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Dictyon Language Services


Archive for September, 2013


10 to the power of 100

10 to the power of 100

In 1938, a 9-year-old boy was asked by his uncle to think of a new word. As any kid his age would do, little Milton Sirotta reduplicated a single syllable to come up with a funny-sounding word: “googol”. His uncle, mathematician Edward Kasner, used it as a short way of describing a very large number: […]


Dog Days of Summer

Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer are here again. In the northern hemisphere, the days are so hot that, as the ancient Greeks put it, only dogs would be mad enough to go out in the heat. This expression, however, is not directly related to our animal friends’ foolishness. Instead, it ows its name to the […]


What did the Beatles mean by “Jai Guru Deva”?

What did the Beatles mean by “Jai Guru Deva”?

While many people may be familiar with this famous line from the Beatle’s song, ‘Across the Universe’, most people won’t know exactly what it means.  The simplest translation of the line is “I give thanks to the Heavenly Teacher”, in Sanskrit.  Still fewer will know that the word ‘deva’ is closely linked to ‘deus’ (Latin) […]


Cloud-cuckoo-land: From Aristophanes to Margaret Thatcher and Radiohead

Cloud-cuckoo-land: From Aristophanes to Margaret Thatcher and Radiohead

"The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation… Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land." (Margaret Tatcher, 1987) In Aristophanes' 5th century B.C. comedy Birds, Peisthetaerus (a human whose name can be roughly translated as "Trustyfriend" or "Mr. Trusting") and his friend, Euelpides ("Goodhope" or […]


Tulips, Turbans and Taliban

Tulips, Turbans and Taliban

Tulips are botanically related to lilies, but got their name from their resemblance to turbans (from Turk. tülbent "turban," also "gauze, muslin," from Persian dulband "turban"). Tulips have three petals and three sepals which are often termed tepals because they are nearly identical. They were introduced from Turkey to Europe, in the 16th century and […]