Archive for January 5th, 2007

Perl lessons

January 5, 2007

Here is Learn Perl in 10 easy lessons; link via Digg.

URA on Raja Rao

January 5, 2007

If you can read Kannada, here is U R Ananthamurthy on “Namma Haasan-ada RajaRayaru — Our Hassan’s Raja Rao” in his blog. Without my Kannada primer and dictionary, it is a rather slow reading for me; once I manage to finish the article, I will probably update this post; till then, to whet your appetite, the article starts with a reference to Gayatri Spivak! Have fun!

On pornocracy

January 5, 2007

Philobiblon has a very interesting piece on women who “ruled “the church:

In the tenth century, roughly contemporary with some very powerful women in the Byzantine world, there were powerful women in Rome. The period is oh so delightfully known as the “pornocracy”, or the rule of the harlots.

“… two generations of aristocratic women managed to make or break the careers of several popes, some of whom they reportedly also bedded. The first of these women was Theodora (died ca. 926), who along with her husband, the Roman senator Theophylact (died ca. 920), led the dominant aristocratic faction in Rome and advanced several men to the papcy, including John X (reigning 914-28), her alleged lover, and Sergius III (reigning 904-11), who reportedly fathered a son with her teenaged daughter Marozia (ca. 892- ca.937). Later, assuming powers that her parents had exercised, Marozia orchestrated the deposing of John X and, after a brief interval, the elevation of her son John XI (reigning 931-36) to the papacy.”

From C.M. Rustici, The Afterlife of Pope Joan: Deploying the Popess Legend in Early Modern England Uni of Michigan Press, 2006, p. 2.

And, what a delicious word to learn 😀

On the elusiveness of Johnson

January 5, 2007

Here is a book review that tries to discern the contribution of Johnson to the English language; link via A&L Daily. Along the way, there is some very interesting information about the development of English dictionaries, too:

In the 18th century, lexicographers began paying more attention to common words. It’s a development that shows a new degree of sophistication coming to the study of the language. John Kersey’s New English Dictionary, for instance, appeared in 1702; it defines take this way: “to hold with one’s Hand, to lay hold of”–a total of nine words. Benjamin Martin, the first English lexicographer to use numbered senses, covers 17 different senses of take in a total of 132 words. Nathan Bailey, Johnson’s most important precursor, gave common English words more attention than most of his predecessors, but even he dispensed with all of his definitions of take in a mere 362 words.

Now turn to Johnson’s Dictionary. His entries for take, with 133 numbered senses and 363 quotations, run to more than 8,000 words. He’s careful to distinguish taking medicine from taking revenge, taking one’s way from taking one’s time. And his definitions are more precise than those of any of his predecessors. Many people think the hardest words to define are the obscure ones–words like ruderary or fabaceous or anatiferous. (For the curious: ruderary means “belonging to rubbish”; fabaceous means “having the nature of a bean”; anatiferous means “producing ducks.”) But these inkhorn terms are in fact some of the easiest ones to define, because once you figure out the Latin or Greek roots, you’ve got your answer. But defining a word like take or get or set is a real challenge. No one had ever really attempted to solve these problems before Johnson, whose powerful intelligence qualified him to sort through all the subtle differences in senses.

And, the section about Johnson’s prescriptivism is humourous:

Those who claim Johnson was a prescriptivist point to entries in his Dictionary like ruse, which Johnson says is “A French word neither elegant nor necessary,” or scomm, “A word out of use, and unworthy of revival.” The word thro’ was “Contracted by barbarians from through,” and disannul should “be rejected as ungrammatical and barbarous.”

Take a look! For those of you who want to read, the preface of  Dr. Johnson to his dictionary is available, among other things, at Project Gutenberg.

The hauntings of an image of a book!

January 5, 2007

Robert Crease, in a short note in Physics World traces some aspects of creationism to taking a metaphor of Galileo out of its context:

But the image of the book of nature can haunt us today. One reason is that it implies the existence of an ultimate coherent truth – a complete text or “final theory”. While many scientists may believe this, it is ultimately only a belief, and it is far likelier that we will endlessly find more in nature as our concepts and technology continue to evolve. Furthermore, the image suggests that the “text” of the book of nature has a divine origin. The idea that the world was the oeuvre of a superhuman author was the precursor of the idea that it was the engineering project of an intelligent designer. This implication has led some contemporary sociologists of science to succumb to the temptation of characterizing scientists as behaving, and seeking to behave, in a priest-like manner.

The most important lesson to be found in Galileo’s image is the need to keep developing and revising the metaphors with which we speak about science.

A rather interesting piece — take a look (via A&L Daily)!