The Lumber Room

"Consign them to dust and damp by way of preserving them"

Archive for April 2008


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From time to time, I encounter people on IRC saying “ta” in contexts that suggest they mean “thanks”. I had assumed “TA” was an acronym for “Thanks Again” or some such thing (some acronym site suggests “Thanks Awfully”), but I found out today that this is not the case: “ta” is not an acronym, it is a full word (interjection).

do people actually say “ta”?: It is apparently common in Northern England and parts of London, but it is colloquial, dial. etc. It is pronounced like “spa” or “tar” without the “r”.

Theories of etymology include Scandinavian origin (Viking remnant?) “The online The English-to-American Dictionary also suggests the possibility of Scandinavian origin.” Also, someone on Yahoo Answers (um…) says “The Danish word for “thanks” is “tak”. In Scotland and upper England it was common to drop the “k” at the end because of the way words were pronounced during the time of old English and Middle English.” The same on UrbanDictionary.

[Origin: 1765–75; by infantile shortening and alter.]

Online Etymology Dictionary:

1772, “natural infantile sound of gratitude” [Weekley]


An infantile form of ‘thank-you’, now also commonly in colloq. adult use.

So I guess that settles it, and the Scandinavian story is just a folk etymology.

Lynneguist says “The Urban Dictionary is a hive of folk etymology.” thus ending any credibility UrbanDictionary might have had :)


Written by S

Mon, 2008-04-28 at 20:53:11

Posted in language

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One who continually bemoans the ‘loss’ of the word ‘gay’ to the English language, even though they had never used the word in any context at all until they started complaining that they couldn’t use it any more.

Before encountering computers, I had always seen the word ‘deprecate’ in contexts from which I understood that it was synonymous to disparage, deplore, condemn, belittle, derogate, and so on.

The computing world uses “X is deprecated” to mean that the feature X is discouraged, often because a recommended replacement has been found for it — thus X is obsolescent, and while using it will work currently, it is expected to stop working in the future, so one is recommended to avoid using it.

With the rise of technology and the decline in reading, many people have encountered the word solely in the latter context, and have taken it to mean something that is “old”, and for which a newer replacement exists: Thus I see people announcing, with no sign of self-deprecation, that “This blog is deprecated”.

Written by S

Sat, 2008-04-26 at 18:17:02

Posted in language

Tagged with ,

Linkflood: 2008-04-23

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This is like ‘Boy boils egg’: Lenore Skenazy let her son come home from a Bloomingdale’s store, and wrote about it. Since then, she has been on TV, called “America’s Worst Mom” (really!), had to defend herself, been written about, and has finally started a blog. Schneier has an image.

UnNobeled in literature: According to Wikipedia: Leo Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen, Émile Zola, James Joyce, Mark Twain, W. H. Auden, Graham Greene, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, Salman Rushdie, Arthur Miller. Also, Jean-Paul Sartre and Boris Pasternak have declined.

Webcomics roundup: XKCD, Dinosaur Comics, PHD Comics, Dilbert, Frazz (‘an adult Calvin’) [oh BTW: ‘Fight Club is really Calvin & Hobbes’ (another)]. Others, which I don’t regularly read, or used to read, so can’t vouch for them personally/still: Foxtrot, Pictures for Sad Children, Questionable Content, A Softer World, Schlock Mercenary, Sexy Losers (NSFW or anything!), Spamusement.
Not exactly comics, but often brilliant nonetheless: Garfield minus Garfield, Indexed, Marmaduke explained (explained).

Somehow I think I’ve missed something.

Americans not so different: Simon Pegg on irony and all that (via lynneguist).

Genetic research is being hampered by Excel: The Register (probably via Revealing Errors).

What is a Year? Phil Plait explains.

Teaching mathematics: Should be done using blackboards. Blackboards are awesome (and better than whiteboards), PowerPoint is terrible (YES!)

Others: Japanese creative barcode pictures, How to Find Lost objects (awesome book, I assure you, speaking as an expert), Women’s cues too subtle for men (haha… wait), Quotation marks (bravo!).

Written by S

Thu, 2008-04-24 at 03:33:47

Posted in Uncategorized

Post Office News

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April 15 is the day tax returns are due in the United States: tax returns must be mailed by — must have a postmark no later than — this date.

Today was a busy day at post offices everywhere. Many post offices close at 5 p.m. The Cambridge Main post office is an exception, closing at 6:45 p.m. generally. But people don’t stop walking in on Tax Day, so at about 6:50 they decided to stop letting people in, serving only those who had entered by then, until the last person was done, at 7:35 or so. Guess who that was?

Written by S

Wed, 2008-04-16 at 01:04:31

Posted in Uncategorized

Drawing for everyone

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Mark Jason Dominus:

If you wanted to hear more about phylogeny, Java programming, or tree algorithms, you are about to be disappointed. The subject of my article today is those fat black lines.

I had no idea that the PBM/PGM/PPM formats were so simple. (Or that I had forgotten so much Perl.)

Now that I know, I feel strangely empowered.

As a direct result of that article, here are some SVG images I made in Python. (Heh.)
[For a reply to my mother about the Missing-square puzzle.]

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by S

Thu, 2008-04-03 at 07:28:12