Anyway, pay it forward.
>>> Forgot to mention: the adjectival form is nacreous...
Memo: My buddy Stolf sez: The more different excuses you have for not doing something, the less likely it is that any of them are true. He’s generally a pretty sharp cookie, so I go along with that…likewise, the more theories there are as to the origin of a word or phrase, the less likely it is that anybody really knows for sure. I was thinking about the word akimbo…and found so many possible explanations of where it comes from, I just ditched the lot of them. But I wanted to mention it, because it’s also not a word you hear very often, and as a result, the meaning has shifted a bit over the past few decades.
“Arms akimbo” means hands on hips, simple as that. Somewhere along the line, somebody got the funny idea of saying “legs akimbo,” and as a result, akimbo has begun to take on the sense of all 4 of your limbs being spread out, or splayed, like you’re making a snow angel. Sure language evolves and the meanings of words change…that’s just the way it is…doesn’t mean you can’t fight it to the bitter end!
Memo: “Back When I Went to School” Department…Most of what you learned still holds true…English, Math, History…but in the Sciences, that can be tricky. Like the number of moons of the 9 planets. You might have memorized it for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto as: 0, 0, 1, 2, 12, 9*, 5, 2, 0. Today it’s 0, 0, 1, 2, 63, 61, 27, 13, 3…scratch that last one
3 they just discovered a 4th for Pluto. And I have an update for you butterfly collectors, if you could set down your net for a moment.
We were always told that the reason the Viceroy (right) resembled Monarch (left) was a form of natural mimicry (The Viceroy has the extra black line on the lower wing, that was how you could tell what you had, remember?). The Monarch was poisonous, and after an animal got a taste of one, it would leave them alone, the pattern and colors serving as a reminder. Viceroys weren’t poisonous, but caught a ride on the Monarch’s coat-tails, and wouldn’t get eaten as well. Turns out it’s more complicated than that. There is indeed a thing called Batesian Mimicry, where one non-nasty species fools predators into thinking it’s a nasty species because they look so much alike.
But the story going around today is that the Viceroy is in fact every bit as inedible as the Monarch…they simply had assumed it wasn’t and never bothered to check it out for sure…that sounds a little suspicious to me, but like I said, that’s the taffy those rascally lepidopterists are currently distributing. So what we have here is another kind, Müllerian Mimicry…where 2 different species develop the same “don’t eat me” warning device, and thus reinforce each other…if a bird tries a Monarch, it won’t go for a Viceroy, but also vice versa, thus doubling the chances of getting the message out before being scarfed. So just a word of caution…if you’re helping a grandkid with his science homework…prepare to be overruled!
* Now that I think about it, I got a big kick in 1967 when they discovered Janus, Saturn’s 10th…but that was probably just me. Yeah…I’m pretty sure it was…
Kind of hard to tell, but I think this albino is a Monarch…would have made some prize catch back in the day, nez pah?
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