February 26th, 2003

Fishy Circumstances

Snow falls

I am finding the irregular, but very loud, sound of snow falling off of the roof in large masses to be very disconcerting. At least this means that the sunshine is doing its work.

Meanwhile, who would have thought that status.livejournal.com would have been useful twice in one week? The service appears to be dealing with this followup DDOS with much greater aplomb than the last one.

Back to trivia and other useful information about Darwin...
Fishy Circumstances

The good, the bad, the academic

My conscience has been mildly assuaged by putting in several hours of dissertation-relevant work this evening. I'm hoping that I'll feel even better about my attempts to manage my time when I turn in a chapter draft in a few weeks. I've promised my advisor I will, and I do work well to deadlines.

I haven't been feeling badly about academia, just frequently fretting over my time management skills. I've been worrying about the details lately, not the big picture. Still, it was good to read Mama Musings today and be reminded about some of the many good things about being in academia. Those good things include collegiality, and she's absolutely right. I have some amazing colleagues, in all sorts of ways. Help is there for the asking from them, if I want it.

Help may be there, but I feel that I'm still learning how to ask the right question, and still learning how to make use of the information I'm given. Asking the right question is a challenge. There are several scholars whom I know I need to contact. Indeed, I want to contact them. Their work is related to mine, and I'd love to know more about it. It seems so odd though to write a letter saying, "Hello, I exist, here's what I do, let me know what you're working on since it might be relevant." It's such a non-specific request. I'll give you a particular example. I took no history of science courses as an undergraduate, but I'm now working on my second degree in that general area. I'd like to contact the coordinator for the history of science minor at my undergraduate school and let her know I exist. But really, that's about all I can think to do with the letter at the moment.

Any suggestions on how to make networking letters be more constructive and purposeful?
Fishy Circumstances

News

In answer to a question from Colin...

The earliest known instance of the word 'news' being used to mean a report of recently occuring events was in 1423: "1423 Jas. I Kingis Q. clxxix, I bring the newis glad, that blisfull ben." However, it did not go into widespread use until after 1500. It was used as an abbreviation for newspaper largely in the eighteenth century, and, of course, as a shorthand for news on television or the radio from 1923 on: "1923 Radio Times 28 Sept. 9/1 10.0. -- Time signal, general news bulletin. Broadcast to all stations, followed by London News and Weather Report." (The very first Radio Times edition! It's certainly been going a while!)

The word newspaper first shows up in 1670: "in Westm. Gaz. (1900) 12 Sept. 2/3, I wanted ye newes paper for Monday last past." So what were newspapers called before the word newspaper was invented? It looks pretty clear from this and other examples in the early citations listing that they were called gazettes, which originally comes from the Italian gazzetta.

The first gazzette were published in Venice in the mid-sixteenth century. It was, after all, a hot bed of printing at the time. The OED reports that "similar news-sheets appeared in France and England in the 17th. The untrustworthy nature of their reports is often alluded to by writers of that period; thus Florio explains gazzette as
`running reports, daily newes, idle intelligences, or flim flam tales that are daily written from Italie, namely from Rome and Venice'."
The earliest cited instance of gazette in English was in 1605: "1605 B. Jonson Volpone v. iv. (1607) M 3, O, I shall bee the fable of all feasts; The freight of the Gazetti."

The OED says that the origin of the word gazzetta is debatable: it may have been named for the coin with which it was paid for, or as a diminutive of gazza, meaning magpie.

Trivia: The OED's discussion of where the accent falls in the word gazzetta mentions William Cowper's Table Talk. Cowper's one of my favorite poets - always nice to see him get a mention.

Update: My father wrote to mention that Volpone is a book set in Venice, so its use of the word gazzetta is likely to have been use of local dialect to help flavor the ambiance.