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Roman numeral representing 5. The real derivation of roman numerals is not completely certain, because the system used since classical times is derived from an earlier one with its own nonalphabetic symbols. Nevertheless, at some point the symbol V was or came to be thought of as half of the symbol X, which represents ten.

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony begins with three eighth notes (E) and one half note (G below that). It sounds like dit-dit-dit-daaaaaaaah, Morse Code for the letter vee, and in WWII the allies took it to symbolize (Allied) Victory.

There is a story to the effect that Beethoven characterized this opening phrase with the words ``das Schicksal klopft an die Tür'' (`fate knocks at the door').

Valine. An amino acid, 2-amino-3-methyl butanoic acid:
   \     /  2
    /   \
   /     \
          === O

Vanadium. Atomic number 23. In the first period of transition metals.

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

Vedi. Italian, `see.' (Italian verbs are heavily inflected, compared to English, and this form is imperative.) In English, it is common to use vide, the Latin etymon of Italian vedi. The word neatly illustrates a rule of thumb for guessing the Italian word when one knows a Spanish or other Romance form: interchange i's and e's.

Via. Italian, `street' (st.).

Hey you! Yeah, I'm talkin' to you! It ain't ``Via Della Rosa'' okay? It's Via Dolorosa! Jesus, some people...

Vide. Latin for `see.'

Vide. Latin for `see.' The one-letter abbreviation is standard in Spanish reference works of any sophistication (always capitalized, in my experience), although I suppose in the less sophisticated ones it might stand for vea or véase, Spanish for `see.'

Vinyl. In common usage, refers to polyVinyl chloride (PVC).

Velocity, Voltage (but see next), Volume (i.e., displacement, the natural measure in three-dimensional Euclidean space), and other less common physical variables with names beginning in V. Italicize if scalar, write bold or do whatever you do if it's a vector or tensor.

Volt. The SI unit, written in lower case (volt) when spelled out. The unit name honors Voltera, and equals the failed rhyme one joule per coulomb (1 J/C). Confusion is occasionally caused by the fact that voltages, represented by variables V, have values in units of V. So try to use ordinary font (Times Roman or something else serif; nonitalic, nonbold) for the unit abbreviation.

Volume. In other words, a set of pages bound together. Maybe a book, maybe part of a book, maybe containing multiple books. The German term Band is less ambiguous in context, because it means `bound volume' and is not used for a single book (Buch). Usually. The LB series is a prominent counterexample, if I recall correctly.

Vowel. In the most restrictive definition, a vowel is a continuable sound produced in the larynx. The actual vowel sound produced depends on conformation of the oral cavity, but functioning only as a resonant cavity. Sounds produced by oral articulations (mostly by movement of the tongue against or close to a mouth surface, by the lips, or by the epiglottis) are consonants or combinations of vowels with consonants. It is impossible to make the distinction between vowels and consonants (q.v.) perfectly sharp, because many sounds are intermediate. (In particular, think of the nasalized vowels in French.) The distinction between vowels and consonants is nevertheless useful, and within a particular language (or within a well-defined one of its phonemic systems) it is usually a consistent basis for discussion of the phonology.

v. a., v.a.
Verb Active. I've seen this usage in Coleridge 1863 and in Grieb's English-German dictionary (Stuttgart: Paul Neff, 1880). It's liable to be confusing to a modern reader, since it does not refer to the active mood of a verb, but instead indicates a transitive verb (v.t.). An intransitive verb was a verb neuter (v. n.).

I have found the old abbreviations v.a. and v.n. used in one work that was (in a certain manner of accounting such things) relatively recent: the New Cassell's German Dictionary, copyright 1958 and 1960. The use of those old abbreviations evidently reflects the conservative and derivative nature of translation dictionaries. This particular dictionary traces its genealogy through a sequence of revisions and re-editings going back to a New German Dictionary by Elizabeth Weir published in 1889. That might have been a first edition or not, and Miss Weir may have been the first editor or not -- the publisher's records were destroyed by fire in 1941 -- but she acknowledged ``the well-known dictionaries of Lucas, Flügel, Hilpert, and Köhler,'' all long forgotten by 1958. (For other examples of such dictionary bloodlines, see the discussion of Greek and Persian translation dictionaries in the Pakistan entry.)

The 1960 New Cassell's has a list of 228 abbreviations, and it is interesting to observe that three of those abbreviations are elucidated with terms other than the words they abbreviate. Okay, Max -- so maybe it's not so interesting to observe, but after I went to all the trouble to check, you better believe I'm gonna mention it to somebody! The three abbreviations are Semp. (``sewing''), v.a. (`transitive verb'), and v.n. (`intransitive verb'). Presumably it was not considered practical in that revision to replace (i.e., to reset the type for) every occurrence of the obsolete abbreviations. (Nouns are indicated by s., expanded in the key as ``substantive.'')

In chapter 8 of Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby, our hero begins work as an assistant to the master of miserable Dotheboys Hall. Here the master explains his pedagogical method:

`This is the first class in English spelling and philosophy, Nickleby,' said Squeers, beckoning Nicholas to stand beside him. `We'll get up a Latin one, and hand that over to you. Now, then, where's the first boy?'

`Please, sir, he's cleaning the back-parlour window,' said the temporary head of the philosophical class.

`So he is, to be sure,' rejoined Squeers. `We go upon the practical mode of teaching, Nickleby; the regular education system. C-l-e-a-n, clean, verb active, to make bright, to scour. W-i-n, win, d-e-r, der, winder, a casement. When the boy knows this out of book, he goes and does it. It's just the same principle as the use of the globes. Where's the second boy?'

`Please, sir, he's weeding the garden,' replied a small voice.

`To be sure,' said Squeers, by no means disconcerted. `So he is. B-o-t, bot, t-i-n, tin, bottin, n-e-y, ney, bottinney, noun substantive, a knowledge of plants. When he has learned that bottinney means a knowledge of plants, he goes and knows 'em. That's our system, Nickleby: what do you think of it?'

`It's very useful one, at any rate,' answered Nicholas.

Veterans Administration. Administers benefits to veterans and their dependents. A little over half of the budget goes to transfer payments (incl. compensation and pension benefits, burial benefits, and GI bill - education/rehabilitation/retraining benefits). The rest goes for direct delivery of medical benefits via VA hospitals.

Officially it's become the ``United States Department of Veterans Affairs,'' but for everyone I know it is ingrained habit to expand the VA in ``VA hospital'' as ``Veterans Administration.'' VA hospitals closely associated with a nearby university are not so bad.

Victoria and Albert Museum (in London).

Va., VA
Virginia. USPS abbreviation in capitals with no period.

The Villanova Center for Information Law and Policy serves a page of Virginia state government links. USACityLink.com has a page with some city and town links for the state.

Gertrude Stein's people came from Baltimore (as you recall from the S.O.S. entry). Everybody remembers her comment about Oakland, but in Everybody's Autobiography, she recalled

... And then they asked me what I thought of Virginia and I said I thought it was uninhabited, and they all of them wrote about that did I mean spirits of others or did I mean something else and I meant nothing but that it was uninhabited.
    The rest of America had been very much inhabited much more than I expected, roads and country were inhabited the country looked and was inhabited but not in Virginia no not Virginia.

I guess she would have agreed that reporters can be pretty dim sometimes.

Domain name for Vatican.

For information about central headquartering issues of the Roman Catholic Church, see the USN&WR and 1999 entries. Some time in the coming centuries, we also plan to add information about Avignon.

Veterbi Algorithm.

Visual Acuity. A broad term for the a viewer's ability to resolve detail in a viewed image. In the US, the best-known measure of visual acuity is the Snellen acuity, in use since the early twentieth century (this is the kind of VA normally reported as 20/20, 20/40, ...., 20/x, where x is the Snellen denominator). A comparable test is the Landolt C (based on broken rings in different orientations rather than letters). Such eye-chart measures of visual acuity are static focal measures of VA.

There also exist ways of measuring dynamic VA and ambient VA. Ambient VA is VA across the whole visual field and includes ``peripheral vision,'' as opposed to focal VA (a/k/a central VA), which is VA at the center of the visual field. Ambient VA and dynamic VA are related, since depend on areas of the retina where most of the light receptors are rods rather than cones, and provide signals that are processed in the midbrain rather than higher cortical areas. Generally speaking, these are more primitive and robust parts of VA, operating at much lower light intensities but giving no color information. Another general contrast is that focal VA has more to do with shape, while ambient and dyanamic VA has more to do with direction and position.

Volt-Ampere[s]. A unit equal to watt[s], but distinguished in power engineering. Explanation at KVA.

VA appraisal
An appraisal required by the Veterans Administration before it will guarantee a loan. Formally known as a ``Certificate of Reasonable Value'' (CRV).

VirginiA ARmy National Guard. See also VaDF.

VAlue-BAsed STRAtegic Management. One of the earliest value-based management systems, instituted by Robert Kirby in his first year as president at Westinghouse.

Volts AC (alternating current). Written after the value in volts of the rms (root mean square) value of the voltage of an AC signal (or of the ac component of an AC + DC signal). Used virtually exclusively with sinusoidally varying voltages, so this is always 0.7071 times the peak-to-average voltage (or similar factor for triphase, etc.). Magnitudes of nonsinusoidal voltages are typically characterized by peak-to-peak values.

Some there are who do not like the usage ``volts ay cee,'' because the expansion ``volts alternating current'' seems contradictory. It is not contradictory, and the usage is reasonable.

Vascular Access Device.

vade mecum
Latin, `goes with me.' English: handbook.

It's interesting that in Latin, special forms arose for some combinations of the prepositional phrases corresponding to English with + pres. pron. In Spanish, the first and second person singular forms of this phrase also have contracted forms (which are used exclusively): conmigo, contigo (instead of the forms con mi, con ti that would be constructed regularly).

VirginiA Defense Force. Virginia statute sec. 44-1 specifies that
The militia of the Commonwealth of Virginia shall consist of all able-bodied citizens of this Commonwealth and all other able-bodied persons resident in this Commonwealth who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, who are at least sixteen years of age and, except as hereinafter provided, not more than fifty-five years of age. The militia shall be divided into four classes, the National Guard, which includes the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, the Virginia State Defense Force, the naval militia, and the unorganized militia.

The mission of the state defense force is to support the Virginia National Guard.

You're thinking of Roger Vadim (born Roger Vladimir Plemiannikov, in Paris in 1928). He was married to Brigitte Bardot, Jane Fonda, and at least two other actresses and one heiress, and died in 2000. He also had a son with Catherine Deneuve. I think he was involved in the movie business somehow. Look, I'm just giving the highlights; you wouldn't remember the rest anyway.

Vice ADMiral. Between a rear admiral (RADM) and an admiral in rank.

In Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, during a dinner party in chapter VI, one conversation turns to the navy. The following exchange is between Edmund Bertram and Mary Crawford. After the death of their mother, Mary and her brother Henry had been adopted by her uncle Admiral Crawford and his wife.

``Do you know anything of my cousin's captain?'' said Edmund; ``Captain Marshall? You have a large acquaintance in the navy, I conclude?''

``Among admirals, large enough; but,'' with an air of grandeur, ``we know very little of the inferior ranks. Post-captains may be very good sort of men, but they do not belong to us. Of various admirals I could tell you a great deal: of them and their flags, and the gradation of their pay, and their bickerings and jealousies. But, in general, I can assure you that they are all passed over, and all very ill used. Certainly, my home at my uncle's brought me acquainted with a circle of admirals. Of Rears and Vices I saw enough. Now do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat.''

The word admiral looks like it's derived from the Latin admirari, but the relationship is only accidental. Admiral is derived from the Arabic amir. (This is usually written, or perhaps we can say translated, `emir' in English, but a straightforward translation is `commander.' In Arabic, amara is `command, order.') Amir typically was part of a phrase like amir-al-ma (`emir of the water') or amir-al-muminin (`emir of the faithful'). The use of the definite article al in this way is parallel to the use of definite articles in, for example, German, Ancient Greek, and Hebrew (see USA). Because of the frequent collocation, Christian writers took amiral for a noun and Latinized it variously as amiralis, amirallus, amiralius, or amirarius.

Some words that begin with adm- in Latin begin with am- in French. An awareness of this fact, and the existence of Latin admirari, `to wonder at,' evidently led to forms of the word beginning in adm-, like the English word admiral. In Spanish, which has a great many loans from Arabic in which the definite article has been kept as a prefix, the initial am- became alm-, yielding almirante, which you might parse as containing `the-commander-th'.'

Vinyl Acetate/Ethylene copolymer (adhesive).

`Venezuelan Academy of Esthetic Dentistry.'

Vision Australia Foundation. In 2004, VAF merged with RBS and RVIB.

Vandenberg Air Force Base.

VESA Advanced Feature Connector.

Virginia Assessment Group. Not a group for the assessment of Virginia as a whole (``for lovers'': check; ``mother of presidents'': not lately) but a group for systematic, usually survey-form-based, statistical assessment (of the effectiveness of organizations, of people in organizations, etc.) in Virginia. People in the ``assessment'' field tend to think the term ``assessment'' is specific enough not to require further clarification. They need to reassess that assumption.

Virginia Academy of General Dentistry. A constituent of the AGD.

The vagus nerve is related to vagueness, but only etymologically. The Latin vagus means `wandering, straying,' which is the source of the French and thence the English word vague. However, the vagus nerve is not the anatomical basis for fuzzy thinking. We devote the entire cerebrum to that. The vagus nerve is just a particular nerve that meanders. In humans, it's the longest cranial nerve, extending to organs in the neck, thorax and abdomen.

See valpac.

Someone chronically sick or infirm, who is chronically concerned about his or her poor health, or morbidly fearful of becoming an invalid, or something like that. Various dictionaries imply that the word valetudinarian may apply to someone who is merely frail. For example, the AHD4, available online, gives ``A sickly or weak person, especially one who is constantly and morbidly concerned with his or her health....'' Based on my own survey of English literature, I'd say scratch the ``especially.'' Valetudinarian is one of a word that implies a stereotype. The word has gone somewhat out of fashion since the nineteenth century, and it seems to me that the stereotype has as well. Instead, nowadays we tend to separate the physical frailty and the psychological consequences.

One might also wonder (okay: I wondered) whether valetudinarian was not sometimes a synonym of hypochondriac. For an example, Jane Austen describes eponymous Emma's father as ``having been a valetudinarian all his life, without activity of mind or body, [so] he was a much older man in ways than in years....'' At that point in the novel, he has not yet been described as being in poor health of any kind, so much as being overcareful of his health. Further on: ``His spirits required support. He was a nervous man, easily depressed....'' So one might suppose that he was merely a hypochondriac of some sort. But it seems the word was not used in this way, so Austen could use it in the confidence that her readers would not even temporarily draw that inference. On the other hand, the bar for valetudinarian-level frailty was not set so especially high. Emma's father would not contemplate walking the half mile to Mr. Weston's, but he got around his own house without assistance. Since a person's own self-perceived weakness was apparently taken as sufficient evidence, it may look like hypochondria to us. Sometimes it looked like hypochondria then, but that condition was not covered by the term: it was false valetudinarianism. For example, in Rhoda Broughton's Belinda (1883), a suspected case of what might have been called hypochondria (that word is old) is described as ``valetudinarian fancies.'' There was also this:

``You are implying,'' he says, with deliberate anger, ``as you have frequently and offensively implied before, that I am a malade imaginaire.''

A related issue is the broad degree of physical infirmity implied by the term valetudinarian. This was referred to explicitly by William Godwin. He distinguished the ``delicate valetudinarian'' [Things As They Are (1794)], and averred [St. Leon (1799)] that ``[i]n many cases [but not all] it is reasonable to bid a valetudinarian take care of himself.''

Here's a pointless (because ambiguous) but amusing (so what the hell) further example: In chapter 10 of George Meredith's The Egoist (1879), Sir Willoughby (the egoist of the title) happens to introduce the term that describes himself by way of anecdote:

... he turned to Clara and related one of the after-dinner anecdotes of Dr. Corney; and another, with a vast deal of human nature in it, concerning a valetudinarian gentleman, whose wife chanced to be desperately ill, and he went to the physicians assembled in consultation outside the sick-room, imploring them by all he valued, and in tears, to save the poor patient for him, saying: ``She is everything to me, everything, and if she dies I am compelled to run the risks of marrying again; I must marry again; for she has accustomed me so to the little attentions of a wife, that in truth I can't, I can't lose her! She must be saved!'' And the loving husband of any devoted wife wrung his hands.

``Now, there, Clara, there you have the Egoist,'' added Sir Willoughby. ...

Hey, not everyone can be valedictorian. Valetudinarian is something anyone can aim for.

A term popular in the assessment community. A statistical measure is valid if it measures what it is said to or is intended to measure. Assessment professionals like to talk about validity because they are, by any reasonable standard, quantitatively unsophisticated, and validity is something they think they can talk about intelligently.

valid Victorian
If you think that's how valedictorian is spelled, you probably weren't and certainly shouldn't have been.

I didn't just make up this entry out of hole cloth, hue no. I got the idea from a comment following up a blog entry. In November 2006, ``Casey'' reported having ``recently read a student essay wherein the student claimed to be the `Valid Victiorian' of his graduation class.''

valley breeze
Blows up the hills on hot days. Not explosively. See cooler by the lake entry for explanation.

valpac, valpack, valpak
Common spellings representing the common pronunciation of Val-A-Pak, introduced in 1934 or so. The latter was the proprietary name of a zippered travel bag that could be hung from a closet hook or carried folded. (The name may have been assembled from fragments of valise and pack.) One or two of the common spellings are used when it's mentioned in passing at various places in J.P Marquand's B.F.'s Daughter, which otherwise seems to take a dim view of commercial abbreviations (details at the BF entry).

Value me Al!
Why uh, surebebe -- anything your little heart desires. Um, uuuh, what was your name again?


Why does sign let tering slid ear ounds omuch?

Value Paradox
The value of a dot-com company is in inverse relation to the per-user money invested in it, since the lower the investment per user, the higher the organic growth.

The definition above is in the words of the original formulator, a shameless self-promoter (i.e., a businessman) named Yossi Vardi. He himself calls it the Vardi paradox, which is crass. ``Value'' is easier to remember anyway.

British for tube. More precisely: Fleming tube.

Variational Analysis Method.

Virginia Association for Management, Analysis, and Planning. ``VAMAP is the professional organization for institutional researchers, planners, and budget officers at public and private colleges and universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. VAMAP is also the Virginia state affiliate of the Association for Institutional Research [AIR].''

Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center.

A nefarious, manipulative seductress. Not exactly the same as screen siren, but precision is not the principal goal of movie reviewing or of ad copy. Short for vampire. The word was coined for the first vamp, Theda Bara (Theodesia Goodman), who played a vampire in the groundbreaking 1915 movie ``A Fool There Was.''

In Evil Sisters: The Threat of Female Sexuality and The Cult of Manhood, (Knopf, 1996), Bram Dijkstra argues that female vampirism is the governing Jungian archetype of the modern West. The reason is probably that his name is Bram. People with that name are predisposed to become obsessed with vampires (Exhibit B: Bram Stoker). If Dijkstra's childhood playmates had called him Abe (or perhaps the Dutch equivalent?), he wouldn't have gotten so bent out of shape. Then again, he teaches comp lit at UCSD, so he has a vested interest in finding major significance in the subject of his study. So, indeed, do most authors.

I'm particularly proud of the way the analysis of Dijkstra's claims, above, dove gracefully and directly into ad hominem attack, without the traditional double-joiner or absurd back-flipping fig-leaf of reasoned objection.

Vesicle-Associated Membrane Protein.

The mosquitos of mammalia. They do bite, but they don't suck: they lap. Found in tropical America, these bats are unusual also in that they walk on all fours to sneak upon their prey. (They don't disable their prey, they are just careful not to wake it up.) Rabies is endemic among bats as among other small mammals, so they might kill you.


Remember, you can't spell vane without van. Granted, this isn't so significant, but we didn't want to leave out vee. Oh, okay, we'll try again...

Value-Added Network. Something between an internet and an intranet: A restricted-access internet for exchange of exchange of business data and/or documents among subscriber companies, operated by an EDI service provider.

VANcouver. Probably the one in British Columbia.

Vehicular Adhoc Networks. (Capitalization and spacing sic.)

Spanish, `vanity.' There's a fortnightly Spanish-language magazine sold in the US called Vanidades (`vanities'), described as the ``Latin woman's beauty fashion leader.'' From what I've seen it's probably less popular (in the US) than the French-language version of Elle. If you wanted to know more, you could email me and ask what my personal impression is of circulation figures, subscribed and individual sales, extrapolating from a few stores in the South Bend area to the world. Alternatively, you could check with the ABC.

Latin (here I mean the ancient language) had a large number of abstract nouns ending in -tas. These became -tad/-dad nouns in Spanish (as mentioned in the D-ION-Z-A entry). The Latin -tas nouns evolved separately into -te nouns in Old French, taken over into Middle English and generally spelled with -ty in Modern English. Thus Spanish libertad, Modern French liberté, and English liberty.

The word French naïveté, spelled with a variable allotment of diacriticals in English, is a recent borrowing. The earliest example that the OED2 lists is from Dryden in the seventeenth century. The word is also spelled naivety in English. The Modern French word is derived from an Old French word naivete. That word in turn stems not directly from a Latin root but naif. Naif (Mod. Fr. female form naïve) comes from Latin nativus. The abstract -tas noun related to this, nativitas, yielded Middle English/Old French nativite in the usual way, with English nativity parallel to Spanish natividad. (When I get a chance, I'll try to see when and how navidad arose.)

Remember, you can't spell vanity without nit. There.

Vann, Robert Lee
My (and possibly everyone else's) main source of information about Robert Vann is Andrew Buni's Robert L. Vann of the Pittsburgh Courier (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1974). (More about my copy at the Acknowledgments entry.)

The Preface begins thus:

When Robert Vann died in October 1940, his death merited only passing notice in national publications, if indeed it was noted at all. For white America, Robert Lee Vann never really existed. The man who built the Pittsburgh Courier into the nation's leading black weekly, with a circulation of a quarter million and an influence that touched every black community in the country, was not even mentioned in a 1937 work partly devoted to the press in Pittsburgh, published when Vann and the Courier were at the height of their power. Nor did the Dictionary of American Biography supplement of 1940 include ...

I figured I'd look into the coverage thing, since online databases make it much easier now than when Buni wrote. The Los Angeles Times gave Vann a couple of column inches on October 25, at the top of page 7:

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 24 (AP)-- Robert L. Vann, 61, prominent Negro publicist and for many years editor and publisher of the Pittsburgh Courier, died tonight. A native of Ahoskie, N.C., Vann for many years was a factor in politics of this community and of the nation. Numbered among President Roosevelt's most militant supporters in earlier days, he came out against a third term and gave his support to Wendell L. Wilkie.

The Washington Post published four grafs; from comparing these with the LAT's two, it appears that both probably both printed bits of the AP item largely verbatim. Among the interesting differences: the Post used ``colored'' instead of ``Negro.'' It's hard to remember that far back, but ``colored'' was considered a more polite word (hence ``NAACP'' instead of the palindromically attractive NAAN). WP also used the possibly less confusing ``his community.'' The New York Times reworked the first graf and published six grafs in total, perhaps including most of the information in the AP item.

Vannevar Bush
No relative of the Georges, far as I know. Yes, Bush was his surname. I just put an entry here for your convenience.

Value-Added Network (VAN) Service.

VAticaN'T. Contraction of VAtican NoT. It doesn't mean anything, but now there's an abbreviation.

Valence Atomic Orbital (AO).

Visiting Ass{istant|ociate} Professor. More often an Assistant Professor than an Associate Professor.

VAPor-deposited (i.e., CVD) OXide (of silicon, of course).

Volt-Ampere Reactive. The SI unit of reactive power. It is the same unit as a watt, but it is used to indicate that the quantity measured is reactive power rather than apparent power or effective power.

Value-Added Reseller. As opposed to the OEM.

A common Spanish noun meaning `staff, pole, thin stick.' It's derived from the Latin vara meaning `crosspiece' or `beam.' Looks like the vocable has had a bit of a comedown. The word has a number of metonymic uses, and it was also once a unit of length about equal to a yard. Under the rigid rule of the implacable international meter, it is now assigned an identity (by the Royal Academy's Diccionario de la Lengua Española) of 835.9 mm. Insult upon injury. Come to poppa, honey -- I'll round you up to 33 inches.

Of course, one of the principal charms of traditional standards of measurement is that they are not standardized. They have local flavor (and flavour too). They are multicultural. For a variety of vara values, see the vara entry in Russ Rowlett's dictionary of units of measurement.

VARiAble CapaciTOR. A lightly-doped pn junction. The width of the depletion region is sensitive to the voltage across it. You can use a DC voltage to control the differential (small-signal) capacitance.

variable geometry
The term attached to any proposal that would formalize the unequal participation of different member countries in the European Union. Even before the expansion to 25 members, variable geometry of a sort already existed on an ad hoc basis. (Actually, I imagine that in some countries it existed on an ad hanc or ad hunc basis.) For example, some EU countries opt out of the common defense policy, the ``Schengen area'' of passport-free travel does not include all EU countries, and neither does Euroland.

variational quantum Monte Carlo
A variational wavefunction is chosen that depends on a number of variational parameters. The Metropolis algorithm is used to select random walks over many-electron coördinate space, which are used to evaluate the one or more requisite energy functionals in a variational minimization to optimize (make stationary the Rayleigh-Ritz total energy of) the wavefunction.

To avoid pointless quibbling about the distinction between dialect and language, linguists can use the term variety (or language variety to encompass a range including both more problematic terms.

Or variorum edition: an edition of a work that contains comments from various authors or notes on different versions of the work.

VARiable resISTOR. I haven't encountered this acronym so much. Could be a bunch of different devices.

VASA, Vasa
Vereniging Amerikanistiek Studenten Amsterdam. They like to translate this as `The Amsterdam Student Council of American Studies.' According to the website: VASA ``is the official student council of the American Studies Department at the University of Amsterdam [UvA]. The Amsterdam Student Council of American Studies was established in the late 1980s by students of the American Studies Department at the University of Amsterdam. The student council deals with many different activities which focus on the United States. We organize lectures, movie showings, and excursions to museums, expositions, and for instance the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg [sic; that's in the Netherlands]. Next to that we have a social function, facilitate and promote the contact between students from different years and backgrounds, and fulfill a communicative function towards the department staff in a range of matters that deal with the study program. Returning events are the monthly drinks, sometimes combined with an activity, and the annual national American Studies Assemblee [apparently systematically so spelled] Day. In addition, we notify our members...''

Visual Average Speed Computer And Recorder. Cf. NASCAR.

Variable-Angle Spectroscopic Ellipsometry.

An unusual variant spelling (deservedly so) of vasectomy.

Vector Alignment Search Tool, ``an algorithm that identifies significantly similar 3-dimensional substructures'' in proteins.


Value-Added Tax. An excise tax levied on the increase in value since previous purchase (of the item -- by retailer, or of ingredients or components -- by manufacturer). Because it is a consumption tax, a VAT is put forward as a way to improve personal savings rates. Of course, the tax is at best proportional, and to the extent that savings are reinvested before income is spent, it is actually regressive.

Vertical AnisoTropic Etch.

Variable Air Vent.

Variable Air Volume. A lab safety term: modern fume hoods with VAV have a feedback mechanism to increase the air flow if the sash opening is enlarged.

VESA Advanced Video Interface.

Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Among many other provisions, it allowed female crime victims to sue in federal court on grounds of gender-based discrimination. This provision was struck down by the US Supreme Court in May 2000 as exceeding powers granted to the federal government under the interstate-commerce regulation clause. Some provisions of VAWA, particularly those entailing ongoing federal expenditures, require periodic reauthorization. A ``VAWA 2005 Reauthorization'' bill was signed into law on January 5, 2005.

The original VAWA was part of a larger crime bill that made gun possession illegal for anyone under a restraining order. Since restraining orders can continue to be issued without evidence or finding of violent history or potential on the part of the person restrained, there is a prima facie case that this law violates the fifth (due process) and second (bear arms) amendments to the US constitution. The restraining-order gun provision was originally ruled unconstitutional by a federal district court judge in 1999. It was argued before a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2000. This panel ruled (by 2-1) that the Second Amendment was an individual right. (This has been a major point of contention, and the panel's finding was a major victory fot the NRA crowd. In the district court the Government claimed that it was ``well settled'' that the Second Amendment creates a right held by the states and does not protect an individual right to bear arms.) On the other hand, the panel held unanimously that the prohibition against gun possession during a restraining order was a reasonable restriction on that right, ``though barely so.''

Vertical-Axis Wind Turbine.

In practice, there are two main types. One kind uses vertical blades that function as airfoils. Torque is generated by the azimuthal component of lift on the fins. The other kind uses drag: the wind is ``caught'' in cups or other structures designed to have greater drag resistance motion in one direction than in the opposite direction.

Virtual Address eXtended. Trademark of a computer series by DEC. It limped along into the nineties on the strength of its popular, very user-friendly operating system, VMS. In an attempt to maintain the loyalty of its installed base, Digital provided a VMS-like OS for the alpha-chip machines that succeeded it.

The experience at UB (home of the SBF alpha chapter) with that OS was none too happy, and by the end of 1996, all ordinary user accounts were on Unix machines.

VAX Bus Interconnect.

Plural form of the machine name VAX. Presumed to be modeled on ox, oxen (hence vaxherd), but -en is a common plural ending in German.

Violating All-Zero Octet.

Base Voltage. The voltage at the base of a BJT.

Valence Band (of a semiconductor or semimetal). The highest-lying band of electronic states that is completely or almost completely filled. A filled band makes zero contribution to conduction, and the contribution to conduction of the valence band is normally thought of in terms of vacancies (holes). Cf. CB.

Vertical Bridgman (crystal-growth method).

Visual Basic.

Visual Basic for Application.

Vaginal Birth After Caesarian. Pronounced ``vee back''.

At one time, obstetricians felt that a Caesarean section so weakened the tissues surrounding the placenta that all subsequent deliveries should be by C-section as well. During the 1980's or so, that attitude changed and most now feel that VBAC is safe ``if some additional precautions are taken.'' The reason for the precautions is that in 1% of cases, attempted VBAC leads to uterine rupture and hemorrhage. A C-section must then be carried out immediately, since decreased oxygen supply to the fetus risks brain damage and death. In many such cases the mother afterwards requires a hysterectomy.

Considering that in the US today about 20% of live births are by C-section, VBAC is a frequent issue.

There's a mailing list called ICAN that's ``[f]or people who wish to discuss cesarean section in a supportive environment. It is open to people who have experienced c-section, parents who wish to avoid a c-section, people who wish to have a VBAC ..., or professionals wishing to contribute. Trained counselors will be available to answer questions and facilitate list discussions.'' Subscription information for ICAN at PAML and Sabrina's Pregnancy Page.


Voice-Band Audio Processor.

Valence Band Edge. The energy of the highest-lying state in the valence band (VB). Please see CBE also.

Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) BIOS (Basic Input-Output System) Extension.

Verordnung über brennbare Flussigkeiten. German, `flammable Liquids Ordinance.' In German, adjectives are less often capitalized, even when they are forms of proper nouns. All nouns, on the other hand, are capitalized. Oh, you wanted to know about flammable liquids? Sorry.

Vertical Blanking Interrupt. Same as Video Blanking Interval.

Vehicle-Borne IED. Car bomb.

Vertical Bloch Line.

Van Body Manufacturers Division. The VBMD became an NTEA affiliate organization in 1992.

Very high-speed Backbone Network System of the NSF.

Variable Bit Rate. MPEG and some other video encodings use VBR encoding; this results from the fact that compression algorithms can take advantage of static or simple data segments. One normally distinguishes VBR-RT (real time; called ``connection-oriented'') and VBR-NRT (non-RT; ``connectionless'' in the sense that the appearance of a continuous open connection is not maintained).

Ventricular Brain Ratio. The ventricles are a pair of large horn-shaped organs in the brain, visible in MRI.

Vehicle Builders' and Repairers Association. This is obviously a British abbreviation. In the US, we throw away.

VBR delay sensitive
Variable Bit Rate delay-sensitive.

VBR delay tolerant
Variable Bit Rate delay-tolerant.

VBR non-interactive
Variable Bit Rate non-interactive. Duh.

You know, I must have been sleeping when I added the last three entries. Just in case I'm sleeping now, I'll leave them in.

Variable Bit Rate non-RT (real time).

Variable Bit Rate Real Time.

Vacation Bible School. Practically everyone can see at least one implicit contradiction here.

Valence Band (of a semiconductor or semimetal) Splitting.

See, for example, Su-Huai Wei, David B. Laks, Alex Zunger: ``Dependence of the optical properties of semiconductor alloys on the degree of long-range order,'' Applied Physics Letters 62, #16, p.1937 (19 April 1993). [See also Appl. Phys. Lett. 62, #9 p. 1292 (30 August 1993).]

The valence band in a III-V semiconductor can be split by externally applied stress. Zero-stress splitting in I-II-V's can be thought of as related.

Five (represented by the Roman numeral V) Basic eXercises.

Visual Basic eXtension.

Vacuum Cleave. That way, the cleaved surface is never exposed to air.

Vapor Compression.

Venture Capital[ist].


VC, V.C.
Victoria Cross. Cf. G.C.

Video {Camera|Conferencing}.

Viet Cong. A blast from the past.

Virtual Channel.

Virtual Circuit.

Virtual Connection.


Voice { Circuit | Channel }

Visual C++. Microsoft's C/C++ compiler, integrated with various features of the Windows operating systems.

Collector Voltage. The voltage at the collector of a BJT.

Virtual-Crystal Approximation.

Voltage-Controlled Amplifier.

Vision Council of America.

Veterinary College Admission Test.

Verification Coordinating Committee. (NATO acronym.)

Virtual Channel Connections.

Voltage -- Common Collector. That would be the expansion if you wanted to read it off in the order suggested by the symbol. Normally it's called the common collector voltage. It's the common voltage reference to which one or more BJT collectors are connected, most commonly through a passive load. The most common situation in which a collector is directly connected to the VCC voltage rail is when it is functioning as an emitter follower.

Note that the node voltage VCC is not normally the same as the device voltage VC. The voltages are equal only if the BJT collector is hooked directly to the voltage rail (just mentioned) or if it's hooked through circuit elements with no voltage drop. (Like, if the collector is hooked to VCC through a diode or resistor and the collector current IC is zero.)

Voltage-Controlled Current Source.

Vibrational Circular Dichroism.

Variational Cumulant Expansion (method for statistical mechanics).

Vertical Center of Gravity. Trucking term. The height of the center of gravity (CG).

The VCR is NOT, as suggested in this glossary, ``the point at which half of the gross weight is above and half is below.'' The way to see this is to consider that a light weight can balance a heavy weight across a fulcrum closer to the heavy weight. In other words, if there is a dense concentration of weight at the top of the payload, the center of gravity is higher (and so less stable) than one would estimate from this halfway rule.

Verlag Chemie. A German publisher (founded 1921, Berlin and Leipzig) whose original name means `Chemistry Publisher.' Eventually, as a major publisher of technical journals and then books (resettled after WWII in West Germany: in Weinheim since 1947), it styled itself VCH Verlag. Notice anything odd about that usage NAO? In 1996 it was purchased by Wiley, and it is now known as Wiley-VCH. Because it is standard in German to denominate publishers Foobar Verlag, ``Wiley-VCH Verlag'' is commonly encountered.

Victoria County History. It's not the history of Victoria County. It's the County History project begun in 1899 and dedicated to the soon-to-be-late Queen Victoria. The term VCH refers both to the institution that carries on the research (within the IHR) and to the publication in which the research is published, at the rate of about three new volumes per year. ``When complete [it] will record the authentic factual history of every city, town and village in England. All the information in the VCH is compiled by professional historians who systematically check original historical documents. The VCH provides the essential facts which give you the foundations to start exploring the history of your own community.''

Vice-CHairMaN. Evidently the chairman in charge of vice.

Vigiliae christianae. A journal catalogued in TOCS-IN.

Virtual Channel Identifier. (Same as VPCI.)

Virtual Circuit Identifier.

Virtual Connection Identifier.

Villanova [University] Center for Information Law and Policy.

Visual Communication and Image Processing.

Variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease. A syndrome with neuropathic symptoms generally similar to CJD, but which appears to have a much shorter incubation period than CJD and which attacks a younger profile of victims. First reported in The Lancet in 1993, it is widely believed to result from ingestion of BSE-tainted meat. The evidence for this, however, is rather weak. It has turned out that some of the vCJD cases have been misdiagnosed instances of CJD. Also, given the known incidence of BSE in the period before wholesale slaughter and incineration of cattle suspected of being infected, epidemiologic predictions were for a rapid epidemic with at least hundreds of thousands of (human) dead. As of early 2001, there have been fewer than 90 fatalities from vCJD, though perhaps undiagnosed cases are many times greater.

When it was new, it was also called NVCJD.

Vibrating Coil Magnetometer.

Vinyl Chloride Monomer. The monomer that polymerizes to PVC.

Volatile Condensed Material.

Voltage-Controlled Oscillator. Common component of DPLL. Also called a VtoF (voltage-to-frequency converter).

Visible Caching Operating System (OS). (AT&T.).

Video-Cassette Recorder (and player).

It's a standing joke that VCR clocks always flash <BLINK>12:00</BLINK> because the owner hasn't figured out how to program it. Sometimes it's pretty unintuitive -- a lot harder than digital wristwatches. Programming VCR's to record a program was considered such a chore that VCR+ was invented, in which each broadcast is assigned a code. This allows one to program the VCR to record that broadcast, instead of programming the VCR to record a time interval and program corresponding to that program.

In the movie Absolute Power (1997), Bartender Red says

Your life could be a whole lot simpler if you could learn to operate a VCR.

Generations hence, multimedia audiences will marvel at the many-layered subtlety of today's golden age of dialogue. Cf. AARP entry.

Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser. Pronounced ``VIXel'' to rhyme with pixel. Front and back mirrors are distributed Bragg reflectors (DBR's) in the usual design.

Voluntary Counselling and Testing. For AIDS, in the instances where I've encountered the initialism.

Virginia Commonwealth University.

Voltage-Controlled Voltage Source.

Voltage-Controlled Crystal Oscillator.

Usted. The standard abbreviation of this Spanish word (see its entry) reflects the history of the letter v. I'm hurrying to get other stuff done, so I'll just write my recollection of how that went, subject to later correction.

The Latin alphabet has only 24 letters. The letters u and v (like the letters i and j) in modern alphabets, arose by specialization of different glyphs of a single letter. A rounder form of the letter u came to be used within a word than at the beginning of the word. This pattern was general by the mid-seventeenth century or so, and reflected in the printing practice of the time, so complete fonts had two forms available for the one letter. What happened next was that the rule for using the different forms changed. The v was retasked for consonantal use, regardless whether it began a word or not, and u was used strictly as a vowel, even at the beginning of a word.

Valentine's Day. The day of the feast of Saint Valentine. February 14. A day when romantic relationships that are in a ``mixed state'' are closely observed, or measured, leading to collapse of the wavefunction, and sometimes of the relationship itself.

I've actually seen this abbreviation (VD) used. That's typically how I figure out that an abbreviation belongs in this highly selective <guffaw> (well, virtually selective) reference work. I found this usage surprising, not to say infelicitous. The person who used it felt it necessary to expand the abbreviation in immediate parenthesis. I see that the abbreviation is not catching on. (Good.) This is real-time etymology.

Vapor Deposition.

Venereal Disease. Now STD.

Virginia Dental Association. For other Dental organizations, see the list maintained by Sue Hutchinson.

Vehicle Dynamic Control. A term used by Nissan; a synonym for electronic stability control. For other synonyms, see the ESC entry.

Virtual Device Coordinates.

Volts DC. Term parallel to VAC and ADC.

Vehicle Dynamics Control System. Initialism used by Subaru, equivalent to ESC (electronic stability control). For other equivalent names, see the ESC entry.

Verband Deutscher Elektrotechniker. A forum for engineers and students of electronics technology, with over 30,000 members. Apparently they also serve as a UL-like safety standards authority?

Video Display Editor.

VinyliDene Fluoride. The monomer that polymerizes by a free-radical mechanism into PVDF. The name of the monomer is also used loosely for the polymer.

Virtual Disk File Manager.

Verein Deutscher Ingenieure. This is `Association of German Engineers' translated into a foreign language.


Vestnik Drevnii Istorii. A Russian classics journal catalogued in TOCS-IN.

Vienna Definition Language. A language for describing or defining Vienna. Wait... correction: A language for describing or defining general programming languages. Consists of two component metalanguages-- one for syntax and one for semantics. This language was originally developed at IBM's Vienna facility.

Vertical Double-diffused MOS power transistor.

Van der Pauw. The van der Pauw geometry is a popular configuration for measuring sheet resistivity. But what van der Pauw did was more interesting than just coming up with this geometry: using conformal mapping techniques, he came up with a set of formulas for computing the sheet resistivity, using four sharp probes. Two probes are used to drive a current, and two to measure a voltage. By using different pairs of the same four probe points, you obtain different resistance values that can be combined to determine the sheet resistivity. His theoretical treatment was general, but he, uh, pointed out that a certain geometry (now called the vdP geometry), resembling a four-leaf clover with point probes in the centers of the leaves, minimized the errors associated with the theoretical treatment. An important error is that the points are not exact geometrical points, and the analysis used to derive his formula models poorly the voltage around the current probes.

You may be asking: why not just use two probe points, and measure the current driven by a known voltage? The reason is that in an ideal 2D conductor with ideal point contacts, the current density and electric field diverge near the current contacts, and the voltage diverges logarithmically. Real contacts are not quite point-like, but away from real contacts, the current density and electric field look about the same as they would if the current contacts were ideal. The trick is to use that ideal theoretical pattern, which is accurate away from the current contacts, but measure the voltage elsewhere, where the voltage is nice and finite.

If the four probe points are four equally-spaced points on a line, and if the boundaries of the conducting surface are far from these probe points (``far'' meaning many times the distance between the points), then symmetry reduces to one the number of independent measurements one must make for van der Pauw's formula. This collinear geometry is the usual one for a ``four-point probe.''

Venereal Disease Research Laboratory. Designates a nontreponemal syphilis test developed there. Cf. FTA.

Virtual DMA Service[s].

Video Display Terminal.

Ahhhh, you ungrateful young whippersnappers don't know how easy you've got it. Why when I was a boy, we would do all our own overlays by hand, and then pedal a stationary-bicycle motor-generator unit to power the bead-based computing technology! After we cut our teeth on machine language, we would advance slowly until we reached FORTRAN II, the pinnacle of programming-language creation.

I still remember my first program with video output: I wrote an assembly language program that shifted the data registers in a regular pattern. The video output was on an array of LED's (at the top of the IBM 1130 processor unit) which displayed the register contents. I should have coordinated that with some line-printer farts for a multimedia experience. When I told Steve (the operator) I was looping (all the way) to 1000 iterations, he aborted the run.

Visual Display Unit.

Van der Waals. When ionic and permanent-dipole forces are absent, the dominant interactions between molecules are van der Waals forces. For more, see the LJ entry. The same guy has his name on the most popular equation for a non-ideal gas.

(Domain code for) Venezuela.

Inoffensive data on Venezuela is found in the factbook entry from the latest edition of the CIA Factbook

Country known for women who win Miss Universe and Miss World beauty pageants. A major petroleum exporter that is sinking into despotism.

Victory in Europe. The hyphenated form was common at the time, but sixty years on it's rare. Cf. VJ. See also VE Day.

Virtual Environment[s].

Visual Emissions. One way to arrange this is to dissolve a great deal of bromthymol blue in the pool water. In weakly acidic pool water (pH 6.5 or lower) it is a shade of yellow; urine pH varies over a range comparable to seawater, and the emissions won't be immediately visible. The urea in urine is metabolized into ammonia by various bacteria, however, so it will eventually turn the water a nice, clean-looking shade of blue. (Infections of the urinary tract cause unusually alkaline urine, so there's something.) Urine gets its normal yellow color from urochrome. If you want to know more about urine you should see the Veep entry below.

In one of Kurt Vonnegut's stories, overpopulation has reached such a point that men are required to take a drug that reduces their sexual desire and turns their urine blue, and suicide is encouraged by the state, which sets up special departure parlors. [Subject to the vagaries of memory. It does occur to me that Prozac side effects include both reduced sexual desire and increased suicide risk.]

A version of Vonnegut's state-encouraged-suicide idea occurs in Boomsday, a novel by Christopher Buckley. (This is the son of William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of NR, and mentioned at our reincarnated metaphor entry. Christopher Buckley, you'll want to know, is of the baby-boomer generation.) In Boomsday, a young woman named ``Cassandra Devine'' (without the quotes) becomes incensed at the injustices awaiting her generation: ``Someone my age will have to spend their entire life paying unfair taxes, just so the Boomers can hit the golf course at sixty-two and drink gin and tonics until they're ninety,'' she tells a TV reporter. She is on the news because of a public policy of ``transitioning,'' proposed on her blog, that would solve the looming entitlements crisis. The proposal is that retirees be paid to commit suicide. As in Vonnegut's version, the government would provide little enticements, such as ``a farewell honeymoon'' (a lavish last vacation) and a waiving of the estate tax.

Buckley's book was released on Monday, April 2, 2007. Kurt Vonnegut died on April 11, 2007, as a result of brain injuries suffered in a fall some weeks before.

We seem to have drifted away from the subject of visual emissions. Let's sort of drift back in the general direction. Copper sulphate solution is a pretty blue, and a pretty good algicide. In high concentrations it darkens the water, so it's a reflecting-pool two-fer. Copper sulphate poses no significant hazard to humans, ducks, or bacteria in pools.

Emitter Voltage. The voltage at the emitter of a BJT.

Verein für Europäisch-Arabische Zusammenarbeit e.V.. Association for European-Arab Coöperation.

Also called pipelining. For the time being, the only explanation served here is at superscalar.

One of four canonical collections of Hindu sacred texts. The Sanskrit word vedah originally meant simply knowledge. Cognates of the same Indo-European root in other languages have given us other English words such as guide, idea, video, and wit.

VEstibular Disorders Association. ``VEDA is a nonprofit organization that provides information to the public and health professionals about inner-ear balance disorders such as Ménière's disease, BPPV, and labyrinthitis.''

VE-Day, V-E Day
Victory-in-Europe DAY. May 8, 1945: date that the German surrender in WW2 became effective. (The Soviets weren't present at the signing, though, and insisted on further formalities on May 9.)

Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis.

Emitter Voltage Supply. Since silicon makes better npn (q.v.) transistors than pnp, circuits tend to be designed around npn's, and VEE is often the most negative voltage needed by a circuit. As such, it is the negative voltage rail for a chip, and VEE is a chip pin-out label.

Veep, veep
Vice President.

Attends state funerals overseas and breaks ties in the Senate.

It was John Nance Garner who said in 1936 that the (US) vice presidency is ``not worth a bucket of warm spit,'' almost. The word spit is what the newspapers reported at the time. Since at least 1991, some news articles mentioning the quip have claimed that the word Garner actually used was piss. According to the ``Last Page'' feature in the November 1996 Texas Monthly (byline Anne Dingus), he complained afterwards that ``those pantywaist writers wouldn't print it the way I said it.''

If you manage to get a pitcherful of it together and let it settle, I suppose liquid spit (as opposed to fresh foamy spit) has about the same specific heat as urine, but the solutes are very different. Spittle has a lot of glycoproteins and I don't know what else. The gp's lubricate the inside of the mouth, and astringent substances apparently bind and precipitate them, making mouth surfaces feel ``dry'' (high-friction-y).

Urine has a lot of shit. Okay, maybe not the right word. It includes nitrogenous wastes such as urea, uric acid, and creatinine, and a bunch of simple ionic solutes: metallic cations like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, and anions like bicarbonate and sulfate. Osmotic pressure limits the concentration of sodium in urine, and it limits it to a concentration lower than that in seawater. This is why drinking seawater is a counterproductive reaction to thirst: to maintain electrolyte balance, the body must eliminate sodium; it is eliminated via urine that is less salty than the seawater drunk, hence removing more water per unit of sodium than was taken in. Hello dehydration.

One of the most onerous tasks of trekking in inhospitable cold places like the Antarctic or the Himalayas is making water. Basically, you melt ice or snow with your body heat, or fuel heat if possible (engine exhaust pipes are also popular, and traditional with Eskimos). When you are moderately desperate, you can fill a jar with urine and stick a bag of ice into it. A little more desperate, and you can use a mix of about four parts ice and one part urine in direct contact. (This takes advantage not only of body heat but also of molal freezing point depression.) I think this is something that might bother anyone who is not Morarjee Desai (leader of the Janata coalition that beat Indira Gandhi out of office). You can understand that making water is a responsibility that every person has for him- or herself.

Garner, a Texas State Representative from 1898 to 1902 and then a member of the US House of Representatives until 1932, was Speaker of the House when he ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1932. He easily won the Texas and California primaries, but shifted his support to FDR and got the Veep slot as booby prize. He came to regret it; Garner and FDR disagreed over the New Deal, and in 1940, Garner again ran for the Democratic nomination. FDR was renominated and won an unprecedented third term, and Garner retired to Texas.

Garner survived tuberculosis as a youth, but smoked cigars all his life. He also enjoyed whiskey. (``I'm living a good Christian life. I don't get drunk but once a day.'') He looked like W.C. Fields with a triple order of eyebrows, and dressed like Tom Wolfe. Garner lived to be almost 99. (Almost almost 100.)

Garner interrupted his ninety-fifth birthday party to take a congratulatory phone call from President John F. Kennedy, who was in Texas that day. Garner promised to support JFK if he was still alive by the time Kennedy ran for reelection. Later that day, November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated.

There are many parallels and uncanny coincidences surrounding the assassinations of Lincoln in 1865 and Kennedy about 99 years later. One is that their vice presidents (hence successors) were Southerner-state senators named Johnson.

JFK's running mate Lyndon Baines Johnson, like FDR's running mate Garner, held the top Democratic leadership position in his chamber of Congress (Senate majority leader, in LBJ's case). LBJ was also a colorful Texas character like Garner. Serving out the remaining months of JFK's term, LBJ was nominated to run for president in his own right. Introducing Hubert Humphrey as his choice for running mate in 1964, LBJ described him as ``the man who will make the best Vice President since Lyndon Johnson.'' The Democratic ticket won in a landslide over GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.

(Should this be a parenthetical remark? Is it?) Goldwater's running mate was William Miller. One small perk of being elected Veep, as opposed to -- indignity of indignities -- seeking that lowly office and falling short, is that you're ipso facto not obscure enough to become the answer to a trivia question during your own lifetime. Incidentally, a friend of mine is related to James G. Blaine of Maine. In his time he was a dominant figure in Republican politics, and in 1884 the party nominated him for the presidency. He became the first GOP presidential candidate to lose since John C. Frémont, the first GOP candidate for president, lost in 1856. Afaik, no one who regularly wrote his name with a diacritical mark has ever been president of the US. Heck, even Canada has only had one PM with so much as an é.

That election (1964, okay?) was one of the watersheds of American history. The Republican party was shocked by its poor showing, and within the party there were two main reactions. To simplify, the two reactions were the dominant responses of two important factions. One faction felt a crucial need to repackage the party's message, seeing the need to formulate positive programmatic alternatives to Democratic initiatives and to find attractive new candidates to carry the refurbished message. Very loosely speaking, this was the activist branch of the GOP. On the national level, this was the faction that triumphed in the long term.

The other faction was dominated by elected office-holders, and its approach dominated in the immediate aftermath of the Goldwater debacle. This pragmatic branch was in many ways much more moderate than you would ever guess from the political polarization 40 years later. Gerald Ford (R-MI) was the House minority leader at the time, and he crafted the sort of orderly-retreat strategy that was more-or-less necessary for a weakened opposition. (The Democratic party held, in addition to the presidency, a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress.) The GOP in Congress would offer alternative bills to match Johnson's initiatives, and expect party members to support these alternatives. On the other hand, the leadership would be understanding if members, in order to look constructive with their constituents, ultimately voted for Democratic bills that would have passed over their opposition anyway.

Johnson had an aggressive domestic agenda that was popular, but he became bogged down in a Vietnam war. How's that for snappy data compression? The GOP, chastened by its 1964 loss, nominated someone from its moderate branch for 1968: Richard Nixon. RMN prevailed over the Democrats' Humphrey (LBJ chose not to run for reelection). Despite dissatisfaction with the war, the election was close, and a crucial factor--

You know, I'm going to take a break from story-telling for now. Sorry, I'll be back later. Don't complain! The only reason I wrote this far was that I wanted to set the record straight (so far as I am able) on a witticism attributed to LBJ. Like that other Texan's famous remark, this one was excreta-related. Gerald Ford was still House minority leader in fall 1973, when Richard Nixon's first vice president Spiro T. Agnew resigned (in the face of charges that he took bribes when he had been Governor of Maryland). Nixon nominated Ford to replace Agnew under the terms of the 25th amendment, and he was overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate and House in December. Eight months later, Nixon resigned and Ford became president.

In October 1973, after Nixon announced his choice to replace resigned vice-president Agnew, there was a profile of Ford that contained the following comment attributed to LBJ, who had died the previous January. I forget whether Newsweek or the New York Times was the first to come out with this, but it was repeated endlessly. The comment was that Gerald Ford was ``so stupid he can't chew gum and walk at the same time.'' Later there were reports that this had been bowdlerized, and that what LBJ had really said was that he couldn't fart and chew gum at the same time. I'll have to try that myself some time. Nowadays, most of the little skepticism that is ever expressed about the authenticity of this remark is just confused contention between the partisans of the fart recension and the walk version. Anyway, when you've got a ``corrected version,'' obviously the general fact of the remark (setting aside the detail) is beyond question...

Here is what David S. Broder has to say about it in his Behind the Front Page (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1987), p. 56:

The origins of this line are something of a mystery. Ford and Johnson often clashed when Johnson was President and Ford the House minority leader. But the archivists and scholars at the Johnson and Ford presidential libraries have no record of Johnson ever making the comment, and such former staff aides as George Reedy, George Christian, Bill Moyers, and Liz Carpenter said they had never heard it from Johnson's lips. Political writer Richard Reeves quoted a cruder version of it in his book, A Ford, Not a Lincoln, attributing to Johnson the assertion that ``Ford is so dumb he can't fart and chew gum at the same time. There are even more scatalogical versions around, but Reedy, a former Johnson press secretary, claimed they are ``apocryphal.''

FWIW, Reedy and Reeves are both thanked in Broder's acknowledgments. It's always possible that LBJ really said it within someone's hearing, and that we are the victims of a cover-up or something more innocent, but I do wonder what prevented Broder from getting some corroboration directly from the original publisher of the story.

Isn't it scary how they say ``You are what you eat''? And the US Department of Agriculture wants you to eat more vegetables? The conspiracy is international!

In its early years, the children's cable channel Nickelodeon was so unpopular with its intended audience that it was called the ``green vegetable'' channel. Cf. peas.

The word vegetable is considered a little more seriously, in fact too seriously, at the legume entry. The only thing to add is that in modern usage, the noun's meaning has come to be restricted not just to edible plants or non-animals, but to complex multicellular organisms that are edible. I mean, yeast is not a vegetable, though even vegans eat bread. Someone ought to ruin their day by pointing out that on biochemical and even cellular morphological grounds, yeasts are much closer to the animal family than the vegetable family. To say nothing of Caesar salad.

vegetarian pizza
This will be the site of the future vegetarian pizza entry. As you can see, we have already broken ground.

We plan to discuss ``Mediterranean style'' as well.

Quickie FAQ:

Q.: If it contains meat and vegetables, is it vegetarian pizza?
A.: Generally no.

Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor.

Volcanic Explosivity Index. Proposed by Newhall and Shelf, 1982. A logarithmic scale (each unit increase in the index represents a factor-of-ten increase in volume of material.

The volcano in Krakatoa, which lies between Sumatra and Java, erupted in 1883 and killed about 36 thousand people. It hurled ash to an altitude exceeding 20 miles and was heard 3,000 miles away. That was about a 6.


Latin conjunction meaning `or.'

Vela. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

Values, Ethics and the Law In Medicine. An ``independent university centre within the Faculty of Medicine'' at Sydney's University. Wait -- scratch that, it's at the University of Sydney. They actually have a special faculty position called the ``Sesqui Lecturer in Bioethics.'' The tenant is required to be too clever by half, no doubt.

velocity saturation
At low electric fields, charge-carrier velocity is proportional to electric field (through a proportionality constant called the mobility). As field increases, velocity increase becomes sublinear (mobility decreases) due to band nonparabolicity (generally, effective mass increases with momentum), decreases in scattering time, occupation of lower-mobility bands, opening of new inelastic scattering channels, ... . Ultimately, as the carrier band velocity is bounded, the average carrier velocity has a formal limit. In general before that limit is reached, the combined effects lead to velocity saturation.

Velocity saturation! Gosh, I hadn't thought about velocity saturation in absolutely years! Then suddenly -- out of nowhere -- this glossary entry appears. Wow, sure brings back memories.


vel sim.
Latin for `or similar.'


Vinis Alert!
Virush Alert! Whasha matta, cantcha shee shtraight?

  1. Latin for `belly,' giving rise to ventre in French, Italian, Provençal, and Portuguese, and vientre in Spanish, the mostly obsolete word venter in English, and English (``International Scientific Vocabulary''TM) words like ventral and ventricle [from diminutive form ventriculus].
  2. The Latin and Old French word for belly, applied in English to describe a bridge that has or is part of a sagging profile. Vide venter bridge.

venter bridge
A bridge whose profile in some way resembles the profile of an animal's belly (vide venter). Such bridges are a frequent part of Roman aqueducts.

Since Roman aqueducts were (and in an instance or two still are) mostly open channels with a slight gradient to move the water along, they generally followed topographic contours. Where a valley had to be crossed, the level of the aqueduct could be maintained by elevation on a bridge.

The most ambitious and impressive aqueduct bridge is the Pont du Gard. This carried the open aqueduct that supplied Nîmes at a height of 48.8m above the River Gardon. This was not a venter bridge.

The Romans did not build any higher bridges than the Pont du Gard. When it was necessary to traverse a depression deeper than 50 meters, they built an inverted siphon, usually of lead pipe, sometimes terra cotta. Very often, the pipe did not descend completely to the bottom of the depression, but was instead held at some height above the bottom by a colonnade or viaduct. Those viaducts are the ones commonly called venter bridges. In profile they look a little bit like animal bellies when you consider them as rounding the slope of the fall and rise of the hills on either side. Often as well, a bit of sag was built into them. (It has been suggested that this made servicing easier, by preventing air pockets -- if they formed during filling -- from occurring in the middle rather than an end of the elevated section.)

Virtual ExploratioN of Underwater Sites. I understand from the homepage that VENUS is online slide shows with tolerably translated commentary. Oh, here we go: ``The VENUS project will improve the accessibility of underwater sites by generating thorough and exhaustive 3D records for virtual exploration.

``The project team plans to survey shipwrecks at various depths and to explore advanced methods and techniques of data acquisition through autonomous or remotely operated unmanned vehicles with innovative sonar and photogrammetry equipment. Research will also cover aspects such as data processing and storage, plotting of archaeological artefacts and information system management. This work will result in a series of best practices and procedures for collecting and storing data.

``Further, VENUS will develop virtual reality and augmented reality tools for the visualisation of an immersive interaction with a digital model of an underwater site. The model will be made accessible online, both as an example of digital preservation and for demonstrating new facilities of exploration in a safe, cost-effective and pedagogical environment. The virtual underwater site will provide archaeologists with an improved insight into the data and the general public with simulated dives to the site.''

Spanish, `I see.' Derived from the Latin word video, a form of the verb videre, `to see.' The same Latin root appears in other English words that clearly involve seeing or looking (view, vision, visage, vista, visor, voyeur) and words that ultimately have something to do with viewing (in related groups: visit, visa; provide, provident, prudent, purvey, proviso, purview; preview, review, revise, advise).

The Spanish veo is not generally used in the sense `I understand,' as ``I see'' is used in English. However, English is not unusual in making this connection: the word video comes from the same Indo-European root as the Greek idol and idea. The latter meant both `idea' and `form,' so one begins to understand why Platonic Idealism is sometimes referred to as the ``theory of forms.'' Other words from that share this root are eidenic and history (both from the senses related to knowledge, which became the common in Greek).

Do not say ``Yo veo'' unless you mean to emphasize yo, as if you were saying ``I see'' in English. In Spanish as in many languages, the verb conjugation provides all the information that an explicit personal pronoun subject does, and the pronoun is elided conventionally.

In Japanese, the conjugation does not identify the subject, but the pronoun is often elided conventionally anyway: direct statements without an explicit personal subject can be assumed to have the speaker as implicit subject, and questions similarly assume a second-person subject. In general, however, things can get more complicated than this, since Japanese is a language which tends to put a much greater burden on the listener to interpret and disambiguate, and allows the speaker to omit almost anything (except grammatical particles).

In German, something similar occasionally happens with the compound verb, which because of the V2 structure is mostly at the end of the independent clause. Thus, for example, ``I can speak English'' is fully translated ``ich kann englisch sprechen'' (all words cognate), but usually produced as ``ich kann englisch.''

I suppose that one of these days, I ought to add a pro-drop entry to this glossary.

Visual Emissions Observation. What's that blue around your swim trunks, Joe?

Visual Evoked Potential. The electrical signal evoked in the brain by a visual stimulus.

`Voluntary' Early Retirement.

Voluntary Export Restraint. Usually used in the plural: VER's. In 1969 or 1970 or so, US President Richard M. Nixon and Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato negotiated the return of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty. (It had been under US administration since the end of WWII.) As an informal part of the deal, Sato promised that Japan would implement VER's. The promise was not immediately fulfilled to the satisfaction of the US (my wording isn't coy; I'm just too lazy to study the literature and form an opinion on the subject). Diplomatic friction ensued. In the mid-1970's this subsided as the VER's were perceived to kick in. The idea of VER's caught on. Most professional economists, and especially academic economists, regard pretty much any restraint of trade as a bad thing; they tend to see VER's as particularly bad.

Virtual Entity of Relevant Acronyms. A list of acronyms and their expansions. The project was begun around Easter in 1993 by Oliver Heidelbach, and was published as a periodic posting on at least a couple of German-language newsgroups (z-netz.alt.listen and de.etc.lists). [Regarding the former: Listen is a native German word meaning `lists.' It's the plural of the feminine noun Liste. The singular noun Liste, also feminine, has meanings like `slyness, craftiness.' Its plural is also Listen.] The first English edition of V.E.R.A., translated from German (for all the difference that makes to the acronym expansions), was released in June 1997.

verbal index
An opaque English term used by Latinless Palestinians, err, Phoenicians, err, P-p-p... Philistines! They mean index verborum.

German, `Bowdler.' However, the word is used as a noun meaning not only `censored version' or `Bowdlerized version,' but also more generally to refer to a modified version that merely constitutes a `corruption' or `modification.'

verdict of history, The.
The verdict of historians who have to go by what they read in the papers, because people who knew the truth died without telling it. Oh, yeah, there are some secret tapes, too. And a few documents obtained under the freedom of information act. But nothing much really. Unless you count the records of the Central Committee, and a few memoirs. But not much besides that, really.

verfuegen, verfügen
German, `to order, command.'


Try Virgil.

The English verb forget has a German cognate vergessen. For the English-speaker, vergossen is a sort of garden-path error: The past-tense forms are built on vergaß (spelled vergass if the ß isn't available), so it looks like the conjugation is following a familiar strong-verb pattern evident in beget, begat, begotten. Hence, you expect the past participle to be vergossen, nicely matching its translation `forgotten,' but the correct past participle is vergessen (identical with the infinitive).

verify your profile
Spamese: `help us steal your identity.'

Vermilion is the red color of cinnabar dye. Double-el Vermillion is recognized as a variant by some dictionaries. In US place names, the double-el spelling seems to be much more popular.

A moderately common toponym in the US. (We were going to write ``a place name for various, uh, places in the US,'' but we don't go in for cheap humor here.) In particular, Vermillion is the name of a town southeast of Cleveland, and of a rest area on I-80/90 just west of where it splits (I-90 goes NE to Buffalo, I-80 SE to Youngstown). The University of South Dakota is in Vermillion.

Cf. vermilion.

Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives! The ``rodent'' is a gopher! Does (or did) for gopher sites what Archie does (or did) for ftp sites! Veronica is a character in the Archie comic book series, as is Archie!

If your local gopher server does not host a Veronica (usually as a menu item labelled ``Other Gopher and Information Servers'') then you should access the Veronica home menu at the University of Nevada - Reno: <gopher://veronica.scs.unr.edu:70/11/veronica>! They serve a list of other Veronica servers, not one of which appears to be in operation as of 1998.03.08!

For some reason 2347 (occasionally 2348) seems to be the default port! This is odd, and strange too, since, although port numbers can run from 0 to 65535 [216 - 1], the IANA normally only assigns standard ports up to 1023!

Frankly, I can't find one working Veronica anywhere now! Instead try

Vehicle Emissions Reduction Responsibility.

An interdisciplinary journal of research in literary prosody. ``Versification is a refereed electronic journal dedicated to advancing interdisciplinary research into literary prosody. Versification publishes material relevant to the study of prosody in all its many-faceted complexity and provides an international forum for scholars, students, critics and writers from many different fields to explore the rôle of sound in poetry.''


Even-numbered, left-hand (l.h.s.) page in a book. From Late Latin verso folio `on the turned [opposite] side.' Cf. recto.

An old Russian length unit about equal to a kilometer. (Good to know when you read Dostoyevsky.) The OED defines it as 3500 English feet, though none of the quotations it cites give such a sharp equivalence. Webster's 1928 defines it as ``1166 2/3 yards, or 3500 feet,'' so there doesn't seem to be much round-off; Webster's 1913 is explicit that the 3500 feet are English. But since the Russians are unlikely to have defined it in English feet, or to have adopted a foot that was exactly equal to the English one, one has to be suspicious. If it's exact, then a verst is just 20 feet shy of two-thirds of an English mile. Another popular description is 1.067 km. According to the current American definition of the inch as 2.54 cm, 3500 feet is exactly 1.0668 km.

very eligible
Personalsese: `desperate.'

Visible Evening Setting. The last time (in a year) that a star is seen setting after sunset.

Video Electronics Standards Association. Mostly concerned with IBM-compatible personal computers.

(Office of) Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities. Western New York organization.

Vocational English as a Second Language.

Review and approve.


Vocational Education and Training. The great virtue of this acronym is to affirm that education and training are not the same.

Veterans' Employment and Training Service of the Department of Labor (DOL).

Vacuum Expectation Value. In quantum mechanics, the expectation value of an operator acting on the state representing the vacuum.

Vehicle EXchange. If you're not satisfied with that expansion, you can bring it back and we'll let you have VEhicle eXchange at the same rate.

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