The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

by Joshua Gaskell

Monday, 17th July 2017

Public convenience, n.

Pronunciation: /ˈpʌblɪk kənˈviːnɪəns/
Etymology: < public adj. + convenience n.

1. A lavatory for the convenience of the public.
2. Contronymous to sense 1, in the case of pay toilets, a lavatory for the inconvenience of the public.

Sunday, 16th July 2017

Unobsolete: an occasional column devoted to tracking social and lexical change with reference to words, phrases and definitions in the OED that are labelled ‘Obs.’ but are now unobsolescing:

Vome, v.

Etymology: < Latin vomĕre

Obs. rare. To vomit.

Derivatives: voming n. and adj.

The OED’s first illustration of the verb comes from Wycliffe’s Bible (Jeremiah 25:27): ‘Drinketh, and beth drunken, and vometh, and falleth.’ Drink, be drunk, vom, and fall.

Saturday, 15th July 2017

I stumble across the website of No Borders UK: ‘No Borders is a network of groups and individuals who fight against borders and immigration controls. We believe in freedom of movement for all.’ Maybe this is the glorious future of the human race, but who volunteers to be an early adopter if you can’t uninstall the updates?

Thursday, 13th July 2017

There is a set of historical developments that is used to describe ‘a period of extraordinary change’ or similar: everything is rising (literacy, the individual, meritocracy, the middle class, the franchise, technology, life expectancy), except religion, which is declining. The problem is that this is true of every century since the High Middle Ages, so it says precious little. It’s bad Whig history – not because it’s false or unfalsifiable, but because it is insubstantial and non-specific.

Wednesday, 12th July 2017

Samuel Johnson attempts to parse the economic migrant–asylum seeker distinction, in A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775):

Let it be inquired, whether the first intention of those who are fluttering on the wing, and collecting a flock that they may take their flight, be to attain good, or to avoid evil. If they are dissatisfied with that part of the globe, which their birth has allotted them, and resolve not to live without the pleasure of happier climates; if they long for bright suns, and calm skies, and flowery fields, and fragrant gardens, I know not by what eloquence they can be persuaded, or by what offers they can be hired to stay.

But if they are driven from their native country by positive evils, and disgusted by ill-treatment, real or imaginary, it were fit to remove their grievances, and quiet their resentment; since, if they have been hitherto undutiful subjects, they will not much mend their principles by American conversation.

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