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Basic. Not that it was ever called that, but the B programming language was a simplified version of BCPL, in the name of which the B stood for Basic. B was a typeless language like BCPL, and like BCPL also it is remembered today for its genealogical connection to C, explained at the Algol entry.

B was created in 1970 by Ken Thompson for the first Unix system on the PDP-7. A manual from 1972, for a PDP-11/Unix-11 implementation, is served by Dennis M. Ritchie online. From the abstract there: ``B is a computer language intended for recursive, primarily non-numeric applications typified by system programming. B has a small, unrestrictive syntax that is easy to compile. Because of the unusual freedom of expression and a rich set of operators, B programs are often quite compact.''

The ``rich set of operators'' included & and * for pointer manipulation (pointers were first introduced PL/I) and the shorthand assignment operators ===, =!=, =<, =<=, =>, =>=, =&, =|, =<<, =>>, =+, =-, =%, =*, and =/. [In B, the result of the binary relational and (in)equality operators was an integer 0 or 1.] Except for the first six, these were incorporated into C. (Of course, === is now used as a comparison operator in many object-oriented languages.)

The earliest versions of C maintained the same symbols that had been used in B for the shorthand assignment operators, in ``=<op>'' form. This led to problems with symbols that represent unary operations in addition to the binary operations understood in the shorthand assignments (viz., &, -, and *, as well as what one might call a unary identity operator: the optional + immediately preceding a numeric literal). For example,

may look like an ordinary assignment of -1 to x, but in B (and obsolete versions of C) it simply decrements x. Similar problems occur with expressions like x=--y. By the time K&R was published (1978), the =<op> symbols had been flipped to unambiguous <op>= form. In that book, the older form is described (Appendix A, sec. 17) following this sentence: ``Although most versions of the compiler support such anachronisms, ultimately they will disappear, leaving only a portability problem behind.''

If that manual is to be believed, identifiers (variable names and such) were slightly more general than those of C in the following surprising way. In both languages, identifiers must begin with an alpha character and continue with alphanumeric characters, where the alphanumeric set consists of alpha characters and digits. In C, alphas are the 52 alphabetic characters (26 upper- and lower-case ASCII letters) and underscore. In B, alphas included those characters and backspace?! This gives one the advantage of creating identifiers with overstruck characters, but on those displays where that would have worked, it could have been difficult to distinguish distinct variable names constructed with different sequences of the same characters. (E.g., an AB with an I overstruck on each letter could be any of A^HIB^HI, AB^H^HII, I^HAI^HB, or five similar sequences, not to mention identifiers with more than two ^H. Since spaces are not legal identifier characters, something like A ^H^HII^HB would be forbidden. Thus, identifiers with more than two ^H would either be shorter than they appear, like I^HAI^HB^H, or they would have extra extra double-struck characters as in AB^H^HII^H^HIB.)

Programming languages that manipulate strings are usually written using the same characters that constitute the strings. B was no exception. The manipulation requires one or more delimiters, and these delimiters cannot represent themselves. One approach to this problem uses, say, '' to represent an apostrophe within single-quoted strings. This is the approach in Pascal, and is apparently related to the absence of zero-length strings in that language. This PL/I (F) language reference volume gives the example of

to represent SHAKESPEARE'S ''HAMLET'' ...

It is also inconvenient or impossible, depending on other syntax, to allow line breaks to represent themselves in strings. There is only one efficient general solution for representing delimiters, nonprinting characters, and any other characters that cannot appear within string literals: escapes. One character (which in turn also cannot represent itself and must be escaped) is chosen to introduce escape sequences that represent the parts of string literals that cannot represent themselves. In B (as in BCPL and presumably CPL) that escape character was the asterisk, and these escapes were defined:

*0	null
*e	end-of-file
*(	{
*)	}
*t	tab
**	*
*'	'
*"	"
*n	new line

The B language borrowed /* ... */ commenting from PL/I. This continued in C. The // style of comment was not originally part of standard C but of standard C++, though it was recognized by many C compilers. The // comment was eventually included in the C standard: ISO 9899:1999. C# has a further twist: the token /// introduces XML comments.

Abbreviation of Hebrew ben or Aramaic bar (`son, son of') used in patronymics, like Arabic ibn.

[column] In ancient times (like, increasingly from 6c. BCE to 7 c. CE, when Islam made Arabic the common language), Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Middle East, and quite influential (e.g., both of the early alphabetic scripts of India have been hypothesized to have originated from an Aramaic form of the Semitic alphabets).

(Aramaic survives as Syriac, and as a liturgical language in Judaism; some biblical texts, such as Esther, are written in the Aramaic language. A ketuba or contract [implicitly: of marriage] may be written in Hebrew or Aramaic. Hebrew today is written not using the original Hebrew alphabet but an Aramaic one that was adopted. Also Aramaic is explained here.)

The word barbarian entered most European languages from Greek, where it originally had the sense of `foreign' (adjective bárbàros, `foreign,' and various related words). Somewhat interestingly, there does not appear to be an Indo-European (IE) origin for the word. (On the other hand that is true of much of the Greek vocabulary.) Various etymologies have been proposed, but the gentle reader need not entertain them, as the Stammtisch has already decided that the origin is in the bar of eastern patronymics. (Note that longer ancestries can be indicated by multiple bars, in the style of ... son of ... son of ....)

Another etymology, no longer approved by the Stammtisch, supposed that barbarian is imitative of the language of foreigners, ``brrr-brrr' to the foreign ear. Once, Gary and I were prating about the sound of Chinese, and it occurred to Gary to ask Jun (from China) what English sounded like to him. Gary explained that to us, Chinese sounds like ``ching chang chung.'' Jun replied that to him, English sounded like ``sa se so'' [the vowels in both quotes are my best recollection after 20 years, but I'm sure of the consonants]. FWIW, as we say.

There have even been claims for an origin in the Latin for `bearded,' but the Greek term does not correspond. Okay, now you can read the Barbara entry.

B, b
Be. Chatese, texting abbreviation.

German: bei, `at, along, among.' Cognate of English by.

The number of Binding neutrons in a nucleus. The notion of binding neutrons was common enough in the 1940's, but I don't think I ever encountered it in the nuclear and elementary particle physics courses I took in the late 1970's. The idea is that a typical light nucleus that is stable has an atomic number (Z, the proton count) about equal to its neutron number (N). As the atomic number increases, the electrostatic repulsion between protons lowers the nuclear binding energy by an amount proportional to Z2/A (exactly in some simple models, and to a good approximation in fact). Hence, heavy nuclei tend to have an excess of neutrons over protons. That excess was designated the number of binding neutrons:
		B = N - Z = A - 2Z.

Bishop. In chess, not Christianity.

The Bishop initially nearer the Queen (Q) is indicated QB, for Queen's Bishop, the one on the other side KB, for King's Bishop.

These are not exactly equivalent. King's Bishop and Queen's Bishop designate files on a chessboard. (A file is a column of eight squares, ``vertical'' in the standard representation that shows the original positions of the white pieces along the bottom of the board -- viewed from high above the white side.) Bishop can designate either of those two files, as well as one of the four pieces called a Bishop. KB and QB are the files immediately adjacent to the King's and Queen's files. (To right and left, respectively, in the standard representation.)

As it happens, however, the KB and QB, if you wanted to use those designations for the pieces originally in those files, would be easy to determine: the B originally in KB always stands on a square of its own color (i.e., white KB stays on white squares, etc.). The other Bishop stays on the opposite color.

This property of a Bishop's movement serves as a model to illustrate a general physical phenomenon: Stated in physics language, that is: details of the law of motion gives rise a conservation law. In the case of the Bishop, whose law of motion constrains it to move only by integer steps along diagonals, the conserved quantity is the color of the square on which it stands. Each side begins the game with one Bishop that travels the white squares, and one that travels the black.

In particle mechanics, the most famous conservation laws are those of momentum (p) and energy, which arise from integrations over position and time, respectively.

The chess-board is the world; the pieces are the phenomena of the universe; the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.

Thomas Henry Huxley
Lay sermons, addresses and reviews,
iii. ``A Liberal Education'' (1871)

Bomber. Prefix on military plane designations. You'll never guess what F- and FB- stand for. Longer list at USN entry.


Boron. Atomic number 5.

Learn more at its entry in WebElements and its entry at Chemicool.

I'm sorry, I guess I don't really have a lot to say about boron. You're becoming very sleepy...when I snap my... Actually, I'm becoming very sleepy. Yaaaa, aaaaw, wn. The French call boron bore. Even Tom Lehrer didn't mention it until the second line of the third verse of his famous song. Try the BN entry.

Bravo. Not an abbreviation here, just the FCC-recommended ``phonetic alphabet.'' I.e., a set of words chosen to represent alphabetic characters by their initials. You know, ``Alpha Bravo Charlie ... .'' The idea behind the choice is to have words that the listener will be able to guess at or reconstruct accurately even through noise (or narrow bandwidth, like a telephone). Hence, ``Book'' would be no good because it might be heard as ``Took.''

``Buffalo'' should work as well.

Bunt. Lay it down.

Loosely speaking, this is called the magnetic field. Strictly speaking, it's the ``Magnetic Induction.'' H is the magnetic field. I haven't a clue what the letter stands for.

BA, B.A.
Bachelor of Arts. A receipt for payment of four years' tuition and fees. Sometimes you can get the same receipt at a 25% discount, but that may require actual work.

Bankers' Acceptance.

Bank of America. Eventually ``BankAmerica Corp.''


Barium. Atomic number 56. Name from the Greek root meaning heavy: the original heavy metal, an alkaline earth, even in the tightest definition of that term.

Learn more at its entry in WebElements and its entry at Chemicool.

B Assembler. A program that produced assembly-language code from preprocessed B language. I think the past tense is appropriate here. See the a.out entry for the entire charade.

Batting Average. A baseball stat.

BenzAnthracene. Not coming to a Chrysler dealership near you any time in the foreseeable future.


Biblical Archaeologist. A publication of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), renamed Near Eastern Archaeology (NEA) after issue 60(#4), December 1997.

Biological Abstracts. Now owned, like the ISI citation indices, by Thomson Reuters.

(Domain code for) Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Ariadne, ``The European and Mediterranean link resource for Research, Science and Culture,'' has a page of national links.

The Cranberries have a song called ``Bosnia'' on their third album (``To The Faithful Departed''). Their vocalist Dolores O'Riordan (somebody must like her voice, I guess) takes slight metrical advantage of the fact that one can pronounce the name of the capital, Sarajevo, in four syllables (spelling pronunciation) or three (Sarevo, usual pronunciation). I think she gets about a half a dozen syllables out of Bosnia.

According to the liner notes, Dolores believes it is a ``human impossibility to obtain complete peace of mind in this dimension. There's too much suffering and pain...'' She's right; I'll return the CD.

At the welcome page of BIHNET (the first Bosnian professional ISP), a graphic gives a glimpse of how QWERTY is modified there. The BIH links page looks like a decent starting point.

Bumper to Axle. Truck dimension: precisely, the horizontal distance from the point furthest forward on the front bumper to the center of the front axle.

For more, see Chassis Dimensions in the NTEA's glossary of Truck Equipment Terms.

Business Analyst.

British Astronomical Association.

Broad Agency Announcement.


Bulletin d'archéologie algérienne.

Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives.

British Academy of Aesthetic Dentistry. Founded in 1994, it's a member of IFED, as is the BACD.

I think it'd've been cool if they had named their organization the British Academy of Artistic And Aesthetic Dentistry. Then the members could be sayin' ``we baaaad, we so baaaad.'' I mean, it's not as if dentistry suffers from a surfeit of cool.

Not good at all; ovine censure.

The English supergroup Bad Company was formed in 1973 and named after the 1972 movie of the same name, which was a favorite of lead singer Paul Rodgers. On the radio in 2009 I heard an interview with him or some other of the original members of the group, and that person claimed that there was a double entendre involved, with bad understood in the positive sense it had developed in slang. He claimed it was a bit of an inside joke, since that bit of American slang had not yet jumped the pond when the group was formed.

BAA Journal
British Astronomical Association Journal.

British Association for American Studies. BAAS is a constituent association of the EAAS.

Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society.

Title of a 1922 novel by Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951). The novel satirizes middle-class conformity, dreary mediocrity, repressed sexuality, bourgeois insincerity, occasionally insipid sentimentality, nonspontaneity, and every otherity that we hold dear. It traces a few years in the life of George E. Babbitt, represented as typical, and that name has since been applied to his perceived species.

From one point of view, Babbitt is less an examination of life among the proles than a revelation of the author's fashionable and insensitive contempt for the modest but productive strivings of steady, ordinary people. In the US, that contempt was especially fashionable in the roaring twenties. I think the Great Depression reminded people of just how truly uncool it is to be poor, and perhaps made prosperity less intellectually suspect.

The 1950's saw some rising concern about bland conformity. A signal event was the publication in 1955 of Sloan Wilson's best-selling novel The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, which shares some theme and plot elements with Babbitt. The novel was made into a movie (1956) starring Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones. The late DeForest Kelley had a bit part as a medic. He went on to greatness as Star Trek's Dr. McCoy -- ``Bones.'' Peck's man in the gray flannel suit was wooden.

The 1960's eventually allayed concerns, rightly or wrongly I'm not sure, that the country was going to hell in the fatal-conformity handbasket. Zeitgeist fluctuations since then have included waves of concern about the nation's spiritual health and even about the effects of corporate culture, but Babbittry isn't really an issue with traction any more. A mild version, or perhaps a cowardly metonymic version, persisted as contempt for suburban sprawl, q.v.

Back when the famously mediocre J. Danforth Quayle was Vice-President, he had a large retinue of staff whose entire job was preventing him from looking quite so stupid, particularly as the national news media had him marked for reputation extinction. Quayle required his staff to read People magazine. I require you to visit the Bollywood entry.

Babbitt, or a Babbitt, is damnably without hard edges, bland.

Babbitt metal
A soft white alloy of tin invented by Isaac Babbitt (1790-1862). The original alloy was composed of tin, antimony, and copper in the (mass) ratio 50:5:1 or 50:4:1. By the end of the nineteenth century, the term came to be applied to any soft white alloy used for bearings and low-friction linings (these are partly overlapping categories), including Sn:Cu 9:1 and Pb:Sb 4:1.

To Babbitt, or Babbitt-line, was to line with Babbitt metal. Later in the twentieth century, there was a chemical-engineering explosion of new industrial materials, and the term seems to have fallen out of use.


Bulletin Antieke Beschaving (Leyden). English title: Annual Papers on Classical Archaeology. ``[P]ublished annually since its foundation in 1926 by A.W. Byvanck. One of its main objectives is to provide a forum for archaeologists whose research and fieldwork focus on classical archaeology. Its aim is to present such studies as are likely to be of interest to any student in this subject. This established journal publishes original research papers, short notes of wider archaeological significance and book reviews. It is open to contributors from any country and will publish papers in English, French, German and Italian.'' (Not Dutch?) Currently published by Peeters. ISSN 0165-9367.

British Approvals Board for Telecommunications. Sounds like a government regulator, but it's not:
BABT is a private, independent company and the leading telecommunications approval body in Europe. BABT operates internationally and in addition to its regulatory role offers a wide range of services and practical consultancy to a growing list of clients in the telecoms and other industries.

Established in 1982 as a private company, BABT operates a commercially-oriented range of approvals services to help customers bring their terminal equipment to the market. BABT is the UK centre of technical expertise for regulatory and voluntary assessment of all types of terminal equipment. Formal appointments include the Approvals Authority for telecommunications terminal equipment in the UK, a Notified Body in Europe under the LVD, EMC and TTE Directives, and a Competent Body under the EMC Directive.

Babinet's Principle
The diffraction patterns projected from a complementary pair of screens are the same.

A tree found in North Africa and in the Scrabble forest.

Balanced Asynchronous Class.

Bloomington Advisors' Council. Clarification at IUBAC.

Brain Attack Coalition. A multidisciplinary group of representatives from major professional organizations involved with delivering stroke care.

Brigade anticriminalité. French term for `plainclothesmen.'

Short for IUBAC. A different IUBAC than the one referred to above, obviously: we do everything possible to avoid wasting your time, these few precious hours stolen from your employer daily.

Behavior Analyst Certification Board®, Inc. A nonprofit ``established to meet professional credentialing needs identified by behavior analysts, government, and consumers of behavior analysis services.''

British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Founded in 2003, it's a member of the International Federation of Esthetic Dentistry (IFED) as well as an affiliate of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). There also exist American and British Academies of Esthetic (and Aesthetic, resp.) Dentistry (AAED and BAAD), and they too belong to IFED. I don't know what the difference is. If I had to, I'd guess that cosmetic dentistry does aesthetic dental work that you can remove before you go to bed.


Bulletin of the Australian Centre for Egyptology. It ``is published at the end of each year and sent to all members of the Rundle Foundation for Egyptian Archaeology.'' Volume 1 was published at the end of 1990.

The basketball backboard was originally introduced (1893) as a barrier to keep spectators in balcony seats from interfering with shots. Players quickly began to use them in the ways familiar today, and they eventually remained even when nearby seats -- and the original purpose of the backboards -- were absent. (I've read that when the nearby seats were removed, there was an original feint in the direction of removing the backboards, but player protests brought them back. Maybe so, but maybe that was just a management head-fake.) Backboards were originally made of chicken wire; wooden backboards became mandatory in 1904, and glass backboards were permitted from 1909, according to this page.

In 2002, Yamaha started selling a line of ``silent guitars.'' They're like air guitars, but with strings. More later.

I meant: more information later. It's later now. The guitars go for between $500 and $1000, which seems rather steep for a silent musical instrument. They do include hardware: each guitar comes with a standard sort of head, nut, neck, fretboard, saddle, and bridge -- so the strings aren't loose -- you can play it -- but it has no sound box or even a solid body like a typical electric, but just a narrow extension about as wide as the neck, corresponding to the portion of a normal guitar body (specifically its top plate, minus sound hole) underneath the strings. Turns out it can be heard through headphones. The idea is to use it for practicing where the sound would be unwelcome.

There are steel-string and nylon-string versions; both use piezoelectric pickups. The electronics, including signal shaping but (of course) not a power amplifier are built into the body. With a separate amp you can use it for performance. If you aren't Carlos Santana or Jimi or one of those, then you'll appreciate that without a body, the feedback effects are substantially reduced.

In addition to the parts described above, the instruments come with a couple of things that are not strictly necessary. One thing is a frame, in the form of the outline of a guitar body (cutaway style). This is partly decorative, but mostly it makes it possible to practice while holding the instrument as one normally holds a guitar.

The reason I mention the silent guitars at this entry is that the steel-string version includes a pickguard. The pickguard normally protects the top plate of the guitar. This guitar has a pickguard that protects the air where there would normally be a top plate.

Vide internal link: forecheck, or one of these external links: Hockey FAQ, Hockey Glossary entry.

back end
In microelectronics fabrication: final stages -- package assembly and testing.

An electrical contact to, or making an electrical contact to, the back surface of a wafer.

back in the day
Briefly (fl. 1999) a common way of saying ``back in the good ol' days.''

back issues
Good places to look for back issues of journals:
  1. http://www.BackIssueFinder.com/
  2. http://www.OldMagazines.com/

backprop, backpropagation
A method to program (a learning algorithm for) neural networks.

An acronym that coincides in spelling (and normally also in pronunciation) with a word that was in use before the acronym. It is often stipulated that the pre-existing word be of nonacronymic origin, but this does not seem essential and would spoil my SNAFU entry in its current form.

Backronyms sometimes have rather recherché expansions shoe-horned into desired pre-existing words. (You know, in the version of the Cinderella story originally published by the appropriately surnamed Grimm brothers, Cinderella's step-sisters cut off parts of their feet in order to get them to fit into the golden slipper. If it had been a glass slipper, of course, the prince would have noticed immediately instead of at first riding off deceived with each of them in turn.) Once upon a time, at a doughnut shop called -- oh, never mind; a good example of shoe-horning is HABIT. A true story in which the step-sisters were really ugly, with a happy ending that -- just like the fairy tale -- does not involve a backronym, is told at KERMIT's entry.

Fiction is not always part of the backronym story. In fact, most backronyms involve no pretense beyond the implied sugestion that the acronym expansion really isn't so much of a stretch. They might be qualified as ``open-handed'' backronyms. Some backronyms are really ordinary words, possibly used in a new sense, to which acronymic expansions have been retroactively ascribed. See stealth backronym. For kicks, compare notarikon (in its precise sense). Hmmnym... maybe we should try this again.

Blatantly Ahistorical Cranky, Kooky, Ridiculous, Or NonsensicallY Maladapted-expansion-using acronym. Backronym in this sense is a kind of backronym, making backronym an autonym.

Waiterese expression meaning ``Don't step back, I'm behind you.'' Equivalent to ``Behind you.''

backside grinding
Wednesday I was in a room with eighteen other men (yes, yes, women are allowed, but none came) and this topic came up, and no one tittered or laughed or probably even thought of any untoward meaning. I'm also pretty sure no one shouted out ``like Kim Kardashian.'' (I only thought of it later.) This entry is here to provide an opportunity for the word untoward to appear and not slip out of common usage, and also so I can mention ``heavy holes.'' There.

Oh, alright. The discussion was about IC packaging strategies. Unless there's a good reason not to do so, which there oftentimes unfortunately is, you prefer to perform successive processing steps on a single side (the ``top'') of a wafer or a piece of it. (By ``wafer'' I mean a semiconductor wafer about a half a millimeter thick, with various much thinner layers of various materials variously patterned on top, like a burnt pizza, but rather thinner and with many more toppings, and able to perform logic operations.) One thing that is hardly possible to do from the top is to thin the wafer. To do that, you flip the chip and thin from the back. Backside grinding, of course, is mechanical thinning of the flipped chip. (You can also thin by etching, but a deep etch is uneven.)

backward spelling
A disfigure of speech. A crutch for the neologistically lame. It is entirely age-appropriate that the word yob arose by backward spelling of boy. Neologisms are often concocted by backward spelling in order to contrive or complete a palindrome, but you can follow links to that after reading through to the end of the next entry.

Backward spellings seem to be especially common in electrical engineering, but we won't spell out any untoward conclusions from that (in any direction). (OTOH, if you're interested in electrical engineers' language obliviousness, there's a relevant entry just preceding this one. Following this entry there's a brief...

Backward Spelling Hall of Shame
  1. Sualocin and Rotanev
  2. Stanley Yelnats
  3. mho
  4. yrneh
  5. imref
  6. daraf

As Stanley Yelnats isn't discussed elsewhere in this glossary, I'll note that it's the name of the protagonist of Louis Sachar's Holes, which won the Newberry medal for distinguished contribution to literature for children. I'd like to point out that it was originally intended as adult literature, but won in the children's category anyway. That ought to give you an idea of how puerile backward spelling is. However, I don't know for a fact that Holes was originally written for adults. Contrariwise, I don't know that it wasn't. So maybe it was. That's logic.

Backward spelling is related to palindromy, of course. Palindromes are text strings whose letter sequences are unchanged when written backwards. If you have to coin a new word to create a palindrome, however, you're cheating. In order to develop your own ability to distinguish good palindromes from bad, study the examples at the Yreka entry.

Bandas Criminales emergentes. `Emerging criminal bands.' They're also called bandas emergentes en Colombia (`emerging bands in Colombia'). They are paramilitary organized crime syndicates that operate throughout Colombia as well as in neighboring areas, particularly of Panama and Venezuela, funded by the illegal drug trade and vying for control of it. The term seems to have been coined in 2012. If Mexico is any guide, they will last too long to continue to be regarded as an ``emerging'' phenomenon.

I wish the government and law-abiding Colombians luck, but the reason I put this entry here has to do with the grammatical number and gender of bacrim. The word is construed as plural and also sometimes as singular. It's necessarily feminine, following the gramatical gender of bandas. It's a bit odd that it can be construed as singular, but since the acronym was formed as a plural not ending in s, and is not a proper noun, it's unclear how to back-construct a singular form. What's weird about the plural is that since the majority of plurals in Hebrew end in -im, it looks weirdly like a borrowed Hebrew plural. Of course, the -im applies to Hebrew masculine nouns, so an authentic borrowing would have looked more like * los bacarim than las bacrim.

The asterisk in the last sentence is a standard symbol in linguistics, widely used as a kind of subjunctive-mood marker. In discussions of grammar it typically precedes an example of incorrect usage (a sort of contrary-to-fact subjunctive). In historical linguistics it typically indicates a hypothetical reconstruction that it may with luck be possible to confirm (an unattested form in Old English, say, or 18th century slang), or not (a reconstructed form in PIE, say). The use in historical linguistics is for content of a type that appears in the apodosis of a conditional statement (implicit here), associated with the the marker ``would.'' [This is a common function of the subjunctive in various Indo-European languages that have a well-developed subjunctive. In English, the word ``subjunctive'' is avoided in discussions of both protasis and apodosis, and the discussion is framed in terms of the structure of conditional sentences.] As it happens, the linguistic asterisk in the preceding paragraph marks a contrary-to-fact conditional.

It is poor practice to put a space between an asterisk and the element following it in C code, but it's okay in linguistics (excluding /*, of course). Some grammarians even put it after the offending form (but on the same line).

Variant of backronym. (Possibly cranky but not possibly not possibly kooky, as it were. If this clarification is not, ignore it.)

Back in the 1960's, the use of bad in a special sense of good became a common element of slang. For all I know, it may have been a part of the American black argot for some time before then. In 2005 or so I noticed a glossy magazine called King, aimed at an ``urban'' readership, which decribes itself as ``the illest men's magazine ever.'' I've since encountered ``ill'' used elsewhere in a positive sense.

Bond-Angle Distribution. I'd like to report here that GOOD stands for GOniOmetric Distribution. But even though I have, it doesn't, which is bad and not good. It would make BAD a special kind of GOOD.

Broken[,] As Designed.

Buffalo Americanist Digest, served by BAG.

Business ADministration. I love it, and I didn't even have to make it up myself! (One attestation is among course codes at the University of Oklahoma, Norman (UO).

Bad boys umm... our young girls behind Victory Garden walls
One WWI-era version of the standardish mnemonic for the resistor color code. It is a fundamental law of the universe that all attempts to create a different mnemonic result in something that is at least three decibels less acceptable for publication in family-oriented electronics literature such as this glossary. So you'll have to use your imagination, you filthy-minded letch.

The resistor color code goes

0   Black
1   Brown
2   Red
3   Orange
4   Yellow
5   Green
6   Blue
7   Violet
8   Gray
9   White

Another common version gets into specific allegations: ``Bad boys umm... our young girls but Violet gives willingly for gold and silver.'' This has the advantage that the mnemonics for violet, gold, and silver are Violet, gold, and silver, respectively. (An extra gold or silver band indicates 5% or 10% tolerance. No band indicates 20% tolerance. I mean that literally and also the way you understood it. My high school electronics teacher, Mr. Coulter, was in the Signal Corps over in 'Nam before he entered the teaching racket. One of his characteristic sayings was ``ten percent is good enough for government work.'')

Another color-code mnemonic that I suppose is from before my time goes ``Bad Beer Rots Our Young Guts But Vodka Goes Well.''

Here's a site dedicated to the resistor, lowliest of devices.

German noun (masculine) meaning `bathing suit.' (Normally refers to a woman's or girl's bathing suit. A boy's or man's bathing suit is called by the feminine noun Badehose, `swim trunks.') Cf. Anzug.

At the beginning of the 1978 spring break, I drove some of our neighbors from Apt. 235 down to the bus stop on the main campus. Looking forward to a week in Florida, one of them (let's call her ``Serena'') was remembering how, when she floated on her back in the water, her toes stuck above the surface. There are many possible interpretations for this buoyancy phenomenon, and the correct one is that she unconsciously bent her legs so that her toes would stick out instead of her belly. This has nothing to do with this entry, but as she inadvertently revealed her secret insecurities, it occurred to me that she might have forgotten to pack something. So I asked, ``did you bring your bathing suit?'' She replied ``What?'' So I again called back, loudly enough to be heard all the way back to the back seat of my sedan, ``Did you bring your bathing suit?!'' Came the reply: `What?'' We did another iteration, and finally I exploded, ``Hast du deinen Badeanzug gebracht?!'' (Don't worry -- Serena didn't take offense at my use of the familiar du, at least partly because she didn't know German.) The take-home here is that German is really a perfect language for when you're angry (verärgert). As the expression goes, one does not speak German -- one spits it.

Bad Education
The name, in English-language release, of Pedro Almodóvar's 2004 movie La Mala Educación. The movie, like most of Almodóvar's work since the 1990's, is too complicated for summary. But among other things, it tells the story of two schoolboys abused by a priest in Franco-era Spain. So it's about bad educational experiences, but the Spanish title is a pun that did not translate well: the title is a standard expression meaning `bad manners.'

In the movie, the two boys are grown up and have become a movie director and actor. Nobody thinks that this is just too pat? The actor has written a story about their childhood love; the director films it. It's not clear, evidently by design, what part is flashbacks in the frame narrative and what part movie-within-the-movie. A brilliant Spanish director who grew up in the Franco era can think of nothing better to do than make a movie about a Spanish director who grew up in the Franco era and makes a movie about it, and then everybody goes and complains about the unfairness of American movies (filmed in Canada, with Australian actors, by Japanese-owned companies) taking over the world. How rude! (¡Qué maleducado!)

bad fashion sense
Much cheaper than a fine wardrobe, and can't be ruined by spilled fluids [cf. nylon (PA), to say nothing of silk].

bad guys' organizations

In a dystopia like that described in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), it may be difficult to identify the bad guys' organization, but the four ministries of Oceania are Minipax, Miniplenty, Minitrue and MiniLuv (cf. Mindef).

Bad Taste Records
A record label based in Lund, Sweden. Along with Burning Heart Records, it was one of the first labels to be established in the Swedish punk rock and punk/hardcore scene in the early 1990's. I know because Wikipedia tells me so, but I don't propose to find out what it means. Here in northern Indiana, there's a trio that calls itself ``Orphan Donors.'' I think maybe their music is punky or punkish or possibly punkous, but I'm fairly certain their group name is in poor taste. Their bass player seems to be increasingly popular with the babes, so I guess they're successful at some level. Is the previous sentence in bad taste? Does it set a bad taste record? No?

Okay, back on topic. ``The name of the label originated from the 1987 movie Bad Taste directed and produced by Peter Jackson'' (a cult science-fiction comedy horror film, it seems fair to say). That's awfully modest of them, if that's their claim. If you're going to sell punk rock records, you could claim that it was the logical name that simply occurred to you.

There are also Bad Taste records from an Icelandic record label that is or was ``Bad Taste Ltd.'' More about them at their original name, Smekkleysa.

British AErospace.

British Aerobatic Association.

Belgian Academy of Esthetic Dentistry.

Bulgarian Academy of Esthetic Dentistry. The ``-bg'' is there so you know it's BulGarian, and not BelGian.

Black Alliance for Education Options. A group favoring vouchers. The Democratic party and black civil rights leaders are generally opposed to vouchers; the first reason given is that it would take money away from public schools. A larger percentage of blacks than of whites favors vouchers. One reason given is that it would threaten to take money away from public schools, and so motivate them.

Blacks are the one large population group in the US in which self-described conservatives substantially outnumber self-described (or registered) Republicans. (We have a black Republicans entry under construction.)

Bellcore AMA Format.

Old name for a five wood (golf club).

Best And Final Offer.

Take it or leave it.

British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Their awards, often referred to as ``BAFTAs,'' correspond to the US Oscars (vide AMPAS).

BAFTA is eager for your participation. Therefore, as a special service, they have a page entitled ``BAFTA: Incorrect browser'' that provides helpful information like

The browser you are using ([your browser here]) is incompatible with the BAFTA website.
In order to bypass this, you'll have to disable JavaScript interpretation.

The French have a variety of motion picture awards. These include les César du Cinéma (Cesars in the more efficient English tongue) awarded by l'Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma. (By the way, if you don't know how to speak French, then a good first approximation to French pronunciation is to pretend it's English, which it is, and pronounce it with a tres fake, over-the-top French accent.) These Cesars correspond most closely to the Oscars, although obviously they have no prestige since France hasn't made any decent movies in sixty or seventy years. (The top prize at Cannes is the Palme d'Or, presumably in memory of the assassinated Scandinavian prime minister). Note that unlike les anglophones, who only award prizes for movies that flatter our collective conceits, the French also give awards to movies that are simply pretentious bores.

Bankaktiengesellschaft. A German word that may be literally translated as a common noun meaning `bank stock company,' but which is really just the name of a particular financial institution -- something like ``Bank Corporation.''

Bayard-Alpert Gauge. A/k/a Bayard-Alpert hot-filament ionization gauge.

Buffalo Americanist Group. Presence on the web through BAD.


Bulletin de l'association Guillaume Budé. Guillaume Budé (1467-1540) was a French Hellenist. The first significant one of the modern era -- a sort of Plutarch or Erasmus figure.

British Association of Hospitality Accountants. ``Foil-wrapped complimentary chocolate mint on pillow? Check. Bible in night-table drawer? Check. Air conditioner set to freezing? Check. Message from management explaining how to save the environment by indicating that towels need not be washed? Check. End of toilet-paper roll folded neatly into a chevron? Check. Uh-oh: no paper torus enclosing the toilet seat!''

That's what hospitality accountants do. Here's how the website explains it:

The British Association of Hospitality Accountants (BAHA) was formed in 1969 with the aim of bringing together those professionals who were involved in financial management and control within the hotel industry. Since inception the membership has expanded to include systems specialists, hospitality consultants and accountants, bankers, investment analysts, property professionals, academics and others who retain an interest in the hotel, catering and leisure sectors.

See? Just like I said.


Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society.

The feminine term in Spanish for a professional performer of any type of dance. (The masculine form is bailarín.) Bailarina resembles (visually perhaps more than in sound) its Italian cognate ballerina, which has been borrowed into English in the limited sense of a female ballet dancer. The close resemblance, combined with the familiarity of another borrowing -- from English into Spanish -- can give a disorienting sensation to an English-speaker encountering the standard Spanish term bailarina de strip-tease.

Bailey's formula
Age in months = number of teeth erupted + 6.

Obviously, this has to be an overestimate before six months and an underestimate eventually (age 4+). In practice, it seems to be an underestimate in most of the relevant age range.

An opportunity to learn the useful lesson that one should live within one's means, without the inconvenience of having lived beyond them in the first place.

Oh sure, there are other definitions, but we prefer to be upbeat. It's like getting to savor the bitter aftertaste without having to take all the fattening calories in the initial draft.

The theory behind bailouts as enlightened self-interest is that everyone's ultimately in the same boat, so the bailers-out are really just bailing themselves out. The problem with this is that with a boat so big the buckets never reach the gunwales, and just end up get emptied elsewhere on board.

Baires, BAires
Buenos Aires, Argentina. This abbreviation is widely used and pronounced (in Spanish) as spelled -- ``Baires'' (something like ``BYE-ress'' or more like ``BYE-dess'' in English). It refers to the city. The city happens to be located in a (much larger, in area) province also called Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires was originally the name only of the port, 100 km or so upriver from the bay, but the name was eventually extended to both the city and the province.

Much of the early post-colonial history of Argentina consisted of a power struggle between Buenos Aires, which sought a national government with strong central control (based in BAires, of course -- the capital), and the provinces, which sought a more federal system. I was born in BAires, so I am a porteño or bonaerense. Nowadays, of course, all that old history is forgotten, and when people from the provinces refer to the unusual accent, hustle, or alleged arrogance of bonaerenses it is of course only with affection, admiration, or facetiousness, respectively.

A British invasion of Argentina, early in its independence, was foiled by a British lack of river navigators familiar with the Rio de la Plata; the invading group ran aground. So I remember. There may not be a national multiplication table or geometry, but potomography is another story.

Both the river Plate and the Viceroyal colony of Argentina were named after the silver that the Spanish hoped to find there. If they had understood something of geology they would have realized immediately that the gold and silver would be found (as it was, mostly) along the Pacific coast. If you want to avoid making the same mistake in your next imperial adventure, see the pluton entry.

baited breath
Look, despite what you read in the stupid newspapers and illiterate websites, this is a misspelling. It's ``bated breath.'' ``Bated'' here is an old participle related to abated -- it means stopped. ``Bated breath'' is breath that has been stopped, held. ``With bated breath'' means ``while holding [your] breath'' or ``in breathless anticipation.'' ``Baited breath'' means nothing except that you can't spell.

baited breath
Oh gaaaawd honey, let's lock lips. What is it -- olive, sunflower, habanero? That vegetable oil on your breath is just irresistible!

Spanish fly? Not vegetable. Corn? Cottonseed? Soy? Peanut? It's rapeseed! Isn't it?

Linseed? Castor oil?

A napped fabric resembling felt. Today it is used to cover gaming and pool tables.

The word comes from the French baies, the plural feminine form of the bai, `bay-colored,' from Latin badius. Bay, in case you forgot, or in case you couldn't forget, is a reddish or golden brown. Presumably that was the original color of this cloth, back in the sixteenth century, but apparently no one bothered to record this obvious fact. At least, it seems no one recorded otherwise. Nowadays the most common color of baize is green (many dictionaries describe it as ``bright green''; they may take a dim view of the usual green), but I've played on blue, champagne-colored, and beer-darkened-green pool tables. (Not all at the same time.)

bajo latín
Spanish for the literary Latin of the Middle Ages. Literally, of course, the term means `low Latin,' and when the term was coined, bajo was certainly intended to imply `bad.' If you need a quick short translation of the term that will be correctly misunderstood, use `Vulgar Latin.'

Back At Keyboard. Shaves an entire time-consuming letter off your chat message. Cf. AFK.

BAcK-up. Filename extension.

Family pseudonym of Niels and Aage Bohr when they participated in the Manhattan project. Their pseudonyms became so well known that at public conferences Niels Bohr was often referred to as Nicholas Baker. Niels Bohr escaped occupied Denmark (.dk, q.v.) by boat after dissolving his gold Nobel Prize medal in acid. (I suppose he made AuNO3 dust.) After the war, he separated out the gold and had the medal recast. Alan Turing converted much of his savings into two silver bars, which he buried at separate locations. When he tried to dig them up after the war, he couldn't find one of the locations, while the other had been buried when a bridge was constructed. When Enrico Fermi sailed from Rome to Stockholm to pick up his Nobel, he avoided storage problems by just continuing on to New York. When Einstein locked the door of his house in Germany, as he was leaving for a stay in the US, he bade his wife take a final look, because it was the last time they would ever see it.

Another thing about Turing. Among the public at large, he is probably best known today for proposing an ``imitation game'' now known as the Turing Test. The test is to see whether in a conversation -- conducted across a suitably anonymizing medium -- a computer program can fool a human into thinking it is another human.

Baker-Campbell-Hausdorff Relation
Given two operators A and B which commute with their common commutator ( [A,[A,B]] = [B,[A,B]] = 0 ), the relation holds:

exp(A+B) = exp(A) exp(B) exp(½[A,B]) .

Refers not to a point on a surface, but to a line underneath. Specifically, a London rail line that connects the Baker Street station and the Waterloo station. (It ran a bit further to southeast, and has since been extended, mostly to the northeast on surface tracks.) When it opened (all underground) on March 10, 1906, it was called the Baker Street & Waterloo Railway, but the popular nickname Bakerloo was soon adopted as its official name. (I'm cribbing here from the extensive Wikipedia entry.)

I've only put this entry in so the glossary can begin to have a respectable representative sample of blends. No abbreviation reference work should be so abbreviated as to be without that. This case demonstrates that a single unstressed syllable makes a good emulsifier. The fact that Baker Street and Waterloo are both dactyls (see under meter) probably helps, as does the presence of a letter a in both first syllables, though they're pronounced differently. What probably helps the most is that ``Baker Street and Waterloo Railway'' is a mouthful.

Badan Koordinasi Survai dan Pemetaan Nasional. Indonesia's `National Coordinating Agency for Surveys and Mapping.' The acronym stems from the agency's earlier name: Badan Koordinasi Survai dan Tanah Nasional. The word tanah means `earth' (in the senses of `ground,' `land,' `soil.' and `dirt'). For an interesting sidelight on this, see air.

Basic Assembly Language.

British Anti-Lewisite.


Bulletin des antiquités luxembourgeoises.

balanced moisture content
As usually understood in the field of adhesives and sealants (A&S), the moisture content in a material is said to be ``balanced'' when it is in equilibrium with ambient levels of atmospheric moisture.

Business Association for Latin American Studies. Gosh, that sounds aggressive...

Spanish for `bullets.' What does that have to do with...

Wait! I had more valuable information for you about BALAS! ``The organization is strongly international in character, with members from all over the world -- from over 30 countries.'' So why is the website almost entirely in English? Just above this on the about page: ``BALAS is the first international business and economics professional association to focus exclusively on the study of economics,'' -- ah, that explains it -- ``management, leadership and industry in Latin America and the Caribbean.''

Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. A small nutritional-supplements company in the San Francisco Bay area, famous for providing performance-enhancing drugs illegally to professional athletes.

German: `soon.'

bald bodybuilders
Why are there so many? Is it steroids? (I don't know, but FWIW, we've got an NFL veteran in my club and he's not bald.) Do bald men disproportionately take up bodybuilding to compensate for hair loss? Competitive bodybuilders are advised to shave their heads if they can't make their hair look good in performances (women are assumed to be able to make their hair look good), but most of the bald bodybuilders I know don't participate in formal competitions.

I'm still puzzling it out, but in the meantime I discovered that back in 1999, the Chicago's Lyric Opera needed a supply of bald bodybuilders for ten performances of Wagner's (or maybe their) Tristan und Isolde. They were cast as the ``engine crew''; they rowed the ship in Act I, in time to the musik. They were lit in red. The compensation was $347.50 per week plus health and pension coverage. The world is full of amazing job opportunities.

A good-looking guy. Slang term popularized by (invented for?) the movie ``Clueless'' (1995), a movie apparently created so Alicia Silverstone would have something to star in after the Aerosmith videos. It's an updated Emma. ``What's-her-name's Diary'' (see the World Unclaimed entry) was supposed to be an updated Pride and Prejudice. (Why don't we just visit Winchester Cathedral, exhume Jane Austen, and desecrate her grave? Wouldn't that be more efficient? One-time celebrity girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow played a much less modernized Emma in 1996.)

Maybe the term is an allusion to Alec Baldwin, and to the fact that he is only the best known of four brothers in the movie business, so Baldwin begins to look like a common noun. In 2002, Alec Baldwin was separated from Kim Basinger and dating Kristin Davis, of the hit TV comedy ``Sex And The City.'' The four female leads on the show were all feuding. Also in 2002, Darren Star, the creator of ``Sex and the City,'' was planning a television show called Miss Match, to star Alicia Silverstone in the lead role. (The character's name was ``Kate Fox.'' For more pleasant associations, see this Fox.) The show's title was evidently a pun, and for 18 episodes Silverstone played yet another Emma. I heard the show was flailing in its first season (2003). It was cancelled before I had a chance to see it; I was still studying the owner's manual of my TV set, trying to figure out how to set the volume to a negative value.

Look, I don't endorse the term baldwin. I don't even recommend a capitalization convention for it. The term is here for informational purposes only, so you can understand when an inferior person uses it unironically. Cf. Betty.

British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes. You're probably thinking like, what else for? And why not in Welsh? Giddyap to EAP.

Balescu's book
Probably refers to Radu Balescu's wonderful Equilibrium and Nonequilibrium Statistical Mechanics (Wiley, 1975). ISBN = 0-471-04600-0.

Features of this book include thoughtful selection of notation, and a clear introduction of the basics, designed with the goal of presenting classical and quantum statistical mechanics in a unified formalism. Focus is on fluids.

ballistic corn
Ballistic corn is an indicator of public hygiene facilities:
``A coming shower your shooting corns presage.''
(Jonathan Swift, M.D.: A Description of a City Shower.)

balloon payment
A final mortgage payment at the end of the mortgage term that pays off the outstanding loan in full, or the amount of that payment.

balloon smuggler
A breath-takingly felicitous coinage of S. J. Perelman. Suitable for a family-oriented piece of rubbish like this webpage, and yet so extremely euphemistic as to go completely around and be dysphemistic, like B.O.

Jay Kardan uses the term ``helium implants'' in reference to what he deems the ``unnaturally levitating breasts'' of the ancient Greek sculpted female form. I am reminded of the famous clothed and naked Maya paintings by Goya. It's noticeable that the clothed Goya enjoys no support from her clothing. (And you know, I only just now noticed for the first time that the clothed Maya is wearing a shrug.)

ball-point pen
The main persons credited with invention of the ball-point pen are John J. Loud, who patented the basic idea in 1888, and Lázló Joszef Bíro, who patented some essential improvements in 1938 and 1943. The Internet hosts many contradictory claims about Bíro and the history of ball-point pens; the situation seems to be even worse than the usual goulash of errors and sloppiness. In a small effort to decrease the S/N, I will give some of my sources for the information in this entry.

My main source is The Incredible Ball Point Pen: A Comprehensive History and Price Guide, by Henry Gostony and Stuart Schneider (G&S). It's ``a Schiffer Book for Collectors,'' published in 1998. [Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., of Atglen, Pennsylvania, happens to have a colophon of a quill pen in an inkwell, and has published over 3100 titles.] As the title's missing hyphen suggests, and as scattered errors confirm, the editing standards are not high. On the other hand, the content of the book is probably fairly reliable. Gostony and Schneider both have long backgrounds in pen collecting.

The earliest known patent for a writing instrument with a ball point was issued to John J. Loud of Massachusetts on October 30, 1888. [Here's a putative link to page images of the relevant patent (#392046) at the USPTO. Maybe the site will work for you. The Wikipedia Ballpoint pen entry mentions a ``GB Patent No. 15630.'' Here's a link to the UK Patent office. Good luck.]

Gostony and Schneider quote Loud (evidently from the US patent): ``My invention consists of an improved reservoir or fountain pen, especially useful among other purposes, for marking on rough surfaces--such as wood, coarse wrapping-paper, and other articles--where an ordinary pen could not be used'' (p. 8). An error-riddled article at ideafinder.com claims that John Loud was a tanner, and that the pen was intended for marking leather, and I have no reason to suppose that the claim of his having been a tanner was invented from whole... cloth, let's say. G&S write that Loud made a few pens for himself and used them for marking boxes, but didn't exploit his patent commercially.

I'll be adding more stuff here as I nail down pesky details. For now let me just mention that Lázló Bíro, often and reasonably accurately described as a journalist, was already a successful inventor in Hungary before he patented a ball-point pen. Vacationing at Lake Balaton (in western Hungary; it's Eastern Europe's largest lake), he met fellow vacationer Augustin Justo. Justo was interested in Bíro's invention and suggested that he move to Argentina -- where Justo happened to be President -- and start a factory. The situation in Europe deteriorated, and Lázló Bíro immigrated to Argentina, arriving in 1940. He eventually seems to have gone by the name José Ladislao Biro, and shortly in this entry I will switch accent conventions too.

His older brother György Bíro immigrated to Argentina also and was his business partner in at least one of the ball-point-pen ventures. According to all sources, György, a chemist, participated in his brother's initial efforts to invent a new pen, and he is often described as a co-patentor with his brother. The only relevant information I have on the patent-holder question is that L.J. Biro was the only patentor on the US patent (number 2,390,636; filed June 17, 1943, granted Dec. 11, 1945). It is sometimes asserted that the Biros only obtained two patents on ball-point pens. This seems to be incorrect; an Argentine patent was applied for a week before the US patent.

Not much information seems to be available about the older Biro, but I'm not done looking. In the literature on ball-point pens, he is often called Georg Biro or George Biro. My suspicion is that he went by Jorge Biro after he immigrated.

For more on pens, see the penknife entry.

Back when David Gottlieb was making his first pinball machines, a Mr. Malone was one of his salesmen. The Gottlieb machines were selling so well that manufacture couldn't keep up with demand. Malone designed his own machine and contracted to have it built. He chose the name from a WWI song Ballyhoo. In the 1960's, Williams bought Bally's pinball business, and since then Williams and Bally have been two marques of the Williams company.

See bologna.

British Air Line Pilots Association. Affiliated with the Trades Union Congress (TUC). See also ALPA.

You know, when I first checked in May 1997, they didn't have a homepage yet. It wasn't surprising that the Aerobatic Association (BAeA) had gotten its web act together before BALPA, but at the time even the Beagle Pup Club had a homepage.

Balsam of Canaan
Commonly called Black Fox. Recipe:
200 g  Velvet Beer
100 g  refined furniture polish
100 g  methylated spirits

It has an aroma that is not really an aroma but a hymn to democratic youth. Hence, it fosters vulgarity and dark forces in the drinker. So it is recommended that one drink Spirit of Geneva instead (at the entry for which there will be some helpful clarification).

Hebrew: `philology' or `linguistics.' The word may be used for `etymology,' but Hebrew also has the loan word etimologia if you want to be more specific. I guess now you're expecting me to find out something about the etymology of balshanut. All I can tell you is that balsh is an `investigator, detective, sleuth,' (a sipur balshi is a `detective novel'), and the -nut ending produces abstract nouns.

The largest city in the state of Maryland (MD). A number of links for the city are listed by USA Citylink. The city of Baltimore is named after George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore. On land it is surrounded almost completely by the administratively independent entity called Baltimore County. (There's also a Calvert County in Maryland.) The bulk of Baltimore County stretches from the Mason-Dixon line at the Pennsylvania border to the north, south to Anne Arundel County.

[We just happen to have some more detail conveniently supplied by our editorial and research office (see TK entry). Baltimore County borders the city of Baltimore for about 85% of its circumference, but Anne Arundel County reaches north between two pieces of Baltimore County and touches the south side of the city (and hence has two separate boundary sections with Baltimore County). The two points where the three jurisdictions meet are on the river, near I-895, and in the Bay near the middle of the Francis Scott Key bridge. (Sources: National Geographic Road Atlas, 1999, page 52, and Rand McNally Road Atlas, 1999, p. 46.) On the National Geographic map I-895 conceals one key part of the county line.)]

You know, a picture tells a thousand words, but takes longer to download. The boundary of Baltimore City is a polygon -- an irregular heptagon by my count -- and it pays slight heed to geography. The eastern triple point of the city of Baltimore with the Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties is in Patapisco, an inlet of the Chesapeake Bay. The ASCII art below represents the county lines schematically around that point:

           City of Baltimore             |
                                         |     *
                                         |\   *      Baltimore County
                                         | \ *
                                         |  \
                                         | * \
                                         |*   \  #
                                         |     \
                                        *|      \
                                       * |       \
                                      * /         \
                                     * /           \
                                      /             \
                                     /               \
                                    /                 \
                                   /    Anne Arundel   \

***** I-695, Francis Scott Key Bridge
----- County line
  #   Fort Carroll

Fort McHenry, at Baltimore, was the scene of a defense during the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem called ``The Star-Spangled Banner.'' The poem came to be performed as a ballad and is now the US national anthem.

Balun, balun, BALUN
BALanced-to-UNbalanced. A connector between coax cable and a twisted pair.

The idea behind the name is that a twisted pair is balanced in the sense that the impedance to ground is the same for the two terminals, whereas for the electrically asymmetric coax that is not true.

The two configurations -- coax and twisted pair -- represent the two main alternative approaches used to minimize radiative loss in the transmission of alternating current power, and to reduce interference between wireline AC signals.

Board-A-Match. A method for scoring duplicate bridge competitions. This is what Wikipedia calls a stub, as in ``stub your toe.'' More later.


Bricks-And-Mortar. The kind of business establishment with real assets. The kind that was blown down by the dotcom wolf, as we can see. Me, I still remember the Paperless Office Of The Future.

Brooklyn Academy of Music.


Bulletin d'archéologie marocaine.

Bibliographie annuelle du Moyen Age tardif.

Bad-Ass Mother-Father In Charge. ``Father'' might not be the correct expansion for F. I've seen this attested in military and restaurant jargon.

Black AMerica's Political Action Committee. A group affiliated with the Republican party. As of August 2004, Alvin Williams, a co-founder of the group, was its president. (We have a black Republicans entry under reconstruction.)

Balkan Academic News. ``[A]n electronic email group encompassing [as of early 2000] over 1300 scholars, activists, government officials, students and others dealing with or interested in the Balkans. BAN is intended to serve as a network for the exchange of academic information on the Balkans. It distributes calls for papers, conference announcements, book reviews, queries and encourages academic discussion on the region.

Balkan Academic News is part of the Consortium of Minority Resources (COMIR) and affiliated with Southeast European Politics (SEEP). ''

Basel Action Network. ``The name Basel Action Network refers to an international treaty known as the Basel Convention.'' The idea of the Basel Ban was to ban the export of toxic waste to developing countries.

British Approved Name. The generic drug name that is official in the UK.

A city at the mouth of the Congo River, on the Belgian-Congo/Zaïre/Democratic-Republic-of-Congo (.zr) side.

The name of the fruit entered other European languages from Portuguese. Garcia de Orta, in his 1563 Simples e Drogues (`Simples and Drugs') 93b, gave ``banana'' as the fruit's native name in Guinea (Guiné in Portuguese).

In Spanish, la banana (`the banana') is the fruit of el banano (`the banana tree'). Similarly la manzana y la naranja (`the apple and the orange') are the fruits of el manzano y el naranjo (`the apple tree and the orange tree'). This works for a some other fruit-bearing trees, though certainly not all. This train of thought is extended at the entry on gender of fruit and trees. For a bit more on the initial n in naranja, see the adder entry.

Bananas are very compelling fruit. For example, they play a pivotal motivating role for Jordan in Sexing the Cherry.

Build Almost Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. This is the effective policy that can result from the synthesis of two urban planning philosophies:
  1. Reduce congestion (i.e.: reduce population density in crowded areas).
  2. Reduce sprawl (i.e.: reduce population density in uncrowded areas).
There is enough space to institute this policy in the US, which would thence be regarded as the most advanced BANANA republic. Cf. NIMBY.

banana clip
A magazine or clip, curved so that it looks a tiny bit like a banana, used on the AK-47.

Kalashnikov designed his machine gun around the new bullet, so the clip holds the genesis of the gun.

banana plug
A cheap slide-in connector. Do not get this confused with alligator clip, or you'll end up asking for a banana clip.

banana split
An ice-cream dessert involving a banana that may or may not be split.

Banana, Yohimoto
A poet.

Practical: concerned with utilitarian or money-making matters. Cf. ALARP (I haven't seen ALARB).

band in Boston
Banned in Boston, more likely.

There used to be a band named Boston, too. For a very long time, it was relatively easy to get a book banned in Boston, and publishers would often make sure to do just that, to attract salacious interest in a book. That's the legend, anyway. To a certain extent, something similar happens with movie ratings today: for a certain class of movie, a ``G'' or possibly even a ``PG'' rating is box-office death. (See MPAA entry for explanation of rating codes and more.)

For more on books of salacious interest, see the Housman and adult education entries.

As the name for a topographic feature, bank and its Teutonic etymons were originally applied to any kind of long raised feature such as a ridge or bank of clouds, and came to be used for the sloping side of such a bank, and also more generally as any raised feature. The modern word bench is a cognate. The Teutonic word was borrowed by Late Latin (bancus) and shows up in various Romance languages with a range of senses that includes bench. (It also shows up in both male and female forms, apparently reflecting the fact that it had both male and female gender in some Germanic languages.) Used in the sense of a tradesman's bench or stall or counter, it eventually took the specialized sense of a money-changer's table, whence our bank in the financial sense. In a similar way, in Modern Greek the word trápeza means both `table' and `bank.'

Bank of Romney
Out on the streets, I don't hear ``as rich as Croesus'' so much any more, and ``as rich as Rockefeller'' is also fading with time. ``As rich as Romney'' also has the advantage of alliteration, and his campaign in pursuit of the US presidency (ca. 2007-2010) increased his prominence. The Romney phrase got a fillip in April 2013, with an MSN Money article entitled ``How Gore became as rich as Romney.'' But none of that is what this entry is about.

The Flames of Time (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1948) is a historical novel by Baynard Hardwick Kendrick (1894-1977). The dedication of the book reads thus:

The Bank of Romney (69-192)
Romney, West Virginia
without whose help this book
(and my others) would never
have been written.

That's the only time I can recall ever having seen a book dedicated to a bank. I appreciate the old-timey routing number.

Bankruptcy Reporter. A legal journal for business ghouls.

bank rec
BANK REConciliation. Let's go there and kiss and hug our honey, I mean money.

Bapedal, BAPEDAL
Badan Pengendalian Dampak Lingkungan. The expansion is typically translated as (Indonesia's) `Environmental Impact Management Agency' or simply its EPA. (Pengendalian does seem to be better translated as `Management' or `Control' than as `Protection.')

BAnk Pembangunan INDOnesia. Indonesia (.id) Development Bank.

Beta-Amino-ProprioNitrile. A lathyrogen.

Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Nasional. Indonesia's `National Development Planning Agency.'

Aramaic (Syriac) for son. More in the b. entry (supra; you missed it on the way down here).

A variable like foo (q.v.).

A very convenient unit of pressure: 105 Pa = 1 bar = about 1 atm. The bar is no longer sanctioned by the SI, which only recognizes one unit per quantity, the bums. Cf. b..


Biblical Archaeology Review. Also abbreviated BARev. ``[C]onnects the academic study of archaeology to a broad general audience eager to understand the world of the Bible.''

BAR offers a guide to current digs in Israel and Jordan that accept volunteers.

Browning Automatic Rifle.

French slang for `luck.' Avoir la baraka is to `be lucky.'

Baraka, Imamu Amiri
LeRoi Jones. Oh sure, New Jersey couldn't do without a state poet.

Board ARBiter. Controls bus access among different processors on a board. (Cf. CARB.) Unarbitrated buses are also used.

I walked into a greasy spoon in the Mexican part of town and read what was on offer, and this, unfamiliar to me, was one of the items listed. The woman behind the counter said she didn't know the English translation, and I had something else. Later I looked it up. In English it's `barbecue.'

A girl's given name, in English, German, and Polish, that is simply the Latin noun barbara, feminine form of barbarus, meaning `foreigner.' The Latin noun has a Greek etymon with the same meaning, discussed at the b. entry, q.v. For more on Barbaras (not Barabas) see the 99 entry.

Spanish interjection well translated as `terrific!' The English word terrific once meant `terrifying,' and the Spanish word bárbaro still means, in the appropriate context, `barbaric, barbarian.' In both cases, the element of emotional intensity (or rather, of evoking intense emotion) has been retained while the nature of the evoked emotion has changed entirely. Like terrific, bárbaro in its approving sense can function as an adjective also. Its female form is bárbara. If you have not already done so, you should now read the Barbara entry.

The English word awful has drifted in the opposite semantic direction from terrific and bárbaro; it originally meant something like ``awe-inspiring.''

This is a name that means `Redbeard' in Italian. The Italian spelling has been partially adopted into English, French, and German, at least. The double ess makes sense in all four languages, which -- to the extent they are systematic in the distinction -- use a double ess for an unvoiced sibilant and a single ess for a voiced sibilant. That's intervocalically, of course; things may get more complicated initially, finally, and in consonant clusters, but that happens not to be the issue here. (Note that in English, the unvoiced and voiced consonants represented by ss and s are often esh and zh rather than ess and zee. That's when the ``rule'' is followed, of course.) Italian is not entirely consistent either. For example, the word casa (`house' or `home') and many related words are pronounced with an unvoiced sibilant.

In Italian, barbarossa is also a common noun. It is applied to various cherry-red ``uve da tavola'' (`table grapes,' which I take to mean grapes not used to make wine). The barba (`beard,' of course) refers to the form of the grape cluster. The name is also applied to the robin (the orange-breasted thrush).

Old Spanish (Old Castillian, or Aragonese) used a s/ss distinction similar to that described above, but Modern Spanish, with fewer sibilants, has no use for ss in its phonetic orthography, and the letter sequence occurs only in loans and unnaturalized proper nouns. The name with the same meaning as Barbarossa is written Barbarroja. The rr is required to preserve the sound of the initial r in roja (`red,' of course). This is evidently not directly a calque of the Italian, since roja was roxa (Old Spanish, remember?) when the last famous Mediterranean Barbarossas lived. Corominas y Pascual account for the esh sound represented by the x laconically, by deriving roxo from Latin russeus rather than russus. (I trust the switch to male gender didn't throw you.) The e following the ss presumably led to palatalization of the ess sound, and that pretty typically evolves into esh (compare the sounds of ss in express and expression). (The semantic difference between russus and russeus, when it was observed, was that the latter represented a less essential red: `dyed red,' `dressed in red,' or `a partisan of the red faction in the Circus.')

(The native French form of this name, Barbaroux, is a moderately common surname. The x in that form is just one of those final letters s that was converted to x by a stylistic scribal convention, and now it's generally silent anyway.)

In Spanish, Barbarroja is used to translate the Latin name Ahenobarbus. Literally, the latter name means `Brassbeard.' Brasses come in a range of colors (see yellow brass), so here etymology gives us more precise information than metallurgy. (Hey -- I didn't claim ``accurate.'') Ahenobarbus was a cognomen of the gens Domitia. The most famous bearer of this name was Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, born December 15, 37 A.D. His father Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus died in January 40, and he was adopted by his great-uncle the emperor Claudius, and is known to history as Nero. He became emperor following the death of Claudius. His name then was Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus, but it became Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus at some point. Nero doesn't mean `black.' It was a cognomen of the Claudian gens. (Nero was the fifth and last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.) The word nero is supposed to be derived from a Sabellic word which they say meant `strong, valiant, happy.' It sounds like they don't know what it meant. Don't ask me why the cognomen popped up in the place of a praenomen with this guy. Maybe it was just too crowded after the gens.

I'm not aware of any other languages that use Barbarroja or Barbarossa or suchlike to translate Ahenobarbus. However, there was another Roman Emperor who was known as Barbarossa. That was the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I. Born around 1123, he was the son of Frederick II, duke of Swabia, and in fact he succeeded upon his father's death in 1148, becoming Frederick III, duke of Swabia. He only became Frederick I when he was elected German king and Holy Roman Emperor in 1152 (succeeding his uncle Conrad III). With all those confusing numbers, it was good he eventually got the byname of Barbarossa. I haven't read specifically that he had a red beard, or who gave him the name, but he spent much of his reign fighting wars in Italy. In German he is known as Kaiser Friedrich I Barbarossa, and the translated form of the byname (Rotbart) occurs almost exclusively as a gloss. The name Friedrich means something like `peace ruler,' so there's some irony in that (see Friedrich). Barbarossa died on June 10, 1190, of drowning, in Salef, in the Kingdom of Armenia (modern Göksu nehri, in Asia Minor).

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the name Barbarossa was applied to a couple of brothers who united the Barbary Coast as a Turkish province. That's an interesting story too, but I'm all researched out, so all I'll write for now is that the Barbary Coast, and the Berbers, have the names in European languages that are derived from the Latin barbarus or something like that, meaning foreigner.

In August 1939, Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia concluded a mutual-nonaggression treaty through their respective henchpeople (I just felt like neologizing), the German and Soviet foreign ministers Ribbentrop and Molotov, resp. (Conveniently, Stalin had earlier that year replaced his Jewish FM, Maxim Litvinov.) There was also a secret protocol that you could think of as a mutual aggression-against-Poland pact, with related ideas on other small central and northern European countries. The next week the Germans invaded Poland, and a couple of weeks later the Soviets did the same. The Soviets were unexpectedly inefficient in taking the parts of Finland that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact envision for their side, and after a few weeks Hitler ordered the first studies that ultimately led to Fall Barbarossa (`Operation Barbarossa') -- the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which began in June 1941. Considering the mix of treacherous intrigue and ruthless power politics that characterized the Barbarossa of the first Reich, the name was not inapt.

The meaning and origin of this word can be pinned down fairly but not very precisely. Various forms of the word were apparently in wide use in and around the Caribbean when the Spanish arrived, and from one or more of these languages the word entered first Spanish, and then French and English. The word refered to a frame of sticks used to hold a whole animal for roasting and, by extension, to the meat of the roasted animal.

v.: To char over a puddle of flaming starter fluid. Differs from flambé by the presence of decorative black stones in the fluid.

n.: An outdoor event where one eats food that smells of kerosene.

Okay, this entry is a joke, but it's not wrong. There just happen to be other meanings and more common spellings of barbeque (e.g., barbecue, q.v.).

Barbie Doll
U.S.: category-killer children's doll from Mattel. The (flesh-and-blood; not mass-produced) children of creator Ruth Handler are named Barbara and Ken. Amazing coincidence, huh? This site will get you started. This LA Times reprint will give you the sanitized pro-Barbie take on the German Lilli doll connection. This item from the Jewish Forward, of all places, is one article that reveals the truth about Lilli. You don't have to get up before noon if all you want to do is scoop the LA Times. (I'm not talking about the time difference here, either.)

Coincidentally, in the almost aboriginal Australian language family, which is characterised by an extensive system of highly specialised terms to indicate kinship relations, this term designates the wife of the man who cooks over a fire of black stones and starter fluid. (If you're actually interested in Australianese, you could hardly do worse than visit the Polish entry, but it's mentioned there.)

Jack Ryan, a designer who worked on the doll, also worked on a couple of missiles for the DoD and was married to Zsa Zsa Gabor for nine months. (That is too long to qualify as ``briefly.'') I don't know about you, but I see a recurring theme here. Ryan's famous for patiently and persistently sand-papering the areolae and nipples off the early models until the Japanese supplier finally got the idea and stopped painting them on.

Back on topic, the Iranian government was planning (1996) on entering the highly competitive field of children's dolls, with a much more modest, dark-haired Barbie doppel, decorously escorted by a male companion who is very decidedly her own brother and not possibly a romantic interest. As for coif, one is reminded of the (apocryphal) remark attributed to Henry Ford about the model T: ``You can have it in any color you like so long as it's black.'' I wonder how that turned out -- the doll, I mean.

As a matter of record, the model T was offered in other colors for a short while, but Ford eventually withdrew the option. It has to be remembered that the model T was not celebrated as a great car -- it was celebrated as a great car for the price. By a combination of simplified design, mass production techniques and standardization, and by raw economies of scale, Ford was able to offer a car so affordable that it changed the automobile from a rich man's toy to the workingman's horse.

Now where were we? Oh yeah, in some coed parks (!) in Tehran that past (1996) summer, women were prohibited from riding bicycles. Too sexually provocative.

Barbie was the first children's doll with significant breasts.

In Victorian England, a well-turned table leg was considered too sexually provocative, so table skirts were invented to hide them. More about this at the inanimate entry.

Largest bar examination review program in US, run by Harcourt Brace. I think you have to pay if you ever want to learn what the acronym stands for.

Australian barbecue.

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. In India.


Biblical Archaeology Review. Details at entry for more common abbreviation BAR.

barge pole
  1. (Obs.) A rod for manually propelling a barge. The end that pushed the bottom typically got mucky.
  2. A hackneyed literary rod for avoiding not even touching things.

Not a lot different than a ten-foot pole.

Barkhausen-Kurtz Oscillations
Oscillation of electrons in a potential minimum generated by grids and electrodes in a vacuum tube. It's fairly easy to generate B-K oscillations by biasing the anode of a cylindrical vacuum tube to a negative voltage. Before the invention of the magnetron (ca. 1922) and the development of the first practical ones (cavity magnetrons) in 1940, B-K oscillators were the only source of microwaves in the gigahertz range. Operated in CW mode, however, they burn out fast. See this page for a bit more.

A seed of the barley plant, and a unit of measure in the ``traditional'' system: Edward I of England standardized the inch to the length of 3 grains of barleycorn, round and dry, taken from the middle of the plant, and placed end to end. An interesting footnote (sorry about that, you'll see) is that this measure (barleycorns) is still used in determining shoe size; the difference between a size 7 shoe and a size 8 shoe is one barleycorn. For another seed-related measurement, see carat.

Here is another association of the barleycorn with three and with magnitudes greater than itself. Robert Burns's version of the ``John Barleycorn'' ballad begins thus:

There was three kings into the east,
  Three kings both great and high;
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
  John Barleycorn should die.

(Yes, it's later. Burns's years were 1759-1796 and Edward I's 1239-1307; Burns's version of the ballad was published in 1782. However, there are earlier versions extant, including one in the Bannatyne Manuscript of 1568. It's been argued that the songs and personification date back to the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons and were adapted for their own purposes by Christian missionaries. Certainly the surviving versions have obvious Christian symbolic resonances. And that the number of men who attacked John Barleycorn was three is traditional. Of course, three is an iconic number.)

As a unit of length, the barleycorn is still in common use (by me). However, the barleycorn was once also a unit of weight. Indeed, it still is, but now it's called a grain (gr.). Here is a snippet of a, cough, seminal work that makes use of the unit. More precisely, it's a snippet of P. Fleury Mottelay's translation of the seminal work of William Gilbert: De Magnete [Book II (no title), Chapter II (entitled ``Of magnetic coition, and, first, of the attraction exerted by amber, or, more properly, the attachment of bodies to amber'')].

A loadstone attracts only magnetic bodies; electrics attract everything. A loadstone lifts great weights; a strong one weighing two ounces lifts half an ounce or one ounce. Electrics attract only light weights; e.g., a piece of amber three ounces in weight lifts only one-fourth of a barleycorn's weight.

Sure, ``one-fourth of a barleycorn'' is ``one poppyseed.'' But that's only a relationship of length units. An avoirdupois ounce is 437.5 barleycorns (that is, one sixteenth of a regulation 7000-barleycorn pound). Everyone else loves this stuff... What's your problem?

[A note on the language: William Gilberd (that's how he wrote his name) lived from 1544 to 1603, and his opus magn(etic)um was published in 1600 in Latin. Although in Elizabethan times all learned men studied Latin and most of them remembered some of it, there were at first many calls for an English translation to be made. This did not occur in a timely manner. Then, around the time of the three-hundredth anniversary of the first publication, two translations appeared almost simultaneously.

Barlow's Rule
Atomic volume is proportional to an atom's lowest valence. This is very, very approximate.

A unit of cross section equal to 10-24 cm2, or 100 square fermi. (10^-24 sq. cm., if your browser doesn't recognize the <SUP> tag).

It's aptly named, for it does represent an enormous total cross section for any non-Coulombic nuclear scattering process. A Stammtisch member seems to recall, however, that Eugen Wigner disapproved of the term.

...barring unforeseen circumstances
...excuses have not yet been constructed, but we're working on it.

BARRier Injection Transit Time (diode). Like the IMPATT diode, this has a negative AC resistance: current and voltage are about 180° out of phase.

bar rush
The increase in traffic at restaurants that are open as the bars are closing. In South Bend, Indiana, for example, closing time is 3 am. (This happens to coincide with the time when the sale of alcohol becomes illegal for a few hours. Hmm.) At one all-night restaurant I know there, the front-of-the-house staff is not allowed to go on break at any time between 2:30 and 4:00 am.


The Boston Area Roman Studies Conference. A conference held each year in April, it was ``instituted in 1995 to promote the study of Latin literature and Roman culture, to increase the visibility of these studies in the New England scholarly community and to provide a place for area Latinists and Romanists to meet, socialize, and exchange ideas.'' It's sponsored by the Department of Classical Studies and the Humanities Foundation of Boston University. ``The conference is open to anyone interested and is free of charge. Following the conference is a dinner, and those wishing to attend must pre-register.'' There's a charge for that.

(San Francisco) Bay Area Rapid Transit. (RT is a common productive affix.) More at the Bogie entry.

Bay Area Rural Transit. A comprehensive system of buses exploring all major compass directions around Ashland, WI:

Operates weekdays, approximately 7am - 5pm.


A (Gk.) word with a grave accent on the ultima. Some include these words in the category of oxytones (q.v.).

Barytone means low tone, with the same Greek root bar-, bari- as occurs in barometer. While barytone, with wye (y) representing upsilon, names a tone stress, the word baritone, from Greek barutonos, means `deep-voiced.'

[One shouldn't worry too much about distinguishing adjectival constructions (deep-voiced) from nominal constructions (deep-voiced one). In Ancient Greek, adjectives and nouns constituted a single part of speech, somewhat as adjectives and adverbs constitute a single part of speech in German. Hence the enigmatic occurrence of such profound-seeming locutions as ``the hot,'' ``the dry,'' ``the cold,'' ``the wet'' in ancient Greek natural philosophy.]

From at least the fourth century to the second century, it was common to call a bad theater actor a `groaner' (barustonos), apparently a pun based on the idea that actors would like to be thought of as deep-voiced.

      ``Yes?'' What are they selling this time?
      ``Hello? Is this Dorothy?''
      Lady, I sing baritone when I can get up that high. Do I sound to you like Judy Garland? ``There's no Dorothy here.''
      ``Oh. I guess I have the wrong number, then.''
      We're not in Kansas anymore.


Biblical Archaeology Society. ``[F]ounded in 1974 as a nonprofit, nondenominational, educational organization dedicated to the dissemination of information about archaeology in the Bible lands.''

Big-Ass Smile. The second word is just an intensifier. There is no suggestion that this is the body part or animal that does the smiling.

Hey look, I've got an idea: why don't you visit the dosta entry and save me cutting and pasting? That's a good glossary user, thanks!

Behavioral And Social Aspects of Health. An organization that doesn't seem to be on the web as of this writing, but at least some of its events are advertised in Bioethics Bulletin, newsletter of UB's Center for Clinical Ethics and Humanities in Health Care.

The traditional material used as touchstone (q.v.), a velvet-black siliceous variety of quartz. The name comes from the Latin basanites [lapis] (occurring in Pliny), from the Greek básanos, `touchstone, test.' Every time I add an entry like this, I think of half-a-dozen more I have to add before your education will be complete.

bascaro, basta
What, didn't you go directly from the bas entry to the dosta entry? What the heck crazy order are you reading these entries in anyway?

A chemical which, in a particular reaction, releases an OH- ion or accepts a proton, or (Lewis definition) donates an electron pair. Cf. acid. In an acid-base reaction, or in an acid-base step of a reaction, no chemical species changes its valence. Alkalis constitute a subset of the bases. Properly speaking, they constitute a proper subset.

Building and Achieving Self-Esteem.

Every day, in every way, I am becoming better and better.

Wow, what an energy rush!

Building, Antenna-tower, Span, Earth. An acronym summarizing perilous places to parachute-jump from (``span'' for bridge; ``earth'' for cliff). Jumping from these places is called BASE jumping (or just base jumping) or attempting suicide.

It takes time and drop-distance (and separation from jumping-off point) to deploy a parachute, and also some time for a parachute to slow one's descent, so lower jump-off points are more dangerous. Base jumps ought to be ranked on the basis of how much they increase surviving-population IQ. (Cf. Darwin Awards.)

baseband signal
A signal centered on or near zero frequency (rather than a carrier frequency).

For example, standard NTSC TV receivers use an intermediate frequency (IF) of 44 MHz. The audio and video are encoded as modulations of that signal. The extracted audio and video signals, which have a much lower frequency range, are called baseband signals.

Based on a true story.

A floor below ground level (``below grade,'' as realtors say), forming the foundation of a building above. Most single-family homes are built either on a basement or on a slab. Basements on SFH's seem to be of three main types: full-block construction, partial-block construction, and poured. Block construction refers to concrete blocks; partial-block basements are partially poured. In the US, poured basements became common in the 1960's. Intermediate in type between a ground-level foundation and a basement is a Michigan basement.

I'm told that in Indiana, it's illegal to include the below-grade floor space in quoting the square-footage of a home (in the multiple listings, I guess), even if the basement is finished. If the house is not built on level ground, of course, things can get complicated.

When a house is extended sideways, it is typical not to enlarge the basement. It used to be common to create a crawl space under the extension -- a concrete-block wall around the perimeter of the extension supporting it above the ground, which might be excavated a little to leave about a meter of space between the extension floor and the soil. The ``crawl space'' (beneath the extension, enclosed by the blocks) would be accessible through an opening (typically a meter square) along the top of the basement wall. I don't know how typical all this is; most of the crawl spaces I've ever seen have been in Westfield, New Jersey. Nowadays, and probably since poured concrete became common in residential construction, extensions are typically built on slabs.

The Spanish word for basement is sótano (< Latin * subtulus < subtus `under'). Another word traced to subtus through an unattested derivation within Latin is sotana (< * subtana), for a floor-length garment, traditionally referring to a vestment worn by priests. It also referred to academic gowns, when academics wore them.

Badische Anilin- und Sodafabrik.

Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard. I know about water hazards and sand traps, but this seems a bit speculative. Oh wait-- that's ``bird,'' not ``birdie''! Never mind.

(GNU) Bourne Again (Unix) SHell. (The commercial Bourne shell is sh.) The bash shell takes some features from the Korn shell and the (t)c-shell.

Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. The first (computer) language I learned. Sort of a simplified Fortran, but they kept adding features...

For a bit of the prehistory of BASIC, see the DART entry. See also Visual Basic.

A name like BASIC makes possible a book title like Elementary BASIC (1985), ``as chronicled by [Dr.] John H. Watson. Edited with commentaries'' by Henry Ledgard & Andrew Singer. The conceit of the book is that Holmes might use the Analytic Engine to solve mysteries, helpfully explaining his methods to Dr. Watson. Too much sugar coating and not enough bitter pill for my taste, but every intellectual palate must be served.

Book And Serial Industry Communications. The standards forum of BISG -- mostly concerned with electronic technology standards. Formed by the merger of BISAC and SISAC in fall 1998. Standards developed earlier and associated with the BISAC or SISAC name retain their earlier designations.

Brazil, South Africa, India, and China. Well, ``basic'' is easier to pronounce than ``bsaic.''

Brothers And Sisters In Christ campus ministries. Why'd they get rid of the old background image? I didn't need to read the text.

You know, you can't have enough organizations named BASIC. There's a student organization at Siena College that's called ``Brothers And SIsters for Christ.'' That looks like a theogenetic problem to me.

British American Scientific International Commercial. A backronym for the word Basic in Ogden's Basic English (q.v.). FWIW, science and nation occur in the Basic vocabulary. If we accept the proper nouns Britain and America, then the expansion above might be rendered in Basic (put into Basic) as ``of science, nations, trade, Britain, and America.''

The ``installed base,'' so to speak, of English speakers, and the extreme lack of inflection in English (compared to other European languages) have motivated other attempts to create an international auxiliary language based in some way on English. The other successful effort (popular until Esperanto swept all before it) was Volapük. However, that language is unacceptable because in it my surname means `criminal.' The language E-prime is, like Basic, a subset of English (but devised on different principles). In the early 1960's, Basic (i.e., Basic English) influenced Alan Kay in his creation of the computer language Smalltalk.

Basically, ...
A sentence adverb that introduces an underinformed attempt at explanation. E.g., ``Basically, a partition is a number. Basically, like, a partition is a member of a partition. Basically, it's like this. Basically, hmmm, let me ostentatiously ponder the problem until you figure out the answer and I take credit for telling you how.''

If you're in a public computing lab with one of these loud verbal gorillas, wait it out. He'll quiet down as soon as his confident suggestion clearly fails to work.

Oops, louder again. ``Basically, Nr gets Bigger, you want to get it to come down.'' See, that number is bigger.

The corresponding marker in Spanish is Efectivamente....

The other thing you hear a lot in a computer lab is people repeating their previous statements with should inserted, or just saying ``well that should work... God how I hate hacking other people's code!'

Basic English
Basic English is a restricted subset of English, created primarily by C. K. Ogden and unleashed on the world in 1931. Also called Basic (q.v.). It created a buzz of enthusiasm that seems to have peaked in the mid-1940's. (Devoted Basic-Englishists can no doubt adduce tendentious evidence to contradict this.) Here from Ogden's The System of Basic English (Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1934) is the potted FAQ answer to the question ``What is Basic English?''
    Basic English is a careful and systematic selection of 850 English words which will cover those needs of everyday life for which a vocabulary of 20,000 words is frequently employed. Thse words are not the words most commonly used, as determined by word-counts; but all of them are common, and more than 600 of them are constantly used by an English or American child of six.

    There are 200 names of picturable objects, and
              400 other names of things; making
              600 nouns in all.
    There are 150 adjectives.
    The remaining 100 words put these names and adjectives into operation, so that the whole system may work as normal English.

It might not be remiss to quote the answer to the second question, ``What is its purpose?''

Basic English has two chief purposes:
  1. To serve as an international auxiliary language; that is to say, a second language for use throughout the world in general communication, commerce, and science.
  2. To provide a rational introduction to normal English; both as a first step, complete in itself, for those whose natural language is not English, and as a grammatical introduction, encouraging clarity of thought and expression, for English-speaking peoples at any stage of proficiency.

Here is a paragraph from The Shape of Things to Come, a bit of speculative future history that H.G. Wells published in 1933. (Yes, I'm aware of the term ``science fiction.'')

    Basic English was the invention of an ingenious scholar of Cambridge in England, C. K. Ogden (1889-1990), who devoted a long and industrious life to the simplification of expression and particularly to this particular simplification. It is interesting to note that he was a contemporary of James Joyce (1882-1955), who also devoted himself to the task of devising a new sort of English. But while Ogden sought scientific simplification, Joyce worked aesthetically for elaboration and rich suggestion, and vanished at last from the pursuit of his dwindling pack of readers in a tangled prose almost indistinguishable from the gibbering of a lunatic. Nevertheless he added about twenty-five words to the language which are still in use. Ogden, after long and industrious experimentation in the reverse direction, emerged with an English of 850 words and a few rules of construction which would enable any foreigner to express practically any ordinary idea simply and clearly. It became possible for an intelligent foreigner to talk or correspond in understandable English in a few weeks. On the whole it was more difficult to train English speakers to restrict themselves to the forms and words selected than to teach outsiders the whole of Basic. It was a teacher of languages, Rudolph Boyle (1910-1959), who contrived the method by which English speakers learnt to confine themselves, when necessary, to Basic limitations.
    This convenience spread like wildfire after the First Conference of Basra. It was made the official medium of communication throughout the world by the Air and Sea Control, and by 2020 there was hardly anyone in the world who could not talk and understand it.

Working approximately backwards through this to elucidate some references -- The First Conference at Basra in 1965 was a ``conference of scientific and technical workers ... regarded by historians as a cardinal date in the emergence of the Modern State.'' The beginning of the world government that Wells (1866-1946) envisioned. Boyle is, of course, a fiction. The real James Joyce did not enjoy the long life Wells assigned him here, dying in 1941. Charles Kay Ogden actually died in 1957.

Some day I'll flesh out the actual history of Basic English. For now I should mention that I.A. Richards, who had collaborated with Ogden on The Meaning of Meaning (1923), also collaborated with him on the research that led to the creation of Basic English, though Richards credited the invention primarily to Ogden's resourceful ability to express the greatest variety of thoughts with the smallest vocabulary. (This was a compliment.) From my understanding, it is not entirely a travesty to use of the word ``scientific'' to describe the engineering feat that was the creation of Basic English. One of its striking features is that the basic vocabulary contains a negligible number (18, I think) of pure verbs (not counting their in-many-cases irregular conjugations).

Winston S. Churchill gave a boost to Basic English when he received an honorary degree at Harvard University on September 5, 1943. September is a strange time to receive a degree, but the exigencies of war bent all schedules. Churchill took the occasion of his acceptance speech to tout Basic, which fit well with his cherished vision of the unity of the English-speaking peoples. He described it as ``a very carefully wrought plan for an international language, capable of very wide transactions of practical business and of interchange of ideas ... a medium of intercourse and understanding to many races and an aid to the building of our new structure for preserving peace.'' It doesn't sound like his best stuff, but the speech was broadcast and heard by millions in the US, and the interest it stirred led to newspaper articles well into 1944 on the subject of Basic English.

Part of his argument was like a qualitative version of Metcalfe's Law: that the adoption of English as the universal language (to be accelerated through the use of Basic English) would increase the value of English to those already using it. His speech that day contained an obvious allusion to Lincoln's second inaugural address, also delivered in wartime. (``Let us go forward in malice to none and good will to all.'') This probably gets you to wondering about the famous and variously attributed ``[America and Britain] ... divided by a common language'' line. The status quaestionis of that quotation's origin is summarized here.

Subsequently, Churchill continued to press within the British government for possible application of Basic English, such as possible radio broadcasts by the BBC. When a grateful nation swept Churchill out of office (I mean every word of this) in elections shortly following the victorious conclusion of WWII in Europe, government bureaucrats were generally relieved to be relieved of the need to humor his minor obsession with Basic.

Texts originally written in Basic English can be quite graceful and fluent, but it is often hard to tell to what extent the author has allowed the vocabulary limitations to restrict what is written. Translations of ordinary English into Basic are often inaccurate, stilted, or absurd. Ridicule based on such stilted translations is the immediate reaction of many English-speakers introduced to Basic. Translations into Basic (``writing put into Basic,'' as one would say in Basic) grind down to flatness any fine gradations of meaning. Such gradations do not fail to exist just because they cannot be expressed, so one immediately suspects that texts originally written in Basic are in some sense also inaccurate despite the impression of fluency and naturalness. (No one denies that using Basic entails trade-offs; the argument is only over when and to what extent these trade-offs are worthwhile.)

A loss of nuance is also an important (but intentional) feature of Newspeak, the official language George Orwell outlined as the speech of the dystopia Oceania in his Nineteen Eighty-Four. The idea of Newspeak arose from his analysis of the relationship between speech and totalitarianism, as partly described in his famous essay, ``Politics and the English Language.'' There seems to be no direct evidence that Orwell intended Newspeak as a criticism of Basic English, though it must be noted that Nineteen Eighty-Four was published late in 1949 and he died early in 1950. I suspect that, in any case, the Basic English fad had already peaked by 1949. Nevertheless, the criticism inherent in the Newspeak travesty may have tainted Basic English to some degree.


Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. A quarterly publication of -- you guessed it -- the American Schools of Oriental Research. For ASOR's other publications, see AASOR.

Bastille Day
The day when the Bastille was stormed in 1789: July 14. The Bastille was a fortress originally built to defend Paris, but by early in the eighteenth century was a prison. It had been a political prison, and its storming was quickly taken to mark the start of the French Revolution. Here's a good page on it.

Brown Adipose Tissue. Small mammals get extra heating from BAT. Humans don't have any.

Batan, BATAN
Badan Tenaga Atom Nasional. Indonesia's `National Atomic Energy Commission.'

It's just a matter of time, isn't it?

BATA Shoe Museum
They sometimes write it in capitals, but Bata is just the surname of Tomas Bata, who in 1894 founded the Bata Shoe Organization in Zlin, a town in the present-day Czech Republic. The Bata Shoe Museum is at 327 Bloor Street West, corner with St. George -- you can't miss it, the building looks like it was damaged in a quake -- something Toronto envies San Francisco, I guess. The museum is just three blocks from the ROM. On your way, stop at the Bob Miller Book Room (180 Bloor West). You could also go five blocks south from the BATA to the University of Toronto bookstore at St. George and College Streets, which incidentally occupies part of the old premises of the city's central library. Gee, I hope they didn't tear down the shelving. Atticus bookshop on Harbord is also recommended. Abelard too. One of the world's steepest gradients of booktownishness comes somewhere between Toronto and Buffalo. Toronto is a pretty good book town. At least it was about five years ago. There aren't so many small bookstores now that they have two competing superbookstore chains, though. They lost the whole Lichtman's chain, and Britnell's, and a bunch of lesser stores. One of the big unheralded events of 2000 was that the big chains (and the big online bookstores) quietly eliminated discounts on most of their books, now offering deep discounts only on best-sellers. Can you say p r e d a t o r y p r i c i n g? Sure you can!

Last time I was in Toronto, there was a book store there that advertised itself as the largest in the world or something. Ignore it. It has the biggest ratio of aisle width to shelf height of any book store in the world. For a great bookstore with towering inaccessible bookshelves, try Powell's in Portland, Oregon.

Uh-oh. Looks like another emergency-candies situation. Turns out that World's Biggest Bookstore is just its name, not its claim. Grumble. Had a couple of us fooled there.

The following comments are more relevant than they seem yet: In English spelling, the letters b and p generally represent essentially the same consonant. B is a voiced bilabial stop, and p is a voiceless bilabial stop. All that means is that any vowel adjacent to b is pronounced 20 to 30 milliseconds closer to the consonant articulation than it would be adjacent to a p. In Arabic (at least as spoken in North Africa), and in Hebrew as spoken by North African immigrants to Israel, there is no phonemic b/p distinction. For an example of how this plays out, see the SG entry.

The reason I bring up the similarity of the consonants b and p is that in Spanish, pata means `paw, foot.'

The letter b in Spanish happens to represent a sound that is usually not a stop, but like the sound we represent by v. It is neither b nor v, however: it's produced bilabially like English b, whereas English v is produced labiodentally. In the IPA, that sound is represented by the Greek letter beta.

There's a similar, less discernible distinction with f. In Japanese, the sounds we distinguish as h and f are considered equivalent, with transliteration based mostly on the vowel sound following it (Japanese consists essentially of consonant-vowel syllables). Followed by u, it's interpreted as f (e.g., Fuji), followed by i, it's an h. Hence, coffee is kohi. These transliterations represent tendencies in the sound of the consonant. What is not so obvious is that the articulation is essentially that which English uses for h. With a front vowel like /i:/, the point of articulation moves forward to the lips. That yields a sound like our f, even though our f is articulated labiodentally. It's the sound of a blown kiss. (Not just any blown kiss; a blown kiss that's all blowing.) In the IPA, the bilabially articulated Japanese f-sound is written with a Greek letter phi. Japanese speakers who learn a European second language after infancy tend to use the bilabial f in the second language. That tends to be tiring for the speaker, because it requires greater aspiration to produce the same volume of sound. It's like loud whispering.

[An indication of the close relationship of eff and aitch sounds can be seen in a large class of English words that end in -gh. At one time, English had the aitch-like sound /x/ (represented by "ch" in German Bach and Irish loch) and the similar but more closed /ç/ (also represented by "ch" in German word Licht, cognate with English `light'). As these sounds disappeared from English, they were replaced (if at all) by the closest available sound: eff. Hence the modern pronunciations of cough, enough, rough, and tough.]

BTW, zapato means `shoe,' but un pato is a drake. A zapata is also one or another kind of shoe, but mostly it's a half-boot, what we used to call a chukka in the Boy Scouts. You're probably thinking that una pata should mean a duck, but no, it just means `paw' or `foot.' Remember that nouns for most wild animals have fixed grammatical gender in Spanish: females as well as males of the duck persuasion are patos, not patas (if you want to specify, a drake is a pato macho and a duck is a pato hembra). Incidentally, y'know there's no really convenient way of translating webbed feet into Spanish. I suppose you could call them patas de pato.

Emiliano Zapata led a popular rebellion in southern Mexico. It began in 1910 against long-time dictator Porfirio Díaz, and continued during a succession of elected and non-elected leaders. There's a bit more about this time period in the PRI entry. The BATA has neither los zapatos de Zapata nor las zapatas de Zapata. Not even las zapatillas de Zapata (his slippers). Their collection is not strong on Mexican military foot fashions, but they do have shoes of that general vintage. See? I'm not off-topic, I'm just a bit round-about. The BATA has 10,000 shoes in its collection. By my estimate, that comes to, in round numbers you understand, about 5000 pairs, more or less well-matched. Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos left behind 1500 pairs when her husband Ferdinand was deposed.

Come back in a few months, when we add exciting new material on Ernesto Zedillo and the cedilla.

You know, the lady from the teaching effectiveness program said you have to dramatize numbers, because numbers don't mean anything to people like her. Okay, so she didn't say that exactly, but that's what she meant even though she didn't know it. Lessee now, suppose Mrs. Marcos had left behind 1500 pears instead. In a walk-in refrigerator. You could have eaten four pears a day for a year and still had enough left over to plant an orchard even if you didn't save the seeds from the pears you ate.

Ed Sullivan always had a ``really, really big shoe for you tonight,'' but the time that Elvis Presley performed, the broadcast didn't show any part of him below the waist. It's not as if he left his fly open by accident or anything.

As you will recall from the beginning of the entry, the Bata shoe company was founded by one Tomas Bata in Zlin. One Tomas Straussler was born in Zlin on July 3, 1937, the younger son of Eugene Straussler, who was a physician for the Bata company. I don't understand why Bata had one or more company physicians, but for his own and his family's health and safety, Eugene was transferred to Singapore in 1939. This didn't work out so well for him personally, as he was killed there in 1942 when the Japanese invaded. His wife and two sons had been evacuated to India. There Martha Straussler eventually married Kenneth, an officer in the British army. The sons adopted their stepfather's surname, and Tomas Straussler became Tom Stoppard.

Early in 1938, my mother was also in Czechoslovakia. ``Stateless in Prague (1938)'' doesn't have the same melifluousness as ``Sleepless in Seattle (1993),'' but it does have its poignancy and cause for sleeplessness. My mother was on the last flight out before Germany occupied the Sudetenland. There's no little irony in the fact that this occupation, the result of Neville (``Peace for our time'') Chamberlain's infamous appeasement in Munich, was ostensibly needed to protect Germans in Czechoslovakia. When I mentioned Bata shoes to my mother, she looked puzzled for a moment and then corrected me. I meant ``Batya'' shoes. Turns out that in Czech, Bata is spelled Bat'a. Oh yes, they're world famous. She bought a pair in New York when she visited in 1954. I prefer Clarks (see this E entry to learn why).

Bata shoes is all about pronunciation. It might be the ideal shoe for when you need to put your foot in your mouth.

Other people who took the opportunity to leave central Europe around that time included the Biro brothers, mentioned at the ball-point pen entry. My friend Lisbeth Brodie did not have that opportunity. After surviving the Warsaw ghetto uprising, she ended up in the Czech town of Terezin, Theresienstadt in German, about forty miles from Prague. She always wore long-sleeve blouses. In her last years, at the invitation of the state of New Jersey, Lisbeth would go around to local schools and describe her experiences.

She told me that one question children would ask, that she knew she could not answer in a way to make them understand, was how she had felt. One felt nothing, one's feelings died. That is not exactly true, of course. In the rooms after morning roll call, she and her fellow prisoners would dance, to celebrate surviving another day alive. On May 8, 1945, she celebrated liberation by the Red Army. For this she had food, a rich feast: a bar of butter. An incomplete meal for an incomplete party; she was the only survivor of her family in Poland. She eventually got to the US, where she made a life as a nursery school teacher (including mine, when I first arrived in the US). As she lay dying on Tuesday, May 16, 2001, we and her closest family -- an English cousin -- quietly celebrated her life and her ninetieth birthday. She died the following Friday morning.

Block Address Translation Cache.

Bonner Analytical Testing COmpany.

British American Tobacco COmpany. Nowadays it calls itself ``British American Tobacco'' and is a ``group'' -- a UK-based conglomerate (British American Tobacco plc, which is of course a company) of tobacco companies in 66 countries (as of 2004) around the world.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Someone seeking a connection among these three items may think of health dangers, but that is an anachronistic view in two respects. First, because at the time that the BATF was formed, tobacco was not considered an in-any-way dangerous substance. Second, because these are not the most dangerous substances today either. As Warren Zevon has pointed out in a song, the really dangerous items are lawyers, guns and money.

At the time that the BATF was formed, these three items (A, T, and F) were the most prominent federally-taxed items. Nor was the US the only country in which this was ever true. More recently, Gorbachev's early campaign against heavy drinking and alcoholism redounded in significantly reduced tax revenues for the USSR. A letter revealed in a recent new biography of Stalin shows that when he was contemplating ways to raise money for the coming war with Germany (known as the ``Great Patriotic War'' in the old USSR; WWII elsewhere), he considered promoting greater consumption of alcohol. In China, a corresponding rôle is played by cigarettes.

Technically, the correct acronym is NOT `BATF' but `ATF' (q.v.). Now you know.

Barium Titanate. A dielectric, electret (i.e., ferroelectric) at room temperature, nonlinear optical material.

British Association of Teachers Of the Deaf.


Batrachomyomachia. It's clear that, if you're looking for a title to abbreviate, this is a good choice. Batr. is a mock epic; the title is Greek for ``The Battle of the Frogs and Mice.'' (For your entertainment, the Let's be friends blog has a page with a picture of a mouse riding a frog.)

The Romans generally believed that Batr. had been written by Homer. Considering that various elements of it parody the Iliad (as well as the Homeric cycle), this is as much as to say that Homer parodied his own great epic. It says something about the Romans that they thought this. Plutarch attributed the work to Pigres of Halicarnassus, brother or son of Artemisia, queen of Caria. I hope you find that illuminating. Halicarnassus was an Greek city on the coast of Caria (an ancient region of southwest Asia Minor), and this Pigres is also called Pigres of Caria. The Suda agrees on the authorial attribution, but given the derivative nature of the Suda and the prominence of Plutarch, that might not count as corroboration.

Interestingly, FROG and SPIDER are competing methods in the measurement of laser chirp.

Believe me, if I knew some way of working mice in there that wasn't WIMPy, I'd have done it.

Ángel María Ganivet García was a Spanish writer and a diplomat who represented his country in Antwerp, Helsinki, and Riga. He published a book called Ideárium Español, and Miguel de Unamuno replied to it in three letters which he also published in the periodical El Defensor. Ganivet responded to this with an extended essay addressed to Unamuno, entitled El Porvenir de España (`The Future of Spain'). By the way, my friend Vladimir's sister-in-law did her dissertation on Unamuno. One day we were driving in Washington, D.C., and I remarked about a statue that it reminded me of Unamuno, and she turned and asked me why. (I wasn't aware until later that she had a particular interest in Unamuno.) I explained that it was the grave, thoughtful attitude (I meant posture) that reminded me of a statue of Unamuno that I had seen in Spain. This personal bit of trivia involving a woman whose name I can't even remember is of no possible interest to you, but I don't have any other place to mention it. The take-home is that once, at least, I actually did have a life. No wait, let me try that again. The take-home is that Unamuno was a famous Spanish philosopher. Here's a quick passable translation [original follows] of the first paragraph of Ganivet's essay:

  I have not forgotten, friend and companion Unamuno, those afternoons of which you remind me, nor those café chats, nor those strolls through La Castellana when, with the enthusiasm and earnestness of students just out of the classrooms, we reformed our country according to our whim. I still recall your projects of those days. Among them the one that most interested me was that of publishing the Batrachomyomachia of Homer (or whomever), with illustrations by yourself. To bring off this arduous enterprise with panache, you studied in depth the anatomy of mice and frogs. Whatever came of that interest? On the marble table of the café you painted a frog for me with such consummate skill that I have not been able to forget it: I still see it staring fixedly at me, as if it wanted to eat me with its bulging eyes.

[  No he olvidado, amigo y compañero Unamuno, aquellas tardes que usted me recuerda, ni aquellas charlas de café, ni aquellos paseos por la Castellana cuando, con el ardor y la buena fe de estudiantes recién salidos de las aulas, reformábamos nuestro país a nuestro antojo. Recuerdo aún sus proyectos de entonces, entre los cuales el que más me interesó era el de publicar la Batracomaquia, de Homero (o de quien sea), con ilustraciones de usted mismo, que, para salir con lucimiento de su ardua empresa, estudiaba a fondo la anatomía de los ratones y de las ranas. ¿Qué fué de aquella afición? Sobre la mesa de mármol del café me pintó usted una rana con tan consumada maestría, que no la he podido olvidar: aún la veo que me mira fijamente, como si quisiera comerme con los ojos saltones.]

I can save you the trouble: Ganivet doesn't mention the Batr. anywhere else in the essay.

Bilateral Arm Training with Rhythmic Auditory Cueing. A physical therapy strategy for stroke victims, involving coordinated arm movement in time with a metronome. Both arms are exercised although only one has been debilitated by a stroke. It had been accepted that post-stroke rehabilitation plateaus after about three months, but significant improvements have been demonstrated with BATRAC more than two years after a stroke (research reported June 2004 at the fifth International Stroke Society World Congress in Vancouver, B.C.).

Biosphere-Atmosphere Transfer Scheme. A ``comprehensive model of land-surface processes.''

British American Theatrical Society. ``English-speaking theatre in Antwerp.''

Burst And Transient Source Experiment. (On board the GRO.)

Beryllium Atomization and Thermal Spray Facility. At Los Alamos National Labs (LANL).

batteries, It just needs
It does not work. This a technical usage, a term of art among flea marketers (also flee marketers). Granted, the meaning is not intuitive, but it's perfectly honest, because everybody uses the same terminology, so you ought to know it. (You should also know the longer alternative form, ``It works, it just needs batteries.'') On the other hand, ``It works, it just needs a cord'' means `irreparable, use for parts.' ``Needs repair'' means `not good even for parts; throw it in the front yard for the kids to play with, near the car that's up on blocks.


History here (electrical batteries in the modern sense below):

In its original sense, battery was the name of the action of battering or beating, or of the apparatus for doing it. The word has been used figuratively, and the meaning has also been extended in many special applications where some kind of force is applied repeatedly. This kind of usage seems to have been especially popular in the nineteenth century, when battery was used in baseball for pitchers and later for pitcher-catcher pairs, in astronomy for series of lenses, and in mining for rock-pulverizing mills with multiple ``stamps'' (hammers). Perhaps the most widely used extended sense of the word bequeathed us by the twentieth century is represented in ``a battery of [typically psychological, intelligence, or clinical] tests.''

The current principal sense of battery is that of a kind of self-contained electrochemical power source. This goes back to Benjamin Franklin. In 1748, or at least no later than that, he introduced the term into electricity in the sense of multiple capacitors connected in series. The idea was that if you charge a number of capacitors (often Leyden jars) separately or in parallel up to some voltage, then a multiple of them in series gives a multiple of the voltage.

When Franklin was doing his pioneering experiments with electricity, triboelectricity (q.v.; typically amber or glass rubbed with fur) was the main source of practical electric energy. (Lightning was not very practical except as an unusual way to kill yourself.) If you wanted higher voltage, a battery of capacitors was your option. Apart from that application, there's not much call for hooking a number of capacitors up in series: it yields a smaller capacitance, and an easier way to make a smaller capacitance (though with a lower voltage rating) is simply to make a smaller (less cross-sectional area) capacitor.

Electronics has progressed somewhat since the eighteenth century, and we no longer use the word battery for capacitors in series. I'm not going to get into a detailed analysis of just how capacitors are used today. There are some situations where it's appropriate to use capacitors in series, and capacitors (modern ultracapacitors) are again used as temporary power supplies in some applications. But now the word battery is used for electrochemical cells.

Today, if you have to work with a fixed-voltage source and you need a higher voltage, you just use a step-up transformer. (You can used it essentially directly for an AC source. If your source is DC, you use it to power an inverter, producing AC to feed the primary of the step-up transformer. If you need DC out, you can rectify on the secondary side of the transformer. See DC/DC converter.)

Modern electrical batteries (first the boring historical stuff):

Toward the end of the

[under construction]

Modern electrical batteries (now the boring technical stuff):

The two idealized kinds of DC power supply are constant-current and constant-voltage sources. An ordinary chemical battery can be well represented by a constant-voltage source in series with an internal resistance or equivalently by a constant-current source with a parallel internal resistance. At the circuit-theoretic level, they are equivalent. Any such DC power supply will have a maximum voltage (at zero current: open circuit) and a maximum current (at zero voltage: shorted).

(This interchangeability of current-source and voltage-source circuit models is quite general. In the small-signal analysis of a transistor circuit, one uses both voltage-controlled current-source models and current-controlled voltage-source models, choosing mainly for convenience of calculation. Of course, nowadays most people just use a simulator like SPICE.)

The voltage of a single chemical cell is determined by the redox reaction it relies on. That voltage is less than or equal (ideally) to the energy per electron transfer, so it is on the order of one volt. The standard lead-acid reaction yields the standard cell voltage of 1.5 V, the alkaline cells that over recent years have almost completely replaced this in consumer devices have similar voltages. Different-size cells (``1.5-volt batteries'') differ in the area of their electrodes. Cells of increasing size (AAAA, AAA, AA, A, B, C, D) can supply increasing amounts of current. One can think of a large cell as composed of smaller cells in parallel (individual cells connected anode-to-anode, cathode-to-cathode). A number N of equivalent cells in parallel yields an N-fold increase in maximum current. If one regards the cells as constant-voltage sources with series internal resistances, one can regard the N-fold increase as arising from the reduced internal resistance: the N internal resistances in parallel have an overall resistance of 1/N of their individual resistances.

By combining chemical cells in series one creates a ``battery.'' The term battery was borrowed from military usage by Benjamin Franklin, whose book on electricity was the vade mecum of ``electricians'' (researchers into electricity) through the end of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth. Like a military battery, a chemical battery combines the force of the individual cells to produce a greater force -- voltage, in this case. In a battery, the cells are connected in series. All commercial nine-volt batteries are made of six 1.5-volt cells in series. Car batteries are really batteries. Nowadays 12 volts has become the virtually universal standard, as far as I can tell, with the car chasis connected to the negative pole. However, there have been positive-ground cars, and I seem to recall my mother's 1964 Plymouth Valiant had a six-volt battery.

From the user's standpoint, there is little or no difference between a battery and a single voltaic cell, so it is natural (especially given the many other uses of the word cell) that the word battery should have come to be used for both. However, a number of cells in parallel is not what Franklin had in mind by ``battery.''

Voltage-level changes per second. This is not the same as the data rate or bit rate. For example, it can be twice the bit rate if simple return-to-zero encoding is used. [Pronounced ``bawd.'']

Bells And Whistles.

Bayerische Mediengesetz. `Bavarian [broadcast] media law.'

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