30 April 2009

The history of "Dude" and "Dudeness"

A few weeks ago I encountered this comment from a schoolteacher in 1912...
“At first the users of soap and towels in this building were in disgrace or were called dudes..."
and was startled to see the word "dude" used in that era. Further consideration reminded me of "dude ranches" - whence the above photo from the Life magazine archives. It was when I got out the OED to look for an etymology that things got more interesting.

Dude. U.S. [A factitous slang term which came into vogue in New York about the beginning of 1883, in connexion with the 'aesthetic' craze of that day. Actual orgin not recorded.] A name given in ridicule to a man affecting an exaggerated fastidiousness in dress, speech, and deportment, and very particular about what is aesthetically 'good form'; hence, extended to an exquisite, a dandy, 'a swell'.

There follow several citations, including one from North Adams, Mass, in June of 1883:
"The new coined word 'dude' .. has travelled over the country with a great deal of rapidity since but two months ago it grew into general use in New York."
By the time the OED was printed in the 1930s, "dude" had already given rise to dudedom, dudeness, dudery, dudism, dudine [a female dude] and dudish. It's interesting that the connotation of foppishness in dress carried over into the 1940s when that LIFE photo was published, because the label for the picture reads as follows:
Dude Girls of the West. Expert rider Jimmy Rogers sporting fancy, fringed suede, split skirt w. matching bolero jacket as she rears up her majestic mount while maintaining seat on silver-trimmed saddle.
So she's a dude not because she's on a Florida ranch, but because she dresses so fastidiously. I'm presuming then that the "dude ranch" is called such because it is visited by "city folks" who arrive overdressed for the situation and probably affect elaborate "cowboy" gear to the amusement of real ranchers.

It's unusual to see in the OED that a word had such a precisely defined onset without the actual source being known. I would guess (any ideas out there?) that the quick spread of the word probably means that it was used in a movie or a play or a novel that the indexers for the OED never recorded on one of their little paper slips.

That leaves open the question of etymology. Given the clothing-related use of the term, I would have to surmise that "dude" arose from "dud," which is an ancient word for an article of clothing (it's own origin unknown, but dating back to the 15th century). When I was a kid, my parents (Norwegian, German) would tell me to "get your duds on." I've not heard the term used much re clothing since then, but suspect it is still common and recognizable.

I can't leave the subject without at least a tip of the hat to the Big Lebowski for popularizing the word:
"I'm the Dude. So that’s what you call me. That, or His Dudeness, or Duder, or El Duderino..."
It's also self-evident that by the time that movie came out in 1998 the term had absolutely and totally lost its connotation of fastidiousness of dress. Now the term seems omnipresent in commercials, television, and street greetings. But it's interesting to know the background.

Update: I should have checked Wikipedia first. Rather than revise all the above, I'll just append an addendum here. "Dude" was reportedly first used in the 1870s, and in 1883 it was in the Home and Farm Manual (which undoubtedly accounts for the rapid spread that year). There's a good citation re etymology to a book called Words and Their History, which is accessible via Google Books at the link.

Wiki also offers a photo (left) of Evander Berry Wall, a turn-of-the-century multimillionaire who was acclaimed as the "King of the Dudes" for wearing hip-length leather boots. He owned 500 trousers, 5,000 ties, and wore "extraordinary" outfits. He was the first person ever recorded to have worn a white dinner jacket, and once changed clothes 40 times between breakfast and dinner. He died leaving an estate of only $12,608 after having "squandered nearly every cent on pleasure."

Sounds like an interesting guy. Next time one of your friends calls himself a "dude," you might mention Mr. Evander Berry Wall...

Digigrade leg extensions

Now you can be 14" taller and make "clop-clop" sounds while you walk. Why not be the first in your neighborhood...

These are custom fitted, hand-fabricated units. The core leg extensions are between $750 - $780 plus tax. The spring loaded hooves are $200 extra.

We have a wonderful costumer who can make the additional fur costume to order.

Credit here (where you can also buy a troll), via J-Walk.

29 April 2009

On the banks of the River Durance, France.

Every photoessay at Boston.com's Big Picture has remarkable images. The current collection consists of 28 pictures taken from helicopters hovering over the "human landscape." My favorite is the one above, which has the appearance of a pastel painting. You'd be surprised what the subject matter is...

(photo © Jason Hawkes)


Since I "came of age" in the 1960s, I need to remind myself not to scoff or make fun of someone because of how they look. That said, I remain somewhat bewildered by this photo.

I've labelled the post "Goth" without frankly knowing for sure if this is Goth. Could it be a subtype of Goth, a faction, a sectarian splinter group? Someone reading TYWKIWDBI will probably know and can enlighten me/us. Perhaps it's even a parody of Goth (?)

I don't think it's 'shopped. For the longest time I thought that the unreal-looking pupils and sclerae of the eyes had that appearance because those features were painted onto the outside of the closed upper eyelid. (I've seen that before and blogged about extreme mascara last year). But, as Eric points out in the comments, it's probably special contact lenses.

I've also read somewhere that students who "go Goth" are as a group more intelligent than their schoolmates, and that parents shouldn't have knee-jerk reactions against the trend. Again, any insightful commentary would be appreciated.

(Found at a photo-aggregating site without attribution re source or photographer. No sources found with a TinEye reverse image search.)

More girls are born closer to the equator

More boys than girls are born all over the world, but a study has found that the closer people live to the equator, the smaller the difference becomes. No one knows why.

The skewed sex ratio at birth has been known for more than 100 years... researcher Kristen J. Navara of the University of Georgia performed a statistical analysis that found the effect of latitude persisted across wide variations in lifestyle and socioeconomic status... The correlation with latitude was unchanged even after excluding data from countries that might have been skewed by abortion or the killing of baby girls...

Hamsters, mice and meadow voles also produce more male offspring during shorter days or colder weather, but the reasons in these animals are just as mysterious as they are in humans...

The world's tallest man

Robert Wadlow, 8'11", standing next to his father. He died at age 22, apparently of sepsis from a minor infection, in the pre-penicillin era of 1940.

Caterpillar warning sounds

When harassed, the large, plump caterpillars of the great peacock moth make a run of sounds somewhat like the rasping of a fingernail over a comb, says Jayne E. Yack of Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada... Saturnia pyri chirp before or while they ooze foul-smelling droplets from their bristles. So the chirps might be a warning to attackers...

Unlike a lot of caterpillar communication, the chirps the team recorded in the lab travel by air and their frequencies overlap with bird, bat and human hearing ranges. Caterpillars give broadband chirps, with frequencies ranging from 3.7 kilohertz to the ultrasonic at 55.1 kilohertz, the researchers say. The team determined that caterpillars make the noises by scraping one of their mandibles against the inside of the other...

Via Neatorama's Upcoming Queue. Photo credit.

You're doing it wrong

"The Fatal Consequences of Masturbation."
From Le Livre sans Titre (The book with no title), 2nd ed. (Paris, 1844)
Click to enlarge. Credit.

Cruise ship passengers fight off pirates

Initially, no one noticed the ship was being attacked. The first warning came when a woman intuitively leaned over the railing in semidarkness and noticed something when she peered down. She suddenly turned to her fellow passengers and said: "Yikes, there's a small boat next to us!"

Tayler and the others rushed to the railing and also saw what he described as five or six men sitting in a roofless pirate boat. One started climbing a rope to the deck beneath them. "He was already halfway up," says Tayler. One passenger screamed: "Pirates!"

Without hesitation, passengers began to grab whatever they could find around them. "We immediately began throwing tables and deck chairs at the rope," said Tayler. One hit a pirate scaling it. He fell off and the boat turned around, Tayler recalls...
The ship was a thousand miles off the Somali coast. Full story at Der Spiegel.

Malaysian public service announcement

Directed toward the country's Chinese and Malay population.

The Pat Metheny Group

If you're not familiar with this truly remarkable jazz/rock fusion group, I think the best introduction I can offer is this recording of "Are You Going With Me?" from way back in 1982. For some people the style is "over the top," but to my ear it's remarkable instrumental virtuosity and artistic innovation.

Here's another video that of the same piece that may be better.

Addendum: I do like it better. Here it is -

On behalf of all Minnesotans...

... I would like to apologize to the world for Michele Bachmann. Her latest:
"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under Democrat President Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it is an interesting coincidence."
The president during that epidemic was Gerald Ford. I think the Democratic leadership must have made a decision not to vigorously challenge her last election so that she could stay in office as a recurring embarassment to the Republicans.

"Four legs good..."

Obviously designed to depict motion, but bizarre when not sequentially illuminated. Original source unknown.

Swine flu symptoms

HA! (credit HolyTaco)

Clever dog

Magic trick with red balls

I enjoy doing magic tricks. I need to find some of these red balls...

28 April 2009

Holi - India's Festival of Colors

Many people have seen the photos at Boston.com's The Big Picture. Here are additional images by photographer Poras Chaudhary.

World Sand Sculpture Festival, 2009

All entries were based on the theme of "fairy tales." Credit top, middle, bottom. Via Pink Tentacle.

The beach at Portobello, Scotland, 1890s

Click to enlarge, and note the bathing machines in the middle of the picture.

From a collection of Photochrom travel views in the Library of Congress collection at Flickr.

How Mount Rushmore was supposed to look

Photo credit Wikipedia. The page, incidentally, also has a photo of Air Force One flying over Mount Rushmore in a "photo op" - ironic in view of events this week in NYC.

Budget cutting visualized

I did see one comment that said Obama had asked for the $100 million cut by EACH of 15 cabinet members; that would be better, but it would still be modest.

Via The Daily Dish.

Geography of the Seven Deadly Sins

Obviously somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but still interesting. Not much wrath in my part of the country.
Wrath was calculated by comparing the total number of violent crimes — murder, assault and rape — reported to the FBI per capita.

Lust was calculated by compiling the number of sexually transmitted diseases — HIV, AIDS, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea — reported per capita.

Gluttony was calculated by counting the number of fast food restaurants per capita...
Maps at the LasVegasSun, via Neatorama.

Bolivia owns 80% of the world's lithium

The price for this commodity is skyrocketing because it is needed for the manufacture of electric car batteries. Via Boing Boing, where there is a discussion thread.

How to animate your photographs...

... in 1953. Originally published in Mechanix Illustrated, where you can read page 2. When you pull the string coming out of the baby's bottom, he waves his arms and legs. I'll bet this wasn't a very popular item.

Via ofellabuta.

On-the-street reaction to that 747 buzzing NYC yesterday

It was a curious phenomenon. The "cover story" issued after the fact is that this as a "photo op" and that law enforcement had been notified, but not the public.

Why a photo op? What can they do that can't be done more easily (and more cheaply) with computer graphics?

Why not notify the public? Why not just a simple announcement on the evening news?
On Thursday night, city officials say, a junior mayoral aide had been alerted to the flyover by the Federal Aviation Administration, which requested that it be kept secret. Someone in City Hall alerted the New York Police Department, but no public announcement was made...

The email specifies that the information "only be shared with persons with a need to know" and "shall not be released to the public." It also says that, "Due to the possibility of public concern regarding [Department of Defense] aircraft flying at low levels, coordination with Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies...has been accomplished."

The email's author, James J. Johnston, of FAA air traffic, declined to comment.

An Obama administration official said the mission was "classified" by the military and that the FAA, which controls much of the airspace over Manhattan, did what the military asked. "The mission was to send [the aircraft] up to get a picture of it flying around the Statue of Liberty," this person said. "They said they needed to update their photo files."

Swine flu container explodes on Swiss train

According to the police, a lab technician with the Swiss National Center for Influenza in Geneva had travelled to Zurich to collect eight ampoules, five of which were filled with the H1N1 swine flu virus. The samples were to be used to develop a test for swine flu infections.

The containers were hermetically sealed and cooled with dry ice. However, it seems the dry ice was not packed correctly and it melted during the journey. The gas coming from the containers then built up too much pressure and the ampoules exploded, as the train was pulling into a station.

Authorities say, however, that the ampoules did not contain the mutated swine flu that is currently spreading - just ordinary swine flu. Nothing to be concerned about, folks...

800 pound crystal

Potassium dihydrogen phosphate, created for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Incidentally, you can see the seed crystal inside it at the bottom. (credit)

Air France flight not allowed to overfly the U.S.

A Paris-to-Mexico flight was diverted from American airspace to the Caribbean because one of its passengers was on the American "no-fly" list.

His crime? He was a Colombian journalist who had been critical of the U.S. He was not a terrorist.

The plane was not scheduled to stop in the United States - just fly over it.

More details at the Telegraph (U.K.), and discussion thread at Metafilter.

Jackdaws harass owl

Found at a website that doesn't credit its sources.

In praise of fishless lakes

There's an excellent article at the New York Times today about the value of preserving fishless lakes. Some brief excerpts:
Far from barren, biologists say fishless lakes are hubs of biodiversity. Lacking piscine predators, they are home to a greater abundance and variety of invertebrates than lakes with fish, and provide breeding grounds for frogs, salamanders and waterfowl. But as fish are moved around — legally by fisheries agencies, illegally by anglers and bait growers — fishless lakes are becoming increasingly rare.

Rugged and sparsely populated, the Maine woods have some of the last fishless lakes in the Northeast. Some, like this one, are kettle lakes without inlets or outlets, excavated in the eastern Maine lowlands by melting blocks of glacial ice. Others are clear tarns in high mountains, with outlets too steep for fish to ascend. Still others are simply too acidic for fish. All probably have been fishless since the glaciers receded...

Dr. deMaynadier found frogs, salamanders and damselflies that thrive only where fish are absent. Given the apparent rarity of fishless lakes — the department knew of just 30 among Maine’s 6,000 lakes — he recommended a moratorium on stocking them, pending further study...

In a report to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Dr. Loftin and her colleague Emily Schilling estimated that 107 Maine lakes were historically fishless, and that half now contained fish... “All of the zooplankton, all of the insects, all of the amphibians that bred there were completely different than the lake with fish that’s half a mile down the road,” he said. But somebody has since stocked it with carp. “Now this lake is just ruined,” Dr. McPeek said.
More at the link. Very interesting.

The photo at the top is of Lake Kidelju (credit Maksim Sutyagin). Not (to my knowledge) fishless; I just like the image.

This modern world

Addendum: see the link in the Comments re this possibly being a prank.

Stairway to... hell?

(credit unknown)

Scientists remain baffled...

... about how the swine flu passed from pigs to humans -
"[We had] no indication of human cases of direct contact with pigs but this can never be totally sure and the probability that this virus could come from pigs directly could not be anyway ruled out totally," he said.
Photo credit where.

And, in a related story, an Israeli official is offended by the term "swine flu," which he claims is insensitive because of certain religious beliefs. He wants the strain renamed the "Mexican flu."

27 April 2009

Last Republicans forming Roman tortoise

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll reports that only 21% of Americans now self-identify as Republicans, versus 35% for Democrats and 38% for Independents. The Republican numbers have fallen significantly since the 32% recorded at the last election, and are at their lowest point since 1983. (via The Daily Dish)

On a separate (but related) matter, the Onion is now reporting that Republican senators have formed a Roman "tortoise" (testudo).

Rabbit raptured by raptor

One of the early posts on TYWKIWDBI was the top photo recording the last moments of a small mammal at the talons of a Great Grey Owl:
I wondered about the absence of a "hole" in the snow at the capture site (having seen such in the backyard here in Wisconsin when hawks grab squirrels), but this comment may be relevant -

And there would not have to be an "impact" mark in the snow, if the owl plucked the rabbit off the ground without fully landing. The wingprints would still be explained by the hard downstroke of the wings as the bird "pulled up" at the moment it grabbed the rabbit. The owl could have used the same "touch-and-go" technique that eagles and other birds routinely use to catch fish.
Since nothing ever disappears on the internet and all interesting items continue to cycle endlessly, the photo showed up today accompanied by another even more impressive one (second above) taken at Mammoth Hot Springs about 8 years ago.

Top photo credit Susan Barstow. Bottom photo credit Bob Fuhrmann.

This is the logo for...

... the GRU. The reason for the Batman-style motif is not explained.

Hairball Awareness Day

Today has been designated such for reasons of public education, toward which end TYWKIWDBI is pleased to participate.  

Pictured above is a trichobezoar composed of bovine hair. Phytobezoars are made of indigestible plant components - a subtype of which is diospyrobezoars from persimmon parts. 

 Pharmacobezoars are comprised of undigested pill fragments or capsules. The etymology of the word bezoar traces back to the Persian pahnzehr, which means "antidote," because they were used as treatment for or prevention of poisoning. 

 There's much more information at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, including photos of examples of the Rapunzel syndrome (small picture below), in which the hair forms a virtual cast of the intestinal tract even beyond the pylorus.

Miss Arizona addresses Universal Health Care

A gender-dependent visual acuity test

The photo above is illustrative of a striking disparity in visual image processing, with a prominent gender discrepancy.

Somewhere in the photo above is an airplane. Women are typically able to locate the plane in just a few milliseconds, but men require a longer time period by a factor of several magnitudes. Further studies are needed.

Monsters vs. Aliens - trailer

I've not seen the movie, but it looks like fun.

26 April 2009

Detian-BanGioc Falls

On the border between China and Vietnam, and the fourth-largest waterfall on an international border (after Iguazu, Victoria, and Niagara).

Photo credit here - the above becomes wallpaper with a click.

Obama - ??exposed to Mexican flu?

"Obama was received at Mexico’s anthropology museum in Mexico City by Felipe Solis, a distinguished archeologist who died the following day from symptoms similar to flu, Reforma newspaper reported. The newspaper didn’t confirm if Solis had swine flu or not."

What is your child doing this summer?

This child's name is Shilu. Her job is to separate sand from stone.

From a larger collection at Zoriah Photojournalist.

Interesting photos

Found at Lost, Found, and Envied. Vias for tornado, leg, and Montmarte steps.


A mop made from old socks, and CDs used as bicycle reflectors.

Found at Kevin Kelly.

"Remember descent?" What a moran...

(via Superpoop)

Photos for Earth Day

Selections from the impressive nature photoblog, moqo-moqo.

Credit for the giraffe weevil, the blue waxbill, the golden monkeys, and the frog.

Probably near zero on the nutritional value scale...

... but visually intriguing. Created by inserting dry spaghetti through segmented hot dogs, and THEN boiling. (via Within the Cranium)

More pix on the blog's main page.

Pet Airways

On Pet Airways, of Delray Beach, Florida, all pets travel in the main cabin and owners are not allowed on board - not even in the cargo hold.

The airline has scheduled its first flight for cats and dogs for 14 July and will serve five US cities - New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles...

Owners - or Pet Parents - can follow their travel progress using an online "pet tracker".

The flights will be made in 19-seat turbo-prop planes operated by Suburban Air Freight, which have their seats removed to make space for the pet carriers.

I'm neither promoting nor dissing this service - just noting it with a sort of wry bemusement...

Veterinary clinic


Traditional pub


Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings

Leonard Slatkin Conducts the BBC Orchestra on September 15 2001 in honor of those who lost their lives a few days prior. Visuals from BBC's 'Last Night of the Proms' and ABC's 'Report from ground zero'. AUVIEX edit. (1.5 million YouTube views)
Voted by BBC radio listeners in 2004 as the saddest piece of classical music ever. Incorporated as part of the soundtrack of the movies "The Elephant Man," "Platoon," and "Amelie."

I'll use this as an excuse to once again recommend "Gortoz a ran - J'attends" ("I await").

25 April 2009

The precursor of pinnipeds - a "walking seal"

Seals and sea-lions gracefully careen through today's oceans with the help of legs that have become wide, flat flippers. But it was not always this way. Seals evolved from carnivorous ancestors that walked on land with sturdy legs; only later did these evolve into the flippers that the family is known for. Now, a beautifully new fossil called Puijila illustrates just what such early steps in seal evolution looked like. With four legs and a long tail, it must have resembled a large otter but it was, in fact, a walking seal.

Natalia Rybczynski unearthed the new animal at Devon Island, Canada and worked out that it must have swam through the waters of the Arctic circle around 20-24 million years ago. She named it Puijila darwini after an Inuit word referring to a young seal, and some obscure biologist...
More details at Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Indoor ski jump - 1934

Using straw as artificial snow.

Found at Modern Mechanix.

Cool zoo design

Does anyone know where this is? The photo was uncredited when I found it.

"...or is it a trick of perspective?"

...yes, it’s normal to have one breast that is slightly larger than the other. The larger your breasts, the more obvious the asymmetry. For about 65 percent of us, the more voluminous one is the left.

But why?

Breast asymmetry is associated with rapid growth spurts prior to and during puberty. It’s normal for one breast to respond more to surging estrogen levels. Hormonal disruptions and other development problems accentuate the asymmetry. But why the left? No one knows for sure, but there are interesting theories...

I would think the nursing-related explanation is the most logical. (via the new shelton wet/dry)

Did a jousting accident change Henry VIII's personality?

Henry VIII became the tyrannical monster remembered by history because of a personality change following a serious jousting accident, according to a new historical documentary.

After the accident – just before he became estranged from the second of his six wives, Anne Boleyn – the king, once sporty and generous, became cruel, vicious and paranoid, his subjects began talking about him in a new way, and the turnover of his wives speeded up.

The accident occurred at a tournament at Greenwich Palace on 24 January 1536 when 44-year-old Henry, in full armour, was thrown from his horse, itself armoured, which then fell on top of him. He was unconscious for two hours and was thought at first to have been fatally injured...

Text and image credit to The Independent, where there are more details.

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