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`i.e.' [Abbreviation for das ist, in German.] More common equivalent: d.h.

Data Identifier.

DeIonized [water]. Not exactly the same as highly pure water, because making DI water means focusing on conductivity, and there may be substantial nonpolar solute concentration even in water with low conductivity.


DIdymium. A rare earth named after the Greek word for twin (didymos) [a twin of lanthanum]. Eventually determined to be a quite rare earth indeed, since it was not a distinct element but a mixture of neodymium (Nd) and praseodymium. This is just as well, because it reminds me of epididymis.

The nonelemental nature of didymium was demonstrated by Auer von Welsbach in 1885. The 1989 edition of the OED (the OED2), has this definition:

A rare metal, discovered by Mosander in 1841; found only in association with cerium and lanthanium. Symbol Di.

I suppose it's possible to give some weaselly defense of this, since they don't flat out say it's an element. But the entry is immensely deceptive, since the unsuspecting reader would probably draw the conclusion that didymium was a metallic chemical element. The dozen other dictionaries I've checked, including the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, are explicit that didymium is not an element. For example, Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) offers

A rare metallic substance usually associated with the metal cerium; -- hence its name. It was formerly supposed to be an element, but has since been found to consist of two simpler elementary substances, neodymium and praseodymium. See Neodymium, and Praseodymium.

(I'm not sure whether didymium was given its name as a twin of lanthanum, as the OED2 etymology asserts, or of cerium, or of both.)

The forty-year delay in separating the elemental components of the alloy didymium is due, of course, to the fact that that the rare earth elements are chemically and physically very similar, and separating them ultimately depends on small quantitative differences in the physical properties of their compounds amplified by chromatographic techniques. When the separation is so difficult, the mixed substance may be directly useful. Didymium is used as a light filter in safety glasses used by glass blowers and glass workers. The color centers formed by didymium in glass only add a slight tint to broad-spectrum light, but they absorb very efficiently the spectrum of light emitted by hot sodium glass. Another case of such a mix of elements used unseparated is mischmetal, described at the rare earth entry.

Dielectric Isolation. Electronic isolation between devices accomplished by completely surrounding devices by oxide. The term is sanctioned by the most common usage to refer to a process in which oxide completely surrounds the devices. This is achieved by etching into the wafer to define the isolated regions of epi that will have devices. The whole surface is oxidized, and a thick layer of poly-silicon is deposited on top as a field oxide. The wafer is then mostly etched away from the back, to leave the thin upper regions of the wafer isolated. Flipped over so the poly-silicon is the ``substrate,'' (the structural support), one can continue processing the isolated silicon regions from what was ``below.'' The term junction isolation is also applied to other isolation strategies, like LOCOS, in which junction isolation on the underside of devices is augmented or replaced by dielectric isolation near the surface. Cf. Junction isolation.

Direct Ignition. Isn't this what we used to do in the Boy Scouts?

Direct Investment.

Disease Incidence.

Donor Insemination.

Drop and Insert.

Defense Intelligence Agency.

Detroit Institute of Arts.

German, short for diapositiv (photography: negative of a negative). English `slide, transparency.'

diagonal relationship
A similarity of properties between elements along diagonals of the periodic table. The principal kind of diagonal relationship occurs at the top (lowest-numbered periods) of the periodic table, and represents a kind of edge effect deviation from the main pattern of vertical relationships that led to the discovery of the periodic table.

The vertical relationship is easily explained: elements in a single group (column) of the periodic table have the same number of outer shell electrons; these occupy similar orbitals and exhibit similar bonding patterns, and hence similar chemical properties in general. These similarities are greatest between adjacents elements (i.e., elements in the same group and adjacent periods), so various graphs of chemical and physical properties as a function of period exhibit approximately linear, or at least monotonic trends. In such graphs, the lowest-period element (the one at the top of the column) is often an exception to the general trend, but may participate in a diagonal relationship. Sometimes the diagonal relationship is not so obvious because of the way the table is laid out. That's the case with the well-established diagonal relationship between aluminum and beryllium.

DIfferential Absorption Lidar.

As everyone knows, a language is a dialect with an army. That doesn't really answer the question, does it? Okay, visit the Polish entry. It doesn't answer the question either, but it contains important revelations. The variety entry (q.v.) also doesn't answer the question either. This is not surprising, since there is no unique best way to distinguish language and dialect.

DIAMide EXtraction. A counter-current process, with a centrifuge extraction battery, developed to partition trivalent actinides. The term was originally coined for a specific process developed in France, but is now used generically for similar countercurrent extraction processes.

A diamond is a square turned 45 degrees. This discovery was the breakthrough that once made baseball so popular in American cities.

Interestingly, in traditional (French-suited) playing cards, each king in the deck is supposed to represent a great king from history:

It also works if you rotate it 135 degrees, left or right! That's called (C4m) symmetry!

Pink Floyd have an excellent song entitled ``Shine On You Crazy Diamond.'' It originally appeared in the ``Wish You Were Here'' album. They put it in the 1995 album ``Pulse,'' since they'd run out of new ideas. (They also have an eight-CD box set called ``Shine On'' for about $150.)

Sky diamonds figure in an LSD song. See deconstruction entry.

Elvis Costello sings

Well it's a dog's life in a rope leash or a diamond collar
It's enough to make you think right now
But you don't bother
in ``Suit of Lights.'' From the ``King of America'' album (1986) -- lyrics here.

The name of Isaac Newton's pet dog, apparently. Read some of the whole story.

A ``precious gem.'' Price is maintained by deBeers cartel, a conglomerate set up by Mr. Rhodes (he of Rhodes scholar and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe fame), which controls production from an increasing number of diamond mines world-wide. The Hope diamond is probably the world's most famous large diamond. Here's one mounted on a ring.

Most diamonds mined are not gem quality, and have value only in industrial applications. (Diamond is the ``hardest'' material--it defines the maximum, 10, on the Mohs scale of hardness. ``Hardest'' means that no other crystal can scratch it, but it can make a scratch in anything else. My next research project will be to discover how nature manages to put diamonds on cats' paws.)

Somewhere I should mention that diamond is pure carbon (C). It is the stable form of elemental carbon at the high pressures and temperatures that occur where it is formed, but graphite is the stable form at normal temperature and pressure.

A semiconductor. Many problems remain to be solved before it can become a viable competitor to silicon, but it boasts a higher mobility, so its developers hope it can find a niche in high-speed applications.

Probably the biggest problem is doping. There are no good n-type dopants for diamond, so one is pretty much restricted to unipolar devices. The best p-type dopant is boron (B), and its acceptor level in the diamond bandgap is 360meV above the valence edge. This means that at room temperature, the acceptors are only a few percent ionized. Of course, you can heat the semiconductor up to increase the carrier density -- 360meV represents the activation energy for creating carriers. Unfortunately, this runs into the problem of temperature-dependent mobility: µ ~T-a, where a is typically in excess of 2. In other words, you can't increase the conductivity by raising the temperature to increase carrier density, because the mobility goes down.

One of the great attractions of diamond semiconductor, relative to silicon (if you could get around diamond's other problems), is its stellar heat conductivity -- 20-30 W/K-cm.


Ancient goddess of hunting.

``Hey, watch who you call `ancient' there, mortal!''

A space between. It's a Greek word, and its plural is diastemata. (The Scrabble dictionary for amateurs, OSPD4, also accepts the barbaric diastemas, but SOWPODS and TWL98 admirably refrain.)

In music, a diastema an interval (i.e., a pitch difference), typically that between successive notes of a scale. The term is used primarily in the context of ancient Greek music. An obsolete alternative form (for the singular diastema only) is diastem, an accident of borrowing indirectly from the French (diastème).

In zoology and anatomy, a diastema is the space between successive teeth, or between two kinds of teeth. Man is unusual among mammals in having generally small diastema. The way diastema is usually understood, as a substantial natural space between teeth, man has none at all.

Device-Independent Bitmap.

Drain-Induced Barrier-Lowering.

Direct Inter-LATA Connecting trunk.

Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation. (``Disseminated'' has medical usage equivalent to ``spread,'' ``scattered,'' or ``broadly distributed.'' In other words, it implies spatial delocalization without implying that this arose by dispersal from a common origin.) DIC may be caused by various insults and trauma, but seems to be of interest more for the risk posed for further bleeding by the depletion of clotting factors, and less for the direct consequences of the disseminated coagulation.

Dissolved Inorganic Carbon.

Durham Inter-Collegiate Christian Union. ``DICCU exists to make Jesus Christ known to students in Durham'' and its acronym exists to give everyone a little chuckle. My own impression was that Jesus Christ is rather well known, even in Durham, at least by reputation. Regarding JC's former fame, see the LSJ entry. (The relevant bit is along about the eleventh paragraph, as of this writing.)

Dashboard Integrated Central Electronics.

Dictionary of Idioms for the Deaf, A
One day when I was in tenth grade, I was in the math resource center waiting for a teacher to answer a question. (I would usually realize the answer in the process of formulating or clarifying the question, but that's another story.) The only other student there was the blind kid. As we were talking, I thoughtlessly used the phrase ``it looks like....'' I don't remember precisely what I said, because my thoughts were disconnected when he replied ``I wouldn't know.''

I thought the book whose title is the head term of this entry would be interesting. You know, like what sort of metaphor do the deaf sign when they mean ``my ears are tingling'' or something. The book is by Maxine T. Boatner and John E. Gates. Revised Edition Edited by Adam Makkai. Prepared for the National Association of the Deaf. It's part of Barron's Educational Series, Inc., Woodbury, New York. It was originally copyright 1966 by American School for the Deaf, West Hartford, Connecticut. Isn't Gary originally from West Hartford? My copy was discarded from the Grandview School Library in Alliance, Nebraska. I bought it at the used book store there when I made my pilgrimage to Carhenge.

Anyway, the ``for the Deaf'' in the title modifies ``Dictionary.'' It's just ordinary idioms of spoken English. That's the basic problem with reference works: they waste your time and never tell you what you actually want to know! What a disappointment.

Dictionary of ... and ...
Quite a few of the earliest translation dictionaries published in Britain have names following a formula like this. The ``and'' in their titles is better understood as ``and then,'' a ``dictionarie of fooe and barr'' beeing a dictionary in which headwords in foo are followed by definitions in, or translations into, bar. The prevalence of the pattern might be judged approximately on the evidence of the Scolar [sic] Press series English Linguistics: 1500-1800, a collection of 365 facsimile reprints selected by R. C. Alston and published between 1967 and 1972. (The number given first with the description of each work below is the number in that series; works in each list are ordered by initial publication date, so far as that is known.)

  1. Anon.: The Boke of Englysshe and Spanysshe (ca. 1554).
    English phrases followed by Spanish equivalents. (From the choice of phrases, it looks like it would be most useful to a preacher or missionary.)
  2. Thomas Cooper: Thesaurus Linguae Romanae et Britannicae, tam accurate congestus, etc. (1565).
    Entries give Latin words followed by English translations.
  3. Claude Desainliens: A Dictionarie of French and English (1593).
    (Enlarged edition of work published anonymously in 1571, almost certainly by the same author, a well-known teacher of French.) French words and idiomatic phrases followed by English translations.
  4. Thomas Thomas [sic]: Dictionarium Linguae Latinae et Anglicanae (1587).
    Latin words defined in English.

The pattern is confirmed two-way bilingual dictionary is described on the title page as consisting of two parts: ``I. French and English'' and ``II. English and French.'' The heading of the first part is described as ``Containing the FRENCH before the English'' and ``Qui contient le FRANÇOIS devant l'ANGLOIS'' (not Anglais). It has French headwords followed by English definitions and explanations. The work:

  1. Abel Boyer: The Royal Dictionary Abridged (1700).
    (Boyer first published his original Royal Dictionary in 1699. It was constantly revised and reprinted; the last edition was published in 1896. The abridged version added accentuation information for English words, and went through over 40 printings through 1860.)

The one exception to the pattern is the earliest comparably titled work in the series; it is tempting to speculate that the preposition in (rather than of) accounts for or must be coordinated with the difference:

  1. William Salesbury: A Dictionary in English and Welsh (1547).
    Paired columns, Welsh words on the left and English translations on the right.

For the sake of completeness, I'll list the other (four, that I can find) bilingual dictionaries in the series; all involve Latin as source or target language or both.

  1. ``Galfridus [or Galfredus] Grammaticus, OP'': Promptorium parvulorum (1499).
    (First compiled around 1440, the work was printed a number of times between 1499 and 1528. The work was also known by the title Medulla Grammatices.) English nouns and verbs with definitions in Latin. (Nouns and then verbs beginning in A, followed by nouns and then verbs beginning in B, etc. ``Nouns'' here (nomina) is to be understood to include both nouns adjective and nouns substantive.)
  2. Thomas Elyot: The Dictionary of syr Thomas Eliot knyght (1538).
    Latin words with English translations.
  3. Richard Huloet: Abecedarium Anglico-Latinum (1552).
    English words with Latin translations.
  4. John Davies: Dictionarium duplex (1632).
    Welsh-Latin (Britannico-Latinum and (posterius) Latin-Welsh (Latino-Britannicum).


Dictynna: revue de poétique latine. French periodical described as ``Dictynna: International Review of Latin Poetry.'' An electronic journal launched in Spring 2004. It was long overdue. (The identity of Dictynna is explained here. Look, all the good classical-journal titles were taken decades ago.)

Judging from the first issue, I supposed that the articles were required to be in any of the common languages of classical philology publication -- English, French, German, Italian, maybe Spanish or Dutch. But the author instructions just say that ``[t]outes les propositions d'articles sont à rédiger dans la langue maternelle de leur auteur.'' Things could get interesting (if they can find reviewers).

Digital Information Director.

Direct Inward Dialing.

Domain IDentifier.

didactic poetry
Didactic poetry
Ain't what it used to be,
When Lucretius waxed poetic,
About theories atomic.
And Virgil for better or worse,
Gave farmers advice in verse.
Allit'rative verse was once stylish
For teaching the Bible in English,
But it's all over now.

The practice of writing didactic poems took a dive at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the only substantive one that we have in the entire glossary (I can't bring myself to call it ``good'') is a eulogy of iodine from the middle of the nineteenth century (see the I entry). We also have a paean to tar water (water in which pine tar has been washed). It was written by Bishop Berkeley and can be found at the entry for the IBS. I can't deny that it was intended to be didactic, but I'd prefer not to assert that it was informative.

Probably the only well-known didactic poet of the latter half of the twentieth century is Tom Lehrer. He was a roommate at Harvard of my thesis advisor, P.W. Anderson. (I recall that one day he [PWA] seemed pretty disgusted to discover that I, a physics graduate student, didn't know what a double-dactyl was.) Anderson won a Nobel prize in physics, but Lehrer won fame. On the other hand, Lehrer burned out. This webpage features a Flash animation of ``The Elements.'' A good source for (generally older) didactic poetry, including the lyrics of differential-geometry drinking songs and the like, is Gravitation (the big black paperback) by Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler.

The main kinds of didactic poetry that have continued to be written are short: advertising jingles and pronunciation poems (the latter mostly for surnames). For good examples of the former, see the Pepsi-Cola and 43 beans entries. We give examples of didactic pronunciation verse at the homogeneous, Jowett, and Pepys entries. But for all of you who have simply printed out the glossary for leisure reading and have trouble following the links, here's another, this one written by Robert Baden-Powell.

Man, Nation, Maiden
Please call it Baden.
Further, for Powell
Rhyme it with Noël.

That boy'd've had to work a lot harder, if he ever wanted to earn the highly coveted Poetry Merit Badge. The way poetry went to hell in the last century, I suppose losing the didactic sort may have been a blessing in disguise.

The Journal of The Joint Association of Classical Teachers. (That's JACT.)

did not finish college
Did not finish college -- or begin college, for that matter. (I would have told you if you had asked!) Personalsese ``term of art'' used in self-description. (Anyone who ever registered is deemed to have graduated, for personals-statistical purposes.) Cf. J.-D.

Did you find everything you were looking for?
Not just a solicitous question, but the encapsulation of a whole frame of mind. As if to suggest that I knew what I wanted when I walked into the supermarket. Really, now.

Sociologists say it with Weltanschaung. Haben Sie alles gefunden? lfs already.

In the semiconductor electronics industry, microelectronic devices are mostly fabricated on rectangular pieces of semiconductor wafers (usually silicon wafers that start out about 0.7 mm thick). Since a rectangular piece, or chip, is made by dicing a wafer, it is also naturally called a die. Interestingly, the plural of this die is die.

Singular of the plural dice.

Spanish term, jargon in use among specialists, for someone who studies the eighteenth century (el siglo dieciocho). In principle, it could have arisen independently in Spanish (it literally means `eighteenist') but it's probably better thought of as a calque of the French dix-huitièmiste.


dies irae
Latin, `day of wrath.' First words and name of medieval Christian hymn describing Judgment Day, used in some masses for the dead. Most used today in crossword puzzles. English-language crossword puzzles, not Latin-language crossword puzzles.

Diet of Worms
Not a dog food. Not even a bird food.

Diet, Science
A brand of dog food.

Data Interchange Format.

Dubai International Financial Centre.

Dr. Nasser Saidi, Chief Economist of the DIFC, said in a speech on October 28, 2007, that the economies of GCC states should now be considered as asset-based ones rather than oil-based. It makes me think of vitamins. (Saidi's speech was the regulatory keynote address to the Sovereign Reserve Management, Pension and Institutional Funds Congress 2007, held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the UAE somewhere.)

A mechanical linkage that transmits torque from a single source (the drive shaft) to two drive wheels. The traditional differential involves just a few gears, and rigidly conserves the sum of the rotation angles (apart from a factor of a gear ratio): if the drive shaft turns by an angle θ, then the sum of the rotations of the left and right wheels is 2cθ (c the gear ratio, 1 in the simplest case), even if the left and right wheels turn by different amounts. If you put the car up with transmission in park (or the clutch engaged to a stationary engine), then turning one wheel makes the other turn in the opposite direction. The purpose of a differential is to compensate for the fact that when a vehicle turns, the wheel on the inside of the turn rotates (or should rotate) less than the wheel on the outside.

Chapter 5 of Atoms in the Family describes a Bébé Peugeot purchased by frugal Enrico Fermi in 1927, about a year before he married Laura (the future author of the book). Even then, and particularly in Italy, this was a noticeable car. (And probably Bébé wasn't the official model designation.)

It burned little more gas than a motorcycle and made the same amount of noise. Because it had no differential and its wheels were obliged to run at the same speed on curves, it moved like a power-propelled baby carriage, jumping and swerving at every turn. The particular Bébé Peugeot of which I am going to talk was a two-seat convertible the color of bright egg-yolk, with a leaky oilcloth roof and a rumble seat in the back. As it sped around at a top velocity of twenty miles per hour, it was always followed by a dense cloud of black smoke from the open exhaust.

(They don't make baby carriages like they used to either.)

With the simplest differentials, if one of the drive wheels is free (on ice, in mud, suspended off the driving surface, etc.) then it spins and little torque is transmitted to the other wheel, yielding little net traction. Limited-slip differentials were invented to prevent this from happening. Nowadays the function of limited-slip differentials is increasingly incorporated in electronic stability control (ESC) systems.

Many years later, on July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb was exploded at ``Trinity.'' The test was postponed by weather from a scheduled 4am to 5:30 am. Local time was ``Mountain War Time,'' so the test occurred at 4:30 Mountain Standard Time, which was still before civil twilight. So it was dark outside, except during the test. A blind girl was reported to have seen it. The military told the press that an ammo dump had blown up. Enrico Fermi got back home to Los Alamos the evening of the 16th -- between the test and the inspections, he had pulled an all-nighter. The next morning ``all he had to say to the family was that for the first time in his life on coming back from Trinity he had felt it was not safe for him to drive. It had seemed to him as if the car were jumping from curve to curve, skipping the straight stretches in between. He had asked a friend to drive....''

Differential Amplifier
The input to a differential amplifier is regarded as representing a common mode (CM) plus and minus a difference signal or mode (DM). Thus, the input voltages are V+ = VCM + VDM and V- = VCM - VDM . An ideal differential amplifier amplifies only the difference signal VDM =: (V+ - V-) / 2. In general, real differential amplifiers working in the linear regime have an output that is VOUT = ADM VDM + ACM VCM , where for a usable differential amp it is necessary that the DM gain ADM be much greater than the CM gain ACM . Vide CMRR.

As soon as I am able to frame the category precisely, this entry will contain links to organizations unforthcoming about their activity, like OACL.

I'll also have to mention the mission-statement slogan ``Working for people.'' Doubtless this is inspiring to people, but the question is: which people and how? Dot Wordsworth (is that a real person?) noticed this and mentioned it in her regular Spectator column (in the 25 May 2002 issue). It's the slogan of the (English, I guess) Muslim Aid charity.

Image: diffused resistor

diffused resistor
A traditional diffused resistor is made by contacting two ends of a diffused p region in n material. In the simplest BJT fabrication, the p region is defined by the same mask, and in the same step, as the base regions for npn BJT's. The n region surrounding the diffused, conducting p region is connected to the highest positive voltage in the circuit, so that the pn junction between the two regions is everywhere reverse-biased. In this way, current flow between the two terminals is restricted to a defined path. Note that multiple resistors can be fabricated in the same n region, and all will be isolated from each other by the reverse bias to the common n-doped material (this is called junction isolation).

The tendency of some quantity of anything -- whether of particles of some material or impurity (atoms, ions), or charge (electrons, holes), or some more abstract thing as energy, phonons, photons, momentum, angular momentum or opinion -- to move around even in the absence of some forcing field or other applied bias. Diffusive motion is generally random. Physical diffusion of particles and physical quantities associated with them occurs because anything at finite temperature is not at rest, and because the restoring forces that act to keep a particle in one place act to keep it in its new place once it has moved. In a homogeneous host, and over a broad range of time and length scales, most diffusants obey Fick's Law and the Diffusion equation (qq.v., ummm, when I eventually put in entries for these things).

Digital Instantaneous Frequency Measurement. The basic element in any broadband ESM.

If your vision is merely excellent, then you probably need an electron microscope to read the printed catalog from Digi-Key. Fortunately, this electronic components and tools supplier has a web site.

Digi-Key reveals that once, Barry Goldwater purchased a digital clock kit from them.

The company name originates from founder Ronald A. Stordahl's original product, a digital electronic keyer kit for ham radio operators to send radio-telegraph code.

My father sold crystal radios when he was in school. That product has been discontinued as well.

digital rectal exam
This is not as high-tech as it sounds.

A term introduced by C. A. Ferguson in an article in the linguistics journal Word (vol 15, 1959, pp. 325-340) entitled ``Diglossia.'' (Kinda raised the bar on impenetrable scholarly-article titles, huh?) On page 336 (!) he gave a definition:
Diglossia is a relatively stable language situation in which, in addition to the primary dialects of the language (which may include a standard or regional standards), there is a very divergent, highly codified (often grammatically more complex) superposed variety, the vehicle of a large and respected body of written literature, either of an earlier period or in another speech community, which is learned largely by formal education and is used for most written and formal spoken purposes but is not used by any sector of the community for ordinary conversation.

I guess the coexistence of a standardized Hochdeutsch (``High German'') and various local German languages, particularly in Switzerland, would be among the best-known modern Western examples of diglossia. The term has become widely used since Ferguson introduced it, and in practice the definition is not so definite.

digraph capitalization
The Dutch capitalize ij by capitalizing both letters. The body of water that I learned to call (or at least to recognize in spelling as) the Zuiderzee in third grade is now the IJsselmeer.

Damned If I Know. USENET newsgroup acronym. One poster saves four seconds of typing, thousands of lurkers waste hundreds of man-hours guessing.

Dual In-Line. See, for example, cerdip.

Look, I'm just pointing out, um, indicating, that the word exists. I think that's enough.

Do I Look Like I Give A Flying Farthing? (Farthing might not be literally correct.) USENET newsgroup acronym. One poster saves 2.3 seconds of typing, thousands of lurkers waste hundreds of man-hours guessing.

DiIodoMethane. A liquid at room temperature.

Dual Independent Map Encoding. A digital map format developed by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Superseded by TIGER format in the 1990 census.

In general, something consisting of two parts. You know how the routine goes on from here.... The world consists of two kinds of things: those according to which the world consists of two kinds of things, and those according to which it doesn't.

Okay, enough of that. Obviously, the term was constructed from the reek roots di- (compounding form of dis, `double, twice') and méros (`part, share'), patterned on polymer. Okay, that really should be Greek, and not reek, but I figured you'd be amused by the typo, so I left it. The English word dimer rhymes with nickel-and-dimer. Oh, it's too much! This entry is uproariously funny!

As usual, the term is used scientifically in a way that is more restrictive than etymology alone would suggest. Specifically, the two parts are chemically bonded and are chemically similar. The reason for this restriction is probably that it was patterned on the word polymer, and polymer was originally intended to refer to a chemically-bonded chain of similar units (which eventually were called monomers, or monomer units). Hence a dimer was the first step in the polymerization process.

Eventually, we'll have a paragraph or two here about what we mean by ``chemically similar.'' At minimum, we'll point out that for chemical purposes, different nuclear isotopes are almost always equivalent.

The simplest sort of dimer is a diatomic molecule of a single element, like H2, N2, O2, F2, Cl2, etc. (As the preceding sentence implies, the word diatomic does not imply two atoms of the same element.) Other dimers include cyanogen (CN)2, which is a dimer of cyanide. The word dimer is also applied to a pair of identical functional groups, already part of a single molecule, which bond directly to each other. An example is given in the excimer entry.

The term dimer is used primarily in chemistry, but various dimers, and dimerization (the formation of dimers) are of interest to condensed-matter physicists, particularly in the context of the Peierls instability. In biology, although the word dimer is not itself used (or at least not common), the words dimerous and dimery occur. Specifically, in botany a flower having two members in each whorl is dimerous, and the occurrence of this feature is dimery. In the biological context, the similarity of the two dimerous parts is not a strict requirement.

Parallel constructions in mono-, tri-, tetra-, penta-, etc. occur less commonly in chemistry, and in biology with -merous and -mery.

Dual In-line Memory Module. A package of RAM. Cf. SIMM.

DiIsopropyl MethylPhosphonate.

Data Information Management System.

DSCS Integrated Management System.

Data INput.

Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V. [German Institute for Standardization.]

Drug Identification Number.

Dirección de Inteligencia NAcional. Chilean `National Intelligence Directorate' at least during the Pinochet dictatorship.

DIN Jack. (Female connector.)

DINK, dink
Dual Income, No Kids. A favored demographic [group] for marketing luxury goods. Cf. OINK.

Dual Income, No Kids, With A Dog. Extension of dink.

Democrat In Name Only. Substantially a synonym of the more common expression, blue dog Democrat. Cf. RINA.

We proudly serve a Taxasaurus entry. But for more conventional dinosaur stuff, with pictures, a good web place to go is the University of California Museum of Paleontology. They also have a good page of links that was updated in the very late Quaternary. There's a nice little exhibit at Honolulu Community College. It's a bit surprising when you consider that the oldest of the Hawaiian islands only began to be formed about six million years ago, long after the last dinosaurs died. Also, I don't think there's any evidence T. Rex could swim thousands of miles. Okay, it's an exhibit of replicas of dinosaur fossils at New York City's American Museum of Natural History, which has its own slightly anti-intuitively disorganized dinosaur web exhibit here. (I know, I know -- you never realized dinosaurs wove webs. Everybody's a comedian!)

The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology uses what look like a running T. Rex and a T. Rex head (Albertosaurus head, actually) as logos, so you might expect them to have a good display. I think they do, but it's no longer very evident from their web pages. Now they want your money. I guess they don't want their institution to go down the toilet the way the Madison Museum of Bathroom Tissue did (concerning which, gingerly inspect this TP entry). If you can't make it to Calgary (Drumheller, to be precise), they'll sell you a virtual tour on CD for $18.69 Canadian. (I think a lot of it was online back in 1995.)

Colors don't fossilize, exactly, so the colors of dinosaurs are unknown, technically speaking. Some interesting hypotheses have resulted.

Citizen Kane is Orson Welles's thinly disguised movie about the newspaperman William Randolph Hearst. A biography The Chief by historian David Nasaw (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000) suggests that Charles Foster Kane was an unfair caricature of Hearst. Be that as it may, the movie has a more interesting inaccuracy: In a scene where Kane and his entourage set off for the beach from Xanadu, the background sky is a montage. It seems to show large birds flying in the distance, but the montage, borrowed from a science fiction movie to cut costs, actually shows pterodactyls.

(Hitachi once showcased its DIS technology with a dinosaur exhibit. They've dissed the dinosaurs; the exhibit is extinct.)

DIN Plug. (Male connector.)

Digital Input/Output (I/O).

Any nonlinear two-terminal device. Most have an asymmetric I-V characteristic (also CVC) used for rectification or threshold used for voltage regulation. During the electron tube era, the term inspired and then became part of a systematic terminology (triodes, tetrodes, pentodes, etc.).

Semiconductor diodes in commercial application all have at least one pn junction. Vide

The simplest resonant tunneling diodes are symmetric in design, but for various reasons also have asymmetric CVC's.

See ``Molecular Rectifier,'' by A. S. Martin, J. R. Sambles, and G. J. Ashwell, Phys. Rev. Lett., vol. 70, #2, pp. 218-221 (11 January 1993). for more unusual diodes.


``Diogenes is a tool for searching and browsing the databases of ancient texts, primarily in Latin and Greek, that are published by the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae and the Packard Humanities Institute. It is free software: you are encouraged to modify, improve, and redistribute it under the terms of the GNU General Public license. The goal of this software package is to provide a free, transparent and flexible interface to databases in the PHI format.''

The webpage for this software is very slightly coy about the basis for the name choice. It quotes a work that used to be known as Lives of the Great Philosophers by a fellow who used to be known as Diogenes Laërtes (now still Diogenes, but the Latin Laertius is preferred). The quote is from book 6, sec. 41, however, which happens to be in the chapter on Diogenes of Sinope, and it is famous. The quote is

lúchnon meth' hêméran hápsas, `ánthropon,' phêsí, `zêtô.'

Preserving the syntax so far as possible, this is

[with] a lamp lit during the day, ``I search,'' he said, ``for a man.''

This might well be the best-remembered use of an ancient word meaning `search.' Interestingly, the word hápsas, meaning `lit' in this context, is more literally `touched,' and the Greeks used it in the metaphorical way we do (or still do), to refer to someone whose sanity has been affected. It would not have been out of place to describe Diogenes of Sinope as touched. The word ánthropon here means `man' in the sense of person, male or female. (This is like homo in Latin, if that doesn't cause too much confusion. The homo of homosexual is the Greek root meaning `same.') Any person hearing Diogenes could reasonably infer that the person sought was not just any person. Perhaps it would be a low-contrast or camouflaged person, hence the lamp. Whatever. Other versions of the story have him searching for an honest person, and fwiw this particular line of text has come down to us in at least slightly corrupt form. (I don't think any extant manuscript of it includes the necessary qualifier, however.) As Aristotle remarked somewhere, he was a familiar figure in Athens.


Diogenes of Sinope
Diogenes, a young man from Sinope in Pontus, went to Athens (in Europe, not the famous university town in Ohio or Georgia) and became a student of Antisthenes. One of the stories about him is that he would go around in the daytime with a lamp, ``looking for an honest man'' (vide supra). Maybe he figured that any honest man would tell him ``you're daft'' instead of just greeting him with an insincere geia sou and running off to snicker with his pals at the Parthenon (where they probably drank straight out of the brown-paper-wrapped amphorae, q.v.).

In contrast, Gerard of Liverpool went to America as a young man and became a postdoc with Craig. He would go around during the day and ask ``are you really all daft?'' He felt like David Lister of Red Dwarf.

Diogenes made a great show of flouting conventional standards of propriety, hygiene, and other optional things -- he even lived in a tub. At that point in their evolutionary development, dogs apparently also lived in tubs, so people called Diogenes and the group around him and Antisthenes `dogs'. [Vide NDOPA.]

Gerard is also a bachelor (cf. zoology entry).

Actually, because Diogenes had not mastered Modern English, Athenians called him a `Greek dog,' or cynic.

Gerard is a Brit.

Think about it some more.

Oh, alright -- kunikós is Greek for `dog-like,' from kúôn, kunós, `dog,' cognate with the Latin canis. For further etymological connections, see the DLR entry.

When Alexander the Great asked Diogenes if there was anything he could do for him, Diogenes said ``just get out of my light, Alex'' or words to that effect. Many ancients were sun-worshippers.

Gerard has already figured out that it's not a lot easier to get a natural tan in South Bend than in Liverpool.

One bit of ancient wisdom that we all know today is: It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Back in ancient times, however, they were still working the bugs out of this wisdom, and Diogenes had to use a beta version, which said ``better to light a candle in the daytime, and curse the man who casts the biggest shadow.'' If Diogenes had only got some better pointers on his interviewing technique, he would not have had to live in a tub fit for a dog. He could have afforded a deluxe tub.

Gerard also likes to spit into the employment wind.

Alexander Great was not the kind of administrator who thought that the pen was mightier than the sword. (Of course, the ball-point pen had not yet been invented.) Alexander Great was the kind of boss who liked to solve knotty problems with a sword. To this day there is no satisfactory theory of why Diogenes survived his interview with Alexander. However, while on a cruise some time later, Diogenes was captured by pirates and sold into slavery.

Nothing even remotely reminiscent of this could happen in the US today, because the thirteenth amendment (ratified 6 Dec. 1865) to the US Constitution forbids slavery. Until recently, we even had a significant labor movement.

Someone asked Diogenes:

`Hey, Diogenes, tell us, what fate took you down to Hades?'
`A dog's bite took me.'
This is mentioned in Diogenes Laertius, Anth. Gr. 7. 116, and in Suda entry Alpha 180. I cribbed it from Greg Hays's translation.


Anglophone mnemonic for the gender of Spanish nouns: words whose singular form ends in d, ión, z, or a are female 98% of the time. Agua is not an exception, but its singular form can take the male article el for euphonic purposes. A similar mnemonic for masculine nouns is LONERS.

Much of this can be explained on the basis of Latin derivation. Even as word forms evolved, the grammatical male-female distinction was preserved. Thus female -io and -tas Latin nouns evolved into -ción and -dad nouns in Spanish but remained female. (These correspond to -tion/-sion and -ty nouns in English. For more on the latter, see the vanidad entry.) Actually, one might better say that the female-nonfemale distinction was preserved, since the three genders of Latin collapsed into two, the neuter usually coalescing with the male. In a typical case, Latin ovum (n.) became Spanish huevo (m.). (More on this at LONERS.)

There are some oddities, however, such as mar. The Latin mare was a neuter third-declension noun with sing. abl. forms mare and mari. In Spanish, it is used in both genders. Generally, it is masculine to landlubbers and feminine entre marinos. In addition, some figurative and technical expressions apparently originating with seamen use feminine mar.

The different noun forms that Latin used for different grammatical cases were collapsed into a single form (typically derived from the ablative; see disco). The large number of Latin first-declension nouns with singular ablative forms ending in -a yielded a large number of female nouns in Spanish that end in -a, and this was regularized into a reliable morphological rule (i.e., new nouns ending in -a are female). However, in words derived from Greek and Latin, etymology is normally still the controlling factor. Thus the exotic (fifth-declension male) noun dies evolved into Spanish día but stayed male. (For more, see the sp. entry.)

Most male first-declension nouns in Latin are borrowed from Greek. Among these, probably the largest class is that of words ending in -ista. These were derived from -istês nouns in Greek. The -ista ending generally carried over unchanged into Spanish. In French, the ending was regularly transformed to -iste, and this was a large source of -ist words in Middle English. In all three of these modern languages, the suffix is productive. As nouns, -ista words in Spanish have the same form for males and females. (The politically hypercorrect name for an association of dentists would have to be ``La Asociación de Las y Los Dentistas'' or something equally stupid.) Likewise, as adjectives the -ista words have common gender. (See SEDERI for an example, where male estudios is modified by renacistas.)

Most of the other examples I can think of, of male Spanish nouns ending in -a, are ultimately derived from Greek male nouns ending in -a (typically via the Latin first declension): drama, panorama, poema, poeta, programa, tema (the last is `theme'), etc.

Tequila (in origin the name of a Mexican town) is male; but then, so too was José Cuervo (`Joe Crow'), creator of the Jose Cuervo brand. (The brand name does not have a graphic accent over the e in José.)

That should be enough exceptions for final-a-female rule to cause confusion. The only exception I can think of for final d is the metric capacitance unit farad. It's at least conceivable to me that no -ción, -gión, -sión nouns are male. The usual exception of -ion number names doesn't occur in Spanish: million is millón, billion billón, etc.


Materials for the Study of Women and Gender in the Ancient World. This is a respected Classics resource, and yet here too it is forgotten that ``gender'' is not sex but category, of which sex is only one kind. I forbear to claim this as evidence of accelerating decadence, although decadence surely is accelerating, in recollection of the fact that even Dryden and Byron wrote ``the [sic] hoi polloi,'' even though they were both surely aware that hoi is a definite article (so they were writing something like `the the great-unwashed'). [Actually, they wrote the latter two words using Greek characters not forming part of ISO Latin-1.]

In detail: Dryden used it in Essay on Dramatic Poetry, 65 (1668):

If by the people you understand the multitude, the hoi polloi.
Lord Byron is known to have written it around 1821-2; it appeared in his published Letters (1830), vol. I, 633:
[We] put on masques, and went on stage with the hoi polloi.

Debtor In Possession. A debtor allowed to remain in possession of the business (the ``estate in property'') and continue business operation during reorganization. Possible under chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Distal InterPhalangeal (joint). The knuckle nearest the end of the finger. That is, the further (more distal) of the two joints between phalanx. Cf. PIP.

Dual-In-line Package. Typical cheap chip package, good for making model centipedes and caterpillars. Often called a DIP package. Cf. skinny DIP.

Here are some typical specs.

DIPCd, DIpCd, dipCd
DiIsoPropyl Cadmium. An organic precursor used in MOCVD growth of II-VI material.

An Italian word meaning `painting.' I have reason to believe that it has a specialized sense in paleography or archaeology, but I haven't found out what yet.

Distorted Independent Particle Model (IPM). This overview page of nucleus models has a link to an extended technical description (dvi).

This isn't actually an abbreviation of any kind. It's just a note written by a dip. No? Oh!

According to information recently confided to me, it turns out that the ``Dip'' in the head term stands for DIPlomat. Dipnote is a US State Department blog. A news story in November 2007 elicited this comment from one of the people who runs the blog:

In addition, as with all other entries on Dipnote, we will post comments regardless of the point of view. The only exceptions being profanity, hate speech, personal attacks and foreign language.

Dynamic Isotope Power Source[s].

An uncontrollable craving for alcohol. In the nineteenth century, the term was also used for the state of extreme-but-still-conscious drunkenness, considered the equivalent of the legal term frenzy, a temporary form of insanity. See dipsomaniac.

Someone who suffers from an uncontrollable craving for alcohol (called dipsomania). The word sounds macaronic, as if someone had tried to construct a bogus medical term from the suggestive English verb `to dip.' However, it has a perfectly legitimate Greek etymology (dípsa means `thirst') and has been a part of efforts at rational and systematic medical diagnosis. However, the term dates from the nineteenth century, when medicine itself was still in many respects quite bogus.

Given the suspect appearance of the word, and the pernicious elasticity of a weasel term like ``uncontrollable craving,'' in the twentieth century the word dipsomaniac came to be used as a winking or contemptious euphemism for any sot, or habitual drunk. The word dipsomaniac became obsolete in the second half of the twentieth century. One could say it was replaced by the word alcoholic, but the situation is slightly trickier.

The word dipsomaniac, despite its medical provenance, carried a certain moral valence. Its use implied or was associated with the attitude that individuals are strong or weak, and that dipsomania was a sign of moral weakness. It might be pitied or contemned, but it was not morally neutral. A contrast can be made between suffering from dipsomania and being struck down by a meteorite. The latter is a random misfortune that is not taken to reflect on the morals of the victim (except by a certain minority among those who take the phrase ``act of God'' rather literally).

The use of alcoholic as a noun referring to an alcohol addict dates back only to the beginning of the twentieth century. It might be tedious to prove, but this word seems to be associated with somewhat different attitudes than was dipsomaniac, if only because it became common later and was an alternative to the existing word. Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 and probably had the greatest influence on the sense in which the term was understood. Although AA certainly has an understanding of alcoholism that is at its center moral and spiritual (in a carefully general, certainly nondenominational way), the way the word alcoholic is used has an interesting way of, so to speak, cleansing the moral stigma. Accepting that one is an alcoholic is seen as a positive act, and can come as an immense relief, turning shame upside-down. Moreover, AA does not speak of ``curing'' alcoholism, but rather of abstinence from alcohol and from alcohol-related behaviors. Because the ``recovering alcoholic'' is an admirable person, alcoholism is viewed as an affliction overcome by moral strength and moral support. Thus, interestingly, though AA does not promote a medical fix to alcohol addiction, it does promote an essentially medical, or morally neutral, view of the underlying problem.

DIPTe, DIpTe, dipTe
DiIsoPropyl Telluride. An organic precursor used in MOCVD growth of II-VI material.

DIRectory. A command in VMS, CP/M, MS-DOS/PC-DOS (chronological order) and various other langauges, to present (send a copy to standard output; display on screen, print to teletype, whatever) a list of the files within a particular directory (or folder, as it is often called when associated with a GUI.


De Imperatoribus Romanis. (`Of Roman Emperors.') An extensive on-line encyclopedia of Roman emperors, their families, and of the empire generally (or empires; coverage extends to 1453).

Direct{ed|ional} InfraRed CounterMeasures (IRCM). A general term. As the name of a US government agency, expanded ``Directional Infrared Countermeasures.''

Everett McKinley Dirksen (1896-1969). Long-time Republican senator from Illinois; Senate minority leader around the time LBJ was majority leader. Stentorian advocate of designating the Marigold as US national flower. (My theory is that he did this so that when he finally went soft in the head, the change wouldn't be as obvious.) If he is remembered, it may be for his comment on additivity of the real numbers.

dirt bike
  1. In Britain, in the 1960's: a specialized bicycle for racing on oval cinder tracks. (The tracks were oval, not the cinder.) These bikes had knobby tires, cow-horn handlebars and no gears. No gears! This was before mountain bikes.
  2. Today, in the UK and elsewhere: a motorbike for off-road speed. See, for example, <dirtbike.com>, <dirtbikedepot.com>, <dirtbikeposters.com>, and <dirtbikerider.co.uk>.

dirty underwear
There is a legendary fear of being found dead wearing dirty underwear, and I thought it a mythical fear as well. Mothers would supposedly tell their children to wear clean underwear, so they wouldn't be embarrassed if they died in an accident. I don't think I ever heard a first- or second-person account of such a conversation.

Recently, however, I was talking with a friend of mine who has just returned to her apartment near Tokyo for the first time since the 9.0 quake that struck the Tôhoku (`northeast') region of Japan on March 11, 2011. Like most Japanese, she's used to minor quakes and normally ignores them, but the aftershocks of the Tohoku earthquake have been unusually strong (ominously so to seismologists, who offer short odds for the big one to hit central Japan soon). Anyway, she was taking a bath when a recent aftershock hit; she jumped out and dressed, as she explained, so she wouldn't be found naked. I asked her what mantissa of difference it would make, if she died and also happened to be found naked. She explained that she might be trapped and wouldn't want to be naked when she called out for rescue. Oh wow -- that's totally different! I hadn't thought of it. Now I get it!

After writing the two paragraphs above, I had a chat with a couple of hourly-wage employees in which I essentially repeated the story. It was a revelation to me. Two or more revelations, quantitatively speaking. Let me say that for statistical purposes, they (informants M and B below) represent an unbiased sample. That is, I didn't choose them based on any evidence or expectation that they would have a particular kind of information -- or any information -- regarding the topic of this entry. I chose them to chat with because I know them, or thought I knew them, and they were chewing the fat where I was passing by on my way to the candy machines. Also, I haven't biased the data by cherry-picking interviewees: my entire sample size so far, and preferrably forever, is 2.

Informant M is a female currently in her early-to-mid 50's. Informant M informed ME that oh yes, this is a big deal with her mother. M's father was a fireman, and M's mother would not just clean but iron his boxers, so if he died no one should think he died with dirty or unpressed underwear. Let's hope she didn't starch them. Upon prompting, M confirmed that the motivating fear was her father's possible at-work death, and not some nonfatal accident. M's mother is reportedly fastidious in other ways. Mismatched socks provoke horror.

Informant B, recently returned from extended medical leave, is a male also currently in his early-to-mid-50's, though he happens to look about 70. (If you lived on coffee and cigarettes, you could probably look older too. In fact, I understand that some adolescents take up smoking precisely so as to appear older. Also, if you look older it's easier to buy cigarettes, so there's some sort of positive feedback effect in there. I'll have to calculate it one day.) Anyway, B's mother must had a philosophy similar to M's, and he remarked that a few weeks ago, when he checked himself into the hospital, he ``felt bad because ....'' (The unstated implication was that he wore dirty underwear to the hospital, and not that he felt bad on account of whatever it was that sent him to the hospital. It takes the old saw ``when you gotta go, you gotta go'' to the next level... down.)

A city within Hell, described by Dante in his Inferno.

Diagnostic Interview Schedule.

Digital Image System.

dis, diss
Ghetto slang for `express disrespect.' The s is unvoiced, as in disparage.

Distributed Interactive Simulation. Cf. ADS.

Draft International Standard.

Data Interchange Standards Association, Inc.

Defense Information Systems Agency.

Domestic International Sales Corporation[s].

A flat circular object. Phonograph records, CD's, hockey pucks, and manhole covers are examples. See fisk for the etymology. Cf. disk, with a k.

DIScovery Channel (Canadian cable). Programming differs from DISCU. See AWOTV for ancient-world component of programming.

La Diversité des Systèmes Cognitifs. French, `Diversity of Cognitive Systems.' Groupe de recherche DISCO (also l'èquipe de recherche DISCO) is a research group at UQÀM.

It's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! It's back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack, back-ack-ack-ack. Back! Back! Back! Back! Back! It's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! It's

Wallpaper of Sound. (No, not Wall of Sound.)


Spanish for `disc,' from the ablative singular form of Latin discus, from the Greek diskos.

In principle, and in many particular cases, Spanish nouns could be regarded as being derived from other (usually oblique) cases in Latin. This is particularly the case for second-declension nouns, which have identical dative and ablative forms. As a general rule, however, the best way to guess the eventual Spanish form of a Latin noun is to cast it into the ablative and then apply common (not always regular) sound shifts like u --> o.

It makes sense that the ablative forms should have been salient. The instrumental case found in some other highly inflected Indo-European languages is essentially collapsed into the Latin ablative, as are plural forms of the locative. Not only is the ablative very common, but its frequency was reinforced by the gradual replacement of the genitive case by de + abl. Now you're probably going to suggest that really, the accusative should have been more salient, since ordinary direct objects are more common than objects of prepositions and all those weird ablative-of-whatever forms. Okay, time for a dirty little secret: over time, final em's in Latin went silent... if you lop the final em off the singular accusative forms (and change u --> o), they mostly coincide with the ablative.

A related fact: The common-gender forms of Latin third declension have ablative singulars that end consistently in -e, and Spanish adjectives that end in -e have the same form when modifying male and female nouns.

I can see that you find this stuff fascinating. Read more at the D-ION-Z-A entry supra.

Discomfit (informal). This word antedates the one defined in the long disco entry.

discretionary coughing
I just felt like putting the idea out there, you know? Maybe later I'll define it. The definition will probably mention violin solos. Hmmm... it seems I already mention them at the flu entry.

DIScovery Channel (US cable). Programming differs from DISCC. Abbreviation used at AWOTV, which see for ancient-world component of programming.

Alright: listen up, you doofus! ``Disinterested'' does not mean the same thing as ``uninterested.'' A person who is uninterested in some matter is one who is uncurious about the matter. The person is not interested. In contrast, a person who is disinterested in some matter is someone who has no stake in the outcome or resolution of the matter.

The word uninterested implies little about the matter in question other than that it is something about which there is something to know, and about which someone might possibly be curious. The word disinterested implies that the matter in question is one requiring judgment. The ideal judge (i.e., juror, judge, arbitrator, etc.) is interested, and thus attentive, yet disinterested, and thus fair.

Do you think maybe you're beginning to get the hang of this thing, after all your years of abject ignorance? The difference has to do with two different senses of the word interest. Someone said to have ``an interest'' may have a neutral observer's desire for information, or may possibly benefit or suffer depending on how certain a question is decided. (The latter kind of interest is the only kind that is ``vested.'') One can distinguish these two kinds of interest by using narrower terms like curiosity and stake.

(There are other kinds of interest, of course. There is interest you earn on a deposit, and there is interest that one has in activities. If you say you are interested in travel, you don't usually mean that you are interested in hearing about other people's travel, so much as you are interested in traveling yourself. The situation here is that ``interested in traveling'' really means ``wants or likes to travel'' or ``interested in learning about opportunities to travel.'' This is sometimes sloppy, but one might not want to be precise.)

The confusion between disinterested and uninterested goes bak a little ways. G.S. Fraser wrote this in his The Modern Writer and His World:

Disinterested curiosity -- to be disinterested is not to be uninterested -- is one of the noblest qualities of the human mind.

This was on page 12 of the third edition (Penguin, 1964). I don't know if it was in the earlier English edition (1953). In principle, the text may even be left over from the 1950 edition aimed at a Japanese audience. Whatever the case, the proleptic parenthetical is the earliest evidence I've happened across indicating that confusion between the two terms was a problem.

disinterested enthusiasm
This describes the intellectual approach of the Stammtisch Beau Fleuve. For an expanded description, click here.

dish cover
For your microwave receiving antenna. Microwaves penetrate plastic. For the etymology of dish, see fisk.

When two different material surfaces are exposed for chemical mechanical polishing (CMP for planarization), the softer material ends up more deeply polished. Gouged, more like. Large areas of the softer material (Cu next to SiO2, say) may be eroded away everywhere except at the edges, leaving a kind of dish or depression. If the copper is a contact, a simple solution is to define it with some electrically superfluous blocks of oxide in the metal, so that much of the copper is near an ``edge.''

A word invented by IBM to describe magnetic disc memories. IBM also dreamed up ``deque,'' which fortunately did not catch on.

Kenneth Thompson is credited with discovering the first law of memory thermodynamics:

The steady state of disks is full.

See also RAM disk.

NASA slang for DSKY.

dismal science, the
Half right. Tired witticism describing economics.

How tired? Thomas Carlyle introduced it as an epithet for political economics in an 1849 essay, ``Latter-Day Pamphlets, No.1. The Present Time.''

Economics is ultimately derived from the Greek word oikonómos, `manager of a household, steward,' composed from oîkos, `house,' and -nómos, nominal combining form of némein here meaning `to manage, control.' The words derived from oikonómos have taken a variety of meanings over time, including theological ones. Some of the meanings depended implicitly on a metaphorical understanding of `household' as a larger entity. L'économie politique came to refer to aspects of governance, and in the second half of the eighteenth century it and the English term modeled on it, political economy, came to have the specialized sense of ``the science [in a loose sense] of the wealth of nations.'' (``The Wealth of Nations,'' of course, was published by Adam Smith in 1776.) The word economics alone did not come into its current sense until late in the nineteenth century. For a detailed discourse on the evolution of this word, see the first chapter of Moses Finley's The Ancient Economy (Sather Classical Lectures, Vol. 43). He comments there that nem- is a ``semantically complex root.''

Rare synonym of disproportionation.

disposable income
Not on your life! I plan to spend that money!

A reaction in which an atom within one compound is both reduced and oxidized, occurring in two different compounds of the product. A simple example is the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide in aqueous solution:
                 2H O (aq)   ---> 2H O(l) + O (g)
                   2 2              2        2

The oxygen in peroxides has an oxidation number of -1; in water and oxygen gas, it has oxidation numbers -2 and 0, respectively. (Hydrogen peroxide solutions sold as antiseptics typically contain a stabilizer such as acetanilide (C6H5NHCOCH3).)

The charging of a lead-acid battery involves the disproportionation of the lead ion in lead (II) sulfate (PbSO4). A general example of disproportionation reaction is the Cannizzaro reaction.

The reverse of disproportionation is called comproportionation or symproportionation. Discharge (i.e., ordinary use) of a lead-acid battery involves running a comproportionation reaction. All of the good -tionation words are used in chemistry. (The other one is fractionation.)

ABD slang for `dissertation.' Use probably influenced by disrespect.

Distance. Computed for you by indo.com, the new home of the distance service.

Medicalese: `at a distance, on the far side.'

German: `distal[ly].'

Distel, die
German: `thistle, the.'

Well-known in the field or subfield, but unknown outside.

Old but healthy. Spry but sedate.


A tree of the Philippines, now also found in the Scrabble forest. Don't say ``that's not my problem, I don't play that silly game,'' because crossword puzzles and computer word games are often based on a Scrabble word list. You can't escape.

Device-Independent TROFF. See the troff entry for an overview summary of various roff programs.

Long duration. Usually meaning approximately but not exactly eternal. Sometimes loosely used as equivalent to eternal. Got that? Good. The word is obsolete.


Digital Interactive Virtual Acoustics. When I went to see Aïda at the Porta Caracola in Rome, I sat in the really-cheap seats, and some guy in the equally cheap seats a dozen rows ahead of me acted out his fantasies of directing the orchestra. Mister, you know who you are. Go get some software like this and let the rest of us enjoy the opera.

Italian: `goddess.' Prima donna, but not necessarily pejorative.

``dive immediately, fellow lodge members!''
I don't know about you, but for me this ranks right up there with ``by the time the boy was a toddler, it was `physically obvious' that Schwarzenegger was his dad.''

(The phrase quoted as the head of this entry is sourced at the books that could have benefitted from illustrations entry.)

Politically homogeneous (and likewise correct).

Bear this in mind:
Abandonment charges based on unwillingness to engage in sex are not always sustained, because adultery by one partner frees the other from any, em, obligations. It's the `condonation' defense.

Usual abbreviation for DIVisionS (pl. of div.).

Old-fashioned abbreviation for DIVisions (pl. of div.). I've seen it in a book published as recently as 1920.

De-Ionized WATER.

Device-Independent X-windows. As opposed to Device-Dependent X (DDX), of course. Note that while the expression ``machine-independent code'' referrs to a coding style or discipline, DIX refers to a part of X.


A French ordinal adjective meaning `eighteenth,' used as a learned borrowing to mean pertaining in some way to the eighteenth century (especially: in the style of the eighteenth century). I've also sometimes seen it used (nonattributively) as a noun (i.e., the eighteenth century). Orthographic advisory: The grave accent is in the original French, and the word does not appear to have been sufficiently naturalized in English for the accent to disappear. However, the word is sufficiently rare that if you omit the accent in email, you will not be thought linguistically unsophisticated.

One who studies the eighteenth century (dix-huitième, supra). Cf. dieciochista.

Dixie fowl

Do It Yourself. Zines and e-zines are sometimes described as DIY publishing. The free-standing acronym is used internally by retailers and wholesalers to refer to home-improvement merchandise. You'd think DIY could be a productive acronym prefix, just like BYO, but it doesn't seem to be much (except for DIYer).

Religious opposition to abortion is represented (by the ``pro-choice'' side) by a coat-hanger and the slogan ``Do It Thyself.''

Dive Into Your Body. An instrumental. Catchy tune. Hard-to-forget lyrics. Safety tip: listen to something else before entering shower. Excellent mood music for a cruise past shopping malls.

Dog Inside Your Body.
Lyrics: here
Artist: Butthole Surfers.
Alternate version: lyrics over attractive orange background here.
Anonymous lyricist: of course.

In case of fire, click here.

Do-It-Yourself (DNA sequence comparison using WU-) Blast.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't. La condition humaine.

Do-It-Yourself-ER. Someone who prefers to have a unique, custom-engineered article of pride for a really quite economical investment in quality raw materials, professional equipment, failed experiments, medical expenses, and lost income during convalescence, rather than waste money buying some one-size-fits-all COTS vanilla product like all those proles. Oh! Where is the spirit of craftsmanship gone? Where are resourceful inventiveness and inventive resourcefulness? (Answer: hacking.)

It's not the destination; it's the trip.

Do It YourSelf. Rare variant of DIY.

Datapanik In the Year Zero. A CD box set of Pere Ubu (and Ubu-related) recordings from the period 1975-1982. Pere Ubu is self-described as a legendary avant-rock band. Okay, whatever.

You know, when I googled ``DIYZ,'' I was asked if perhaps I didn't mean ``DAYS.'' This is almost as insulting as that condescending paper clip ``help'' in MSWord.

The popular nickname of Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), first earl of Beaconsfield.

Disraeli had a gift for spontaneous expression that has resulted in many fine mots being uncertainly attributed to him, either because he uttered them off the cuff, so to speak, rather than into a book, or else because his reputation made him a likely candidate when anyone was casting about for a likely or plausible source of a quote whose real author was unknown or forgotten.

One such is the quote about lies, damn lies, and statistics. More about that one later.

Another such quote is, ``When I want to read a novel, I write one.'' Many close variants are attributed to him. The earliest instance of this that I can find is in a volume of his biography that was first published in 1920. Following is the entire paragraph of context (boldface emphasis added).

  His mental processes were as unusual as his physical appearance was peculiar. He did not form his opinions by amassing facts, but by some intuitive process of imagination. And so dramatic was the quality of his mind that he seems never to have been conscious of an opinion or conviction without being simultaneously conscious of the effect which its expression would produce. Hence the epigrammatic character of his talk and writing; to which a cynical flavour was added owing to the mask which he seldom put off in public. Lothair and Endymion recapture and repeat his table-talk, which was uttered with deliberate and impressive sententiousness. The stories told of it were endless. People heard of the royal lady who, indignant at the hesitation shown by Ministers on the Eastern Question, asked him at dinner what he was waiting for, and was told, `For peas and potatoes, ma'am;' of the charming neighbour whose insidious attempts to wheedle political secrets out of him were met by a pressure of the hand and a whispered `You darling;' of the public dinner at which the food was poor and cold, and at which Disraeli, when he tried the champagne, remarked with fervour, `Thank God, I have at last got something warm;' of his grandiloquent excuse for inability to recommend a novel to a neighbour, `When I want to read a novel, I write one;' of his judgment on a leading politician, nearly as well known in Mayfair as in Parliament, `He has a fine presence, ancient descent, a ready wit, and no principles; he must succeed.' But silence and self-absorption grew upon Beaconsfield in society along with age and disease; so that [Sir William] Fraser [author of Disraeli and his Day] could jestingly maintain that he was, in reality, a corpse which only at intervals came to life.

I don't know much about the authors, but perhaps the following may be helpful. This paragraph is from the concluding chapter (17) of the final volume (6), of The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, published at London by John Murray between 1910 (vol. 1) and 1920 (vol. 6). The entire biography is typically listed as being by Monypenny and Buckle. To be precise, however, William Flavelle Monypenny was the sole credited author of volume 1 (covering the years 1804-1837) and volume 2 (1837-1846). The second volume was published in 1912, the year Monypenny died (rather young; he was born in 1866). The third volume (1846-1855), published in 1914, listed as coauthors Monypenny and George Earle Buckle (1854-1935), and the last three volumes gave the authorship as ``George Earle Buckle in succession to W.F. Monypenny.'' (A two-volume condensation ``by Monypenny and Buckle'' was published in 1929.)

I have also seen a claim that ``[w]hen I want to read a book I write one'' was attributed to Disraeli in a review of his novel Lothair (1870) in Blackwood's Magazine. Blackwood's had a rather nasty review of the novel in June 1870, pp. 773-793. (I'm not saying that it was or wasn't fair. Considering its length, to say nothing of the three-volume Lothair, I plan to putting off to the indefinite future having any such opinion on the subject.) The magazine published a ``Note to our review of `Lothair' '' in July (pp. 129-132), defending itself against criticism of its review. The alleged quote does not occur in this latter note, and probably does not occur in the review itself. For laughs, though, and for an indication of how someone might suppose, or misremember, that a quote of this sort was attributed to Disraeli in the review, here are the opening lines of the Lothair pan:

  This is the most elaborate jest which the sportive author has ever played off upon an amiable and confiding public. Addressing the novel-reading portion of that public in his own mind, he has evidently said: ``You have been this long while prating of purity of style, truth to nature, probability, and adherence to the rules of art. You have been condemning sensational novels, and false effects, and didactic prosings, and slipshod composition. Well, I will write something which shall be more extravagant than the romances of the `London Journal,' more inflated in expression and false in grammar than the exercises of an aspiring schoolboy of the fifth form, more foreign to life and reality than the hysteric fancies of a convent-bred girl, and, in point of art, on a level with the drop-scene of a provincial theatre. ...''

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