Updated: 8/16/15; 18:58:28

pedantic nuthatch
Life in a Northern Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. B.M.A.T.C., and Etruscan typewriter erasers. Blogged by David Gorsline.

Sunday, 19 February 2006

William Safire, I fear, just isn't trying any more. He falls for the worst sort of folk etymology, the false acronym. From today's column on blargon:

A ping is not just the word for a sound anymore. It is also an acronym for "packet Internet gopher," a program that tests whether a destination is online and can also be the gently noisy notification sent when a blog needs updating or has been updated.

Here's an excerpt from the Jargon File version 4.4.7 entry on ping:


[from the submariners' term for a sonar pulse]

1. n. Slang term for a small network message (ICMP ECHO) sent by a computer to check for the presence and alertness of another. The Unix command ping(8) can be used to do this manually (note that ping(8)'s author denies the widespread folk etymology that the name was ever intended as an acronym for 'Packet INternet Groper'). Occasionally used as a phone greeting. See ACK, also ENQ.

Safire didn't even get the words of the fake acronym right.

posted: 12:51:37 PM  

Ah, the Sixties. It was a time of pink-print minidresses and experimental film-making, as celebrated by Joseph McElroy's Lookout Cartridge. In 1968, William Greaves assembled a film crew, three handheld cameras, a couple of Nagras, and various other equipment and turned them loose on location near 68th Street and Central Park West on a project with the working title of Over the Cliff. With several pairs of actors, he shot auditions and rehearsals of a 10-minute scene of marital conflict, fraught with sensitive subject matter and (perhaps intentionally) stilted dialogue. He assigned a cameraman to follow whatever else was going on in the Park at the time: mounted policemen checking the team's permits, wannabe bystanders, a gate-crashing homeless guy. Barely in control of the process (we hear him utter statements like "Roland is in charge of all the equipment in the mornings"), Greaves suffered his crew to assemble after hours to deconstruct his authorial process. It's a bit like Walter Murch's analogy to the game of Negative Twenty Questions as a way of understanding the making of movies. Greaves then edited this mess together, using double and triple split-screens à la Timecode, into something called Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One. One of the most entertaining things about this movie is asking for it at the box office. Rereleased thanks to Steven Soderbergh, the film poses this question: is this a brilliant mockumentary, or is this self-indulgent malarkey?

posted: 12:22:52 PM  

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