David Petraeus. A Brilliant Career With a Meteoric Rise and an Abrupt Fall

Tony Watt, Scottish footballer. Dream night against Barca caps meteoric rise for Watt

Justin Welby. New Archbishop of Canterbury: Justin Welby, the meteoric rise of an ‘astonished’ former oil trader

Eben Etzebeth. Young Etzebeth’s meteoric rise

* See “METEORIC RISE” at Michael Quinion’s excellent site, World Wide Words.

One Response to “Meteoric Rises* in This Week’s Headlines”

  1. terri Says:

    Wonder if the meteoric rise in rhetoric corresponds to the Leonids meteor shower peaking 11-17-2012 with about 12 meteors per hour……better check if anyone rises or falls during the Gemenids December 13th 2012 with 100 shooting stars per hour.

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During the 13-year period (1995-2007) for which public data is available, 141 babies were born in Los Angeles County and named Unique. Two were boys.

A great many baby names were more unusual than Unique, including Z (boy, 2007), Q (boy, 2005), Abcde (girl, 2005), Awesome (boy, 2007), Yourhighness (girl, 2007), Queenelizabeth (girl, 2005), Unknown (boy, 2005), and Y (boy, 2007).


Data source: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health [link]

Update (May 5, 2012)

I updated this post last year when I discovered the Social Security Administration’s baby-name database, but it turns out there was more there than I realized. In his Breakfast Experiment™ of this morning, Language Log’s Mark Liberman mentioned this richer source of SSA name data.

As was the case for the SSA data I found last year (in the earlier update, which appears below), there’s no data for baby names that are unique (or almost so). But in recent years, Unique is not unique, so there’s more to report. The chart below summarizes the latest SSA data I have for Unique boys and girls.


Update (June 24, 2011)

The Social Security Administration provides a basic query interface to its national baby-name database. Based on Social Security card applications for births that occurred in the United States, Unique was a common enough girl’s name to make the annual top 1,000 list nine times between 1996 and 2009.


Both the Los Angeles and national figures suggest that as a baby name, Unique is becoming less common.

2 Responses to “Baby Unique, Not So Much [updated again]”

  1. Steve Kass Says:

    Further investigation reveals several similar names worth noting.

    Im’unique (girl, 2007)
    I’munique (girl, 2002)
    Imuniqye (girl, 1999)
    Imuniqee (girl, 1998)
    Imyunique (girl, 1997)
    Imunquine (boy, 1997)
    Imunique (girl, 2007; 2 girls, 2005; 2 girls, 2001; 2 girls, 2000; 5 girls, 1999; 2 girls, 1998, girl, 1997; 6 girls, 1996; 2 girls, 1995)

    Also, Iexyzhen Vyelle Yzhian (girl, 2005).

  2. Mike Says:

    I’d be curious about Uniqua

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I’m not sure if I’ll eat all 4.7 parts, but this is my evening snack today, and I can do without any fat against the type.


One Response to “Sea Tongue Gulf One: Shut the Fat Fully”

  1. Victor Mair Says:

    Brooklyn / Joisey Chinglish

    “Shut the fat fully”

    chemical and nutrient terminology in Chinese

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1937: The budget which President Roosevelt submitted 60 days ago is already becoming obsolete.

1949: A Senate Commerce subcommittee said today the nation’s war-built merchant fleet already is becoming obsolete and “a replacement program of new ship construction may be in order.”

1949: The FCC chief devoted most of the address to the current public discussion over the possibility of television sets now in the hands of the public becoming obsolete in the event new video channels are opened in the so-called “ultrahigh frequencies.”

1958: The premier also pointed out that the Moose Jaw plant was fast becoming obsolete and that there was a possibility in the near future of nuclear power being more universally used.

1960: Old fashioned bomb-throwing assassins are becoming obsolete in an age where computing machines and electronic devices are essential tools of day-to-day existence.

1960: The giant Intercontinental ballistic missiles already may be well on the way to becoming obsolete.

1966: Is your front door becoming obsolete? Studies show that in suburban homes 90 per cent of the traffic is between the garage and a side or  a back door. [In “SURBURBAN BYPASS,” a column of potpourri that incidentally fails to mention spelling.]

1973: New letter sorting equipment being used by the Postal Service at Cincinnati is “becoming obsolete as it is being developed,” according to a report by a House subcommittee staff.

1975: The [Education Commission of the States], which conducts periodic student assessments for the U.S. Office of Education, said experts are suggesting that the written word is becoming obsolete as students lean more on the spoken word.

1984: Building in New Hanover County is becoming so concentrated that our present method of sewage disposal is rapidly becoming obsolete.

1985: Science buildings and laboratories at many universities are becoming obsolete, and their condition threatens to cripple important research in health, engineering and other fields in which the United States now leads, a University of Illinois official told a congressional panel Wednesday.

1986: Rotary-dial telephones are becoming obsolete.

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While I was initially drawn to this 2008 New York Times article by the phrase “Male and female sand dollars,” I’m certain that “fish mucus split” will be what sticks.

Sand dollar, sex unknown. Click for source; licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Even today, some things are worth repeating. Fish mucus split.

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Sorry, you’ll have to go elsewhere for more of this.For your entertainment, a handful of the many hundreds of uncaught — one might say hairy — misspellings of public as pubic in the news over the last few weeks.


“Twenty-five environmental and pubic health groups asked Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday to abandon the state’s new plan for eradicating agricultural pests and explore a less toxic approach, such as crop rotation or planting neighboring crops that deter insects.”
California’s new pesticide plan sparks protest, Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2011.

“While he intellectualizes with the unbending intensity of an adolescent, his political sense is remarkably subtle. And he is not afraid to advocate positions most adults, even those sharing the same views, would be afraid to support in pubic.”
13-Year-Old Serb Activist Contends With Bullies and Death Threats, New York Times,
June 6, 2011.

China introduces pubic tenders to promote shale gas exploration (headline),
Xinhua English News, June 30, 2011.

“Jackson schools superintendent leaving: Jackson Pubic Schools Superintendent Lonnie Edwards talks to the media about his contract ending.” (photo caption) Contract expired, Edwards exits JPS, Clarion-Ledger, June 29, 2011.

“Beijing’s police do a remarkable job of silencing pubic displays of dissent, but occasionally the desperate find dramatic new ways of airing their grievances.” Aggrieved Chinese Face Swift Police Repression, Voice of America, July 2, 2011.

“A full 7,000 pages of The Pentagon Papers are now declassified and available for pubic viewing online.”
Evening News Online, 06.13.11, CBS News, June 13, 2011.

“The 28-year old actress surprised fans by coming out during a pubic service announcement for the Give a Damn gay rights campaign in April 2010 – four-months before she married ‘True Blood’ co-star Stephen Moyer in Malibu.”
Anna Paquin: No-one [sic] questions my sexuality, Starlounge, June 29, 2011.

“Today’s installment in people being booted off pubic transportation, this one involving saggy pants and the classic line, ‘My pants are up, sir.’”
Jet Passenger Booted Over Baggy Pants, Newser, June 18, 2011.

“The measure — which appears to be one vote away from passage if it gets to the floor — is not on the immediate agenda but could be discussed after talks on tax cap, New York City rent control and pubic college tuition increases.”
Key GOP Senators in Same-Sex Marriage Debate Meet Privately, WNYC, June 22, 2011.

“We have got to continue to elevate pubic expectation for public education in Madison County. We’re about to turn things over to the community."
Business execs seek community involvement in schools, Jackson Sun, June 18, 2011.

“The burly, silver-haired author and historian, wearing a snug suit-coat, called the prosecution’s original case against him ‘massive’ and ‘over-reaching,’ and a direct result of what he called a libelous 2004 report by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that ‘tainted the wells of pubic opinion.’”
Ex-media mogul Conrad Black ordered back to prison; wife faints, Chicago Sun-Times, June 24, 2011.

“An off-duty police officer who was working out at the facility observed the activity, said Paul McCurtain, pubic information officer for the St. Charles Police Department. Three male victims told police they were approached and inappropriately touched by Lawrence E. Adamcyzk of Rockford inside of the facility while they were either working out or playing basketball.”
Suspects caught while fleeing from Elgin home charged in burglary, The Courier-News, June 28, 2011.

Feldis, the chief criminal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage, declined to say what involvement the Pubic Integrity Section might still have.
Kott, Kohring get new trials, Anchorage Daily News, July 2, 2011.

Mitchel Ghiggia, 22, of 30 West Glen Ave., Port Chester, NY, was arrested Friday for two counts of third-degree assault, two counts of conspiracy to commit third-degree assault and creating a pubic disturbance.
Arrests: First-Degree Threatening, Second-Degree Burglary, Stamford,
July 1, 2011.

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Southwest Airlines began nonstop service from Newark to Phoenix this month, just in time for my brother’s retirement party, which I attended last week.

Bob served the City of Campbell (California) for 23 years, and although he did not achieve all of his goals¹, he did leave a considerable legacy. Thanks to Bob, for example, the historic Ainsley House was moved to Campbell (and rotated 90 degrees), and Bob oversaw the development of many parks.

The Campbell City Council’s resolution recognizing Bob’s service is here, and his performance of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance (at another Campbell employee’s retirement party not long ago) is here.

Screen shot 2011-06-25 at 15.41.10

But I digress. You’ve come here for the latest episode of Spirit Spelling Report.

Ironic Misspelling

“Millennium” (as “Millenium”, twice, on page 254)³


Unexpected nonmisspellings

  • “apostasy” (as “apostasy”, on page 22)
  • “Millennium” (as “Millennium”, in Spirit’s references to Chicago’s Millennium Park except on page 254)

Odd quotes

  • “Throw any mammal in the water, and it will doggy paddle.” —Mark Uhen, paleontologist, in an article about whales.
  • It goes back to me being a kid, to my sisters and I being given a quarter every Saturday to go to a double feature. —James Patterson, “World’s best-selling author” [emphasis added]

Lest you consider me uniquely picky about Spirit’s typography (which is lately much improved), I draw your attention to a fellow from Incline Village, Nevada, who wrote the editors to bewail their failure to italicize the price of Maryland Crab Cakes in a menu within a story about menus. (The other prices on the menu were italicized.) The editors’ cleverly sneaky response? “Usually we’re better at proofreading than we are at math.” Given the quality of proofreading in past Spirits, well.

Finally, a non-Spirit seat-pocket observation: The Late Spring 2011 SkyMall catalog was disappointingly thin. Economists, take note.

¹ The Campbell Soup Company remains in Camden, New Jersey, for example, despite Bob’s tempting offer to have the city’s water tower repainted Warhol-style.

² Etymology: Latin anniversāri-us returning yearly, < ann-us year + vers-us turned, a turning + –āri-us: see -ary suffix. [Source: The Oxford English Dictionary]

³ Although millenary (synonymous with millennium, from post-classical Latin millenarius) is correctly spelled with -n-, millennium (from classical Latin annus) is correctly spelled with -nn-. The OED notes that these spellings “have frequently been confused.”

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I spent a good chunk of the last 24 hours at one of my favorite hangouts, Language Log. My reason for lingering was to pore over (in good company) some interesting graphs Mark Liberman had put up about the ever-controversial adverb “literally.” [Link: Two Breakfast Experiments™: Literally]

The graphs purported to show, inter alia, “a remarkably lawful relationship between the frequency of a verb and the probability of its being modified by literally, as revealed by counts from the 410-million-word COCA corpus.” [Aside: Visit COCA some time. It’s beautiful, it’s open 24/7, and admission is free.]


Sadly (for the researcher whose graphs Mark posted), there was no linguistic revelation; happily (for me and other mathophiles) the graphs highlighted a very interesting statistical artifact. Good stuff was learned.

Instead of rehashing what you can find in the comment thread at Language Log, what I’ll do here is give a non-linguistic example of this statistical artifact. First, a very few general remarks about statistics.

Much of statistics is about making observations or drawing inferences from selected data. In a nutshell, statistical analysis often goes like this: look at some data (such as the COCA corpus), find something interesting (such as an inverse relationship between two measurements), and draw a conclusion (in this case, a general inference about American English, of which COCA is one of the largest samples available in usable form).

Easy as a, b, c. One, two, three. Do, re, mi.

Sometimes. The mathematical underpinnings of statistics often make it possible, given certain assumptions, to make inferences from selected data with some (measurable) measure of confidence. Unfortunately, it’s easy to focus so hard on measuring the confidence (Yay, p < 0.05! I might get tenure!) that you forget the assumptions or you get careless about how you state an inference or calculation.

When bad statistics happens, there’s often a scary headline, but I can’t think up a good one at the moment and I’ll go straight to the (artifactual) graph.


This graph shows that for not-too-small cities, there’s a modest negative relationship between city size and homicide rate: on average, smaller cities tend to have higher homicide rates.

But the truth is that among not-too-small cities, smaller cities don’t tend to have higher homicide rates than larger ones. Here’s a better graph:


This graph shows almost no relationship between city size and homicide rate.

What’s going on, and what’s wrong with the relationship that shows up (and is real) in the first graph? The titles hold a clue (but don’t count on such clear titles when you see or read about graphs in the news). The first graph only shows cities that had at least 10 homicides in 2009. For that scatterplot, cities were selected for analysis according to a criterion related to the variable under investigation, homicide rate. That’s a no-no.

The 10-homicide cutoff biased the selection of cities used in the analysis. Most very large cities show up simply because they’re large enough to have 10 or more homicides, but the smallest cities that appear are only there because they had high enough homicide rates to reach 10-homicide threshold despite their relatively small populations. For the first graph, I (pretendingly) unwittingly chose all large cities together with only some smaller cities, specifically smaller cities with unusually high homicide rates for their size. Then I “discovered” that smaller cities had higher homicide rates.

Oops. It’s an easy mistake to make, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it happens often. I can easily imagine medical studies that compare the rates of some disease among cities and exclude any city that has “too few” cases of the disease to analyze.

Statistics is a powerful tool. Follow the instructions.

One Response to “Take (Some of) the Data and Run”

  1. Dan H Says:

    Your statistical analysis is, as far as I can tell, spot on, but I think you’re being a little harsh on the original Language Log post. While you’re right that it’s important to realise that the data *does not* show that there is a blanket negative correlation between frequency of use of a word and its frequency of combination with “literally” it *does* show such a correlation for the specific subset of words analysed (words which are frequently combined with literally).

    Similarly, the correlation shown in your first graph of murder rate vs city size is actually a perfectly legitimate one, as long as you’re clear about what you’re actually looking at. If for some reason I was forced to live in a city which had at least ten murders per year, then I would absolutely want that city to be as large as possible, because otherwise I’d find myself living in a small town with a disproportionately large murder rate.

    To put it another way, I think there *are* legitimate reasons to be interested in studying the specific subset of words that are frequently combined with a particular modifier, it’s just very important not to overgeneralise from the specific case.

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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 (, back-formation from nostalgia. Pluralized as nostalgiums to distinguish from nostalgia.

One Response to “Word of the Day: Nostalgium”

  1. John Muccigrosso Says:

    Ugh, says the Latinist.

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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 “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 [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.

One Response to “Typo Story [Pilot Episode]”

  1. Barbara Says:

    Wow! Great explanation, thanks a lot!
    I’m a native German speaker, not from Franconia, however. Coming across the poem while rehearsing Brahms songs in choir, I had a hard time finding out about the meaning of the word “and”. Luckily, you as a non-native speaker provided me with the solution!

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