Language

 

Book Cover-01Book Cover-01 Chapter 2

  1. Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language native to Scotland. A member of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages, Scottish Gaelic, like Modern Irish and Manx, developed out of Middle Irish, and thus descends ultimately from Primitive Irish. Scottish Gaelic should not be confused with Scots, which refers to the Anglic language variety traditionally spoken in the Lowlands of Scotland. Prior to the fifteenth century, the Anglic speech of the Lowlands was known as Inglis (“English”), with Gaelic being called Scottis (“Scottish”). From the late fifteenth century, however, it became increasingly common to refer to Scottish Gaelic as Erse (“Irish”) and the Lowland vernacular as Scottis.
  2. Siigaay means “ocean” in the Haida language.

Chapter 4

  1. Forty-rod is slang for cheap whiskey.

Chapter 6

  1. Pura vida” is a characteristic Costa Rican phrase. It literally means pure life, however, the real meaning is closer to “plenty of life,” “full of life,” “this is living!,” “going great,” or “real living.” The phrase can be used in many ways; for example, it can be used both as a greeting or a farewell, as an answer expressing that things are going well, or as a way of giving thanks.

Chapter 8

  1. Heynaboics is an informal term for the colloquial lingo of northeastern Pennsylvania. The term originates from a metalinguistic exploration of the speech patterns of northeastern Pennsylvania by the comedy troupe One Laugh at Least. The sketch takes place in a classroom, with a hyper-demotic teacher instructing clueless outsiders in “the unofficial dialect of northeastern Pennsylvania.” The troupe has been performing the sketch since 1998, when the Oakland Ebonics controversy was still fresh in the national consciousness.

Chapter 10

  1. The color claret resembles the red hue of Bordeaux wine. It has become a slang term for blood, as in “tapping the claret,” meaning to give someone a bloody nose.
  2. “Kapoosta” is coal country slang for money.

Chapter 11

  1. Ralph:  From the Old Norse Rađulfr, Rathulfr, a compound name composed of the elements rađ, rath (counsel) and ulfr (wolf). The name, introduced by the Scandinavians, was reinforced by the Normans, who brought in the Germanic cognate Radulf, which is from the elements rād (counsel) and wulf (wolf). The English developed their own cognate, Rædwulf, from the Old English elements ræd (counsel) and wulf (wolf). The name evolved into Rauf, Raff, and Rafe in the Middle Ages, Ralf in the sixteenth century, and Ralph in the eighteenth century.
  2. The Q code is a standardized collection of three-letter message encodings, also known as a brevity code, all of which start with the letter Q, initially developed for commercial radiotelegraph communication, and later adopted by other radio services, especially amateur radio. Although Q codes were created when radio used Morse code exclusively, they continued to be employed after the introduction of voice transmissions.
  3. In cryptography, the one-time pad is a type of encryption which has been proven to be impossible to crack if used correctly. Each bit or character from the plaintext is encrypted by a modular addition with a bit or character from a secret random key (or pad) of the same length as the plaintext, resulting in a ciphertext. If the key is truly random, as large as or greater than the plaintext, never reused in whole or part, and kept secret, the ciphertext will be impossible to decrypt or break without knowing the key. 

Chapter 12

  1. Kundalini literally means “coiled.” In yoga, a “corporeal energy”—an unconscious, instinctive or libidinal force or Shakti, lies coiled at the base of the spine. It is envisioned either as a goddess or else as a sleeping serpent, hence a number of English renderings of the term such as “serpent power.” The kundalini resides in the sacrum bone in three and a half coils and has been described as a residual power of pure desire.
  2. Détente (French for ‘relaxation’) is the easing of strained relations, especially in a political situation. The term is often used in reference to the general easing of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1970s, a thawing at a period roughly in the middle of the Cold War. In the Soviet Union, détente was known in Russian as “razryadka”, loosely meaning relaxation, discharge.
  3. Dego is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Savona in the Italian region Liguria, located about fifty\kilometers west of Genoa and about twenty\kilometers northwest of Savona. Martha’s use of the term here is a homophone intended to conflate the Italian masons with the pejorative term Dago, an ethnic slur denoting a person of Italian, Hispanic, or Portuguese descent. Use of the term as a slur is consistent with an older person, as it has become less pejorative in recent years, with people of Spanish or Portuguese origin themselves adopting the term.
  4. “Fore!” is shouted as a warning during a golf game when it appears possible that a golf ball may hit other players or spectators. The mention of the term in an 1881 British Golf Museum indicates that the term was in use at least as early as that period. The term means “look ahead,” and it is believed to come from the military “beware before,” which an artilleryman about to fire would yell alerting nearby infantrymen to drop to the ground to avoid the shells overhead.
  5. “Long Knives” or “Big Knives” was a term used by the Iroquois and later by American Indians of the Ohio Country to designate British colonists of Virginia, in contradistinction to those of New York and Pennsylvania. It is a literal translation of the treaty name that the Iroquois first bestowed on Virginia Governor Lord Howard in 1684, Assarigoe (variously spelled Assaregoa, Assaragoa, Asharigoua), meaning “cutlass” in Onondaga. This word was chosen as a pun on Howard’s name, which sounds like Dutch hower, meaning “cutlass” (similar to the Iroquois’ choice of the name Onas, or quill pen, for the Pennsylvania Governors, beginning with William Penn.) The name “Long knives” is also thought to refer to the swords carried by colonial military officers.

Chapter 15

  1. Fräulein is the German language honorific previously in common use for unmarried women, comparable to Miss in English. Fräulein is the diminutive form of Frau, which was previously reserved only for married women. Frau is in origin the equivalent of “Mylady” or “Madam”, a form of address of a noblewoman. But by an ongoing process of devaluation of honorifics, it came to be used as the unmarked term for “woman” by about 1800. Therefore, Fräulein came to be interpreted as expressing a “diminutive of woman”, as it were implying that a Fräulein is not-quite-a-woman.
  2. The phrase “short, sharp shock” means “a quick, severe punishment.” It was originally used in Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1885 comic opera The Mikado, where it appears in the song near the end of Act I, “I Am So Proud.” It has since been used in popular songs, song titles, literature, as well as in general speech.
  3. A fuller is a rounded or beveled groove or slot in the flat side of a blade (e.g. a sword, knife, or bayonet). A fuller is often used to lighten the blade, much in the way that an I-beam shape allows a given amount of strength to be achieved with less material. Longer knives or bayonets intended as offensive weapons may employ fullers (also incorrectly known as “blood grooves” or “blood letters”) to lighten the blade while maintaining its strength. When combined with proper distal tapers, heat treatment and blade tempering, a fullered blade can be twenty percent to thirty-five percent lighter than a non-fullered blade without any sacrifice of strength or blade integrity. This effect lessens as the blade is reduced in length. Short bladed knives may employ fullers simply for their aesthetic effect.
  4. Since the mid-seventeenth century, a chair-maker, or chairbler, is a craftsman in the furniture trades specializing in chairs.

Chapter 18

  1. Kofun (from Sino-Japanese “ancient grave”) are megalithic tombs or tumuli in Japan, constructed between the early third century and the early seventh century AD. They gave their name to the Kofun period (middle third century to early-middle sixth century). Many of the Kofun have distinctive keyhole-shaped mounds which are unique to ancient Japan.
  2. Quenya is a fictional language devised by J. R. R. Tolkien, and used by the Elves in his fictional universe that is commonly known as Middle-Earth.

Chapter 19

  1. Used in this context, the term “clink” is a modern urban colloquialism, referring to the sound made when the metaphorical dagger in one’s back falls onto the hard cold ground after a harsh comment is made.

Chapter 20

  1. “In the shit” is military slang (usually used by the ground combatants) meaning we are taking heavy fire, casualties, and at risk of being wiped out or overrun. Frequently heard in radio communications requesting assistance.
  2. Ooh-rah” is a battle cry common in the United States Marine Corps since the mid-twentieth century. It is comparable to “hooah” in the US Army and “hooyah” in the US Navy and US Coast Guard. It is most commonly used to respond to a verbal greeting or as an expression of enthusiasm.
  3. A “card” is slang for an amusingly eccentric person.
  4. In urban slang, a “nave” is someone who is bothersome, purposely or not. It is often used pejoratively in referring to very ugly women.
  5. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is a proverb or aphorism. The saying is thought to have originated with Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who wrote (c. 1150), “L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs” (hell is full of good wishes and desires). Psychological studies of the effect of intention upon task completion by professors Peter Gollwitzer, Paschal Sheeran and Sheina Orbell indicate that there is some truth in the proverb. For example, perfectionists are especially prone to have their intentions backfire in this way.
        When judging intentions, people are more likely to interpret good intentions for their own actions than they are for those of others. Attempts to improve the ethical behavior of groups are often counterproductive. If legislation is used, people will observe the letter of the law rather than improving the desired behavior. During negotiation, groups that are encouraged to understand the point of view of the other parties do worse than those whose perspective is not enlightened. The threat of punishment may worsen ethical behavior rather than improving it. Studies of business ethics indicate that most wrongdoing is not due directly to wickedness but is performed by people who did not plan to err.

Chapter 21

  1. A military backpack, also called a MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment, pronounced like the name “Molly”), is designed to adjust the amount of equipment a soldier carries. The contents of a MOLLE are similar to what a backpacker would carry but differ depending on the location of the soldier, the length of the assignment and the soldier’s mission.
  2. “Battle Rattle” is military slang for combat gear.
  3. A boffin is British slang for a scientist, engineer, or other person engaged in technical or scientific work. The original World War II conception of war-winning researchers means that the character tends to have more positive connotations than related characterizations like egghead, nerd, or geek.

Chapter 23

  1. æriste: from Middle English, c1250-1300; A rising up, the resurrection.
  2. Abrosia is abstinence from food.
  3. Damps is the collective name given to all gases (other than air) found in coal mines. The word is an anglicized version of Dampf, the German name for “vapour.” Its usage was introduced in the seventeenth century, when large numbers of German miners and mine engineers came to England to assist in the development of deep coal mining. Alongside firedamp, there are damps which included blackdamp (carbon dioxide and other gases); poisonous, explosive stinkdamp (hydrogen sulphide) with its characteristic “rotten egg” odor; and the insidiously lethal afterdamp (carbon monoxide and other gases) produced following explosions of firedamp or coal dust.
  4. The phrase “sticky wicket” is a metaphor used to describe a difficult circumstance. It originated as a term for difficult circumstances in the sport of cricket, caused by a damp and soft pitch.

Chapter 24

  1. Duende is Spanish—it’s original use was to describe a mythical entity that lives in forests, sort of like a fairy or a sprite, that possesses human beings and causes them to feel awe, fear, or a sense of beauty in their natural surroundings. Since being updated by the Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, in the early twentieth century, it is now used to refer to the mysterious power of a work of art to deeply move a person.
  2. “The dogs are barking” is urban slang for painful feet. This is an old expression, typically associated with the South, and especially concentrated around the Appalachian Mountain chain. Older usage didn’t connote smelly or dirty feet, just sore feet.
  3. The name Harlequin is taken from that of a mischievous “devil” or “demon” character in popular French passion plays. It originates with an Old French term herlequin, first attested in the 11th century, by the chronist Orderic Vitalis, who recounts that he was pursued by a troop of demons when wandering on the coast of Normandy at night. These demons were led by a masked, club-wielding giant and they were known as familia herlequin (var. familia herlethingi). This medieval French version of the Germanic Wild Hunt, Mesnée d’Hellequin, has been connected to the English figure of Herla cyning (“host-king”; German Erlkönig). Hellequin was depicted a black-faced emissary of the devil, roaming the countryside with a group of demons chasing the damned souls of evil people to Hell. The physical appearance of Hellequin offers an explanation for the traditional colors of Harlequin’s red-and-black mask. The first known appearance on stage of a Harlequin figure is dated to 1262, the character of a masked and hooded devil in Jeu da la Feuillière by Adam de la Halle, and it became a stock character in French passion plays. The name also appears as that of a devil, as Alichino, in Dante’s Inferno (cantos 21 to 23).
  4. Weltanschauung: A comprehensive world view is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society’s knowledge and point-of-view. A world view can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.

Chapter 25

  1. The words “hayna” or “heyna” or “henna” or “haynit” are requests for affirmation, like “ain’t it so?”  or “isn’t that right?” The word “hain’t” is another variation on “ain’t.” “Hain’t it?” is likely where “heyna” comes from. These are primarily Luzerne County words, and very common in Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, and surrounding areas.

Chapter 26

  1. The word “butler” comes from Anglo-Norman buteler, variant form of Old Norman butelier, corresponding to Old French botellier, an “officer in charge of the king’s wine bottles,” derived of boteille “bottle,” modern French bouteille, itself from Gallo-Romance BUTICULA “bottle.” The role of the butler, for centuries, has been that of the chief steward of a household, the attendant entrusted with the care and serving of wine and other bottled beverages, which in ancient times might have represented a considerable portion of the household’s assets.

Chapter 27

  1. Halumpkies are stuffed cabbages. Also known as “blind pigeons.” Halupkies is the Ukrainian term; galumpkies, the Polish term. In Ukranian, the word is “holubtsi,” which means pigeons.
  2. The English idiom even a broken clock is right twice a day is most often used when people get lucky and are undeservedly successful.
  3. A pictograph, also called pictogram(me), is an ideogram that conveys its meaning through its pictorial resemblance to a physical object. Earliest examples of pictographs include ancient or prehistoric drawings or paintings found on rock walls. Pictographs are also used in writing and graphic systems in which the characters are to considerable extent pictorial in appearance. 
  4. An ideogram or ideograph is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.
  5. In linguistics, a grammatical agent is a thematic relation that refers to the cause or initiator of an event. The agent is a semantic concept distinct from the subject of a sentence. While the subject is determined syntactically, primarily through word order, the agent is determined through its relationship to the action expressed by the verb. The word comes from the present participle agens, agentis (“the one doing”) of the Latin verb agere, to “do” or “make.”
  6. In modern military parlance, to take point, walk point, be on point, or be a point man means to assume the first and most exposed position in a combat military formation, that is, the leading soldier/unit advancing through hostile or unsecured territory. The term might be related to the Middle English phrase “in point,” which meant “in immediate danger or peril.”
  7. “Bupkis” is a Yiddish term meaning emphatically nothing, as in he isn’t worth bupkis (indeterminate, either ‘beans’ or ‘goat droppings’, possibly of Slavic, Vlach, or Greek origin; cf. Polish bobki ‘animal droppings.’
  8. Many German states had used a guillotine-like device known as a Fallbeil since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and decapitation by guillotine was the usual means of execution in Germany until the abolition of the death penalty in West Germany in 1949.

Chapter 28

  1. “The penny dropped” is a British idiom that means to suddenly understand something.
  2. Historically, the meaning of the letter ‘X’ traces back to the Arabic word for “thing,” or šay’. In ancient texts, such as Al-Jabr, a manuscript written in Baghdad in 820 A.D. that established the rules of algebra, mathematical variables were called things. (An equation might read “three things equal fifteen,” for example—the thing being five.) When Al-Jabr was later translated into Old Spanish, the word šay’ was written as “xei.” This soon came to be abbreviated as x.
  3. In the Russian speaking criminal underworld, the knife is referred to as the “feather.”
  4. A shit pump is slang for a soldier who displays a poor attitude, or meets the bare minimum standard; an overall bad soldier.
  5. A white elephant is a possession which its owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness. The term derives from the story that the kings of Siam, now Thailand, were accustomed to make a present of one of these animals to courtiers who had rendered themselves obnoxious in order to ruin the recipient by the cost of its maintenance. In modern usage, it is an object, scheme, business venture, facility, etc., considered without use or value.
  6. “Elephant in the room” is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.

Chapter 29

  1. “An easier question to answer, he maintains, is the size of the average person’s vocabulary. He suggests taking a sample of about twenty or thirty pages from a medium-sized dictionary, one which contains about 100,000 entries or 1,000 to 1,500 pages. Tick off the ones you know and count them. Then multiply that by the number of pages and you will discover how many words you know. Most people vastly underestimate their total. ‘Most people know half the words—about 50,000—easily. A reasonably educated person about 75,000 and a really cool, smart person well, maybe all of them but that is rather unusual. An ordinary person, one who has not been to university say, would know about 35,000 quite easily.’”
    - From “The words in the mental cupboard,” BBC Magazine, April, 2009, quoting Professor David Crystal
  2. The word ‘row’ as used here by Alex is a double-entendre, referring both to a line of cards in the matrix, and a row—the British term for an argument or altercation.

Chapter 30

  1. A bairn is a Scottish baby. Possibly derived from the old Norse word “barn,” which means both “child” and “children.”
  2. “Semper Fu” refers to the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, the hand-to-hand combat system used by the Marines, which has different levels of belts (tan, gray, green, brown, black) for different levels. The moniker is a combination of “Semper Fi” and “kung-fu.”

Chapter 31

  1. A mondegreen is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. Mondegreens are most often created by a person listening to a poem or a song; the listener, being unable to clearly hear a lyric, substitutes words that sound similar, and make some kind of sense. American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in her essay “The Death of Lady Mondegreen,” published in Harper’s Magazine in November 1954. The phenomenon is not limited to English, with examples cited by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in the Hebrew song “Háva Nagíla” (“Let’s Be Happy”), and in Bollywood movies.
  2. The term “vic” is police slang for victim.
  3. A luminaria or farolito is a small paper lantern (commonly a candle set in some sand inside a paper bag) which is of significance in New Mexico and in southwest United States at Christmastime, especially on Christmas Eve. These paper lanterns have to some extent replaced the older tradition of the vigil fire luminaria.
  4. To see a man about a horse (or see a man about a dog) is an English language colloquialism, usually used as a way to say one needs to apologize for an imminent departure or absence—generally euphemistically to conceal one’s true purpose.
  5. Pneuma is an ancient Greek word for “breath,” and in a religious context, for “spirit” or “soul.” It has various technical meanings for medical writers and philosophers of classical antiquity, particularly with regard to physiology, and is also used in Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible and in the Greek New Testament. In classical philosophy, it is distinguishable from psyche, which originally meant “breath of life,” but is regularly translated as “spirit” or most often “soul.”
  6. A breastwork is a fortification. The term is usually applied to temporary fortifications, often an Earthwork thrown up to breast height to provide protection to defenders firing over it from a standing position. A more permanent structure, normally in stone, would be described as a parapet or the battlement of a castle wall.

Chapter 32

  1. Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, French for “Freedom, equality, brotherhood,” is the national motto of France and the Republic of Haiti, and is an example of a tripartite motto. Although it finds its origins in the French Revolution, it was then only one motto among others and was not institutionalized until the Third Republic at the end of the nineteenth century. Debates concerning the compatibility and order of the three terms began at the same time as the Revolution. Soon after the Revolution, the motto was sometime written as Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ou la Mort, meaning “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death.” The “death” part was later dropped for being too strongly associated with the Reign of Terror.
  2. Alea iacta est (“The die is cast”) is a Latin phrase attributed by Suetonius to Julius Caesar on January 10, 49 BC as he led his army across the River Rubicon in Northern Italy. With this step, he entered Italy at the head of his army in defiance of the Senate and began his long civil war against Pompey and the Optimates. The phrase is still used today in Italy (Il dado è tratto) to mean that events have passed a point of no return, that something inevitably will happen.
  3. In its original formulation as a proverb and metaphor for credulity with roots in fable, “The Moon is made of green cheese” refers to the perception of a simpleton who sees a reflection of the Moon in water and mistakes it for a round cheese wheel. It is widespread as a folkloric motif or meme among many of the world’s cultures, and the notion has also found its way into both children’s folklore and modern popular culture. The phrase “green cheese” in this proverb simply refers to a young cheese (indeed, sometimes “cream cheese” is used), though modern people may interpret the color reference literally.

Chapter 33

  1. Meth’álem q’á:mi translates as ‘arrogant girl’ from Halq’eméylem, one of the Coast Salish languages of various First Nations peoples in British Columbia.
  2. A bhikkhu is an ordained male Buddhist monk.
  3. This is intended as a double-entente, referring both to distance, and, literally, to the physical feet on the floor.
  4. The metaphor of dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants expresses the meaning of “discovering truth by building on previous discoveries.” While it can be traced to at least the twelfth century, attributed to Bernard of Chartres, its most familiar expression in English is found in a 1676 letter of Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
  5. The word cynosure originates from the late sixteenth century:  from French, or from Latin cynosura, from Greek kunosoura ‘dog’s tail’ (also ‘Ursa Minor’), from kuōn, kun- ‘dog’ + oura ‘tail.’ The term originally denoted the constellation Ursa Minor, or the star Polaris that it contains, long used as a guide by navigators.