Tuesday, November 27, 2007


One of the great things about studying another language is what you learn about your own. To wit (that is to say, "to know," since this is the only surviving use of "wit" as a verb in English, though wissen remains the ordinary German verb for knowing):


English cognate




nigh+er > near


nigh+est > next

So "near" has lost its comparative sense entirely, though "next" retains that sense.

Friday, November 9, 2007


My sister-in-law and my brother-in-law-in-law were sworn in yesterday as lawyers in the (great) state of Illinois. We attended the swearing-in of the nearly 2,000 new attorneys in this part of the state, and it was an interesting opportunity to observe both their self-presentation and also their behavior. A few things that caught Dr. Fledermaus' and my eyes:
  • One line that came up repeatedly was something like, "You are joining the smartest profession in the world." This was a little jarring to someone used to hanging out with academics, who, of course, assume that they're the smartest guys in the room, but I really do think there's something to this. Doctors and engineers (and airplane pilots, etc. etc.) are smart, and test themselves against physical reality, which is a very stern judge of success or failure, but there is a very definite level of "good enough," beyond which the only incentive to go is internal drive. Lawyers (good lawyers, of course), are motivated by arrogance and fear, and the knowledge that there's a guy making arguments for the other side who might be smarter, might have done more research, and, well, might be right! Sport is the only other arena where people pit them selves against each other so directly.

  • We (Dr. F and I) were joking on the way in about how many lawyers we'd see working furiously on their Crackberries(tm). The answer: 2, +1 guy making notes with a pencil. (Another guy was on his, but he turned out to be a relative/friend of the lawyer) Lawyers are incredibly respectful of authority and, I suppose, ceremony.

  • Never before have I seen so many people dressed exactly the same (but I've never been in the military). The only personal elements allowed to be attached to the dark blue/dark grey/black (and god, not shiny) suit were, for the ladies, shoes and handbags, and for the gents, neckties. I think this ties into the respect for authority. Lawyerin' really is the only job where a judge can say, "Leave this room until you are properly dressed."

I wonder how these habits and social norms tie into the risk-taking necessary for really interesting cases.

Congratulations, L and J!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Dining Hall Cookery

Yesterday at lunch, I toasted a bun, and added a slice of provolone cheese, a small heap of cole slaw, and a big spoonful of giardineira to my garden burger. Oh, man was it good.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The news you've all been waiting for...


"No really, really, egregious errors--though you did usually forget the categories of state and definiteness when parsing nouns. Basically it was a very good exam. I'll be putting an A- on it and sending a copy to [departmental admin] if that's the recommended procedure."

Woo hoo!

Und jetzt, Deutsch!