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(Domain code for) Peru.

Note: as a US city name, Peru is often pronounced with a long Ee. The name of the one in Indiana is pronounced in English like the country name.

There's an old Latin American saying that one should beware of Peruvian women, Chilean men, and Bolivian justice.

I can confirm the good sense of all three cautions from close personal experience. The dangers are listed in order of decreasing fun.


PhosphatidylEthanolamine. Same as PtdEtn.

PhotoEmission. Emission (usually of an electron) in response to light radiation.

PE, P.E.
Phys. Ed. or Physical Education. Standard American High School designation of generally noneducative periods for sports or other physical activity.

Plasma Etch[ing].

Pneumatic E-something. Part of the Rube Goldberg mechanism that is designed, if that's the word, to control the baseboard heaters in Bonner Hall.

PolyEthylene. Polymer constituted principally of ethylene (modern name ethene) polymerized by free-radical mechanism. Ethenyl is also called vinyl, so when ethene with some side group is polymerized by the same mechanism (i.e., successive breaking of the ethene double bond, with accompanying propagation of a free radical), the resulting plastics are (sometimes) called vinyls (vide PVA, PVC). [Note, however, that what looks like ethenyl may be part of a longer chain, like propene -- in which case you have an acrylic polymer formed by free-radical polymerization (vide PMMA).]

Here's a brief description. San Diego Plastics, Inc. has a short page of information on Polyethylene. The PE entry of the Macrogalleria has some more.

Postal abbreviation for the province of Prince Edward Island in Canada (.ca). Capital: Charlottetown.

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are known as the Maritime Provinces. This is the third time I mention it. It's review; you should know it already.

Price-to-Earnings ratio. A traditional figure of merit for stock prices. ``Earnings'' means annual earnings per share. (Earnings are also called profits, but P/P would be confusing.) Throughout most of the twentieth century, long-term P/E has typically been about 14 for most companies. Rapidly-growing companies had higher P/E's, others slightly lower. During the late 1920's (before the crash of '29), and again during the late 1990's, P/E's of the S&P 500 companies were often in the high 20's or mid-30's.

Numbers much greater than one are a little bit easier to discuss than factions much less than one, so it is usually more convenient to talk about P/E than about E/P: the price of a stock represents the value of the business, and any business that stays around long enough to issue stock ought to be worth more than one year of earnings. However, one problem with P/E is that while the numerator is usually positive, the denominator may go negative, near the zero-divide, you can get some shocking numbers.

Printer's Error. Typographical error by typesetter. Abbreviation used on galley or page proof.

Private Equity.

{Processor | Processing} Element.

Pro Electron. ``The PRO ELECTRON system is the European type designation and registration systeme for active components (such as semicoductors, liquid cristal displays, sensor devices and electronic tube and cathode ray tubes, etc.) that provides a concise and unambiguous type designation system for active components. The system provides integrity of the designations, and creates a transparent and unique product identification system, thus preventing confusion in the market place.'' (Based in Brussels, as you might almost guess from the spellings.)


A common type nomenclature code for receiving tubes was introduced by a number of manufacturers in the 1930's, followed in the 1950's by a common code for semiconductor devices. Later, as more and more manufacturers realized the advantage of the use of a common type numbering code and became interested in using the system, it was decided to found a separate organization to administer the allocation and registration of type numbers.

So in 1966 the international organisation "PRO ELECTRON" was set up in Brussels to perform this function. On 1st January 1983 Pro Electron merged with the European Electronic Component Manufacturers Association (EECA) and pursued its activities under the name of "Pro Electron Registration Office, an EECA Agency".

PE, P.E.
Professional Engineer. The ``PE Exam'' is the conventional name for the PP exam, administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES, q.v.). There's a national society of professional engineers (NSPE). Another site to visit is the sci.engr.* FAQ on the PE exam, as well as the preliminary Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Also try rtfm faq archive.

Pulmonary Embolus.

Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol.

The vegetable that is now called ``pea'' was once ``pease,'' but this was often misconstrued as a plural. (For example, ``pease'' is used as a plural in the in the diary of Pepys.) The new word pea was back-constructed by removing the ess (or the ess-ee; but spelling evidently didn't play much of a role) from the misconstrued original word for pea. With this knowledge you can appreciate the light irony of Arthur Stanley Pease's name.

In detail: Eng. pease < L. pisa < Gk. píson. OEng. (where the word was a feminine weak noun) and ME used plurals in -en, but in the 16c. peasen was edged out by peases and pease, the latter indistinguishable from the singular, and by the end of the 16 c. pea had appeared. (Confusion was probably compounded by the fact that usually, the distinction between singular and plural is singularly unimportant in mentions of seed foods. Who eats one pea? Cf. the entry for pulses, of which peas are an example.)

[column] A similar thing happened with the Greek word phasis. Like many Greek words ending in -sis, (e.g. basis, thesis) this word was adopted into Latin and declined as a regular third-declension noun. These have a nominative plural in -es (hence phases, bases, theses (cf. the third-declension plural penes, from a native Latin word). Phases was misconstrued as a regularly constructed English plural, yielding the word phase. (Other details at the aphid entry.) In some cases, of course, the Greek or Latin singular survived essentially unchanged (e.g., thesis, apheresis) in English, or were neologized directly (e.g., aphesis).

The majority of Latin words entered English via French, however, and there different processes apply. This is relevant (keep in mind through the long hard paragraphs ahead) for the case of base.

French and other Romance languages evolved from the common speech, known as Vulgar Latin. (Vulgar used to mean common, but it got dragged down by connotations.) This speech collapsed a number of morphological distinctions (losing a gender along the way), and relied more on word order and prepositions to indicate the distinctions indicated by declension in Latin. (A roughly parallel development occurred in the Germanic languages. Old English and contemporary Germanic languages had systems of noun declension similar to those of Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and Slavic languages. Most of that was swept away in Middle English. Modern German retains an extensive declension system for determiners and adjectives, and limited noun declension. These systems are more and less ambiguous (respectively), in the sense of providing incomplete information about the function of a noun phrase in a sentence, so here too there is greater reliance on syntax and less on morphology.)

The point of the digression of the previous paragraph was to note that in most Romance languages, all the different forms of any given Latin noun ultimately collapsed to just a singular form, plus an essentially regularly formed plural. (In French, that was created by padding the singular with an s, which sometimes became an x, and which now is mostly silent anyway.) The single singular form was derived from an oblique form. Doubtless in individual cases, some common expression led to the derivation of the new singular form from the dative or nominative, but for the most part Romance forms follow from the ablative or accusative. When one takes account of the fact that final m's became silent in Vulgar Latin, and if one fudges the o/u distinction a bit, there is little to choose between them. In the case of base, for example, the singular ablative and accusative singular forms are base and basem. Hence base in French. The French-origin base was apparently well-established in English before basis was common, so base is not a case of back-formation like phase (as I read once somewhere). The case of case, as you were doubtless wondering, is not quite the same. The second-declension casus (ablative caso, accusative casum) gave rise to cas in Old French and thence Middle English.

Hillary Clinton, recording a guest appearance on the children's show Sesame Street, had the word ``peas'' removed from the script, saying ``hardly anyone likes peas.'' Word got out.

Somewhere Marx writes that somewhere Hegel writes that history repeats itself. Marx comments further that Hegel has only neglected to point out that the first time it is tragedy, and the second time farce. In his report on the very important pea news story, Tom Brokaw pleaded:

Mrs. Clinton, all we are saying is give peas a chance.
Afterwards, the White House said that she'd been quoted out of context. In a reprise of the George Bush broccoli incident, truckloads of the vegetable were immediately donated and delivered to the White House by offended farmers looking to cash in on the free publicity.

It's farce the first time as well.

For weeks after an event like this, the homeless poor in Washington, DC, can eat (for example) four regular meals of peas every day. It's used as an incentive to get people off the dole. (See also the CCNV entry.)

Jesse Ventura, a former professional wrestler, political radio guy, and small-town mayor, won a three-way race for governor of Minnesota with 37% of the vote. In his book I Ain't Got Time to Bleed: Reworking the Body Politic from the Bottom Up, he revealed that he does not wear underwear. Fruit of the Loom sent him twelve thousand pairs of undershorts. (Ah -- Fruit! There's the connection.) He donated them to a couple of charities, which thanked him profusely -- nobody donates underwear, let alone clean underwear, just old coats and dresses.

In a dimly remembered time before Monica Lewinsky (1997?!), President Clinton was asked whether he wears boxers or briefs, and he answered. Some people thought that was bad, then.

After his election, Jesse told Jay Leno, ``Have you seen my wife? I don't need to look for an intern.'' Hmm. I suppose this entry is implicitly reentrant.

The FDA was required by law to draw up lists of the twenty most popular raw fruits, vegetables, and seafood in the US. It was part of a nutrition labeling act passed by Congress. (I think the Constitutional authority for this legislation comes from the ``insure domestic Tranquility'' clause.) Here they are, rank-ordered first to last (links may not be entirely apposite):

2appleiceberg lettucecod
7grapefruitsweet cornflounder
9peachgreen cabbageoyster
10pearcucumberorange roughy
11nectarinebell peppermackerel
12honeydew meloncauliflowerocean perch
13plumleaf lettucerockfish
14avocadosweet potatowhiting
16pineapplegreen onionhaddock
17tangerinegreen (snap) beancrab
18sweet cherryradishtrout
19kiwi fruitsummer squashhalibut

The First Lady was right!

Julian Barnes considered (in A History of the World in 10.5 Chapters)

And does history repeat itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce? No, that's too grand, too considered a process. History just burps, and we taste again that raw-onion sandwich it swallowed centuries ago.

Población Económica Activa. Spanish, `Economically Active Population.'

I used to hear from an Argentine physicist colleague that Argentina had the highest concentration of physicists in the world. I doubt it, but I tried to check it (in order to develop a good physics-crossword-puzzle clue for ARGENTINA), and encountered this acronym in the process. A typical unit of ``concentration'' needed to make the claim cited in the first sentence of this paragraph precise is ``físicos por cada mil habitantes en la PEA.'' I couldn't find those numbers but I did learn that in recent years, the number of scientific and technical investigators per thousand inhabitants of the financially remunerated world is around 8 in the US, 5 in the EU, and 1.85 or so for Argentina (the highest in Latin America), and substantially less for Brazil and Mexico. It's estimated at 1.1 for Cuba (whether that's more or less than for Brazil and Mexico I haven't tried to find out).

Plasma Electron And Current analyzEr.

Peace Corps
Slogan: The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love. A JFK propaganda stunt. Foreign aid based on the theory that young Americans have practical information and skills useful to very poor people in countries that may or may not be strategically important in the Cold War.

Peace, Love, and Understanding
Elvis Costello wrote a song called ``What's So Funny 'bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?'' I don't know.

Here's a refreshing attitude: ``It's Not Me... It's You! (And Can We Not Be Friends?)'' It's the title of ``A Modern Girl's Guide to Breaking Up,'' by Laurie Frankel. It might be interesting, but it seems to be about relationships, and since I'm a guy I can't read that.

peace process

Presidential Emergency Action Document. US governmentese.

A cartoon strip created by Charles Monroe Schulz, who learned cartooning from a correspondence course. He started freelancing his cartoons to the Saturday Evening Post in 1947 under the title Li'l Folks, and it was picked up for syndication by United Features, which retitled it Peanuts, in 1950.

The central character of the strip, Charlie Brown, is based on the strip's creator.

The local metal cafeteria offers two varieties of Kars-brand peanuts. The salted variety is labeled ``NET WT. 2.0oz (56g).'' Most people read that and think -- ``well, one ounce is more than 28.3 grams. They would be within their rights to round up.'' Well, the honey variety is labeled ``NET WT. 2.0oz (57g).''

Fascinating. I probably should have made this the significant-digits entry, but then it would be out of order here among the P-E-A entries.

A couple of British terms for peanut are monkey nut and groundnut. This means that peanut butter is made from ground groundnuts. Or are they crushed? (Of course, peanuts are not nuts in the technical botanical sense, but pulses or something. You know -- the same way grasshoppers aren't true bugs, tomatoes are fruit, whales ain't fish, an' all that. It's nuts! Okay -- legumes, so pulses in fact, and not unlike peas.)

The standard German term for peanut is Erdnuß (plural Erdnüße), parallel to British groundnut. But perhaps one shouldn't read too much into that. German-speakers seem to have an inordinate fondness for Erd- nouns (and Afrikaners for aard- animal names, like aardwolf, aardvark). In German, strawberry is Erdbeere: literally `earth berry.' It's been suggested to me that the reason is a certain earthiness in the flavor. I specifically asked if that was before or after washing. After. But I think the name might reflect that they tend to grow close to the ground.

peanuts, that's
``That's peanuts'' is a colloquial expression meaning approximately `that is of small importance' (particularly, but not exclusively, in reference to money). In ``Othello,'' Iago uses the cataloguing of ``small [low-alcohol] beers'' as an example of a ludicrously otiose activity. That was back in the sixteenth century. Computers now enable us to keep minute track of the small potatoes.

In South Orange, New Jersey, on April 2, 2004, twelve-year-old Jules Gabriel was suspended pending a district hearing on May 13. The suspension arose from remarks he made to a girl in his social studies class at South Orange Middle School. According to school officials, the girl reported that Jules had threatened to expose their highly allergic teacher to peanut butter cookies. According to the boy's father Loubert, Jules had been carrying a snack packet of Nutter Butter cookies and had said he had ``something dangerous'' but (so I gather from muddled reports) made no explicit threat. Look, there's a very simple solution to this: ban cookies.

The March 2, 2013, issue of The Economist has a special report on Africa. As you know, Zimbabwe's economy collapsed a few years ago. The national currency of Zimbabwe collapsed along with the economy, and shops there ``use dollar bills. In the absence of American coins, they give out bags of peanuts instead.''

Process and Experiment Automation Realtime Language.

Remember, you can't spell pears without pea. Ditto peaches and peanuts. It must have some significance. I mean, besides that the Great Vowel Shift did not complete its work on the originally more-or-less well-defined sound spelled ea.

Oh yeah, it's this: the peanut is technically a legume --a member of the pea family. Moreover, the part of a peach outside the pit and stone, and the part of the pear outside the seed and seed case, is known in botanical terms as fruit. Yawn. And the pea pod (minus the peas, of course) is also.

Let that be a mnemonic to you.

pea soup
Ham consommé with very small pieces of ham, made with mashed peas instead of water, served hot. Some people charged with disseminating culinary information to the public are unaware of this simple fact.

Partial EtchBack.


Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard. Sentence acronym, used by help desk and IT employees, that doesn't normally appear in help-desk reply emails; I guess it's just too technical. See also the essentially synonymous PIFOK.

Packet Error-Checking.

Perfect Electric Conductor. A kind of jellium. Occurs in the Perfect Matched Layer (PML) numerical boundary conditions.

You know, perfect electrical conductivity is such a standard assumption or first approximation that when I studied electromagnetism I never heard an acronym for it. That is, perfect conductivity was the default assumption, and it was only ``imperfect conductors'' that required an explicit terminology (these were usually ``Ohmic'' or p-type semiconductor or some other particular kind of more-realistic conductor, rather than a generic ``IEC'' -- acronym I never saw. However, a colleague of mine used ``PEC'' in a casual conversation recently, so I guess it's used generally, and not just in the context of a particular theoretical model.

An unusual word for English, as the accent falls on the second syllable.

A Stammtisch-funded scientific investigation conducted on a very good batch of nearly three pounds of unshelled pecans determined that 53% (+/- 1%) by weight of a bag of pecans is edible. The rest is shell, natural packing material inside the shell, and spoiled pecan (very little in this case).

Presidential Early Career Awards in Science and Engineering.

Latin, `I have sinned.'

In 1842-3, British forces under Major General Sir Charles James Napier conquered Sindh (a province in the lower delta of the Indus, part of present-day Pakistan). To announce his victory, the general sent a telegram with a message consisting of the single Latin word above. The pun is two-fold. Even by the principles of international relations prevailing then, the British hadn't, well, let me just quote Napier on this: ``We have no right to seize Sindh, yet we shall do so, and a very advantageous, useful, humane piece of rascality it will be.''

It should be noted that his conquest of Sindh followed closely on a humiliating British defeat in Afghanistan. The contrast with that, and admiring reports of the opposition faced by the British, probably helped burnish his reputation. The Afghan defeat also contributed to the decision to annex Sindh, since there was a perceived need to restore lost military prestige. Napier was governor of Sindh from 1843 to 1847. He began the project of creating a modern civil administration, initiated various public works projects, and moved the capital to the then-small port town of Karachi. His success was mixed. He was an opinionated, almost capricious, micromanager of a governor, with a special and further distracting interest in criminal cases. He often sat as magistrate in these cases himself.

It's hard to evaluate his actions, however, without staking a position on the general ethics of enlightened imperial rule. The international justification for annexation, such as it was, resembled modern justifications on grounds of ``national security.'' In the power politics of that time, if the Mirs who had ruled Sindh could not keep the French and the Russians out, then the British seemed (to some British) to have cause for invasion. Indeed, the Mirs had been pressured by the British governor of India to sign a treaty guaranteeing, i.a., to keep all other European and American powers out. Napier's judgement that they had failed to honor their side of that bargain was his pretext for invasion. At the end of the century, Rudyard Kipling followed the same reasoning in urging the US to take over the Philippines (``take up the white man's burden''). He reasoned that Spain was too weak to hold them, and that either the Japanese or the Germans would try to take them if the US did not do so first. Modern Realpolitik reasons in similar ways, though the relevant strategic ``positions'' and military assets are less locations and men than technologies. (Did you know? Money continues to be important.)

The point of the preceding paragraph of crude review is that the rationale of conquest determines what the conquering power is entitled to do not only during but after the fighting. British colonialists in Asia undertook to bring their colonies into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and did so to a great extent. This could be regarded partly as a value-neutral introduction of improved technologies, but there was also interference in local affairs. For example, critics observed correctly that slavery was an ancient custom in much of the region, and that the British had promised not to interfere with local customs when they took over. Napier ignored this, acting harshly (and probably sometimes unjustly, since he admitted that he often judged against the evidence) against people accused of slavery. He likewise acted against Hindu suttee, and against cuckolded (or merely homicidally jealous) husbands who murdered their wives.

Back home there was criticism of Napier's methods in the press, but this was not an era of imperial self-doubt among the general public. He was lionized for his victories, and well remunerated by the crown. A bronze statue of C.J. Napier, by the sculptor G.G. Adams, is in Trafalgar Square, London. The port of Napier, on the eastern side of North Island in New Zealand, was named after him.

Despite this, he took criticism rather poorly. In 1852, a writer in the Quarterly Review (vol. 182) described his conquest of Sindh as a `harsh and barbarous aggression,' and Napier tried to sue for libel. It may be characteristic that the chief justice, while noting the author's right to express his opinion, also freely admitted that he himself accepted Napier's version.

Okay look, I'm not going to finish this entry today. For now let me summarize one of the points that I may eventually get around to laying out, which is that pretty much all of the famous Napiers of that era were descendants of the mathematician John Napier.

Palestinian Economic Council for Development And Reconstruction. Demanded as an entity independent of the PA, which would receive the funds donated by foreign countries (mostly US and European), distribute them to development projects, monitor the spending and provide assurance to the donor countries that the monies are properly spent. It has been fairly successful in some respects, such as receiving funds and offering assurances.

`Bad luck' in German.


Pseudo ECL. Also expandable as Positive-shifted same. Traditionally, ECL used a quiet and a noisy ground to isolate ECL input signals from output transients. For speed, one uses npn transistors, and the result for ECL circuits is that the voltage swing is completely in the negative voltages. PECL gets around this, but as an application note makes clear, there are attendant complications.

See also positive logic discussion.

PCML is a synonym of PECL.

Purged Exclusive COSY (COrrelation Spectroscopy).

``Purged'' has other associations. I wonder, if Bush 41 hadn't lost lunch and consciousness in the lap of the Japanese Prime Minister, whether he mightn't have won in 1992.

Plasma-Enhanced CVD.

Performance-Enhancing Drug. Steroid, HGH, vel sim.

Plastic-Encapsulated (semiconductor) Device.

It's not as easy as knowing and saying what you know. One of the delicate problems that occurs is disentangling what are known in parallel programming as data dependencies. Here, to illustrate, is the reaction of Antoine Lavoisier to his first course in chemistry, a three-year sequence he took as a teen:
I was surprised to see how much obscurity surrounded the approaches to the science. During the first steps, they began by supposing in place of proving. They presented me with words which they were in absolutely no condition to define for me, or which at least they could not define without borrowing from knowledge that was absolutely foreign to me, and which I could only acquire by the study of the whole of chemistry. And so, in beginning to teach me the science, they supposed that I already knew it.

(I lifted this from Lavoisier in the Year One, by Madison Smartt Bell. References there point to a work where the French original may be found, but I haven't had a chance to track it down. While I'm waiting for that chance with bated breath and blueing face, why not check out our anticline entry?)

Ped Xing
PEDestrian CROSSING. Crossing pedestrians. Wind shear for moods. Making pedestrians cross, and then scaring the living daylights out of them. The sign should be brown instead of yellow -- it indicates a recreational site.

Übersetzung: Fußgängerüberweg.

Well, it's pronounceable. All other things being equal, it would be an excellent choice for an acronym.

Parallel Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy. A name for EELS which distinguishes it from LEED, and in particular from its analogue in reflection, ILEED (loc. cit.).

Chatese for `people.' Construed plural, but often peeps is used (also in the sense of `people,' not `peoples'). Alternative: ppl (no period, of course).

Positive End-Expiratory Pressure.

peer-to-peer network
An egalitarian sort of network, where every machine run the same general software (or at least recognizes a uniform common protocol) and each can function as both server and client.

Pennsylvania Emu Farmers' Association.

Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability. ``PEFA is a partnership between the World Bank, the European Commission, the UK's Department for International Development, the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the International Monetary Fund.''

``PEFA aims to support integrated and harmonized approaches to assessment and reform in the field of public expenditure, procurement and financial accountability.''

Polymer-Electrolyte Fuel Cell. A term equivalent to PEMFC and SPFC. PEMFC is currently the most popular initialism and, just to keep experienced SBF-glossary readers off balance, it is at that entry that I will put any substantive information about this kind of fuel cell as such. Oh, all right: I'll scatter tidbits at the other entries just to be inconvenient.

This entry is just about the name usage. In a situation reminiscent of the HEMT/MODFET/TEGFET/2DEGFET thing, there are differing national preferences in usage, though all the common initialisms are constructed from English words. As of 2005, PEFC appears to be the most popular term in Japan and the UK. PEMFC is the most popular in every other relevant country I can think of, to judge by ccTLD-restricted searches. Overall, PEMFC is about twice as common as PEFC, and SPFC lags far behind. The only place I can find where SPFC is popular is the Netherlands, where SPFC seems to run a decent second to PEMFC (more than half as common).

If you think of the expansion at all, you should try not to think of PEFC as standing for proton-exchange fuel cell, because technically, and against the standard usage of PEFC, that would include PAFC. All the more reason to stick with PEMFC.

Pegasus. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

PolyEthylene Glycol.

I. M. Pei is the architect who designed some interesting-looking ruins that serve as dorms on UB's North Campus. I believe Pei may be better known for other achievements. In the currently popular Romanization, his name would be I. M. Bei.

There's a picture of him in the third edition of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

Mario Pei, author of the highly popular The Story of Language and other books, was an Italian-American linguist.

Playboy Enterprises, Inc.

PolyEther Imide. An engineering resin. GE's has the trade name Ultem to suggest that it is the ``ultimate.''

PolyEthylene Imine.

PolyEthylene Isophthalate.

Prince Edward Island. But you should use the name the French gave it. That way you can insert a gratuituous palindrome:
Île St-Jean (i.e. P.E.I.)

You know, it's possible to draw a straight line that goes through St. John, NB and St. John's, NL, and nicks the southern tip of Île St-Jean. (And if you can't walk on the water, it's much easier to draw this line on a map of the corresponding places.) We've decided that if we ever have any worthwhile information about PEI, we'll deposit it in the entry for the postal abbreviation PE. Just as you suspected and feared: reading this entry is a complete waste of time.

Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). A statement analyzing impact for a single program (waste management, say) rather than for all environmental effects, but usually concerned with more than a single site.

p. ej.
Spanish: por ejemplo, `for example.'

PolyarylEther Ketone Ketone.

Permissible Exposure Limit. For example, the OSHA PEL for phenol is 0.019 µg/cc, averaged over an 8 hr. shift (8h-TWA). The odor threshold is about 100 times below that.

Old term for pixel.

Programmable Electronics Load. Test apparatus.

Pell Grants
Federal need-based grants in amounts ranging from $400 to about $2500 per annum.

PhotoElastic Modulator.

Plastic Epoxy Molded. Used for plastic microelectronics packages.

Polymorphic Epithelial Mucin.

Privacy-Enhanced Mail.

Proton Exchange Membrane or Polymer Electrolyte Membrane. Equivalent terms for a polymer membrane with anions firmly anchored and hydrogen ions (protons) free to diffuse when the membrane is hydrated (wet). The PEM is the basis for PEMFC, a class of fuel cell (FC).

{Polymer Electrolyte | Proton Exchange} Membrane Fuel Cell. The two expansions are currently equivalent because the only proton-exchange membranes being used or investigated for use in fuel cells are certain polymers. (A non-membrane exchange medium, phosphoric acid solution, is used in PAFC's.

Most of the polymers being investigated operate at low temperature (below about 100°C -- low compared to other materials) and pass hydrogen ions. The ions are hydrated, so you can think of them as hydronium (H3O+) ions. Less common names for PEMFC are PEFC and SPFC.

Plasma-Enhanced silicon Nitride.

Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Editors, and Novelists. (``PPEEN'' would be unliterary and also unpronounceable.) An organization founded in London 1921 by John Galsworthy, ``to foster understanding among men and women of letters in all countries.'' Ten thousand members, more than a quarter in the US. Visit and read more.

Membership by invitation only:

Members of American PEN are elected by the Membership Committee. The standard qualification for a writer to join PEN is publication of two or more books of a literary character, or one book generally acclaimed to be of exceptional distinction. Also eligible for membership are editors who have demonstrated commitment to excellence in their profession (usually construed as five years' service in book editing); translators who have published at least two book-length literary translations; playwrights whose works have been produced professionally; literary essayists whose publications are extensive even if they may have not yet been issued as a book. Candidates for membership should be nominated by two current members of PEN, or may nominate themselves with the support of a current member. Inquiries may be addressed to, and membership applications are available from, PEN Headquarters.

A word appearing on British coins so that they can quickly be distinguished from Canadian coins. (British plural of penny.)

The local London letter post, begun in the late seventeenth century, was known as the penny post. The price was raised 100% in 1801, but it wasn't called the tupence post or even the two-pence post, but the two-penny post. I'm not sure if this is because the uninflected form of penny was preferred for the attributive noun in this case, or because somehow pence just sounds bad attributively, or just because.


pencil lead
Graphite. ``Black lead.'' Anciently called plumbago (cf. elemental lead Pb).

P. Eng.
Postmodern ENGlish. An academic variety of English that is useful for dis(course) but not for communication. First observed in the 1960's; people have been claiming to detect its impending demise since at least the 1990's. It is hoped that postpostmodern English will be Modern English.

A pocket knife -- a small knife with one or more blades that fold into the handle. The name dates back to a time when knives were needed to trim the points of quill knives. In some languages, a single word once served and occasionally still serves as the unmarked word for both feather and for ink-dispensing writing instrument: in French and Spanish, plume and pluma, resp. (See also ball-point pen.) In English, the word quill recruited or retasked for the instrument acception originally meant hollow reed. English can always go to the bench; the lexicon has depth, and we have no compunction about raiding other language teams for vocable talent.

In Spanish, a penknife is a cortaplumas (a `cut-pens'). (It's one of those plural nouns in stock Spanish terms, but the singular form is more common in Argentina, at least.)

P. Eng.
Postmodern ENGlish. An academic variety of English that is useful for dis(course) but not for communication. First observed in the 1960's; people have been claiming to detect its impending demise since at least the 1990's. It is hoped that postpostmodern English will be Modern English.

Short for University of Pennsylvania. The only Ivy league school with a name like a public university. Founded by Benjamin Franklin, but has maintained a better reputation than the USPS.

Also the full surname of the founder of Pennsylvania. That is not the same as the person Pennsylvania was named after, as explained at the entry for ``This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you.''

A virus warning that propagates itself by scaring well-meaning emailers into warning their friends. Learn more here.

Primer Encuentro Nacional de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana. Officially `First National Encounter for Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry.'

It seems churlish to point it out in the context of an event like this, but the cognates in the Spanish and English titles include some false -- or at least not entirely true -- ``friends''. The main one is encuentro, which in this context means `meeting,' and really lacks the agonistic or belligerent connotation that is latent in encounter. (In a more general context, encontrar is simply `to find,' whether the thing found was sought or not. In contrast, in English, ``to encounter'' is to find something that one either wasn't specifically looking for or that one specifically wasn't looking for.) I wonder if a Spanish or other Romance original is the source of expressions like ``encounter session'' or ``youth encounter,'' ``marriage encounter,'' etc.

Juvenil, of course, is an adjective cognate with English juvenile, and it has, roughly speaking, the same range of meanings. Though it's hard to measure, I think that the connotation of immaturity (inmadurez) is much stronger in English -- hence the use of the Germanic words in the English translation.

pen spinning
Spinning your pen on the knuckles of one hand, without touching it with your other hand, is a required subject for boys in Korean schools, and a popular elective in Taiwan. It is little appreciated that this is all made possible by the technology of the ball-point pen, invented by the Biro brothers early in the last century. (If this document is still under copyright, then the ``last century'' was probably the twentieth.)

For more on national skills having the most tenuous contrived relationship to spinning, see english.

The figure most commonly referred to as a pentagram is a regular pentagon whose sides have been extended to the nearest points of intersection, so as to form a five-pointed star. The lengths of the sides and diagonals intersect according to the golden ratio, and the secretive Pythagorean cult used the pentagram as a secret symbol of recognition.

Of course, the five diagonals of the original pentagon together also constitute an pentagram. This is the same figure rotated 36 degrees and scaled (the lengths of the outer pentagram exceed those of the inscribed pentagram by a factor of the square of the golden ratio).

Pentium, PENTIUM
Produces Erroneous Numbers Through Incorrect Understanding of Mathematics.

Fanciful expansion created in 1994, after a scandal about a nominally rare but embarrassing and not really inconsequential error in look-up tables for the FDIV implementation. Pentium is an Intel trademark for its chip generation following on in the 80286, 80386, 80486 sequence. The problem was fixed, and apparently the damage to the trademark was not considered extensive, since subsequent generations continued as Pentium II, Pentium III, etc. Besides, it would probably have been even more numerically unlucky to have a ``Hexium.''

Note, incidentally, that pent- is a Greek root and -ium is a Latin noun ending. Hence, the word is technically a barbarism. I suppose an advantage of barbarisms is that they are less likely to infringe an existing trademark. At least, they would be if barbarisms were at all rare. The closest regularly constructed neo-Greek noun would be pention. That word, however, would probably be interpreted as a barbarism. Judging from ghits, that word occurs primarily as a misspelling of pension, particularly on pages whose authors whose primary scripts are not versions of the Roman alphabet (particularly Japanese, Korean, and Russian, on a quick look).

Writing -tion for -sion is a natural error when the s is unvoiced, since there is no difference in pronunciation and since most Latin -io words ended in -tio (in the nominative; -tionem and -tione in the accusative and ablative, respectively). Most of these words ended up (sorry) as -tion words in English, though exceptions exist. (Patio is not one; it is derived tortuously from Latin pactum. Petitio occurs in petitio principii; that was never really naturalized [let's say it got a green card], but it is probably recognized by those who still wince when newsreporters and other morons say ``that begs the question....'' [See hysteron proteron, where we mention but don't explain the term.] Ratio is the most common -io word to have become fully naturalized in English in its nominative Latin form, although there is one other somewhat less common word that did so as well.)

It remains to be said that pent- is not the most appropriate root for the fifth in a sequence. The Greeks used the pent- form of the root for cardinal numbers and derived words (i.e., words referring to things that there were five of). For ordinal and fractional terms (where we use ``fifth'' instead of ``five'') the Greeks used pemp- instead of pent-. Needless to say, the kind of five that the pentium processor represented was ordinal -- see 80286 above. Admittedly, the numbering stumbled a bit initially: the 80186 followed on the 8086, which followed the 8080 and 8085.

The more widely used 8088 was essentially an 8086 that functioned with a cheaper 8-bit external bus. Sometimes, a step back represents a kind of progress. Ford's greatest success was the Model T, which in many respects was a more primitive vehicle than the company's previous models, right on back to the Model A. Then again, sometimes a step back isn't a step forward. The original IBM PC used an 8088. But the AT&T 6300, available at a better price at about the same time, used an 8086. (Progress by simplification is a widespread theme in technology. A famous programming-language example is in the evolution from ALGOL to C, summarized at the Algol entry. Yeah, I can do it both ways.)

PENtagon, Twin Towers (of the WTC), BOMb. The official name for the FBI investigation into the 9/11 attacks against the US. Since bombs, in the usual sense of that word, were used in none of those events, the name appears possibly modeled on the UNABOM name. A law passed by Congress in November 2002 created a National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The title of that commission's published report of its investigation reflects the short name by which it is better known: The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

PolyEthylene Oxide.

Progressive External Ophthalmoplegiai.

people named Day
Since day is a common noun, in both senses of common, tracking down information on people whose surname is Day might be a challenge. That's our story, anyway. That's why we provide a linked list here of a few selected people whose surnames are or include Day, as well as some named days that might conceivably be mistaken for persons.

  1. Arbor Day: A day currently observed on the last Friday in April at the national level in the US, and on a variety of dates at the state level and in other countries.
  2. Cecil Burke Day: Founder of the Days Inn chain of ``budget luxury'' (his coinage) motels. North America's largest glass-enclosed tropical conservatory is Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens. Georgia State University has a Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality Administration. A Day School!
  3. Daniel Day-Lewis: A British actor, the second child of Cecil Day-Lewis (Poet Laureate of England from 1968 until his death in 1972) and his second wife, Jill Balcon. Balcon is French (and balcón is Spanish) for `balcony.' Daniel, his older sister Tamasin, their mother, and her father Sir Michael Balcon, have all been involved in the film business.

    Daniel's father was also involved in TV and movies, at least to the extent of having some of his novels adapted. His pen name was Nicholas Blake, and Daniel's full name is Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis. Daniel was born on April 29, 1957, two days after his father's 53rd birthday.
  4. Doris Day: The stage name of a singer and actress who was born Doris Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff. How she got the name, and how Stockwell Day almost did, is a story told at the Victoria Day entry.
  5. Dorothy Day: A political activist. (The Victoria Day entry has a little bit about her.)
  6. Stockwell Day: A Canadian politician. The entire Doris/Stockwell/Victoria Day nexus is thrashed out at the Victoria Day entry.
  7. Victoria Day: A public holiday commemorating the birth of Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Empress of India.

Peak Envelope Power.


Post-Exposure Prophylaxis. Better late than never.

Predictability, Efficiency, and Profitability.

Psychology/Education/Psychometry (community). Those who can't even teach, study teaching. Cf. ed-school.

Pupil Evaluation Program.

(Resources for) Parents, Educators & Publishers.'' They have a National Directory of Computer Recycling Programs to help you be charitable. They also lists some non-US agencies, mostly in anglophone countries.

Policy Enforcement Point. Cf. PDP.

Haitian term for `imported second-hand clothing.'

(US) President's Emergency Program For AIDS Relief.

PhotoElectron PhotoIon COincidence.

... Buh-doo-dee-oo-ah-dah!
... Buh-doo-dee-oo-ah-dah!

Pepsi-Cola hits the spot,
Twelve full ounces -- that's a lot,
Twice as much for a nickel too,
Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you.

Nickel nickel nickel nickel
Nickel nickel trickle trickle
Nickel nickel nickel nickel
Trickle trickle trickle trickle
Nickel nickel nickel nickel

More useful info at the KFC entry, of all places.

The Mojo Radio site had an opinion on the Pepsi/Coke issue and earned the Stammtisch Beau Fleuve Belch of Approval. I'll have to see if I can track down a non-404 version of the page.

You mean Samuel Pepys, of course, famous for the diary. I'll have more to say later, but for the time being I need to insert the following poetic pronunciation instruction for the purposes of the Jowett entry (q.v.).

This was discovered by R. Whitely, Esq., custodian of the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge (the college has its own pronunciation issues, described at the link). Whitely found the poem in a nineteenth-century volume of reminiscences, and published it in the Johnsonian Newsletter, XXIV (December 1964).

Oh Samuel, who on some folks' lips
Are designated Samuel Pips,
While others follow in the steps
Of those who call you Samuel Peps,
At Cottenham the proper step is
To sound the Y and call you Pepp-iss,
To such ignorance all Magdalene weeps
Well knowing you are Samuel Peeps.

Oh, alright. Here's a little information: born February 23, 1632, died May 23, 1703. Both dates are Old Style. Thus, he was born on March 4, 1633 of the Gregorian calendar, since the new year used to begin on March 25 in England. That's how the legal and conventional numbering went, anyway, and Pepys followed it, but January 1 was widely thought of as the New Year's Day (which it was legally in Scotland). When England adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, the year numbering was also legally moved back so it began on January 1. For a number of years thereafter, the early months of each year were labeled with both years to avoid ambiguity. I first noticed this when reading the scientific correspondence of Benjamin Franklin (dating from the 1750's). In historical writing, the usual practice (and the one followed here) is to give Old-Style dates but to label the year as currently understood. It's distantly like analytic continuation on the complex plane.

Pepys kept a private diary from January 1, 1660, until May 31, 1669, writing in it almost daily. (He decided to stop on account of what he perceived to be his failing eyesight, and I suppose we have to take his word.) He wrote in the diary using an idiosyncratic shorthand, and apparently never intended any kind of publication. He also built a fine library of 3000 volumes, carefully selected and laboriously indexed, and often purchased with monies ``left over'' from funds allocated for government purchases. (This practice, something we might call misappropriation and corrupt today, was widespread in his day, and he evidently felt no compunction about it.) He bequeathed this library to his alma mater, Magdalene College, Cambridge (mentioned above).

John Evelyn, a friend of Pepys and a fellow Fellow of the Royal Society, died in 1706. Evelyn's diary of the years 1641-1706 was passed down in his family and not published until 1817. The publication of Evelyn's diary kindled interest in that of Pepys, and the latter was deciphered by Rev. John Smith and published starting in 1825.

It's amazing how precious documents continue to emerge a century or more later. In 2006, missing notes from the early years of the Royal Society were found in a house in Hampshire, England.

Other entries with some Pepys comment:

Perseus. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

Physics Education Research.

Program Event Recording.

`Pear' in Spanish. The word has some metaphorical uses. Also, the diminutive form perilla means `knob' or `dial' (as on a radio).

Public Employees' Retirement Association. Colorado PERA provides pension benefits for state and local government workers, college employees, teachers, judges, legislators, and other elected officials. As of 2006, more than half of Colorado PERA's 365,000 members are school employees. Cf. PERA.

Public Employees Retirement Association. Organizations by that name include PERA of Minnesota and PERA of New Mexico (fun fact: its main offices, located in the New Mexico capital, Santa Fe, are at 1120 Paseo de Peralta). Cf. PERA.

Public Employment Relations Board. A state administrative-law court in New York, California, and many other states.

Long ago, I was taught that this surname was an Anglicized spelling of the French word perdu, meaning `lost,' that the name was given to some orphans, and that the surname Purdue was a variant used in the same way. It seems that every part of this very reasonable theory may be wrong, and that Perdue and Purdue are not even variants of a single original. For details on Perdue, at least according to A Dictionary of Surnames, see the Depardieu entry. For Purdue, see the, uh, Purdue entry.

A plant that doesn't have to be replanted each year.


perf board
PERForated fiberBOARD. Usually pressed smooth on no more than one side. Good for when you need to combine poor privacy with poor ventilation at an economical price. An example application is described at the relevant SRO entry.

You can use the holes to insert metal hooks for hanging tools in the shop, or for inserting merchandise-display hardware in a store.

Perforated plywood is available, but more expensive. For the uses you'd probably put it to, the usual perf board is just as good. One thing that keeps the cost down with fiberboard is that the material is so weak that the holes are not drilled but punched.

The current limit of my imagination.

The word perfect originally meant what the word complete now means, with no necessary connotation of superiority. The meaning drifted.

perfect number
A positive integer equal to the sum of all of its positive divisors, including one, and counting each divisor value only once; the number itself is obviously excluded, or no number could satisfy the definition. The first few are 6=1+2+3, 28=1+2+4+7+14, 496, and 8128. The even perfect numbers are in a simple one-to-one relation to the Mersenne primes. No odd perfect numbers are known.

Of possible interest: 13.

Completely fluorinated hydrocarbons (every H replaced by an F). Various suppliers, including 3M (Fluorinert(tm)). They're ozone-friendly. Marketed as electronic coolants, vapor-phase soldering gas, and as blood replacements. I'm not sure where I read about it, but I think there have been experiments with keeping mice alive while breathing oxygenated liquid fluorinert.

Perhaps. Common dictionary abbreviation, particularly appropriate for etymologies.

Nearest approach of orbiting bodies. Cf. apoapsis.

The lowest-altitude point in a lunar orbit, or the altitude at that point. NASA has used ``PC'' to abbreviate this term. Cf. apocynthion.

One of the very interesting questions about the trajectory of a Moon orbit is whether it intersects the surface of the Moon. For that reason, NASA likes to define PC (and apocynthion as well) as the altitude above the surface (perhaps above sea level, or mare level; I'm not sure of the precise definition). That way, if your current orbit has a negative PC value, then you know that if you don't do something soon, your next apocynthion is going to be multivalued (apocynthia).

periodic acid
HIO4 (aq). An aquaeous solution (usually) of hydrogen periodate. What did you expect? HIO3 is iodic acid, HIO2 is iodous acid (hydrogen iodite out of solution), HIO is hypoiodous acid (also called iodine hydroxide), and HI is hydroiodic acid (or hydrogen iodide).

Spanish noun meaning `periodical' and adjective meaning `periodic.' (Of course, the adjective becomes periodica when referring to a female noun, as in tabla periódica de los elementos.)

Spanish word meaning `journalist.' Like most -ista words (adjectives and nouns, the latter usually referring to persons), its male and female forms are identical. Other examples are artista, comunista, derrotista, egoista, fascista, peronista, romanista, and violinista. (Derrotista means `defeatist.') Beware of imposter -ista words, such as -vista (`-view') nouns like revista (`magazine') and entrevista (`interview'). (Following the usual morphological rule, these are feminine.)

The words periodista and journalist are perhaps more similar than is apparent. The English journal was borrowed from Old French (where the spellings jornal and jurnal are also attested) meaning `daily.' So a journal is a particular kind of periodical. The relationship is a bit more obvious in Romance languages. For example, common words for journal and day are journal and jour in Modern French and giornale and giorno in Italian.

Journal is also a synonym of diary, and this too is a closer relation than is immediately evident. The word diary stems from the Latin word dies, `day.' As it happens, all those jourish Romance vocables also stem from that word, through the Latin word diurnal (meaning, in English `diurnal'). What happened to that word was that the vowel i came to be articulated as a palatalization of the preceding consonant: in Latin, diurnal was pronounced like ``dee-oor-nahl,'' and the ``dee-oo'' became ``dyoo.'' Of course, in just about any language a palatalized dee is at risk of becoming a jay. In English, for example, ``did you'' pronounced quickly (as ``didyou'') becomes ``didja'' or ``didjoo.'' So diurnal --> dyurnal --> jurnal.

That assimilation, pardon the expression, is the basis of a gag in Woody Allen's movie Annie Hall. Woody plays himself as usual (talk about type-cast), only more so: a neurotic New York comedian (``Alvy Singer''). In a paranoid sequence, he interprets the loose pronunciation of ``did you eat?'' as ``did Jew eat?'' I wouldn't bother mentioning this except for the translation problem: how to dub a pun? In the Spanish dub of Annie Hall, it was handled gracefully using the word judía which means both `Jewess' and `bean.' Spanish is, in physicists' terminology, a degenerate language, which means that puns are so easy they're not even funny (I mean that literally).

The d in ``dj,'' incidentally, is just the beginning of the usual articulation of the English j (or Italian gi). In Russian, that sound is represented by two consonants: first a d, then a zh (the French j). In German, one writes dsch, where sch (having the sh sound of English) has to represent the zh sound which German has no standard way to write. The French adieu, through the aphetic form 'dieu, became Tschuss in German. Tsch is the German orthographic equivalent of English ch, and these are simply the unvoiced versions of dsch and j. Had enough?

It remains to be noted that daily is not derived from the Latin dies. Instead, English words like day and daily come from a Germanic root, and the Germanic and Latin words have a common root in Proto-Indo-European. There ya go! Whereas English in the past 1000 years has undergone great changes in the pronunciation of vowels, German has undergone comparable changes in the pronunciation of consonants. In particular, initial d became initial t, so English day is cognate with German Tag.

Okay, I gotta quit here for now. When I finish the entry, you will connect the Japanese Diet with the German Bundestag (called dieta in Spanish), and journey with journal.

The division of a historical span into periods. (Given the ambiguity of ``division,'' I should add that this usually refers not to the act of defining periods, but to the set of periods defined.) At the very least, any periodization, however poorly done, has the utility of providing terms for discussion. In addition, the events chosen to define periods are at least implicitly asserted to be among the most consequential, and so provide a basis for argument. Often those dates are the years that wars began or ended, or that governments changed. The Restoration period and the Short Twentieth Century are fair examples of this. A period whose end is not so defined is the Long Eighteenth Century.

Since periodization is a big concept, this ought to be a big entry. But it's not a very deep concept. Therefore the ideal person to quote on the subject is Charles A. Beard, who was once considered an important historian. Here's a bit of his introduction (December 1931) to the American edition of J. B. Bury's excellent study, The Idea of Progress (pp. x-xi of the Dover edition):

... the ideas of every epoch in history are related, usually with one dominant concept setting the key-tone for the others. Indeed, historians, with good reason, break the story of mankind into ages according to their characteristics--to the outstanding ideas disclosed in events, actions and philosophy. Thus we have an age of despotism, an age of reason, and an age of democracy. Though there is danger of over-simplification in such arrangements, there can be no doubt that whole periods are marked by particular types of thought, particular conceptions of life and its values. Neither statesmen nor artists nor writers can escape their pressures.

Well, not entirely wrong. Beard's ``ideas disclosed in events'' discloses a weakness in his attempt to link periods with ideas. Sometimes the only ``idea'' disclosed by an event like a defeat or victory is that of death or survival. These are more conditions than ideas. Hence, many of the endpoints of analytically useful historical periods are the dates of decisive military conquests -- 1066, 1453, etc.

Of course, the POV that Beard expresses is congenial to the book he introduces. I doubt that Bury would have agreed with the generality of Beard's extreme claim, but Bury's book is the history of an idea, and in such a history many of the relevant periods are those defined by a particular intellectual climate. Here is the most explicit contemplation of the periodization problem in Bury's text:

    Fontenelle is one of the most representative thinkers of that period--we have no distinguishing name for it--which lies between the characteristic thinkers of the seventeenth century and the characteristic thinkers of the eighteenth. It is a period of over sixty years, beginning about 1680; for though Montesquieu and Voltaire were writing long before 1740, the great influential works of the ``age of illumination'' begin with Esprit des lois in 1748. The intellectual task of this intervening period was to turn to account the ideas provided by the philosophy of Descartes, and use them as solvents of the ideas handed down from the Middle Ages. We might almost call it the Cartesian period; for, though Descartes was dead, it was in these years that Cartesianism performed its task and transformed human thought.

(Ch. v, sec. 10, pp. 116.)

The Transitional Era, or Period or Something
Consider this a transition paragraph. This paragraph represents an interval of time -- say 120 years -- that brings us forward to the end of the US Civil War. Its characteristic thought is: ``look, I want to get from one stupid paragraph to the next, even though their only connection (unusual in this glossary) is that they both belong in the same entry.''

The period of US history from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of WWI (hmm, we seem to have skipped over a war there) is called ``the Confident Years'' (it'd be too much to claim that they're ``known'' by that name), but definitions vary. Van Wyck Brooks, concerned with the history of literature, wrote a book with the title The Confident Years: 1885-1915. Brooks's own writing was periodized by Edmund Wilson, as you may gather at the vitamin entry.

Søren Kierkegaard wrote that

Philosophy is perfectly right in saying that life must be understood backwards. But then one forgets the other clause--that it must be lived forward.

The formulation above is in the translation by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong of Journals and Papers, second edition. Incidentally: either there's a typo somewhere or the first edition used ``backward.'' This is undated, but from 1843, and it's labeled ``IV A 164.'' I'd like to tell you what that means, but I'm reading this through the opacity of a nightmarish, staggeringly balky electronic interface (Intelex®) and it's hard to turn a page or find the table of contents, let alone discover what all the different codes mean. I think IV A 164 is a loose paper. [It happens to be on p. 450 of the Hongs' volume I; note that the Hongs organized these analecta first by subject (this one is under ``EXIST, EXISTENCE, EXISTENTIAL''), and only within subjects by date.]

periodization puns in book titles
    Ordered by year of first publication:
  1. Life in Dark Ages. An autobiographical memoir by Ernst Pawel.
  2. When I Lived in Modern Times. A novel by Linda Grant. It won the Orange Prize for Fiction.
  3. My Life in the Middle Ages: A Survivor's Tale. An autobiographical rumination on approaching old age, by James Atlas. There's some more from James Atlas at the biography, major entry.

Sudden reversal of fortune, typically for the worse. A term used by Aristotle in his analysis of tragedy.

Sudden reversal of fortune. It's the English form, via French, of the Greek term peripéteia.


Circumlocution, written with Greek roots instead of Latin. Of the nouns, the Latin is more common; of the corresponding adjectives, the Greek (periphrastic) is more common than the Latin (circumlocutory).


A (Gk.) word with a circumflex accent on the ultima.

Cf. paroxytone and properispomenon.

A perquisite.

Passivated Emitter, Rear Locally-diffused (photovoltaic cell).

PERL, Perl, perl
Practical Extraction and Report Language or Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister. Either way, if you think awk awkward, then you probably don't want to know this language, which started life as a Unix facility, a glue language. If you like the power of awk, Perl will corrupt you. No language whose acronym name contains an initial of ``report'' can ever be completely above suspicion.

There is an official Perl homepage. One place to start to get to know Perl better is in Vienna. A good tutorial is served from Northern England.

The central archive of Perl documentation and distribution (source) is CPAN. [That's a link to an entry of this glossary. You probably think it would be more convenient of I just kept a link to the archive itself here, but then if the URL changed I'd have to update both the CPAN entry's outlink and this one. Alright, I'll tell you what I'll do: this link goes directly to the ftp archive, as of this writing. If the address is out of date, don't say I didn't warn you.]

Perl is pronounced ``pearl,'' although some fear it like a pronounced peril.

You don't have to forgive me for that pun now. I can wait.

Technically, one distinguishes the language `Perl' from the filename and command `perl.'

Perl is the modern German word meaning `pearl' (perle and berle in Middle High German). Jed Perl is an art critic for The New Republic. I got to thinking: now who else has a surname Perl, and it took me a while to realize -- hey, my grandmother's maiden name was Perl! (I wrote this before the reporter Daniel Pearl was murdered in Pakistan.)

When I was working on my M.S. project, I once got some detailed instructions on cooling my sample in situ. My mentor kept referring to ``the glass thing, I can't remember its name.'' My mentor was Dr. Dewar.

Michael Neumann's extensive list of sample short programs in different programming languages includes nine Perl programs.

A city of about a million people in European Russia. The geological Permian period takes its name from the Perm region.

PERManent wave. A chemical-and-heat treatment that produces fairly precisely-crafted waves in the hair. The word is also used to describe the effect, and the noun has been verbed for the action of performing the treatment.

In Japanese, the word is pâma. I find this mildly amusing because it's an instance of an originally long English term whose Japanese form is a little longer than the English term it actually corresponds to. (The a marked by a circumflex has nominally double vowel quantity, so by Japanese count their version is a three-syllable word.)

Japanese has a number of radically truncated loan terms from European languages, particularly English. Here (for your convenience, of course) are some examples of truncated loans taken from a truncated part of a handy Japanese dictionary: daiya (< diamond, though daiyamondo is also used), defure (< deflation), dema (< German Demagogie), demo (< democracy, also demokurashî), and eakon (< air conditioning).

I don't know whether ``permanent wave'' was independently shortened in Japanese or the term ``perm'' was borrowed directly. I would expect the latter, but the final -ma suggests otherwise. (Final consonants in foreign words tend to be represented by syllables ending in u. ``Daimondo'' above is exceptional because du does not occur in native Japanese words.) The verb form of perm is probably pâma suru.

PERMission. As in ``These textures are full perm for resaleable content creation but are not for resale or redistribution as textures.''

Pruned-Enriched Rosenbluth Method. It's just a variant Monte Carlo computational method. Sorry to get you all excited for nothing.

Contrary to reasonable expectation, this is not the answer to vaporware. Instead, it is a line of hair-care products. The shampoo smells like fruit-flavored candy.

Provider Education and Relations Management System.

Not exactly the same as nefarious.

Programmable and Erasable Read-Only Memory (ROM).

A compound with the (O2)2- anion.

The best-known peroxide is hydrogen peroxide (discussed at the disproportionation entry, q.v.). The most stable of the known metal peroxides is barium peroxide (BaO2; it releases oxygen starting at about 500°C and converts completely to the oxide (BaO) by 900°C.

Spanish for `bitch,' in the literal sense of `female dog.' This word and pera (`pear') form a minimal pair for distinguishing the two r sounds of Spanish, but the pair everyone seems to think of first is pero and perro. More detail at the perro entry.

Spanish for `dog.'

This word forms a minimal pair with pero (`but') for distinguishing the -r- and -rr- sounds in Spanish, and perro just generally seems to be the word people often think of one requiring an ability to pronounce the double r. Schools in Argentina, at least, are very concerned that students be able to pronounce the rr correctly. One of the daughters of my friend Laura had a problem with this, and Laura had to spend a heavy chunk of change on ineffective speech therapy for her. Then one day the girl came home from school and said ``¡Escuchá mami: perrrrrro!'' A classmate had explained it to her.

In Spanish, most animals are described by a single noun having either male or female gender. To indicate natural gender one has to add the word macho or hembra. (There's a little more about that at the sapo entry.) Perro is one of the few animal words with distinct male and female forms. The female form is perra.

Just as in English, the word for dog is used metaphorically for a human in various stock expressions. Perhaps the most common is ``ser perro viejo'' (`to be an old hand [at something]' -- literally `to be an old dog'). The expression corresponding to the English ``his bark is worse than his bite'' is the more general and confident-seeming ``perro que ladra no muerde'' (`dog that barks does not bite').

The Spanish word perra is used to describe an unpleasant person, somewhat as the English word bitch is used. The expression I used to hear a lot was ``y la perra que lo parío'' (`and the bitch that gave birth to him'), but that gets surprisingly few ghits. That most necessary English expression ``son of a bitch'' is fairly accurately translated by the very common Spanish expression ``hijo de puta,'' which literally happens to mean `son of a whore.' There is a dog connection, however. Perro has the widespread slang sense of `john' -- that is, the customer of a whore.

Perrito caliente (`hot little dog' or `little hot dog') is a loan translation of the American term hot dog. (The precise loan translation perro caliente seems much less common.) The usual term for the hot dog sausage is salchicha, and to be honest, that's the only term used in my family. Perrito caliente, for those who use the term, apparently refers only to the sandwich: sausage in a long bun.

Spanish name for `Venetian blind.' The term was probably borrowed in the eighteenth century from the French persienne (`Persian'). The Spanish word for Persian is persa (that's the same form for male and female). Hey, we give you etymology here. You want to know where the blinds themselves come from? Take a trip.


Some say you are what you eat, but vegetarians can walk around. Some say that we all have virtues and faults, but this is too pessimistic. In fact, I am equal to the sum total of my virtues, and you consist of the sum total of your faults.

The words person and parson appear to be among the few English words that have etymologies stretching back into Etruscan (Etr.).

Person is PC for `female human.'

German: `personal trainer.' Literally `personal development leader.'

personal names
In this glossary we have a fair amount of information on personal names. Much of the specific interesting information is at the Nomenclature is destiny entry, better known by the informal name of the nomen est omen entry. The Eponyms entry has a number of examples, and the daphne entry lists many personal names that also are common nouns.

Name etymologies are a particular interest, so much so that we have three entries devoted to printed works on the subject:

The material of direct interest, of course, is that which cites the relevant works. Much of that is in the Nomenclature entry mentioned above. Names not discussed there are Depardieu and a number of related names (like Purdue) that are linked from the Depardieu entry. There is also an entry for the unrelated word (and nickname) pardo.

There's something on the name Herman at the SN entry. The Herman discussion is a tangent to the German discussion, and both touch on Latin. If you want to know about Roman names, see the tria nomina entry. You might want to read the caesarean entry, too. A German-seeming name with no connection to Latin that my fertile imagination can concoct is Katz.

The UK entry has information on the Windsor royal family name, and the II entry, with general information on junior names, touches on that. Somewhere I ought to mention that Clovis is simply an archaic form of the name Louis. There, I did it! Before I'm through, I hope to settle some puzzling matters concerning George Biro. That'll be at the ball-point pen entry.

Other specific names mentioned include

Just so your visit to this entry will not have been a complete runaround, I'll point out that news stories regularly come out of Sweden about how the governments has refused to register some millstone of a moniker that parents have decided to give their child. (You know, like Moon Unit Zappa [see CCSU] or Niger or something like that.) It's not unusual for governments to impose such constraints, and they're a good deal stricter in places like Argentina, but I suppose that Swedish parents have more extreme ideas about child-naming. The latest story along these lines (as of this writing) was first carried by the AP on April 3, 2007, but appears to be on the level. Michael and Karolina Tomaro had a baby girl in late 2006 and baptized her Metallica. The Swedish National Tax Board has been refusing to register the name. The Tomaros took it to court, and the County Administrative Court in Goteborg ruled in their favor on March 13. The tax bureau, which has appealed the county court ruling, is something like the US Social Security Administration, and its refusal to register the name is preventing the parents from obtaining a passport for their daughter and is delaying their travel plans. Why would anyone want to leave Sweden?

personal notices
This is a part of the classified ads where people make announcements like ``I am no longer responsible for the debts of my ex-wife.'' (It's good to have this in a separate section of the paper from nuptials.) Of course, sometimes personal notices seek information about people lost-track-of. If an heir's address is unknown, then the executor must show a good faith effort to find the person. If the executor really hopes to find the person, then there are more effective investigative techniques (particularly now with the Internet), but if all that is wanted is to show evidence that an effort was made, then receipts for the placement of personal notices are the way to go.

Of course, personal notices are not an entirely ineffective search method. Around 1905, my grandfather made his way from near Odessa to Rotterdam, from where he went to Buenos Aires and his sister and brother-in-law and their first child went to New York. Later, he took out an ad (put a personal notice) in a New York paper looking for his sister, somebody who knew her saw it and passed it along, and the siblings were reunited.

A related sort of advertisement is the ``author query.'' This is placed by someone writing a nonfiction book, seeking information that might be useful. It seems to be most common in the search for persons who may have known the subject of a biography. I used to see these ads occasionally in the backs of the sort of magazines that still included some original short fiction, just before the big section with all the summer-camp and military-academy ads.

Irrelevant thoughts that prevent one from appreciating the full magnitude of the current disaster.

Program Evaluation and Review Technique. (Pronounced ``pert.'') Like CPM, a network-based method in Operations Research (OR). Approaches that merge PERT and CPM are often called `PERT-type systems.'

It's all a crock. ECE rules.

Actually, the PERT method, whatever it is, seems to be perty old: it's mentioned in the 1960 Random House Dictionary, where the description makes it sound like better living through bureaucracy.

PERVert. A pervert is someone whose pleasures are unusual for the times. The rarer spelling perve has also been put on public display. In any old typesetter's case, perv could almost look like an anagram of verb. I realize that you had already noticed that, but others may not have. This is a glossary for everyone, and as you know, it takes all kinds. By the way, use of the word perv as a verb is, umm, unusual.

What is your problem!? Can't you figure it out?

perversely charming
A music term meaning inexcusably bad.

A recreational sex term meaning unusual and fun, but possibly not for the speaker.

PhotoElectron Spectroscopy.

PolyEther Sulfone.

Postgraduate Equity Scholarship[s]. A sort of affirmative action program of tuition grants and living stipends for higher education in Australia. Available for students of Indigenous Australian descent, disabled students, and students whose education has been adversely affected by political or natural disaster.

Potential Energy Surface. Usage appears to be most popular with chemists.

Spanish verb meaning `to weigh.'

pese a
A Spanish expression equivalent to ``a pesar de'' (`in spite of'). There's an interesting parallel in English of the development of two surviving largely equivalent forms, one of which does away with a preposition meaning `of.' In English we have the nouns spite and despite, with similar senses, which came to be used in similar expressions ``in spite of'' and ``in despite of.'' The former survives, and the latter was shortened into despite, used as a preposition.

Spanish noun meaning `weight,' which came to be used in the sense of a particular weight of precious metal, and hence as the name of various coins. Peso is derived from the Latin pensum, which also gave rise to the French word poids and the English word peise. The latter word like pease, was misinterpreted by some as a plural and led to a new back-constructed singular pey, now obsolete. The word peise is now only in regional use.

Political, Economic, Sociocultural, Technological. Preferably all four at once. ``PEST analysis'' is something they teach in B-school. These are the moments that an acronym glossarist lives for.

A friend or family member who is not biologically human. I have looked in dictionaries and asked people I know, and no one can think of a proper translation of this word into Spanish. The best one can do is give a term that is essentially a short definition, like ``animal doméstico''). This is a bit technical and unnatural. In ordinary English conversation, it is perfectly natural to ask ``Are you going to get a pet?'' Something equally natural in Spanish would be ``¿vas a adoptar un perro o un gato?'' It would sound strangely academic to substitute ``animal doméstico'' for ``perro o gato'' (`dog or cat' -- which in a strict reading excludes birds, rabbits, fish, turtles, etc., ).

Currently (Nov. 19, 2009), among webpages tagged by Google as ``Spanish [language] pages,'' 249,000 (all numbers approximate) contain the phrase ``animal doméstico'' and 6,550,000 contain both the word perro and the word gato (18,400,000 and 14,800,000, resp., contain one or the other of these words).

Similar comments hold for German (with ``Haustier'' as the compound noun corresponding formally to pet). The same seems to be true also for French animal domestique and Dutch huisdier, but I haven't done the corresponding Google searches for other languages than Spanish.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau (1919-2000). Of all Canadian PM's, the one who achieved (with occasional help from his occasional wife) the greatest degree of name recognition in any large adjacent country (over 5%). He announced his resignation on Sadie Hawkins Day (in 1984) so that those so inclined would only be able to celebrate once every four years.

Polyethylene Terephthalate. A polyester. Blow-molded clear plastic used for soda bottles, code 1 according to the PCS.

Positron Electron Tomography. The CPET offers a description.

Potential-Effect Transistor. Term introduced by Simon Sze to replace somewhat inappropriate bipolar. Refers to the same devices. Recognizing, however, that an ostensibly unipolar JFET depends for its functioning on having two charge polarities, while a bipolar junction transistor can function quite well even if the majority carrier in the base and minority carrier in the emitter and collector are not mobile, a distinction among devices is made instead on the basis of how the controlling voltage is applied. If it is applied to deform the conduction region without drawing a steady current, and ultimately the field is transverse to the current flow, then it's an FET. If the controlling voltage acts directly, then it's a PET.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. People who want to limit my culinary and sartorial options.

In 1996, PETA proposed that the Hudson Valley town of Fishkill change its centuries-old name to Fishsave, on grounds that the name conjured up violent imagery of dead fish. (The town was named by Dutch settlers in the early 1600's; kil is a Dutch word meaning `stream.')

People for the Eating of Tasty Animals. And People Eating Tasty Animals. Not so much an organization as a tee-shirt and bumper-sticker gimmick. Still, here's a page.

A French game played on rough ground with metal balls. Sounds different, anyway. The game is said to have been invented in La Ciotat, near Marseilles, in 1910. The name pétanque is derived from words meaning `feet closed.' Since the French anatomy does not feature prehensile feet, I imagine that this means feet together. Pétanque balls are used by youths in elevated places against riot police below.

PolyEthylene TErephthalate, which is more commonly abbreviated PET. A polyester.

Code 1 in PCS. May also be indicated by `PET' embossed on surface.

Petersen Automotive Museum
A museum of automobile history, made possible starting in 1994 by generous donations from Robert E. Petersen and his wife Margie to the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. It's on the Miracle Mile museum row in Los Angeles, not too far from the LA County museum. I visited with a camera in 1999 or thereabouts, and some of the pictures I took are in the BMW and FIAT entries.

Peter the Great
You know, he looked kind of like a cross between Jackie Gleason and Gene Wilder, with more than a pinch of Karl Malden.

pet exercise area
Place for pets to exercise their sphincter muscles.

Glycol-modified Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). A copolymer -- copolyester, in fact.

Positron-Emitting-Tracer Imaging System.

PentaErythritolTetraNitrate. A high explosive.

Petri Dish
A shallow beaker that may be covered by a similar beaker of slightly larger diameter. Petri dishes are typically at least five times wider than they are high.

In this glossary, ``Petrie'' stands for Edward M. Petrie's Handbook of Adhesives and Sealants, published by McGraw-Hill. It probably stands for that elsewhere, since it's one of the major references in the A&S field. The first edition, published in 2001, was written ``from very much an end-user's perspective,'' as he writes in the preface of the second edition. (An end user with 30 years' experience.) I've only seen that second edition (publ. 2007), which he explains has benefitted from his subsequent experience on the formulator's side of the business. [For more about adhesive end-users or end adhesive-users or whatever, see the front end of the adhesion entry.] Petrie's one-volume work should not be confused with the more dilute multivolume ``handbook'' edited by Philippe Cognard.

This book has one of the most subject-appropriate dedications I have ever read:

This book is dedicated to my son, Eddie,
and his wife, Sarah.
May your bonds be strong and durable through
whatever stress life hurls at you.

Petrie is also the coauthor (second of two listed, whatever that means) with Charles A. Harper of Plastics Materials and Processes: A Concise Encyclopedia, published by John Wiley & Sons in 2003.

Petri Net
Invented by C. A. Petri, 1962. A formalism to represent and analyze concurrent computing systems.

Petroleum V.
First name and middle initial in Petroleum V. Nasby, pseudonym of David Ross Locke (1833-1888), an American satirist who edited the Toledo Blade (1865-1871).

Think of it this way: this guy is famous for editing a publication that lasted all of six years, outside, and that you probably couldn't find a copy of anywhere in your state. What, if anything, will you be remembered for in a century's time?


There's some uncertainty about his praenomen (between Gaius and Titus), or rather about whether there is another Petronius mentioned by ancient authors besides the Petronius Arbiter who wrote Satyricon (or Satyrica or ...). The cognomen Arbiter is from his role as Nero's arbiter elegantiae. We have this work in rather fragmentary form, and Fellini made a fragmentary movie out of it. High concept. (Movie study guide here.)

pet-rustling under your duds
The two relevant reports we've noticed are both from Florida. One is described under CREAMER, where you can realize a neglected sense of the common term ``trouser snake.''

The other, more recent instance (October 12, 2007), was recorded by a surveillance camera in ``All About Puppies,'' a pet store in Largo. A man apparently stole a puppy (a 10-month-old pug) by stuffing it in his pants. I wonder if these guys prepare by putting on an athletic cup, or if they just mop their faces with a lemon (practice explained at invisible ink). Four accomplices distracted the store employees during the dog-napping. If they'd all just chipped in the price of a box of smokes, they could simply have bought it. Instead, they've probably ``bought it'' in another sense.

At Genesis Eldercare on Lambertsmill Road in Westfield, a section of Jefferson Hall used to be called PETU. They still use this designation for one of the rooms there, but no one seems to remember what PETU stood for (I asked a receptionist and four nurses). U probably stood for Unit. We're hard at work on the rest of it.

Petaelectron Volt (eV).

Phigs/Phigs+ Extension[s] to X.

Austrian inventor Eduard Haas's abbreviation of PfeffErminZ. (German for `peppermint.') Small dispenser-friendly candy bricks. (Cf. the conceptually related granola.)

Originally invented to assist cigarette addicts trying to quit smoking. Cartoon heads and fruit flavors came later, in the fifties. It seems a bittersweet irony. Just like cocaine and methadone, used to wean addicts from other powerful addictions (opium and heroine, respectively; see Freud's enthusiastic article Über Coca for the former case) it has turned out, tragically, that the cure is as addictive as the disease.

Chris Sharpe has written The Unofficial PEZ FAQ for Pezheads and their codependents. It is distributed in the alt.food.pez newsgroup and other scholarly fora. We serve a convenient hypertext mark-up of PEZ FAQ 4.0.

Plan Epargne Zébu. French for Z.S.B.P.

Collector of PEZ dispensers. See relevant entry from the local copy of Chris Sharpe's unofficial PEZ FAQ.

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