The other night right after dinner I was fresh out of reading material. Any reading material, in English anyway. I was desperate to read something and the only un-read book in my apartment was a dictionary (once belonging to Yamaki, see below) that I found a few weeks ago in pile of books slated for the "combustible" refuse in Science Building C. So I brought this dictionary home and was now flipping through it. I learned some wonderful things.
First, this dictionary was printed in 1977. While flipping through "S" I noticed both San Francisco and San Jose. In 1977, the population of San Francisco was 704,000. In San Jose it was 204,000. Today, S.F. has 744,041 people and San Jose has 929,936. A fascinating beginning!Here are some dictionary entries of note:
casino: a place to gamble. This word, familiar to all of us as ever-growing, perversely indulgent monstrosities, comes from the Italian for "little house." The irony.
macadam: a pavement of layers of compacted stone bonded with tar or asphalt. After J. McAdam, a Scottish engineer (1756-1836). This entry was so notable to me because I grew up calling the "black top" at my elementary school, "the macadam" never knowing why it sounded like an unusual word. I think having a noun derived from your last name must feel pretty great. And speaking of macadams, here it is outside the Toyoda Auditorium on the Nagoya U. campus. Like I did, you might wonder what all those marks and indentations are. Here is a clue: Nagoya is HOT in the summer. Amazing isn't it? And while still on the macadam topic, here is another famous Scottish engineer.
ragamuffin: a dirty or unkempt child from the "Ragamoffyn" - a demon in Piers Plowman. I always thought that a ragamuffin was sort of an endearing term for children, certainly without demonic etymology! How wrong I was.
red letter: memorable, happy. This dictionary does not provide an etymology for this word, but Merriam Webster online does. My husband and I will, on occasion, sing parts of A Whole New World from the Disney movie Aladdin. The "every moment red letter" lyric was always totally confusing. Not anymore. Thank you American Heritage.
rosemary: aromatic shrub, from the Latin, "ros marinus" meaning "sea dew.". Sea dew! How spectacular.
Sikkim: Kingdom between India and China. Capital: Gangtok. Population: 162,000. I had never heard of Sikkim! Sikkim? A kingdom? American Heritage is a bit out of date now, Sikkim having become a state of India without a monarchy. Discovering this bit of trivia reminded me of the fun Richard Feynman had with Tuva.
- I am a graduate student at UC Berkeley studying the diversity and evolution of whelks. This summer I was sponsored by the NSF (USA) and JSPS (Japan) to work with Dr. Seiji Hayashi at Nagoya University in Japan to collect buccinid gastropod (whelk) tissue samples and examine whelk shell collections at musems throughout Japan. Sugoi! Some of the snails that I study are pictured to the right.