Friday, March 05, 2004

States' notes blog.

Rain and wind last night, with the wind continuing into the day. It was so strong (up to 50 mph) that the police blocked a couple of streets downtown near highrise construction sites, lest some pedestrian interface with an unmoored object in a distinctly unhealthy way.

Note to the State of Illinois: At the Volo Bog State Natural Area, there's educational material on the wall of the Visitors Center that claims that the word "bogeyman" evolved from "bog." I think this is folk etymology. I consulted a number of dictionaries on the matter, and none of them connect the two words in that way.

I spent time especially with my favorite dictionary, the American Heritage New College Edition (Houghton Mifflin), which has a superb appendix of Indo-European roots. According to the AH, the word bog passed into English from Irish and Scots Gaelic. No surprise there, the word's got a damp Irish-sod ring to it, with that old-timey ethnic slur "blogtrotter" favoring the mix. Bog traces back from Celtic to the Indo-European root bheug-(3), which the appendix defines as "to swell; with derivatives referring to bent, pliable, or curved objects." A bog swells with water, and the ground is pretty well bent and pliable.

Another word from this same root is buxom, which passed through the early Germanic tongues as bugan, "to bend." The scholars may say "bend," and curves do seem essential to the concept, but I think there can be some swelling involved on somebody's part, too.

Anyway, bogeyman and its many variations -- boogieman, boogyman, boogeyman, bogyman -- are "akin" to bogle according to the AH, which means that no one's sure of the exact path from ancient to modern word. Bogle, which is a hobgoblin, is from Scottish (and/or Welsh) and itself is akin to bugaboo and bugbear, a word not heard much anymore, at least on this side of the Atlantic. Alas, there's no Indo-European root cited for any of these words, which may be appropriate for words associated with the demons: things get murky around Old Scratch and his minions.

None of this set of words, bogeyman and its associated dread-words, is linked to bheug-(3), according to AH. Of course, this isn't remotely a scholarly investigation, so I might be wrong. But I suspect that the sign-writer at the Volo Bog didn't know what he or she was talking about.

Note to the State of Texas: I heard on the radio today that the state is banning high-fat foods in some public school cafeterias. Is this wise? Maybe so. Still, I have semi-fond memories of the chili dogs and greasy little pizzas at my high school cafeteria in the late 1970s. They helped make me the man I am today.

Note to the federal judge who's responsible for it: Martha Stewart is the Antichrist. Throw the book at her.

One more note: To the nation of New Zealand: My old friend Ed, a traveler, a writer, and a travel writer, is coming for a visit soon. Treat him right.


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