Friday, March 24, 2006

How About Chatty?

Today I was looking up how to spell Porpoise on Dictionary.com when I noticed the definition:
Any of several gregarious toothed whales of the genus Phocaena and related genera, of oceanic waters, characteristically having a blunt snout and a triangular dorsal fin. Also called sea hog.
Now I had no idea about the sea hog thing, and we will get to that in a minute, but what really jumped out at me was the fact that they were defined as being gregarious. I was under the impression that gregarious meant that a person liked to talk, so I found this definition of porpoise funny. Imagine my surprise when I looked up gregarious on Dictionary.com so I could properly mock its inclusion in the definition of porpoise and learn that in fact, gregarious means:
  1. Seeking and enjoying the company of others.
  2. Tending to move in or form a group with others of the same kind
As it turns out I was a bit off base (as unusual as that may be) and the use of gregarious in defining a propoise was dead on. Damn Dictionary.com setting me straight and what not. Now this joke is so much “funny ha-ha” as “funny look at what an ass James is.”

So, since the first joke of the day totally fell apart on me, lets delve into this whole sea hog thing. (Must not make police of the sea joke. Must not make police of the sea joke.) Just look at the word porpoise. It is sort of a weird looking word. I almost looks like the phonetic spelling of how a gangster from the Roarin’ 20s might say purpose, but not quite. It sure a heck doesn’t look like it should sound the way it does. I find there are quite a few words in the English language like this and English place names take this confusion to a whole new level (Worcester (or here) is not Wooster you evil bastards. Keep this crap up and we’ll make you take Australia and Canada back.) Once again I have wandered off track.

We have established three things so far:
  1. Porpoise are also referred to as sea hogs.
  2. Porpoise is one messed up word in the spelling versus pronunciation struggle.
  3. James’ ADD is working overtime today to prevent me from making any points, salient or otherwise.
Strangely enough items one and two on that list are related (three is just there for fun.) The word porpoise comes to us from the Middle English porpeis which comes from the Old French porc (from Latin porcus or pig) and peis (from the Latin piscis or fish.) Whomever did the write up for Dictionary.com indicated that the Old French may have been a translation of a Germanic compound of pig and fish. Therefore we get weird pronunciation through the French (damn them!) roots of the word and the funny nickname is the literal translation of the Old French name.

I really need to suck it up and buy the OED on CD or subscribe to it online so I can really do up these language posts. $295 seems a lot for one year of online service when for the same price you get the CD which is yours to keep forever and ever, but not any new updates. Grumble grumble grumble.

Oh yeah, bonus points to the first person to correctly identify what movie the title of this post, which was funny when I thought gregarious was synonymous with chatty but now it has all the humor value of a stinky pig-fish.

2 comments:

Connie and Rob said...

I hate contests cause I always lose!

Thanks for teaching me about sea hogs.

Connie

Kyle said...

Con Air.
Biatch.
The Salient Jew in a plane of Christians,
Kyle