October 30, 2005

crowd stopper

when you see perfect strangers turn into a happy group huddled over something...

...chances are a puppy is involved:

October 29, 2005

to the market, again

another beautiful day for the farmers' market. the square surrounding the capitol was busy with children in halloween costumes, and market stalls glowed with pumpkins in all sizes, colors, and shapes.

dogs are not allowed on the market. if your dog is too big to be smuggled in, you better stay off the market area. the dog you can barely make out in the pink square didn't have to hide, though. he was a working dog. i wasn't quite sure what kind of working dog, as his owner didn't seem to rely on him for anything. still, it was nice to see a friendly dog trotting around the market without anybody getting annoyed.

looks like the question was asked at some point....

if you have a huge bernese mountain dog, chances are you and your dog will be noticed - in particular in the vicinity of a sign that says "dogs not allowed". but for the five minutes that i watched this family, nobody seemed to mind too much, and quite a few people smiled at the striking, well-behaved dog (perhaps they thought how lucky the baby was to grow up with such a great companion). he seemed to be quite used to having his picture taken.

October 27, 2005

there's a dog in my shower!

listen to this:

Penny-pinching New Zealanders have come up with some weird and wonderful ways to save money, during a promotion by The Warehouse, to find the country's bargain champion. Tips include showering with your dog, cutting your own hair and living in a tent.
somehow i fail to see how dragging your dog into the shower will save you any money. and just think of all the extra chocolate one has to buy and eat to make up for spending an hour cleaning the bathroom and unclogging the drain.

October 26, 2005


another seasonal midwestern dog-related beer: moondog ale from the great lakes brewing company (ohio). it's named after the 1952 moondog coronation ball held at the cleveland arena, "what many consider the first 'rock and roll' concert". the ball itself was named after cleveland radio dj alan freed, who played rhythm and blues records under the name moondog. his fans were referred to as moondoggers. freed is credited for having
"laid the foundations for rock ‘n’ roll’s emergence as a genre with an immense appeal to an interracial fan base that was willing to ignore, then later knock down, the barriers of segregation. Since he built those foundations in Cleveland, it was only natural that the city would become the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."
i also saw a seasonal beer by dogfish head today: punkin ale, a "spiced brown ale brewed with real pumpkins, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar". is it just me, or is there something weird about the combination of dogfish, beer, and pumpkin?

October 24, 2005

stay fit! loan a dog!

so if you're overweight and have a dog, you'll spend more time walking than if you're overweight and don't have a dog. d'oh!*
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Dogs may be more than man's best friend; they may also be a tool for losing weight, according to a new study that shows making a commitment to walk a dog -- your own or someone else's -- leads to increased exercise and weight loss.

The goal of the study, according to Rebecca Johnson, was to encourage sedentary overweight people to exercise and specifically to walk.

"We know that walking is good for people but we don't know how to get people to continue to do it. We wanted to see whether bonding with a dog might be a motivator to continue walking," said Johnson, who is an associate professor of nursing and director of the College of Veterinary Medicine's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

The dog-walkers in the study started by walking 10 minutes per day three times per week and eventually walked up to 20 minutes per day 5 days per week. One group walked for 50 weeks while another walked for only 26 weeks.

For the study, the participants walked with loaner dogs -- trained and certified "visitor" animals that were provided by the Pet Assisted Love and Support (PALS) Program. According to Johnson, the 50-week walkers lost an average of 14 pounds during the one-year program. "That's a better result than most of the nationally known weight-loss plans," she told Reuters Health.

if that's what a loaner dog can do, just imagine how motivated people will be by their own dogs (who will probably not be satisfied with one 20min walk a day).

* d'oh has of course been popularized by homer simpson, but it was by no means an invention by simpson creator matt groening. the original script just asked for an "annoyed grunt". the following quote (from the oed) is from an interview with dan castanellaneta, who provides the voice for homer simpson:

1998 Daily Variety (Nexis) 28 Apr., The D'oh came from character actor James Finlayson's “Do-o-o-o” in Laurel & Hardy pictures. You can tell it was intended as a euphemism for “Damn”. I just speeded it up.
it's clearly related to the imitative interjection duh, which has been around the block for a while (at least since 1943, according to the oed). here's a nice quote:

1963 N.Y. Times Mag. 24 Nov. 54/2 A favorite expression is ‘duh’... This is the standard retort used when someone makes a conversational contribution bordering on the banal. For example, the first child says,‘The Russians were first in space.’ Unimpressed, the second child replies (or rather grunts), ‘Duh’.
i still don't know what the odd spelling is supposed to signify. french ennui?

October 22, 2005

Canine Festive Events

so many horribly named CFEs, so little time. there's dogtoberfest (at the local brewery) and barktoberfest (at the local shelter), not to mention the spayghetti dinner (pawlicious!) at the humane society, and now there's howl-o-ween.

o.k., here's brandy dressed up as a xmas present.

[halloween, or hallow-e'en, as it is listed in the oed, is a shortened form of "all-hallow-even", i.e. the evening before "all hallows" or "all saints", also known as hallow-day. the oed adds:
In the Old Celtic calendar the year began on 1st November, so that the last evening of October was ‘old-year's night’, the night of all the witches, which the Church transformed into the Eve of All Saints.
spay comes from old french espeer "to cut with a sword". spaghetti is of course from italian and it is already marked for plural (the singular is spaghetto, "thin string, twine"). according to the oed, it was first used in an english cooking book in 1849.]

October 19, 2005

words of the month

in a monthly newsletter to customers who subscribe to their unabridged or collegiate dictionary, merriam-webster lists the words that are looked up most frequently in a given month, thereby allowing us to see which words are rising in popularity in the long term or due to a specific event. in some cases it's easy to see why. for example, in september 2005, refugee was at the top of the list (due to the devastating consequences of hurricane katrina and the discussion about whether or not it was appropriate to refer to u.s.-citizens as refugees). as the word of the month, it gets its own profile in the newsletter:

Word Profile: refugee

Hurricane Katrina was a meteorological storm, but it also created a linguistic storm of controversy over the use of the word refugee. And like Katrina, this was a Category Five storm. During the height of the controversy, refugee was being looked up approximately 1,000 times an hour. The dictionary itself provided most of the answer, but here’s the rest of the story.

During September, refugee set a new record for number of look-ups in a month (the previous record-holder was tsunami), and at one point in the controversy, refugee was being looked up approximately 1,000 times an hour. Defenders of this use of the word pointed to the dictionary definition (such as the one below from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary) as evidence that the use was legitimate:

refugee noun : one that flees; especially : a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution

Surely, they said, the first and more general definition applies here. Many critics of the use, however, insisted that refugee is only applied to non-U.S. citizens, thinking perhaps of the frequent use of the word in combination with Palestinian, Afghan, Cuban, or Vietnamese; hence, in their view, its use in this case was inappropriate and insensitive.

As usual in such controversies, both sides were partially right. Defenders were right that almost every dictionary published allows for a very general sense of refugee that would certainly apply to those who fled from Katrina.

On the other hand, critics were right to point to the more limited application of the word. The Merriam-Webster citation file includes more than a thousand examples of the use of refugee collected since the early 1980’s, and in none of those examples is refugee used to describe U.S. citizens displaced by a storm or other natural disaster.

In almost all cases, the word is used either figuratively (“refugees from the dot.com revolution,” “refugees from the heat and humidity;” hence the ongoing need for the general definition), or it is used in accordance with the second definition listed above: “a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.”

One point was generally missed in the debate. It is not true, as some suggested, that refugee is only used to describe the poor or those lacking high social status. Refugee has been regularly used and is still used to refer to the many Europeans – of all levels of income, education, and social status – who fled the Nazis before and during World War II. So you don’t have to be poor to be a refugee, but you usually do have to cross an international border.

apparently, people also tried to look up marshal law, which of course doesn't exist, it should have been martial law. but it's easy to get confused when the incorrect spelling is used all over the internet, for example in this article on msnbc.

a "one-day wonder"(sep. 13) was stare decisis, an expression used by justice john roberts in his confirmation hearings.

september's top twenty also include old friends, such as effect and affect, ubiquitous and ambiguous and blog. the latter makes you think about reasons for looking up a word - some may be looked up for their meaning and some for their spelling. however, if you don't know the spelling to begin with, how can you look up the word? if you type in "marshal law", for example, merriam-webster comes up with this:

The word you've entered isn't in the dictionary. Click on a spelling suggestion below or try again using the search box to the right.

Suggestions for marshal law:
1. marshall
2. Marshall
3. marshal
4. marshalls
5. marshals
6. marchese
7. Mercian
8. marched
9. marcher
10. marchen

as you can see, the options they give are based on similarity in spelling, not on similarity in pronunciation.

you don't need to be a subscriber to follow the work of the lexicographers at merriam-webster. their open dictionary invites you to submit new word and look at words that are under consideration for inclusion in the standard dictionary. i was amazed when i read that currently the editors are giving the words biodiesel ("a fuel that is similar to diesel fuel and is derived usually from vegetable sources"), drama queen ("a person given to often excessively emotional performances or reactions") and phishing ("a scam by which an e-mail user is duped into revealing personal or confidential information which the scammer can use illicitly") consideration. i thought these would all have been included for some time.

October 18, 2005

flush or bury

from the city's recyclopedia (guidelines for refuse collection):
"Pet waste will not be collected. Please flush it down your toilet or bury in your yard"

isn't there a rule that you can neglect a guideline that is not grammatical?

and in case you wondered: deer carcasses will be collected. but you have to cut them up and double-bag them.


so you live in new york city and need to have your dog walked by a dog walker. how much will it cost you? the rates are actually quite reasonable: downtown pets charges $15.00 for a 30 min walk, but wait, this is not an ordinary walk, it includes:

1. A cardio workout
2. A bathroom break
3. Improved leash etiquette
4. Reinforcement of basic training
5. Socialization
6. Constant petting and support
which probably translates into something like:
  1. let's go, buddy, i'm on a tight schedule.
  2. NO! not on the flowers! NO!!
  3. HEEL! i said HEEL!
  4. NO! LEAVE IT! i said LEAVE IT!! NO!!!
  5. "i'm really sorry. she doesn't normally do this. i'm only the dog walker, though. you can send the vet bill to the owner, here's their business card."
  6. comeon, let's wipe your paws off before we go inside. good girl. see you tomorrow.

October 16, 2005

catch me if you can!

a visit to the dog park.
resistant to the charm of soaked tennis balls, brandy will run only for treats. she could have taken a lesson from this 4-year old vizsla, who showed his 4-month old buddy how to retrieve tennis balls.

...until the lesson was interrrupted by a black interloper.

[the viszla, a hungarian pointer dog, is a very old breed, much older than the weimaraner or the english pointer. according to this source, the name viszla has been documented as a name for a dog since the end of the 14th century. it is supposed to have come from the root "vis", which means "to search". the breed was admitted to the akc registry in 1960. they're truly stunning dogs.]

October 15, 2005

the doggie(s) in the window

i often pass this friendly senior golden retriever on my way to the farmer's market. he's usually mildly attentive, keeping track of falling leaves and passers-by. what you can't see in the picture is his new companion, an energetic black lab, a decidedly less mellow fellow. i didn't dare to take a picture of the lab, as he was barking his heart out already when he saw me walk by. but perhaps he was only stressed out by counting all those falling leaves.

dogs not allowed

dogs are not allowed on the farmer's market. so, if you want to smuggle in your puppy, you need to be creative.

also, make sure your dog's view is not obstructed by tomatoes.

October 14, 2005

we're for kongs

some dogs are for frisbees. some are for tennis balls. we're for kongs. the big ones and the small ones. the red ones and the black ones. and if there were green ones, we'd be for those, too. because, we're for kongs. kongs rule.

[one must hand it to pedigree. their "we're for dogs" campaign earlier this year was just brilliant. i still don't buy their dog food, but i'm happy to borrow their slogan.]

October 13, 2005

read any good book recently?

wait a minute. i'm not done with the new york times book review yet.

spray your dog hot

if you can't stand the smell of a dog, perhaps you shouldn't have one? alternatively, you can spray him with "hot dog eau de toilette" (no joke, you can actually buy this stuff).

you will be pleased to learn that "this light eau de toilette contains half the alcohol found in regular eau de toilettes". but be careful not to overdose: "this light eau de toilette will perfume your canine for days at a time".

[@ hotdog: the meaning "
one who is skilled or proficient in some pursuit" seems to predate the meaning of a "hot sausage enclosed as a sandwich in a bread roll" slightly, the OED gives 1896 and 1900 as the dates of the first documented uses. the surfer term hot-dog, "a particular kind of surf-board", is of course a more recent extension of the word, and the youngest member in the family is the verb hot-dog, "ride a hot-dog", created by backformation]

October 12, 2005

.".and you wanted to book a pampered pooch suite?"

"no, a bed & biscuit suite, actually."


and this is not even at the upscale upscale kennel, where dogs are referred to as "guests". no, this is the local boarding facility, and the "pampered pooch suite" actually looks very much like a space in a well-kept dog shelter. i wonder when they will introduce experience designers.

[pooch, by the way, is a rather recent addition to the english language, it was first used in 1924, according to the OED, and the meaning was "a dog, esp. a mongrel". its etymology is "obscure".]

October 11, 2005

decidedly unhempy

earthdog makes the most beautiful dog collars. despite a "triple layer, 100% hemp canvas construction" they don't look hempy.

October 09, 2005

everyone can afford a designer

at the amalfi hotel in chicago, where you don't rent a room but a space, they don't have a concierge. they have an experience designer.
"Far from a typical concierge, an Experience Designer is like a close friend from college who can always set you up at the best tables and into the swankest clubs."
they also don't have ordinary housekeeping staff. no, they have ... comfort stylists:
"Check-out is at noon, we know that's early, but we need to ensure our comfort stylists have the opportunity to service the space."
that's almost too cynical to be taken seriously.

do you know your state fish?

looking up the etymology of mudpuppy reminded me of another animal with an interesting name: muskellunge, wisconsin's state fish. in german, it would mean "muscle lung". muskellunge. fascinating. as is the whole idea of a state fish.

however, the muskie is not named for its lungs (nor for its muscles, for that matter). according to the OED the name muskellunge is a variant of maskinonge (originally a four-syllable word), with dissimilation from /n/ to /l/. it's based on two words from ojibwa, an algonquian language (masi "ill-formed"+ kinose "northern pike", excuse my simplified spelling).

it seems that germans are not the only ones who try to make sense of the name based on what it would mean in their native language:
"The forms masq'allongĂ©, masque alonge are prob. due to a popular etymology which took the word as French masque long or masque allongĂ© ‘long mask’. The form muscalonge is relatively frequent in 19th-cent. sources. The word was pronounced with four syllables at least as late as the third quarter of the 19th cent. [...] Webster changes the notation of syllables from four in the 1886 ed. to three in 1890." [OED]
[on edit:] in edition to the state fish we also have a state animal (the badger, of course), a state wildlife animal (white-tailed deer), a state domesticated animal (the dairy cow, suprise, surprise), a state insect (honeybee) and, yeah, a state dog (the american water spaniel), chosen because it is "[f]ull of life, and always ready to spring into action for the hunt". the aws orginated in the midwest in the 1800s and is very distinctive with its curly coat and it's bell-shaped floppy ears. i wonder why they are so rare.

message in a bottle

this area is known for its microbreweries (among other things). one of the most popular beers around is new glarus's spotted cow. there are quite a few beers that derive their names from animals: the fat squirrel and the staghorn octoberfest (also new glarus), the mudpuppy porter (central waters), and of course the badger red ale (j. t. whitney's). and finally, there's a beer that appeals to dog-lovers (new glarus refers to it as "barley wine" and calls it "the strongest beer we have ever brewed for our friends here in Wisconsin"):

when i first learned that a mudpuppy was actually some kind of salamander (necturus macolosus), i was of course curious about the origin of the name. the scientific name combines the greek word for swimming and the latin word for speckled, and i understand the mud part (even though it seems that mudpuppies actually prefer clear water), but how does the puppy figure in? a brief websearch gave the following results :
  • people used to think that mudpuppies (also known as water dogs) could bark
  • mudpuppies are puppylike in that they never seem to grow up (unlike other salamanders they keep their gills to breathe with all through their life)

unfortunately, the OED hasn't much to add. it lists the first token at 1862 ("Called, also, Water Dog, Menobranchus, Dog-Fish") and gives mud puppy as the preferred spelling. it seems that nobody ever thought that a mudpuppy was cute - a quote from 1897 states that "The mud-puppy..is a repulsive-looking water-lizard". so, i'm not convinced yet of the origin of the name, but at least i now understand the label on the mudpuppy porter bottle.

October 08, 2005

i spy...

through my window screen ...
a perfect play bow.

the neighbor's puppy, lina, is inviting brandy to play with her. brandy used to be freaked out by puppies - but now she has developed a dignified "i don't even see you" attitude.

i'm not sure the puppy gets it, though.

October 06, 2005

treat me transitively

the other day i was looking for a verb that would take an adverbial phrase as its complement. they are rare, but one that qualifies might be to treat (you treat somebody somehow/in a certain manner - it would be odd to use the verb without the adverbial or prepositional phrase). later, when i walked the dog, it occured to me that treat is of course also a transitive verb. i mean, doesn't this dog clearly say "i'm sitting. now treat me!"?

October 04, 2005

rhymes with, anagrams to

i just learned that there is no need to turn the word anagram into a verb, it is already a verb.
("anagrams to" gets more than 100,000 google hits - which includes some false positives, but still...)

if you're into anagrams, you'll like the internet anagram server. some anagrams it gives for schnaufblog are a bunch golfs, bashful cong, ban fuchs ["fox" in german] log, calf hub song, clash bun fog, and a bosch flung.

"Do you mind if I genderalize?"

(a speaker at an event that addressed the question of why so many accomplished women in academia feel like impostors)

in fact, i do. i don't like the word and i don't like the concept.

October 02, 2005

you name it, you claim it

for one week my neighbor didn't come up with a name for his new puppy. he said he wasn't sure if the puppy was as smart as its predecessor (also a border collie) and if it was right for him after all.

but now the puppy has got a name - which, to me, means that she (not it) is going to stay.

welcome, lina.

October 01, 2005


unconventional design: the middle pumpkin has my neighbor's puppy's name carved into it

happy halloween!

to the front

William Safire in his column "On Language" in The New York Times (Oct. 2, 2005):

We have seen how to back-form a new noun by lopping the -y off adjectives. It works in the coinage of verbs, too: baby-sit from baby sitter, typewrite from typewriter (I'm keying this in) and liaise from the French liaison. I don't like liaise, a self-important, bureaucratic substitute for "work with," but I like surveil, because "surveillance" has more of a pervasive and sinister quality than "watch" or "follow." I don't cotton to enthuse, a verb back-formed from "enthusiasm," because I prefer the pejorative gush. On the other hand, reminisce, convalesce and resurrect are useful and even beautiful back-formations.
so far, so good. but now:
Back-form is a verb formed from the noun back-formation, just as edit is a verb created by editing the end of the noun editor. Try it yourself; become a neologist. You can even front-form: computerese has brought us unsubscribe (cancel my subscription!) and uninstall (rip it out of the wall!). By paring down words and shuffling the parts of speech you may coin a word that fills a void and catches on. Better leading a life of raunch than living in a world of hurt.
let's just say that the survival chances of front-form are not very good. it's neither sinister, nor particularly beautiful, nor in any way useful. in fact, it's quite confusing. unsubscribe is formed by simple prefixation. that's all.