Monday, October 29, 2012

You, Claudius

In the spirit of staying up too late, which I often do, I spent many Saturday nights/Sunday mornings in September watching episodes of the 1976 BBC series I, Claudius on WETA UK.  The show, based on the book by Robert Graves, is a false autobiography of the Roman emperor Claudius.  The characters are mostly a bunch of Roman dudes with bowl haircuts and names like Gaius Drusus Germanicus Triceratops. Many of them are at least partially insane, most of them  want to rule the Roman Empire, and all of them are being poisoned by their wives.  I found portions of the story extremely confusing, but was able to navigate much of it using knowledge left over from my high school Latin days. 

An unexpected surprise was the appearance of Patrick Stewart in the role of Sejanus, who was prefect of the Praetorian Guard during the reign of Emperor Tiberius.  

A week or two after seeing Stewart in this role, I was struck by the realization of a shocking coincidence which, I felt at the time, would rock our view of the universe itself.  Patrick Stewart, who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard, earlier acted alongside a character named Tiberius . . . and Captain Kirk's middle name was Tiberius!! (Kirk's middle name was not presented as Tiberius in the original series, however, it was presented thus in the animated series, and was one of the fews elements of the animated series later accepted as canonical.)

The whole thing can be presented in a circular progression, as follows:

Captain Jean-Luc Picard --> Patrick Stewart --> Sejanus --> Emperor Tiberius --> Captain James Tiberius Kirk --> Captain Jean Luc Picard

This coincidence has a big impact on me because, due to my participation in Latin club/Certamen activities and my own inherent nerdiness, Star Trek and the Roman Empire both took up large amounts of my time in high school. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Word of the Day (October 28, 2012)

The word of the day is anquilosaurio.  I ran into it recently in a scientific journal, and thought that it had an interesting story.    

All scientifically-classified animals have a scientific name, and most modern animals also have one or more common names.  For example, there is a bird, common in parking lots, known by the scientific name Passer domesticus (indicating the genus and species) and the common name house sparrow.  A scientific name is Latinate in form; it is usually formed from Latin or ancient Greek roots, but it can be formed from elements of any language as long as they are rendered compatible with Latin grammatical structures.  And a common name is in whatever language is used where the animal lives.  

Non-avian dinosaurs have no common names, as they lived millions of years before any humans were alive to bestow common names. But a dinosaur is often given a sort of improvised common name by "de-Latinizing" the scientific name (or a name higher up in its taxonomic nomenclature).  For example, the dinosaur Tyrannosaurus is given the common name of tyrannosaur by dropping the Latinate -us ending.  And any dinosaur in the family Tyrannosauridae can be called by the common name tyrannosaurid, which results from dropping the Latinate -ae.

This principle, applied to dinosaurs of the suborder Ankylosauria, results in the English common name ankylosaur.  And, as I recently learned, that English common name, rendered into Spanish, yields anquilosaurio.  I had never considered the possibility of the improvised English common name of a dinosaur being changed into a foreign common name, but evidently it does happen.  A word is built from ancient Greek roots, given a Latin suffix, has the Latin suffix removed to form an English word, and then has its spelling changed to fit the rules of Spanish . . . all for an animal that lived more than 65 million years ago.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Convention Will Be in R'lyeh This Year

When I was writing my last post, I felt that I needed a link to explain Nyarlathotep.  I went to Wikipedia, and, as always, strayed from the path and became lost in the vast information swamp that is that website.  And somehow it became relevant to our current election season.  I ended up reading about Robert Bloch, a horror writer most famous for the book Psycho, on which the movie was based.  Bloch began his career as a protege of H. P. Lovecraft.  Bloch later worked for the Milwaukee mayoral campaign of Carl Zeidler, during which, according the Bloch's autobiography, he conceived the idea of dropping balloons from the ceiling at political rallies.  The balloon drop, of course, became a inevitable feature of every major party convention of the modern era.

And so you can see (in case you ever had any doubt) that the tentacles of Cthulhu have left a lasting imprint on the American political process.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Now It Is Late October, and We Think of Halloween

Fall continues to, um, fall.  We have moved from the era in which Carly Rae Jepsen sang "Call Me Maybe" to the era in which Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City sing "Good Time".  And Halloween will be here soon.  I have covered my feelings about Halloween on this blog many times before.  I still can't help feeling that, because it's Halloween, something cool should happen.  And it never does.  It's not as if I'll look out the window and see Nyarlathotep. (Or maybe you're not down with Nyarlathotep.  Insert your preferred Halloween horror.)

I get the same feeling in the summer.  It's summer.  Something cool should happen.  I don't know what.  But something should happen.  And it never does. 

As last year, I want to write a blog entry about the semi-comedic and semi-pathetic story of the last time that I went to a Halloween party, back in 2001.  But, as last year, I don't think that I'll have the energy to actually do it.  

Anyway, if you get the chance, sat hi to Nyarlathotep for me. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Word of the Day (October 5, 2012)

The word of the day is Bodendenkmalpflege

I don't know what it means, but I know that it is German.  Also I think that it's scientific.