I came late to Twitter, though late is relative (I followed Stephen Fry ...
Don't judge. I'm not just a star-struck celebrity-stalker. we are fellow near-contemporaries (a few years apart) at CU Footlights, and have a number of connections and interests in common.
...before he reached 20,000 followers and he's now at about 13 million). At the 2008 Language Show I saw a talk given by the amazing Joe Dale, and he recommended it. But I resisted until I saw him again at the 2009PPS Language Show, and since then I've been an aficionado and a user (rather more than some might wish. :-)
But the other night two tweets reminded me of one of my many reasons for loving Twitter. The first was this:
This doesn't use the #mfltwitterati tag, so I have no reason to suppose the tweeter is a language specialist (though she might be – I know the Retweeter of the second tweet is). But the first two words set me off on a fascinating trail – scent perhaps.
CANICULUS. Long-time followers of this blog will recognize the -ULUS ending (it's a little one of whatever it is – the magic words are diminutive suffix). And related words such as English canine and, less obviously, French chien (and canaille, someone on the radio has just told me...
I've checked, but not in my usual source for this sort of thing, Etymonline (which presumably doesn't... whoops, it does. Still)...
...), point to the doggy part. CANICULUS -> Canis Minor.
According to this site
Canis Minor contains two primary stars and 14 Bayer/Flamsteed designated stars. It’s brightest star, Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris), is also the seventh brightest star in the sky. With an apparent visual magnitude of 0.34, Procyon is not extraordinarily bright in itself. But it’s proximity to the Sun – 11.41 light years from Earth – ensures that it appears bright in the night sky.
The dog days or are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star Sirius, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. They are now taken to be the hottest, most uncomfortable part of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.So an alerte canicule is not just a "dogs die in hot cars" warning, although that is something worth considering during the Dog Days.
Attentive readers will have noticed an unexplained inflation in the size of the dog. French canicule derives from CANICULUS (which should be Canis Minor) But the Dog Days are related to Sirius, which is in Canis Major. The only explanation for this that I can see is that, to quote that Universe Today site, Canis Minor‘s brightest star is "Procyon ... the seventh brightest star in the sky". And then:
The star’s name is derived from the Greek word which means “before the dog”, a reference to the fact that it appears to rise before Sirius (the “Dog Star”) when observed from northern latitudes.So, when Procyon rises, it makes sense to think "Here come the Dog Days".
The second tweet gives less food for thought; it's just an example of the sort of linguistic trouvaille (never thought I'd use that word :-) ) that Twitter tends to throw up.
Note for Anglophones: mec means something like "bloke". I think this is much more elegant than "mansplaining", which seems to me to suffer from the same neologizing crudeness as "chocoholic" or "gyrocopter" (just lumping two bits of words together, regardless of their structure). I‘m not hung up on origins; but I like neologisms to hang together like other words do, morphologically.
<rant type="another bugbear">
And I'm unreasonably hostile to "atpersand" (for the sign @). Its model is obviouslly the word ampersand. but the structure of that is "and (per se and)". So the at-based analogue should be ATPERSAT.
But I'm missing the cricket."SHOULD? – that's the way it is. Ask Google." says the little descriptivist dæmon on my shoulder Still...
PS And here are a couple of clues.
- Is introduced to soupçon, pesky thing! (8)
- Legal document introducing sort of Elgar maestoso; really clear. (4,5)
PPS With some regret, I have cancelled my @BobK99 account (because of Twitter's new Ts&Cs, the gist of which is "Everything you write or link to is ours to do with as we will, and we have the right to pass it on willy-nilly to third parties of our choice"), keeping my toe in the water as @WVGTbook – which won't point to my blog. But as a result of this rejigging I've noticed that the account dated back to 2008; I must have signed up in the fog of post-Language Show admin. I just didn't start using it until 2009.
Crossword answers: NUISANCE and WRIT LARGE
Update: 2017.10.13.11:15 – Added PPPS
PPPS: A while ago I noted another of those marvellous tweets that reveals something about another language:
... Les planches as metonymical reference to the theatre. An English actor treads the boards, but "boards" and planches aren't cognates. I wonder which came first...?