I was talking to a radio engineer, telling him that when I used to work early mornings for a show, I'd discover a lot of distant radio stations on my radio from hundreds of miles away as I drove to work. It was because I was searching for stations in the middle of the night, usually before dawn, though before that, when I worked late at night, I'd discover distant radio stations on my way home as well.

Well the engineer said that I was DXing, which I'd never heard of before: "D" is said to mean distance and "X" refers to the unknown.

I was just dialing around on my car radio, but apparently there are a lot of nerdy types out there who have complex systems that pick up stations from all over the world. I'm not so nerdy to do that, but I think it's a very cool hobby.

There's an excellent DXing site that also has audio samples from all over the world, so check it out and the other info and interviews, too.


Rip off

I hope people weren't duped into believing that paying Lulu $400 (literally $399, but it's only a dollar difference) to get their books displayed at Book Expo America would actually make a difference. What a rip off.

People were asked to send in two books to be placed on a pile or table or whatever for hundreds of dollars. And that's just *sending* the books, with no human presence required. So why would people think that randomly displaying a couple of books in a place filled with thousands of books would generate sales or publicity? Other publishers' and authors' booths would be manned, already giving them an advantage. And who knows how they would even handle the books? For all we know, they could've just removed them from the shipping box and plopped them down somewhere.

Please, I hope no one fell for this. It's pitiful when people profit from pipe dreams.


I'm still here

Sorry--I usually post every other day but last week I started teaching ESL every day for a level I've never taught before, and I also had some radio work too, which meant I didn't have much time or energy left to attempt posting. I have managed to read bits of Japanese, but that was also put on hold when I went out of town, where I got a chance to meet superstar language blogger Languagehat, who's an incredibly smart and nice guy. So now that I'm back in town and have a lighter schedule, I will resume more frequent posting.



I was interviewed for Outside the Loop Radio, which is a weekly radio show and podcast about Chicago. If you go to the site, you'll be able to hear other interviews about interesting people around town. I think it's a great show, and I'm surprised it hasn't been picked up by public radio or another media outlet.


The anime convention descended upon the Japanese store

I was at Mitsuwa, which is a Japanese supermarket that I usually go to, and there were a lot more people there than usual. Sprinkled among all those people were folks with costumes on who looked like anime characters. So I asked one of the costumed girls if she was part of a group, and she told me that they just came from an Anime convention. Then all the clothing and enthusiasm made sense, and it was obvious that the place was packed because they wanted to take in as much Japanese culture (and food) as possible.

Check out the convention photos at their Facebook group. I think it's really cool that all those people went and, according to some people I talked with, had an incredible time. One guy said it was a non-stop party, including a huge rave on Saturday night.


BBC language nerd angers Russell Crowe!

I've been noticing accents for a while, and amazingly, someone from the BBC noticed one as well, except that he dared to question Russell Crowe's accent, which made Crowe walk out of the interview. Crowe was promoting his latest film about Robin Hood, whom the BBC interviewer said was from Yorkshire. What made Crowe mad was that the BBC guy said he was using an Irish accent, not a northern British one. Thanks, BBC, for pointing out accent irregularities :D


Still a good TV show intro

I used to watch The Six Million Dollar Man and hadn't seen the intro of that show for years. Even though it's from the 70's, it still seems good, and now that we've been exposed to quality TV production, it seems technologically advanced for its time.


Tales of the Bogeyman and Spanish Bacon

Words for items associated with warmer climates are full of interesting etymologies. Words describing palm trees, coconuts, and cantaloupes are just a few of the linguistic curiosities that abound in tropical and subtropical regions.

The naming of "palm trees" and the "palm of the hand" is no coincidence. They both share the same Latin root: "palma." It is thought that the tree was named for the palm of the hand because the shape of the leaf formation was considered to resemble the fingers of a hand. So in Latin, the name for the part of the hand came first, followed by the tree. Interestingly, the reverse occurred in English as the two meanings of "palm" entered the language in very distinct ways and at different times:
The Latin word was borrowed into the Germanic dialects in prehistoric times in the tree sense, and now is wide spread (German palme and Dutch and Swedish palm as well as English palm). English acquired it in the 'hand' sense via Old French paume, with subsequent reversion to the Latin spelling.
Coconuts and coconut milk may be beloved for their taste, but the origin of the name could be the fodder for a creature feature film. The term "coco" is derived from the 16th-century word "coco" in Spanish and Portuguese, which meant "grin," "grimace" and even "scarecrow" or "bogeyman" (which it still means in some dialects of Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician). The word "coco," in turn, comes from a Latin expression for "skull." Supposedly the Portuguese explorers who encountered the fruit in India felt that the three-holed base of the shell resembled a human face, or rather that of the bogeyman.

The cantaloupe, a type of muskmelon is called a "spanspek" in South Africa by speakers of English and Afrikaans. "Spanspek" comes from the Afrikaans "spaanse spek," which means "Spanish bacon." The term goes back to the 19th century, when Sir Harry Smith served as Governor and High Commissioner of the Cape Colony in southern Africa. His Spanish-born wife, Juana Maria de los Dolores de Léon Smith, accompanied him. In the mornings, while Sir Harry savored bacon for breakfast, his wife would eat cantaloupe. The Afrikaans-speaking chefs started referring to cantaloupe as "Spanish bacon," and the name stuck, at least in South Africa.

Incidentally, the English word "cantaloupe" comes Cantalupo, a former papal summer estate in Italy, where the fruit was grown, although it had initially been brought to the Old World from the Americas by Christopher Columbus.

As this will be my last post on Metrolingua, I would like to thank everyone for your time and attention. I've enjoyed sharing my enthusiasm for language with you!

(Posted by language fan and friend Silas McCracken.)


Bureau of Internal Revenue

While I was watching The Honeymooners (a great show that doesn't seem dated), I noticed that Ralph was talking about the "Bureau of Internal Revenue." I'd never heard that name: we say "IRS" which stands for "Internal Revenue Service."

But apparently, they changed their name in the 1950's (the same decade that "The Honeymooners" was on the air). According to the IRS site: "In the 50s, the agency was reorganized to replace a patronage system with career, professional employees. The Bureau of Internal Revenue name was changed to the Internal Revenue Service."

Yikes--what kind of patronage system did they have? Sounds like how Chicago's been run.


The "Your Japanese Name" Facebook app is wrong

If you're going to create an application for Facebook, then do it right, especially when it comes to other languages. I know someone who was proud of finding out that their Japanese name was ミケ and posted it largely for everyone to see. But their name is Mike, which is マイク in Japanese. Even if you don't know how to read katakana, you can tell that the two Japanese transliterations look different.

Bottom line: the app Your Japanese Name isn't worth it.