Multilingual word contest

Posted on November 13, 2007 by Steve

I used to routinely lose at a game some polyglot friends and I played via e-mail: trying to come up with the most translations of a given word without referring to any resources, and checking our efforts against a multilingual website.

Here's a new variation. Find a word that exists in the most languages, regardless of meaning, according to Wiktionary. When you search for a word there, the contents section gives a numbered list of the languages in which that word has been defined. That count will be the score, with ties broken by the number of distinct meanings.

To get things started, I submit pot, which appears in nine languages with seven distinct meanings.

English: a vessel used for cooking or storing food
Basque: kiss
Croatian: sweat
Czech: sweat
Dutch: pot
French: arse
Romanian: [I] can
Slovene: way
Tatar: A unit of volume

Quiz results: Moderns

Posted on November 11, 2007 by Steve

Eric won the second word frequency quiz, getting seven out of nine correct matches and only mixing up James and Joyce, which seems somehow forgivable.

(1) The Complete Works of Shakespeare
lord, king, man, duke, time, heart, queen, lady, death, hand

(2) The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky
man, father, time, love, money, face, life, heart, moment, god

(3) Ulysses by James Joyce
man, time, eyes, hand, street, father, day, face, night, head

(4) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
time, lady, sister, family, man, day, hope, father, letter, room

(5) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
time, man, way, hand, head, boy, day, night, eyes, face

(6) Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
time, way, men, work, place, man, head, room, air, water

(7) The Golden Bowl by Henry James
time, way, moment, question, fact, eyes, father, place, face, life

(8) Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
work, day, francs, man, hotel, money, men, people, tramps, food

(9) The Encyclopedia Brittanica
year, time, bridge, town, century, building, number, city, government, life

Thanks to all participants!

Notes on live birth

Posted on November 09, 2007 by Steve

There is nothing like a birth for erasing the thin veneer of decorum and dignity that separates us from the beasts. Medical staff gloss over the untidiness with Latin jargon --

"External cephalic version may be applied to ensure that the neonate presents in vertex position, preferably occiput anterior. A ventouse may be applied to the posterior fontanelle to advance station. Upon extraction, any aspirated meconium is suctioned..."

-- but the reality is all too clear: you are shoved into position, then yanked out with a dent puller stuck to your squishy head, your face full of taint and mouth full of your own shit...

After the messy mechanics of delivery, the red tape starts. It takes 17 signatures to have a baby in the Commonwealth of Virginia:
  • 2 Admission forms
  • 1 Medicine acknowledgment
  • 1 Anesthesia form
  • 1 Consent for cesarean section
  • 1 Consent for hearing test
  • 1 Acknowledgment of newborn training
  • 1 Information form on circumcision
  • 1 Consent for photographer
  • 1 Application for birth certificate
  • 1 Hospital birth certificate worksheet
  • 2 Birth information verification forms
  • 1 Educational worksheet
  • 3 Release forms

But such concerns are soon forgotten when you bring home the little spawn, complete with new baby smell, and start putting to use all the baby furniture and accessories that have crowded your previous life into the basement. There's no need to try and retell the bringing-up-baby story that has already been told so well, so I'll just say thanks to all who offered congratulations and advice and wait for the youngster to start his own blog.