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Just AB. Not an abbreviation or acronym or anything -- just A ... B. Pronounced ``Ay-Bee,'' but spelled more efficiently with only two letters. This is a personal name, distinct from, having no etymological relation to, and pronounced differently than, Ab.

The given name, or perhaps rather the taken name, of a buddy of mine in college. At birth he was given a couple of more conventional names, but he came to be called `AB,' much as John Robert's come to be called `JR.' He had his name legally changed to `AB,' the beginning of no end of trouble. Every organization with its Procrustean form wanted to break his name apart and distribute the pieces to `First' and `M.I.' It was inevitable that he would become a philosopher.

His last name begins with C.

ABdominal muscle. Usually plural -- abs. One of the first things you should do when you lose your mind and decide to become a black belt in Scrabble® is to memorize all the two-letter words. This one and its plural are in all three major Scrabble dictionaries.

Able-Bodied (seaman).

ABsolute. An obsolete (absolete? obsolute?) prefix in old cgs unit systems. This goes back to a time when there were two kinds of standards that defined metric units -- ``absolute'' and ``international.'' Absolute units were defined according to a gold standard that was not very convenient (and which was kept in a single location -- Paris, I guess it must have been). The ``international'' value definitions corresponding to portable standards. In other words, absolute units were the fundamental definitions, or as fundamental as were in use at the time. International units were practical. The prefixes abs- and int- were applied to the unit names (as in ``abvolts'' and ``intvolts'') to indicate, if appropriate, which standards had been used.

Units in some cgs systems used another non-numerical prefix, stat-, contrastively with ab-. This had to do with two parallel systems of units for electromagnetism: the electrostatic cgs units and the electromagnetic cgs units. Interconversions among these systems are rather subtle, because they refer to units in systems with different underlying equations. (Distances, masses, and times are rather directly comparable, and their evaluation does not involve inference from an equation. Similarly acceleration, which has a natural definition not involving any proportionality constant. As soon as one gets into forces and charges, however, one has to use equations, and there are a number of different, equally ``natural'' ways to fit together the Maxwell's equations and the Lorentz force law.

The cgs system allowed two different sets of equations, one more convenient for electrostatics and one more so for electromagnetics. Parallel sets of units, esu and emu, respectively, were devised for the two parallel systems of equations. When a base term like volt or ampere was used in both systems, a prefix (stat- for esu, ab- for emu) was used to disambiguate.

Neither system defined a fundamental unit of charge. That is, the statcoulomb (also called the franklin) and the abcoulomb were expressible in (mostly half-integer) powers of centimeter, gram, and second. (A statcoulomb or abcoulomb was also called an esu or emu. Unfortunately, esu can also stand for statvolt, statampere, stattesla, etc. Likewise emu with abvolt, abampere, weber, etc.) The consequences persist to this day, as many of the cgs units, particularly the cgs emu ones (notice the hidden false pleonasm!), persist in use in various fields.

The MKSA system of units for electromagnetism, which extends the MKS system, is based on a single set of equations. Those equations are rationalized (i.e., they have a lot of explicit factors of 4π), which makes them rather clunky for theoretical work. If I'm not mistaken, the fellow who proposed the MKSA system beat out Enrico Fermi for a faculty position in one of those rather fixed competitions they regularly have in Italian academia. I'll try to look into it, but if you can't wait, you can probably find the guy's name and some other details in Laura Fermi's Atoms in the Family.

Adreßbuch. A German word.

AirBorne. There are many instances where this expansion can be ruled out on heuristic grounds.

Air Bridge. An electronic connection between devices on the same semiconductor chip, that is made by a connector that rises above the rest of the solid surface. Another way to put it is that the metal is a topological handle of the chip. The typical way it's made, however, is to deposit metal across a raised pattern of polymer material. That polymer is then etched away, leaving an air gap (or, in slightly exotic situations, a vacuum or gas gap) between part of the interconnect and the rest of the chip.

Here's a picture of one fabricated at Notre Dame's Microelectronics Lab.

Air bridges are usually not necessary and typically inconvenient. The reason is that integrated circuits are kind of like printed circuit boards with many interconnected layers of printed circuitry, so there are many ways to connect any pair of nodes. (In honest-to-god printed circuits with copper cladding patterned on only one side of a fiberglass board, the restriction of interconnects to a single plane complicates things. To complete the circuits one typically has to take advantage of the space underneath discrete components soldered on top of the board, and in extreme situations one has to create such discrete components in the form of zero-ohm resistors.)

Microelectronic circuits are created by processes of patterning and deposition that leave almost all elements of any circuit in physical contact with neighboring elements. This is true not only of active elements (mostly transistors) and passive elements (capacitors being the most common now that Si MOSFET's dominate, even if you count as resistors the transistors connected up to function as such), but also of interconnects between different components of the same chip.

AB, A.B.
Aktiebolag[et]. Swedish, `[the] stock company.' Cf. German equivalent AG.

AlBite. This is the name of a common chemical compound, (sodium aluminosilicate: NaAlSi3O8) and a range of minerals high in albite chemical composition. The minerals are a part of the feldspar family. Specifically, solid solutions of albite and anorthite (calcium aluminosilicate, abbreviated An) are called plagioclase feldspar. Mineralogists refer to the ``plagioclase feldspar series,'' but it is not a discrete series or sequence as the mathematical sense of ``series'' suggests; albite and anorthite are completely miscible, and ``plagioclase feldspar'' designates solutions of the two in any proportion. The mineral albite is plagioclase feldspar with no more than 10% anorthite.

Postal abbreviation for the Canadian (.ca) province of Alberta. Capital: Edmonton.

Amplified Bible. It's the good ol' Good Book, alright, but it's LOUDER.

Okay, here's another interpretation: it's a translation of the American Standard Version into English, with clarifying commentary. It contains so many hints that if you're not careful, you might be led into a tendentious reading. To avoid this danger, just look at the words without actually reading them. (That's what most people do.)

Actually, the AB turns out to be useful. I discovered this while skimming Where To Find It in the Bible, compiled by Ken Anderson and published in Nashville. The cover promises ``Hundreds of Contemporary Topics.'' Contemporaneity is achieved in part by sampling eleven different translations. Some of the contemporaneity turns out to shine out from only a few or even just one version. [I was talking with a French colleague once whose English was quite good, but who at that moment couldn't recall the English for savoir faire. After I told him, he made sure to say ``know-how'' about a dozen times in the next couple of minutes. I guess that's how you get to learn a foreign language well, or to spell contemporaneity.]

For example, guitars are only mentioned in AB (specifically heaven's guitars, mentioned in Revelations 5:8). This is one of the illustrated entries. (Yes -- it's amplified and illuminated. Thou wanteth not for any more contemporaneity than that.) Apparently heaven's guitars are electric bass guitars -- they're AMPLIFIED. Here's the AB text of chapter 5, verse 8:

And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders [ftnt.: of the heavenly Sanhedrin] prostrated themselves before the Lamb. Each was holding a harp (lute or guitar), and they had golden bowls full of incense (fragrant spices and gums for burning), which are the prayers of God's people (the saints).

AB, A.B.
Arts Baccalaureate. Or the original Latin Artium Baccalaureus. Alternate name for BA.

At Bat[s]. Baseball term. Originally called a ``hand.'' (See the striKe entry for related information.)

The slugging percentage is the average number of bases reached from home per AB. Excluded in the count are walks (base-on-balls or hit-by-pitch), sacrifices, and interference.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Acrylate.

American Bankers Association.

American Bar Association. The professional society for American lawyers. Remember, if you can't say anything nice -- then at least don't say anything litigable.

American Basketball Association. Did a fast break. A challenge, from 1967 to 1976, to the NBA's near-monopoly on professional basketball entertainment in the US. In the end, the four strongest teams joined the NBA, the better players were hired into the NBA, and the rest of the ABA folded.

American Basketball Association. It's another challenge to the NBA, this one founded in 1999. It also uses a red, white, and blue ball, and it also has miserable ratings, if it has ratings at all. I suppose it might be a handy way to make a tax loss, so the one thing that might make the ABA a going proposition would be higher and more progressive marginal tax rates. One novelty I am aware of is that the new ABA has teams outside of English-speaking North America: Beijing, Tijuana, and Montreal. Okay, I've been in Montreal, and they speak English there too, but you have to say hello in French first or you'll be arrested.

American Booksellers Association. Excellent, informative site. Another good place to look for related information is Bookwire (TM), from Bowker Book Information Co.

Isaac Asimov wrote a mystery called Murder at the ABA. This ABA.

The ABA and AAP sponsor BookExpo America (BEA) in Chicago, Wednesday through Sunday following Memorial Day. It used to be called the American Booksellers Association Convention & Trade Exhibit.

American Bridge Association. Contract Bridge, you know? The card game, not the civil engineering project.

There's a separate organization called the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL). In the bad old days, ABA was for blacks and ACBL was for whites. Both still exist as independent leagues.

Asociación de Bancos de Argentina. `Association of Banks of Argentina.' Since 1998; details at ADEBA. If this ABA and the preceding one got together, the next ABA might be the result.

Asociación del Bridge Argentino. `Association of Argentine Bridge.'

In case you're wondering -- and doubtless you are -- the standard noun-before-adjective order of Spanish would allow the name to be interpreted as `Argentine Association of Bridge.' However, gender agreement with asociación (feminine) would require the adjective to be argentina for this interpretation. So the name really implies that the bridge (card game) is Argentine rather than the association. It's a distinction without much difference, however. A construction like ``bridge argentino'' is understood as `bridge in Argentina' if there doesn't happen to be a particular Argentine game of bridge.

Association for Behavior Analysis.

Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America. A national association within the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers / La Ligue Internationale de la Librairie Ancienne (LILA/ILAB).

Anglo-British Academy of Advance Studies. For a fraction of a moment, you might be willing to suppose they mean British in the ``Brythonic'' sense common before the union of England and Wales with Scotland. Then you notice that they're not actually concerned with the Study of Advance. ``ABBAS is aware of the need for development & knowledge, as knowledge is power, and power is wealth.'' I'd like to see them develop this idea further, with conversion factors.

A bas le costume. Lemme see -- I guess that means `underwear'! Ooh, close: it means `down with the suit.' I like my translation better. The contraction was used in Zaire as the name for a faux-traditional dress of tunic and pants whose design was credited to the dictator Mobutu, and which was loosely inspired by the ``Mao [Zedong] suit.'' The tunic was designed to be worn with a foulard at the neck. The abacost was required business wear in Zaire, part of Mobutu's campaign for African ``authenticity'' (later simply called Mobutuism). More on that in the material we have on Mobutu Sese Seko's name.

In Woody Allen's 1971 movie ``Bananas,'' the new dictator of the banana republic decrees, as power almost visibly goes to his head, that underwear shall be changed frequently, and that in order to facilitate enforcement of the decree, underwear shall be worn on the outside. Mobutu's authenticity campaign began in 1971. If I track down the details, I may be able to say whether life imitated art or vice versa in this case. More on ``Bananas'' at the Abe entry below.

I guess that, just as the abacost was meant to be accessorized by a foulard, the Mao suit or Mao jacket was meant to be accessorized by a Mao cap. In 1980, my friend Fu was going home to Shanghai for some weeks and asked if there was anything I'd like him to bring back, so I asked for a Mao cap. I was already too late. On return he reported that they were already impossible to find in the city, though he figured they might still be available in the countryside.

Well, here it is August 2005, even Sendero Luminoso seems to have gone dark, yet there's still a place that's safe for Maoists. That's right: California. See the MIM entry.


This is a serious glossary! How could we have an entry for abacost and not for abacus?

The mental image that most people have of an abacus is of the East Asian abacus: a rectangular frame that can be stood vertically, supporting two parallel ladders of horizontal bars with beads. (In Japanese: soroban; from Mandarin: suàn pán, meaning roughly `calculation board.') The traditional Western (or at least the ancient Greek and Roman) abacus was simply a small sandbox with pebbles. In Latin, a pebble, or small stone, is a calculus. Over time, the word took the sense of `means [or system] of computation,' or just calculation in general. In some cases, the calculation might be somewhat metaphorical -- e.g. ``moral calculus'' referring to the set of competing considerations, and the reasoning about them, used to make an ethical decision.

In the seventeenth century, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz first developed mathematical techniques based on infinitesimals. (They developed these independently and more or less simultaneously, and there was a bitter controversy over priority. As the contents of the Archimedes palimpsest originally discovered by Heiberg are teased out, we may see to what extent this contest is made moot.) Parts of the mathematical field that developed from that 17c. work came to be called the differential and the integral calculus. (Beyond the elementary calculations, it can become difficult to keep the two separate; e.g., integrating a nontrivial differential equation. Indeed, the fundamental theorem of calculus states essentially that the derivative of the indefinite integral of a function is the function itself, so the connection is quite fundamental.) Today the word calculus, not further modified, refers to elementary manipulations of differential and integral calculus. The word also continues to be used to help name some other mathematical subdisciplines, such as ``calculus of finite differences.''

On page 73 of the autobiography mentioned at the 86 entry, Stan Ulam relates a conversation he had with John von Neumann in 1936. Stan was disappointed with the isolationary specialization he found among mathematicians at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS).

Being a malicious young man, I told Johnny that this reminded me of the division of rackets among Chicago gangsters. The ``topology racket'' was probably worth five million dollars; the ``calculus of variations racket,'' another five. Johnny laughed and added, ``No! That is worth only one million.''

(BTW, that was a very sound correction, in relative terms, from a mathematician's perspective.)

In at least one case, the word calculus is used to give a name to a hodge-podge of tools and concepts: a fairly standard third-year college course for math majors is ``Advanced Calculus.'' This typically covers point-set topology on the real line, convergence of series, introduction to measure theory, etc. The graduate-level course that more or less covers a superset of this material is typically ``Analysis'' or ``Real Analysis'' (although the set of real numbers is really only one especially interesting special case). Analysis is another one of those words that could in principle mean so much that it might mean nothing at all if conventional usage were less parsimonious.

B. L. van der Waerden's obituary for Emmy Noether appeared in the German journal Mathematische Annalen [``Nachruf auf Emmy Noether,'' in vol. 111 (1935) pp. 469-476]. He mentions a number of awards that her work won, and a lot of them explicitly mentioned Arithmetik. In this context, of course, `arithmetic' referred to real-number (and general metric space) analysis.

Oh, bummer! I just realized that I have already written an entry for calculus! Well, follow the link -- there isn't too much overlap, and there's more on the abacus.

Commercial software no longer sold, treated as free (but not freeware, q.v.). Term seems most prevalent in games programs.

ab asino lanam
Latin: `wool from an ass.' (That's a quadruped ass, not an arse.) Hen's teeth.

American Bikers Aimed Towards Education. A safety, educational, charitable and advocacy organization for motorcyclists.

A barrier made of felled trees, according to the OSPD4. The sort of barrier common in the Scrabble forest. The plural form is formed with -es: abatises. The singular and plural are also spelled with double tee.

Automated Bit Access Test System.



Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. German, `Transactions of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.' Continues the journal SBAW, q.v. The philological study of classical antiquity is within the bailiwick of this Bavarian academy. So, as discussed at the Geisteswissenschaften entry, Wissenschaften means something like the French word sciences.

ASEA Brown Boveri.

[group picture of ABBA]

The name of the group is the first initials of the band members: Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad (listed here from oldest to youngest, FWIW; I think that's the order if there's an official one; there are, of course,
2 × 2 = 4
possible orders consistent with the group name; philologically speaking, I think it's suggestive that chronological ordering yields the name, which has an a priori probability of only 1/4 -- I mean, they might've been BABA). The first pair were married and the second pair had a relationship. Eventually, everyone split up reportedly amicably (in 1982) and continued solo or other-group careers. This unofficial page is as good a place to start as any. A French TV retrospective called ``Thank You ABBA'' led to a video, coreleased with CD box set.

In 1977, they released the album ``Knowing Me, Knowing You.'' The cover art featured the two couples in a somewhat symmetric order (B, A, A, B) and the group name written with an unprecedented degree of bilateral symmetry: the second letter B was printed backwards (i.e., facing left). ABBA was always very un-metallic and generally too sweet to be truly cool, so it's great to know that bands like NIN are derivative. Just call them ninnies.

Asian BodyBuilding Federation.

Association des Banques et Banquiers, Luxembourg. That might be its single official name, or its official name in French, or simply the name that appears first on its website. Alternate names given are ``The Luxembourg Bankers' Association'' and ``Luxemburger Bankenvereinigung.'' I've seen ABBL expanded in English-language reporting as the ``Association of Banks and Bankers of Luxembourg'' (almost the literal translation of the French name).

Like many Luxembourg websites, that of the ABBL is easiest to read if you are comfortable in at least a couple of languages. (English and French, in this case. To take another example, the Editpress Tageblatt Luxembourg, whose name is a slightly macaronic mix of at least English and German, has webpages in a mix of French and German. No translations are offered, of course. In a truly multilingual country, they're not needed.)

abbr., abbrev.
Abbreviations for abbreviation. Ooooh, spooky! Makes chills run up and down my spine, self-reference and all that.

abbreviated loans
We're not talking finance here. This is the entry for terms and words that undergo substantial abbreviation in the transition from one language (the ``source language'') to another language (the ``target language'' is the usual term, but I use ``destination language'' because it's obviously a superior term). In many cases, the abbreviation consists of dropping words from a compound noun or phrase in the original language. For now I'll just accumulate examples as I encounter or recall them. Maybe I'll draw some inferences later.

From English to various continental languages

parking lot > parking
smoking jacket > smoking

From English to Japanese

overhead projector > OP

ABaCavir. An NRTI used in the treatment of AIDS.

Absorbing Boundary Condition[s].

Academia Brasileira de Ciências. `Brazilian Academy of Sciences.' Founded May 3, 1916, in Rio de Janeiro, as Sociedade Brasileira de Sciencias. Name changed to current one in 1921. I guess they piggy-backed on the orthographic reform.

Accelerator, Brake, Clutch. The standard order of pedals, from right to left, in both LHD and RHD vehicles. If your motor vehicle doesn't have a clutch pedal, well whoop-dee-doo! Give your left-most foot a rest.

Activity-Based Costing. The evaluation of costs based on activities and procedures. Roll the dice.

In Portuguese, ABC is expanded `Custeio Baseado em Atividades.' Fascinating, isn't it? It's what makes the lives of glossarists the stuff of legend.

Always Buy Chesterfields. Apparently a once-persuasive and cogent advertising slogan for a brand of cigarettes with the longest name among popular brands.

Personally, I prefer Marlboros. Or is that Marlboroes? Marlboroughs? As it happens, I don't smoke, so this fact doesn't much affect any cigarette company's bottom line. You get a lot to like with a Marlboro. Like what?

You know, while we're on the subject: I feel that the cig companies are getting a bad rap on the ``societal costs of smoking'' thing. A bunch of state attorneys general have sued them to recover the state-funded portion of the greater medical expenses incurred by smokers, but this is only looking at one side of the ledger. Actuarial studies have repeatedly demonstrated that existing state cigarette taxes just about pay the total government costs caused by smoking. They don't cover the total increase in (government outlays for) medical treatment, but the difference is about made up by the decrease in social security benefits paid, since smokers don't live as long as nonsmokers. Obviously, the state attorneys general should be suing the federal government to adjust the funding formulas for social security.

I read that the cigarette companies introduced this argument once, but that it was rejected on some technicality. (You know, if you save someone's life it doesn't give you a right to kill them?) Still, why don't they publicize this totally exculpatory argument? It would improve their public image, sure. (I guess they settled the suit, but when the US Congress refused to sign off on their part of the bargain, it left a lot of things unresolved. As of July 2000, I don't know the status anymore.)

American Bird Conservancy. In 1997, ABC launched a propaganda campaign called ``Cat Indoors!'' As you can imagine, the goal of this campaign is to create an unnatural predator-free environment for birds, so that marginally viable birds compete with healthy ones for limited food supplies, and bird populations are kept in check only by the ravages of slow-acting starvation and disease. It is cruel not only to wild birds but to all the animals raised in confined and degrading conditions for eventual slaughter and milling into canned cat food.

Of course, the bird conservancy helpfully points out, ``Keeping Cats Indoors Isn't Just For The Birds'' (it's the title of a free brochure). They say that ``[s]cientists [scientists!] estimate that free-roaming cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians each year.'' To think of all those cute furry rats whose diseased, bird-egg-eating lives are brought to a premature end.

American-Born Chinese. Ethnic Chinese born in the US. Not exactly the complement of FOB. Cf. ABCD.

American Bowling Congress. The world's largest sports organization and the official rule-making body of tenpin bowling. Perhaps you'd care to peruse some extensive bowling pages. (Sponsor must worship eyestrain. No longer does that multiple-title-tags garbage that takes so long to load, but now the server-push graphics are about as irritating as the much-hated <BLINK> tag.)

American Broadcasting Company does television and radio. They are a Mickey Mouse company (Back in the 1980's, people joked that ABC stood for ``Aaron's Broadcasting Company.'' The late Aaron Spelling was an executive producer, with creators Esther and Richard Shapiro, and some others, of Dynasty (1981-1989). That probably understates Spelling's importance, but I have a family connection to the Shapiros, so that's the way it's going to stay. We have an alternate Spelling entry anyway.)

In ``Brilliant Mistake,'' Elvis Costello sings

She said that she was working for the ABC News,
It was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use.
but lately (1998-9) he's been writing lyrics for Burt Bacharach music. This is probably good news for the person or persons who enjoy the music of both. Hmm. Enough to fill a concert hall, apparently. One fan who left a paw print at amazon.com likes Elvis Costello's ``cleaver intellegint lyrics.''

More on ``Brilliant Mistake'' lyrics at the Cu entry, of course. Complete lyrics of the song here.

ArchBishop of Canterbury.

Argentina, Brasil, Chile. That's Spanish for (just guessing here) probably Argentina, Brazil, Chile. ``ABC'' was too hard to remember, so now Mercosur is used.

Associação Blumenauense pró-Ciclovias. `Blumenau Association for Bike Paths.' Blumenau is a city in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina.

The initialism ABC is also used in Brazil in reference to the manufacture of automobiles and possibly other stuff, but I can't seem to track it down. You're eager to know why I care. I care because someday I aspire to write a complete entry about the Brazilian politician called Lula, and Lula got his nickname (and his start in politics, as a labor activist) when he was a worker in the ABC industry.

Atanasoff-Berry Computer. Built by John Atanasoff and his graduate student Clifford Berry at Iowa State in 1939. A linear algebra solver. (Twenty-nine simultaneous equations, I think it was.) It operated in the basement of the Physics Building at ISU until 1942. Just for yucks, Cf. ABC.

Audit Bureau of Circulations. Sort of like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, but they put on their flak jackets and load their twelve-gauges if you're late returning your library books (vide CIRC desk). Maybe not. Do you feel lucky, punk?

You do? Okay, then, I guess the ABC is a national organization that keeps track of (``audits'') periodical distribution (``circulation'') rates, and maybe TV and other media, so advertisers can figure out how much they owe the media that carry their ads. It's a different national organization in different countries. (You can sort out the grammatical number agreement yourself; I need to get to sleep.) They're getting into the web advertising business, too.

It seems clever (or cleaver?) to them to offer an alternate expansion...
Not to me.

See the international organization that masterminds the conspiracy of all the putatively independent national organizations: IFABC.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Channel 2. Known as ``Auntie'' (as is the BBC).

Automatic Binary Computer, completed in 1953. (Not to be confused with the famous ABC of a decade and a half earlier.) According to the Giant Computers file, this computer contained 1,200 tubes, 500 crystals, and 50 relays, and occupied 250 square feet.

An elementary programming language originally intended as a replacement for BASIC.

See full details of ABC and its implementations, with example programs, in The ABC Programmer's Handbook by Leo Geurts, Lambert Meertens and Steven Pemberton, (Prentice-Hall ISBN, 0-13-000027-2).
Also, ``An Alternative Simple Language and Environment for PCs,'' Steven Pemberton, IEEE Software, 4, Nº 1, pp. 56-64 (January 1987).

A major web resource for this language appears to be this one, maintained by Steven Pemberton.

ABC uses nesting by indentation and mixes terse shellish features with loquacious baby-programmer talk.

Michael Neumann's extensive list of sample short programs in different programming languages includes source code for two elementary ABC programs -- and after all, how often do I get to write ``elementary ABC''? Neumann identifies Amos, BASIC, Euphoria, Profan, and REXX as similar languages.

The first three letters of the Latin and English alphabets. Because the alphabet is such an elementary piece of knowledge, ``ABC'' is often used to represent something elementary or basic or initial.

The first three letters of the Greek alphabet are alpha, beta, and gamma (α, β, γ). If you rotate a capital γ (Γ), tipping it 45 degrees on its back, you can see the resemblance: the C is a rounded version of a wedge open to one side. The Romans borrowed the Etruscan alphabet, which the Etruscans borrowed from the Greeks living in southern Italy (hence from a ``Western Greek'' alphabet).

At each adoption, there was usually adaptation, and there were also evolutionary changes and reforms within the histories of individual languages. Rotation and other deformations of the letter glyphs were among the evolutionary changes. Another kind of evolutionary change was forced by phonetic changes in the language. In Latin, the sound represented by the third letter of the alphabet was originally some kind of ``hard-gee'' sound, but became devoiced into a hard cee (a k sound, though this too evolved further). A letter for the hard-gee sound was still needed, because the sound was retained in many words, but was no longer unambigously represented by the third letter. This led to a reform.

The Western Greek alphabets, and the Etruscan, had epsilon, digamma, and zeta as the next three letters. The epsilon essentially became our E, the digamma our F, and the zeta our Z. (The digamma is less known today because it was discarded from the Attic Greek alphabet which became dominant in regions where Greek ultimately continued to be written.) The reform consisted of discarding the Z, which was not needed in Latin at the time, and replacing it with a slightly modified form of C that is G. The Z was eventually added back on at the end of the alphabet when the Romans needed it for the many words that were being borrowed from Greek.

Everyone knows about the Alpher Bethe Gamow paper, which has its own Wikipedia entry. Basically, Ralph Alpher was working towards his Ph.D. under George Gamow at Cornell, and had written a paper on nucleosynthesis. The author line would have read R.A. Alpher and G. Gamow, but ``[i]t seemed unfair to the Greek alphabet to have the article signed by Alpher and Gamow only, and so the name of [his colleague] Dr. Hans A. Bethe (in absentia) was inserted in preparing the manuscript for print. Dr. Bethe, who received a copy of the manuscript, did not object, and, as a matter of fact, was quite helpful in subsequent discussions. There was, however, a rumor that later, when the alpha, beta, gamma theory went temporarily on the rocks, Dr. Bethe seriously considered changing his name to Zacharias.''

Gamow, who wrote the quoted text in his 1952 book, The Creation of the Universe, was of course well aware that the last letter of the Greek alphabet is omega. He was just making another pun, and some leeway is allowed. ``Bethe,'' however, requires very little. The name is pronounced as in German, so the th has a tee sound, and the final e has something of a shwa sound, so overall it sounds like the English pronunciation of ``beta.'' The only surprising thing is that -eta in Greek letter names is pronounced with a long a for the stressed vowel in North American English (just as in German). In Britain, the standard dialects make it a long e, as in Velveeta. (In the nonstandard dialects, I suppose the names of Greek letters may not occur very frequently, except perhaps in ``Catherine Zeta-Jones.'') In compensation, the standard dialects in Britain are nonrhotic, so Alpher sounds more similar to alpha.

The wordplay in the author line goes beyond the coincidence of echoing the beginning of the Greek alphabet. The main types of radiation associated with nuclear decay are alpha, beta, and gamma rays. Also, the hypothesis of the paper was that nuclei are generated in a step-by-step sequence loosely resembling progress through the alphabet. (The individual step in the process was the capture of a neutron to increase the atomic mass number. Different nuclei along these isobars could then be generated by electron or positron emission, or by electron capture.) Retrospectively, we know that Alpher's theory (the one in the alpha beta gamma paper) was superseded by Bethe's theory (he became interested in the topic and correctly hypothesized that nucleosynthesis of elements beyond helium took place in stars).

Less well-known is another close association between Gamow and the Greek alphabet, which I quote here from the recollections of É.L. Andronikashvili of the early 1930's, when he was a physics student in Saint Petersburg (then called Leningrad). (These appear in, and apparently were written for, Khalatnikov's book on Landau, pp. 60-62.) He and his brother used to attend parties at the house of, and organized by, the stepdaughters of the translator Isai Benediktovich Mandel'shtamm, a translator. There he first met Lev Davidovich Landau, called ``Dau,'' newly returned from three years abroad to teach at the Leningrad Physico-Technical Institute. (The older stepdaughter, Genia Kannegiser, was a mathematical physicist.)

  Dau was accompanied by his associates, also physicists: Bronstein (nicknamed `the Abbot'), Gamow (`Johnny'), and Ivanenko (`Dimus'), who was later excommunicated' -- that is, denied the friendship of Landau and even the right to be acquainted with him.
...   Gamow's wife was also present, a Moscow University student whom he had brought over from there. She too had a nickname, `Rho,' after the Greek letter ρ. Later, she became `Rho-zero' (ρ0). All this seemed quite pretentious.

Nowadays in physics, the letter rho most frequently represents resistivity or density. It doesn't seem especially flattering. Maybe she was a redhead. The ρ0 (``rho-zero'' or ``rho-nought''), of course, is a neutral meson. (The triplet of rho mesons can be regarded as excited states of the pion triplet.)

It seems that Gamow had the effect of making people think alphabetically in one way or another. James D. Watson (yes, co-discoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA) wrote a memoir with the title Genes, Girls, and Gamow.

Another person with a Greek-letter nickname was Eratosthenes (Eratosthenes of Cyrene). His nickname was Beta. Beta, the second letter of the alphabet, represented the number 2 in Greek numerals. The nickname alludes to his reputation as the second-best in all the various fields in which he worked.

America, Britain, Canada and Australia. This has appeared in HSE documents, and if we keep quiet about it the Kiwis won't find out and be upset. I haven't seen ``ABCAN'' used anywhere.

American Baseball Coaches Association.

Antwerp British Community Association. It ``was exclusively British when founded in 1920 but is no longer so. Our strong and growing Anglophone association now exists to promote English language and cultural contact between all nationalities. It provides an opportunity for social contact which people, living mainly in the Greater Antwerp area, might want or need.'' The ABCA Clubhouse is located at Paardenmarkt 111, 2000 Antwerpen, which turns out to house the Belfry of BATS as well. Cf. BBCA.

American Board of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology. One of various boards run by the ABPP.

AirBorne Communications, Command, and Control System. Specially equipped version of the C-130 military transport, coordinates air and ground forces.

Agency, Board, Commission, or {Department|Division}. Government jargon used since at least about 2002 in Toronto, and possibly nowhere else.

American-Born Confused Desi. A Desi (a subcontinent Indian) born in the US and (possibly only perceived as being) torn between traditional Indian culture and US culture. Also the title of a 1999 film about two ABCD's. Cf. HINA and NRI, and ethnically further afield, the probable model for the ABCD initialism: ABC.

A highly successful book I have seen billed as ``first-ever South Asian American coming-of-age story'' is Born Confused (2002) by Tanuja Desai Hidier. It was one of the books plagiarized by Kaavya Viswanathan for her cut-and-paste achievement How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got A Life.

Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter. Four basic warning signs of melanoma:
  1. -- Asymmetry. Skin discoloration in a shape that does not have a well-defined center. (Or, as nonmathematical physicians express it: ``if a line is drawn through the middle, the sides don't match.'' What ``middle''?)
  2. -- Border. Irregular shape. Not just asymmetric but with scalloped or notched edge.
  3. -- Color. Typically brown or black, and sometimes with mixes of red, white, and blue. How patriotic!
  4. -- Diameter. Larger than a quarter inch.

ABCD data switch
Four-way switchbox: data in or out from one side can be switched to data out or in, respectively, of one of four other devices. Common way for multiple machines to share a printer, or one machine with one serial or parallel port available to be connected to multiple peripherals. Not a device to challenge the mind, and not expensive, but handy.

This entry is here because I can never remember how to spell abscissa.

American Birth Control League. Founded in 1920 by Margaret Sanger. Name changed in 1930 to Planned Parenthood.

Advanced Bipolar and CMOS (process technology). ``Advanced Bipolar'' means bipolar made using technology developed for CMOS.

ABC Museum
Alyce Bartholomew Children's Museum: For ages 6-12; 2921 Franklin St., Michigan City, IN; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and by appointment Mondays through Fridays; (219) 874-8222; $2.50-$3.50.

All information subject to change without my noticing. This is a pretty remote corner of the glossary, I may not be back for a while.

The American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology. Incorporated in 1981, its first president was Manfred Meier. The ABCN administered its first examinations in 1983 under ABPP supervision (it apparently did not officially become a member board of the ABPP until later that year), and awarded the first ABCN Diplomates in clinical neuropsychology the next year. The number of ABCN Diplomates (yeah, it's gotta be capitalized, like NAR Realtor) exceeded 300 in 1996, 400 in 1999, 500 in 2004, and 600 in 2007. This bores me just a little bit less than it does you because the whole time I'm writing, I'm thinking: ``Testing? Making up exams and proctoring and reading (or viewing the work samples) and grading them? That's the main activity of the ABCN and indirectly of the ABPP. It's the main source of stress for me when I teach. How can they stand it?''

In 1989 the ABPP designated the ABCN as the specialty council in clinical neuropsychology, and in 1993 the ABCN implemented a written examination as a requirement for specialty certification in clinical neuropsychology. This must be their secret: do everything in reverse order. Also, keep upping the requirements in order to keep the number of candidates from growing too fast. In 2002, a postdoctoral training program in clinical neuropsychology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was the first postdoc program in the specialty to earn APA accreditation. By 2005, postdoctoral training became a requirement for candidates with doctoral degrees earned after 2004.



Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay. Some old trade agreement. See Mercosur.

Antimonide-Based Compound Semiconductor. Refers in practice to heterostructures made from the InAs/AlSb/GaSb system, as well as the binary, tertiary, and quaternary alloys. The favored applications are in low-voltage technology for very-low-power low-noise amplifiers (LNA's). Here's a webpage that's highly authoritative because it's from an authority that spends mony to buy research on ABCS technology.

Army Battle Command System.

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. New initialism of the old AABT (they dropped ``Advancement'' from the title). Another old B organization that has added a C to its name is AABP (now AACBP).

American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. The awkward, ill-thought-out English on their website suggests that they may be trusted to maintain the same standards currently prevailing in the ``profession.''

ABDom{ en | inal }. Medical terminology. (At least, I don't think butchers use this abbreviation in their patient work-ups.)

All-But-Dissertation. Facetiously: the degree before Ph.D. In the final stage, this may also be expanded ``All But Done.'' Of course, the final stage may be longer than all the rest combined, and possibly terminal.

There appears to be a support group for these people; I've seen their signs by the clinic:

``Students for Life.''

The TTBOMKAB entry mentions in passing a young woman who, in 1969, has been renting a cabin in upstate New York for ``several years,'' writing her dissertation. The story (nonfiction) is told by Philip Roth, who seems to imply that she was working on it for the four years they lived together starting in 1969. Call me impatient, but I think of this as not getting on with your life. What people with an ABD degree usually do is feel guilty and drive a cab or something.

Perhaps the most famous instance of an ABD that eventually led to a Ph.D. was the case of Frank Bourgin. In 1945, he received a letter stating the ``unanimous opinion'' of his Ph.D. committee that his 617-page manuscript needed the kind of work that could only be done if he quit his job and came back to the University of Chicago to finish it. With a family to support, he could not do this. Crushed and bitter, he put it away for over forty years, only looking at the box that held it on the eight occasions when he moved. Finally he looked at it again after he retired. The dissertation became The Great Challenge: The Myth of Laissez-Faire in the Early Republic (1989) (xxiv+246 pp.). This was not an ordinary ABD situation. Four decades later, it was hard to reconstruct what had happened, but it seems that Prof. Leonard D. White, member of the Ph.D. committee and chair of the department, had -- not to put too fine a point on it -- lied. White apparently reported the ``unanimous opinion'' of Bourgin's committee without in fact consulting the rest of the committee. The surviving member claims he never saw the dissertation. Bourgin's advisor was busy with wartime work in Washington, DC, and retired afterwards. He had proposed Bourgin's topic but gave him less help or supervision than was normal. The full story of how Bourgin was eventually awarded his Ph.D. in Pol. Sci. on June 10, 1988, is told in the preface and in Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s foreword to that book (read the latter first, to avoid confusion).

American-British-Dutch-Australian. Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands (and Belgium, Luxembourg, and France) beginning on May 10, 1940. The Netherlands received an ultimatum -- to surrender or have its cities destroyed. On May 14, Rotterdam was bombed, leaving 814 dead and 78,000 homeless; the Netherlands surrendered on May 15. Queen Wilhelmina and leading members of her government escaped to London, where a government-in-exile was established. Most of the Dutch Navy also escaped.

The Dutch fleet saw action in the Java Sea in late February 1942, where a combined ABDA fleet battled a Japanese fleet covering an invasion force approaching Java (part of the Dutch East Indies). The Allied fleet consisted of a cruiser from each country and some destroyers, and had no air support. The Allies were routed. Of the entire Allied fleet then operating in the Dutch East Indies, only four American destroyers made it back to Australia.

aBDC, ABDC, abdc
After Bottom Dead Center. See BDC.

Abraham. Abraham Lincoln preferred to be called Abraham rather than Abe, but even when he was president he often didn't have a choice.

Abraham was considered to have an unattractive face. During the famous debates with Douglas, when Douglas accused him of being two-faced, he replied by asking rhetorically, whether if he had another face, he'd be wearing the one he had on. While he was president a young girl wrote him a letter suggesting that he'd look better with a beard. He took the advice. Why didn't Mary Todd think of that?

Abe also had a lazy eye. Daguerrotypes or early photographs from the time of his presidency were generally ``corrected.''

Press pictures of Franklin Delano Roosevelt never showed his wheelchair or crutches. Television didn't either. (He attended a world's fair where an experimental TV system was being demonstrated, and became the first US president to appear on television.)

I decided to grow a beard a couple of years ago. It looked good when it was starting, but I'd have to trim it to Yassir Arafat length to keep it looking good. The main issue, however, is kissing. In Latin America, the saying is Un beso sin bigote es como un huevo sin sal. [`A kiss without a mustache is like an egg without salt.'] To judge by my experience here in the US, however, American women prefer their eggs without salt. I mean, it can't be me.

The title of Woody Allen's Bananas refers to a Central American banana republic that is the scene of much of the action. Back in Nueva York, the Woody Allen character's love interest Nancy is played by Louise Lasser (Woody Allen's love interest at the time). She leaves him because some indefinable ``something is missing,'' she doesn't know what. Some improbable accidents later, he returns to fund-raise in New York, a leftist guerilla leader in big-beard-and-mustache disguise. Nancy is attracted. In bed she screams ``That's what was missing!'' Still, as I noted (read the previous paragraph if you already forgot) this is the exception rather than the rule among the Anglos.

I suppose that the saying has added significance in Spanish, owing to the fact that huevo (`egg') is slang for testicle. In fact, a form of apparent hermaphroditism that arose from a spontaneous mutation a couple of generations back in the Dominican Republic (.do) was locally known as huevos a doce (`eggs at twelve'). We ain't talkin' midnight breakfast at Denny's here, capisce? Fetal androgen deficiency leads to male babies with apparently female external genital organs; testosterone surge at puberty produces male appearance and reproductive function (pretty much).

Consider the merkin.

I've often wondered if Sp. bigote is etymologically related to Eng. bigot, but I've never bothered to check. Okay, I just checked. Etymology uncertain.

Bananas -- now why would a sex-obsessed comedian and occasional ironist name a movie after a fruit? Is there a deeper reason? What kind of bananas? Give me 400 words; the exam ends promptly at 4:30. (This issue isn't addressed at the electrical banana entry, though Woody Allen is mentioned there.) Woody -- how did he end up with that name? His given name isn't Woodrow.

Acceptor-Bound Exciton.

Advanced Book Exchange. ``[T]he INTERNET's most popular service for buying and selling out-of-print, used, rare and antiquarian books.'' See also a select listing here.

Precise relationship to ABAA unclear, but in any case, while I'm having trouble reaching its server, the list of ABAA members on ABE is up.

Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering.

IATA code for Lehigh Valley International Airport (abbreviated LVI in road signs, located closest to Allentown, PA, USA, but the letters ABE reflect its traditional name, Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton Airport, for the three largest cities it serves. Here's its status in real time from the ATCSCC.

Agri-Business Educational Foundation. The executive vice president of NAMA also serves as the president of the ABEF.

A Eurasian tree, according to the OSPD4. It can be found scattered throughout the Scrabble forest. Plural form abeles.

Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature. Apparently now integrated into Literature Online (LION).

ABnormal END. ``End'' in the sense of program run termination. I mean, it doesn't mean flat butt or anything.

German, `evening' (cognate, of course). Normal end of day.

To be fair, I should note that the end of the day for dating purposes has varied historically, and only recently become settled, for most civil purposes, as midnight.

Jewish religious dates are reckoned to begin at sundown. Thus for example, a Jewish holiday that in a particular Gregorian year falls on what is nominally September 1 is celebrated or observed beginning at sundown on August 31. The talmudic reasoning for this is based on the wording of the Genesis creation story, which includes a repeated formula translated ``and there was night, and day -- the first day.'' This is taken to imply that the day begins with nightfall. It makes a certain kind of sense that He created the Sun at night -- what was the alternative?

Back in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a lot of different places were considered as possibilities for a Jewish national homeland. The Soviets even allocated a place in the middle of southeastern nowhere and deported some Jewish volunteer settlers there. Other places seriously considered were in Africa, in Grand Island, New York, and, oh yeah, the bloody Middle East. Grand Island, NY, is very close to Canada. Parts of Canada are north of the Arctic Circle. If a place inside the Arctic Circle had been selected, then for some of the year there would be no sunset, wreaking havoc with Jewish holiday reckoning. I don't claim that this observation is original with me, and neither did Mordecai Richler. (I mean, he didn't claim it was original with him. I don't think he was even aware of me.) In his Solomon Gursky Was Here, Richler recalled the old proof that neither Judaism nor Islam could be universal religions: fasting for an entire day would kill the Arctic/Antarctic dweller. He had some fun with the implications of this for the Inuit.

Also, matzah trees probably don't bloom that far north. Traditionally, however, there's another explanation of how the Jewish homeland came to be where it is. After the Lord of the Universe brought His people out of Egypt (Mitzraim), He asked Moses (Moshe) where he would like to have the Jewish national homeland. You'll recall that Moses was a stutterer. This is probably the real reason why they wandered around in the desert for forty years. Moses wanted a land flowing with milk and honey and all, and he answered the Lord ``Ca... Ca-a... Cana... Cana-a...'' and the omniscient Lord of all creation said ``Oh, Canaan. No problem. So be it.'' Actually, what Moses was trying to say was Canada. Some years later, Britain and France clashed there on the Plains of Abraham.

Incidentally, a better transliteration for Canaan would be Cana'an. See the aa entry for more on that. And also, the Thirty-Second Medieval Workshop was hosted by the U of BC in Vancouver (24-26 October 2002). The theme was ``Promised Lands: The Bible, Christian Missions, and Colonial Histories in Latin Christendom, 400-1700 AD.'' Now back to the subject of the entry -- Abend...

Observational astronomers spend the night hours awake and would prefer to have all the records of a particular night correspond to a single ``day.'' For this reason, Scaliger's useful Julian day scheme was eventually extended by astronomers so that Julian days begin at noon (at the Greenwich meridian). Of course, this isn't very useful if you're observing in Hawaii, or even at the AAO. For more on Julian days, see JD entry.

This page shows where on earth you can get some shut-eye.

Abendländer, Abendlaender
German, literally `evening lands,' literarily `the Occident.' Like, you know, `the West.' Like Morgenlaender, the singular form is used only in the genitive.

Defined forthrightly in the always useful Pantologia (London, 1813) as
plain or downright murder; as distinguished from the less heinous crimes of manslaughter, and chance-medley. It is derived from Saxon æbere, apparent, notorious, and morth, murder; and was declared a capital offence without fine or commutation, by the laws of Canute, and of Henry I.

If you had the word murder already on the board, and five more common tiles on your rack... but no, the word does not occur in any of the three major Scrabble dictionaries. That just kills me.

Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Gives accreditation to university programs in these disciplines. Arguably the single most destructive influence on Engineering education in the US, although the NSF is horning in on the action with seed money for fashionable foolishness.

Abfahrt. German for `departure.' That a German word beginning with ab- should have as its English translation a Romance word beginning in de- is often no accident; cf. Abg.

Australian Bridge Federation. The largest of the four NBO's comprising the South Pacific Bridge Federation (SPBF -- Zone 7 of the WBF). In 2006, the ABF had 32,501 members. Interestingly, the NBO of New Zealand (NZCBA) had nearly half as many (15,050). Some further numbers to illumine this: the populations of Australia and New Zealand are about 21 million and 4.2 million, respectively. Whipping out my satisfyingly rigid slip stick (because it requires fewer keystrokes to bring up than the calculator app), I estimate that this yields an interest level of 4.387012.

ABsolutely FABulous. A British TV series, 1992-1996.

American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. I thought that perhaps the organization might date back to the struggles to get Henry Miller distributed in the US, but a Google search restricted to the site only turns up one Miller: Matt, the organization's treasurer.

In fact, ABFFE was founded in 1990 by the American Booksellers Association. They are a co-sponsor of Banned Books Week.

See also FEN.

American Board of Family Practice.

American Board of Forensic Psychology.

Abgeordnete[r]. German: `[elected or appointed] representative.' A noun declined as an adjective. The form with final r is male. (For a slight discussion of this sort of noun, see Vors.) Abgeordneter also functions as a title, Herr Abgeordneter Litfaß and Frau Abgeordnete Litfaß serving for `Representative Litfass.'

Etymologically, Abgeordnete corresponds approximately to the English noun delegate, with ab- and de- both having a sense like `off, away,' so the person is one `sent away' (in Romance) or `ordered off' (in German). For a parallel instance, see Abf. [I should make clear that ordnen, of which geordnet is the past participle, is normally used in the sense of `organize, arrange.' It is cognate with English verb order, of course, which can be synonymous with command, but `command' is not a common sense of the German verb.]

Arterial Blood Gas.

Abhandlung[en]. German, `paper[s], treatise[s].'

Association of BHaratanatyam Artistes of India.

Abhandlungen der Deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin. `Papers of the German Academy of Sciences at Berlin.'

Gesundheit! Oh, sorry, I thought I heard a sneeze.

An abhesive is a material that resists adhesion. This is the noun use of an adjective, of course, but you can figure out the meaning of the adjective from the meaning of the noun. I resist defining adjectives. Oh, okay: ``that resists adhesion.'' Happy now? ``Like teflon.''

AbhGött, AbhGoett
Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. `Papers of the Academy of Sciences at Goettingen.'

Abhandlungen der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften. `Papers of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences.'

Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes. `Papers for Announcements about the Orient.'

The word Morgenlande is an archaism. At the time this word was used in ordinary speech, it meant what the English term the Orient meant: the exotic regions to the east of Europe, with a strong connotation of backwardness, technological and moral. That Orient included the Middle East (Near East) and the Far East.

Except in the genitive case, only the plural form of the German term was used. Landes is the genitive singular of Land. The form Lande which I used above is an archaic nominative plural; if the term were coined today the nom. pl. would have to be Morgenländer. You know, that ILL request is gonna take a while, so you've got some time. Why not amble over to the Morgenlande entry and read some more about this fascinating word? Oh wait, wait: you get to choose. I just thought of another German word with an interesting semantic history.


Abhandlungen des Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig. `Papers of the Saxon [as in Saxony] Academy of Sciences at Leipzig.'

For classicists, it would be short for Abhandlungen des Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philologisch-historische Klasse. (After the comma: `Philological-Historical section.')


Abhandlungen der [Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse,] Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur in Mainz. `Papers of the [Humanities and Social Sciences Section,] Academy of Sciences and Literature at Mainz.' [The section indicated in square brackets is of interest to classicists.]

AbhMünch, AbhMuench
Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, München, Philosophisch-historische Klasse. Abhandlungen. `Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Munich, Philosophical-Historical Section. Papers.'

Acquired Brain Injury. Variably defined, but generally excludes prenatal injury, genetic defect, degenerative neurological disease, and disability stemming from mental illness. It probably includes acute alcohol poisoning. Since adjusting the definition of this general term does not materially advance or retard the ability to treat any brain injury, it can mean whatever you please.

Advanced (abbreviated A!) Bus Interface.

Alabama Bureau of Investigation. Led fo many yeahs bah th' lejunderuh Herb Hooovah, ah uhmagine.

Alcohol[ic] Beverage Industry. Cf. this other ABI.

Application Binary Interface. Software emulation of a distinct operating environment, allowing binaries of an application for certain operating systems on certain platforms to run under a different OS on a different platform (like MS-DOS programs on Mac).

Association of British Insurers. The trade association for the UK's insurance industry, representing about 400 companies and about 95% of the industry's business as of 2005.

Automated Broker Interface.

Association of British Independent Accounting Firms. The word order is an odd permutation of what one might expect: independent modifying British accounting firms. The order might be due to what seems to have been an earlier name of the organization: ``Association of British Independent Chartered Accountants.'' I'm sure there's a precedence chart somewhere showing that ``independent'' binds more tightly to ``chartered accountant'' than to ``British.'' The term chartered accountant alone describes an individual with a certain level of professional education or certification (like professional engineer or licensed practical nurse). The term independent chartered accountant, on the other hand, is a bit like the term independent scholar among academics: it communicates how the person does business. That makes independent chartered accountants an easily recognizable term that can be reasonably modified by a nationality, while independent British chartered accountants might not be so immediately parseable. Still, one wishes they'd gone with ``British Association of....''

Advanced BIOS.

Adler-Bell-Jackiw. In 1969, S. Adler (Phys. Rev., vol. 177, p. 2426) and J.S. Bell and R. Jackiw (Nuovo Cim., vol. 51, p. 47) published their independent discoveries of a mathematical feature of four-dimensional field theories. The feature is known as the ABJ chiral anomaly, ABJ axial anomaly, ABJ triangle anomaly (infrequently), or just plain ABJ anomaly, and by any of those with ABJ absent or replaced by the names it represents.

Austin (TX) Business Journal.

Abkurzung. German for `abbreviation [of a word or phrase], shortening [of a meeting, for example], short cut.' The abbreviation Abk., as opposed to the word, occurs primarily in dictionaries, with the first sense given.

American Boarding Kennel Association. Former name of the Pet Care Services Association (PCSA).


ABLative. One of the cases into which nouns may be declined in an inflected language. The Latin ablative case subsumes instrumental and locative cases, although there are a few rare words with distinct instrumental or locative form. (That is, it is inferred from other Indo-European languages, and from scraps of evidence within Latin itself, that Latin once had a more robust case system with separate instrumental and locative forms.)

Most prepositions in Latin take objects in the accusative or ablative case. [In the same way, pronouns that are the objects of prepositions in English are in the objective case. Thus ``you and I, or we'' give a gift, but a gift is given ``to you and me, or us.'' Obviously, English has a rather fragmentary case system, in which the subject and object forms of nouns and of the personal pronouns you and it are not distinguished.]

Noun phrases occur in various functions in a sentence, and not just as the objects of prepositions. The various cases in Latin are used to indicate these functions. For some cases, the function is quite straightforward. The vocative is used to address the named person. (Hence Shakespeare's Caesar calls out, ``Et tu, Brute.'' Brute here is the vocative form of Brutus.) There are vocative forms for nouns that you wouldn't normally address directly; Winston S. Churchill found this situation scandalous, but then he was always one to see the moral dimension in things. Similarly, the nominative indicates the subject of a sentence (this is typically the same as the agent), the accusative marks the direct object, etc. The uses of the ablative case are not so straightforward, and resist being summarized. Thus, Latinists like to (or in any case do) define various categories of ablative corresponding to various instances in which a noun phrase ought to be declined in the ablative case. These can get amusing. Okay, usually just mildly amusing. Come on, grin a little bit. We don't have a very extensive list yet. You can watch as it is built.

Or else you can go and watch paint dry. It's up to you.

Atmospheric Boundary Layer. Earth's PBL.


ablative of association
The ablative case when used for the noun or noun phrase that in English would typically be the object of the preposition with, when the action described by the verb involves some kind of spatial or metaphorical closeness. (These uses are conceived as deriving from the Indo-European instrumental case, which is merged with the IE ablative and locative cases in the case that is simply called the ablative in Latin.)

Charles E. Bennett's article, ``The Ablative of Association,'' on pp. 64-81 of the 1905 issue of TAPA, has the following initial footnote: ``This investigation has had regard to the [Latin] literature down to the time of Apuleius. While the lists of examples are quite full, it is not claimed that they are absolutely complete for all authors.'' Bennett agreed with those Indo-Europeanists who regarded the IE instrumental ``as having primarily a sociative force'' and sought to ``show that the range and frequency of the instrumental are much more extensive in Latin than is at present recognized. According to my observations it appears with verbs of joining, entangling, mixing, sharing, being attended, keeping company with, being accustomed, wedding, mating, piling, playing, changing and interchanging, agreeing, wrestling; also with adjectives of equality.'' I dunno -- it looks like he might have overplayed his hand.

To be in greater sympathy with this view, one may observe that the German preposition mit serves more of an instrumental function than the corresponding English preposition with. (They are almost certainly not cognates, but each overlaps more closely in meaning with the other than either does with any other preposition in the other language.) Specifically, I have in mind constructs like ``mit Bus,'' meaning `by bus.'


Latin: a select body of ancient Roman soldiers (back when they weren't ancient) chosen from among those called extraordinarii. [Acc. to Pantologia (London, 1813)]. Wow! It kind of reminds me of Dilia's reaction when we went to see the movie Superman.

Hmmm. It just occurred to me that in Europe (in Germany and Italy, anyway), ordinarius professors are regular faculty, and extraordinarius professors are just adjuncts (like ``extras'' in a show). So maybe the ablecti weren't the best of the best, but at best only the best of the rest. I'll have to check back.

These confusions seem to happen a lot. A medieval epithet expressing great respect, and bestowed on very few, was stupor mundi. This means `wonder of the world,' but that's not exactly what it sounds like to the average English-speaker (you have to think ``stupefier, stunner' for stupor).

[dive flag]

Adjustable Buoyancy Life-Jacket. Early name for early versions of what have now been refined into neutral-buoyancy devices called BC's or BCD's. In Britain, apparently, the term is still used for horsecollar-style snorkel vests.

The horsecollar-style emergency life-jackets used to be called by a more evocative name. If I were singing ``Hey Nineteen,'' at this point I would insert a lyric about Mae West.

An English verb (from Latin abludo) meaning be unlike [acc. to Pantologia (London, 1813)].

An English adjective (from Latin abluens) meaning that has the power of cleaning [acc. to Pantologia (London, 1813)]. Cognate with ablution, a word so commonly used that I've even read it somewhere other than a dictionary.

Activity-Based Management. As opposed to inactivity-based management. It's a legitimate choice!

Anti-Ballistic Missile. This is not an adjective for those opposed to Ballistic Missile. It is really the noun

anti-(Ballistic Missile) Missile.

There is an ABM treaty between the US and something called the USSR, that limited the deployment of ABM systems to two areas (subsequently one).

Arbeitsbeschaffungsmassnahmen. Germany's public works and retraining measures for the unemployed.

Asynchronous Balanced Mode. (Acronym used in IBM's HDLC, at least.)

A Bit More About That. I can find no evidence that anyone on the web uses this valuable acronym yet.

American Battle Monuments Commission. In existence since 1923, it botched the design of the World War II Memorial on the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C.

Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center.

Annals of BioMedical Engineering. The journal of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES).

AntiBonding Molecular Orbital (MO). Typically labelled by a superscript asterisk.

A Bit More On That. Look, let's not get promiscuous with the acronym neologizing, okay? Use ABMAT.

American Board of Medical Physics. Run by the ACMP, it provides board certification for medical physicists.

American Board of Medical Psychotherapists.

Atomic-Beam Magnetic Resonance. A good way to make hfs measurements in the atomic ground state and in low-lying metastable states. See I. I. Rabi, S. Millman, P. Kusch and J. R. Zacharias, Physical Review 53, 318 (1938).

(That's right, 1938. Modern English was already spoken in that epoch.)

Agent-Based Modeling and Simulation.

American Board of Medical Specialties.

Loosely speaking, this also has something to do with the plural of ABM.

Advance Beneficiary Notice. Refers not to the notice itself but to a specific form signed to acknowledge that notice has been received. Then again, that form is also known as the ``ABN notice,'' which might be an unusual case of merely apparent but not manifest acronym-assisted pleonasm (usually abbreviated AAP pleonasm). That is, the proper term may be ``ABN notice,'' with ABN a sort of metonymic reference to it, or an indication of the fact that being given the form to sign may be the only notice beneficiaries are given of their impending financial obligation. Alternatively, you could regard ABN as an acronym for Advance Beneficiary Notice notice, and ``ABN notice'' as an AAP pleonasm pleonasm. The actual notification, if it ever occurred independently of the request to sign a form, could be ``AB'' for clarity.

Fascinating glossary entry so far, eh?

After plowing through that paragraph, you're probably desperate for substantive information about just what the ABN (or ABN notice) is about. Medicare requires that a doctor or other health care provider have the beneficiary sign an ABN to indicate that notification has been given that certain services to be rendered will probably not be paid for by Medicare (whether because it considers the service medically unnecessary or because it simply doesn't cover it).

The notification must be given in advance of the services. I suppose that under Medicare rules, in the absence of a signed ABN the patient cannot be held responsible for charges not reimbursed by Medicare. The ABN requirement applies only to patients in the Original Medicare Plan. It does not apply to those in a Medicare Managed Care Plan. It also does not apply to those not in any Medicare plan. I mean--what are you, crazy or something? You're dreamin'!

Some of you who are blissfully ignorant may be wondering about the word ``probably,'' but I've got stuff to do. I'll be back here soon.

[dive flag]

According to Pantologia (London, 1813),
a military garment, worn by the Greek and Roman soldiers: it was lined, or doubled, for warmth. There seem to have been different kinds of abollas, fitted to different occasions. Even kings appear to have used them: Caligula was affronted at king Ptolemy for appearing at the shows in a purple abolla, and by the eclat thereof turning the eyes of the spectators from the emperor upon himself.

It seems that even then, dressing in inappropriate military garb was a major fashion statement. Today, the abolla is mentioned in the Fashion Glossary of the ICCF&D. (``Roman military cloak, worn short in length, over one shoulder and fastened at the throat with a fibula.'')

And yet the Forthrights Phrontistery -- International House of Logorrhea includes it in a list of obscure words, even though it's defined in at least three on-line reference works!

Academic Bill Of Rights. Also called ``Students' Bill of Rights,'' etc. Intended to try to produce a semblance of political balance on college campuses, as if even high school faculty were not already radicalized. Favorable and unfavorable arguments (with some rebuttal) can be found at the SAF site. The American Philosophical Association, like most established (or ``establishment,'' as we used to say in our protesting days) academic organizations (``tools of the oppressor'' or ``organs of the system''; I like ``tenured flunkies for the new leftist man'') are strongly opposed (the APA's arguments here).

The ABoR document at the SAF is mostly preamble, but when it gets to the nitty gritty, it encounters the same problems that we are all familiar with from older affirmative-action programs intended to try to produce some semblance of racial balance, or equality of opportunity or...

The first ``principle'' reads: ``All faculty shall be hired, fired, promoted and granted tenure on the basis of their competence and appropriate knowledge in the field of their expertise and, in the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts, with a view toward fostering a plurality of methodologies and perspectives. No faculty shall be hired or fired or denied promotion or tenure on the basis of his or her political or religious beliefs.'' Making use of the distributive property and simplifying, we can summarize thus: hiring, firing, promotion and tenure decisions shall be made ``with a view toward fostering a plurality of methodologies and perspectives,'' yet without being affected by employee's ``political or religious beliefs.''

There are other principles. They are idealistic.

A term in botany for flowers without seeds (from Latin abortiens). Maybe the word you were looking for was...

A substance that induces abortion. Ancient and modern examples include laser and RU-486, resp. Another is mentioned at the NARAL entry.

I don't have time to go through a whole history of the thing, but here's somewhat recent (late April and May 2009) news on public attitudes about abortion in the US. The results seemed to represent a statistically significant deviation from the steady pattern of the previous decade or two.

A survey by the Pew Research Center found a sharp drop in the number of people ``who support legalized abortion,'' from 54% in August 2008 to 46% in a survey conducted from March 31 to April 21, 2009. Views on abortion are not entirely straightforward; most ``pro-choice'' people oppose infanticide and most ``pro-life'' people approve some form of birth control, and a majority of people favor legal abortion in some cases and not in others. So you'll want to look at the detailed survey results as reported by Pew and by Gallup. See also NARAL.

Most programs have a pull-down menu item or a button you can push that tells you the name of the program and who wrote it. This feature is labeled ``About [program name].'' If you want to find out what the program does, just click on Help and skim the first 100 pages of the manual, and there's a good chance you'll learn enough About it to make an educated guess as to what it does. I wouldn't skip over the section on changing the background color; that's often the only part of the help pages that mentions what kinds of input and output the software takes and gives.

The word ``about'' is often synonymous with ``approximately.'' I've noticed a context where ``about'' is more exactly parsed as ``we prefer not to say exactly.''

(This paragraph just states what everyone knows, to set context for the slightly interesting stuff in the next.) Packaged foods that are required by US law to bear a ``Nutrition Facts'' summary list a ``Serving Size'' and ``Servings Per Container.'' Often, the food product in the package comes in countable parts -- individual crackers, say, or a chocolate bar molded into rectangles so as to break into a composite number of pieces. For small packages, the serving size is sometimes the entire package, but in all other cases that I can recall, the serving size is chosen so that it does not divide evenly into the number of pieces, and thus yields a ``Servings Per Container'' value like ``about 7.'' The evident intent of this choice is to defeat the law's purpose: the need to do further arithmetic in order to obtain more meaningful numbers than something like calories-per-seven-twenty-fifths-of-the-package discourages consumers from taking advantage of the data provided. It seems at least plausible that the serving size is selected merely to yield reasonable-seeming numbers to the inattentive shopper. I guess it's even conceivable that the serving size is chosen so that rounding makes the inferred total numbers look better, to those who do the math.

Anyway, the ``About'' following ``Servings Per Container'' has become something of a reflex. Today I found something approximating proof of that: according to the label, Murray / Sugar Free Cookies / Vanilla Wafers reports ``nutrition'' facts for a serving size of 4 cookies, and there are ``About 9'' such servings in the package. The package didn't look like it contained wafers stacked even as few as 5 high, let alone 7 or 11. Sure enough, the package contained 12 stacks of 3 wafers each. ``Foiled,'' as they say, by non-prime factorization.

A. Bp.
Old abbreviation for an old ArchBishoP. There probably aren't many young archbishops.

Androgen-Binding Protein. Similar to sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).

Abp., ABp., Abp

Arterial Blood Pressure.

American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc.

American Board of Professional Psychology. ``We are a major player in the profession's interest in specialization.''

Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry.

Association of Black Psychologists.

abnormal psychology. Pronounced `ab-sigh.' David L. Gilles-Thomas's lecture notes for a full course are available on-line.

I think that someone who studies abnormal psychology is called a normal psychologist, but I haven't had a chance to check that.

Association of Blind Piano Tuners. I guess there's one less distraction that way.

It's not widely known, and it probably isn't even true, that piano is very popular in the mountain kingdom of Bhutan (.bt). In fact, piano is probably the national sport. Once, the King of Bhutan heard of a man with perfect pitch and judgment, the best piano tuner in the world: Oppur Knockety. (For the purposes of this entry, we're going to assume Oppur Knockety is blind. It has some resonance.) For a great reward, the King persuaded Oppur Knockety to visit the palace and tune the King's own piano. When he was done, the piano sounded true and wonderful, better than one could have imagined that a piano could sound, before one heard this one.

That night, there was a great storm, and the next day, when the King sat down for his morning exercises, the piano was painfully out of tune. The King called for his men to bring back the tuner, to fix the piano, but they returned with only his solemn regret...

Oppur Knockety only tunes once.

You know, this guy reminds me of King Frederick the Great. He was a great patron of the sciences. Leonhard Euler spent twenty-five years as a guest in Frederick's court, which I suppose is why one of the most famous early problems in topology is the seven bridges of Königsberg (first capital of Prussia), except that Frederick the Great ascended the Prussian throne in 1740, and Euler treated this problem in 1735. Oh well. At the end of WWII, East Prussia became Russian and Polish territory, and Königsberg became Kaliningrad, Russia.

Seven Bridges Road, sung in occasionally a capella harmony, was a hit for The Eagles in 1968. Steve Young wrote it about a road by that (unofficial) name that leads out of Montgomery, Alabama into idyllic countryside by way of seven bridges.

There's also a parkway called Seven Bridges Road in Duluth, Minnesota. It has gone by a variety of names. Samuel Snively, the fellow who had the inspiration first to build it, and who got most of the original road built in 1899-1900, wanted to call it Spring Garden Boulevard, but that name never caught on. It follows Amity Creek and was best known as Amity Parkway, but it was also called Snively Road. It originally had ten wooden bridges, but these and the road generally fell into disrepair, until 1911-1912, when it was renovated and the original bridges were replaced. The renovation plan called for stone-arch bridges to replace the wooden ones, but one of these was downgraded to a less decorative iron-pipe-and-cement structure. Of the nine stone-arch bridges, the two at the upstream (Western) end fell into vehicular disuse, hence the current name. But it was never called Ten Bridges Road or Nine Bridges Road. Some numbers have more romance.

You know, on the subject of romance, it says here in the Columbia Encyclopedia that in 1733 the future King Frederick II ``married Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern, but he separated from her shortly afterward and for the rest of his life showed no interest in women'' (my italics). Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.

In 2001 there was an incident in Bhutan involving royal marriage, and it turned out much worse. Oops, wrong Himalayan kingdom. It was Nepal.

As noted above, King Frederick II ascended the throne in 1740 -- he was known as Frederick the Great because his cynical, unscrupulous military adventures Greatly enlarged his kingdom. He was into all things French, and had a serious amateur interest in music. He played flute concertoes. As you may well imagine, in his court everyone absolutely loved flute concertoes. The King of Prussia was an absolute monarch.

The pianoforte (Italian for `gentle-strong') was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori around 1709. The original name, eventually shortened to piano, stresses the respect in which it was a major improvement over its predecessor the harpsichord: it is possible to vary the volume (and duration) of a note. The piano supplanted the harpsichord over the course of the nineteenth century, growing in popularity even as it was still being perfected. Gottfried Silbermann, the foremost German organ builder of the time, worked at perfecting the instrument. Frederick the Great was his greatest supporter and customer -- he was said to have owned as many as fifteen Silbermann pianos. So much for the Bhutan connection.

Fritz had his court in Potsdam (I guess that explains the Euler topology thing), where Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (a son of the great Johann Sebastian, and no mean musician himself) was Capellmeister (`chapel-, i.e., choir-master'). C. P. E. Bach was one of the first major composers to write for the piano. In 1747, J. S. Bach paid a visit to King Frederick's court and tried out all the pianos. A bit more on that the RICERCAR entry.

ABRidged. Abbreviation used in the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature and elsewhere.

Sometimes terms like ``abridged'' are used where ``almost completely discarded'' would convey a more accurate idea. A paperback volume in the Milestones of Thought series from the Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. offers a good example. The front cover bears the title The Anatomy of Melancholy, a woodcut of a melancholy person, and the name of the author, Robert Burton. Below this: ``Abridged and Edited by Joan K. Peters.'' This handy volume is xviii+129 pages long. Not quite buried in the back-cover blurb and an introductory note is the information that the unabridged work is 1300 pages long. (The original and this have about the same count of words per page, within a few percent; so the text really is compressed by a factor of about 10.)

Accredited Buyer Representati{on|ve}. Real estate brokerage role.

Acrylate-Butadiene Rubber.

The American Board of Radiology.

Available Bit Rate. A type of traffic management control defined within ATM. Appropriate for applications that send data in bursts and can wait for available bandwidth.

UBR (q.v.) and ABR are the two ATM ``best-effort'' service types, a sort of steerage class of data transmission, in which the network makes no absolute guarantee of cell delivery. In ABR, a minimum bit rate is guaranteed, and an effort is made to keep cell loss low.

Asociación de Bancos de la República Argentina. `Association of Banks of the Republic of Argentina.' That's not banks as in the shores of the Río de la Plata. That's banks where you store your plata (literally `silver,' but commonly used as a synonym of dinero). Then when the economy collapses, the government finds ways to prevent you getting your money back, except eventually, and in officially as well as unoffically shrunken form. Argentines who really have money, of course, just keep the loose change in domestic banks and the bulk off-shore.

Of course, in principle it could also mean `association of [park] benches of the Republic of Argentina.' Managing money requires the exercise of sound judgment. In Argentina today, investing in park benches (and charging rent, collectable in hard currency) might be the way to go.

Spanish is one of those languages that, with no offense intended, physicists refer to as `highly degenerate.' Words have many meanings (acepciones). I suppose you could apply the same term to languages in which words have many spellings (which should be called heterographs). It's a transferred sense of the physics adjective degenerate (German vielfach), describing an eigenvalue (most often an energy eigenvalue) corresponding to more than one eigenstate. I don't mind giving clear and thorough explanations. It just happens that I don't.

In 1998, ABRA closed, after a fashion, merging with ADEBA (details there) to form ABA.

Silver Polish coin (no, I mean a Polish coin made of silver). Seems to be out of circulation now. In 1813 or so, according to Pantologia, it was worth about one (English) shilling.

Spanish, `open.' To be specific, it is one of the singular forms that occurs in the conjugation of the verb abrir (`to open'). For example, English ``that he open it'' would be translated ``que lo abra,'' and the command ``open the cadaver'' (whatever that might mean) becomes ``abra el cadáver.'' (That's the ``polite'' form.) It makes ``abracadabra'' oddly suggestive the first time one hears it. One might also think of ``abra cada brama'' (`open each rutting season' as a command rather than the sort of thing you would put as a sign at your campgrounds), but accentual stress falls on the first syllable of each of these three Spanish words. Of course, to most Spanish speakers the English word abracadabra mostly just evokes the word that has the same meaning in Spanish (written abracadabra) (also).

A near homonym of abra is habrá (the only phonemic difference is that the stress falls on the first syllable in the first word and the second syllable in the second word). Habrá is a form of the verb haber, and means, in certain contexts, `there will be' or `will have to.'

Spanish noun for any of various sorts of opening (bay, dale, fissure, window pane) not described as an apertura.

There used to be a duplicate entry here, inserted by accident. In order, however, to avoid wasting your precious time, we have ruthlessly removed it.

According to the Pantologia (London, 1813),
a magical word, recommended by Serenus Samonicuss as an antidote against agues and several other diseases. It was to be written upon a piece of paper as many times as the word contains letters, omitting the last letter of the former every time, and then suspended about the neck by a linen thread. Abracadabra was the name of the a god worshipped by the Syrians.

Thank God we've gotten away from all that nonsense!


Abrams, Elliot
A WBEN weather reporter. Who did you think?

Actually, I've been away from Buffalo, and I've heard his name in Pittsburgh and around Ohio. Someone ought to look into this.

[Later:] It turns out that he provides weather reports for many different radio stations. His hardest job is keeping straight which personality he's supposed to use with which station.

`April,' in Spanish and Portuguese.

The name of a Brazilian publisher. Verily clever. The cover of its magazine Veja has a small block of text in the upper right, with ABRIL in all-caps and the date in lower case (same font).

ABdominal muscleS. They can be as tight as a drum, but the spare tire is stored on top, so you'd never know. To show them off you have to lose fat. To lose weight without loss of muscle mass, make sure you get enough dietary chromium (say 200 mcg/day) in a form that is biologically available (as the chelate: chromium picolinate).

Absender. German for `sender.' Or `sender-offer' if you prefer. Cf. Abg.

abs, abs.
ABSolute. Generally contrasted with relative, or scaled, or normalized.... One less obvious and fortunately obsolete usage was associated with the old cgs unit systems, and is described at the ab- entry.

ABSolute[ly]. A grammatical term referring to modifiers (adjectives and adverbs). The absolute form of a modifier is the ordinary or noncomparative form, it states a property without indicating a comparison or degree. In English and other Germanic languages, the absolute form is contrasted with comparative (comp.) and superlative (superl.) forms. For example:
red (abs.),
redder or more red (comparative form),
reddest or most red (superlative form).

In prescriptive or ``school'' grammars, the absolute form of a modifier is more commonly called the positive form. In the literature of linguistics, positive and absolute are probably used to a comparable degree.

An absolute adjective is one that has no -- or logically should have no -- comparative forms. Dead is a pretty good example. One can get into arguments about this, but they rapidly get philosophical. Whether an adjective is absolute or not is a question of the assumptions underlying its semantics. These may not be shared, and one can question them, but we all recognize the humor or oddity of characterizing a woman as less pregnant or a quartet as fourer. Absolute adjectives are rarely called positive adjectives.

One of the more irritating semantic abuses is the description of some item being hawked as ``very unique.'' In principle, one could argue that uniqueness is not an either-or thing, that unique is not an absolute adjective but rather describes a quality more like unusualness. But we already have the word unusual, and the salesman doesn't want to use it. He recognizes that ``unique'' is a more powerful word, indicating something beyond merely unusual. Even that advertising whore has an inchoate sense that unique is an absolute adjective. (Give that man an ADDY.) His promiscuous, meretricious use of the word in a superlative form abases it, churning the vocabulary hierarchy and forcing us to establish new words for him to abase.

Grammatical rules are a bit like poetic scansion. Perfect meter in poetry, and perfect adherence to grammatical rules in prose, can become tired. A little deviation is spicy. But it is spicy only because the frame of order is present to play off of. It is a good thing occasionally to form the comparative or superlative of an absolute adjective. If you break the rule systematically, however, you find little joy left in the breaking, and the language poorer.

ABS, abs
ABSolute value. Common name for absolute value function, in computing and sometimes in mathematics [where |.| is more common than abs(.) is]. In computer programming languages ``abs'' may also be used for the modulus of a complex number.

One can compute the maximum function from the absolute value function and vice versa. For two real numbers r and s:

abs(r) = max(-r,r) .
max(r,s) = [ r + s + abs(r-s) ] / 2 .

Maximum functions of more arguments can be generated by successive comparisons from maximum functions of fewer arguments, using the fact that

max(r1, ..., rN, rN+1) = max( max(r1, ..., rN) , rN+1) .

Equivalent statements apply for the minimum function, since

min(r1, ..., rN) = - max(-r1, ..., -rN) .

Acrylonitrile/Butadiene/Styrene copolymer (a ``terpolymer''). Often described as ``high-impact.'' CycolacGE) is one. San Diego Plastics, Inc. has a short page of information on ABS.

Compare AAS.

AlkylBenzene Sulfonate.

Alternate Billing Service.

American Back Society. Passing by on my way to write another glossary entry, I'm a bit surprised I didn't make some remark about this entry when I first put it in.

American Bible Society. Offices at 1865 Broadway, sin city.

American Board of Sexology.

Alice Cooper's lyrics run through my mind -- ``I wanna be elected!''

American Board of Surgery.

Animal Behavior Society. ``The purpose of this society is to promote and encourage the biological study of animal behavior in the broadest sense, including studies at all levels of organization using both descriptive and experimental methods under natural and controlled conditions.'' I suppose anthropology should be a subfield.

Antilock Braking System. It sometimes occurs in the AAPleonastic form ``ABS Braking System'' (likewise in the language-disguised form ``sistema frenante ABS'' in Italian and Spanish). A much more common acronym AAP is ``ABS System,'' which has the advantage of also being redundant when ABS takes the German expansion ``Anti-Blockier-System.'' ABS operates by sensing a skid (one wheel turning much more slowly than others) and releasing the brake momentarily to reestablish traction. This all happens repeatedly, on a tenth-of-a-second time scale. It demonstrably improves braking on slippery surfaces, and so in principle it ought to reduce accident rates. However, early data fail to show this; it's a mystery why. One hypothesis is that people get overconfident. I have to admit that I have sensed a tendency on my own part to go a little faster on slippery surfaces and rely a little on the ABS. But I realize now that that is quite wrong. I don't have to admit it. I'll take moral hazards over road hazards any day.

Allied Signal Corporation, based in Morristown, NJ, started talks with ABS manufacturer Bosch of Germany in Fall 1995, in hopes of collaborating to improve the performance of its brake division, which manufactured ordinary brakes. They ended up selling the division to Bosch.

Allied has facilities in the Buffalo area, but that's not where it's at; Allied had the brake stuff from the former Bendix Corporation. (You know: George Schultz's old company; you remember George Schultz -- one of Reagan's Secretaries of State? One who didn't say ``I'm in control here''?) Anyway, Bendix used to be a big presence in the South Bend area -- there's even a local ``Bendix Woods'' county park. At the end of Bendix Road, just north of the Amtrak station, there's an empty shell of a building that used to house the brake factory. Bosch uses some of the building for office space. Tim -- he lived upstairs from me -- works there. He's a mechanical engineer (MechE).

I guess you really didn't need to know about Bendix Woods, huh?

A rare alternative expansion of ABS is ``automatic braking system,'' but it's best to leave that for the rail and air transport braking systems, which are not antilock systems.

Artificial Biosynthesis of Sugar.

Average Busy Stream.

Association for the Behavioral Sciences and Medical Education.

[phone icon]

Average Busy Season Busy Hour.

Traditionally, Mother's Day has the heaviest phone traffic of the year.

A Bore that Should Cease Is Stupid, Silly Acronyms. This acronym was coined by Bob Cunningham as an expression of contempt for contrived acronyms; he mentioned it on a.u.e on August 27, 2003. The acronym's expansion is useful as a mnemonic for the spelling of abscissa. This also works with the more natural-sounding silly-stupid order.

This entry is here because I can never remember how to spell abscissa.

American Board of Sleep Medicine.

absolute zero (of temperature)
The following explanation of absolute zero and zero-point energy is slightly modified from one dashed off with the intention of being comprehensible by a high-school graduate. I am informed that I overshot the target level. FWIW...

Zero temperature and zero-point energy are related concepts, but the first can be described independently of the second.

Briefly: a system is said to be at absolute zero temperature when all possible energy has been sucked out of it.

Classically (i.e., within a classical physics/classical mechanics description), you expect that you could always extract all the kinetic energy from a system and leave it at minimum potential energy. Quantum mechanically, we know that's not true. Zero-point energy is the classically unexpected minimum energy, or minimum kinetic energy.

You can see zero-point energy as a consequence of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. For simplicity we consider a system that consists of a single particle in a potential well, but the argument generalizes (see STAFF for a less ordinary instance of the same concepts). Suppose you did manage to remove all the kinetic energy from a system. Then the momentum would be known exactly (it would have to be zero). But if the potential energy has a minimum at a particular point (the usual situation except in vacuum or symmetric situations) then the position at absolute zero would be known exactly too -- the particle would be exactly at the place where the potential is minimum. So if you could remove all the energy, you would know both position and momentum exactly. This violates the uncertainty principle, so the tentative assumption is wrong. Conclusion: you cannot remove all the kinetic energy from a system. This argument can be quantified to give estimates of the zero point energy that are good to exact.

To understand all the energy in macroscopic systems, you have to use thermodynamics or statistics, because there are too many (microscopic) degrees of freedom. The only exception is zero temperature, when there is so little energy that the number of accessible states (talking QM, of course) is small. So certain calculations that don't involve statistical ensembles (explicitly as stat mech or implicitly as thermo) are said to be done at ``zero temperature,'' even though nonzero temperature only makes strict sense as a concept if you do have thermal ensembles.

Calculating the ground state energy of a hydrogen atom is an ordinary non-statistical quantum mechanics problem. When you recognize that mechanics is zero-temperature statistical mechanics (as partly explained in the previous paragraph), you realize that the ground-state energy of an atom is its "zero-point energy." Here is a mathematical problem to avoid discussing. I said earlier that the sero-point energy is the minimum [QM-attainable] energy or the minimum kinetic energy. For a classical atom, the minimum energy is minus infinity (atoms are classically unstable -- they collapse), so the zero-point energy, measured from the classical minimum, is positive infinity. So "zero-point" energy is not always well-defined. If you stick to systems that are classically stable, like springs or phonons, you can say zero-point energy is kinetic energy. When QM is the reason for a classical system to be stable at all, z.p. isn't k.e.

Association of British Scrabble Players.

Absurdity is in the details.

A bald absurdity is just an error. A detailed absurdity is Humor.

Also in the details: God, the devil.

Saint Augustine wrote, `I believe because it is absurd.'

Many churches provide weekly messages of spiritual uplift on their outdoor marquee billboards. It is reliably and corroborably reported that some time before the millennium, a church marquee in Nashville proclaimed the following consolation:


Advanced Backplane Technology.

Advanced BiCMOS Technology.

Air-Breathing Threat. Jets and cruise missiles, as opposed to ballistic missiles (rockets).

American Ballet Theatre.

The Aramaic Bible (The Targums).

According to a 2006 article in Travel Weekly (iss. 1810: March 3, p. 15), a spokesman defending the ``existing structure'' said ``ABTA has always been a broad church.'' Yes, yes, but what church precisely? Oh: Association of British Travel Agents. All right, then; I guess they specialize in pilgrimages.

Australian Baton Twirling Association. ``Twirling Australia.'' Gee, with the Coriolis forces changed around, it must be pretty tough to switch hemispheres! Associated with the WBTF.

Advanced BiCMOS Technology / Enhanced Transceiver Logic.

Associated Baton Twirlers of the United Kingdom. For similar organizations, see the majorette entry.

Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union.

Abu Amar
Yassir Arafat's nom de guerre. Amar is Spanish: `to love.' I don't think that's what it means in Arabic.

Alcohol [percentage] By Volume. Expanded in speech, 46ABV is ``46 per cent alcohol by volume,'' often with per cent or alcohol implicit. In clean-fun-loving Utah, a beverage with more than 4% ABV (that's just 3.2% ABW) qualifies as ``liquor.'' Utah is only 62.1% Mormon, and probably not all Mormons are srict teetotalers, so perhaps Utah has the highest rate of locally-defined ``liquor'' consumption in the US.

Utah is the US state with the lowest per capita alcohol consumption. In April 2014, the NIAAA released estimates based on 2012 alcoholic beverage sales (I suspect they didn't correct for state-border-crossing rum cakes), and Utah was at 1.37 gallons (per year, I guess). The next lowest-imbibing states were Arkansas and West Virginia (1.81 gal.). Hmmm. This sounds like it was based on excise tax collected.

American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, Inc.

Audit Bureau of Verification Services.

American Board of Veterinary Toxicology. I understand that some dogs can eat a little bit of chocolate.

Alcohol By Weight.

American Business Women's Association. (I checked and yeah, "businesswoman" is much more common than the spelling with a space or hyphen. Please let me know if you can think of any even less useful information that I might include in this entry.)

Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (BWR). Expresso!


Guide to internet resources on the ancient Near East. They sort of explain what abzu, an Assyrian or Sumerian word, means. I bet they don't even know themselves. Now Abzu (in existence since 1994) seems to be ``ETANA's guide to the ancient Near East on-line.'' (ETANA has been in existence since about 2000.) Who pays the piper calls the tune.

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