June 27, 2011

Trolls and trolling

A troll is someone who posts something ridiculous online to get a reaction.

Trolling is the verb for doing this. (Convergent words).

But when people say, "Don't feed trolls," (as in, don't respond to that idiot on the message board), they say so with an image of a monster under a bridge, while when they say, "Don't troll," (as in, don't be an idiot and put inflammatory prompts on the message board), they say so with an image of fishing using long lines off the back of a boat. (Divergent images).

Which came first? Trolling before trolls, surely. And then "Don't feed trolls" was a funny leap off the back of the ship to under the bridge. It makes me furrow my eyebrows.

The words come from totally different places, too.

The verb troll comes from Old French troller, a hunting term.

The noun troll comes from Old Norse for a mythological monster.

June 26, 2011


The word is so interesting, and it's come up twice this week.

I asked Afsaneh how to say, "No problem" in Farsi. The answer, though I am surely transcribing it with mistakes, is something like "Moshkeli nadire" (MOSH-KAY-LEE NAD-DEE-RAY). This made easy sense, because both the words are familiar.

"Mafi moshkela" we used to say in Saudi, for "No problem."

"Nadir" is "rare" in Turkish.

Then, yesterday, Robin asked for the opposite of "zenith." He was fishing around for a word that he already knew. "Nadir," I put forward, "but it's an Arabic word, I think." "No, that's it!" And so it is. "Nadir" is English for the direction pointing directly below something. It can also work like "trough" or "bottom." Such words are almost invisible, they are so rarely used. Likewise, the spiderweb connections between languages often go unnoticed.

"Nadir" comes from the Arabic نَظِيرُ السَّمْت, nadhir as-samt, "counterpart to the zenith".

June 9, 2011

Dear Mary

Dear Mary
Thank you for your dedicated teaching!
You're THE best teacher EVER and I really appreciate it.
Take care, Yoshi

Beat that, other professions!