11 September 2023

Fender bender

 A "Fender Bender" is a term for an auto accident, generally a not very serious one. 

Obviously, this expression references protective covers for a car’s wheels. Older cars once had prominent fenders covering the wheels that were vulnerable to side impacts. Having owned a classic Volkswagen Beetle back in my youth, I can attest to the vulnerability of the fenders to scrapes and hits.

The term "fender bender" originated in the late 1950s. Its appeal is at least partially due to the rhyming nature of “bender” and “fender.” 

Austin 10hp pic2.JPG

Of course, there are lots of other fenders. Fenders on bikes and motorcycles, on western saddles, inflatable ones on the sides of boats to protect them in docking and in front of trams. In British English, the fender is called the wing. 

Interestingly, the word “fender” dates back to the 13th century, initially as a shortened form of “defender”. Originally it was the fender hung over the side to protect the hull of a ship. It was also used to refer to part of fireplaces since the 1680s. It has been used with automobiles since 1919.

01 August 2023

Clipped Words


Clipped words are defined as words that are formed by dropping one or more syllables from a longer word or phrase with no change in meaning. 

When some man calls another guy his "bro," most people know he is clipping "brother." However, I have found that some younger folks don't know that deli comes from delicatessen and that flu is a clipped influenza.

Less obvious is that "varsity" comes from "university," "hack" comes from "hackney" or that "margarine" was once "oleomargarine." 

You know "wig" but have you ever heard of periwig, an archaic term for a highly styled wig worn formerly as a fashionable headdress by both women and men.

Some clipped words and their original form have just fallen out of usage. I think few people talk about "stereo" sound any more, but no one uses "stereophonic."

alum alumni
mart market
auto automobile
math mathematics
bike bicycle
memo  memorandum
bra brassiere
bro brother
mike or mic  microphone

28 July 2023

Naming the Clouds

I came across a book that looks at a story from modern meteorology about an overlooked man, Luke Howard. The Invention of Clouds is a detailed and informative examination of Howard's life and achievements. What did Howard do? He named the clouds, classifying them in terms that remain familiar to this day: cirrus, stratus, cumulus, and nimbus. 

A shy young Quaker who was an amateur meteorologist, Luke Howard, defined what had hitherto been random and unknowable structures ― clouds.

In December 1802, Luke Howard delivered a lecture that was to be a defining point in natural history and meteorology. His cirrus, stratus, cumulus, and nimbus were a new and precise nomenclature that sparked worldwide interest and captured the imaginations of some of the century's greatest figures in the fields of art, literature, and science. Goethe, Constable, and Coleridge were among those who came to revere Howard's vision of an aerial landscape. Legitimized by the elevation of this new classification and nomenclature, meteorology fast became a respectable science.

Most clouds can be divided into groups (high/middle/low) based on the height of the cloud's base above the Earth's surface. Other clouds are grouped not by their height, but by their unique characteristics, such as those that form over mountains (lenticular clouds) or beneath existing clouds (mammatus clouds).

Clouds seen from above give you a different perspective