February 2011

Today’s word of the day is nostalgium.

nos·tal·gium /nɔ.ˈstæl.d͡ʒəm/, pl. nostalgiums.

An object that provokes nostalgia when perceived or remembered.

2011: intentional coinage by Steve Kass (http://www.stevekass.com), back-formation from nostalgia. Pluralized as nostalgiums to distinguish from nostalgia.

Someone points out a typo to me. I wonder why the typo was made. I learn a bunch of cool stuff. It’s one of my favorite story lines, and here’s today’s episode. [Related post on stevekass.com: “Why not?”]

Readers will know that as The Dessoff Choirs’ self-appointed language guru, I routinely prepare IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) transliterations of upcoming concert music. [see Graphemes to Phonemes Made Easy]

Over the years, I’ve learned I can count on certain fellow singers, especially alto section leader Lisa Madsen, to scrutinize my work. Recently, Lisa noticed a small discrepancy between a word (and) in my transliteration and the corresponding word (an) in our printed score.

Georg Friedrich Daumer’s poem “Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel” 

da tat es ihm, dem Glücklichen, nicht an, which should have been nicht and.

Johannes Brahms’s Liebeslieder waltz, Opus 52, #6


S. verifies that and is correct according to several authoritative sources.

S. looks up and fails to find and in several German dictionaries.

S. hypothesizes that and is a poetic substitution for an for rhyme’s sake (cf., antun, to harm).

S. (AKA Area Man) poses this hypothesis at WordReference.com. [see Appendix A]

While drafting his WordReference post, B. (S.’s brother) phones S. and asks “What are you doing?”

S. explains.

B. offers to ask G. (B.’s friend, an erudite scholar of German) S.’s question, which offer S. accepts.

S. shortly receives an informative answer [see Appendix B] from WordReference user and native German speaker Demiurg.

Subsequently, S. receives an even more informative answer [see Appendix C] from G.



One of Johannes Brahms’s Liebeslieder-Walzer (1865) contains this stanza from a poem by Georg Friedrich Daumer (1800-1875):

Der Vogel kam
in eine schöne Hand,
da tat es ihm,
dem Glücklichen, nicht and.

Is the final word and a poetic alteration of an (separated from antun) to make the rhyme with Hand? If not, what is it?

Also, how might this come across to a present-day native German speaker (in the context of a sung poem, where a rhyme is expected)?


It’s a dated form (=> and). "Es tat ihm nicht and" means "es tat ihm nicht leid".

However, it’s still used in the East Franconian dialect:

    and tun, es tut mir and

    Aussprache: des dud mer and
    Bedeutung: "es tut mir leid" oder "ich habe Sehnsucht danach"
    Satzbeispiel: Noach mein Vauweh is mer heind no and
    (aus Wassertrüdingen, Landkreis Ansbach)
    "Ich denke heute noch mit Wehmut an meinen VW-Käfer"
    Herkunft: mittelhochdeutsch ant "schmerzlich"
    aus althochdeutsch anan "atmen, seufzen" (vgl. deutsch ahnen)




"Da tat es ihm nicht and".

"and tun" in Eastern Frankish dialect (dialect geographically prevalent in Southern Germany- its eastern border was near Nuernberg, where Georg Friedrich Daumer was born and lived) is/was used to express "to be hurtful" "to cause pain". It is also used in Middle High German. Today you would use: "Da tat es ihm nichts an."

"Da tat es ihm nicht and" could therefore be translated as: it didn’t cause him any pain.
I.e: the fact that the bird flew on his lady’s hand did not bother him all that much – no competition for his affection.

Another reason Georg Friedrich Daumer used this archaic and/or dialect expression is that he studied and used Arabic and Persian rhyme schemes during certain periods in his creative life, which were much stricter about perfect rhyme endings than was customary in Germany poetry – other than during the German classical period.

I hope I could help you out.



Yes, G., you could and did help me out. Thanks.

When you read the word ugh, what do you hear?

  • [ʌg], which rhymes with mug
  • [ʊx], [ʌx], [ɯx], or [ɯχ], ending with a brief harbinger-of-spitting sound
  • either of the above, depending on context, but sometimes you can’t tell

If you answered [ʌg], as I would have before I began thinking too hard, then how would you spell the spitty word? Similar questions with blech.

The American Stroke Association is having a conference in Los Angeles (near Hollywood) this week. The disease-ridden news coming out of that conference is full of numbers, so reporters are cooking up bigger-than-usual batches of scare.

Yesterday’s stroke news was an unjustified scare about stroke and younger people.

Today’s stroke news: “Is The Oscar Ticket to Heart Attack, Stroke?

Public domain image (Source: Wikimedia Commons)Public domain image (Source: Wikimedia Commons)Public domain image (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

According to a recent study by UCLA researchers, 7.3% of 409 Oscar nominees for best actor or actress since 1927 had strokes, according to public records, a number senior study author cautions is “sure to be an underestimate.” Scary?

ABC News wants their article to be scary, so they imply a wrong answer to the questioning headline with this wrong statistic: “The lifetime risk of stroke in the United States is roughly 2.9 percent, according to a 2010 report from the American Heart Association.” Oscar nominees’ higher-than-7.3% stroke rate is now officially scary. It’s several times the average!

Except that it’s not. The 2.9% figure ABC quotes is wrong. The number 2.9% does appear in the American Heart Association report, but it’s not the lifetime risk of stroke among Americans. It’s the prevalence of (having had a) stroke among American adults, young and old combined — the percentage of Americans who had had a stroke before the data-gathering took place, not who will have a stroke before they die. Many of the 97.1 percent who hadn’t had a stroke when surveyed will have a stroke later in their lives.

According to the same AHA report, stroke accounted for about 137,000 deaths in 2006, or one of every 18 deaths in the United States in 2006. One out of 18 is more than 5%, and that’s just the stroke deaths. The lifetime risk of stroke must then be at least 5%, and it’s probably a lot higher. Only about 1 in 6 strokes is fatal, so the lifetime incidence of stroke could be as high as 30%. In any case, it’s considerably higher than 2.9%, the figure ABC gives.

So. The real news is “Like Other People, Actors Sometimes Have Strokes.” In fact, that’s more or less what the authors of the study set out to say. They wanted to increase public awareness about stroke prevention. When famous people get this or that disease, the general public’s awareness of the disease increases (at least for a while), and those who go to big disease conferences may want more visibility for the specific disease they study.

In scary news today: Stroke Patients Getting Younger, Stroke Rising Among Young People, and so on.

Apparently some researchers reported that some number went up recently, and the number that went up had something to do with stroke and something to do with 15-44 year-olds.

Sounds like a good excuse for a rousing chorus or two of Fire in the Theater! Obesity! Diet Soda! You’re Gonna Die!, no?


The number reported to have gone up recently is not the total number of strokes among 15-44 year-olds, nor is it the rate (per 10,000 people, for example) of strokes among people that age.

The number that went up recently is the rate of strokes in 15-44 year-olds as a fraction of all hospitalizations for that age group. Not an easy quantity to conceptualize. But when a quantity is hard to conceptualize, you aren’t automatically allowed to grab a “you may pretend it’s something else.” pass and lie with impunity. (Do these same journalists give up and write “Boxer” if they can’t spell “Feinstein”?)

Maybe the stroke rate among 15-44 year-olds is not going up.

It could be that hospitalizations of 15-44 year-olds for reasons other than stroke are going down. Maybe hospitals are more and more likely to list multiple reasons for hospitalization than in the past. Maybe many former headaches are now deemed strokes (thanks to the proliferation of imaging tests). Either of these trends would make the numerical rate of stroke diagnoses per 10,000 hospitalizations go up without reflecting an increase in stroke.

Maybe a lot of things. Maybe the rate of stroke is going up among young people. Which might be scary. Or not. It’s possible more and more diagnoses of stroke are insignificant — no worse than a bad headache. Just because “stroke” sounds scary doesn’t mean there can’t be innocuous kinds of stroke.

Unfortunately we don’t know from today’s irresponsible scramble to turn numbers into fear.

1 [of 2]: Raising My Rainbow

RaisingMyRainbow.com is a blog about the adventures in raising a slightly effeminate, possibly gay, totally fabulous son.

It’s written by C.J.’s Mom, a feisty, sassy girl-woman trying to have it all and usually feeling like she is failing miserably while all those around her are none-the-wiser. She works part-time as a business consultant, full-time as a mother and overtime as a walking panic attack.

And it’s about raising C.J. (age 3), the most enchanting child you will ever meet with an insane knack for art and color, interior design and dance. His passions include Barbie, Disney Princesses, Strawberry Shortcake and women’s hair and shoes. Paul Deen holds a special place in his heart.

Go. Read. Be thankful C.J.’s parents love him for who he is.

2 [of 2]: The New York Philharmonic Digital Archive

The New York Philharmonic has just launched the first part of its remarkable digital archive. A New York Times article on the project is here.

Browsing the archive (just launched today) is tricky (for example, you may see “Found In: Scores > Mahler, Gustav,” but neither Scores nor Mahler, Gustav are clickable), and the document reader is finicky (especially until you find and click on the faint unlabeled arrow that undocks a useful navigation bar), but don’t give up. Search for something — anything — to get away from the home page. Then you’re likely to find useful links and category tabs to click.