04 January 2008


Languagehat.com on the word "normal".

I didn't know that the original meaning of the Latin word norma had to do with right angles (which is probably the most common technical meaning, though there are lots of others); the meaning of "following a rule" is a metaphorical extension of that, coming from the square that was used to make right angles.


michael said...

I didn't know about original meaning of 'normal' either until I asked on another blog, and I has seven years of Latin.

I took Latin because its an easy language. Given some basic rules and a dictionary, I found translation is easy.

Modern languages are hard; someone is sitting across from you speaking and listening - no time to get a dictionary out and work the puzzle out.

I studied Japanese later, and it reminded me of Latin; their sentence structure.

Dodson doesn't seem to like Chomsky; Chomsky is not one of my favorite thinkers. I wonder is it in reaction to Chomsky that so many linguists seem right wing?

Dodson likes jazz so he's not all bad, even though he nuked my brother's book; but after the review it's sales went up.

He also writes a nice piece on Israel Shenker,who I liked. The Times in the 60's-80's was full of newspapermen that were right out of "Frontpage.' Shenker could have easily fit into the movie. I'm reading a book by someone I worked with back then Susan Faludi.

Language said...

Sorry about your brother's book, but I don't remember reviewing any jazz books -- refresh my memory?

Also, I'm not sure if you were implying that I'm right wing, but I assure you I'm definitely not. I just can't stand either Chomsky's theories or his ways of propagating them (by trying to stifle all other views).

Carl Witty said...

I first learned about the right-angle/perpendicular meaning of "normal" from Isaac Asimov's book, Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn. (A confusion between "normal=common" and "normal=perpendicular" is an important plot point in that book.)