Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tic-Tac-Toe, Anyone?



David asked about the hashtag, a symbol used in various social media. He expressed confusion because he had learned it as the pound sign.

The function of the hashtag is to turn the un-spaced words that follow a hash sign (#) into a searchable link. This allows users on social networks to find messages related to that specific topic. The Oxford English Dictionary shows the first written instance in 2007. Hash came from the word hatch, which—since the 17th century—has been used in to signify an engraved line, especially a set used to represent shading.
           
Along with David, I was taught to call the symbol a pound sign. Others call it a hash mark, a number sign, a crisscross, or a tic-tac-toe sign. The word octothorp(e) was used in the 1960s at Bell Laboratories, but the full origin is disputed. The octo- segment is clear: there are eight points in the symbol. The –thorp(e) portion has various explanations.
           
Some say that thorp (Middle English for a small town) is represented on a map by the #. I haven’t been able to confirm that. Others say that a Bell Lab employee (Don Macpherson) was active in a group working to get Jim Thorpe’s Olympic medals returned. Then there’s the school of thought that says the name is totally fabricated. Since the octo- word part indisputably means eight, that loses some probability. Ring this one up as uncertain.


Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Friday, December 19, 2014

Hack


Roger asked about the word hack, which has been prominent in the news since North Korean hackers breached Sony’s computer files.  To those outside the avid computer community, it means gaining access to a computer’s content illegally. Its origin was the name of any tool (such as the pickaxe, mattock, or hoe) used to chop things up. While some computer hacks today are incredibly elegant and sophisticated, early attempts were considered crude and hit-or-miss.

Computer aficianados prefer to call illegal hackers crackers, as in safe cracking. To many in that community, hacking is seen as a positive term: a quick, creative solution to some computer problem.

The word hack has been around for centuries, so it has picked up many meanings along the way:

·      n.  A writer who turns out material quickly in order to make money.

·      n.  A horse used for work, not show.

·      n.  A board on which a hawk’s meal is placed.

·      n.  A very inept golfer.

·      n.  A prison guard.

·      n.  A common drudge.

·      v.  To drive a taxi.

·      v.  To cope.

·      v.  To cough loudly and frequently.

·      v.  To pass time aimlessly.

·      v.  To chop off with rough strokes.

·      v.  To place bricks on a frame to dry.

 


Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.comand clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Thursday, December 11, 2014

Contrite



Bill from Maple City asked about the word contrite. From the context of what he was reading, he figured that it meant sorry.

In popular use, that’s true, but it can also range up to an industrial-strength level of remorse. In its original sense, contrite referred to a physical state. It meant material that was crushed, broken, or worn by rubbing. It came into English from 12th century French. In turn, French had borrowed it from the Latin terere—to rub, crush, or grind.

In time, it took on a figurative sense, a type of spiritual erosion. It meant a spirit crushed or broken by the guilt of sinning, thus bringing a person to a penitent state and the possibility of reconciliation.

That same –trit- root shows up in other words. Examples include

·      attrition: reduction in size or strength by wearing away and not replacing
·      detritus: matter produced by the wearing away of exposed surfaces
·      lithotrity: medical crushing of stone in the bladder
·      obtrition: abrasion
·      trite: worn out by constant use
triturate: to reduce to powder by rubbing, pounding, crushing, or grinding

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Friday, December 05, 2014

Near Miss or Near Hit?


David from Traverse City called to complain about the use of near miss in place of near hit or near collision

If I am slavishly literal, a near miss is actually a hit: “I nearly missed you with my car, but I finally managed to bring you to the pavement.” “The fly ball nearly missed me, but at the last second it smashed my eyeglasses.” And, in fact, there are some safety experts who fiercely ban near miss from their vocabularies.

But the federal government is more tolerant. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides the following definition of a near miss in an Accident Investigation Fact Sheet: “…incidents where no property was damaged and no personal injury sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage and/or injury easily could have occurred.” So it is a miss, but only by a narrow margin.

            And Plant Services Magazine takes a philosophical stance: “Near miss, near hit: don't let the terminology bog you down. Whether called near misses, near hits, close calls or something else, the key is to make sure organizations track and investigate them. It’s important to choose a term that employees can relate to. For example, if employees identify more with the term ‘near hit,’ ‘close call,’ or something else, then consider that.”

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.




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