Innumerable as the Starrs of Night,
Or Starrs of Morning,
Dew-drops, which the Sun
on every leaf and every flouer
NGC3132 ©
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,
— that is all
Ye know on earth, and all
ye need to know.

E = M

Energy is eternal delight.
William Blake

Impearls: 2004-06-13 Archive

Earthdate 2004-06-19


Lynn Sislo, in her eclectic blog Reflections in d minor, writes:

When I was a kid — back when “hell” was one of the really bad cuss words — we would always say “heck” when we really meant “hell,” but just look at the word “heck.”  It's actually a combination of “hell” and “f**k” which should make it one of the nastiest cuss words of all.

A couple of points with regard to Lynn's comment:

First, checking a couple dictionaries shows that in their view “heck” is simply a euphemism for hell, nothing about the f-word being incorporated into the mix.  Thus, I think the allegation that it is, is apocryphal not real, much like the popular supposition that the f-word itself is an acronym.

Second, though the dictionaries don't show this derivation, there's another possible source for the word “heck” meaning “hell.”  It turns out there's a highly active volcano in Iceland east of Reykjavik named “Heckla,” which during the Middle Ages was also known as the “Mountain of Hell,” with a deep crater at its core that was popularly supposed to be the entrance to the passageway to hell for souls.  This newspaper article also makes that connection.  It's not clear whether this was the real source for the word in question (except maybe for Icelanders, though Iceland and England did have formidable links during the medieval period), but it is nonetheless quite interesting.  Unfortunately for this theory, the earliest reference that the Oxford English Dictionary provides to the word “heck” dates from 1865.

Impearls: 2004-06-13 Archive

Earthdate 2004-06-15

Conspiracy Theories

A correspondent on a political mailing list writes:

I will confess to having a visceral aversion to conspiracy theories.  I once joked that if you combined all the Theories about JFK's death, the only person in Dealy plaza who wasn't trying to kill Kennedy — was Oswald.

Good one!  Yes, I agree completely with you about conspiracy theories (I think your viscera make good rational sense!).  Let's consider a couple of those theories to expose some of their properties — one real conspiracy, one unreal.

For the false conspiracy theory, let's take the story, still pervasive around the Middle East, that 4,000 Jews were warned (presumably by Mossad) that the 9-11 attack was coming and failed to show up for work that day.  This theory, believed by millions, is so ludicrous that mere examination is sufficient to disprove it.  Had it been true, it's virtually impossible that 4,000 disparate office workers (or any other sizable group of persons, “Jews” or not) could have kept such a secret.  With essential certainty, given the thousands of individuals supposedly warned off that day by this scenario, quite a number would inevitably have stepped forward in the interval since 9-11 to reveal the plot.  That hasn't happened.  Hence, this particular conspiracy theory is false.  Q.E.D.

Now let's look at a real conspiracy: Watergate.  Conspiracy theories in order to work require basically all the (artificial) luck and godlike omniscience of the Impossible Missions team of the Mission: Impossible TV show.  In that fictional program, the operatives always know everything they need to know, and everything always goes according to plan.  Yet, that's not at all how things work in the real world.  In reality, one almost never knows much beyond a bare sketch of what's happening in another building, another organization, another country.  Moreover, in the world we live in nothing ever goes exactly (oftentimes not even close) according to plan.  In Watergate, a night watchman tripped up the burglars.  Some similar accident, someone not being where they're expected when they're expected; someone else not expected at all arrives on the scene; or a small security camera, installed since their intelligence was updated, is watching — and presto! the situation is revealed.  If even a small proportion of the blizzard of conspiracy theories that are continually blowing up dust devils around us were true, some of them would be constantly being revealed by those kind of accidental exposures — but they're not.  Ergo, the vast proportion of extant conspiracy theories are false.  Q.E.D.

Impearls: 2004-06-13 Archive

Earthdate 2004-06-14

Tribalism in Iraq

Iraqi blogger Zeyad's Healing Iraq blog is in the midst of presenting a multi-part series (three chapters so far: 1 2 3) on “Iraq's tribal society: A state within a state.”  Zeyad draws in part on the greatest of the Arab historians, and one of the most perceptive historians of all time, Ibn Khaldûn (a.d. 1332-1406, whose name Zeyad transliterates from Arabic script as Ibn Khaldoun).  Impearls will have much more to say in the not too distant future with regard to Ibn Khaldûn.  Meanwhile, check out Zeyad's Iraqi tribalism series (and archives of other postings).


(Blank last screen)


Are you an

If you fancy
any piece
you may donate
to reprise!


Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member

[Powered by Blogger]

Impearls Archives

2002-11-03 2002-11-10 2002-11-17 2002-11-24 2002-12-01 2002-12-08 2002-12-15 2002-12-22 2002-12-29 2003-01-05 2003-01-12 2003-01-19 2003-01-26 2003-02-02 2003-02-16 2003-04-20 2003-04-27 2003-05-04 2003-05-11 2003-06-01 2003-06-15 2003-06-22 2003-06-29 2003-07-13 2003-07-20 2003-08-03 2003-08-10 2003-08-24 2003-08-31 2003-09-07 2003-09-28 2003-10-05 2003-10-26 2003-11-02 2003-11-16 2003-11-23 2003-11-30 2003-12-07 2003-12-14 2003-12-21 2003-12-28 2004-01-04 2004-01-11 2004-01-25 2004-02-01 2004-02-08 2004-02-29 2004-03-07 2004-03-14 2004-03-21 2004-03-28 2004-04-04 2004-04-11 2004-04-18 2004-04-25 2004-05-02 2004-05-16 2004-05-23 2004-05-30 2004-06-06 2004-06-13 2004-06-20 2004-07-11 2004-07-18 2004-07-25 2004-08-22 2004-09-05 2004-10-10 2005-06-12 2005-06-19 2005-06-26 2005-07-03 2005-07-10 2005-07-24 2005-08-07 2005-08-21 2005-08-28 2005-09-04 2005-09-11 2005-09-18 2005-10-02 2005-10-09 2005-10-16 2005-10-30 2005-11-06 2005-11-27 2006-04-02 2006-04-09 2006-07-02 2006-07-23 2006-07-30 2007-01-21 2007-02-04 2007-04-22 2007-05-13 2007-06-17 2007-09-09 2007-09-16 2007-09-23 2007-10-07 2007-10-21 2007-11-04 2009-06-28 2009-07-19 2009-08-23 2009-09-06 2009-09-20 2009-12-13 2011-03-27 2012-01-01 2012-02-05 2012-02-12