Links for 2016-07-19

  • Violet Club

    eye-poppingly bizarre half-assed safety features of the 1950s — a megaton nuclear weapon rendered safe from accidental criticality accidents only by a plastic bag full of ball bearings

    (tags: nuclear-weapons nukes safety 1950s uk funny bizarre violet-club ball-bearings via:cstross)

  • Frankly Useless Crank “Knowledge,” Only For Fools

    A wonderfully-sweary post on the etymology of swear words, and how they’re not derived from acronyms, really.

    shit? Also from an old Germanic root, descended equally to modern German Scheiss (which sounds closer to Scots shite). It shows up in Old English, fully inflected: “Wiþ þon þe men mete untela melte & gecirre on yfele wætan & scittan” (that scittan is an infinitive form of ‘shit’ and was said like “shit-tan”). I can assure you that an acronym Ship High In Transit – supposedly meaning that manure was to be loaded in the upper parts of ships – was not possible in the language in the Old English period, not just because transit was not borrowed from Latin until half a millennium later, or because they didn’t use acronyms like that then, but because what the fuck are you even thinking. They didn’t need to ship manure. Animals produce it on the spot everywhere. Holy shit, fucking seriously.

    (tags: shit funny words etymology acronyms)

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One Comment

  1. Nix
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 13:05 | Permalink

    I do know of one word more than a century old that’s definitely an acronym: OK / Okay, and all its variants, which originated in a 19th-century college fad for misspelled acronyms (“oll korrect”), and was then reinforced by association with the nickname of Martin Van Buren, “Old Kinderhook”.

    I don’t know of any others, and if there are any, they probably come from the 1830s US and the same fad.