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Parti québécois. The main separatist political party of PQ.

Abbreviation for the Canadian (.ca) Province of Quebec. The official two-letter abbreviation recognized by Canada Post is QC, q.v.

[Download PQFP image from

Plastic Quad Flat-Pack. Similar to ceramic same.

National Semiconductor has some specs on the web. Their illustration is at right.

The detailed mechanical drawing below is of a 100-lead PFQP for a Fujitsu SCSI Controller (MB86601A.)

[Mechanical drawing from

Priorities, Quality, Productivity.

Partial Remission. [Medical abbrev.]

Permanent Resident. The old ``green card'' is a PR visa.



PR, pr
Pinch Runner.

Prandtl number. He must have been Austrian. German names like that end in -el.

What, you wanted to know how the Prandtl number was defined? Oh. Actually, he was German. He was born in Freising (near Munich), 60 or 70 miles north of Austria. Fritz Pregl (Nobel prize in chemistry, 1923) was born in Austria.

Praseodymium. Atomic number 59.

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

Proportional Representation.

Public Relations. The term has come to have two distinct meanings that overlap somewhat in practice:
  1. Advertising for the company rather than the product.
  2. Unpaid advertising: publicity through news outlets.

Puerto Rico. USPS abbreviation.

The Villanova Center for Information Law and Policy serves a page of Puerto Rican commonwealth government links.

(Domain code for) Puerto Rico.

Pulsed Radar.

Purchase Request.

This word seems like it ought to be sturdy and consistent and, well, practical, but its meaning is not so reliable.

Here, for example, is an indirect definition from chapter 1 of Practical Reasoning by D.P. Gauthier (Oxford U.P., 1963):

A practical problem is a problem about what to do. In saying this we are using the word `practical' more widely than in everyday discourse, to characterize all problems, individual and social, prudential and moral, whose final solution is found only in doing something, in acting. Practical problems may be contrasted with theoretical problems, whose solution is found in knowing something, in understanding.

I think that's at least two definitions, but for me they add up to a total of no problem.

practical religion
According to young Robinson Crusoe,
``I saw what is not often seen ... the Master, the Boat-Swain, and others ... at their Prayers.''

British spelling of the verb corresponding to the noun practice. In practice, however, many writers forget the difference and conflate the spellings. As a mnemonic device, note that the same rule is followed (throughout Anglophenia) for the word pairs advice/advise and prophecy/prophesy: soft c (ce or cy) for the noun and s for the verb.

In US spelling, both noun and verb are spelled ``practice.'' Another word pair distinguished by British but not by US spelling is dependent/dependant. A more complicated and perhaps typical situation is that of queen. The alternate spelling quean is used for a subset of the non-royal senses, but the subset is different on the two (or more) sides of the pond.

American English preserves the part participle form gotten where British English uses the same form as the simple past (got). (BTW, we have a substantial entry on the ``have got to'' construction.) I fear, however, that the gotten/got distinction might not be long for this world, or continent. I increasingly encounter putatively educated people, people who have studied (or perhaps merely ``studied'') another European language, who are unaware -- literally unaware! -- of the distinction between past participle and simple past. Strong verbs are weakening.

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, enacted by the US Congress in August 1996, replaced the AFDC program with block grants to the states and eliminated an accumulation of protective and obstructive federal statutory and administrative regulations.

Primary Rate Access.

Planning and Resource Allocation Committee.

Practical Criticism
The title of a 1929 book by I.A. Richards, subtitled ``A Study of Literary Judgment.'' (The British editions spell the last word as ``Judgement,'' of course.) This book was one of the landmarks of twentieth-century criticism, for many years before the crazies took over (starting around 1960). By now, perhaps, this landmark is so far over the horizon that it's out of sight.

The book is pretty boring, so what you want are some sharp quotes, so you can pretend to have read it. In Part I (``Introductory,'' see excerpt here under I [a different I]), Richards wrote (metaphorically, I do believe):

We have to try to avoid judging pianists by their hair.

Well, I just thought that was a nicely turned phrase is all.

Discussing the reaction to Poem 3 (a sonnet by John Donne, with many obvious references to Christian eschatology, all of which went completely over many students' heads) Richards wrote the following:

Inability to construe may have countless causes. Distractions, preconceptions, inhibitions of all kinds have their part, and putting our finger on the obstructing item is always largely guesswork. The assumption, however, that stupidity is not a simple quality, such as weight or impenetrability were once thought to be, but an effect of complex inhibitions is a long stride in a hopeful direction. The most leaden-witted blockhead thereby becomes an object of interest.

What a fantastic spin doctor he would have made! Here for comparison is some other spin avant la lettre. In 1970, President Richard Nixon nominated George Harrold (``Harold'') Carswell to be a justice on the US Supreme Court. Senator Roman Lee Hruska of Nebraska offered the following in support of Carswell:

Even if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they?

This is the best example I know for clarifying the sense of ``qualified support.'' Carswell, who had served a little under a year as a justice on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, was rejected by the Senate on a 51-45 vote, and things went downhill from there. But this is an entry about Practical Criticism, remember?

According to Appendix B, the Donne piece got a 30%-favourable/42%-unfavourable rating. Longfellow's entry got 5%/92% (13th out of 13). The second-highest positive rating (but with high negatives: 53%/42%) went to an item by Rev. G. A. Studdert Kennedy (``Woodbine Willie'') that had been published in More Rough Rhymes of a Padre. Rev. Kennedy wrote Richards that he could ``use any of my poems for any purpose you like. The criticisms of them could not be more adverse and slaughterous than my own would be.'' The most favorably and also the least unfavorably regarded poem (54%/31%) was by J.D.C. Pellew, who in reply to IAR's request for permission to use the poem wrote: ``It is pleasant to know that I am serving the cause of science!''

By the middle of the closing ``Summary,'' (p. 315), Richards was deploying the there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I defense:

The wild interpretations of others must not be regarded as the antics of incompetents, but as dangers that we ourselves only narrowly escape, if, indeed, we do. We must see in the misreadings of others the actualisation of possibilities threatened in the early stages of our own readings. The only proper attitude is to look upon a successful interpretation, a correct understanding, as a triumph against odds. We must cease to regard a misunderstanding as a mere unlucky accident. We must treat it as the normal and probable event.

practicing abstinence
An interesting concept. Limber up first. Don't strain yourself -- work up to it.

Standard Latin term for the rhetorical technique of mentioning something by saying that one is not going to mention it.

I won't add that Latin ae often becomes e in English words (particularly in American spelling), and that the -tio inflection typically becomes -tion, so an alternative term is preterition.

Alternative spelling of preterition. I could hardly be bothered to explain this spelling at the praeteritio entry (in the second paragraph).

Parallel Random-Access Machine.

Permanent Random-Access Memory (RAM) based on giant magnetoresistance (GMR). Conceived as a substitute for disk storage: nonvolatile, ultralow-power, with access times 10,000 times shorter than for comparable-size disk memories.


Pylos Regional Archaeological Project.

Pratt & Whitney
Back when their homepage was under construction, they suggested you visit their parent company UTC.

Russian, `Truth.' (Cognate of English proof.) Also the name of the Communist Party organ, founded in 1912, whose last issue was that of July 29, 1996. Other news organs were Izvestia (`News') and Trud (`Work').

The old story used to go, a man walks up to a Moscow kiosk...

Customer: ``Have you got Pravda?''
Newspaperman: ``No.''
Customer: ``What about Izvestia?''
Newspaperman: ``Not that either.''
Customer: ``Have you got anything?''
Newspaperman: ``Oh, we have plenty of Trud.''

Nah: staring-down-at-the-smartphone-ful. The phone-contemplative life.

Physical Review B. (Condensed matter section.) Published by the APS, which provides information online.

PseudoRandom { Binary | Bit } Sequence.

People's Republic of China. Mainland China. Red China. China that wouldn't fit in your cupboard.

Popular Resistance Committees. A Palestinian terrorist organization.

Publications Rights Clearinghouse.

Public Resources Code. The code of laws (in California, at least) governing the use of public resources.

Primary Reaction Control System.

Partido Revolucionario Democrático. One of the two major political parties that was successful in challenging Mexico's dominant PRI in the 1990's. The PRD is significantly to the left of the PRI. The new party was created in the wake of electoral ``defeat'' of the FDN in 1988 elections. For your convenience (isn't that unusual!) we have therefore placed the content of the FDN entry immediately below.

In 1987, a number of reform-minded members of the PRI, frustrated with their inability to effect reform by working within the then-dominant Mexican political party, left and joined forces with several small, mostly leftist parties. They formed the FDN (Frente Democrática Nacional, `National Democratic Front') to challenge the PRI in the 1988 elections. The FDN chose Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, son of a legendary father and one of the recent PRI refugees, as its presidential candidate. According to returns widely believed to have been miscounted, Cárdenas lost with 30% of the vote to 50.5% for Harvard economics graduate and PRI apparatchik Salinas. PRI did a poor job of hiding the rigging -- they were probably behind the assassination of FDN electoral coordinator Francisco Ovando Ruiz and an assistant four days before the election, there was a ``computer system crash'' in the middle of the vote counting, etc. Their feckless show of corruption was a sign of the beginning of the end. (Contrast that with Russia's Vladimir Putin, who laid careful plans for a believable 75-80% majority for his reelection, and who has weakened the Duma sufficiently that he can afford to allow some meaningless opposition there. And when he arrests the biggest capitalists, he can rule the smaller fry gracefully with fear. Now that's the way to establish a smooth-running benevolent dictatorship! Or even one that isn't benevolent. We'll have to wait and see.)

Aaaanyway, despite energetic political harassment (mysterious deaths, framing for drug trafficking crimes, etc.) of opposition candidates and their families, pollwatchers, and supporters, the PRI went into a steep decline in the 1990's. It turned out that in the attempt to create the appearance of political reform, the PRI was forced to actually create political reform. All those peso devaluations probably didn't help their popularity any too much either. (There's a tiny bit more about this at the PRI entry, surprisingly enough.)

Process Research and Development.

Program Research and Development Announcement.

Partial Reflection Experiment.

Pulse Radiation Effect.

Preaching to the choir
``For those who believe, no argument is necessary. For those who do not believe, no argument is possible.''

Boy, is this your lucky day! The advertising department has authorized New Accounts to receive your application. You are already approved for consideration!

Preserve Educational Choice, Inc. It's all about R-MWC, q.v.

Etymologically speaking, a cursor is something that runs, and a precursor is something that runs before. Therefore, the precursor is positioned in a text document using the mouse whiskers.

Every now and then I just feel the need to perpetrate a truly vile pun.

It's not an adjective, okay? Get your fingers out of your nose and say predominant.

Premiere. (Verb and noun.) Insider slang used by Variety. Simultaneously one of the least decipherable and least necessary. For a good list of Varietese terms, see <slanguage.pdf>. (Most of the other terms are either widely used outside the pages of Variety or are obvious.)

A baby born prematurely.

Remember, you can't spell pregnant without regnant. This mightn't have been a good thing to remind Queen Elizabeth I of, however.

pregnant we
A special use of the personal pronoun we. For example, in The Opposite of Sex, Christina Ricci's character DeDe gives Ivan Sergei's character Matt the news straight, after he has failed to understand what she means by ``I'm late.'' She says ``I'm pregnant'' and immediately corrects it to ``we're pregnant.'' (She doesn't add ``we're late.'' The scene continues in our entry for Wow, who's the mother?)

With a little bit of historical research, we can discover the primitive beginnings of the pregnant-we construction. In chapter 16 of his memoir, Meant To Be, (2003), Walter Anderson writes:

... Incredibly, I thought, my mother could still recall conversations she'd had with [her adulterous lover] Al more than twenty years before, as if they'd spoken only yesterday. She began by describing a particularly troubling discussion.
    ``I've missed my period only twice before,'' she told Al, ``and that was for Billy and Carol. It's only a couple of weeks, but I'm like clockwork--never late unless I'm pregnant. So, yes, I'm sure I'm pregnant.''

The recalled conversation took place in late 1943 or early 1944 in New York. Al replied, ``I believe you and I'm going to help you [get an abortion -- which she ultimately decided not have].''

    ``Help us,'' she corrected.
    ``Of course,'' he agreed. ``Us.''

Going further back, there's the text of Isaiah 26:18 (KJV):

We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.

Well, it's the thought that counts (see also push present). Another of the somewhat exotic wes (we's? we're? ``we''s? we words!) is the medical we.

pregnant wee-wee
In later stages of pregnancy, the human fetus presses against the mother's bladder and causes discomfort if she does not urinate more frequently. A more interesting glossary entry is that for pregnant we.

Presentation Environment for Multi-Media Objects. Not to be confused with primo, which is English for `excellent marijuana' and Spanish for `cousin.'

PREPar{ ation | atory | e }. A prep school is a college preparatory school -- a secondary school intended to prepare students for a college education. Until at least the middle of the twentieth century, that was exceptional: the high school degree was the final degree for most of the students who got it.

PRogrammable Electronics Performance Corp. A nonprofit consortium of companies and organizations in the business of programmable integrated circuits and the computer-aided design tools, systems and methodologies used in implementing designs with programmable devices.

Before shredding by critics.

Contracted form of perestroika. Apparently a common pronunciation, but by no means universal. The Russian whom I heard this from lived in the Murmansk area during the Gorbachev era. I repeated it to a Russian from the south (near Crimea) and he didn't recognize it. (No, it wasn't just my pronunciation -- I spelled it out.)

Prestiege Properties
Hmmmph. I guess the usual spelling wasn't good enough for 'em. Then again, they claim to be ``Student Housing Specialists.'' Maybe they're trying to attract engineers.

Their website is not exactly at <http://www.prestiegeproperties.org/>, as their billboard claims. I guess the error was just that of the sign maker. Still, the elementary spelling, punctuation, and graphics coding errors on the homepage don't promote confidence in their claimed ``highest quality.''

At least it's easy to give them their full due. ``Prestiege'' is a spelling that makes sense (compare liege and siege). The writer only failed to take the next step, and ask how the spelling of an English word could make so much sense. The spelling is beyond merely heterological, yet it's logical as well.

Spanish, `I lend.'

Italian, `fast.' Term used to indicate a tempo faster than allegro.

Behold! Expression used in magic, meaning corrupted from original sense similar to musical (`suddenly').

Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and TechnOlogy. (Japanese government program.) Pronounced peresuto, I guess.

At a restaurant in Vail, Colorado, some of the entrees were The prices were interesting -- ``10,'' ``8,'' ``7.5'' -- dollars, it turned out.

Here's a hint if you want to carry off the Europeanisticated thing: the plural of Gelato is Gelati.

The rhetorical technique of mentioning something by saying that one is not going to mention it. It's ultimately from the Latin term praeteritio, and I don't have to tell you that it's also spelled praeterition. I could probably save readers a certain amount of pointless following of links to apophasis, paraleipsis, paralepsis, paralipsis, if I simply pointed out that these are terms of Greek origin that are now used in English in the same sense as preterition, but why should I? Instead, I'll point out that this use of apophasis is untrue to the original meaning, and that no matter whether you use paraleipsis, paralepsis, or paralipsis, someone will probably think you misspelled it. So it goes without saying that you should use preterition.

previous experience
As opposed to the other kind. When they ask about education, they never ask specifically about previous education, so I suppose it's okay to list education you plan to have in the future.

Nickname of John Prescott, high-ranking member of the British Labour Party. Labour claims to represent the working class, but in Prezza the representation has been true to life. He worked his way up the party ranks and following Labour's victory in 1997 became Deputy Prime Minister in the governments of PM Tony Blair. In 2006, at age 67, the tabloid press revealed in great detail how he'd been privately applying his work ethic to a secretarial affair. (His subsequent political fall is proceeding piecemeal, as I write in May 2006, and I don't plan to do the play-by-play.)

Prezza dropped out of school at age 15 to work as a trainee chef. He spent 10 years as a steward in the merchant marine. He eventually returned to school, picking up a diploma in economics and politics in 1963. (The school was Ruskin College, Oxford, which specializes in programs for working union members.) If you do the math, you notice that he was either a very sharp drop-out, or that the diploma didn't represent many years of academic work. In any event, he is widely ridiculed for his uneasy relationship with the English language; see Wordsworth.

Pulse Repetition Frequency.

Peer Review Group.

(Australian) Project for Rural Health Communication and Information Technology. Read their final report. Oh, alright then, don't.

Partido Revolucionario Institucional. (`Institutional Revolutionary Party' of Mexico.) Plutarco Elías Calles (Mexico's 48th president, 1924-1928) organized the party in 1929 as the National Revolutionary Party (PNR). The party originated as a coalition of a large number of parties in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution, and was dominant for the next 70 years. (PRI people are called priístas; cf. PAN and panistas.)

Calles was a boss, pulling strings, picking presidents, overseeing graft -- the usual boss things. Then he picked Lázaro Cárdenas to be PRI's presidential candidate. Cárdenas was duly elected (Mexico's 53rd president) in 1934, and that year forced Calles and many Callecistas into exile. (Calles means `streets.') Also in 1934, his son Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano was born. (He is discussed at the PRD entry).

In 1938, Cárdenas nationalized foreign (US and European) oil operations. Mexico became the target of a boycott, but that was set aside when Mexico's oil was needed in WWII. By expelling the companies that were sucking the country's rich blood, he made Mexico rich and prosperous. Oh wait, that last part didn't happen. Close though: he made subsequent PRI leaders and their cronies rich and prosperous.

Cárdenas himself, however, is generally acknowledged to have been honest. His first act as president was to cut his own salary in half. He lived modestly after his one presidential term, serving to 1945 as secretary of defense. His subsequent work was virtually a caricature of do-goodering: he supervised irrigation projects and promoted free medical clinics and education for the nation's poor. Ugh! Jimmy Carter without the dictator-worship. Cárdenas was Mexico's most, or perhaps only, popular president.

Also under the leadership of Cárdenas in 1938, his party changed its name (on March 30, 1938) to the Party of the Mexican Revolution (PMR). He was succeeded by Manuel Ávila Camacho. At the end of his six-year term of office, he changed the name again (January 18, 1946). He was succeeded by Miguel Alemán Valdés, who instituted the practice of not changing the party's name every six or seven years, and that reform has stuck.

According to Franz Kafka,

Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.

In the elections of Summer 1997, the PRI lost its majority in Congress. There was no majority party, and the four opposition parties were arrayed across the political spectrum (of course, everyone was in agreement that taxes had to be reduced... somehow).

It took a coalition of all four opposition parties to take control of the congressional committees. When they did so, they discovered that there were no committee staffs or histories: in the past, the PRI-controlled executive branch had sent over its legislative proposals complete with sham committee deliberations.

In national elections held on Sunday, July 2, 2000, the PAN candidate for president (Vicente Fox) won, marking the first time since its founding in 1929 that PRI's presidential candidate was defeated.

Parti républicain indépendant. See RI.

Primary Rate Interface.

Public Radio International. A part of National Public Radio. Go figure.

Pulse Repetition Interval.

Pacific Rim International Conference on Artificial Intelligence.

Prices Slashed!!
From preposterous all the way down to merely ridiculous.

Price to be determined.
Limited number available.

Joseph Priestley produced oxygen gas (O2, the stable molecular form of the element oxygen O) in 1774 by solar-heating HgO with a magnifying glass. He called it dephlogisticated air. He published immediately. Carl Wilhelm Scheele had produced oxygen at least a year earlier, but did not publish until 1777. Priestley is known as the first person to produce (relatively) pure oxygen. Scheele is remembered by chemistry historians.

Priestley supported the French revolution, and for that support he was hounded from his home and lived his last ten years in the US. More detail at the CO entry. (Being a dissenting minister -- of the sort we now denominate Unitarian -- probably didn't help his popularity. Newton (vide s.v. TP) kept his own conversion secret.) Lavoisier built on Priestley's and Scheele's discovery (both contacted him in October 1774) and overthrew the phlogiston theory they both supported with his own precise measurements. He gave oxygen its name. He was executed as an officer of the Ferme Générale during the terror of the French Revolution (1794, he was 51). His rival and inferior, the physician and revolutionist Jean Paul Marat who agitated for his arrest, did not have the pleasure of seeing him guillotined, as he was assassinated in his bath by the Girondin Charlotte Corday. (It's not how you think. He was in his bath for therapeutic reasons. He had contracted something horrible while hiding from French authorities in the sewers of Paris.) We've gotten a bit off-topic here, haven't we?

I only first encountered the verb use of primary in a January 2010 blog posting by Jay Cost entitled ``Could Howard Dean Primary Barack Obama?'' He used primary as a verb a few times within the article. ``To primary'' in this usage means to mount a primary challenge against an incumbent. (It is established usage that an in-party challenger is often called an ``insurgent.'') Cost also uses ``successfully primary'' in the logical sense of `defeat the incumbent in a primary challenge.'

Mr. Cost, like RealClearPolitics generally (Cost blogs at RCP), is not as linguistically inept as in 2005, but this might still be a solecism. On the other hand, it is widely cited, so the usage, still clearly unusual for anyone but a political junkie, might catch on. (I'm not encouraging it.)

primary balance
Net surplus or deficit, exclusive of interest payments. See primary deficit.

primary budget deficit
A primary deficit. The term is used as if spending equaled budgeted spending and even revenues equaled projections. Government budgets are more-or-less reality-based fiction.

primary budget surplus
A term used more or less synonymously with primary surplus.

primary deficit
A deficit even when interest payments are excluded from accounting. In other words, revenues minus spending (exclusive of interest on debt). The term seems to be used these days (since the impending Greek budget crisis first became news in 2009) mostly or perhaps exclusively in reference to government budgets.

primary health care provider
This is a medically licensed employee of your HMO whose responsibility is to prevent you from obtaining adequate medical care.

primary surplus
A surplus (usually in a government's financial accounts or fantasies or whatever) before interest payments are included in accounting. Primary surpluses are more common than actual surpluses, since most governments carry old debts even in years when revenues exceed spending (other than on interest payments).

Monkey or bishop. Wilberforce was a primate in one sense, and a monkey's uncle, but he didn't want to be a monkey's descendant. Yet though he was prominent, he wasn't a church primate in the strictest sense.

prime numbers
The prime numbers are those integers greater than one which have only trivial factorization (a prime number is divisible only by itself and one).

Chris Caldwell maintains an extensive prime numbers resource.

Prime Number Theorem
The number of distinct primes smaller than x is asymptotic to x/ln(x) as x approaches infinity, where ln(x) is the natural logarithm of x.

The asymptotic formula is an underestimate; the error is by a factor of 1.132 for x = 104 = 10000, and 1.0254 for x = 1018.

The theorem was proven in 1896, and I really ought to know whom by.

There are two common kinds of primer. At the beginning of the twentieth century, everyone fluent in English knew that they were pronounced differently. The liquid coating applied to a surface before subsequent painting was a primer pronounced with a long i: ``PRIME er.'' If prime were not such an absolute adjective, its comparative form primer would be a homonym of this noun primer. The other primer was an introductory book on a subject, the first book read-- typically in grade school. This was pronounced with a short i: ``PRIM er.'' It was a homonym of primmer. Over the course of the century, the word primer for the book category became much less common. (I remember in eleventh grade, how the late Miss Chew pointed out that our Algebra III textbook would be the first book we had used in high school math that didn't contain the word introduction or introductory in the title.) When people encountered the increasingly rare word primer, they increasingly pronounced it as they did its better-known homograph.

Pumphrey, Roberts, Inman, McCormack, Green, Hayes, Albright, and Rerick. The surnames of eight men active in platting the Iowa town thus named, which is the seat of O'Brien County. If I had been on hand, I would have suggested Grimharp. According to Louise Pound (see ``Stunts'' in Language, but not yet), Primghar was ``named by combining the initials of the persons present at laying the corner-stone.'' If the grammar of this unattributed quote can be trusted as far as the implicit inclusiveness of the first the, then of course I was not present to make my suggestion (I claim this is true), hence the name. There's a rhyme about this town's name:

Pumphrey, the treasurer, drives the first name,
Roberts, the donor, is quick on his trail,
Inman dips slyly his first letter in,
McCormack adds M, which makes the full Prim.

Green, thinking of groceries, gives them the G,
Hayes drops them an H, without asking a fee,
Albright, the joker, with his jokes all at par,
Rerick brings up the rear and crowns al ``Primghar.''

It's got a ragged right edge, so it's poetry. It's probably not the only poetry that appears in Illustrated Dictionary of Place Names: United States and Canada, ed. Kelsie B. Harder (Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1976). Anyway, I see the money men come first, so now I suggest Prigharm.

PRIMary Care for the Uniformed Services.

Primus inter pares.
Latin: `First among equals.'

Prince Charmin'
Mistah Raaaght.

Prince Charmin
Mister Whipple.

``Princeton is a wonderful little spot, a quaint and ceremonious village of puny demigods on stilts. ... Here the people who compose what is called `society' enjoy even less freedom than their counterparts in Europe. Yet they seem unaware of this restriction, since their way of life tends to inhibit personality development from childhood.''
-- Albert Einstein, in a letter to Queen Elisabeth of Belgium.

Princeton Architecture
Man, you should see Alexander Hall! Baroque and pug-ugly. Contrary to widespread rumor, the Graduate College is not a slavish copy of Magdalene College, Oxford (pronounced ``maudlin''). I confirmed this personally. Cf. Harvard Architecture.

Anyway, the Architecture Research Institute, Inc. says that the information age is making buildings obsolete!

The word that is often meant when ``principle'' is written. Both mean ``first'' in some sense, but principle has the specific meaning of an idea that is first, usually in the sense of being an appropriate idea from which to begin a process of reasoning. Other familiar senses of these homonyms are usually meanings of the word principal.

The noun principal is a person or agent; the noun principle is an idea. There is an adjective in the form of a participle -- ``principled'' -- but the word principle does not function as an adjective, except as an attributive noun. (The ``principle computer'' is a computer that calculates fundamental maxims. The ``principal computer'' is the one it hurts most to have crash. The first doesn't and the second does.) Other examples:

The school principal in the principal school of the district is a principal in the case against the town. The principal reason is that she was one of the principal beneficiaries of the previous regime's lack of principles.
In an article in the June 17, 1996 TNR, Sara Mosle accuses Charles Sykes of wanting to
... supplant school principals with business principles.

In a July 25, 1996, NYTimes Op-Ed (p. A23), Maureen Dowd wrote that consultant Dick Morris (not yet disgraced at the time of writing; hence, not yet rehabilitated), by generating ``teensy-weensy'' pronouncements for President Clinton to make on school uniforms and such, gave him

... the aura of principal, if not principle.

Principal Parts
A subset of the forms of a verb, from which one can infer the remaining conjugations.

In the German language, for example, the principal parts are usually taken as (1) the infinitive, (2) the first-person singular past indicative, (3) the past participle, and (4) the second- or third-person singular present indicative. Not all of these are always necessary.

Principal Value
... of an integral with a 1/x singularity (in the interior of the region of integration). Defined in terms of the integrals found by excluding a symmetric interval about the singularity, The principal value is the limit of the integrals as that excluded interval shrinks to zero size.

A word often mistakenly written for principal.

Hmmm. Well, as near as I can make out, this is an HR company that provides on-demand personnel with expertise in document work. The need is driven by the tax-filing deadline (April 15) and the end of the school year, which explains why the company only does business between about March 20 and June 21.

Printer's Blue
A turquoise color that is essentially copper phthallocyanine. The structure, with rather less dimensional fealty to life than usual, is indicated below:

                               /         \
                              /           \
                              \\         //
                               \\       //
                                |       |
                                |       |
                     N__________|       |__________N
                     |           \     /           |
         /\          |            \   /            |          /\
        / \\         |             \ /             |         // \
       /   \\        |              N              |        //   \
      /     \\_______|                             |_______//     \
     ||      |        \                           /        |      ||
     ||      |         \                         /         |      ||
     ||      |          \                       /          |      ||
     ||      |           N          Cu         N           |      ||
     ||      |          /                       \          |      ||
     ||      |         /                         \         |      ||
     ||      |_______ /                           \ _______|      ||
      \     //       |                             |       \\     /
       \   //        |              N              |        \\   /
        \ //         |             / \             |         \\ /
         \/          |            /   \            |          \/
                     |__________ /     \ __________|
                     N          |       |          N
                                |       |
                                //     \\
                               //       \\
                              //         \\
                              \           /
                               \         /

Well, the real molecule is planar also, so there's that. But the real molecule has square symmetry, which is a bit hard to represent in ASCII.

As usual, unlabeled vertices represent carbon atoms. The copper atom at the center is coordination-bonded to the nitrogens (also called ``chelated''; the molecule is a ligand). Most of the lines represent single bonds, but the four outer hexagons are aryl groups, with three double bonds. Carbons with fewer than four bonds, and nitrogens with fewer than three, have hydrogens bonded to them to make up the shortfall. If any of this wasn't obvious, you should take an elementary chemistry course.

This four-fold symmetric chelate structure is quite versatile. It occurs in chlorophyll, hemoglobin, and myoglobin. The structure illustrated above has evidently also been adapted for fighter spacecraft in Star Wars.

Small proteinaceous particles that can transmit disease. There is some evidence that they are the cause of spongiform encephalopathies in various mammal species, but there is little direct evidence even for their presence, let alone activity. Among the suspect diseases: transmissible mink encephalopathy (TME), chronic wasting disease (CWD) in mule deer and elk, scrapie (in sheep), bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, q.v.) in ``cattle'' (i.e., in domesticated bovines), and various diseases that affect humans: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker Syndrome (GSS), Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI), kuru (the disease that was determined by epidemiological methods to be transmitted by the eating of a victim's brain by his grieving family, don't ask), and Alper's Syndrome. [There's a Jakob-Creutzfeld (JC) virus, but it doesn't cause CJD.]

The obvious question is: if prions have no DNA, how do they reproduce? This is only a funkier version of the earlier questions about viruses: How do they live without mitochondria, other essentials? Parasitically, by taking over host-cell apparatus. (Similarly, no-DNA viruses -- retroviruses -- keep their genetic instructions stored in RNA and use reverse transcriptase to take over replication apparatus at a more fundamental level. Over time, bits of viral DNA have been incorporated into the human genome, but these bits generally appear not to be expressed.)

For some guesses, evidence, and answers, try the Prion Diseases page.

Public Relations (PR) / Investor Relations (IR).

Performance and Registration Information Systems Management.

Project for the Research of ISlamist Movements. There are two signs that this organization is scientific. First, the name is constructed in broken English, the international language of science. The second reason concerns the logo, which consists of a prism breaking a beam of white light, like the prism picture on the cover of Pink Floyd's ``Dark Side of the Moon'' album. However, unlike the idiotic album representation, the optics it represents is not obviously impossible because the path of the beam within the prism is not shown. (One of the more obvious impossibilities in the Pink Floyd version is that the beam stays white as it diverges after the first refraction. That album is the second most popular-selling album of all time.) Well, okay, the sharp color changes are preposterous, but it could be much worse.

PRISM was founded by Reuven Paz in 2002, ``in order to combine academic and field research of new developments of radical Islam and Islamist movements.'' In Portuguese and Spanish, by the way, paz means `peace' (< Latin pace). A Hebrew word meaning `pure gold' is also transliterated as paz in Latin characters. All three languages have yielded Paz as a surname (in the last case, often used in Israel as a new surnames for immigrants previously named Gold).

PRISM ``is part of the GLORIA Center in the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. The project is dealing with developments of radical Islamic and Islamist movements in the social, cultural, ideological, and political fields; Finance of radical Islamist groups; Sponsoring of Islamic states to Islamist radicalism and terrorism; Islamic communities in the West; The `Culture of Global Jihad' and its attitude toward the Western civilization, Israel, and the Jews; Islamist networks; and support for radical Islam through the virtual global Jihad in the Internet. The focus of its research is on primary sources in Arabic, and the project wishes to fill some vacuum in the use of Arabic sources for the Islamist phenomenon.''

private language
US President Herbert Hoover and his wife spoke Chinese to each other when they wanted to keep their communications private in public. Calvin Coolidge grew up using sign language because his parents did not want to be overheard. Coolidge refused to use the telephone while in office. I read these claims in the Chicago Tribune, so I imagine they're probably either the truth or garbled versions of the truth. But as they're interesting claims, I'll probably, eventually, try to track down some details and corroboration.

When we first came to the US in 1963, we used Spanish as a private language. The effectiveness of this has decreased over the years. Many salesmen, especially, seem to have at least rudimentary Spanish. Now we use German.

People's Republic of Kampuchea. Cambodia.

PhotoRefractive Keratectomy. Resculpting of defectively focused cornea, by laser ablation. Cf. Radial Keratotomy; more details at successor procedure LASIK.

Physical Review Letters. Published by the APS, which provides information online. The journal itself is available in electronic form from OCLC.


Performance Report Messages.

Programmers' Reference Manual.

Physicotechnical and Radiotechnical Measurements Institute. In Moscow, Russia. (In a book published in 1983, I saw it described as the Physico-Radio-Technical Measurement Institute, but I suspect that's wrong.)


PRN, p.r.n.
Pro re nata. Prescription Latin: `as needed.'

PR Newswire. A kind of Associated Press for (PR?IR) press releases, it seems. I guess PR in name stands for Public Relations (PR).

Plasmid RNA.

PseudoRandom Number Generator.

Peer Review Organization. Medicare improved by a change of name to Quality Improvement Organization (QIO).

The order of elephants. (The order in taxonomy, not the circus, silly!)

A separate lineage of mammals seems to have evolved trunks in South America when that was a separate continent, but the animals became extinct in the prehistoric period. ``Seems'' because those trunks, like elephant trunks, are soft tissue that usually doesn't fossilize; trunks have been inferred from circumstantial evidence.

An organ associated with the mouth that protrudes or can be protruded. Used in feeding and in some cases for other purposes. Hmm.


Procopius of Caesarea, maybe? Wrote a history of Justinian's western wars.

process cheese food, processed cheese food
Must contain at least 51% cheese by weight. Reassuring, isn't it? Skim milk, whey, and other substances may be added.

I had a conversation today with my old friend Joseph (José), who recalled the following experience from his first job out of college (chemistry degree), in Argentina in the early 1950's.

At the company where he was working, he was listening to some managers talking, and they were using the word productores (`producers') in a way that sounded odd to him. He protested that he and the other people working in the plant were the producers, because they produced the product (producían el producto). The managers explained that no, the salesmen were the producers, because they produced the sales (producían las ventas), and without sales there was no point in producing anything else. I imagine that arguments for the comparable necessity of something to sell would have fallen on deaf ears. See ears (when the entry is in).

product placement
Jon Stewart, the star of The Daily Show, first appears about six minutes into the movie ``Wordplay.'' He is shown at a slightly cluttered desk, working a crossword puzzle, with the camera about elbow level and very close to the opposite edge of the desk. A mostly full container of Buster Rub is close to that edge, so as a result of perspective it is a towering image. It appears twice as high and twice as wide as Stewart's head.

Well, it might not be the most egregious instance, but I don't watch a lot of movies, so this will have to do.

PRofessional OFfice System. The name of a particular database system.

program car
Euphemism for a car that has been rented and abused for no more than about a year, and that is now being sold retail to marks who will pay more for it than the rental agency paid for it when it was new. (But stay tuned: as of 1997 most of the US car manufacturers have unloaded or announced intentions to unload their car-rental-company properties/subsidiaries.)

Commonwealth-English spelling of program. You see the word a lot in UN names and publications. You also see a lot of -ize and -ization there too. Either someone has come up with an ISO-standard English orthography, or they're using the OED.

programming wizard
Television executive who cancels good shows that were allowed to survive by previous wizards and plans a new Fall season filled with slavish stupid clones of last year's magic hits.

The great thing about this practice is that the minority of viewers who loved last year's few hits will now have many undaring formulaic rip-offs to choose from, while the large majority will have nothing. Hey -- that doesn't sound like such a fantastic up-side. Oh, I'm sorry -- that's just an insignificant side effect. The real advantage is that since cast members of long-running good shows have higher salary expectations, the new clones can be produced more cheaply.

Project science has been distilled into the following xeroxlore:

The six phases of a project:

  1. Enthusiasm.
  2. Disillusionment.
  3. Panic.
  4. Search for the guilty.
  5. Punishment of the innocent.
  6. Praise and honors for the non-participants.

I only wish this were a joke entry.

Okay, here's some funny stuff as compensation. As an example of the above, consider the Soviet downing of KAL007. Presumably the flight started out with some enthusiasm. We'll skip the intermediate steps, including the punishment of 269 innocents. Many years later, after the Soviet Union itself was downed, Colonel Osipovich (the SU-15 fighter pilot who shot it down) was quoted in the New York Times (1996.12.9, p. A6). He complained that his bonus for the kill was only 200 rubles, minus postage, whereas the ground-based radar officer who discovered the lost passenger jet received a 400-ruble bonus. As Osipovich noted, ``Those who did not take part in this operation received double their monthly pay'' for a bonus, while he received less than 87%. Talk about injustice!

Old, very obsolete noun for someone who throws something forward. That's quite true, Abner. And the home team's projicient really has some naturally-occurring capsaicin on the ball. It's highly impressive and indubitably unprecedented. Yes, Howard, and it's too bad for our listening audience that radio hasn't been invented yet, or they could really appreciate your orotund chromatic commentary, avant la lettre, as it were.

In its current, also largely unknown usage, projicient is an adjective meaning ``concerned with an individual's perception of his surroundings.''

PROgramming in LOGic. An HLL.

Evidently, the design of this language was based on the idea that logic is an important element in decision making and other fallacies. One of the greatest language creators, in an essay on decision-making called ``The Tempest,'' remarked on the by-then already grim prospects for this language:

What's past is PROLOG.

Passive Range Of Motion. A biokinetics term. Typically, the angle through which a joint can be turned by an external noninjurious force (applied by a therapist's or experimenter's hand, say). I imagine there's some play in the definition. PROM is generally not smaller than AROM.

Pockels Readout Optical Memory.

Short for PROMenade. An American high school ritual. This is now universally called ``prom'' and never ``promenade,'' just as a sports fan is rarely any longer called fanatico (`fanatic'), which is the Spanish origin of the term. In American English today, the greatest source of foreign borrowings is Spanish. This is really stealing from the poor, because while Spanish is a rich language in many respects, it doesn't really have many words to spare.

Example of usage: ``Nuclear holocaust?! Oh, no! -- now prom will be cancelled!''

Programmable ROM. [Pronounced ``prom'' like the social event, as in ``promenade.'' A ROM whose contents can be programmed at least once outside the factory. Cf. BPROM, OTPROM, EPROM, EEPROM.]


A freeware code for searching and viewing the Classical text CD-ROM's from PHI and TLG. Currently (early 1998) available for testing at the Perseus ftp site, for Mac only. Plans are to port to Windows; add Boolean searches.

Also a titan who taught men secrets of the gods (fire and other preindustrial technological wonders). For this he was punished by Zeus (as described in the docudrama ``Prometheus Bound'') by being chained to a rock and having birds peck at his liver. Since he was a god, however, (of the titan generation) this didn't kill him, although it is generally agreed to have been unpleasant. The story goes that he eventually got off the rock by ratting on his fellow titans, who were planning to revolt and recover control of the world from the Olympian gods.

PROM password
In the good old days, anyone with physical access to a Unix box could break in simply by rebooting it in single-user mode. For all I know, this may be the only reason anyone ever bothered to learn the ed editor. Recently, they've taken the fun out of it by storing a password in PROM. If you lose this, you can't reboot and be root without contacting the manufacturer.

promiscuous hugging
What, you need a definition?

PRONoun. A word that stands in place of and functions as a noun. It might be objected that possessive pronouns (my, your, his,...) function as adjectives, but so do the possessive forms of nouns, as well as attributive nouns. While noun case distinctions have disappeared from English, pronouns still maintain them.

English personal pronouns decline into three cases: nominative, oblique, and possessive. (Oblique covers all forms appearing in predicates, other than nominative and possessive; possessive is also called the genitive case.)

Personal Pronouns
Possessive form(s)
modifier substantive
Singular First I me my mine
Second you you your yours
Third he him his his
she her her hers
it it its its
Plural First we us our ours
Second you
your yours
Third they them their theirs

The forms indicated above are mostly ``standard.'' I have also given the Southern dialectal y'all. Traditionally, this was strictly for the second-person plural (like Latin vos, Spanish vosotros, German ihr, etc.). Ignorant people who use y'all as a conscious affectation often think it's synonymous with you (i.e., that it does not distinguish singular and plural grammatical numbers). There is some disagreement about the correct possessive forms of y'all. Y'all's might be acceptable for both, or y'all might could use a periphrastic construction.

Many languages mark degrees of formality or ``politeness.'' That is, they have different words or expressions that have essentially the same meaning, but which express in a recognized conventional way differences in some aspect of the relationship between the speaker and the person spoken to or of. (For Japanese, see keigo.) This is a common feature of European languages, showing up most often in ``polite'' and ``familiar'' forms of the second-person pronouns. English does not now have such marked forms, although you can achieve a similar effect in the vocative case (familiar ``hey you!'' vs. polite ``uh, sir?). What is the vocative case? You just saw it. (O gentle reader: if it's any help, the vocative case is mentioned at this O entry.) The now unmarked pronoun you was originally a polite form in English (like usted in Spanish, vous in French, Sie in German, etc.), and that it gradually displaced the original familiar forms (English thou).

When I get around to putting less obvious information in this entry, I will mention that the Pennsylvania Amish came to use thou and thee in an unusual way. I'll also discuss the capitalization conventions in German and English pronouns, the reflexive (oblique) forms, and those poor Siberian high school graduates.

But I'm not going to do that now. When I do get around to it, though, I'll also mention that the word it is also a relatively recent innovation, before which inanimate objects were referred to by she or he. I will also, alas, record the gradual displacement these days of the generic (i.e., the non-gender-specific) he, him, his by they, them, and their.

pronounce. Notice that the noun loses a medial vowel: pronunciation. That is reasonable, since that syllable is pronounced differently, but since when did reasonableness ever affect spelling? And it's not just that the spelling of the word pronunciation is unusually attentive to pronunciation: cf. announce, annunciation; renounce, renunciation...

CMU serves a pronouncing dictionary that you can download.

There's an old device whose name engineers often wrote prony brake, but prony is not a common noun (in either sense). The Prony brake or de Prony brake was invented by Gaspard de Prony to measure the mechanical power generated by engines. The critical parts of a prony brake are a drum turned by the crankshaft of an engine under test, a stationary belt surrounding the drum, which can be tightened to adjust the braking torque applied to the drum, and a mechanism to measure the torque. (The last varies the most, but basically all one has to do is measure the force needed to keep the belt stationary. It is usually convenient to have a passive element -- a counterweight, say -- generate a large part of torque under test conditions, so the torque to be measured is more manageable.) The Prony brake allows one to measure torque at the crankshaft as a function of engine speed (the usual name for circular velocity, usually stated in ``RPM'' units).

Power is the product of torque and angular velocity (2π × circular velocity). When power is stated in units of HP, it's called the horsepower. ``Brake horsepower'' (B.H.P.) was once a more common term for this quantity (I read it in UK car books in the early 1970's). The name reflects the fact that the measurement is done against a brake. The engine really shouldn't care whether the drive shaft is causing the car to accelerate or just the tires' rubber to burn -- the torque at the crankshaft should be the same function of engine speed in either case, so ``brake'' is basically just a nod to de Prony. (Which is fine.)

  1. Theater: PROPerty. Not the origin of ``to prop (up).''
  2. Aviation: PROPeller.

An oversize gig bag (instrument carry case) with pockets for fake books and sheet music, metronomes (if you teach, you're a pro), etc. The name is a trademark of ProTec, which might have some trouble protecting the term from becoming generic.


A (Gk.) word with an acute accent on the antepenult.

Cf. also oxytone and paroxytone.


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

Cf. proparoxytone and perispomenon.

A prediction. Often a prediction made on the basis of supernatural signs. Rhymes approximately with ``cough a sea.'' Compare with the verb (next entry).

To make or announce a prophecy. Rhymes approximately with ``cough a sigh.'' Compare with the noun (previous entry).

Robert Ulery, posting off the top of his head, answered thusly the call on CLASSICS-L (vide Classics entry) for a mnemonic by which to remember the -cy and -sy distinction:

I think that I should never see
The verbal form spelled prophecy,
Nor will I ever cease to sigh
At noun forms misspelled prophesy.

David Wigtil suggests

  1. prophecy with a "c" that precedes "n" (for noun); prophesy with an "s" that precedes "v" (for verb).
  2. prophecy rhymes with "cee" (the name of the letter); prophesy is what's left over from this rule.

There is yet more at the chitlins entry.

I think they chose this name so that ``[name of product] promotes prostate health'' would be a tongue twister.

Many years ago, research demonstrated that irritating commercials are remembered best. This does not strike me as being one of the more attractive self-correcting mechanisms of the ``free'' market.

proposed syntax
More often proposed sin tax. Suggestion of government revenue enhancement by tax on over-the-counter pain medications regarded as legal vices.

The ability to sense the position, orientation, and movement of the body and limbs. This sense is often described as conscious or unconscious, and that poses interesting questions. (Think of some yourself.) The ability to balance oneself implies proprioception. The perception of movement -- a part of proprioception -- is called the kinesthetic sense. Another name for that is kinesthesia, but this latter term also has the meaning of the illusion of motion.

An introduction to the resources and methods of graduate research. A standard, typically required course in humanities disciplines.

PROcedural SIGN. In Morse code, a dot/dash (dit/dah; short/long; signal) pattern representing a message rather than a character. Typically represented by a letter sequence that has the same sequence of dots and dashes, but transmitted without the pauses that separate letters. (It's not really just pauses: CW communicators develop a natural rhythm that varies the timing and spacing of dit's and dah's, and one recognizes the shift in this pattern. Interletter spaces are a sort of synecdoche of this pattern.)

The most famous prosign is SOS, which also has an entry in the alt.usage.english FAQ.

Perhaps you're interested in a list of Q-signs served here.

prostate gland
It's not the bladder (below). The title character of Amos Oz's Fima
...was fifty-four, and during his years of living alone he had fallen into the habit of talking to himself. He reckoned this among his old bachelor's foibles, along with losing the lid of the jam, trimming the hair in one of his nostrils and forgetting... or flushing in the middle in the hope that the sound of rushing water would help him overcome his stuttering bladder. He would try to finish while the water was still running; so there was always a race between his own water and that from the tank. It was a race he always lost, and he would be faced with the infuriating alternative of standing there, tool in hand, until the tank refilled and he could have another go, or admitting defeat and leaving his urine in the bowl till next time. He did not like to admit defeat or waste his time waiting, so impatiently he would pull the handle before the tank was full again. This would provoke a premature eruption which was insufficient to flush, and again he had the abhorrent choice between waiting longer or giving up and going away.

He should have asked his doctor about drugs that can palliate the side-effects that many men experience as they age and the prostate gland becomes enlarged.

``Infuriating''! ``Abhorrent''! Translation by Nicholas de Lange.

One of Blake's ``Miscellaneous Epigrams'' explains,
When a man has married a wife, he finds out whether
Her knees and elbows are only glued together.

There's a page on the history of prosthetics, less loosely construed than by me above.

It has to be said that Blake's wife was one of the all-time martyrs of women's fidelity to their husbands' muses. Charles Goodyear was another hard case (six of his twelve children died in infancy, the family was often starving; he was usually in debt, died $200,000 in the hole). And Karl Marx's wife did not have material distributed unto-her-according-to-her-needs either. [Karl Marx was a London-based itinerant reporter for the New York Herald Tribune. Regarding his politics, he insisted ``I am not a Marxist.'' He's been dead for a while now.]

Plural protaseis. Cf. apodosis.

protease inhibitor
A different kind of AIDS drug than the nucleoside analogues. The first to be approved by the FDA for the treatment of HIV infection was Saquinavir (trade name Invirase, from Hoffman-La Roche). Others are Ritonavir (trade name Norvir, also known as ABT-538, from Abbott Pharmaceuticals), and MK-639.

Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today ACT. A US statute signed into law in 2003. PROTECT must have been their second choice; apparently they weren't able to make a backronym of HYSTERIA.

One provision makes sex between a minor and an older American abroad illegal if the minor is younger than sixteen. There is no direct mention of marriage in the text of the law. Canada, Mexico, and many other countries in this hemisphere (as well as at least half a dozen US states) make legal provision explicitly allowing minors or females under 16 to marry (usually only with parental or court approval).

Okay, a little precision: 18 USC 2243 defines sexual abuse of a minor as knowingly engaging in a sexual act with a person over 12 but under 16 years of age, if said abuser is more than four years older. Not incorporated into the definition, but allowed as a defense, is the possibility that the persons participating in the sexual act are married to each other at the time. (Sex acts are defined in section 2246 and they're about what you'd suppose. In fact, you can see why Pres. Bill Clinton ended up defending his grand-jury perjury by arguing the meaning of ``is.'')

Anyway, the sections mentioned in the last paragraph are part of 18 USC Chapt. 109A, which defined violations only in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the US (``in the US,'' hereinafter). The PROTECT Act includes provisions modifying Chapter 105 at 18 USC 2423 (penalties against sex tourism). Included are new penalties (up to 30 years' imprisonment) for US citizens and PR's engaging in ``illicit sexual conduct'' in foreign places. Here ``illicit sexual conduct'' is defined as either (1) a sexual act (per sec. 2243) that would be a violation of chapter 109A if it occurred in the US, or (2) a commercial sex act defined elsewhere in the code (sec. 1581). The PROTECT Act specifies a defense of ignorance for (2), but nothing for (1). A reasonable person would suppose that for the purposes of the new law in sec. 105, the marriage defense in ch. 109A would be allowed, and sex between married persons would not be a violation. A zealous prosecutor, on the other hand, might argue that the affirmative defenses allowed in ch. 109A are not part of the definition of the violation, or they would have been included in the definition. After all, ennumerated defense definitions specify the standard of evidence (preponderance of evidence, say), which clearly has nothing to do with whether a violation has occurred, but only with whether a possible violator can be found guilty of the offense.

The PROTECT Act also prohibits child pornography, including even depictions (computer-generated, say) that are not reproductions from life. (We will call the latter fictitious child pornography.) Similar provisions of the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 were previously ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The reason for prohibiting apparent child pornography that was made without abusing a child is explicitly stated in the act, in what amounts to a plea to the courts to allow the relevant prohibitions of the law. The basic argument against fictitious depictions of child sex is this: Since it is virtually impossible to prove that depictions were not computer-generated, the contention that they were has become an effective defense against child-pornography charges. [It is further claimed that child pornography is only a by-product of child sexual abuse, so that computer-generated child pornography, if or when it should be possible, does not reduce the incidence of child sexual abuse.] The new law mentions the 1973 case that resulted in the Miller Test (based on ``community standards'' -- an absurd, confused, and irrelevant concept -- and some other irrelevancies). Apparently by inference only, it seems that something like the Miller test is supposed to be applied in cases brought under the new prohibitions.

Even if you reduced your fat and carbohydrate intake to zero, you could still get fat by eating too much protein. It gets converted to sugar (and ultimately fat) by a process called gluconogenesis, vel sim. You can't win. Of course, if you're starving, this process allows you to ``waste away'' muscle instead of running out of energy and dying immediately.

Proteins are long polypeptide chains. Polypeptide chains are daisy-chained amino acids, the amino (-NH2) group bonding to the acid group (-COOH) of an adjacent amino acid, with the release of a water.

Proteins arrange themselves in commensurate helices called alpha helices (3.8 amino acids per turn). Here's a nice tutorial on the geometry. It's part of a course in the Principles of Protein Structure.

The alpha helix structure of protein was deduced by Linus Pauling and Robert Corey. Pauling always cited this success as something that only chemists, with their structural insight, would deduce, while physicists remained stumped. He was just whistling Dixie.

The term protein was first suggested by Berzelius, who proposed it in a letter to Gerardus Mulder (who was investigating them at the time). Berzelius derived it from the Greek proteios, `primitive,' meaning to imply ``fundamental[ly important].''

Not the name of a particle, but close. If you're playing some word game and you really, really want an excuse to use the extra E and R, try this or this.

proteron hysteron
Errr... I think you have that in the correct order, which is to say backwards.

proto board
Any of various kinds of boards made for prototyping circuits--i.e. for creating prototype circuits in a format convenient for reconnecting, making corrections and trying different strategies. [Pay price in money, size, and portability.] The most common proto boards now are of the type called breadboard.

They turn up everywhere. In 1982, Guenter Friedrichs and Adam Schaff edited Microelectronics and Society: A Report to the Club of Rome. The first editor was also author of chapter 6, ``Microelectronics and Macroeconomics.'' (It has a ring to it, no? Pp. 181-202 in my 1983 Mentor paperback edition.) He writes (p. 194):
  There are only two results of the present R & D competition which we can expect definitely. (1) The so-called ``rich'' countries will get richer and the ``poor'' ones will get poorer; not necessarily in absolute terms but in relative ones.

I think he should have put quotes around ``richer'' and ``poorer'' too, for consistency. Incidentally, (2) is that the precise rank order of richest ``will change considerably.'' Ditto the poorest.

No, you didn't really need to know this.

provided intellectual resources to get beyond

Potentially Responsible Party. A popular term among those with a taste for papery torts.

Programming Request for Price Quotation (RPQ). A request for a price quote for computer programming. In other words, a software RPQ, rather than a hardware RPQ (called computing system RPQ by IBM).

Polish Radiation Research Society. That's PTBR in Polish: Polskie Towarzystwo Badan Radiacyjnych. [Badan is written with an acute accent on the n. I once spent a half hour with a Polish colleague (a physicist, as a matter of fact, involved in some way with radiation), just trying to learn to pronounce that letter correctly. Generally speaking it's a palatalized n, like ñ in Spanish or gn in French and Italian, but it's not... quite... pronounced exactly the same way. Eventually I realized that pretending that your pronunciation is inadequate is just another way the Poles have of covering up the fact that their language is in fact unpronounceable, as explained at the Polish entry.]

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome.

Public Relations Society of America. Frankly, I never heard of them until just now. Does that mean they're good, or what?

Processor Resource/Systems Manager. IBM ESA machine term.

Public Relations Student Society of America.

Platinum Resistance Thermometer.

Polysilicon Resonant pressure Transducer.

PRinTer. Possibly one of those not-yet-extinct Line Printers.


Pru, Prue
Short for Prudence, a girl's given name.

I'm not going to say what this means in Icelandic, but I will say that it's discussed at Farting People, The.

Particle Simulation.

{PesoS | Piastr[a|e]S | PieceS of eight}. The $ symbol was apparently first used by English-speaking colonists in North America, where Spanish coins were in wide circulation. The monetary unit for these coins was the peso. Various coins of that denomination were known by particular names: Most probably, the sign developed as a contracted representation of a capital letter P (for peso or piastre or whatever, or perhaps indifferently) followed by superscript s to represent a plural. The same symbol was later used for the US dollar and some other currencies.

German: Pferdestärke, `horsepower.'

Hey, the English have a word for watt -- why shouldn't the Germans come up with a word for horsepower?

PhosphatidylSerine. Also abbreviated PtdSer.

PicoSecond. The SI-standard abbreviation (SI instructs that the expansion is uncapitalized).

PolyStyrene. The IUPAC-approved name for styrene is now styrol. This has achieved approximately no acceptance in English, but in Italian polystyrene is called polistirolo, and in German Polystyrol.

Used in styrofoam (Dow TM) cups. Recycling code 6 of PCS. May be indicated by ``PS'' embossed beneath symbol.

Here in tiff format is an SEM micrograph of the interior of a polystyrene packing peanut, courtesy of ESEM.

There are also some who are not so enamored of this magic substance.

Polystyrene was first developed by I. G. Farben in 1930.

Popular Science. A monthly magazine of technology. Considering what a weasel word popular is next to science, it's not a bad magazine.

(If the preceding entry sounded familiar, it's because it's a rerun.)

Portable (communication) Station. Part of your future PCS.

PS, .ps
PostScript [Adobe (tm)].

PostScript (in English) or postscriptum (in Latin). A part of the letter written after the letter was finished. Problem: when you think about it, this seems to be a logical contradiction. Solution: don't think about it.

It gets worse: P.P.S.

Power Steering.

Power Supply (unit).

One of the hit songs from the musical Grease was ``You're The One That I Want.'' It begins thus:

I got chills, they're multiplyin'
And I'm lo--sin' contro-ol
Cause the power, you're supplyin'
It's electrifyin'!

Program Store.

Proportional Spacing. Designates the printing of fractions of a space between characters to achieve constant-width text justification.


Public Safety.

PS, P.S.
Public School.

Public Service. The Stammtisch provides one in this file.

Philosophy of Science Association. Closely associated with HSS. Annual meeting held in even years, jointly with HSS annual meeting.

Piscis Austrinus. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

Poetry Society of America. In June 2004, the National Endowment for the Arts published the report ``Reading At Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America.'' The report notes (p. 15):
Literature, of course, can be found in sources other than books. Poetry, drama, and fiction can be read in magazines and literary journals, even on subway and bus placards.

The NEA is apparently not concerned that commuters are not getting enough poetry in their placards, because the PSA ``provides poetry to transit authorities throughout the country, including Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Dallas.''

PolySialic Acid.

Polysilicon Self-Aligned. Vide self-aligned gate.

Potentiometric Stripping Analysis.

Pressure-Sensitive Adhesive. The term and the acronym are often used metonymically for PSA labels -- labels that are attached to a surface by means of a PSA. PSA's, like the oils in food, interfere with the recycling process for paper.

Problem Statement Analyzer.

Professional Skaters Association. An ``international organization for the education of skating coaches.'' Based in Rochester, Minnesota. Isn't that where the Mayo Clinic is based?


Prostate-Specific Antigen.

Public Service Advertis{ing|ement}. Gee, it's unfortunate that this shares an initialism with another public service A. People might have difficulty telling the difference.

I have a link for a PSA Research Center, but there isn't a lot of money to publicize it. So what I do is, every night at 3:01 AM, if no paying customer has bought the time slot, I stick it in during the station break after the first minute of the hourly news snippet. That way, you don't get accustomed to long intervals without advertising. Also, as the spot says, ``this message was brought to you by this station and'' whoever. So I get credit for public-spiritedness, too.

Public Service Announcement. An advertisement intended to scare, shame, or bully the public into doing something the source of the advertisement thinks is in its best interests.

Polished Silica Block.

Packet Switching Cluster. (ATM packets.)

Packing Service Contract.

Partido Socialista de Chile. One of the two large socialist parties in Chile, part of the dominant Concertación.

Pisces. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. One of four NSF-funded Supercomputer centers, along with CTC, NCSA, and SDSC). Participates with these in MetaCenter.

Point Stress Criterion. Developed in J. M. Whitney and R. J. Nuismer, ``Stress Fracture Criteria for Laminated Composites Containing Stress Concentrations,'' J. Comp. Mat., 8, 253 (1974).

Polar Stratospheric Cloud[s].

Chief Port Security Specialist. A USCG job description.

Polymer-Stabilized Cholesteric Texture.

Peripheral Stem Cell Transplant. Stem cells are cells in the bone marrow that originate blood cells.

Payment Services Directive. A directive (Europeanese for `ukase') which, among other things, defines the legal framework for the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). It is to be transposed by EU member states by November 1, 2009. ``Transposed'' is a European word meaning `implemented.' In order to debunk the so-called democracy deficit, and to make some room for the multicultural nature of the Union or for (probably a deprecated term) sovereignty, member states have complete freedom to implement directives either meekly or grudgingly, at the discretion of the local satraps. (Some of the satrapies even get to vote on stuff like the European constitution. If they vote wrong, they get to vote again and again until they get it right.)

Phase-Sensitive Detect{ion|or}.

Photo-Sensitive Detect{ion|or}.

Position-Sensitive Detect{ion|or}.

Power Spectral Density.

Programmer's Supplementary Documents. For BSD Unix.

Pennsylvania State (economic and demographic) Data Center.

The initialism that ``pierced ears'' may sound like when pronounced in a nonrhotic or derhoticizing accent (eastern New England, Long Island, much of England).

I was at a party a few weeks ago where a detailed discussion took place of changing fashions in ear piercing. Apparently it was once standard to have little girls' ears pierced and now it isn't, or it wasn't and now it is. Something along those lines, and more, but once I knew what the subject was I sort of turned my ears off.

Public Switched Digital Service.

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