Saturday, 12 May 2007

Bits & Pieces (concerning harlots, breathless ejaculations; and muddy salamanders)

No one else may be interested, but today I was happy to learn that ‘mob’ is short for mobile vulgus (fickle crowd). I think it would be lovely to revert to using the full term again; it has much more charm.

John Howard: What’s all that bloody carry on I can hear? What a ruckus.

Peter Costello: Prime Minister, do not concern yourself, it is merely a mobile vulgus.

John Howard: Well, Pete, it’s just not cricket.

Robert Mugabe: [evil: Woo-ha-har-haa!] Not cricket eh, Johnny? That’ll be $2million. And if you need advice on how to deal with an angry mobile vulgus…

Today I also learnt that philippic is a verbal denunciation, a tirade. All because Demosthenes let it be known that he was not overly fond of some bloke called Philip (King of Macedon), back in 4th century BC.

More trivia: Shakespeare created about 1,700 words.

These include: critical, leapfrog, monumental, castigate, majestic, obscene, frugal, radiance, dwindle, as well as excellent, fretful, gust, lonely and pedant.

Initially harlot referred to a boy.

In Chaucer’s time a girl was any young person, male or female.

I have learnt much of this via the scintillating Bill Bryson, who wrote that “Politician was originally a sinister word (perhaps, on second thoughts, it still is).” [I was there at first thoughts myself.]

I have found it quite useful to learn was that the word nice has meant many things over many years. In its first recorded use in 1290 it meant stupid and foolish. Several decades later Chaucer used it to mean lascivious and wanton. It changed throughout the next 400 years to mean extravagant, elegant, strange, slothful, unmanly, luxurious, modest, slight, precise, thin, shy, discriminating, and dainty. By 1769 it meant pleasant and agreeable.

Makes it tough in retrospect to know what writers' intentions were. For example, Jane Austin wrote in a letter: You scold me so much in a nice long letter…

We obviously need to be mindful of possible changes in definition as we read distantly written passages such as in Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’: Sir Leicester leans back in his chair, and breathlessly ejaculates.

My happiest recent discovery was revealed to me within the Macquarie definition of an olm. What is an olm, you may ask? Well, I am happy to reply that it is a mud puppy.*

So now you know.

* OK, the rest of you are probably cleverer than me and know that mud puppy is just another name for salamander. Well I didn't. So stop showing off. Anyway, I think the name is irresistibly endearing. Mud puppy! That's so cute. (Yes, yes... Flanellette sheets and knowledge of mud puppies - I am easily pleased.)

UPDATE, June 2008 (don't say I'm not thorough! ...occasionally).

Anon has corrected my interweb-researched knowledge of the appearance of a mud puppy. *sniff*

The above pic is similar to this one...

...of 'two mature white axolotls'.


So, I've discovered real mud puppies, actually aren't so cute:

Although... they do seem to be more fond of flamboyant fashion accessories!

Apparently the same confusion applies for water dogs, which are just the larval stage blah blah blah... Both terms are used a lot for various things, various salamanders and axolotls. They're inaccurate but commonly used terms.

It's all very complex.

Some knowledgeable person says:

A mudpuppy is exclusively referring to a permanently aquatic animal from the eastern United States (Necturus spp., generally maculosus). They have four toes on each foot. They are also sometimes called waterdogs.

On the same page, we can see a lot of people get upset about these things:

I've worked in a petstore. Let me tell you!!! If it has gills and legs (some times even fins) people will tell you its a mudpuppy. Most of America seems to think a mudpuppy, waterdog, larval salamander & axolotl are the same creature. I've gotten into arguements about whether or not axolotls morph and if larval salamanders morph. YUP. Its frustrating.

I even once asked my boss to order some axolotls for me and I CAREFULLY explained the difference. I wound up with three very nice larval tiger salamanders. I kept one and passed the others on to friends.

:::sigh:::: where is the education?

And I don't blame them!

But, 'mud puppy' is such a cute name! No wonder its ubiquity has been encouraged. In fact, I think I'll call my next cat 'Mud Puppy'.... or, my next axolotl 'Fluffy'...