Wednesday, 16 December 2009

What does the word Quasi mean? Origin , definition and example

What does the word quasi mean?
One often hears reference to quasi this and quasi that. What does it really mean and where does the word come from?
Firstly, quasi is from Latin, meaning “as if” or “almost”.
Used as a prefix, as in quasi – government, quasi-cuisine, quasi-this, quasi-that and virtually quasi-anything.
Most references in dictionaries define quasi with the following words: -
Like, likeness
As if,
Possesses certain characteristics or attributes of…
As if it were.
Lets use quasi-Italian food as an example. Per definition this means that it is not the real thing, so to speak. So, it is not a genuine Italian dish, but is similar or has certain characteristics of an Italian dish. Maybe non-traditional ingredients have been added, or left out, or food prepared in a different manner. In other words one could say it was not the real thing, but close enough to bear a good resemblance.
Many, many references to a quasi-contract, and I am not going into things legal now. A quasi contract appears to be a binding contract that is invoked in instances where there is no consensus between the parties of an agreement. Suggest you dig around a bit if you want more information on this one. The concept appears straightforward, but the application would be interesting reading.
If you buy an imitation Rolex watch for a couple of bucks, would it be a quasi-Rolex? According to the definitions it would be, as the criteria mentioned above have been met.
So, a quasi Nike sneaker would be a fake sneaker? One could make this argument, but a quasi-friend would not be a fake friend, rather than a not so deep friend, as in platonic
Food for though… but I am digging a hole for myself here.

Monday, 16 November 2009

What does jumping or jump the gun mean: Origin, meaning and Example

What does jumping or jump the gun mean? Meaning, origin and example.
Not much confusion as to the meaning. When one jumps the gun you commit yourself to an action before it is wise to do so. Most references refer to negative results that happen when this action is taken. Jumping the gun can be as a result of impatience, trying to gain an unfair advantage or simply taking a decision based on incomplete information or no information at all.
Impulsive action without thinking could also be jumping the gun from my way of thinking.
So, get your ducks in a row before you take an action you might regret later.
Now, the origin part. As with the greater majority of sayings, idioms etc there are often multiple sources quoted.
The most popular source quoted relates to things athletic. In track and field events the athletes line up and wait for the starter’s gun to go off before running off as fast as possible. To jump the gun means the athlete takes off before the starter’s gun has been fired. This means the athlete has an unfair advantage, and the race is usually restarted after declaring a false start.
From what I can gather the first printed reference was in 1942. Jumping the gun was previously known as “ to beat the pistol” with printed references back to 1905.
A second quoted origin relates to things naval and military. In the military sense the infantry were in positions behind their artillery. As the enemy approached the soldiers would sometimes rush forward to engage the attackers and suffer casualties inflicted by their own guns. Jumping the gun was rushing forward before the artillery guns had ceased firing, which was not a wise thing to do.
A third source relates to pegging of claims in Oklahoma in the 1800’s. Prospectors had to wait until a cannon was fired before they could rush off and do the pegging part of their claim. Those who started running before the cannon was fired were shot by troops, who were there to ensure that all was undertaken in an orderly fashion. Not many references to this one though.
Nowadays the meaning has evolved to include the concept of taking a decision based on information that is incomplete or not accurate. No sounds of guns.
If, for example, you were waiting for a traffic light to turn green, and you drove off while the light was still red, you would be jumping the gun.
Image : Wikipedia
UPDATE 9 December 2009
Truth be told, I get virtually no comments on posts. That I do not mind. The site averages round about 120 page reads a day. Given the limited time I have to do justice to the occasion and the limted number of posts, I am happy.
Now and then one gets a nice comment and thats nice. (One that jumps to mind was something to the effect of " thank you for helping me with my homework, I got 90%". That is a topic for discussion me-thinks.
The garbage that is entered into the comments section is horrible. This post is a good example.
So, all comments from now on I will have to "moderate".
Why...why why?

Monday, 09 November 2009

Etymology of the word War: Origin and meaning

After a couple of posts triggered by Poppy Day I started wondering as to the origin of the word "war" and the dictionary definition.
The explanations below I have copied and pasted from Wikipedia. The link will take you to more detailed information and recognition of sources.

"War is a reciprocated, armed conflict between two or more non-congruous entities, aimed at reorganising a subjectively designed, geo-politically desired result."

"From late Old English (c.1050), wyrre, werre, from Old North French werre "war" (Fr. guerre), from Frankish *werra, from Proto-Germanic *werso (Compare with Old Saxon werran, Old high German werran, German verwirren "to confuse, perplex"). Cognates suggest the original sense was "to bring into confusion."

There was no common Germanic word for "war" at the dawn of historical times. Spanish, Portuguese, Italian guerra are from the same source; Romanic peoples turned to Germanic for a word to avoid Latin "bellum" because its form tended to merge with bello- "beautiful."

Albert Einstein: Quotes on War

Albert Einstein quotes on war.
In a couple of days it will be the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The end of World War 1, at this time and date during 1918.
Poppy Day, Remembrance Day.
The War to end all Wars was the current thinking at the time. History has proved this thinking wrong.
Wars have been a permanent part of history and an important part of the formation and development of Nations.
I tried to recall a reasonable period of time during the 20th century that was conflict free, with not much success.
The termination of one conflict was soon followed by another. A different place a different time, with different motives, but with the same results.
I suppose that as soon as one is threatened by force to loss of life, land and property, one defends oneself with equal and or greater force. That is the greater order of things.
Albert Einstein war an anti- war believer, and a bunch of his anti-war quotes that I collected from a number of sources are:

- I do not believe that civilization will be wiped out in a war fought with the atomic bomb. Perhaps two-thirds of the people of the earth will be killed.

- I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

- Force always attracts men of low morality.

- He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice

- Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism - how passionately I hate them!

- It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder

- The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.

- You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.

Nevertheless wars have always been around, are around, and will be around until such time as it progresses that one step too far, and civilization will no longer resemble what it is today.
Etymology, meaning and origin of the word 'war" , click here

Poppy Day, Remembrance Day : Origin and meaning

The official name of Poppy day is Remembrance day, also known as Armistice day. This day commemorates the ending of the First Word War by the signing of the Armistice Treaty in a railway carriage in Compi├Ęgne Forest on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.
Why poppies and why red poppies?
Inspired from the poem by Major John McCrae, In Flanders Fields, a Canadian military doctor, in 1915.
After the battles were fought, poppies bloomed on these fields and the colour red relates to the blood that was shed.
Poppy day is a day of remembrance for both military and civilians who have paid the ultimate price in conflict.
Although mainly associated with World War One, this day of remembrance has become appicable to all killed in times of war. for more detail and links

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Etymology,origin and meaning of the word "war" click here.

Friday, 06 November 2009

Silly Signs : Bird Toilet

Proof that birds can read

received via e-mail, source on image

What does Utopia Utopian mean? Origin and definition.

What does Utopia or Utopian mean?
Start off with the origin of the word. First used in 1516 by Sir Thomas More in his book “Of the Best State of a Republic, and of the New Island Utopia”. On this Island everything was perfect. A state of bliss.
The word Utopia has Greek origins meaning “no place”.
So, if Utopia is no place and Utopia is a place of harmony and bliss then one could deduct that Utopia does not exist, as in no place is a place of bliss and harmony?
I am still trying to get my mind around what I typed in the previous sentence, but it makes sense if you read it more than once.
Utopia appears to be more of a philosophical concept than a practical place. Utopia or Utopian is commonly defined as a place, or more commonly as a political concept, that is strived towards but never really achieved.
A definition from a philosophical dictionary states “ an imagined perfect place or state of things”, which is the best definition I could find.
Most other dictionaries revolve around words such as “idealistic and impractical state of affairs.”
Therefore, Utopian can be seen as more inspirational concept than practical, something to aim for (perfection) that is not realistically attainable in the real world.
A Idealist would have Utopian goals, which would be in direct contrast with the thinking of Cynics or Skeptics
A modern day example of a Utopian concept?
Everyone on earth having a common understanding of climate change and a global practical plan to address the problem.

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Thursday, 05 November 2009

How to make a man irresistible

Source unknown

A cynic’s view of climate change.

Climate change is a reality, despite the skeptics who maintain that it is all a figment of the imagination, and, like an irritating itch, it will pass with time.
Forget about trying to prove or quantify whether it is a reality or not. Al Gore and his Inconvenient Truth road show is evidence enough for anyone who has an object on top of his spinal cord that is larger than a golf ball.
The issue is what can, and will be done about it?
The answer is easy. Absolutely nothing of significance.
Bit of lip service here, an annual conference there, and throw in a couple of demonstrations, by mostly environmentally privileged people, both here and there.
Anybody who wants to enter into a discussion about climate change and how to handle it must by default have an understanding of Thomas Malthus’ theory regarding population and resources. One of the Classical Economists (late 1700’s), he believed that there is a balance between population levels and their pressure on resources and “nature”. He believed that if population levels were not kept in control, and in balance with the environment, nature would do it for mankind in a cruel and savage manner.
Now, his theory has been, and still is, discounted by many, as this was applicable to circumstances long ago. Before the use of fertilizers, fossil fuel and the Industrial Revolution. These factors allowed more people to live per Unit of Mother Nature’s Resources. (Just thought that definition out, I like it)
According to some sources, 10 percent of all people born on earth are alive today. Scary stuff once more.
This is true, but the Production Revolution has created its own monster in the depletion of resources and contamination of the atmosphere.
Economic growth is a concept aggressively pursued by countries, companies and individuals. This is the way of modern life. Those who have, want more and better, and those who don’t have, also want to have more and better. That is the greater order of things. This comes at the price of resource depletion, atmospheric pollution and climate change, and in the long term, the demise of the human race. Hail The Economic Growth Theory!!!
So, theoretically, the whole doomsday scenario can be avoided if the global economy adopts a negative growth policy. Fifty years ago this was foreseen, and the corrective projections were: -
- 75% reduction in natural resource utilization
- 50% reduction in pollution generation
- 40% reduction in investment
- 30% reduction in birth rate.
Scary stuff. No ways any one country will adopt this kind of strategy.
So, what will happen is there will be a lot of talk about alternative energy, carbon footprints and walking to the 711 on a Sunday morning instead of using the 4X4.
Unless there is a paradigm shift in the way mankind thinks, or a quantum leap in fossil fuel replacement with lower utilization of natural resources in the chase after production goods, mankind’s evolutionary progress will be replaced by an era of devolution. Everything manufactured by man, will in time, be reclaimed by nature. That is a fact. A thousand years after man, there will be virtually no evidence the he was ever here, so says DSTV.
The current global turmoil will fade into insignificance when low lying countries and cities start flooding and crops fail worldwide. When individuals start fighting amongst themselves to ensure their basic needs. Back to the Neanderthal man concept.
Einstein said..” I know not what weapons will be used in World War 3, but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones”
We are prodding Mother Nature with a very sharp stick, and her revenge will be swift and brutal

One of the countless definitions (mostly derogatory) of a cynic is:-
“… one who sees what's going on, knows that others see what's going on and maddeningly knows that nothing will ever be done about it.”

That is why I am a die-hard cynic

Image source ; Unknown

Go to home page and read some more stuff...

Tuesday, 03 November 2009

Country Cousins Robertson : Gutted

Country Cousins (Old Saddles)restaurant was gutted in the early hours of this morning.



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Monday, 02 November 2009

NK Kerk, Swellendam

NG Kerk Swellendam, van die mooiste kerke in die omgewing




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La Mont : Cheese and Wine

La Mont, between Ashton and Swellendam.
Excellent setting, large variety of cheeses etc to choose from, and Van Loveren wines at cellar prices.
Good value for money.
Place to put your mind into neutral and enjoy
(Cheese and wine only)




Tradouw Pass : Montagu to Swellendam

A few random images taken while having an lazy drive over the pass to Swellendam. Confused as to whether the correct name is Tradouw or Tradouws Pass.


Entrance to pass fom Barrydale side of the mountain


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Only four bullet holes in this sign. Sign must be newer than it looks. (Click on image to enlarge)

Silly Signs: Road Kill Cafe


Sign board between Montagu and Barrydale.
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Thursday, 29 October 2009

Not till the loom is silent.....

Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttle cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needful
In the weavers skilful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern he has planned

Source unknown

Monday, 19 October 2009

A Duck's Revenge

I have absolutely no issues as far as hunting or guns are concerned. I no longer own a firearm and have never been a keen fan of hunting for the sake of hunting. From a strong forestry background I personally have no desire to hunt wild animals. Having said that, I feel that it seems to be a bit unfair to shoot an animal with a state of the art firearm over a distance of 500 yards, while the “target” is peacefully munching away at lunch, and then have a sense of satisfaction as to a “job well done”.
Ducks specifically are vulnerable. Set up a decoy and as they fly up, fly past or come in to land, a cohort of hunters jump up and blast away with shotguns. Not much chance for the ducks, and, personally, I would get no feeling of satisfaction. No sense of fair play and all that.
If you want to brag, show your skills with clay pigeons or targets.
That is why I like this one…………
Source: E-mail, unknown

Monday, 24 August 2009

There must be a rational explanation for this, #2.

There is always a logical and rational explanation for everything. Not always evident at face value, I wonder what happened here........
Received via e-mail, source unknown

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Cherokee Philosophy : The Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Received via e-mail, source unknown.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Police Vehicle up the Pole.......

There is always a rational explanation for everything, I wonder what this one is.....

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Which Roman Emperor made his horse a Senator, and declared war on Neptune?

Which Roman Emperor made his horse a Senator, and declared war on Neptune?
This snippet of trivia popped up on DSTV a couple of nights ago.
The answer was given as Emperor Caligula.
I thought this would be a good one to read up on, and went scratching.
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Gemanicus, also known as Caligula.
As a young boy he accompanied his father on military campaigns and wore diminutive soldier’s footwear, hence the name, meaning “little soldiers boot.”
His reign was short, from 37AD to 41 AD. During his first two years he was considered an excellent Emperor, and then after a serious sickness he appeared to become mentally unstable.
Back to the horse and senator part. Nowhere could I find any confirmation that this ‘appointment” took place. At best there are a few references to his desire to do something to this affect.
It appears as though he developed a weird and even bizarre sense of humour after his sickness; there are enough accounts of this. He had an inherent dislike and contempt for the Senators, maintaining they were useless. To belittle them he most probably threatened to appoint his horse to the Senate as the horse would most probably do a better job. This is the explanation that appears the most credible. I scanned through Suetonius’ bibliography of Caligula and could find no reference to the horse.
The same DSTV program maintained that he declared war on Neptune and had his soldiers stab the sea with their swords and spears. Nowhere could I find a reference to this, but given his very strange behaviour, this could most probably be possible. ( He had the heads of the Roman gods removed and replaced with his own likeness.
All said and done, the Senate planned his assassination, and Caligula suffered the same fate as Gaius Julius Caesar
There is a mine of information on the way he mismanaged the empire and his subjects. Lots at Wikipedia if you are interested.
Image from Wikipedia

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Robertson, First winter rain and Rainbow


Taken with mobile at 17H00.

Robertson , South Africa. First decent rain of the winter, no snow yet, forecast for Thursday/Friday
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Thursday, 18 June 2009

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine: Origin and Meaning

The meaning is easy to understand. If something needs attention, do it now, rather than wait until the situation becomes progressively worse and finally out of control. This will result in requiring much more attention than would have been the case if it had been addressed immediately.
Why stitches and why nines? Most sources refer to stitches as in knitting, sewing or needlepoint. If you drop one and do not fix it immediately, you will have to redo your work later. The Nine still not identified. Some say it takes 9 stitches before you realise one has been dropped, others say it takes nine times longer. No matter, there is no consensus that I could find.
Put into plain words, if you have a tear in your shirt and it can be fixed with one stitch, do it. If you don’t, the tear will get bigger and later need many more stitches. So, do not procrastinate. End of story.( Oftentimes easier said than done. I have great respect for people that do everything now...even though it could have been done a little later...)
Origin. There is consensus that the first written reference is in Thomas Fuller’s Gnomologia, Adagies and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British (1732AD)
This reference is to “ a stitch in time may save nine,” not will but may, the may has been dropped somewhere along the line.
If this was a proverb in the early 1700’s then it must have been around for a long time before that.
The second quoted written reference is that of Francis Baily, in a journal entry published in 1856, where no reference is made to “may”, just a stitch in time saves nine.
All said and done, I could find no origin, no definite explanation as to what kind of stitch or the significance of the nine. Buried in the past somewhere.
If you are interested in Ye Olde Sayings, Google Thomas Fuller, and sit back and enjoy. It is amazing how the old proverbs are still around, albeit they have morphed somewhat.
“All things are difficult before they are easy”
“Bacchus hath drowned more men than Neptune”
Image from Wikipedia

What does SOS and MAYDAY mean? : Origin and use

What does SOS mean? What does MAYDAY mean? What is the difference? PAN PAN?
SOS first.
An SOS was an international distress signal transmitted by Morse code. With the advent of long distance radio transmissions in the early 1900’s it was possible to communicate with radio using Morse code signals. (Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail developed the electric telegraph during the 1800’s, more detail). During the early 1900’s the Germans introduced a radio distress signal based on this technology that was adopted worldwide a few years later.
This signal consisted of three dots, three dashes and three dots again, “…_ _ _…”
These signals represent S O S in Morse code, but it would appear as though the letters were irrelevant, it had all to do with the distinctive sound. Three shorts, three longs and three shorts repeated over and over again were distinctive and easily recognizable. (Transmitted with no spaces between the three letters).
After the fact meanings were given to SOS such as Save our Souls, Save our Seamen, Save our Ship, Survivors on Shore…. endless possibilities. (One list I found had more than 100, from the serious to the ridiculous).
The process of giving names after the fact is called a bacronym, which was a new concept to me. (I felt better when the spell-check was also caught out.)
With the development of new technology, satellites and so forth, Morse code has been replaced and no longer used. It is still used as a visual distress signal, as in one could place objects on the ground to form an SOS, to get attention from the air. No matter how you do the SOS it will be recognized, even if seen upside down.
Originally Mayday is to aircraft as SOS was to ships. The main difference being that the distress signal was “voiced” or “spoken”. Origin around 1923 by Fred Mockford who was an English radio officer given the task to think of a word that could be easily understood as a distress call. From the French “Venez m’aider” meaning “come help me".
Then there is PAN PAN which is also a distress signal, but not for life threatening circumstances.
The protocol of using theses signals is interesting and lots of interesting detail to be found at Wikipedia for a better understanding
Image from Wikipedia

What is a Charlatan: Origin and meaning

What is the origin and meaning of a Charlatan?
Truth be told my understanding was incorrect, but will not compound my embarrassment by going into details.
A charlatan is someone who tricks you out of your money by deceiving you. The vast majority of references relate to things medical. Promises are made that a specific medicine or potion will cure from virtually anything.So, the unsuspecting client buys the product and after a while finds out that it is useless, or virtually useless. This point of understanding is usually arrived at after the salesperson has disappeared.
Appears to relate to days long past when traveling salesmen moved from town to town selling their wares, and only returned after the dust had settled and the bad experience forgotten, just for the process to be repeated.
Words often used in definitions are swindled, cheated, quackery, shyster, mountebank, and impostor.
The following definition sums it all up nicely, both the meaning and the origin.
“A `charlatan` is a person practising quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money or advantage via some form of pretence or deception. The word comes from French `charlatan,` a seller of medicines who might advertise his presence with music and an outdoor stage show.”
More detail here
There is a difference between a charlatan and a confidence trickster. A charlatan has his way of operating that is usually fast and to the point aimed at a broad audience, targeting the gullible, ignorant or uneducated (my view), whereas a confidence trickster will have elaborate plans to deceive a targeted individual, after building up a relationship.
If you want to dig deeper, more detail at Wikipedia.
Image from Wikipedia

Monday, 15 June 2009

To knock on wood or to touch wood: Origin and Meaning.

What does it mean to knock on wood or to touch wood, and all about origin and meaning?
Firstly the meaning.
The way I look at it the phrase has two meanings. Firstly one would “touch wood” if you are having a streak of good luck and you do not want to tempt fate by bragging. An example would be if the sports team of your choice had won 10 games in a row and you could brag by saying that the next game would be a winner as well, “ …touch wood”. This would be a kind of help against tempting fate.
The second meaning could be to help against bad things happening. An example would be ….” I am going to Europe for the holidays, touch wood”. Implying that you want to go on leave unless something unforeseen, usually negative, occurs to put an end to your plans.
The origin part is not so clear, and there are three possibilities most often cited.
Version 1
This version relates to the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Some maintain that splinters of the cross were sold as tokens of good luck. To have a piece of the cross on your person was considered good luck. No much to substantiate this origin.
Version 2
In Pagan times it was believed that both good and bad spirits lived in trees. One would knock on the tree to deafen the bad spirit as to what you were saying, so the bad spirit could not hear and cause bad things to happen. There was also a good spirit, and knocking on the tree would result in good luck, a prayer.
Version 3
This one is probably the most plausible. Originated from a children’s game called “Tiggy touch wood”. You could not be tagged if you touched wood. From the early 1800’s.
There is hardly a country in the world that does not have an expression similar to this one. The list and meanings can be found at Wikipedia , search for “knocking on wood”.
Wikipedia is a good starting point for further digging

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

What is a Fabian Tactic (Strategy): Meaning, definition and Example.

What does a Fabian tactic or strategy mean…..?
Definition, meaning and example in a nutshell.
Oxford Dictionary defines a Fabian Tactic or Strategy as….”dilatory tactics and avoidance of direct engagements”
I read a definition in a Pan dictionary, and I really cannot recall which one, that related Fabian to the evolution of politics, specifically Socialism. Evolution rather than revolution.

Originates from the Roman General Quintus Fabius Maximus (280BC-203BC), also known as the Delayer (Cunctator). After Hannibal had invaded Rome (The Second Punic War), Fabius used evasive and delaying tactics to wear Hannibal’s forces down, rather to confront him in direct battle. Hannibal was in a strange land with a large army that had to be fed, without help or supplies from his own sources. So, Fabian held back and attacked the parties hunting for food, disrupting and weakening his enemy. Some saw this as a sign of weakness and there was a difference in opinion whether this was the correct strategy. Many Romans perceived this approach as cowardly and not really approved of. (More at Wikipedia).
In the end, Fabian was awarded the Shield of Rome for “…one man, by delaying, restored the state to us”. Most probably after his death.
Fabian Strategy was often used in the past. The Russians used this approach when invaded by Napoleon. (Scorched earth approach).
George Washington was known as the American Fabius.
Good place to start digging deeper for more is at Wikipedia.
Image from Wijkipedia

Thursday, 04 June 2009

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword : Origin and meaning

The meaning and origin of the saying “ The pen is mightier than the sword”
Definitions abound, but all allude to the same principle that it is more sensible to resolve a conflict by the use of words and communication rather than by physical conflict and confrontation.
This saying is attributed in this form by all sources to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1839, from his play Richelieu.
“ Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! - itself a nothing! -
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Caesars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! - Take away the sword -
States can be saved without it!”
The concept of communication rather than confrontation a a method of resolving conflicts has been around for many many years, but worded somewhat differently.
Here are a few examples.
Euripides 400+ BC “ The tongue is mightier than the blade.....”
Prophet Muhammad “ The ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr...”
Shakespeare 1600 “Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills”
Cicero “arms yield to persuasion”
This, is however, not a philosophy adopted by all, as the numbers of current global conflicts bear witness to. On the other side..
“Actions speak louder than words”
Terry Pratchett “ Only if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp”
General MacArthur “Whoever thinks the pen is mightier than the sword clearly has never encountered automatic weapons”

Good place to start digging for more is at Wikipedia.
Image from Wikipedia.

Monday, 01 June 2009

Julius Caesar Quotes

Julius Caesar quotes / quotations are limited. There are not many, and, oftentimes I am confused as to which were really Caesar’s and which were William Shakespeare's.

1) “Veni, vidi vici” : I came I saw I conquered. This is a Caesar quote as documented by Suetonius . Details at a previous post.

2) “The die has been cast” : Caesars words on crossing the Rubicon ; Details at a previous post.

3) “Et tu Brute” : And you too Brutus. This is an interesting one, supposedly uttered by Caesar on being assassinated ; Details at a previous post

4) Men in general are quick to believe that which they wish to be true.
(Still working on this one.)

5) It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience
(Still working on this one as well)

6) It is not these well-fed long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the hungry-looking.
The conspiracy to asassinate Caesar was known well before the time. A number of people had warned Caesar against Brutus, who they believed was one of the main instigators. But, Caesar would not hear of any negative comments implicating Brutus. He believed that he had favoured Brutus in the past at the expense of Cassius, and it was in Brutus’ interest that Caesar should live. Anyhow, the possibility must have stuck in the back of his mind somewhere, as, when rumour had it that Antony and Dolabella were also planning his assination he remarked
"I am not much in fear of these fat, long-haired fellows, but rather of those pale, thin ones",(meaning Brutus and Cassius.) (Plutarch )

7) What we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also.

8) Cowards die many times before their actual deaths.

9) As a rule, men worry more about what they can't see than about what they can.

10) I had rather be first in a village than second at Rome.
From Plutarch, that is self explanatory (Page 469)
"We are told that, as he was crossing the Alps and passing by a barbarian village which had very few inhabitants and was a sorry sight, his companions asked with mirth and laughter, "Can it be that here too there are ambitious strifes for office, struggles for primacy, and mutual jealousies of powerful men?" Whereupon Caesar said to them in all seriousness, "I would rather be first here than second at Rome."

11) "Because I maintain that the members of my family should be free from suspicion, as well as from accusation."

12) "I go to meet an army without a leader, and I shall return to meet a leader without an army."
"The sum total of his movements after that is, in their order, as follows: He overran Umbria, Picenum, and Etruria, took prisoner Lucius Domitius, who had been irregularly named his successor, and was holding Corfinium with a garrison, let him go free, and then proceeded along the Adriatic to Brundisium, where Pompey and the consuls had taken refuge, intending to cross the sea as soon as might be. After trying by every kind of hindrance to prevent their sailing, he marched off to Rome, and after calling the senate together to discuss public business, went to attack Pompey's strongest forces, which were in Spain under command of three of his lieutenants — Marcus Petreius, Lucius Afranius, and Marcus Varro — saying to his friends before he left "I go to meet an army without a leader, and I shall return to meet a leader without an army." And in fact, though his advance was delayed by the siege of Massilia, which had shut its gates against him, and by extreme scarcity of supplies, he nevertheless quickly gained a complete victory." Suetonius

I could find detail to those with links and explanations, busy looking for more detail on the others

Image from Wikipedia

Mark Twain Quotes : My subjective 10 best

My 10 best cynical (?) quotes from Mark Twain,

1) Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. ( I find it difficult to communicate with people who were born unhappy, and blame the system for everything from their unemployment to chronic haemorrhoid pains)

2) Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt. ( A wise bit of advice, especially when you are out of your depth, and, ask questions rather than give opinions)

3) Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. ( Ha, one can torture figures until they confess)

4) Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live. ( Build your sand castles, we all do, but don’t move into them)

5) Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
(Oftentimes these “people” have less to contribute than the person they belittle)

6) If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man. ( Sad but true...a friend once told me the best way to lose a customer was to give him credit)

7) A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself as a liar. ( Never easy to come to terms with this concept, the untrue is often rationalised away into true)

8) Truth is more stranger than fiction ( No comment )

9) You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus
10) And then my favourite, “ Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t”
Image from Wikipedia

Monday, 25 May 2009

Origin and Meaning of Honeymoon

I thought this one would be an easy one; but not so, there are a number of interpretations as to when this word originated and what it means.
Without thinking too much about it, my interpretation was that a honeymoon was that period of time after getting married, when you went off on holiday. The purpose being to get to know your new wife intimately without unwanted people around. So, the way I looked at it, there had to be a holiday before there was a honeymoon, which cannot be true. A honeymoon in my mind has now been redefined to a promised period of harmony, happiness, delight and pleasure. (Promised, as this is not always true). The period of happiness or honeymoon cannot be a function of the ability to afford a holiday. Therefore my subjective interpretation is that a honeymoon is the short period of happiness after getting married, prior to the realities of life kicking in and causing a less happier period, whether you go away on holiday or not.
Ok, now for the origin part. I could find 3 possible sources for the origin and meaning.
Version 1.
The most popular version, and the easiest to understand, is that Parents of the married couple were to supply a month’s honey wine (mead) for consumption by the married couple (Honey and moon, a month). Some sources maintain it was as much as they could drink, others say it was a glass each per day. Why? Most popular reference states the mead was there to increase the libido and fertility of the couple.
Version 2
Another version is that the name originates from the Norse word “hjunottsmanathr” meaning to kidnap. What would happen is that the future groom would abduct a lady from a neighboring village and they would hide away for a period of time. Her safety was assured , and she was returned either when the prospective brides parents stopped looking for her, or after conception had taken place, which would be known after a month.
Version 3
This one is often quoted, a passage from Richard Huloet’s Abecedarium Anglico Latinum stating that a honeymoon “ was a sardonic reference to the inevitable waning of love like a phase of the moon”.
Good place to start digging is Wikipedia. The above needs to be refined.
Image from Wikipedia

Roman Mythology : Janus god of gates, doors , beginnings and endings

Janus, the mythological “god of doors, gates, beginnings and endings”. This is the definition most commonly found.
Firstly, name is from Latin, Ianus.
Janus is from Roman mythology, and unlike the majority of Roman mythological deities there is no Greek origin or equivalent.
A number of dictionaries refer to “gates and doors” and do not give much attention to the “Beginnings an Endings” part. The beginnings and endings appear to refer to a transition process, both tangible and abstract.
Examples: The progress or transition from the past to the future
Births and marriages.
Janus is usually depicted with two faces, one facing forwards, the other backwards, depicting his gift of looking into the past and the future. Some references say the one face was bearded and the other clean-shaven. But, a number of images depict both faces fully bearded. Maybe this morphed with the passing of time. Some references refer to four faces.
Anyhow, The month of January is named after Janus, being the beginning or entrance to the New Year.
The word Janitor also originates from Janus, as the keeper or custodian of halls.
He was often depicted holding a key, as he was the protector of the King’s treasure.
When Rome was at war, which was probably very often during these times, the doors to the temple of Janus ( Ianus Geminus, or Portae Belli, the Gates of War? ) were kept open, and closed in the time of peace. Why? Could not really determine why…..
For detailed information, Wikipedia is a good place to start.
Image from Wikipedia

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Origin and meaning of the names of the Months of the year.

Where do the names of the months originate and what do they mean. Short summary of each one with the birthstones and flowers associated with each month.

January, the first month of the year was named after the Roman god Janus. He was the god of gateways and doors and the custodian of entrances and halls. January, the first month of the year, being the gateway to the new year. Origin of the word Janitor
Birthstone – Garnet representing consistency
Flower – Carnation / Snowdrop

The second month of the year and the shortest. From Latin Februum, meaning purification. The Romans had a purification festival on the 15th of February each year. ( Oxford refers to a “February face” ? )
Birthstone – Amethyst
Flower - Violet and Primrose

Also originates from early Roman times and named after Mars (Martius) the Roman god of war. March is the first day of spring in the Northern Henmisphere, and in days passed it meant the start of the military campaign season.
Marching off to war?
Birthstone – Bloodstone/aquamarine meaning courage
Flower – Daffodil

Bit of an uncertainty here, but mostly attributed to the Latin word Aprilis, meaning to open. That time of the year when flowers start to bloom. Roman goddess associated with this month was Venus.
Birthstone – Diamond
Flower – Daisy or sweet pea.

Not much about May. Originally named after the Roman goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, also known as the Greek goddess Maia, whose festival was held in May. ( Will look for more detail later)
Birthstone – Emerald, meaning love and success
Flower – Lily of the Valley

Names after the Roman goddess Juno, Junius. She was also known as the goddess of marriage. It was considered good luck to be married during this month, and a large number of people were married in June.
Birthstone – Pearl and Moonstone meaning health and longevity
Flower - Rose.

This post is getting a bit too long, will split in two and do the balance a bit later
Reference: Wikipedia and Oxford Dictionary

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Interesting Trivia : Statues of Hero on a Horse

Why do some horses have all four legs on the ground, some have one leg in the air and others with both legs in the air?
This explanation from an email I received.

“If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.”

I don’t know whether this is true or not, make your own decision
Image from Wikipedia

Catch 22 : Origin, Meaning and Example

What does Catch 22 mean? Origin, meaning and examples?.
The easy part is the origin. Catch 22 refers to the novel by Joseph Heller , (with the same name), first published in 1961. So, as sayings go, this is a relatively new one.
For starters and to get the show on the road, the following passage from the novel

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
"That's some catch, that Catch-22," Yossarian observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed."

This is the most frequently cited passage that one finds on the Internet that endeavors to define Catch 22. It is not the only one; there are a number of examples in the novel.
Now the meaning part.
A Catch 22 situation is a lose-lose or a no-win situation. One gets involved in a circular reasoning exercise with no logical or practical answer. Any which way you lose. In the novel the Catch 22 principle is directed towards Government and specifically Military bureaucracy, but the concept is used oftentimes in ordinary day-to-day experiences.
The word catch appears to mean a snag or a problem. Oxford Dictionary as follows “ an unexpected or hidden obstacle or drawback”
The number 22 appears to have no special significance. Originally the novel was titled Catch 14, and was changed a number of times for marketing reasons, until the “22” was decided upon.
There are lots and lots of examples if you dig around on the Net.
My car had been broken into and in the attempt to steal it the steering column was seriously damaged. Could not drive it. Insurance stated a Case Number must be obtained from the Police within 12 hours for insurance purposes. Police refuse to come to the vehicle, as they are too busy for mundane stuff. I cannot drive the damaged vehicle and I lived on a farm, alone, 25 miles from the nearest Police Station. What now….?
Enough stuff here to get one on the road for greater insight; best place to start for detailed stuff is at Wikipedia

Thursday, 14 May 2009

To Wet (Whet) your Whistle : Origin and Meaning

What does it mean if you wet your whistle?
The most common interpretation is to have something to drink, usually something alcoholic. More polite to say you are off to wet your whistle than to say you are going drinking.
Most references relate to a custom quite a few hundred years ago when drinking mugs had whistles that one would blow to indicate you needed a refill.
Some say the whistle was attached to the handle and became wet after the drink had been poured, hence to wet your whistle.
Other sources say the whistle was part of the mug, built into either the rim or handle. The result in both cases being a wet whistle. I went digging on the web and could find no example of Ye Olde Whistle Mug. Maybe I did not dig deep enough. The only examples I could find were replicas of whistle mugs on offer as curios.

By the way, the whistle part. It would appear in times past ones mouth and or throat were referred to in common talk as your whistle, which makes sense to me. To wet your whistle was to have something to drink. There is documentation that this was in use during the 1300’s. ( Maybe one wet ones whistle before you whistled, hard to whistle with dry lips. Maybe one wet your whistle before talking, something like a glass of water on a speakers table)
So, the way I look at it, is that to have something to drink preceded the whistle on the mug concept. Maybe the one morphed into the other.
You will also find references to “Whet your whistle”. My immediate reaction was that whet morphed into wet over the passage of time. This is not necessarily true.
Whet per definition means either to sharpen something on a grindstone (whetstone) or to excite or stimulate a desire, interest or appetite. Starters at a meal are there to whet your appetite in stimulating the desire to eat more of something else. This is also a saying in its own right, first documentation however quite a few years after the Wet your whistle.
I did a very unsophisticated test on the Internet and Googled “wet your whistle” and had 426,000 hits, the majority directed towards drinking. “Whet your whistle” resulted in 421,000 hits, the majority of the answers related to stimulating further thought or experience processes.
Now you have a good basis to go scratching around for more information and draw your own conclusion.
Image from Wikipedia