Stupid OED Tricks: Election Edition

Of the three folks currently in the US Presidential Primary race, none have (at the moment) a surname that has a citation in the Oxford English Dictionary.  The online OED is ever helpful though, and suggests a possible near-match candidate when a specific lookup fails, and so we get this list:

Obama — obambulate: intr. To walk about; to wander here and there.
Clinton — clintonitea variety (or a synonym) of SEYBERTITE.
McCain — McCarthyism: …oof.

How Bumpy is your grandfather?

Interesting question about grandpaternal nicknames on Ask Metafilter today, from user 23skidoo:

Do you call your grandfather Bumpy?

How common is the title “Bumpy” for a grandfather? Like “Grampa Joe” or “Peepaw Frank”… do you say/understand the usage “Bumpy Jackson” for a grandfather? If so, where did you grow up?

Responses so far have folks who’ve never heard of it (I’m in that camp), folks who have, and folks who know some similar variation.  I’ve done a little googling that suggests that (1) it’s not something restricted to some chance acquaintences of 23skidoo, and (2) there are probably a lot of other variations on this theme, e.g. “bumpa”.

Introducing: Mulder’s Big Adventure

New project: blogging, with my wife, every single episode of The X-Files, start to finish.

Check it out: Mulder’s Big Adventure.

Recaps and commentary and obsessive thematic observations.  Because, let’s be honest, you like the X-Files.  Or perhaps you dislike the X-Files.  The point is you’ve seen the X-Files, and you have an opinion about it, and it’s time to relive some of those unspecified positive or negative feelings.

Plus we have these cute little icons.  Seriously, go there now.

And now, a post on the internet in my computer on my blog.

I somehow found myself looking at a Wikipedia writeup on rejected Star Trek captain Christopher Pike, where there’s this little oddity:

Little is known about Pike’s personal life. According to dialog in “The Cage”, Pike is from the city of Mojave in North America on Earth in Southern California, and at one point owned a horse named “Tango”.

Emphasis mine.  What’s so strange to me is the order of these geographic labels.  Why place “Southern California” at the end of that list?  Clearly, Earth isn’t in SoCal but vice versa, and the rendering can be read as true if you choose to do so:

– city of Mojave (which is in North America (which is on Earth)), which is in Southern California

So there’s a style question and a linguistic question:

Style: why not put SoCal between Mojave and N. America?  Intentional choice or product of collaborative, cumulative authorship under the wiki model?

Linguistics: why does this ordering jump out at me so brightly when the meaning is unambiguous regardless of the ordering?  Is this a “little red wagon” vs. “*red little wagon” thing?

More on ‘by the by’

I wrote a little about variant spellings of “by the by” a while back, but at the time I was thinking the phrase in terms of its use as an alternative to “by the way” in the sense of being a sort of clarifying interjection.

And I’m at least familiar with a similar-but-different usage, “[in the [sweet]] by-and-by” for the (sometimes concurrent) passage of time.

What I don’t think I’ve noticed before is “[is] by the by” as an alternative to “beside the point” or maybe “neither here nor there”, as in this metafilter comment de-emphasizing the role of scammers in the purported collapse of eBay:

“It happens all the time and will keep on happening. The fact that Nigerian scammers helped speed up that decline is by the by.”

A google search for “is by the by” turns up about 14K raw hits. 

That includes some noise, such as comma-offset uses of the by-the-way meaning (“Which is, by the by, the way in which the Jesus story is different than…”, “Wynad is, by the by, remarkably full of antiquities”) or weird hyphen-boundary collisions (“…and is by the by-laws considered…”, “‘If the election has not been held on the date so designated (that is, by the by-laws)”).

But the noise seems to be a minority; most of the results are genuine hits. 

There are a lot of sentence-terminal hits, with some sort of unesettled question (“Whether or not it’s merely engendered…is by the by.”, “this may or may not actually be so, but that is by the by.”, “Whether you agree or not is by the by.”) or an assertion (“The fact these alleged incidents took place at an Embassy, is by the by.), or some sort of pronominal representation of same with “this”, “that”, “all this” (Hi, languagehat!), etc standing in before the final “is by and by”.

I’m also finding people using it in non-terminal positions in sentences/clauses (“If there is information in an essay, it is by-the-by, and if…”) and in some cases using the phrase not as a noun itself but a modifier of some other noun (“All of which is by the by ramble on my part I suspect…”).

None of which strikes me as surprising, to be clear.  But it’s something that jumped out at me this morning; I’ve managed to just plain not notice whatever occurances of this I might have encountered in the past.  Have I in the past heard or read it and gotten the context but dismissed the specific usage?  Been puzzled but let it go?  Misanalyzed it as taking the by-the-way meaning and just shrugged off any oddities produced thereby?  Heck if I know!

Is this a regionalism to some extent, more common in English-speaking cultures outside of the US or the Pacific Northwest of same?  I happen to know that the commenter from mefi, above, is Australian, and a fair share of the hits include .au or urls, but that’s pretty thin stuff on which to base such a speculation.