Centripetal or centrifugal

January 30, 2013

While drive on the Saw Mill the other day and taking a turn a little too fast, I found myself thinking “am I fighting centripetal or centrifugal force? I can never remember.  Sort of like stalactites and stalagmites…”

Latin to the rescue! Centripetal from centrum petere “to seek the center.”  Centrifugal from centrum fugere “to flee the center.”

Good to know which force of nature is pulling you to your doom.



January 27, 2013

An older sister for the word dystopia.

My wife came across the word when reading John Stuart Mill.  According to the O.E.D., John Stuart Mill first used dystopia in 1868 when speaking before the House of Commons he denounced the the government’s Irish land policy as “dys-topians or caco-topians.”  Cacotopia actually predated that its more popular synonym by several decades, having been coined by Jeremy Bentham


January 4, 2013

Movie poster for Lolita

A slang for glasses that has shifted in meaning so many times that it unfortunately has become useless.  I cam across it in David Fears’s noire novelette Dark Blonde.  In the 1920s, the term was slang for sunglasses, which was how Fears used it, but the history of the word’s use renders it meaningless.

The word started as slang for glasses — one cheats by using glasses to improve one’s vision.  Sun cheaters became synonymous with sunglasses, and by the 1920s, the “sun” was dropped and it just became cheaters.

Now, however, the term has reverted more to its original meaning, and the term is used for non-prescription reading glasses, that help you “cheat” while reading.

The word can conjure up a noirish moll or that same woman seventy years later reading the funnies.  Oh well.