Friday, 31 January 2020

Hunting and pecking

There are things about smartphones that bother me when I see them in use. (I'm not a user myself, you understand: Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for islands of self-absorption who avoid eye-contact and court Repetitive Strain Injuries. The temptation would be too great.

Chief among these, apart from the standing invitation to be anti-social, is what happens to users' thumbs. Cradling the phone in the fingers of both hands and typing with two thumbs can lead to stenosing tenosynovitis, or ‘Trigger Thumb‘ (or even – less cryptically...
<aside subject="Trigger Thumb">
Trigger Thumb gets its name from the typical physical jerk and popping sound as the joint moves into/out of place.
When only specialists (in this case, specialists in orthopædics) have need of a term, they use what suits their needs – often leaving lay people wondering what they're on about. 
When an idea gets a wider use, as the needs of the users have changed, the term changes to reflect a new focus. "Trigger" Thumb referred to a characteristic sign of the pathology – what a diagnostician should look for; in medical terms, a sign (what an observer sees) rather than a symptom (what a patient feels). So when the same thing started being felt by a wider range of users, a more specific term was needed.

When my mother (whom saints preserve, [and they better had]) was working at Metal Box in the late '60s, when ring-pull cans were in development, they were called –  in the language of Metal Box technicians 'easy-open ends'. What mattered to those technicians was only the end of the can: specifically, that it was easy to open. 
Obviously that clunky name had to change, and the marketing people came up (in the UK) with 'ring-pull can'. 
In the US the cans had 'pull-tabs' I gather from Wikipedia.
The new expression reflected what was important for the users
...– "Texting Thumb").

Winged Words

I've been asked about the derivation of lurgy. A Google search for etymology lurgy leads to confusing results:
1950s (originally spelled lurgi ): used in the British radio series The Goon Show and probably invented by its writers, though possibly from an English dialect term.

So...? What's confusing about that? Well, click on the arrow for further information and you get this:

A 1950s coining with recorded usage going back to the beginning of the 19th century.

The word strikes me as owing something to India (look at the menu of an Indian restaurant; 'urg' is the sort of word-bit (that's morpheme, if you want the $10 word) you'd expect; murgh is Hindi for chicken, so it is not uncommon in that context. But my questioner said that the word cropped up in the context of an Indian asking what the word lurgy meant.

Lurgy/i was a dialect word that referred to laziness. Oxford's Lexico says this:

This was the word that Spike Milligan adopted for the Goon Show.

Spike Milligan was born in India, and in any case may have been exposed to *urg* words during his army service (and in a lifetime of Indian restaurants).  It doesn't seem to me impossible that these Indian influences led him to adopt an existing word that sounded somehow Indian (and looked it, in its lurgi guise).

That's what I think anyway; it's time to go though.


Update: 2020. – Added PS

PS Apropos of nothing, I've just heard on the radio yet another mis-stressing of Così fan tutte and I've thought that rather than just wincing (after all, the accent is there, and you don't need to be a professor of Italian to realize that it must do something) I should publicize this mnemonic: così means "like that" and it is stressed like that ("like that" – co). OK, as you were, it's now safe to go back to Classic FM.

Update: 2020. – Added missing bit of sentence in blue. Sorry.

No comments:

Post a Comment