19 March 2010


(I know I'm a couple of days late, but better late than never!)

The FoFo and I went to this restaurant the other day, called "πie."  I don't even know how to pronounce that!  I mean, they call it "Pie" and think they're clever, but I think just the opposite.  
In fact, I was hoping the i would be i and the e would be e.  THAT WOULD BE CLEVER.  I would eat there all the time.  I still wouldn't know how to pronounce the name.

So Pi Day officially happened in the US last Sunday, because it was March 14th, but I got to wondering--what about ALL those countries that put the day first, and then the month?  WHEN do they celebrate Pi Day?  

Since pi is approximated to 3.14159... people in the US celebrate it March 14 as in 3/14, but countries that do DD/MM don't celebrate Pi Day on the 31st of April, they celebrate on July 22, that is, 22/7, a more precise approximation for pi.

Other days when pi is celebrated:
  • March 4: When 14% of the 3rd month has elapsed.

  • April 26: The Earth has traveled two radians of its orbit on this day (April 25 in leap years), reckoning from the start of the calendar year on January 1. The distance travelled through the entire orbit around the sun, divided by the average distance to the sun, equals 2π; two radians equals 1⁄π of our orbit. This is celebrated exactly on the 41st second of the 23rd minute of the 4th hour on April 26 or the 116th day. (In leap years, it is celebrated exactly on the 3rd second of the 2nd minute of the 12th hour on April 25 or the 116th day.) This celebration is not a Pi Approximation Day.

  • November 10: The 314th day of the year (November 9 in leap years).

  • December 21, 1:13 p.m.: The 355th day of the year (December 20 in leap years), celebrated at 1:13 for the Chinese approximation 355/113.

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879.

09 March 2010

Wives and Snakes.

So I was in Mexico recently, and I was telling the awful story of the PoPo on Mardi Gras day, and came across the word I had to use for handcuffs.  ESPOSAS.  Do you know what that means?!  Wives.  Handcuffs, in Spanish, are literally WIVES.
This doesn't happen in any other languages that I know of.

Was this just slang that gained popularity or what?!  No, no.  There are two explanations of this that deviate from the same root.

We can agree on:
SPONSUS is the Latin meaning pledged, as in a business contract or agreement--or later, as in marriage.  Hence the word spouse in English and epouser (v to marry) in French, along with esposo and esposa (husband and wife, respectively) in Spanish.

So it can be said that from there, the word evolved into meaning wife, and also, separately, into meaning handcuffs--as in something binding--like that contract.

However, some believe that because in ancient marriage rituals, wives would cross their hands in the same position prisoners would get handcuffed in, or because husbands and wives would, in some traditions, symbollically have their hands tied together during the ceremony, this was a more literal evolution into actual handcuffs being called ESPOSAS.
Either way, I'm sure some feminist group out there is pissed about this.

 I also happened upon some Venezuelan Spanish slang.  (This is kind of akin to our BITCH in English):
CUAIMA is a slang term for a woman who, according to my googling, is "trained since childhood to screw men over and to be suspicious, jealous, possessive, manipulative, dominating, controlling, fear-inducing."
Cuaima is actually a kind of very poisonous snake.

Your wife.  That's right.

08 March 2010

She's an ACTOR.

I live with a bunch of actors.  Helen is a working female actor--she thinks the term "actress" is limiting to women acting in female roles.  "Actor" is an all-encompassing term for both men and women playing both male and female roles.  She quoted Whoopi Goldberg“An actress can only play a woman. I'm an actor, I can play anything.”

I didn't realize there was so much real debate over this.  I was watching the Academy Awards last night, and noted the diction.  They call the category "Best Actress in a Leading Role" and so on, but I recall also watching the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the category they have is "Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role" and personally, I think they have it right.  The diction is so much more precise.  (Or maybe they're both precise and I just like what the SAG honors better.)  The Academy is honoring the actress; the SAG honors the performance.

In the days of the Motion Picture Production Code (between the 1930s and 60s), the gender-neutral term "player" was encouraged, but now is deemed archaic when referencing an actor.  We still see this term, though, in acting groups or companies, such as Tulane's Patchwork Players.

Anyway, let's look at where ACTRESS comes from.
First used in English in the mid-1800s as a combination of the word ACTOR (first used in English in the mid 1300s, from Latin āctor, from āctus, past participle of agere, to drive, do) and the feminine noun ending -ess.

have all been present in English at some point, but are being done away with to varying degrees.  (These all obviously come from French, except for -trix which comes from Latin.)

  • -ESS was first used for noble titles such as countessprincessduchess.  Lots of these nouns were created in the 14th century, and didn't start to sharply decline until the latter half of the 20th century.    Of course.  We no longer use devouress or dwelleress.  --but I wish we did.  
    • In the fourth edition of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (1977) was the first time we really started seeing these genderless job-titles.  Flight attendant popped up instead of steward and stewardess.  Authoress, poetess, scultpress, editress all disappeared in exchange for their formerly masculine now gender-neutral counterparts author, poet, sculptor, editor.  
    • According to the OED, very few of these -ess terms are still current.  Among these: actress, adventuress, enchantress, hostess (though women TV and radio show hosts are just hosts), seamstress, seductress, sorceress, temptress, and waitress (the gender-neutral server is now also looked down upon).
    • Some of these feminine forms took on different meanings all together during their evolution.  Ambassadress, mayoress, and governess all disappeared in their political forms, but because governess took on the connotation of childcare, it remained in use.  Also, mistress remains in use though master now also has a gender-neutral use.  Imagine if we said: She is a financial planning mistress. lolololololollololololol

  • -ENNE.  We don't have a whole lot of these and the OED says using this usually isn't derogative.  Equestrian has the form equestrienne; pedestrian has no corresponding feminine term. Although we have both comedienne and tragedienne, there is no feminine variant for thespian.

  • -ETTE really isn't used for people anymore except for bachelorette and brunette, I guess since it's not only a feminine suffix but also diminutive.  We don't see majorette, farmerette, suffragette or usherette but we do see cigarette, kitchenette and etiquette--which are all really derived as smaller forms of their bigger nouns.

  • -TIRX.  We don't see this one a whole lot either--mainly only remains in legalese, like administratrix, executrix, inheritrix.  ... I don't know why we like dominatrix but not aviatrix or oratrix.

Sooo... looking at this from a strictly statistical standpoint, the term ACTRESS should be on its way out.

Half-way related: Kim Elsesser's New York Times Op-Ed article.  She argues in favor of gender-neutral acting awards.