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P p

p, P
Momentum. Utility of the concept of momentum, and the fact of its conservation (in toto for a closed system) were discovered by Leibniz.

Page. Equivalently: pg.

Plurals: pp. and pgs.

Papa. Not an abbreviation here, just the FCC-recommended ``phonetic alphabet.'' I.e., a set of words chosen to represent alphabetic characters by their initials. You know, ``Alpha Bravo Charlie ... .'' The idea behind the choice is to have words that the listener will be able to guess at or reconstruct accurately even through noise (or narrow bandwidth, like a telephone).

You know, there are only a few thousand natural languages in use by humans today, yet among these, there are a few in which the child's word for father is mama.

Persuasion. A novel by Jane Austen. Not to be confused with P+P.

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

Hennig Brand discovered phosphorus in 1669 by isolating it from urine.

In Spanish, the mass noun fósforo means `phosphorus' (the substance, the element) and the singular count noun fósforo means `match' (the thing you light fires with).

Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate is subtitled A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies. (Original Mexican edition copyright 1989; translation by Carol and Thomas Christensen copyright 1992.) Most months the recipes are for food, with quantities given in metric units. June (chapter 6), however, begins with a recipe for matches.

1 ounce powdered potassium nitrate

1/2 ounce minium

1/2 ounce powdered gum arabic

1 dram phosphorus



I suppose the ``conventional'' units reflect the fact that an American (a Dr. Brown) follows the recipe in the US. You know how it is with magical realism: you can have any big impossibility, but the trivial stuff must be strictly plausible.


The gum arabic is dissolved in enough hot water to form a paste that is not too thick; when the paste is ready, the phosphorus is added and dissolved into it, and the same is done with the potassium nitrate. Then enough minium is added to color the mixture.''

Phew! For a second, there, I was afraid she actually meant to use the saffron. If all she needs is a golden-yellow colorant, gold might be cheaper.

Potassium nitrate is ``saltpeter'' (see .cl entry). It is used as an oxidant in gunpowder (specifically the old ``black powder'') as well.

Pitcher. Baseball position #1. Throws from a mound 60.5 feet from HP. That's 60' 6". It wasn't always like that.

As explained on this page, for example, the range of allowed separation vector (between the pitcher's feet and home plate) is an element of baseball regulation that has been adjusted a few times. In 1893, the former pitcher's box (like the batter's box still used today), having been shrunk and moved further back in earlier reforms, was replaced by a plate (now more commonly called the ``rubber''). Previous specifications had always been in round numbers of feet, and the story goes that in 1893, the plate was supposed to be placed a distance 60 feet from home, but that a groundskeeper misread the number and put it at 60 feet, 6 inches. That distance is specified in rule 1.07 of the (uh, current) official rules of baseball. Or is that rule 1.67? (Okay, just kidding -- it's 1.07.)

In Spring 2004, Boston stations were running an ad featuring Curt Shilling, in which he retailed the misreading legend. I suspect that these ads led, indirectly, to the revision of this entry. I also suspect that if there was any miscommunication, it did not involve a misreading by a groundskeeper, but an ambiguous specification by an official, of precisely which part of the pitcher's plate was to be at the given distance. In any case, a single groundskeeper's error would presumably have less effect than a single official's poorly-drafted notice; reading of the latter is more likely than measurement of the former to affect fields further afield.

Plaza. Common abbreviation in Spanish city addresses.

Professional. A spacer in those highly concentrated doses of information one finds in personals ads. If it has a meaning, the meaning is something like ``is or was employed.'' So instead of being just a plain vanilla SWM, you can stand out from the crowd as a SWPM. It does make you wonder what an amateur male might be.

Professor, in cadet jargon.

P, p
Probability [density] [function]. As usual in the loose mathematical dialects of sciences, the same symbol is often used in various related ways. The following are the three simplest and most common mathematical objects that a symbol P might represent:

Priority. A key on an AUTOVON phone, q.v.


Latin, Publius. A praenomen, typically abbreviated when writing the full tria nomina.

His girlfriend called him Pooblioobly-oo. He hated when she would do that outside the senate.

[Football icon]


In the NFL, punters, kickers, and quarterbacks all have jersey numbers in the range 1-18. Let's go to the histogram!

number	P count		K count		QB count
 0					X
 1	XXX		XX
11					XXXXXXX
13					XXX
14					XXXXX
15	XX				XXX
16					XXXXX
17	X		X		XXX
18	X		X
(Each X represents one player. These statistics were abstracted from the roster data at <nfl.com>, as of Dec. 18, 2009, and count some but not all players that were cut from their teams during the season.)

I suppose it's no coincidence that 3 is the most popular jersey number for kickers and 7 the most popular for quarterbacks, though 6 and 8 would also be understandable. The greater popularity of 7 than 6 for QB's may reflect the attitude that PAT's are routine and usually successful, and may explain why 1 is not unusually popular for kickers. It also makes sense that no QB has the jersey number 2, since they're especially at risk for safeties. I suppose that it's also understandable that the most popular punter numbers are the relatively meaningless 4 and 9.

Protactinium. Atomic number 91. Naturally occurring, but not very much. The second letter ``oh'' in the original name (protoactinum) apparently dropped because some people don't care for diphthongs. (Actually, this is a common evolution that linguists call assimilation.) Learn more likely stories at its entry in WebElements and its entry at Chemicool.

Palestinian (`self'-government) Authority. They prefer to be the ``PNA'' (Palestinian National Authority). It might be that this has some political point.

In 2007, it appears that the Palestinians may achieve not just one but two states. Hamas took over Gaza, and President Abbas (head of Fatah) dissolved the elected government, putting Fatah in control of the West Bank.

(Domain code for) Panama.

PAscal. The SI unit of pressure (1 pascal = 1 newton per square meter; Pa = N/m2). 1 MPa = 10 bars.

PAtio. See this NC entry regarding the possible prevalence of this real estate abbreviation.

PA, Pa.
PennsylvaniA. (Without the period is the USPS abbreviation or code.)

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

Well, I can't find it now, but somewhere in this compendious reference work I should mention that Pennsylvania is known for having two seasons: Winter and Road Work. (I've been given to understand now that this climate is not unique to Pennsylvania.) It might have to do with the expansion of water on freezing. (Incidentally, I'm sure this isn't a stark distinction. It's more like NFL news coverage: from August to January, it's mostly part of the sports beat, and for the rest of the year it's mostly part of the crime beat.)

Benjamin Franklin was not the founder of Pennsylvania, but I think that answer gets partial credit. No, not Samuel Adams. Hint: the colony was once known as ``Penn's Woods.'' (See the entry for This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you.)

p.a., pa
Per Annum. That would be Danish for `Peter the Accusatory Butt,' approximately. Oh wait -- that's with two ens. I guess then it's Latin for `per year.'

Just to kill the frog, I'll point out that the ``accusatory'' above is a pun that depends on the well-known fact that a final m is typical for singular nouns in the accusative case in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit, and in Proto-Indo-European as generally reconstructed.

Personal Assistant. Term used primarily in the UK, not quite equivalent to secretary. In some contexts, the term is distinguished from a ``team secretary'' who does secretarial work for more than one boss; in others it refers to a higher level of competence and responsibility, even though the PA may answer to a group. Doesn't sound any too much better-defined than AA.

Physician Assistant. According to the AAPA, ``Physician assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs employed by the federal government are credentialed to practice. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and in most states can write prescriptions.''

Once when I was working at Naval Research Labs and got a cold (or maybe it was something worse!), I remembered that I was on a military base that had an infirmary. So I went there and my case was worked up by someone who was not a physician. I don't know if he was a nurse or a PA or what, but he carried a Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary to help him write the report that the physician would see. I think I was expected to make an appointment to return later. At least I didn't go to Walter Reed. Cf. VA.

Phosphatidic (Ptd) Acid.

Pointer Adjustment.

Points Against. You know, if you lose a few games big and win a bunch of close games, you can easily have a winning season with more points against than points for (PF). The electoral college sometimes works that way too. In 2000, ferinstance.

PolyAmide. Nylon. Sheesh: it can be damaged by exposure to alcohol. Gives new meaning to the old expression, ``candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.'' I guess that should be eye dialect, like likker, or licker.

Invented by Carothers in 1930. The polymer, I mean. Candy is older than that.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. As well as the seaport, it operates the New York City area's three major airports (including Newark International Airport, in NJ), various major bridges, the city bus terminal, and PATH.

Very well run, especially when compared to another P Authority.

Presence-Absence. A question. Choose one. Do not plead the sorites paradox.

In the US Congress, you can vote aye, nay, abstain, or present, but you can't vote absent. At least not so far. With modern technology, though, I don't see why not.

Press Association, Ltd. ``The UK leader in news and sports information.''

Problem Analysis. Cf. PA.

Production Assistant. Keeps the stars out of the director's hair, among other things.

Professional Association.

Program Access.

Program (memory) Area.

Public Address (system). Initialism often used for electric bullhorn.

At an ATA departure in LA, we heard a somewhat articulated garble, so I went up to the counter and said, ``your message was almost completely unintelligible. Did you say something about flight 292?'' ``Yes, the PA system is terrible. We announced that it's not necessary to check in again.''

This might have been helpful. Until the lounge acoustics are improved, or until the geniuses who manage the airport master the technical challenge of medium-fidelity sound reproduction, it might be helpful if the ticket agents enunciated carefully. Pie in the sky, I know. I'm a dreamer.

Public Affairs. Isn't this the sort of thing you'd prefer to keep private?

P-AzoxyAnisole. 4,4'-Di-methoxyazoxy benzene. A rod-like molecule (about 20 Å long × 5 Å wide) that is in a nematic phase between 116 °C and 135 °C.

PolyAcrylic Acid. A polyacid. Interesting stuff, because the polyion charge can be controlled by titration, yielding controllable properties ranging from uncharged polymer (neutralized with base) to polyelectrolyte.

Princton Alumni Association.

Plastic Area Array (microelectronics) Packages. Plastic Pin-Grid Arrays and Ball Grid Arrays.

Japanese word borrowed from a Western language -- I suppose English -- meaning `part.' (At least one would write ``Part II'' of a book.)

ParaAminoBenzoic Acid. Part of the vitamin B complex; used in synthesis of folic acid. Popular in sun screens because it blocks UV. Popular in health foods because -- do you need a reason? -- but anyway in organic food boutiques it's often called paraben because `PABA' doesn't sound `natural.'

Pacific Asia Bridge Federation. Contract bridge -- the card game. Mostly China. Zone 6 of the WBF.

[Phone icon]

Private Automatic Branch [telephone] Exchange. This specific term is used less often than the more general PBX, for the same reason that I don't refer to my personal transportation vehicle as self-propelled and self-starting.

Performing Arts Center. There are centers scattered in all directions. Notre Dame's is the Marie P. DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Perturbed Angular Correlation.

Political Action Committee. An organization formed to pool contributions in support of some political or legislative initiative, candidacy, etc. Law that brought PAC's into being was part of the reform following Watergate, and was intended to strengthen the political clout of ordinary small contributors as against fat cats. Today, PAC's have come to be seen as part of the problem, in part because large contributions can be laundered through them: influence-seeking monied interests can reimburse unknown small donors to a PAC. Yes, I know that ``monied interests'' is a phrase from the turn of the (last) century. No, I have no idea how such an obsolete concept could happen to be relevant any more. After all, we've made tremendous progress since the bad old days.

After campaign reform laws have limited the amount that an individual may contribute to any campaign other than his or her own, PAC's became the largest source of campaign funding. Scandals involving foreign contributions to the Clinton reëlection campaign in 1996 have refueled the interest in further reform, and it seems all the major culprits have now endorsed campaign reforms being pushed by Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.).

However, this comes amid increasing uncertainty regarding the constitutional status of the original laws. The basic question regards the extent to which spending on political speech can be restricted without infringing the first amendment right of free speech. In an early test, the Supreme Court ruled that laws could not restrict the amount that individuals may spend on their own campaigns. [Hello, H. Ross. Hello, Steve Forbes.]

It was A. J. Liebling who long ago gave this formulation:

Freedom of the Press belongs to those who own one.

Anyway, that was the ruling of an earlier court that was rather more `liberal' in the current sense of the word. The current court has given indications that it may strike down or weaken spending restrictions generally. This comes in a time of increasing ``soft money'' use or abuse. ``Soft money'' is money spent for `political but not partisan' purposes, like get-out-the-vote campaigns, debates sponsored by an organization like the League of Women Voters (LWV). That was the original idea, anyway. However, even political parties can designate as ``soft money'' political spending that is not explicitly targeted for a particular individual race. In practice, these nontargeted ads can look pretty indistinguishable from ordinary campaign ads... Others have gotten into the business: in 1996, the AFL-CIO, under the aggressive leadership of the recently elected Sweeney, spent a few million bucks to unseat a small number of targeted first-term US representatives, all Republicans. This too was soft money. Most of the targets won reëlection, and most of those will have an increased interest in campaign reform.

I have wretchedly bad political intuition. I think that campaign reform will be successful this time!

Powdered Activated Carbon. This could have been the fashion hair dye for the eighteenth century, but it wasn't to be.


Proceedings of the African Classical Associations. A journal no longer published in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, which is no longer Salisbury, the capital of Rhodesia.

PAkistani feminist discussion list. Make up your own expansion, but note ``to be pronounced pak-awam.''

Produits alimentaires et de consommation du Canada. Current French name (previously the FPACC) for the FCPC (q.v.).

Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union. Based in Nashville, Tenn., as of June 2000, it represented about 320,000 workers in the paper, chemical, energy and automotive supply industries. It's affiliated with ICEM.

Parents Advancing Choice in Education. A group that funds a private-school voucher program in Dayton, Ohio.

Latin: `peace.' The usual form in which a Latin common noun is adopted into English is the nominative singular. For the relevant word here, that form is pax. Pax is used productively within English, though the word has not really been naturalized (see its entry below). The head term, pace, is the ablative singular form. The ablative form in Latin has many uses, as we'll eventually explain at the abl. entry, so I'm excused from explaining it.

In English, pace is as a compact way of acknowledging disagreement and pressing on with one's own argument or narrative. E.g., ``Life is precious and always worth preserving, pace Krevorkian, so....''

Pace in this sense should be pronounced in Latin. There are at least half a dozen Latin pronunciation. I approve the one in which pace sounds the same as if it were read in Spanish by a Latin American.

packed BCD
Packed Binary-Coded Decimal (BCD). BCD that only uses one nybble (half a byte; four binary bits) per decimal digit, instead of a full byte.

Obviously, packed BCD is twice as space-efficient, but unpacked BCD is more convenient and efficient for processing with byte-based operations and instructions.


Pacific Rim Latin Literature Seminar
Sometimes called the Pacific Rim Latin Literature Conference. Sometimes abbreviated PacRim Latin Literature Seminar. Sometimes held on the Pacific Rim. To be more precise, it's an annual conference, and in even years it's held in New Zealand or Australia.

A selection of papers from one meeting was published in the journal Arethusa (Fall 2003). Guest editors Cindy Benton and Trevor Fear wrote in their introduction (p. 267):

All the articles in this special issue were originally presented in oral form at the Pacific Rim Latin Literature conference ``Center and Periphery in the Roman World,'' held at the State University of New York at Buffalo in the summer of 2001. This startling relocation of the Pacific Rim to New York State provided the perfect forum for an examination of geographical and cultural disjunction.

It turns out that the presentations are not always confined entirely to Latin literature as such. That special issue has an article by Saundra Schwartz entitled ``Rome in the Greek Novel? Images and Ideas of Empire in Chariton's Persia'' (pp. 375ff). (You know, titles with question marks are bad enough... and with a subtitle, catalogs usually insert a colon, yielding the trinary operator ?:.)

Schwartz begins:

Travel is a prominent feature of ancient fiction; despite this, Rome and the Romans are conspicuously absent from the fictional landscape of the five extant Greek novels, products of an era when the culture of the Greek east strove to assert its centrality in the culture and structure of the Roman empire. ... Although Rome is not on the map of the Greek novels, it loomed in the mental geography of their authors and audience. This can be seen in one Greek novel set in the classical age of the Greek cities: Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe, written some time in the first to early second centuries C.E. This article argues that Rome is, so to speak, present in its absence from Chariton's novel.

A couple of other meetings are conveniently mentioned at the MWSCAS entry.

PolyAluminum ChLoride.

PACific RIM.

We have a bit on one PacRim conference -- on Latin Literature.

Pacte civil de solidarité. French for `civil solidarity pact,' a legally recognized cohabitation agreement between two people (of the same or different sex). Less ambiguous than ``civil union'' (C.U.), but I think that ``living in legal sin'' would be a more colorful term.

As I recall, in France civil marriage and a religious ceremony are distinct and essentially independent things. If this doesn't date back to the Revolution, then it's probably an achievement of the old anticlerical alliance of the Third Republic.

A noteworthy feature of the noun acronym PACS is that it has been verbed and that this (possibly not the original acronym, which still tends to be capitalized) has been integrated into the language as an ordinary word. Hence pacsé, pacsée, pacser.

Personal Access Communications System.

Picture Archive Communication System[s].

Physics and Astronomy Classification of the AIP.

Public Access (library) Catalog System[s].

French meaning `a man who has signed a PACS,' past participle of the verb pacser.

French meaning `a woman who has signed a PACS,' past participle of the verb pacser. Maybe I should make that `a female who has signed a PACS or on whose behalf a PACS has been signed,' in order to include primitive societies that allow child PACSiage.

A French verb. Need I say more? I suppose I need do. Se pacser is to `sign a PACS' or to become a pacsé[e], as getting married is se marier.

Personal Air Communications Technology. A system co-developed by Ericsson and AT&T Wireless Services. It's a narrowband PCS (NPCS) product similar to cellular phones, but it makes intelligent guesses, based on tracking, to use the nearest base station. More importantly: it's not audio, just a paging and messaging system. It implements frequency re-use and cell splitting for network efficiency.

Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television. [Sic: no apostrophe.] ``The UK trade association for independent feature film, television, animation and interactive media companies.''

Packet Assembler/Disassembler.

Peripheral Artery Disease.

Pi Alpha Delta. The pre-law frat.

Here are some useful related links, snake:

Punjab Archaeology Department.

Nickname for Patrick.

paddy wagon
Police van for transporting more prisoners than will fit in the back of a police car.

The way ``paddy wagon'' designates the relation of object and function is unusual. In the more normal case of a ladder truck, the same vehicle is called a ladder truck whether it races from the firehouse to help firemen extinguish a blaze or lumbers out to rescue a cat. It's not called a ``kitty truck'' in the second instance. In contrast, the same vehicle that is a paddy wagon on the day of the arrests is called the prison van or police van when it ferries prisoners to and from court, or out of prison.

Some multifunctional articles of clothing are named in this circumstantial way -- a silk scarf may double as a bandanna (a head scarf) or as a big colorful pocket handkerchief -- but this doesn't work with just any accessory. One day, I saw my claw hammer and thought: ``that's not a claw hammer, that's a fashion statement waiting to happen.'' So I carried it to breakfast at the Perkin's all-night restaurant on Maple. It didn't seem to bother the waitress to have a claw hammer next to the salt shaker, but then two cops came in for a long break, sitting between me and the door. So it's 3 AM and I've got a claw hammer in a restaurant, and it clashes with the rest of my ensemble. It's times like this when you remember that you're overdue to renew your auto registration. I didn't feel like waiting for break to end, so I paid, wrapped the hardware in my reading matter and walked out as nonchalantly as I could while remembering not to whistle. It wasn't a magazine -- it was camouflage.

Of course, people are described by a different sort of noun. Unless you're Santa Claus or some other celebrity, you can be off duty sometimes and not be defined by your employment. On the other hand, you can be defined by your employment. This is subject to regional variation. One time when I visited my cousin Victoria in Southern California, she told me that ``my boyfriend is a surfer.'' To an Easterner like me, only what you do for a living can normally define what you are: If your boyfriend has a piano hobby, then ``he plays piano.'' If he makes a living from playing the piano, then ``he is a piano player.'' (Victoria and the surfer are still together.)

(This is a problem for writers and artists of various sorts, who may write a long time before they start to make a living from it, if they ever do. One solution to that problem is to write about your day job. That's basically the story of Waiting. It could be worse. Ever since it began to be possible to make a living primarily as a writer, there've been writers with no significant non-writer-related experiences to write about. Book prices need to come down.)

You might suppose the trailer/motor-home distinction would parallel the paddy-wagon/prison-van distinction, but it clearly doesn't: motor home is just an aggrandizing euphemism for trailer, used whether it's on the road or on concrete blocks. It's a U and non-U thing.

During the campaign for the Republican nomination for US president in 2000, George W. Bush started out as the heavy favorite but was defeated in the first primary (New Hampshire, as always) by John McCain. The primary in South Carolina then took on immense importance, and was sharply contested. Bush won that primary, and shakily but steadily pulled away from McCain to win the nomination. A subsequent analysis of that crucial primary, published in TNR, suggested that the reason for W's triumph could be understood in terms of that motor-home/trailer distinction.

I should probably explain that, but I'd have to hunt down the article for the details, and TNR was a weekly then. Instead, I'm going to report some breaking news on the paddy wagon front. It's from an article in the June 19, 2003, Stockton Record. The police chief of Stockton, California, has ordered his officers to stop using the term ``paddy wagon'' to refer to a 1946 Ford bread truck that had been restored to look like a police wagon. It's not for official police business, but for show. It debuted for the town's Cinco de Mayo parade. The black-and-white vehicle has padded bench seats and carpeted walls. You might think the word paddy referred to the fact that the truck is essentially a padded cell, but apparently it doesn't. It's believed to be connected to the nickname that occurs as the entry above this one: ``Paddy'' for Patrick. From Patrick as a common given name for Irish boys came ``paddy'' as a derogatory term for Irishman. Paddy wagon is believed to be derived from that, either because the arrestees or (according to a conflicting theory) the policemen were predominantly Irish. (This dichotomy -- the large numbers of Irish immigrants who became policemen and who became police work -- was discussed by the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan in one or another, and probably a few, of his books. His own immigrant-son experience informed his understanding of social dysfunction.)

One indication that the Irish connection with the paddy-wagon etymology is not fanciful comes from an alternative term: ``black maria.'' (I've only ever heard the second word of this compound pronounced like Mariah Carey's given name.) Joseph Clay Neal (1807-1847) wrote a short story called ``The Prison Van; or, the Black Maria.'' It appeared in Peter Ploddy and Other Oddities (1844), pp. 27-36, and the title was footnoted with the following:

In Philadelphia, the prisons are remote from the Courts of Justice, and carriages, which, for obvious reasons, are of a peculiar construction, are used to convey criminals to and fro. The popular voice applies the name of "Black Maria" to each of these melancholy vehicles, and, by general consent, this is their distinguishing title.

The following scrap of text has drifted so far from the text it originally referred to that I had to reread the entry from the top to remember what the point was. It refers to my claw-hammer fashion foray.

For another story about the compiler of this socially beneficial reference work not being arrested, see the ID entry.

Continental drift is like that, by the way: material rising from the magma pushes existing crustal material away. The clearest example of this phenomenon is along the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where new sea floor is being generated. The sea floor is spreading as the additional material pushes the Americas away from Africa and Europe. Another possibility is that an ocean plate will be pushed into a continental plate that refuses to give, or give fast enough. In that case the ocean plate can be pushed under the continental plate at the edge -- subducted. For a consequence of that, see the pluton entry.

You know, I feel sure that we've drifted off topic, but this entry began millions of years ago and I can't remember what it's about anymore. We're in the P's, so I guess it's about Perkins. As I already explained, I think, you can get breakfast there anytime (if they're open). Steven Wright claims he ``went into a restaurant and the sign said `Breakfast anytime,' so I ordered french toast during the Renaissance.'' Look, this makes no sense: ``Breakfast anytime'' means you can eat breakfast anytime. You can't order breakfast anytime. I mean, if you come in and order breakfast at six you can't eat it at nine. It's ridiculous -- the eggs will be cold! (We don't go for the small potatoes; we go for hash browns.) For more on the mysteries of breakfast time, view this image. (And if we ever figure it out, we'll be sure to add something here on déjeuner et petit déjeuner.)

Hmmm. Maybe this entry was about Presidential Campaigns. One of the highlights of the 2004 US presidential campaign came in early September, when Democratic candidate Kerry affirmed lucidly that the invasion of Iraq was ``the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.'' It's an interesting thought. If I had my druthers, I'd say fight the Boer war in the Bahamas in 1958. You benefit from the element of surprise and nice weather, and the enemy will never find you.

[dive flag]

Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

A surname based on an Old French oath. Details at the Depardieu entry.

pad oxide
Nitox or stress relaxation oxide.

Poly(ADP-Ribosyl)Polymerase. An enzyme that is part of cellular repair.

Pen Application Development System. (From Slate Corporation.)

PolyArylene Ether. A class of organic polymers considered for microelectronic insulation. Specifically, as ILD's with k below 3. Another candidate is BCB.

Power-Added Efficiency. Figure of merit for amplifiers. For amplifiers operating class A, the theoretical upper limit is 50%. Don't ask me what that means, because I really should know.

Pan American EDIFACT Board.

Paysage Audiovisuel Français. The landscape of French television and radio broadcasts.

(Blood) Platelet Aggregation Factor.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Just a block away from Temple University, it's the current home of Benjamin West's Death on a Pale Horse and Penn's Treaty with the Indians.

Plastic And Failure Analysis of Composites. A VFD code from 1982.

Phosphoric-Acid Fuel Cell. A fuel cell (FC) in which the electrolyte is phosphoric acid. [The mobile ion is hydrogen. The H+ ions are hydrated, so you can think of them as hydronium (H3O+) ions. If you remembered your high school chemistry, I wouldn't have to be explaining this.]

When running on hydrogen and oxygen, the two half-reactions are

oxidation (anode):        H2 --> 2H+ + 2e-
reduction (cathode):      O2 + 2H+ + 2e- --> H2

PAFC's operate around 200°C. This is good enough for space heating, but only marginally efficient for cogeneration; using a good catalyst (platinum), the waste heat has been used for reforming methane.

Abbreviation of PÁGina, the Spanish word for `page.'

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

PolyAcrylamide Gel Electrophoresis. See SDS-PAGE.

Programmable Aerospace Ground Equipment.

Operates in 929-931 MHz band in US.

pago a plazos
Spanish: `payment in installments.'

ParaAminoHippuric acid. The glycine amide of PABA, used in renal tests.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. A component of the exhaust gas in incomplete hydrocarbon fuel burning (i.e., some of the PIC's). A problem.

In the summer of 1996, it was announced that some meteor material, believed to have originated on Mars, contained traces of PAH's. This weak evidence, and the fact that with enough video ``enhancement,'' you could make out structures not inconsistent with cellular life, have sparked certainty among some that there was life on Mars a couple of billion years ago, before it had lost most of its atmosphere and become generally less hospitable to life. Historically, Mars has been an excellent source of things to see that aren't there.

Pan American Health Organization. (OPS in Spanish; OPAS in Portuguese.)

Smooth, ropy-looking lava. See explanation at aa (the other kind of lava -- rough and cindery).

Project Analysis and Integration.

It's not an acronym; it's capitalized because it's important. Many businesses keep a rubber stamp that says PAID in bold letters, so bills can be satisfyingly marked. This probably gave rise to the expression ``put paid to'' meaning `brought to a conclusion.' The ancient Egyptians used a fish symbol, which was a hieroglyph representing delivery.

Private Agencies in International Development. Merged with ACVA in 1984 to form InterAction.

Originally a variant spelling of the surname Page, based on the occupation of page. During the 20th century, this name had a vogue as a girls' given name in America. Possibly the film actress known as Janis Paige (born Donna Mae Jaden in 1920) had something to do with starting this.

PAtient Instruction GEnerator. From Mad Scientist Software, Inc., but on the level. The ``patient'' in the name is an attributive noun, not an adjective. This is medical software -- patient discharge instructions.

French: `bread.' This is so ridiculous I hardly know at which end to begin.

You know, I had a really good work-out yesterday, and I know it now because of the muscle aches. It hurts so good.

Spicy food works the same way. There are four major nerve ganglia conducting taste information to the brain (not counting olfactory information, which has a rather tight connection to the bottom of the brain). The information that food is spicy is detected by the same nerves that, and carried by the same nerves that, detect tissue damage. In other words, the taste for spicy hot things is the taste for pain.

Good spicy food and good exercise both make you sweat.

I was going to write ``a good work-out'' in the previous line, but after I missed the indefinite article before good, I decided to use an uncountable noun to avoid editing what I had written before. You know, the delete key is way over in the corner of the keyboard, and my arms ache.

I think ``good exercise'' worked out, but only time will tell.

Professional Association of Internes and Residents of Ontario. Yes, ``internes.'' Canadian spelling, I guess, or a nod to bilingualisme.

Public Affairs Information Service.

Spanish: `country.' Spain's leading newspaper is El País.

Passive Accessory InterVertebral Movement.

Pulmonary Atresia with Intact Ventricular Septum.

This is the entry for the country's name. For further information about the country, see the .pk entry.

The name Pakistan is fortuitous acronym, created out of a recherché selection of initials by Choudhry (also Chaudhary) Rahmat Ali. To be more precise, it was divinely inspired. To quote the inspiree:

I observed chillahs and prayed for Allah's guidance. ...I carried on till, at last, in His dispensation Allah showed me the light, and led me to the name ``Pakistan'' and to the Pak Plan....

According to a 1971 interview with his generally admiring former secretary, Miss Frost, he was led to the name while riding on the top of a London bus. It was evidently no pedestrian epiphany.

The word first appeared in a four-page leaflet entitled Now or Never, published January 28, 1933. The leaflet was signed by Rahmat Ali and three fellow students at Cambridge University. That leaflet used the form Pakstan (no letter i) and implied an expansion:

At this solemn hour in the history of India, when British and Indian statesmen are laying the foundations of a Federal Constitution for that land, we address this appeal to you, in the name of our common heritage, on behalf of our thirty million Muslim brethren who live in PAKSTAN - by which we mean the five Northern units of India, Viz: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan - for your sympathy and support in our grim and fateful struggle against political crucifixion and complete annihilation.

In 1947, Rahmat Ali published Pakistan the Fatherland of the Pak Nation (London: The Pak National Liberation Movement). On page 225 of the later work, BACK LATER! UNEXPECTED SYSTEM SHUTDOWN!

Well, we survived! I bet that glitch was the work of a saboteur from a large country on the Indian subcontinent, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. We must remain vigilant and preserve military parity!

As I was writing, on page 225 of the latter work, Rahmat Ali made the etymological testament quoted earlier, and gave the following detailed explanation and expansion:

`Pakistan' is both a Persian and an Urdu word. It is composed of letters taken from the names of our homelands--`Indian' and `Asian'. That is Punjab, Afghania (North-West Frontier Province), Kashmir, Iran, Sindh (including Kachch and Kathiawar), Tukharistan, Afghanistan and BalochistaN. It means the lands of the Paks--the spiritually pure and clean. It symbolizes the religious beliefs and the ethnical stocks of our people; and it stands for all the territorial constituents of our original Fatherland. It has no other origin and no other meaning; and it does not admit of any other interpretation.

Oh well, a little bit of inconsistency to spice the pot.

I haven't yet been able to get my hands on the cited source. The above is cribbed from Khalid B. Sayeed: Pakistan : The Formative Phase : 1857-1948 (London: Oxford Univ. Pr., 1968), p. 105. [The quoted material also appears in a first edition published in 1960 at Karachi by Pakistan Publishing House. That edition covered the longer period 1857-1960, but the later version has added material.]

To clarify some of the statements, let me note that pak means `pure' in both Urdu and Persian. For Urdu I cite William E. Alli: Basic Urdu and English Wordbook (1975). (The Urdu there is written in LRU script, q.v., to my relief.) For Persian I have the authority of A. de Biberstein Kazimirski: Dictionnaire Français-Persan (Beyrouth: Librairie du Liban, 1975), where it is the second translation offered for pur.

A more compendious source is F. Steingass: A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary (Beirut: Librairie du Liban, 1970). Given its repeated appearance, I'll mention that according to its colophon, Librairie du Liban was founded in 1944. (Librairie is a faux ami.) The volume cited is a reimpression of Steingass's 1892 first edition. According to the title page, this work is itself ``Johnson and Richardson's Persian, Arabic, and English Dictionary Revised, Enlarged, and Entirely Reconstructed.'' This practice of building progressively larger and hopefully better bilingual dictionaries on the basis of individual earlier ones is common. Often the revision will skip among different ``familiar'' or similar languages. One example is the DGE, a Greek-Spanish dictionary under construction at the turn of the twenty-first century, based on (but considerably improving upon) the LSJ, an early twentieth-century revision of a nineteenth-century Greek-English dictionary, which in turn was based on the Greek-German lexicon of Franz Passow (first edition 1819), based in turn on the Greek-German lexicon of Johann Gottlob Schneider (first edition 1797-1798).

Anyway, the point of bringing up this dictionary here is that on page 281 it gives a pretty good sense of the semantic range of pak in Persian. It can be translated `pure, chaste, innocent, clean, neat; perfect, full, complete; all, entire; downright' in various contexts.

The suffix -stan is productive in Persian and many nearby languages that Persian has influenced (some of these languages are Indo-European like Persian, and some are not); a vowel is often inserted to avoid uncomfortable consonant clusters. A related fact of some relevance: most Semitic alphabets do not normally indicate vowels, although the optional use of certain consonants [particularly the glottal stops like aleph (Hebrew) or alif (Arabic), a soft aitch (hei), and the yod] implies the presence of certain vowels. In Semitic languages, this sort of matres lectionis is generally enough to disambiguate the pronunciation, since the languages are built up out of consonantal roots with vowels determined grammatically and therefore usually inferable semantically. (And you thought English was crazy. Imagine if every spelling were as ambiguous as read or read, and most of the letters looked alike.) Persian manages using an Arabic script with the addition of four consonants for sounds not present in Arabic. Baluchi or Balochi was considered a dialect of Persian (i.e., Farsi) in 1933. Urdu is also written in Arabic characters. It was reasonable for Rahmat Ali to regard Urdu as the common language of Muslims in the region then called India (see AIML entry). However, the 1947 partition left the largest number of subcontinent Muslims, and particularly of Urdu speakers, in the new country of India. Today, the greatest number -- about half -- of Pakistanis are Punjabi speakers. Urdu is a distant third or so. As it happens, the i in Pakistan is not indicated in the usual Arabic-script spelling.

The partition also left a few millions of people dead, and Rahmat Ali's ancestral estate out of his control, and Rahmat Ali himself destitute. He was forced to leave Pakistan in 1948, returned to Cambridge and died there of influenza and a medically undiagnosed broken heart on February 3, 1951.

A distant (Polish) cognate of the suffix -stan is exampled in the AHD4 online entry for the word Pakistan at <Bartleby.com>.

Just as I did before at the mondegreen entry, I will now pat myself loudly on the back for thoroughness and accuracy. Now we'll make some invidious comparisons, but we won't call them that. Instead we'll just say that this is an informative measure of how far short of accuracy and perfection some other reference works may stop.

  1. The American Heritage Dictionary, 4/e, as noted, explains the -stan suffix (very) extensively, and gives the year the name was coined, but it does not mention the `purity' sense or give any information about the originator of the term. Furthermore, it gives the limited expansion Punjab, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and BaluchISTAN, which Rahmat Ali would surely have deemed incorrect both in 1933 and 1947.
  2. The Oxford English Dictionary doesn't like to explain proper nouns. It has an entry for Pakistani, indicating a terminus ante quem of 1941 for first use of that word.
  3. The Encyclopedia Britannica (vol. 21, p. 107, in the edition of 2002) explains ``In 1933 a group of Cambridge Muslim students, led by Choudhry Rahmat Ali, proposed that the only acceptable solution to Muslim India's internal conflicts and problems would be the birth of a Muslim ``fatherland,'' to be called Pakistan (Persian: ``Land of the Pure''), out of the Muslim-majority northwestern and northeastern provinces,'' but does not mention the acronym expansion. As the expansion makes clear, only northwestern provinces and neighboring states are mentioned. Rahmat Ali coined the name Pakistan to refer only to what was initially West Pakistan, and what has been Pakistan only since the secession of East Pakistan (to become Bangladesh) at the end of 1971. Rahmat Ali published a map of the subcontinent showing three allied but independent Muslim nations: Pakistan in the Northwest, Bang-i-Islam composed of Bengal and Assam in the Northeast (corresponding to Bangladesh plus some part of the current Indian states of Assam and Bengol), and Usmanistan in the South (Hyderabad).

None of these gives you the bonus information that in the Persian language, the adjective parsa means `pure, chaste, devout, pious, holy, religious, abstinent, continent, above reproach; legitimate, lawfully born; clever, skillful, adroit in business' as well as `Persian.'

Do not conflate Choudhry Rahmat Ali with Chaudhri (or Chowdri, or various other Romanizations, including Choudhry) Mohammed Ali, who served as Prime Minister of Pakistan in the mid-fifties. This website on freeserve.co.uk has extensive information on Rahmat Ali (1897-1951), who read law at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. This other one was put together by Dr. Tom (Taufiq) Shelley, who conducted the interview with Miss Frost quoted above.

Phase Alternate Line. TV standard used in Britain, Germany, and most of the rest of western Europe excluding France (which uses SECAM). Nowadays (2006, anyway), most SECAM video players have dual-standard capability built in (i.e., they also play PAL); PAL players, even in Europe, cannot normally play SECAM.

PAL was first developed in Germany as an improvement of the American (NTSC) system. The main difference is indicated by the acronym expansion, which is meant to imply that the method for encoding hue is reversed between lines. Thus, if some error causes the even-numbered lines to be too cyan, the same error will cause odd-numbered lines to be too magenta. The human eye averages the lines together and one sees accurate hues in spite of the error. Hence the colloquial expansion of PAL: ``Perfection At Last.'' Another colloquial expansion is ``Pay A Lot.'' The European version of PAL uses a 4.43 MHz subcarrier to multiplex color information.

More information, particularly on different alphabetically named flavors of PAL, at the video encoding entry.

Police Athletic League. An early version of the midnight-basketball idea: sponsor activities to keep kids off the street and out of trouble.

Program Array Logic. Used for address decoding in 32-bit microprocessors.

Programmable Array of Logic. Proprietary (trademarked) name of Programmable Logic Device. Made by MMI (which was later absorbed by AMD).

Enhanced-fidelity PAL for those who want to burn money now and invest in analog technology that is still the same old 625 (or 525) lines of vertical resolution. The thing is not yet completely specified, however, so ghost cancellation may eventually be included. This last will be welcome news to cable viewers, sure. Read all about it. I'm sure it makes sense for some viewers, but really, what good is high-fidelity bilge?

N-(PhosphoAcetyl)-L-Aspartic acid.

Feminine noun in Spanish: `shovel.' Cognate of palette.

C-like assembly (ASM) language for coding PAL's.

Plasma-Addressed Liquid Crystal. An approach to large-screen display developed by Fujitsu, and jointly by Sony and Tektronix, in which the plasma switches the LC displays on.

Pennsylvannia Academic Library Connection Initiative.

A word or phrase that `reads the same' backwards as forwards. We mention a few palindromic business names at the Yreka entry.

Jerome K. Jerome's middle name was Klapka, in honor of Hungarian general George (I guess that's Györgi or something) who was staying with the Jeromes when he was born in 1859.

A poem that retracts a claim made in a previous poem. The opportunity to use this word arises very infrequently. Make sure you know it so you'll be ready when that rare chance comes.

Private Academic Library Network of Indiana.

A Spanish word meaning `stick.' I promised you an entry for this word when I wrote the São entry, and here it is. Needless to say, the entry is still under construction.

A broomstick is a ``palo de escoba.'' Polo sticks, golf clubs, and baseball bats are all palos.

Outside the Iberian peninsula, palo (and its Portuguese cognate pau) are used for various trees and bushes.

The most common diminutive forms of palo are palito and palillo. The word palillo occurs in the list item for limpiadientes in the limpia entry.

Positron-Annihilation Lifetime Spectroscopy.

An opposition political party in Congo/Kinshasa that is loyal to the nationalist ideals of Congolese independence leader PAtrice LUmumba.

Package for Analogue Modeling. An ol' digital software product.

pam, PAM
PAMphlet. When libraries shelve pamphlets, staple-bound (``saddle-stitched'') magazines, and similar thin materials individually, they apply hard covers without a round or creased binding rather than a flat back. This is called ``pam binding'' (``pam'' is pronounced like the nickname of Pamela) and the items are said to be ``pam bound.'' The title and call-number tag must go on the cover, making shelf-browsing inconvenient. They also take up a lot more space than as multiple issues bound together in volumes.

Payload Assist Module. NASA acronym.

Pregnancy After Miscarriage. There's a mailing list, called both PAM and PAML.

Pulse-Amplitude Modulation.

Plasma-Assisted Molecular Beam Epitaxy. Now all we need is Neutralino-Assisted MBE, and we're set.

A novel (1740-41) of insipid manners and detestable morals, by Samuel Richardson. The full title was, inappropriately enough, Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded. This was an epistolary novel, not to be confused with a pistolary novel like Mario Puzo's The Godfather (1969). Many regard Pamela as the first English novel. Barf. The greatest virtue of this thing was that it immediately inspired Henry Fielding to write a parody (Shamela) or two (Joseph Andrews).

I figured Fielding for a kindred spirit, and didn't bother to read the parodies at first. Instead, I read his Tom Jones. That worked out for the best, because I'm not sure whether we are kindred spirits after all. When I finally got around to reading Shamela, I discovered that his parody turns Pamela into a floozie who is constantly trying to seduce the rake. The next paragraph is a SPOILER for Pamela:

In Pamela, the heroine goes to work for a young, rich, and attractive rake, on his estate (the story is told in her letters back home). He tries to seduce and then rape her, but she resists and he fails, and eventually he falls in love with her and marries her. What offended me was that she was happy to marry a man who tried to rape her (never mind that he was even a failure at that). If I had lived in that time, I would also have been offended that she was willing to marry a man who had tried to seduce her. In Rick Santelli's famous words, it's ``rewarding bad behavior!'' In an accurate version of the subtitle, it is ``Viciousness Rewarded.'' There's a somewhat relevant Spanish proverb here: ``Contra el vicio de pedir hay la virtud de no dar.'' [`Against the vice of asking there is the virtue of refusing.']

Well, it seems we don't have a Pamela Anderson entry, so this will have to do. I need a place to mention that in 2003, she sent a letter to David Novak, chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC. It included the following wonderful declaration of incomprehension:

``I can't understand why a company that claims to care about animal welfare would continue to allow chickens to be bred and drugged to be so top-heavy they can barely walk.

At least they don't do it surgically.

Pregnancy After Miscarriage List. I suppose it was written PAM-L on some earlier list-management software.

Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists. A list of mailing lists, apparently defunct when I looked for it in July 2006. The last time I checked (probably before 2003) it was small (about 8000 mailing lists) but fairly up-to-date. It also tended to be focused on less frivolous lists, or at least ones that were not of extremely parochial interest, and it also has an extremely distinguished history, having been maintained for a number of years by the net.god Spaf.

Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association. It has a reciprocal membership agreement with NEMLA.

Pennsylvania Area Mobile Radar Experiment. A field experiment developed by instructors at Penn State. It utilizes the Doppler On Wheels (DOW) radars maintained by the Center for Severe Weather Research (in Boulder, CO). The experiment is used in conjunction with a fairly traditional lecture course in radar meteorology. It's described in ``Integrating classroom learning and reseach: The Pennsylvania Area Mobile Radar Experiment (PAMREX),'' by Yvette Richardson, Paul Markowski, Johannes Verlinde, and Joshua Wuran, which appeared in vol. 89, issue 8, of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (August 2008), pp. 1097ff.

PanAmerican Montessori Society.

PAM 250
Accepted Point Mutation (sorry, I didn't make up the order) 250. Dayhoff's symbol comparison table for amino acid sequence mutations, based on (very roughly speaking) 250 generations.

In Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese (the third got it from the second): `bread.'


A Greek god?

Partido Acción Nacional. Mexico's `National Action Party.' The official expansion has no preposition, but PAN is often expanded as Partido de Acción Nacional. Members, candidates, and supporters are often called panistas (that's a common-gender noun, like periodistas), q.v.

The PAN was founded in 1939, part of the reaction to the leftist presidency of Cárdenas (a bit on him at the PRI entry). Mexico was essentially a single-party state, however, and it was not until 1989, fifty years later, that PAN won -- or was allowed to win, as they say -- its first governorship (Baja California).

In 2000, PAN candidate Vicente Fox Quesada won the presidential election, bringing to an end over seventy years of PRI government. (Don't ask me what PRI stands for! If you weren't so lazy, you would have followed the link in the last paragraph and found out. Besides, at the time Cárdenas took control of the party, it wasn't called Partido Revolucionario Institucional yet.) Among major Mexican parties, the PAN is and always has been politically to the right of the PRI, which is to the right of the PRD.

PeroxyAcetyl Nitride. The most common of the peroxyacyl nitrates (PANs, q.v.) found in the atmosphere. Discovered in the 1950's by smog chemists working with plant biologists to determine the cause of crop damage in southern California (CA, at the entry for which there is no relevant information).

Personal Area Networking. A planned communications environment in which PDA's, laptops, mobile phones and other wireless-capable IT devices automatically find and use each other to pass data and act as gateways onto other systems. Take a moment now and say ``wow!''

PolyAcryloNitrile. A starting material for commercial carbon fibers.

There's an informative PAN entry in the Macrogalleria.

Programa Alimentario Nacional. `[Argentine] national nutrition program.' Cf. pan.

PanAfrican News Agency. I've also seen this as ``Pan African News Agency.'' It's not often that an organization's name tells you how to react to it.

Jean Kerr wrote this in the article ``Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, I Don't Want to Hear One Word Out of You,'' in The Snake Has All the Lines (1960):
I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep.
That's deep enough. What do you want--an adorable pancreas?

The pancreas is a longish gland that lies sort of behind and under the stomach. It contains little regions called islets of Langerhans, which contain beta cells. Beta cells produce insulin.

The name pancreas was constructed from Greek pan + kréas, `all flesh.' (The compound word was spelled págkreas in Greek. To understand where the n went, see this ng entry.) The name means `sweetbread.' The Greeks called those organs `all flesh' because if you would eat that you'd eat anything, yuck! That's my hypothesis, anyway.

In the Platonic dialogue Theaetetus, at 185e, this character Socrates says the following {tr. Harold North Fowler}:

Why, you are beautiful, Theaetetus, and not, as Theodorus said, ugly; for he who speaks beautifully is beautiful and good.

Oh yeah, that Socko -- such a sweetheart.

(Jean Kerr, best known for writing Please Don't Eat the Daisies, was born 1923.07.10 and died 2003.1.5. She was married to Walter Kerr, drama critic for the New York Times. This meant that she got to attend the first night of every Broadway show for free, and if she got a headache that evening the show would probably close in a week.)

A genus of bivalves with fragile shells.

An extension of Parlog with a deadlock-handling mechanism and a ``lazy'' form of don't-know non-determinism.

A kind of fish. The common pandora, Pagellus erythrinus, can live up to at least ten years, and reach lengths of at least 37 cm. Pandora is very good at accumulating mercury.

A moon of Saturn. Pandora and Prometheus are shepherd satellites for Saturn's F ring. Pandora is very heavily cratered, Prometheus less so. An article by P.J. Stooke in Earth, Moon, and Planets, vol. 62, #3 (Sept. 1993), pp. 199-221, is entitled ``The Shapes and Surface-Features of Prometheus and Pandora.'' The article, based on NASA Voyager images, estimates the shape of Pandora as a triaxial ellipsoid with axes of 114, 84, and 62 km, and Prometheus as a triaxial ellipsoid with axes of 145, 85, and 60 km.

A ten-box oceanographic mass- and heat-flow simulation program.

Prototyping A Navigation Database Of Road-network Attributes. A project to create and test a prototype navigation database (for land vehicles) that was supported in the early 1990's by the EU's DRIVE. Collaborators included the (UK) Automobile Association, the Ordnance Survey, Philips BV and Robert Bosch GmbH.

Pandora moth
Coloradia pandora. An ``endemic defoliator.' Research shows that ``pandora moths did not discriminate among colors in the visible spectrum'' and ``did not respond to projected light for at least 1 h after dusk.'' This is reported in ``Attraction and direct mortality of pandora moths, Coloradia pandora (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae), by nocturnal fire,'' by A.A. Gerson and R.G. Kelsey, in Forest Ecology and Management, vol. 98, #1, pp. 71-75 (Oct. 22, 1997).


Pandora's box
It was a jar, not a box.

Contraction of propane. Learn more about it after reading all the way through most of the irrelevant octane-number entry.

panelbase poll
A poll of respondents to a previous poll.

PolyANIline. A conducting polymer. Allied Signal is producing it right here in Buffalo under license from Zipperling Kessler & Co. (Well, ``right here'' in Buffalo, since there isn't here anymore.)

PeroxyAcyl NitrideS. Sound like they ought to be related to the pterodactyl nitrides. Well, PANs are a class of oxidants produced by oxidation of hydrocarbons and oxygenates (aldehydes, ketones, etc.) in the troposphere. The most abundant one is peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN, q.v.). The higher analogs peroxypropionyl nitrate (PPN) and peroxybutryl nitrate (PBN) are also found. PANs are poisonous to plants and to your eyes, and they're mutagens too. If they were manufactured intentionally they'd probably be illegal under the Geneva conventions on chemical warfare.

I'm trying to come up with a joke about extinction here, but I haven't yet.

Positive And Negative Syndrome Scale (for schizophrenia). Not the same as SANS plus SAPS. PANSS is an evaluation instrument with three distinct scales: positive and negative scales with seven items each, and a general psychopathology scale with 16 items. Each item is scored on a seven-point scale:
  1. Absent
  2. Minimal
  3. Mild
  4. Moderate
  5. Moderately severe
  6. Severe
  7. Extreme

The positive (P) and negative (N) scales attempt to measure symptoms positively and negatively correlated (respectively) with schizophrenia, and the general scale (G) is intended to provide a kind of baseline or background measure of psychopathology. Items in the P scale include evidence of delusions (P1), grandiosity (P5), and hostility (P7); N scale items include blunted affect (N1) and stereotyped thinking (N7). The G scale includes [inappropriate] somatic concern (G1), anxiety (G2), guilt feelings (G3), depression (G6), disorientation (G10), and active social avoidance (G16). The scores are based on patient responses to an interview, which should take 30-40 minutes. It seems that most of my favorite people have no psychopathology but are totally schizophrenic.

(BTW: a majority of webpages describing the seven-point scale describe level 4 by the term ``moderate severe.'' This probably reflects the fact that the test was originally developed by German-speakers. In German, the adverb/adjective distinction is indicated, if at all, by number/gender/case inflection of the adjective -- inflection that does not occur in English. Many published articles and webpages also renumber the scale to run from 1 to 7.)

A combined encyclopedia and dictionary published in twelve volumes in London in 1813. Also identified as Good and Gregory's New Cyclopædia.

I was sitting in the Campus Cafe, eating my tuna taco and Greek salad and minding my own business (minding my own business wasn't something I was eating, it was something I was doing) when behind me a woman asked, ``those are your pants, right?'' I never looked back, and I've never regretted it.

Public Affairs Officer. The military (US, at least) has them.

(Partial) Pressure of Alveolar Oxygen. An abbreviation used in medicine. The ``2'' is used so that on hearing a phrase like ``his PAO2 is at dangerously low levels,'' you won't make the natural mistake of supposing that he's not getting enough Kung Pao Chicken. ``Stat, nurse, administer chop-sticks. Chop-chop!''

PAP, Pap
PAPanicolaou. George Papanicolaou invented the ``PAP smear,'' a cervical-cancer screening tool. Cf. VIA.

Participatory Anthropic Principle. See Martin Gardner: ``WAP, SAP, FAP, and PAP,'' New York Review of Books, May 8, 1987.

Password Authentication Protocol. A not-very-secure protocol. When a link is established, a two-way handshake is used to establish identity only once. Passwords are sent over the media in text format, which offers no protection from playback attacks. This protocol is the electronic equivalent of wearing a ``kick me'' sign on the back of your shirt, and it's probably still the most common in dial-up networking (DUN).

People's Armed Police (of the PRC).

Polish Press Agency. First ``reverse Polish notation,'' now this! Can't these guys do anything in the normal order?

Printer Access Protocol.

Prostatic Acid Phosphatase.

Italian: `popeables.' Cardinals who are considered to be pope material.

Italian: `buzzing insects.' (The singular form is paparazzo.) Some stars also call these free-lance celebrity photographers ``stalkerazzi.''

papar moscas
This also has to do with insects, but the orthographic resemblance is accidental. In Spanish, the principal sense of the verb papar is `to eat without chewing.' It doesn't mean simply `to swallow'; it's more like `to eat [as one eats] pap.' Similar-sounding Spanish words that may not be related, like páparo, also have negative connotations.

(Papar probably is related to the English word pap. However, there are a large number of similar-sounding Germanic and Romance words with closely related meanings, and their interrelationships are unclear. Because of the first Germanic sound shift, IE roots that yielded Latin words beginning in p would have yielded Germanic terms beginning in f, so these separate sources probably don't correspond to a IE common root. It could also simply be imitative.)

Mosca, of course, means `fly' -- the insect, not the action. One of the first articles in the Journal of Irreproducible Results was an analysis some centuries hence of texts uncovered at the archaelogical site called Tel-el-New-York. The texts dated back to the early twentieth century, and reported mysterious doings that were very difficult to understand. Focusing on the terms ``pop fly,'' ``sacrifice fly,'' and ``bat,'' the future anthropologist proposed that ``fly'' was probably not the small and insignificant insect (Latin name musca; see also Mus), but instead a bird, and that the texts described rituals of flying-animal sacrifice. Hey -- ornithology or orthography, it's all good.

Coincidentally, a few days ago, early in the twenty-first century and late in the second game of the ALDS, a swarm of flies afflicted the New York Yankees as the rival Indians were behind and at bat. The Indians went ahead in that inning and went on to win. It looked very suspiciously like unscrupulous divine powers had placed some heavy bets on Cleveland. Following Augustine, I believe because it is absurd.

[Incidentally, the JIR article stuff is from memory, so some details are likely to be off. The article was reprinted in one of the many collections of selected articles from JIR -- articles in this genre age well -- but it's not in the one I have to hand, which is The Best of the Journal of Irreproducible Results: ``Improbable Investigations & Unfounded Findings'' (New York: Workman Publishing, 1983).]

Pulling all of this together, or even pulling just a little bit of it together, and leaving the rest in a pile to the side for later investigation, you see that papar moscas means `to eat flies like pap.' Obviously, the phrase is not usually meant literally, else the phrase wouldn't be any more common than the equally useful ``churning the thumbtacks.'' What it is understood to mean is `to be idle, with one's mouth agape.'

I thought of this phrase and decided to add an entry for it to the glossary when I saw yet another person sitting in front of a terminal with her mouth open. I suspect that the widespread prejudice against people whose mouths are habitually agape (or even those who are frequently slack-jawed) and the belief that they are stupid, arise from the fact that they are stupid. I'd estimate 20 IQ points, at least, separate the average intelligence of the habitually slack-jawed and the habitually closed-jawed. It should be a consolation to people suffering from TMJ.

Look, if your nose is stuffed, take a decongestant. The least you can do is pout seductively, with your lips sensually parted. Of course, you're probably not the sort of person who read all the way down to this paragraph.

paper driver
A person who has a driver's license but no car. A Japanese English term (wasei eigo) pronounced in what would be transliterated from katakana as peipaa doraibaa.

``Baby Driver'' is track seven of Simon and Garfunkel's 1970 album Bridge Over Troubled Waters. I wonder how your engines feel.

paper street
A street that exists on paper only. Specifically, on the paper of the city plan. Often, maps based on these will show a street that doesn't exist. Two indications of a paper street: back-to-back empty lots in an otherwise dense development and house-numbering anomalies (typically, a block with two centuries of house numbers).


Parabolic Aluminized Reflector. See PAR lamp.

Plant a Row for the Hungry. Sounds like victory gardens in the war on poverty. ``PAR's mission is to help alleviate hunger in America by increasing donations of much-needed garden produce to food banks, soup kitchens and food service organizations at the local community level.'' More at GWAF.

Preferencia Arancelaria Regional. Spanish, `regional tariff preference.' That is, a regional agreement that establishes reduced trade tariffs.

Spanish noun meaning `pair' and adjective meaning `even[ly divisible by two].'

An environment-friendly name for PABA. No electrons were killed in the creation of this glossary entry. I can't say the same for brain cells, but aren't brain cells really part of the problem, after all?

A Spanish masculine noun meaning `parachute.' It's being considered for official ``queer Spanish word'' status. The word is apparently constructed from para (`it stops') and caidas (`falls'). The word parachute was formed in precisely the same way, but in French.

paradigm shift
Outside the speaker's limited experience.

A Spanish masculine noun meaning `umbrella.' It's an official ``queer Spanish word.'' The word is apparently constructed from para (`it stops') and aguas (`waters'). (There's a little play in the interpretation or translation of para, but the aguas is definitely a plural noun. See plural nouns in stock Spanish terms.

This is the second most common spelling of a word synonymous with preterition. (Details of the meaning are discussed in the final paragraph.) The most common spelling is paralipsis. The different spellings arise thus: the spelling with ei is a direct transliteration of the Greek original into English, while the spelling with i is the transliteration of the Greek into Latin, borrowed thence into English. The next two paragraphs spell this out (sorry) in greater detail.

The original Greek spelling of the word has epsilon and iota following lambda, so that the head term (or paráleipsis) is the standard direct transliteration into English. It happens that the formal diphthong epsilon-iota was regularly rendered as i in Latin transliteration. Thus, for example, the Greek name Aristeídês became Aristides in Latin, Eukleídês became Euclides, and Herákleitos Heraclitus. Likewise with common words like peiratês, pirata in Latin (and also Spanish), whence pirate in French and English.

The reason that Latin did not simply reproduce the diphthong is that ``ei'' pronounced in Latin would have had a pronunciation like a ``long a'' in Modern English, whereas, by the third century BCE, epsilon-iota in Greek (at least in Attic Greek, and in emerging Koine) was a long (in vowel quantity) monophthong that worked out to correspond more closely to Latin i than to other Latin monophthongs. (The earlier pronunciation of epsilon-iota, even restricting the question to the Attic dialect, is a little bit muddled and may include both monophthong and diphthong pronunciations that merged. Eventually, this and a number of other vowels converged on the sound of iota.) It should be noted that the word paraleipsis was not used in Latin until the post-classical period. After all, there was preterition.

Interestingly, there was a common Greek word parálêpsis, with meanings related to `taking over, receipt.' This was apparently never borrowed by Latin, but if it had been, then the eta would very probably have been transliterated as an e, to give paralepsis. However, I doubt that confusion between these two Greek words explains the occurrence of the -lepsis spelling in English for the word discussed above (paraleipsis). My guess, based on inadequate research, is that paralipsis became paralepsis in medieval Latin and was borrowed in the latter form into English. (Cf. classical Latin verecundia, with accusative verecundiam. Medieval logicians gave us argumentum ad vericundiam -- note the i -- as the name of a standard type of fallacious argument, and theirs is still the much more common spelling.) The seventeenth century saw the beginning of a conscious and widespread effort to return to a ``purer,'' more classical Latin (except, of course, in pronunciation, which has remained ever a botch). In some cases, the medieval forms had become entrenched, as in the case of the ad vericundiam fallacy, or the ecclesiastical baculus (`staff,' classical baculum). In the case of paralepsis, the reversion to paralipsis was evidently much more successful. The direct transliteration from Greek (paraleipsis) must also have been part of the more general movement away from indirect borrowing through Latin transliterations. This movement gained strength through the second half of the nineteenth century, and the relative prevalence of the paraleipsis spelling appears to reflect that.

The Greek word paráleipsis was constructed from the verb paraleípein and the nominalizing ending -sis. (Of course, in the compound, the second pi in the root combines with first sigma in the suffix so together they are represented by a single letter psi.) Paraleípein is `to leave' in various senses of the English word (except `depart'), including `to leave aside' and `to leave unsaid.' Hence, paráleipsis is a noun meaning `neglect, disregard, ommission.' Do I really have to finish this long entry? No! I pronounce myself done. For a considered usage suggestion, see our entry for the synonymous preterition.

One of three still-extant spellings of a rhetorical trope now more often spelled paralipsis or paraleipsis. This entry's spelling (paralepsis) dates from the 16th century in English. Judging from the evidence the OED can adduce, it seems to have been the original and standard form, before being supplanted by paralipsis. of OED quotations. (This is perhaps a noteworthy achievement, since standardized spelling was not a particular strength of that century.) Of the three extant spellings, however, it is also the one that probably enjoys the least etymological justification. (Words have feelings about their etymologies, you know. Every year during Golden Week, they journey back to the graves of their etymons among the dead languages. On top of the heading-stones, they leave small memorial tokens -- grave accents.) For more about the etymological progression of spellings, and for less important stuff about the meaning, see the paraleipsis entry.

Many faithful readers of the glossary have written in to ask why we don't also mention that guidance on choosing the best synonym to use can be found at the preterition. There's no reason -- we just don't, that's all.

Another name for preterition, q.v. For the history of the spelling, see paraleipsis, above. (I really, really don't want to add ``cf. apophasis.'')

Here, in P. Fleury Mottelay's translation, is the beginning (actually about the first third) of chapter XII (``The Magnetic Horizon'') of book II of William Gilbert's De Magnete:
  An horizon is a great circle separating the things seen from those that are out of sight, as one half of the heavens is always plainly visible while another half is always hid. So it seems to us by reason of the great distance of the starry sphere; yet the difference is in the ratio of the earth's semi-diameter to the semi-diameter of the starry heavens--a difference not perceived by the senses. ...

So far, paralympic medal events are 800-meter and 1500-meter wheelchair races.

Mary had a little lamb
And a little duck.
She put them on the mantel
To see if they would fall off.

Fear of Friday the thirteenth.

Every month has about a chance in seven of having a Friday the 13th. (Over the long term, it would be exactly one seventh if the Gregorian calendar didn't have a periodicity that is an integer number of weeks. It might still be exactly one seventh, but I can't be bothered to compute it, and it's doubtless pretty close.)

It is unknown when the superstition arose that Friday the 13th is an ill-omened day. One explanation is that it is that Pope Clement V and King Phillip the Fair of France (or their bailiff or somebody) arrested Templar Jacques de Molay on Friday, October 13, 1307. If you'd believe that, you would believe that... okay, let's not go there. Somehow, out of all the calamitous events of the fourteenth century, this does not seem quite momentous or portentious enough to be the origin.

I think what probably happened is that someone stubbed his toe some Friday the thirteenth, and invented the story that this day was unlucky so he could show off that he could count that high. It sounded like useful information to some people who heard the story -- sort of a poor-man's astrology: no need for complicated star-charts and expensive sooth-sayers. It wasn't immediately refutable, so the story spread quickly and became a widely accepted truth -- perhaps occasionally a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Eventually it got back to the originator, who thought ``Gee, I guess I was on to something after all.'')

More at the entry for the number 13.

It sounds like something to go with a tactic, but it's actually the adjective that goes with the substantive term parataxis.

It's plural and it looks like trouble for the bottom line. See by what vehicle you may escape.

It looks like it ought to refer to some form of transportation related to taxis, but the i is short and it's actually the substantive related to the adjective paratactic.

What's that? You say you want to know what the heck it means, already? Oh sure, check out the asyndeton entry.

Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center of legend.

Prison Activist Resource Center.

A surname based on an Old French oath. Details at the Depardieu entry.

Pardew, Pardey
Surnames of English origin, based on an Old French oath. Details at the Depardieu entry.

A Spanish word meaning `dark' or `brown.' Hence, also a surname. On October 18, 2005, Prof. José Luis Pardo received Spain's Premio Nacional de Ensayo (`National Essay Award') for La regla del juego (Galaxia Gutenberg / Círculo de Lectores, 2004). The title means `the rule of the game'; in the work he reflects on how difficult philosophy is and defends its utility. Awww.

According to Hanks and Hodges (1988), this is a Spanish and Portuguese nickname for someone with tawny hair, from pardo, meaning `dusky, brown, dark grey.' So far, so good. They derive the surname Pardal from the Portuguese word pardal, meaning `sparrow,' and claim that this word is derived from pardo. They go on to claim that pardo is derived from the Latin pardus, meaning `leopard,' and that in Late Latin the word was joined to the more familiar leo, `lion,' to yield leopardus (source of other surnames) and that then ``the second element, -pardus, was taken to be a distinguishing adj. referring to the dark spots and so acquired the status of an independent vocab. element.''

Corominas y Pascual, in their Spanish etymological dictionary, have a more nuanced and careful view and (between pardal and pardo) a couple of dense pages of supporting detail. They argue that the Spanish adjective pardo was derived directly either from the Latin pardus (from the Greek párdos), meaning `leopard,' or from the Greek párdalos, which designated either a sparrow or a very similar bird (thence pardal). The similarity of the Greek words apparently reflects the similarity of the two animals' colors. (The more common Spanish word for sparrow is now gorrión; the dictionary of the Real Academia gives pardo specifically as the color of the head of the sparrow common in Spain, with the neck chestnut.) Corominas y Pascual acknowledge the possibility that for the unlearned, the false analysis based on leo pardus is natural, but the evidence is at least equally consistent with direct local survival of the sparrow or cat name, or both.

A surname of English origin, based on an Old French oath. Details at the Depardieu entry. Cf. pardo.

A surname of English origin, based on an Old French oath. Details at the Depardieu entry.

parenthetical remark
A rhetorical device (for inserting indefensible opinion into a purported description).

People who consistently overestimate their need for information. Then when they finally get it -- sure enough, they're angry! You'd think that'd teach them, but they're ineducable.

pariah priest
Is this like those old rockers Judas Priest? Where would he... Oh! Parish priest. Spellings don't map smoothly to meanings.

A Homeric fool-for-love, and a town in Arkansas, California, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Ontario (not listed at this link, but trust me: close to London), Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin. There's also one in Europe.

Mary McCarthy disliked giving interviews. She gave great talking head, though, because she was compulsively honest. At one time, she called Paris ``a city of notaries and concierges'' where ``love and youth are as short-lived as the mating season of birds.'' In 1971 when she was asked yet again how she liked living in Paris, she answered that ``Everybody gets on each other's nerves. They're in a permanent state of irascibility.'' (These assessments are collected at pp. x-xi of Conversations with Mary McCarthy, ed. Carol Gelderman.)

Polarized Angle-Resolved Infrared Spectroscopy. See, for example, this abstract in the APS March meeting, 1995.

Paris, the Judgment of
There's really no need for this entry, but here's something relevant from ch. 25 of Agatha Christie's 1933 mystery Lord Edgware Dies (published in the US as Thirteen for Dinner). This chapter is written in the first person of Captain Hastings, the usual not-entirely-reliable narrator of Hercule Poirot's adventures.
    Seeing Jane's beauty and appreciating the charm that her exquisitely husky voice lent to the most trite utterances, I could hardly wonder at his [the Duke of Merton's] capitulation. But one can get used to perfect beauty and an intoxicating voice! It crossed my mind that perhaps even now a ray of common-sense was dissipating the mists of intoxicated love. It was a chance remark--a rather humiliating gaffe on Jane's part that gave me that impression.
    Somebody--I forget who--had uttered the phrase ``judgment of Paris,'' and straight away Jane's delightful voice was uplifted.
    ``Paris?'' she said. ``Why, Paris doesn't cut any ice nowadays. It's London and New York that count.''
    As sometimes happens, the words fell in a momentary lull of conversation. It was an awkward moment. On my right I heard Donald Ross draw in his breath sharply. Mrs. Widburn began to talk violently about Russian opera. Everyone hastily said something to somebody else. Jane alone looked serenely up and down the table without the least consciousness of having said anything amiss.
    It was then I noticed the Duke. His lips were drawn tightly together, he had flushed, and it seemed to me as though he drew slightly away from Jane. He must have had a foretaste of the fact that for a man of his position to marry a Jane Wilkinson might lead to some awkward contretemps.

(Hyphen, long dashes, and periods sic, incidentally.)

Having the same number of syllables in all inflections. This adjective is useful in distinguishing among different nouns and adjectives of the Latin third declension.

parka and miniskirt
November in Indiana. (And January in Arizona. Brrrr! A chilly 70 Fahrenheit!)

Polish for `parking lot.' It also means `parking space.' Hence the plural parkingi is also used in the sense of `parking availability.'

Parking, like park (which is Polish for `park' of the arboreal sort), is slang for `cemetery.' This shows that it's good to look things up even if you have good reason to think you know what they mean.

[Football icon]

This looks like ordinary English, but it isn't quite. It's an English-like expression used in the liturgical language of Notre Dame, a church-run school in Indiana (Church-of-Holy-Football, a non-oblate sect of holy rollers). The phrase appears on signs at parking lots around campus. Read as ordinary English, it seems to imply that the usual hang tags and stickers for on-campus parking are not valid after 6 AM on days of worship (``game days''), and that if you are parked in your regular lot without a special permit after 6:00 AM on the day of a home game, your car is subject to towing (at owner's expense, as some signs point out). Quite by coincidence, this turns out to be absolutely correct. However, if you don't know the local language, you will fail to realize the entire significance of the sign. The entire significance is that cars will begin to be towed at 5:30 AM.

The special no-parking language of Notre Dame (Latin motto: Footballisus) bears such a close resemblance to English that you may not realize when it is being used. This can cause confusion. For example, on the Friday night before the first home game of the 2008 season, I asked the guard at the east gate where I could park on campus overnight, and he suggested that I use my regular lot, ``but make sure you get out by 6 am.'' In plain English, of course, what he was saying was `get out by 5:30 am if you don't want your car towed.'

The guard was evidently a fluent speaker of Notre Dame no-parking English, as was the towing crew which I encountered in the parking lot the next morning at 5:45 AM and that efficiently unloaded my car from the flatbed. The guard had probably supposed, quite innocently, that I too was fluent in no-parking. After all, it's the same language that's used in the parking regulations brochure that you get with your sticker or hang tag. (Oh, I suppose one might consider the possibility that the guard was not fluent in no-parking, and that he was unwittingly repeating what he had read in a brochure or on a no-parking sign as if it had been written in English -- mispronouncing it, so to speak. However, that would require not only that (1) he have assumed that the sign or whatever was written in English, but furthermore that (2) I was a fluent English speaker, (3) just like himself. That all seems like too much of a coincidence, requiring the stars to line up just right and all, so it was probably just my mistake. Either that or ND is in a very special time zone.)

See also NO Football Parking, $6.

PAR lamp
Parabolic Aluminized Reflector LAMP. PAR lamps are made from heavy, heat-resistant glass, with the inside back surface shaped like a paraboloid of revolution (with a reflective aluminum coat).

Interesting that R lamps and PAR lamps both use parabolic reflector back surfaces, and in R lamps they are often aluminized. The important difference between R and PAR lamps is that PAR lamps use heavy-duty glass. It can be seen that illumination engineers are not very bright.

From an Old French word meaning talk-shop (vide hyphen).

A PARallel LOGic programming language. Specifically, an and-parallel variant of Prolog. Parlog++ and Polka are object-oriented extensions of Parlog. I should find out what all that stands for, sure.


Let's try to get this straight: in the Platonic dialogue Parmenides, Plato does not exactly argue against ideal forms. He merely presents the strongest arguments against them that he can see. Aristotle saw a bit different.


This philosopher argued that you couldn't describe a thing completely in terms of negative qualities, and somehow argued himself from that into the dubious position that there were no distinctions or change, and that every distinction or appearance of change is illusory. In three hundred words or fewer, explain how he would have reacted to Java applets. Give examples from Democritus of Abdera and Zeno. If you want to cheat, you can visit appropriate links at the FDT entry.

According to Pool, in 19th-century England ``[c]ertain convicts were excused from having to serve their whole sentence under an `order of license,' known colloquially as a ticket-of-leave. If they misbehaved, they went back in jail.'' This is Pool's glossary entry (p. 381) for ``ticket-of-leave man.'' (My copy of Pool's book is an American edition, so the spelling in the entry is no evidence for use of the spelling license in preference to licence.)


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

Comparing this definition with that of oxytone, you notice that grave accent isn't mentioned. That's because a grave accent only appears on the ultima, replacing an acute accent when another word follows immediately (i.e., when there is no punctuation mark following the word to be modified), unless it's in a quote or, Zeus help you, in the dangerous vicinity of an enclitic. You are not the first person to wonder what great utility there is in this. Modern Greek is ``monotonic,'' meaning that it only uses one accent mark.

Cf. also proparoxytone.

As you probably have guessed, the word paroxysm was invented to describe the reaction of students to so-called ``explanations'' (apologies, it should be) for Greek accents.

parrot head, parrothead
A dedicated fan of the singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett. Frequently capitalized, and sometimes written with a double t (``Parrotthead'') to reflect the double t in Buffett.

The term was reportedly coined by Timothy B. Schmit, who toured with Buffett's band in 1983, 1984, and 1985, so perhaps that places it. The Wikipedia entry (browsed 2008.09.22) for Parotheads explains that ``at a Jimmy Buffett concert at the Timberwolf Amphitheater outside Cincinnati, Ohio,... Gwen commented about everyone wearing Hawaiian shirts and parrot hats and how they kept coming back to see his shows, just like Deadheads'' and that Schmit coined this in response. That may be so, but another thought occurs to me . The drug culture associated with rock music gives rise to many double entendres, sometimes quite subtle (e.g., ``Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds''). Buffett's band, which Schmit toured as a part of, is called the Coral Reefer Band. The word head means addict, and may be regarded as occurring merely metaphorically in the sense of fan in Dead Head and Parrot Head. So I think the fact that Parrot contains Pot might not be accidental. (I tried and failed to figure out who ``Gwen'' is.)

The Postgraduate And Research Students' Association. Its ``primary focus is the welfare of all postgraduate students at the ANU, particularly with respect to their studies. Unless they opt not to, all postgraduates (i.e., Grad. Cert., Grad. Dip., Masters and Ph.D. students) at the ANU automatically become members of PARSA.''

partially influenced

party hardy
  1. Party with the ability to withstand droughts and late frosts.
  2. Chatese for ``party hearty.''

Part 68
Vide FCC 68.

Polarization- and Angle-Resolved Ultraviolet Photoemission Spectroscopy (UPS).

Professional Association of Résumé Writers & Career Coaches. It was ``founded in January of 1990. Prior to that time, there had been no association for career professionals to exchange information, enhance their skills, or demonstrate their commitment to providing professional services to the general public.'' It used to be known as the PARW. (The NRWA was founded in 1997.)

ParaAminoSalicylic acid. Bacteriostatic agent for tubercule bacilli. Also `PASA.'

Peoria Academy of Science. The sections of the PAS are known as

Peoria Astronomical Society. The PAS is a section of the PAS. At least as recently as 1952 its official name was ``the Astronomy Section of the Peoria Academy of Science.''

The Illinois city of Peoria is best known as a byword for, or antonomasia of, ordinariness. To question whether a new idea would be accepted by the American mainstream, one could ask

...but will it play in Peoria?

Peoria Audubon Society. The PAS is a section of the PAS. A proper section.

Perceptual Aberration Scale. They say it's a schizophrenia test, but really it's part of an alien conspiracy that I must thwart by feeding poison packing peanuts to the sand crabs.

Personal de Administración y Servicios. Seems to be a standard link on Spanish university homepages.

PhotoAcoustic Spectroscopy.

Physician-Assisted Suicide.

Premorbid Adjustment Scale. Psychiatrists just love the P - A - S acronym so much, they give it multiple expansions so they can use it more often. Sounds pathological to me.

Presidential Appointment, Senate-confirmed. Acronym used by the White House for appointment to a high-ranking executive-branch position (a ``PAS slot'') that requires Senate approval.

Psychiatric Assessment Scale.

Spanish, `it happens,' `it [or he or she] passes,' `raisin,' or `nappy hair.'

In a domestic context, the noun pasa usually means `raisin,' but pasa de Corinto, literally `raisin of Corinth,' is a currant. To be clear, you could specify pasa de uva (`grape raisin'), but that particular phrase seems to be common only in Argentina. Even there, where the expression has been common since at least the 1950's, most people mostly say just pasa. I don't think currants were or are especially popular there, and other dried fruit are called just that (fruta seca).

A plum is a ciruela, and throughout the Spanish-speaking world a prune is called a ciruela pasa, which one could interpret as a `raisin plum' or possibly better yet not interpret at all. I've also seen the noun phrase uva pasa, which at first suggested that pasa was being construed as a general attributive noun meaning `dried fruit' (so uva pasa is a `dried grape' and ciruela pasa is part of a general pattern). I've only seen this on manufacturer or distributor product labels at the local hispanic grocery, which serves a mostly Mexican-American clientele (and mainly Mexican and US brands). Earlier in the millennium, when I searched for webpages with this usage, the only national domain under which I saw it was <.mx;>. Just now (Summer 2006), I see it on some Argentine pages as well.

[When I first saw it, and because it seemed rather rare, I guessed that this expression was an error for uva pasada. The adjective pasado (pasada in female gender) means `past [time].' In the food context, this normally means `spoiled.' (You can use the word podrido for `rotten,' but if it's just started to get soft, or it smells just slightly off, then it's certainly pasado but possibly not podrido.) So an uva pasada is normally a `rotten grape.' It turns out, according to Hamel's little Bilingual Dictionary of Mexican Spanish/Diccionario Bilingüe de Mexicanismos, that in reference to fruit, pasado in Mexico means seco (`dry'). Considering the climate, this is perhaps not entirely surprising.]

(I didn't want to get too far off on a tangent, but I would point out that forms of the verb pasar in reflexive construction can also occur in connection with food to indicate overcooked. For example, se me pasó el mate means effectively `I forgot to take the mate kettle off the stove.' It's easy to construct phrases that use the past participle pasado, but here pasado is not an adjective modifying a food noun.)

Getting back to the pasa de uva thing, I might as well point out that Argentina is unusual, if not quite unique, in retaining the vos conjugations of Spanish. These are very similar to the tu conjugations (nowadays they are both ``familiar'' forms), except for the imperative forms. Thus, in most of the Spanish-speaking world, pasa is a command meaning `pass,' but in Argentina and in Central America (extending south and east as far as western Colombia), the command is pronounced pasá. Of course, you'd normally say something more detailed, like pasamelo [tú] or pasámelo [vos] (`[you] hand it to me'). (There might be more about that either at, or linked from, the Usted entry, eventualmente.) BTW, if you think the situation in Spanish is confused, have a look at the plum pudding entry.

From the verb, one has uses of pasa as a noun meaning `passage,' `[nautical] channel,' or `flight [of birds].' In their 1970 release Bridge Over Troubled Water (their last complete album of original music together), Simon and Garfunkel included a song entitled ``El Condor Pasa (If I Could).'' (El cóndor pasa is Spanish for `the condor passes.' Never would've guessed that one, eh?)

That song has a very native South American sound, and the arrangement evidently included the flute characteristic of that music. It has a characteristically breathy vibrato. I mentioned this to my mother, forgetting that she practiced recorder for a couple of decades. It's a recorder-like flute called a quena. She dug a couple of quenas out of the dining-room hutch and played the authentic one (noting that it's not supposed to be gaily painted -- but you know what sells). It turns out that the vibrato is not in the instrument. It's a style of play: you can play the quena without the vibrato if you choose, but that just happens not to be the style of native music. (Follow this link to Andreas Sumerauer's audio sample, playing a rather Western melody.)

Another thing about the song ``El Condor Pasa (If I Could)'': it includes the lyrics ``I'd rather be a sparrow than a snail. Yes I would! If I only cou - ou -ould, I surely wou - ou -ould.'' The terrible thing about Simon and Garfunkel lyrics is that they're sung so clearly you can understand (in a phonetic sense) and remember them. So four decades later, when you finally emerge from the haze, you can appreciate just how stoned you must have been. Even if the lyrics really were written in the nineteenth century.

There's a lot of contradictory information about that S&G hit on the web, so it follows that there's a lot of mistaken ``information'' about it on the web. The following account is based in part on what I could glean from gazing intently at the cover of a Bridge Over Troubled Waters CD at the local B&N. (I'm away from my own collection. You think I'm going to buy another copy to write this entry?) Actually, ``following'' in the preceding sentence should be understood chronologically. I have to stop somewhere or I'll never get this glossary page posted.

ParaAminoSalicylic Acid. Bacteriostatic agent for tubercule bacilli. Also `PAS.'

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Amplification of Specific Alleles.

Perfect All-Singing All-Dancing Editorial and Notation Application. An XML-based editing system that the editors of the OED hope will do it all, launched in June 2005 with panache.

Positron Annihilation Spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis.

A programming language created by Niklaus Wirth. Borland made a nice Pascal compiler-and-development-environment for the IBM PC in the 1980's, but it was no longer supported in the early 1990's. If you're not actually interested in writing your own compiler or compiler bug fixes, and you're not working on some exotic machine for which compilers are rare, then face it, you're using Pascal because it came free and you're too cheap to buy something that's less of a waste of time.

Oh, you wanted useful information about Pascal? Why didn't you say so? Check out the good Pascal entry at FOLDOC, which quotes from Brian Kernighan's famous paper, ``Why Pascal is Not My Favourite Programming Language.'' (Only the title is understated.)

Michael Neumann's extensive list of sample short programs in different programming languages includes Hello World programs in a couple of Pascal versions.

Software Pioneers: Contributions to Software Engineering (Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., 2002) had an article entitled ``Pascal and its Successors'' (pp. 108-119) by Wirth, who by then was a professor emeritus at ETH Zürich. Here's the abstract:

The programming language Pascal was designed in 1969 in the spirit of Algol 60 with a concisely defined syntax representing the paradigm of structured programming. Seven years later, with the advent of the micro-computer, it became widely known and was adopted in many schools and universities. In 1979 it was followed by Modula-2 which catered to the needs of modular programming in teams. This was achieved by the module construct and the separate compilation facility. In an effort to reduce language complexity, and to accommodate object-oriented programming, Oberon was designed in 1988. Here we present some aspects of the evolution of this family of programming languages.

Polska Akademia Stomatologii Estetycznej. This is typically translated as `Polish Academy of Esthetic Dentistry.' The word stomatologia, evidently from the Greek stóma (`mouth'), means `dentistry'; dentystyka is a synonym.


Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory.

Powerful and Authentic Social Studies. A set of teaching standards, if that means anything. Believe me, I don't make this stuff up. I was looking for more information on THOT (Teaching for Higher Order Thinking), and I came across a 1996 item from the Michigan State Department of Education in Lansing. Bad sign: no author listed. Abstract includes the following dynamic profundities:
This document offers a guide to enhance the quality of Michigan social studies teaching. The document draws on two sources, ``A Vision of Powerful Teaching and Learning in the Social Studies'' (National Council for the Social Studies) and ``A Guide to Authentic Instruction and Assessment: Vision, Standards and Scoring'' (Newmann, Secada, and Wehlage) to create six standards that blend the elements of both powerful and authentic social studies instruction.


`Here and there.' [Latin.] Used to indicate that an idea, motif, expression, etc. recurs throughout a work. Used in editing to indicate that an error needs to be corrected throughout a work; used in indices also.

A similar word, reasonably transliterated as passim, occurs in Biblical Hebrew and is discussed at the entry for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

passionate non sequiters
A popular form of political speech.

(I suppose this entry would work as well with sequitur correctly spelled.)

passive filter
A filter circuit whose components are just passive devices (resistors, capacitors, and inductors). Contrast with active filters.

passive learning
What happens when someone listens to a lecture without thinking. Even though this is evidently a failure of the listener, who hasn't understood that study is an active verb and not a state, fool busybodies called (facetiously) ``scholars of pedagogy'' insist that the solution is to replace the lectures with something that can keep even the nonsentient awake, incidentally subjecting everyone who was learning to what is a sometimes insulting and invariably less efficient pedagogical method. You cannot imagine the politically correct collegiate educational methods that have been urged on me by the teaching effectiveness gurus (unless you remember kindergarten).

[Football icon]

pass pro
PASS PROtection.

This is a common initial or default password, and much of the time, it's also an exceedingly bad idea. Look, if you need an occasional random number easily, just use the least significant digits of the system clock.

A notional programming language based on the power and elegance of computed goto. Complicated and unintuitive constructs like if, else, and switch are eliminated; these conditional constructs are implemented naturally and transparently in terms of computed-goto fundamentals. Needless to say, continue and break constructs are superfluous and available.

There is no need for any comment delimiter or token: comments are simply placed on unreachable program lines. Nor is it necessary to keep track of which curly bracket goes with which, or to choose a bracket alignment convention that might later prove unaesthetic, because there are no blocks -- just good, honest assignment and goto statements.

  1. This also helps the preprocessor guess in what order the comments should be ignored.
  2. Nevertheless, experienced programmers number their comments to make clear the order in which they should be read.
  3. Comment numbers can be reused.

Function parameters are communicated using PASTA's unique pass-by-email mechanism. Exceptions are handled gracefully using the toss-in-the-air method (adopted from the PIZZA family of languages). PASTA is the language of choice for throwing exceptions. Facilities for catching exceptions are already under development.

``Sequential'' flow is guaranteed by the next-goto clause that is a required part of every statement. To improve readability, long statements can be continued anywhere using the continued@ operator, which specifies destination line number and column. PASTA programs exhibit very flexible topology.

PASTA IV introduced dynamic runtime line renumbering, which makes possible such features as ``peek-a-boo scoping.'' A version that is object-oriented, or objects-shoehorned-in, is based on data encapsulation in pierogis (methods are encapsulated separately in meat ravioli). A similar object-disoriented language for Apple machines is Macaroni.

The OOPS version of PASTA. Two-character operators are a prominent feature of C++ (because of the language name and because of operator overloading). Two-character operators are prominent in PASTA---- for similar reasons. For example, -- is a binary operator that yields the difference of its first operand and the additive inverse of its second operand. Because this gives results very similar to addition, the -- operator has supplanted the + operator, and the + symbol is now available to make more interesting identifiers. Similarly, the // operator is used in place of *, although it gives unpredictable results when the second operand is zero. (The // symbol is not used or needed for commenting.)

[Football icon]

Point-After Try. Attempt to kick between the uprights. Success scores one extra point after a touchdown (TD). Called a convert in Canadian football.

In both US pro football and Canadian, there's a sort of TD encore attempt called a two-point conversion (US) or two-point convert (Canada). It's all about religion.

Spanish: `paw, foot.' You should read the BATA Shoe Museum entry.

The expression ``patas para arriba'' and its contraction ``patas pa'rriba,'' literally mean `feet upward' (the idea might be better translated `feet in the air'). It is widely used as a slightly colorful way to say `upside down,' both literally upside down and figuratively (`upset, confused, topsy-turvy'). The contracted form (with pa') isn't very common in Spain, to judge by ghits. The contracted form is very common in my father's native Chile, where it is a charming old way to say `dead' or `broken beyond repair.' Think of the dead-horse-in-the-dean's office scene in Animal House.

Hmmm. Googling around, I see that the form without preposition (patas arriba) is the most common. I was prompted to check when I came across this cleverly crafted book title:

El clima patas arriba: infierno en el cielo.
One despairs to translate this title adequately because it involves a great deal of wordplay. To begin at the end, the word cielo means both `sky' and `heaven.' (This pairing of senses is extremely widespread. English, as often, is exceptional.)

In the context created by the first noun clima, meaning `climate,' one inclines to translate cielo as `sky.' However, the word infierno means `hell,' so the subtitle ``infierno en el cielo'' almost demands the translation `hell in heaven.' The latter translation emphasizes the geometric sense of ``patas arriba'' as `upside down.' (Note that etymologically, infierno and related words ultimately just refer to `the place below.' The idea and the etymology are not very distant from those of inferior.)

On the other hand, the hot aspect of hell is much more salient in the Spanish word infierno, more like the words inferno and infernal than the word hell. (In Spanish, inferno/a is just a poetic alternative to the adjective infernal meaning `hellish.') The diminutive forms infernillo and infiernillo refer to a stove or heater.

The associations of infierno with heat make the allusion to global warming clear. Hence, one also wants to preserve the sense of ``patas arriba'' as `upset' or worse. About the best title translation I can come up with at the moment, insofar as preserving wordplay is concerned, is something like `The Climate on its Head: the Celestial Inferno.'

Of course, if you are a global-warming skeptic, you might quote Milton: ``The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heav'n of Hell, and a Hell of Heav'n.''

Of course, if you are not a global-warming skeptic, you might prefer the term ``climate-change denier.''

Incidentally, if I may be permitted a more scientific aside (just try and stop me!), the average temperature does not fall monotonically with increasing altitude. It is true that over the first few miles the temperature falls (through the troposphere up to the tropopause), but it rises through the stratosphere up to the stratopause (altitude roughly 50 km), where the temperature range overlaps that of the surface (-30°C to 20°C). The reason for this relatively high temperature is that a combination of reactions maintains a high concentration of ozone in the stratosphere. Depletion of the ozone layer actually causes cooling of this upper atmosphere.

(The temperature drops again through the mesosphere. Eventually, at altitudes of hundreds of kilometers, the temperature is determined primarily by solar activity, and the temperature ranges from 500 to 2000 K. Further out, where sunlight is just a perturbation, the temperature settles down to something below 3K.)

[Thomas Henry] Huxley's confidence in the power of science was once amusingly expressed in an after-dinner speech, in which he claimed to have had a dream of waking up after death in a vast and luxurious subterranean hall -- a warm hall. He had always expected to go to a warm place, but was somewhat surprised both by its luxury and by the fact that the fork-tailed waiters were serving drinks. He ordered a drink and, in view of the warmth, inquired whether it could possibly be iced. ``Certainly,'' said the waiter, and shortly returned with the order. Surprised by the rapid provision of the requested ice, Huxley made a query of the waiter: ``I suppose I am not wrong about where I have come to?'' ``No, Professor, this is Hell,'' he was assured. ``But surely there has been a good deal of change? This doesn't at all agree with what we used to be told of the place.'' ``Why, no, sir,'' the waiter explained. ``Hell isn't what it used to be. A great many of you scientific gents have been coming here recently, and they have turned the whole place upside down.''
[The above is from a 1967 work entitled The Essence of Thomas Henry Huxley: Selections from his Writings, edited with several brief interpretative essays (including the quoted text, from page 34) by Cyril Bibby and a foreword by Sir Julian Huxley.]

The Saturday Review (a defunct middlebrowish literary magazine) used to run an occasional feature called ``The Phoenix Nest.'' In the edition of May 21, 1960, this was a contribution entitled ``The Achievement of H.T. Wensel.'' It was written by H. Allen Smith, and purported to pass along a calculation that an anonymous friend has received thirty years earlier from the almost equally anonymous Wensel, who had worked at the NBS (now NIST). Based on the Bible, the Stefan-Boltzmann law, and the boiling point of sulfur, it concluded that heaven is hotter than hell (525°C -- sounds like the thermosphere -- vs. at most 445°C). If he'd simply read Dante he'd have learned that the lowest circle of hell is burning cold.

Pacific Asia Travel Association. See also Tourism entry. Hmmm, from 2003 until further notice, see also the SARS entry.

Port Authority Transit COrporation. A train line from Philadelphia, PA, to Lindenwold, NJ. (And back.) The ``Port Authority'' here is the Delaware River Port Authority. There is a slight ambiguity of reference: in some cases (as on this DRPA page), ``PATCO'' refers to the commuter rail line, and is not used for the DRPA subsidiary that operates it. Elsewhere (as on the Port Authority's homepage), PATCO is the operating company while ``PATCO Speedline'' or just ``Speedline'' is sometimes used to distinguish the line itself. Following standard practice, this entry will be strictly careless.

Starting from the west, the PATCO line runs under Locust St., with stations between 15th and 16th Avenues, 12th and 13th, and 9th and 10th. Then it turns north and stops at the 8th and Market St. station, with connections to various SEPTA lines. Then it's across the Ben Franklin Bridge to Camden stops at City Hall and Broadway (with a connection to the NJT River Line at the latter), then further dormitory-community stops stretching east to the Lindenwold terminus, which has a connection to NJT's Atlantic City Rail Line. That's as of 2008, when there were public hearings on proposals to extend service northward and southward on the Philadelphia side of the Delaware.

Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization. This is the name of three unions. The first PATCO existed from 1968 to 1981, and its beginning and end validated the old Biblical dictum: ``Live by the illegal job action, die by the illegal job action.'' I have work to do; I'm going to suspend activity on this entry temporarily.

pâté de foie gras
French, `fat[ted goose-]liver paste.'

Arthur Koestler has been quoted as having once remarked that to wish to meet an author personally because you have admired his work is as unwise as to want to meet a goose because you like pâté de foie gras.

Cf. coup de graisse.

Port Authority Trans-Hudson. Trains from New York, NY, to Newark, NJ. And back.

Operated by the Port Authority (PA). Raise your hand if you guessed it. Okay, that's enough. Simmer down.

Positive Alternatives To Homosexuality. Yes but, as Woody Allen would probably ask: do they halve your chances of getting a date on Saturday night? (There might be another pun if ``halve'' is replaced by ``have.'' The latter is what I used to ha-- is what used to be there. It was either a typo or a pun that I am no longer clever enough to get.)

Phased-Array Tracking Radar Intercept On Target. A US missile-defense battery succeeded by MADS.

Patriot Act
Huh? Oh -- you mean the USA PATRIOT Act.

patron saints
The Catholic Community Forum offers lists of patron saints organized by their responsibilities or bailiwicks and by name.

I notice that St. Joseph is still tasked with patronizing or whatever it's called the fighters against Communism. I realize you want to go with your best horse, but that operation seems to be winding down. Yet after the blessed events around 1989, things have stalled a bit. Possibly his attention is slipping, since he also has responsibility for much of northern North America (Canada; archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska; diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming; diocese of Buffalo, New York, etc. and more etc.), as well as the partly overlapping categories of pregnant, dying, and married people, and yet more etc. The fact is that while these are all very important responsibilities, they are relatively well in hand. Most of these responsibilities are shared with other, less-well-known but adequately holy saints, many of them champing at the bit to show their miraculous stuff. There is a clear need to prioritize and delegate. Well, I see that after a slow start, Pope Benedict is finally seeing the Curian stables flushed out; I trust the Holy Father will give this his attention next.

For other practical saintly thoughts, see the entry for assassination, political. And just in case you want to return to this entry and forget to bookmark it, you ought to know that Saint Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of lost objects (and probably lost classes and structs, too). His feast day is June 13th, and I imagine he likes peanuts. Thai peanut sauce, mmmmm.

An easy person to take advantage of, typically by cheating or framing. The patsy in these cases is a mark or a fall-guy, respectively.

It's been suggested that the word is derived from the Italian pazzo, meaning `fool.' (Note that this is pronounced ``pah-tso.'') I am extremely grateful for this etymology, because political correctness is decimating the language and patsy looks like a word at risk.

Patient Assessment Training SYstem. ``PATSy is a large web-based multimedia database of clinical cases that is currently in use at more than 15 UK universities. The Speech and Language domain (one of four on the PATSy system) is used as a resource in teaching students how to diagnose speech and language impairment in brain-injured patients and serves as a repository of patient cases for researchers and clinicians.'' The other domains are Neuropsychology (``...teaching students how to diagnose neuropsychology participants and serves as a repository ...''), Medical Rehabilitation (``how to diagnose medical rehabilitation patients and serves ...''), and Dyslexia (``...diagnose dyslexia participants...'').

P.A.T.S.Y., PATSY, Patsy
Picture Animal Top Star of the Year. The PATSY was for a while the animal equivalent of the Oscar, Emmy, and Tony all rolled into one. It was presented by Hollywood's office of the American Humane Association to human-trained animal performers for noteworthy performances in TV, movies, and at least one play.

The awards were first presented in 1951, when the emcee was Ronald Reagan. Ron (as Prof. Peter Boyd) costarred with another primate (named Bonzo) in Bedtime for Bonzo, which was released that year. Ron eventually went on to play the lead role in the US government.

The 1950's and 1960's were good years for performing animals, and the PATSY's were awarded annually until 1978. After a three-year hiatus, they were awarded again starting in 1982, with Bob Barker as host. Bob Barker resigned in protest in March 1987, complaining that training methods for animal performers were cruel. There were no PATSY awards that year. For a while there was talk of reviving the PATSY's again, but as of 2004 it hasn't happened.

The disagreement between the AHA and Barker continued and got very ugly. The AHA eventually sued him for libel and defamation. That suit was settled out of court in 1994. (A couple of weeks before resigning as PATSY host in 1987, Barker had also threatened to resign as host of the Miss USA and Miss Universe events, because animal furs were presented as prizes. Organizers told him fake furs would be used starting the next year, and he agreed to stay on. The next year organizers reneged, and he quit.)

A Peanuts comic strip character also known as `Sir.' Patty's grade in every academic subject is D-.

Private Automatic (Telex) eXchange. Term would seem to be plausibly confusable with PAX.

Parallel Advanced Tactical Targeting Technology.


Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft in alphabetischer Ordnung (Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 1839-1852). August Friedrich von Pauly only lived from 1796 to 1845. The work was completed by his younger colleagues Wilhelm Sigismund Teuffel (1820-1878) and Christian Walz (1802-1857).

Also ``Kleine Pauly.''


Pauly-Wissowa (Stuttgart 1893-1962). Neue Bearbeitung [von Paulys] unter Mitwirkung zahlreicher Fachgenossen hrsg. von Georg Wissowa (1859-1931). Also edited by Wilhelm Kroll (1869-1939), Kurt Witte (1885-) Konrat Ziegler (1884-1974), ... with periodic supplements, etc.

Phylogenetic Analysis Using Parsimony.


Pavo. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

In Latin, pavo (genitive pavonis) means `peacock.' The constellation Pavo is not ancient, but was named by the German astronomer Johann Bayer (1572-1625). Nevertheless, there is an ancient myth explaining how the peacock got its eyes, explained by Chris Dolan at his page for the constellation Pavo. The mythical story, not surprisingly, has to do with sex. The widely accepted modern explanation is sexual selection (same thing with zebra stripes).

In Spanish, the word pavo means `turkey,' and peacock is pavo real or pavón (future entry). There's an old (obsolete, in my experience) colloquial expression pelar la pava, literally `to peel the turkeyhen,' which means `to court' or `to serenade.'

In German, one word for turkey is Pute. It's onomatopeic, ``put, put'' (as pronounced in German) being a sound one makes to call fowl. I imagine this works better if you also have some feed. The word Pute usually refers to turkey as food, just as pork or ham in English refers to hog as food. [To refer to the animal as such, one can use Truthenne (`turkey hen') instead of Pute or Truthahn (`turkey cock') instead of Puter.] The word Pute is used in various transferred senses. Fowl, and particularly domestic fowl, are proverbially stupid, so it's unsurprising that Pute is used in the sense of `stupid woman.' The diminutive form puttel is used affectionately, as are double-diminutive forms like puttele and puttelchen. Well, to judge from ghits, these endearments are quite rare today. But as a little girl, my mother was called puttele, and my great aunt Edith always called her husband mein puttel (loosely, `my little silly one'). [Let me remind you, in case you forgot, that German diminutives have neuter grammatical gender, regardless of natural gender.]

One day, when she was still living in Buenos Aires, my grandmother bought a turkey at the market. She hadn't learned the Spanish word pavo yet, so she did what one usually does, and tried to naturalize into Spanish the (in this case German) word she did know. Returning home to the family tailor shop, she said ``me traje una puta.'' All the seamstresses laughed; she had said `I brought along a prostitute.' I guess I'll point out that traje is a Spanish noun meaning `dress, costume, outfit.' Of course, even in a tailor's shop, me traje was understood as `I brought.' I only mentioned the noun sense to confuse you. (It's hard to explain the precise valence of me in her phrase, so I won't. Should I explain that puta is Spanish for `whore' or `prostitute'? No, I shouldn't. For more and less, see these entries: ATC and PPP.)

Spanish term for a flock of turkeys (pavos, see Pav). I don't think I've ever heard pavada used in that literal sense in conversation, but the word is common in expressions like no me vengas con pavadas (`don't give me that nonsense'). I guess I ought to point out that no me vengas here is understood to mean `don't come to me,' vengas being a form of the verb venir, `to come.' In principle, no me vengas con pavadas could mean `do not avenge me with turkey flocks,' vengas being a form of the verb vengar, `to avenge.'

You probably think I'm joking, and I am, but the language facts stated in the preceding paragraph are all true. The ways (pasas, incorrectly speaking) of Spanish are mysterious. (And yes, you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.)

PennsylvaniA Veterinary Medical Association. See also AVMA.

Precision Acquisition Vehicle Energy--Phased Array Warning System. A radar system located at Beale AFB.

Personal Area Wireless.

Physics Around the World.

Plasma Arc Welding.

Princeton Alumni Weekly.

Pawel, Ernst
A Jewish writer born in Breslau in1920 and raised in Berlin. He and his parents fled Berlin for Belgrade in 1934. (It seems that as they were working their way down the alphabet, they were running out of options.) He published three novels and four biographies. The latter are The Nightmare of Reason: A Life of Franz Kafka, The Labyrinth of Exile: A Life of Theodor Herzl, The Poet Dying: Heinrich Heine's Last Years, and Life in Dark Ages, a memoir of his own experiences from 1934 to 1945, interleaved with updates on his terminal illness and recollections of the rest of his life.

Like most memoirs, it has no index. Let's have some badly-constructed index entries.

Djilas, Milovan, Vladimir Dedijer ostracized for refusing to break with ... p. 106; thumbnail sketch of the career of ... pp. 114-5 [see also our New Class entry]; son ostracized in nursery school ... p. can't-find-it-now, but I'm not making this up
lingua franca, observations informed by working at Belgrade's largest bookstore, in the Foreign Department, on ... p. 62

In that twilight era between the fall of the Habsburgs and the collapse of everything else, the German language still topped all others as the lingua franca of Eastern Europe, although the Serbian elite generally leaned toward French; as for the exotic idiom of Anglo-Saxons and shiftless emigrants, it was about as popular as Hindustani. The only English-speaker in Belgrade--English to the extent of not quite being Serbian--with whom I ever tried to commune in that language was my barber, deported from the States as a subversive alien after the First World War.

A popular acronym and name or name component for groups with animal concerns. Expansions contrived for the PAWS acronym include

Click here now to run a search on PAWS at <Animalconcerns.org>.

PAX, pax
PAssengers. The acronym is Widely used in the transportation industries, and may refer to singular passengers (as opposed to plural passengers, not as opposed to nonsingular passengers).


Latin: `peace.' Extended periods of peace may be named after the powers that are seen to impose or achieve them (e.g.: Pax Romana, Pax Americana). [Pronounced `pox.'] The ablative form of pax functions as a preposition in English; see pace.

The Romans used the word pax in other senses, particularly in the sense of a `treaty' or `pact' (you understand: like ``Peace of Westfalia''). The English word pact is ultimately derived from the Latin verb pacere, `to agree,' and both pax and pacere appear to be derived from a common Indo-European root that also yielded the English words page, pawn, and propagate (via Latin) and pectic (via Greek via Latin).

Penny Arcade EXpo. (It's pronounced ``packs.'') ``PAX is a three-day game festival for tabletop, videogame, and PC gamers. We call it a festival because in addition to dedicated tournaments and freeplay areas we've got nerdcore concerts, panel discussions, the weekend-long Omegathon event, and an exhibitor hall filled with booths displaying the latest from top game publishers and developers. Even with all this amazing content the best part of PAX is hanging out with other people who know their shit when it comes to games.''

[Phone icon]

Private Automatic (telephone) eXchange.

pay attention
If you already speak English, it doesn't seem strange. In Spanish, the standard expression is ``prestar atención'' -- i.e., `to lend attention.' Sort of like ``lending an ear'' abstractly.

The sincerest form of gratitude.

Low prices in Holland now!

pay toilets
In Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book (see book procurement), the entirety of the author's advice on toilets is: ``Sneak under!''

Until we develop our own idiosyncratic treatment of this issue, you can visit this not-entirely-illiterate explanation.

Don't worry, we'll mention Vespasian here sooner or later, or else have a link to a urinals entry that mentions him.

Paper Ballot. Who would have thought that starting in the twenty-first century, the paper ballot would come to be widely viewed as the gold standard of voting technology?

pb, PB
Paper-Bound or PaperBack or Paperback Book. The last expansion is nicely parallel with HB. Other abbreviations: ppb., ppbk.

Particle Board. Like fiber board (see MDF), but made with wood particles, or a mix of particles and fibers. See the LMA's downloadable glossary.

Peanut Butter. See also (or just guess) PB&J.

Peanut butter, for those unfamiliar with it, is a kind of spackle paste. It takes a bit longer to dry than the usual stuff, however.

Plasma reactor, Barrel type.


Chemical symbol for lead, from Plumbum, which was the Latin name for nonprecious soft (ductile) metal; lead was plumbum nigrum [black] and tin was plumbum album [white]. (See Pliny, Nat. Hist. 34, 156.)

Atomic number 82. A dense metal and a heavy one. If you think that's redundant, then tell ZZ Top to stop singing ``a ton of lead'' as if that were any heavier than a ton of lumber. Lead is dense (11.34 g/cc). If you have a lot of it, it's heavy. Gold is denser (19.30 g/cc). If you have a lot of it, you're rich. Heavy is a matter of perspective and motivation. ``He ain't heavy, he's my brother'' and all that. From the perspective of nuclear or atomic beam physics, lead is heavier than gold (atomic number 79) because the most common isotopes have higher mass (atomic mass 207.2 vs. 196.97). Gold is denser because it has a smaller molar volume. Transition metals tend to have small molar volumes, and in consequence, the densest naturally occurring elements are osmium (Z=76, 22.61 g/cc) and iridium (Z=77, 22.65 g/cc).

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

The electronic image archives at Washington University at St. Louis had a jpeg of an old postcard of Leadville, Colorado. Look around, it's probably out there somewhere on the web still.

PortaBle. It's got a handle; we've done our part. You're on your own now, buddy.


{Police | Policemen's | Patrolmen's} Benevolent Association.

Local 90 is the one in Westfield, New Jersey.

PBA spokesfolk are quick to assert that the PBA is not a union.

There: three one-sentence paragraphs in a row -- and you thought that was illegal!


Prevent Blindness America. Just to inject a little variety, I think it's nice to have some organization names that look like imperative clauses. PBA sponsors twelve months a year. Moreover, seeing opportunity in a slow-news month, PBA has given August the dual designations of ``Children's Eye Health and Safety Month'' and ``Cataract [sic] Awareness Month.'' In election years, they should combine that into ``Childhood Cataracts Month.'' June also gets double coverage, because ``Fireworks Safety Month'' is June and July.

Professional Bowlers Association. Here's an interesting fact: bowling is a sport. It was once even a surprising fact, but now that ESPN has broadcast a (censored) scrabble event, it's merely interesting.

I had a look at the 1944 and 1947 editions of The New Encyclopedia of Sports, by Frank G. Menke, to get some authoritative confirmation. Sure enow, it lists Bowling. It also lists birling, which is the sport form of the business of log rolling. A birling tournament is a roleo.

Similarly, a birding tournament is a rodeo. Well, okay, it isn't. But it should be. After all, the longest-running competitive birding tournament in the US is held in Texas.

Menke also lists corn husking. In the years 1924 to 1941, the three contests with the lowest winning net bushels husked (in eighty minutes) were the years with the most inclement race conditions (snow and ice in 1927! -- only 15.47 bu.). There were no contests in 1942-1946, but they were set to resume in 1947.

PyreneButyric Acid.

Peripheral Bus Computer.

Processor Bus Controller.

PBCC, pbcc
Palm Beach Community College.


Portable Breathing Equipment.

Plastic Ball Grid Array. Click on this search for images.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Set up by the US Congress in 1974 to insure defined-benefit corporate pensions. (It was part of an act dubbed ERISA; see EBSA for details.)

PBGC is meant to take over the operation of a corporate pension whenever the corporation fails. Corporations that run pensions are required by law to have pension funds that can't be looted by the company to make up business shortfalls. (It's not like the Social Security Administration, whose funds consist of the federal government's promise to pay back the money it took from FICA contributions.)

When the PBGC takes over a pension, it takes over the pension fund's assets but not, by law, its entire obligations. It's like federal deposit insurance, which protects deposits up to a certain amount, but determining the coverage is much more complicated. So the PBGC typically covers some of the shortfall from its own budget, but much of the shortfall is made up simply by reducing benefits.

Who gives up how much is a complicated calculation based on a variety of rules. The rules generally favor older workers. As of 2009, for example, the maximum benefit is $54,000 for a retiree aged 65 or over, $42,660 for a 62-year-old, and $24,300 for a 55-year-old. One doesn't automatically receive the maximum if one's defined benefit under the defunct pension exceeded it. The rules contain ``tripwires'' and cut-offs that can leave workers with similar work histories at the same company receiving very different benefits.

Private Banking Group, Luxembourg. ``[A] group [see this brochure] of members of the Luxembourg Bankers' Association (ABBL) that specialises in private banking.''

Parental Bonding Index.

Producto Bruto Inter{ior|no}. Either way, it's Spanish for `GDP.' ``PIB'' is more common.

Protein-Bound Iodine.

Peanut Butter and Jelly. You can actually buy jars of premixed PB&J, ready to spread.

Poly-Buffered LOCOS. A polysilicon layer between the pad oxide and the nitride absorbs the stress produced by field oxidation (i.e., by the expansion of the layer oxidized into field oxide).

Problem-Based Learning. In practice, not distinguished from CL.

Play By Mail.

PBM, .pbm
Portable BitMap. An image format: MIME-type image/x-portable-bitmap.

Poskanzer Portable BitMap (graphics format).

Poly ButylMethAcrylate.

PeroxyButryl Nitride. One of the peroxyacyl nitrates (PANs, q.v.) found in the atmosphere.

Nice deceptive acronym for PlaceBO. For some disorders, this is almost as effective as other, more expensive treatments. Expect your HMO to get right on the case.

People's Bank Of China. The PRC's central bank.

p-BromPhenol. The p stands for the para position of the benzene ring, indicating where the bromine is bonded.

Particle-Bed Reactor. A nuclear reactor whose fuel elements are in the form of small particles. See the related PBR.

Pabst Blue Ribbon (beer). I think that some time in the nineteenth century, or maybe it was during the nineteenth dynasty (the Egyptians claim they invented beer), Pabst won a blue ribbon for one of its beers. Ever since, they've been milking that award for publicity. I would want to know more about the ribbon accrediting agency. I mean -- even I've won blue ribbons! There are stores that specialize in trophies and awards (see ARA). It's all tinsel.

Pebble-Bed Reactor. A nuclear reactor whose fuel elements are in the form of small pebble-size pieces. A similar reactor with smaller fuel elements is a Particle-Bed Reactor. If you want to distinguish the two, the standard initialisms won't help. Both PBR designs were proposed for space missions. I'm not sure if any have been put into service.

Pilling-Bedworth Ratio.

Peoria Botanical Society. A section of the Peoria Academy of Science (PAS). To judge by web salience (ghits, actually) it's either moribund or hiding behind another name than that by which the PAS knows it.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Part of the Australian government's federal health care system, called Medicare.

Public Broadcasting Service. Also ''... System.'' A US propaganda organization that is corrupting the morals of our nation's ... elderly?

According to an article in the January 16, 2001, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PBS is trying to broaden its audience base. PBS president Pat Mitchell said the member stations were worried about the aging PBS audience. The average age of the PBS viewer was 56. I suspect that distribution is bimodal: a majority of the top ten children's programs are on PBS, and they start to lose those viewers around age six. When you subtract out the audience for Sesame Street and such, the average age was more like 65. Okay, more precision: according to Ron Santora, director of programming for Buffalo's Channel 17, the average age was 56.4 (quoted in the hometown paper that March).

Actually, PBS is used to this sort of audience. What worries them is that they used to pick up viewers as they aged, but they're not pulling in successive generations as they used to. Still, from the few publicly available figures, it looks like they made big progress in 2001. According to data gathered during the Nielsen sweeps in November 2001, the median age of PBS viewers was all the way down to 55. I'm not really sure how comparable this number is with the previous one, since it wasn't clear where the earlier one came from. It ought to be comparable with the other Nielsen numbers, however: 51 for CBS, 46 for NBC, 45 for ABC and 39 for Fox.

In Spring 2002, Maryland Public Television had an unseemly public separation from 69-year-old Louis Rukeyser, the long-time host of its program Wall $treet Week (he quit and then was fired, if I understood correctly). During the dispute, MPT noted that the average age of the Fortune reader was 49, while most of the show's viewers were over 60.

It is a fine irony that PBS might be choosing the least opportune moment to condescend in age. Since PBS was created, it has seen its mission as providing ``diversity'' in programming. Yes, they were using that very word -- before it was fashionable, even before the Bakke decision. PBS tried to serve various small audiences, such as thinking people, that were ignored by the major networks. When cable came, it spawned a large number of new networks that targeted various niche markets that only PBS had served before. So PBS, like the commercial networks, lost market share to cable. But some of the networks that ate PBS's lunch (or dinner and prime-time, rather) found it less tasty than they expected. TNN, though it did not start as a cable network, was originally aimed at one of the larger niches underserved by ABC/CBS/NBC. With its devolution into Spike TV, ``the first network for men,'' any threat it may have represented to PBS market share has pretty much vanished into the ether. At the same time that PBS has been moving to attract younger audiences, A&E and the Discovery Channels have been doing the same thing. PBS might do well to let its competition go away instead of chasing it.

PBS receives public funding via CPB, q.v., but this covers a shrinking fraction of its expenditures. One of the distinctive features of public television in the US is the twice-or-more-yearly begathons. You know, I hate to interrupt the glossary, but all of you understand what a valuable service we provide, and you know this kind of quality doesn't come free. All of this information is supported by contributions from savvy internet surfers like you. Please call the number at the bottom of your screen now and make a pledge. We have celebrities standing by to receive your calls. Look, they're all celebrities. Beverly Sills and Josh Groban aren't able to take all of your calls, so if your call is answered by Ashley or Britney or Christina or Lindsay, please don't hang up and call again! If you call now, you will receive a tasteful and attractive WSBF extra-large diaper tote! Please call within the next 18 minutes, as we have a generous challenge grant: every dollar you pledge will be matched by an anonymous donor!

Another traditional source of PBS funding is corporate sponsorships. This started out as a fairly reserved PR thing, with Texaco or some other munificence covering an entire series of shows about some environment somewhere, subtly demonstrating Texaco's commitment to the existence of an environment. That well of money has been steadily drying up, and in the 1990's public television really started to explore the quid-pro-quo and bald-advertising reaches of ``sponsorship.'' You see a lot more Britcoms sponsored by local furniture stores these days.


Papers of the British School at Rome.

Permeable-Base Transistor. One kind of gridded-base transistor. Another is the static induction transistor (SIT).

PolyButylene Terephthalate. A polyester.

Plastic Bonded eXplosive[s].

[Phone icon]

Private Branch [telephone] eXchange. A local telephone network in which internal telephone calls don't go through the end office. You know: dial ``9'' to get out.


Paramagnetic Center[s].

Parity Check. If this expansion of PC didn't have to do with encoding of electronic communications, it might have to do with human communications, because political correctness (PC) is largely about establishing formal parity.

ParseC. The distance represented by one arc second of parallax on a baseline of one astronomical unit (not two, as you might expect). In other words, 1 a.u. = sin(1'') pc, or 1 pc = 206264.81 a.u. ~= 3.26 light year (ly). The continued popularity of units like this demonstrates the hypocrisy of some vocal scientists' insistence on metric conversion.

Parti Communiste.

Patres Conscripti. Literally `fathers on the register' in Latin, but the abbreviation was used specifically to mean `members of the Senate.' For an example, see the Apocolocyntosis, sec. ix, where Zeus is imagined as presiding over an Olympus modeled on the Roman Senate. Apocolocyntosis (see Great Pumpkin) is attributed to Seneca. The uncertainty of the attribution is not surprising. It would have been prudent, as the work ridiculed and condemned the not-long-enough-deceased emperor Claudius.

Pension Coordinator.

PeriCynthion. Don't just sit there with your mouse agape -- follow the link!

Personal Computer. I also found this expansion in a French dictionary: Personal Computer. I wonder how that's pronounced.

Personal Communication.

Phase Conjugat{ion|e}.

Phase Contrast.

Philosophical Counseling. Just the thing for people whose emotional problems are due to a philosophical misunderstanding. They mean it: this is a growing racket.

PhosphatidylCholine. Also abbreviated PtdCho.


Photonic Crystal. In practice: a periodic variation in dielectric constant, produced by a superlattice or superlattice array.

pc., pc
PieCe. Traditional abbreviation uses period. Often used without period by packagers and shippers. Plural pcs. and pcs. (You know what I mean.)

Pigeon Cluster. The breakthrough technology that is the basis of the Google search engine page-ranking (PigeonRank [tm]).

Pitch Class. A term used in music set theory to designate all pitches having the same name, and their enharmonic equivalents. That is, from an ordinary mathematical point of view, simply the equivalence class of pitches under the equivalence relation defined by mod-twelve addition in a twelve-tone scale. The pitch class C consists of all C's -- middle C and all pitches that have frequency 2Nn times the frequency of middle C, where n is an integer.

Polarization Controller. A device within a waveguide laser, but it does sound like the PC police.

{Politically Correct | Political Correctness}.

``For us, too, `PC' no longer stands just for Police Constable, postcard, Privy Counsellor or even personal computer, but also and above all for political correctness - a term which, whatever its polemical use and abuse, concerns a cluster of issues around codes of civility and censorship both verbal and behavioural.''

[column] The preceding quote is dredged from page 19 of Pedagogy and Power: Rhetorics of Classical Learning, a collection of essays including some gems of aggressively bad writing. The particular essay quoted is Chapter 1: ``Classics: from discipline in crisis to (multi-)cultural capital.'' The author, Paul Cartledge, thanks ``our extraordinarily conscientious and vigilant editors.'' Those editors, Yun Lee Too and Niall Livingstone, have allowed him to clot his prose with conjunctions like ``despite - or because of? -'' and parentheticals like ``(everything going wrong - or moment of decision).'' If you have a term paper due tomorrow, borrow from this. No one will ever guess that the callow, stilted prose you plagiarize would ever (1998) have been published by Cambridge University Press. (Be careful, though: it's not utterly dreadful.)

This isn't PC. If you wanted some thoughts on political correctness, you should have gone to the Retarded entry.

PolyCarbonate. A set of related plastics with monomer unit -R-O-COO-. Optical quality grades (OQ) used in compact discs and contact lenses. Wear-resistant (WR) grades used for keyboard frames, swivel bases, paper drives and printers. San Diego Plastics, Inc. serves a short page of application-oriented information on polycarbonate. GE's trademark (TM) for PC is Lexan.

Polycarbonate may or may not be ``UV-stabilized.'' The unstable PC can be recognized because it fluoresces under UV light.

There's an informative PC entry in the Macrogalleria.

Post Cibum. Latin, `after meal.'

Printed Circuit.

Priority Control.

Privy Council. Despite comments quoted at an earlier PC entry, we figured we ought to have this entry here for historical reasons. Don't forget to be uninformed at the PCO entry as well!

Professional Corporation.

Program Counter.

Progressive Conservative. Canadian political party -- the Tories.

Protocol Control.

Patient-Controlled Analgesia.

This isn't a new concept. One bourbon, one scotch, and one be-eer.


Pennsylvania Classical Association.

Personal Care { Aide | Attendant }. New improved name for a nursing assistant (a/k/a nurse's aide), but not as new and improved as PCP.

Poodle Club of America, Inc. We proudly serve a preposterously trimmed poodles entry.

Porsche Club of America. The Porsche -- another German creation that runs like a pup. The famous engineer Porsche also created the original beetle, for which we do have an entry.

The Presbyterian Church in America. ``The Presbyterian Church in America is a new denomination, founded in 1973,'' founded out of a felt ``need for a scriptural, evangelical, and reformed witness for Christ.'' (``Reformed means we believe that salvation is God's action alone.'')

Principal Component[s] Analysis.

Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association.

Personal Computer Acquisition Contracts. Refers to a specialized sort of ``Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ)'' contracts (sound more like options to buy) used by NASA.

Pacific Coast Association of Prelaw Advisors. Similar organizations are listed at the SWAPLA entry.

Partially Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering (CARS).

President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. Provides public-sector input to science advice received by President.

Pharmacy College Admission Test.

Panama City Beach, Florida.

PolyChlorinated Biphenyl[s]. A liquid that was a very popular electric insulator (``askarel insulation'') used in transformers from the 1920's until 1977, when the EPA outlawed its use in the US, with the declaration that PCB's are probable carcinogens and (definitely) cause liver and nervous-system damage. A bacterial degradation path from PCB's goes via CBA's.

Printed Circuit Board. A circuit built on a board with interconnections made by the prior etching of a metallic cladding layer (on one or both sides). [Word of advice: in drilling through the board, drill from the non-copper-clad side if at all possible. Copper is a soft metal which tends to deform and form sticky burrs when drilled or machined. Burrs can imbed on the inside surface of a drilled hole and cause arcing (arcking?) at high voltage.]

Printed Circuit Board Assembly.

PC Bone
I can't lie to you... it's just the name for that ubiquitous shade of beige.

Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Also ``Palestinian CBS.''


Panama Canal Commission.

Peru-Chile Current. Despite the name, it flows northward along the coast (i.e., past Chile first).

Presidents' Conference Committee. A committee made up of representatives from various North American transit operators. It met in the mid-1930s and produced a design for a modernized streetcar. PCC cars were manufactured from 1936 until 1952 and the design became the basis for most North American streetcars. There are still a few in regular service today. If this glossary is still providing infotainment long after 2003, then I suppose ``today'' will eventually be incorrect in the previous sentence.

You're probably wondering, ``what is a `streetcar'? Is it the opposite of an off-the-road vehicle?'' For possible enlightenment, see the TTC entry.

Primeiro Comando da Capital. `First Capital Command.' An murderous Brazilian gang that since May 2006 has challenged the municipal government for control of São Paolo.

Pyridinium ChloroChromate. One of the two chemicals known as Corey's reagent. The other is dimethylsulfoxonium methylide.

Phase-Change Drive.

PhotoConductive Decay.

Photon-induced Chemical Dry Etching. (With really intense energetic photons, you can do dry etching without chemicals, but that's called ablation.)

Something very like CP/M, developed by Microsoft for the IBM PC. Compare MS-DOS.

Partido Communista de España. `Communist Party of Spain.' Founded by members who left the socialist party (PSOE).

Personal Consumption Expenditures.

PolyChromatic Erythrocyte. An etymological oxymoron: multi-colored red (blood) cell. Cf. the barbaric NCE.

Pre-Conference Event.

Present Company { Excluded | Excepted }. Often a synonym for ``Oops!'' after the making of an impolitic generalization in the presence of one of its instantiations.

Parti Communiste Français.

Point Coordination Function.

PreConditioned Gradient (numerical method).

PreConditioned Gradient Method.

Professional Coin Grading Service.

Pacific Coast Highway. All or part of California state route 1, and parts of US 101.

For most of its length CA 1 is the highway closest to the coast. It's scenic in the undeveloped parts. (There are still some undeveloped parts as of this writing, April 8, 2002, 12:40 PDT.) Its southern terminus is just south of San Juan Capistrano (roughly halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles), where I-5 (which hugs the coast to the south) moves inland and CA 1 continues along the coast. Officially (according to Section 635 of the California Street and Highway Code), the PCH is the part of CA 1 from there to a northern terminus near Ventura, fifty miles up the coast past LA, where CA 1 ends at US 101.

In the most expansive popular usage, PCH is all of CA 1 plus US 101 in those parts of California, Oregon, and Washington where there is no California state route 1. One widespread usage defines the PCH as all of CA 1 (whose northern terminus is at Leggett, where it joins US 101) plus any pieces of US 101 needed to get between the southern and northern termini.

PChem, P-Chem
Physical CHEMistry. Difficult fundamental course material that chemistry majors are required to take, typically in the junior or senior year. Pronounced ``PEE kem.'' (You are invited to admire my fortitude in not commenting further.) Inspired the bumper sticker:

Honk if you passed P-Chem!

In my experience, PChem course is fairly unchallenging compared to any real course covering any single topic -- thermodynamics, kinetic theory, quantum mechanics -- included in a typical year of PChem. However, the material is wide-ranging, and it is qualitatively different from and much more mathematical than that in most other courses taken by chemistry and chemical engineering majors. If the material interests you, get the necessary math preparation and then take a specific course on the material -- it'll be more beautiful and satisfying, and make more sense.

See also EMag.

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

Pavement Conditions Index. Cf. PSI.

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention.

Periodicals Contents Index. A searchable electronic database for the contents of thousands of periodicals in the humanities and social sciences, from their first issues (as far back as 1770) to 1995. PCI's scope is world-wide and includes journals in English, German, Italian, French, Spanish and other Western languages. It's a by-subscription service from the same company that offers LION.

Peripheral Component Interconnect. A self-configuring personal-computer local bus, 32 bits wide, designed by Intel also used by Motorola processors. FOLDOC has an entry.

Phase-Conjugate Interferometry.

Programmable Communication Interface.

Protocol Control Information.

ProvinCIA. Abbreviation for the Spanish word meaning `province.'

Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) Local Bus Specification.

Planning Commissioners Journal.

Printer Control Language. Also expanded Printer Command Language.

There's an old saying: ``A mickle, a pickle.'' Most people don't remember what a mickle is, or even a muckle. Me neither. Let me know after you look it up. Maybe check here.

PCL is the document description language developed by Hewlett-Packard (HP) for its Laserjet series of laser printers. Compare PostScript.

Phase-Change Memory. Not the memory of an ordinary phase change, like freezing or anything. PCM is probably for something more memorable, like cholesteric-to-blue-phase, or the liquid-gas transition followed to the critical point, or... Hmmm, okay, it's not any of that. PCM is just a kind of solid-state memory more commonly called PCRAM, q.v.

Phase-Conjugate Mirror. Generates phase-conjugate reflection of incident light. Used in PCI.

Primary Care Manager. Hey, why pay for a physician to decide on medical expenditures when a social worker with no understanding of medicine can make more cost-effective decisions for less pay?

Pulse-Code Modulation.

Not the most important thing to say about PCM, but of concern to me right now, is that it's the most common storage method for wave files (*.WAV) on the Windows platform.

Personal Computer Memory Card International Association. Tiny (credit-card size) expansion boards for computers. They have 68-pin connectors and come in three different thicknesses, up to 1 cm for a hard drive. Used most in laptops.

Here's a description from whatis.com.

  1. People Can't Master Computer Industry Acronyms.
  2. People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms.
Folk expansions for PCMCIA supra.

Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison.

Pseudo Current Mode Logic (CML). As CML is a synonym of Emitter-Coupled Logic (ECL), PCML is the same as PECL (q.v. for explanation).

Personal Communication[s] Network.

Personal Consumption Outlays.

Pest Control Operator. There's a service finder engine here, but I don't think they can help you with your brother-in-law problems.

Point of Control and Observation.

PolyCystic Ovaries. Same as PCOD, infra.

Privy Council Office. I don't know what it is, but the Canadian Prime Minister has one. Sounds like a large executive washroom.

Procuring Contracting Officer.

PolyCystic Ovarian Disease. ``Stein-Leventhal Syndrome.'' Same as PCOS, infra.

PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome. Also called ``Stein-Leventhal Syndrome,'' for the two who first identified it in 1905. Well finally, a link!

Partial Pressure of CO2.

Personal Care Professional. New improved name for a nursing assistant (a/k/a nurse's aide). There's no systematic distinction between PCP and PCA, so far as I can tell in South Bend, Indiana, in 2005. Each of the major local hospitals uses only one of the terms.

PCP is probably the less accurate term, since nursing assistants are low-skilled workers. On the other hand, since the 1970's in the US, a few causes have led to shifts in health-care responsibilities: a shortage of doctors in general practice, a severe shortage of nurses, and demands for accountability arising from growth in the fraction of health care paid by some form of insurance. Some routine diagnostic and prescription tasks that once were the sole bailiwick of physicians are now often performed by registered nurses, and various routine nursing duties are performed largely by nursing assistants. (In the hazy, almost prehistoric, past, I seem to recall that they were called orderlies.) The market for medical care has many dimensions, and the profile of labor shortages should be noted: an aging population, smaller families, and a higher labor-force participation of the daughters who historically cared for parents have all led to a need for long-term maintenance care. In the US as in Europe, a large fraction of this care is provided by immigrants from LDE's.

The principal charm of the initialism PCP is that it is also used for the drug of abuse known as ``angel dust.'' This would be a good place to note something else connecting drug abuse and nursing, probably related to the fact that the latter offers opportunities, some dangerous to patients, for the former. In Indiana and probably every other place in the US, the state may refuse to allow someone convicted of a drug felony from taking the state boards -- i.e., prevent that person from becoming a registered nurse.

PhenCyclidine. A veterinary anesthetic. Illegally used (schedule III) as a hallucinogen, it has the reputation of making users violent. AKA ``angel dust.''

Here's what the government thinks. I have no idea what the second P stands for, but we have enough PC expansions, so I don't mind if they just threw it in for disambiguation.

Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia. An opportunistic secondary infection common among those with compromised or weak immune systems -- principally AIDS sufferers, but also those taking immunosuppressive drugs in conjunction with a transplant, the very young and very old.

Primary Care Physician. Also `Principal Care Physician.' In HMO's, the PCP serves as a ``gatekeeper'' regulating access to specialists. Increasingly, PCP's serve a similar function even in PPO's. Cf. PCM.

But worse: compare PCP. I've seen many a bloody namespace collision in my time. In German it's called a Namenskonflikt (namespace is Namensraum). If German were a little more colorful here, we could call PCP a medizinische Namensmassenkarambolage.

(Canada) Pest Control Products Act.


Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society. Journal catalogued by TOCS-IN.

According to a Classics-list posting by the generally reliable Laval Hunsucker, there was an article by Sydney Goldstein entitled Mathieu functions in the Transactions of the Cambridge Philological Society. Hmmm. It turns out that the Cambridge Philological Society did once publish a Transactions, although the Goldstein article appeared in the Transactions of the Cambridge PhiloSOPHICAL Society.

Palestinian Center for Public Opinion. A polling organization founded in 1994. The other major Palestinian polling organization is PSR.

Elections are one of the few hard tests of the accuracy of polling, because there are official results for comparison. The PCPO had such a test in 2006 and did quite poorly overall. A few things may be said in its defense, but they require context...

In order to provide that context, I'm writing an analysis of the 2006 PLC election, complete with irrelevant tangents. I haven't finished it, but it's holding up other material on this page, so I'm publishing it incomplete now and blaming the Israelis for any problems that may arise. By the time it's finished, I'll have settled on a single name to use to refer to district/first-past-the-post/winner-take-all/British-parliament-style voting.

The Palestinian Legislative Council is essentially the Palestinian Authority's parliament. The first PLC elections, in 1996, were conducted on a constituency basis (district voting, ``first past the post''). The 2006 elections were held under a new election law passed by the PLC on June 18, 2005. (Details for both systems here. Each used 16 districts. The first PLC had 88 seats. After proving his democratic bona fides with the 1996 election, chairman Arafat let the elections thing kinda slide.) The 2006 elections implemented a mixed system: some seats determined by district-voting for individuals, and some by voting for lists (i.e., proportional representation).

In the case of the 133-member PLC elected in 2006, 66 seats were filled on a constituency basis and 66 by proportional representation. (I think the remaining seat is that of the President.) Ahead of the elections, it was widely supposed that Fatah would retain the largest share of seats and that Hamas would place second. PCPO conducted a careful poll of 2389 Palestinian adults from January 18 to 21 to determine which lists they would support in the PR vote. Out of 11 lists, the following six had the largest support:

				Fatah: 39.6%
				Hamas: 28.8%
	        Independent Palestine:  7.7%
		    	    Al Badeel:  7.2%
				 PFLP:  4.9%
			    Third Way:  4.7%
The polling was arranged to make the secrecy of the poll apparent: voters in the survey marked a ballot and deposited it in a kind of vote box. Of the ballots deposited, 3.3% were unmarked. Some notes on the lists:

The election took place on January 25, and it soon became clear that Hamas had won an overwhelming victory. This suggested that pre-election polling had been wildly wrong, but it exaggerates the error. Here are the final results:

seats    seats by    total
by PR    district    seats   Grouping

 29         45         74    Hamas
 28         17         45    Fatah
  3          0          3    PFLP
  2          0          2    Third Way
  2          0          2    Al Badeel
  2          0          2    Independent Palestine
  0          4          4   (independent candidates)
 66         66        132   Total

Preliminary estimates of the election commission (CEC), based on 95% of the vote, originally gave Hamas 76 seats and Fatah 43. Final results reassigned one list seat, and one district seat in Khan Younis. Interestingly, 14 of those elected to the PLC were in jails of the IOF, including the top candidate of Fatah list -- Marwan al-Barghouthi, a West Bank Fatah leader serving five life sentences. Evidently, in Palestinian elections harrowing the flesh of Isaelis is a viable alternative to pressing the flesh of Palestinians. (Another was reportedly in a Palestinian jail guarded by US and UK personnel. Perhaps this report was garbled.)

It is apparent that Hamas did exceedingly well in district voting, while Fatah and Hamas did comparably in PR voting. PCPO concentrated on polling for the PR vote, and hence missed Hamas's greatest strength in the election. (I won't comment much on the smaller parties: the sample was clearly too small to measure their strengths accurately.)

An interesting question that I haven't seen adequately addressed is why Hamas did so much better in district voting than in the PR vote. A possible answer, or band of culprits, was shouted in street demonstrations after Fatah's defeat: Fatah party members who ran as independents in the district voting. Fatah's Revolutionary Council had adopted a resolution the previous November 7 that barred Fatah party members from running as independents in the district voting. Two days after the election, PNA president and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas expelled six party members for nominating themselves as independent candidates. I'm relying on English translations of Arabic press reports, and the inconsistent patterns of transliteration pose a problem in identifying candidates on the CEC lists. I only found three of the expelled members on the lists of final returns. Possibilities for the other three include having nominated themselves but failed to get on the ballot and having names that are highly fungible under transliteration. Here are the three I could track down, in decreasing order of significance (more like increasing order of insignificance):

  1. Ahmed al-Deek ran in district 7 (Salfit), where 11 candidates (one from each list) competed for one seat. Al-Deek ran third in a relatively tight race. The winner, for Hamas, had 6762 votes, and the Fatah candidate, in second place, had 5632. It is certainly plausible that al-Deek, with 4957 votes, prevented Fatah from winning that seat. List voting for the district was concentrated in the two top vote-getters: Hamas drew 35.41% and Fatah 34.35%, while no other list won more than 6.9%. The direct voting, by contrast, was concentrated among the top three candidates, who drew 32.10%, 26.74%, and 23.53%. The Hamas candidate underperformed relative to his list by a margin of 3.3%, but the Fatah candidate underperformed by 7.6%. (It should be noted, though, that Fatah district candidates as a whole underperformed relative to their list.)
  2. Fayez Zaidan ran in district 5 (Nablus), where 30 candidates competed for 6 seats. Zaidan ran 23rd and won 2290 votes. The margin of votes separating the sixth-place candidate (for Hamas) and the seventh-place candidate (Fatah) was 1480, so it's conceivable that, had he not run, Fatah might have won another seat. To argue that, however, we must imagine that some voters disposed to vote for Fatah voted for Zaidan rather than a non-independent Fatah candidate. It seems likely, however, that his popularity with such voters would have drawn strength from the four weaker Fatah candidates (ranging down to twelfth place) rather than from the best-performing loser. (In each district, each voter could cast at most one vote per candidate for up to n candidates, where n was the number of district-selected seats alloted to the district.) With so many candidates and such a muddy distribution of votes, the best guess is that Zaidan had no effect on the final result.
  3. Burhan Jarrar ran in district 2 (Jenin), where 32 candidates competed for 4 seats. Jarrar also ran 23rd, and he won 2040 votes. If those votes are added to the votes of the other Fatah candidates, then the most that changes, depending on how the votes are distributed, is which two of the four Fatah candidates win seats.

District voting, at least for districts selecting a single candidate, is also called ``winner take all'' voting. This points to one obvious explanation for Fatah's relative weakness in the district voting: a slight Hamas advantage, distributed evenly over various districts, was amplified by the nonlinear winner-take-all function (a very real function of too many variables). There are reasons why some nuts advocate proportional representation. But first, let's analyze one of the extreme districts.

In district 13 (Gaza [city area]), 49 candidates ran for 8 seats. This was the district in which Hamas had its best list showing -- 56.72%. It only ran five non-list candidates, and these won the top five slots. There are small technical difficulties in assessing the performance of candidates relative to their lists, as the following numbers may indicate. Out of 174,379 registered voters, 136,551 (78.31%) showed up and voted. Each received two ballots: one to cast for one of the 11 lists, and one on which to select up to eight individual candidates. A tiny percentage (0.53%, 719 total)) of the individual-candidate ballots were blank, and 3.00% (4097 ballots) were invalid.

The remaining 131,735 ballots (at 96.47% the highest percentage of valid nonblank ballots among the districts) contained a total of 977,959 votes for individual candidates, for an average of 7.42 votes per ballot. Right away, you realize there wasn't a lot of ``bullet voting.'' (I ought to make a joke here. Ha-ha.) I've decided to regard 131,735 as the highest number of votes that a candidate could win. Note, however, that 131,894 votes were cast for lists. For Gaza, this is a 0.1% difference, but for other districts it is typically 1-2%, and as much as 2.5% for district 1 (Jerusalem). In most districts, not every list fielded individual candidates, so one could argue that using a number like 131,735 (valid nonblank constituency ballots) inflates candidates' percentages by discounting the abstentions of voters who didn't have a candidate of their list to vote for, but this doesn't account for all of the blank votes. (For Salfit, discussed above, I used the total number of votes published for all candidates -- 21,066 -- yet the total number of nonblank valid ballots for candidates was reported as 21,310 by the CEC, and it's not apparent how to reconcile the discrepancy. Maybe it was write-ins.)

Using the denominator not justified in the preceding paragraph (131,735), we find that the top five candidates (all Hamas) won from 57.6% to 53.0% of the maximum of votes they could have won, comparable to their list's performance. The next three candidates (all independents) had from 47.9% to 41.7%. The eight Fatah candidates placed 9 to 16, ranking as well as they could without winning any seats. (Actually ranking almost as well as they could without winning seats. One seat was reserved for a Christian, and if the top Christian candidate had not placed in the top eight, Fatah could have had a candidate place eighth and still not win a seat.) The Fatah candidates won from 33.8% to 25.6% of maximum, whereas the Fatah list won 36.64% of list votes in the district. So in Gaza, individual Fatah candidates were 3 to 11 points less popular than their list, while Hamas candidates were no more than 4% less popular. (One might guess that partisans of other parties preferentially settled for Hamas candidates, or that fans of independent candidates preferentially chose Fatah in list voting. It would be hard to tell from these data alone.)


PCPhS. Vide supra.

Peak Cell Rate.

Polymerase Chain Reaction. Here's Perkin Elmer's starting page.

Program Clock Reference.

Phase-Change Random Access Memory. A kind of nonvolatile RAM currently (2008) being researched in which the thermodynamic state of a small region of material encodes a bit. More specifically, the ``phase-change material'' (such as GeSbTe) is toggled between a semimetallic crystalline state and a semiconducting amorphous state. Readout depends on the resistivity difference: the resistivity of amorphous GeSbTe is at least two orders of magnitude greater than the resistivity, below 1 ohm-cm, of the crystalline material.

Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine. By ``resonsible medicine'' they mean health care that promotes vegetarianism. This is different from modern medical research, which promotes skipping the animal model stages in drug testing, and risking humans first. That would be the MRMC's goal.

Personal Communication[s] Service[s]. Designates the wireless systems in development for a receive band of 1.93-to-1.99 GHz band, with 200 kHz channel spacing. Distinguished from old-style cellular first by the fact that it's digital. Intended initially for more urban (microcellular) environments; uses smaller instruments than, and is supposed to be cheaper than, [analog] cellular. Cf. next entry.

PCS-1900, as it's also called (from the band) is GSM-compliant. It is one of two systems (the other is D-AMPS) in widespread US use.

Personal Communication { System | Service }. The CDMA (non-GSM) system developed by Qualcomm currently dominates digital cellular/PCS services in North America. Cf. previous entry.

pcs., pcs
PieCeS. Plurals of pc. and pc, resp.

Plastic Coding System. Of the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. created to classify plastic containers for recycling.

If this doesn't some familiar, visit the plastics section of Recycler's World.

Professional Communication Society of the IEEE. ``...to help engineers and technical communicators develop skills in written and oral presentation.'' Sponsors the IPCC.

Public Charter School.

Pet Care Services Association. Previously known as the ABKA.

Personal Communication Service in 1.9 GHz band.

Parity, Charge conjugation, Time-reversal. It is a fundamental theorem of all credible fundamental theories of matter that all particle states are invariant under the composition of these three symmetry transformations. See R. F. Streater and A. S. Wightman: PCT, Spin and Statistics, and All That, (New York: Benjamin, 1964).


PolyCyclohexyl Terephthalate.

PostCoital Test. This is not a pregnancy test, but a microscopic examination of cervical mucus to determine various dimensions of mucus-sperm compatibility.

PC Text-Assist.

Portable Common Tool Environment. I don't understand this, and I don't have to. If you have to, there's help from FOLDOC.

Per-Call Test Failures.

Poly(ChloroTriFluoroEthylene). A/k/a chlorotrifluoroethylene [plastic], abbreviated CTFE.

Performance Criteria / Test Standard.

Posix Conformance Test Suite.

Partido Comunista de las Tierras Vascas. Spanish, `Communist Party of the Basque Lands.'

Piezoelectric, Continuously Twisted, Structurally Chiral Medium.

Passenger-Car equivalent Unit[s].

Petra Christian University. In Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city.

Passenger-Car equivalent Unit KiloMeter[s].

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

(United States) Peace Corps Volunteer.

Plano-ConcaVe (lens). A lens with one flat and one inward-curving face and a negative focal length, used to reduce an image or as a dispersing lens (i.e., to spread a light beam). Cf. PCX, DCV.

Positive Crankcase Ventilation. One-way exhaust of crankcase, achieved through PCV valve.

Point-to-point Switched Virtual Connections.

PC Week
``The national newspaper of corporate computing,'' they bill themselves. Homepage looks like a whole magazine.

PiCture eXchange. File extension and graphics format.

Plano-ConveX (lens). A lens with one flat and one outward-curving face and a positive focal length, used to magnify an image or as a condensing lens (i.e., to concentrate a light beam). Cf. PCX, DCX.

Processor-Cache CROSSbar. These items are directional; a PCX controls data flow from a processor to a cache; the other direction is handled by a CPX.

Please Configure Your Mailer To Not Quote Raw Email Addresses In Your Replies.

Packet Driver.

Packetization Delay.

PallaDium. Atomic number? Yeah, it's got one. You want to know what it is? I'm not sure you're allowed to know that. Oh, you know the big guy, eh? Forty-six -- no more, no less.

Learn more without as much pain as pulling teeth at its entry in WebElements and its entry at Chemicool.

Palladium is one of the platinum group metals. Palladium was discovered about the time the asteroid Pallas was discovered. Whoop-de-do!

Panic Disorder[s].

Perphenazine Decanoate. Used to treat schizophrenia.

Personality Disorder[s]. Tell me about it!

Phase Detection.

PhotoDesorption. Light-induced desorption.



Physical Disability, Physically Disabled.

Planar-Doped. Without the hyphen, you could think of ``planar'' here as an adverb with form identical to the adjective's.

Police Department. Productive suffix (e.g., NYPD).

Post Datum. Latin, `after what is given.' Used to introduce added comments in a letter, following the signature. Equivalent to P.S., but P.D. is much more common in Spanish-language correspondence.

Professional Diploma. This is a sort of interstitial degree commonly awarded in education. (You can understand that the Education field, dominated by government employers, likes to have things be nice and official. See, for example, this CRU entry.)

At Teachers College (TC), the PD represents something between a Masters (M.Ed.) and a doctorate (see Ed.D.). As such, I suppose you could think of it as an official ABD. I'm sure it stands for different levels of accomplishment (even of ostensible accomplishment) at different institutions.

(Broadcast) Programming Director.

Protocol Discriminator.

Public Domain.

Pupillary Distance. The center-to-center distance between the pupils. For most adults the PD in between 55 and 65 mm.

When prescriptions give two PD numbers, they may be the distances between the bridge of the nose and the right and left eyes (in that order), so 32/30.5 implies that the PD in the usual sense is 62.5 mm. You know, the fish called flounder start out life fairly symmetric and upright. As the fish matures and lists to one side, the eye on the lower side shifts forward.

When two PD numbers are given and they are each around 60 mm, it probably means that you have a swelled head. Oh wait, there's another possibility: it could be the the distance PD and the reading PD. As you focus on things that are closer up, your eyes cross and the PD decreases. A typical reading distance is 33 cm, so if your distance PD is 60 mm, each of your eyes turns inward by about 5 degrees when reading. If the distance from the center of your eye to the center of its pupil is, say, 1.5 cm, then reading PD is 2 or 3 mm less than distance PD.

Personal Digital Assistant. Here's a bit from whatis.com.


Public Display[s] of Affection. This is typically performed by what may be reasonably described as mutual very highly personal digital assistants.

Public Displays of Alcohol[ism]. A useful term in the early 90's, at damage assessment and control meetings for Beverly Hills 90201. (The early 90's were the Brenda years -- Shannen Doherty played Brenda Walsh, 1990-1994.)

Does she qualify as ``family friendly''? Shannen Doherty was the fourth ever Republican Babe of the Week. This achievement, or whatever, is recognized by the <JerseyGOP.com> website. The weekly feature is not precisely dated, but I estimate that she won the honor at the beginning of 2003, so I guess her public standing, if not her career, has been rehabilitated. There doesn't seem to be a corresponding Democratic site, but I believe there may be one or two nonpartisan weekly babe sites on the web. It is hard to sort through all the hits if you search too broadly on "babe" and "party".

A search for physics babes turned up a lot of hits for the Department of Theoretical Physics, Babes-Bolyai.

Perianal Disease Activity Index. Ever since I decided against becoming a gastroenterologist or a proctologist, I've never looked back.


Planar-Doped Barrier. As in ``PDB diode,'' and ``PDB transistor.''

Protein DataBank.

Participatory Design Conference. First held in 1990. Biennial.

Partido Democrático Cristiano. The largest political party in Chile, part of the dominant Concertación.

Personal Digital Cellular. A digital cellular standard developed in Japan for use in 800 MHz and 1.5 GHz bands.

Primary Domain Controller. Used in NTFS for Windows NT.

Processing and Distribution Center. Most nonlocal mail sent in the US goes unsorted to a P&DC, also called a ``sectional center,'' which cancels mail (the P&DC's ink goes on the stamp), sorts it and redistributes it for eventual delivery. Had to get that word eventual in there.

Plan, Do, Check, Action. Sequence of management steps to be repeated (``the PDCA Cycle''). A statement of the obvious, ostentatiously described as an adaptation of the Deming wheel (don't look). Next lesson: SDCA.

My adaptation of PDCA is PDCA: ``plan, do, check, act.'' Hey, lookit me -- I'm doin' kaizen!

Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

Physical Device Driver.

Presidential Decision Directive. US governmentese.

Principal Deputy Director of National (US) Intelligence.

Parallel Data Distribution Preprocessor. A data parallel programming model implemented on two parallel platforms at LLNL.

Partial Differential Equation. `Partial' refers to the presence of partial derivatives, used to specify the direction of differentiation in a multi-dimensional space of independent variables. Cf. ODE.

(Resonant) Photon Drag Effect. Large electron momentum shifts, and associated induced currents, due to radiatively induced intersubband transitions in semiconductors, first predicted by A. A. Grinberg, E. D. Belorusets and E. Z. Imamov, Fiz. Tekh. Poluprovodn., vol. 5, pp. 2010ff (1971) [Eng. trans.: Sov. Phys. Semicond., vol. 5, pp. 1748ff (1972)].

A number of analogous effects in differrent systems are called light-induced drift (LID).

Professional Disposition Evaluation. A letter grade evaluating the political correctness of students enrolled in Wazoo's College of Education.

Pair Distribution Function.

Panamanian Defense Forces.

In 1989, the US took military action to topple Panamanian dictator Gen. Manuel Noriega. On Christmas Eve, he took refuge at the Papal Nunciature in Panama City (i.e., in the Vatican's embassy, which also serves as the residence of the papal nuncio). There was some irony in this, as the nuncio had been a vocal critic of Noriega, and the nunciature had provided sanctuary for many persecuted by Noriega's régime. During the invasion, US troops discovered a house that Noriega had used for witchcraft. According to a Christmas pageant of sorts presented by U.S. Army specialists, a Brazilian witch and a variety of elaborate rituals were used to cast magic spells on numerous political enemies, including Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and the entire U.S. Congress, Guillermo Endara (the man who had been elected Panamian president earlier in 1989, but prevented from taking office), and the papal nuncio, Monsignor Juan Sebastian Laboa. (This is a very incomplete inventory.) According to Italian news reports, 32 Noriega supporters also took refuge with the nuncio.

Beginning on December 27, members of a psychological warfare team from the 82nd Airborne Division played loud rock music over (initially two) powerful loudspeaker units positioned across the street from the nunciature. The music could be heard blocks away. One of the songs played was Judas Priest's ``You're Going to Burn in Hell.'' The first day's program lasted five hours and also included selections from the Rolling Stones, David Bowie (``Modern Love''), the Who (``We're Not Gonna Take It''), and the Grateful Dead, followed (according to one report) by rap music.

The next day's set featured repeated playing of ``Nowhere to Run,'' a hit for Motown's Martha Reeves and the Vandellas in 1965. The music programs grew longer. Conflicting, or at least multiple, explanations were given of what purpose the performance served. Noriega was reputed to favor opera. The legality of the music offensive, like that of many aspects of Noriega's stay, was not clear. By the 29th, those who thought it was legal nevertheless generally agreed that the joke wasn't funny anymore, and the psyop was terminated. Noriega surrendered to US forces the following January 3. (After conviction on drug charges in Florida, he was sentenced to forty years in federal prison. This was later reduced to thirty, and he is first eligible for parole in 2006.)

In 1994, a constitutional amendment (title xii, article 305) was passed that abolished the standing army (another Central American country, Costa Rica, had many years previously abolished its standing army in the aftermath of a civil war). Panama retains ``security forces'' (PPF).

When Barbara Streisand married James Brolin at her Malibu estate in 1998, she didn't want paparazzi to so much as hear the wedding, never mind see. For four hours she blasted the press with continuous playing of ``Thunder Kiss '65,'' a heavy metal song (?) recorded by Rob Zombie in 1992 with his band White Zombie. Zombie took no offense. He said ``[h]opefully, the Funny Lady will use a track off my new album, Hellbilly Deluxe, to ward off meddling paparazzi at her divorce hearing.'' ``At least it isn't Streisand music,'' commented a reporter on the scene.

At that time, Rob Zombie claimed that some of his music was blasted at Noriega and the nuncio in 1989. So far as I have been able to determine, that was the first time that anyone publicly claimed that recognition for Zombie. I have searched LexisNexis (including entertainment news), and the artists and titles listed earlier are all I was able to reconstruct of the playlists from newspaper and wire reports. Perhaps it's a military secret. In Time (for Jan. 8, 1990: Vol. 135, Issue 2) the cover story ``No Place to Run'' (G.J. Church, R. Chavira, pp. 38ff) added the information that ``Voodoo Chile'' [Jimi Hendrix] and ``You're No Good'' [Van Halen] were played. Did Rob Zombie really rank in this company?

Parkinson's Disease Foundation.

Pig Dog Farm. ``Offering simple, honest, top-quality handcrafted stuff & supplies at down-to-earth prices.'' (With all those properly-deployed hyphens, how could I resist linking?) They sell handmade soap, knitting patterns, and soapmaking supplies.

Polar Density Function.

PDF, .pdf
Portable Document Format. Adobe® Acrobat® format. In ordinary text (i.e., in uses other than filename extensions or directory names), the acronym is almost universally capitalized. A PDF viewer for the Symbian OS is Pdf+.

Post-Doctoral Fellow[ship].

Pretty Da{ m | r }n Fast.

p.d.f., pdf, PDF
Probability { Distribution | Density } Function.

Pendant Drop Growth. I watch this process occur on the end of my nose when I get out of the shower.

Président-directeur général. French title equivalent to CEO.

Plesiochronous Digital Hierarchy. Old-style asynchronous multiplexing.

[dive flag]

Professional Diving Instructors Corp.

Plastic Dual In-line Package.

Payload Defect Indicator -- Path.

Payload Defect Indicator -- Virtual.

Phi Delta Kappa International. It doesn't seem to stand for any particular words, in Greek or any other language, so you might as well use ``pretty darn kooky'' as the mnemonic. It styles itself ``The Professional Association for Educators,'' but it allows administrators to be members. This is worse than allowing a few managers into a workers' union, because school systems are top-heavy with nefarious educrats.

Here's a page with their New Year's resolutions, stacked up a couple of years in advance. As of January 2004, the first thing reported in their mission statement (in an appositive phrase; it's a fact rather than a mission component) is that PDK is now ``the leading advocate for public education.'' Further down the page, the first of the strategic goals listed is that ``[b]y 2006, PDK will be recognized as the leader in advocacy for public schools and the education profession. Well then, I guess it's just a question of getting the word out. Also, one of the first bullets under strategies reads: ``Advocacy. We will develop and implement plans to advocate for public education and the education profession. NOTE: To be recognized as the leading advocate, PDK will consider collaboration with other professional groups.

Professional Development & Learning.

Polymer-Dispersed Liquid Crystal.

Polymer-Dispersed Liquid-crystal Display. Explained here.

Pulse-Duration Modulation. Also Pulse-Density Modulation. PWM is the acronym I hear more frequently.

Present-Day Mass Function.

Plasma-Desorption Mass Spectrometry.

PolyDiMethylSiloxane. A transparent elastomer that can be poured over a microscopically patterned mold, polymerized, and then removed simply by peeling it off of the mold substrate. This isn't of any particular utility -- it's just a lot of fun. That's probably why it's so popular in industry.

Public Data Network.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

Plasma-Deposited Oxide.

Private Development Organization. One kind of NGO, q.v.

Purple Dinosaur Operating System.

Not this purple dragon. Here are some satirical sound files.

Parallel Distributed Processing.

Plasma Diagnostics Package.

Plasma Display Panel. (Once, plasma diplay meant ten-digits in neon bulbs. Now there are VGA plasma panels. Here's one from Fujitsu.)

Policy Decision Point. Management is a mathematically precise science. Cf. PEP.

Power-Delay Product.

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) wrote (in Über die Psychologie des Unbewussten [`On the Psychology of the Unconscious'] 1917):

Wo die Liebe herrscht, da gibt es keinen Machtwillen, und wo die Macht den Vorrang hat, da fehlt die Liebe. Das eine ist der Schatten des andern.
[`Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is missing. The one is the shadow of the other.']

It's the same in electronics: many of the simple things you can do to decrease power consumption also increase delay times, and vice versa. (To take a trivial example, increasing a load resistance in a simple BJT inverter decreases power dissipation in the output-low state, and increases RC time delay by the same factor: power goes as V²/R, delay as RC.) Thus, while power and delays are easily adjusted individually (or inadvertently affected by fabrication variances), the product of power dissipation and a representative delay like the average propagation delay does not budge so easily, and constitutes a good figure of merit.

In the foregoing analogy, Love is Delay.

Professional Developer's Program.

Programmed Data Processor. Prefix for a sequence of computers manufactured by Digital Equipment Corporation. Especially, PDP-11, PDP-10, -8.

Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire. Also Personality Disorders Questionnaire.

Pretty Da{ m | r }n Quick.

Public Diplomacy Query. Performed on a database of the USIA.

PDQ Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach had twenty children, of whom ten survived infancy. This one evidently didn't survive its falopian tube.

Phase-Delay Rectifier.

Photon-Dominated Region.

Physicians' Desk Reference.

Pitch-to-Diameter Ratio. (``Pitch'' here is the separation between adjacent threads of a screw.)

Playa del Rey. Abbreviation in California classified ads, particularly in The Argonaut, for over twenty years (could be since 1970, in fact) ``[y]our best source of local information for Marina del Rey, Venice, Westchester, Santa Monica and Playa del Rey. Cf. MdR.

People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. Old South Yemen. For a change, the communist Asian country claiming to be the whole country was the southern part of the country. The two united in 1990; see .ye entry.

Partei des demokratischen Sozialismus. `Party of democratic socialism.' Redefined former communist party of East Germany (see SED). They came in just above the cut-off in the 1998 general elections, winning 5.1% of the vote and being allocated 35 (out of 669) Bundestag seats. In 2002 it sank to 4% and had no Bundestag seats.

In most former Comecon countries of Central Europe, communist parties have survived and sometimes held power by taking a, well, less communist economic position, adopting mixed-economy or even somewhat neoliberal views. The situation of reunited Germany, and of the PDS, is exceptional. The strength of the PDS continued to be in the Länder (`states') of the former GDR; even after 2002, the PDS retained representation in eastern Landtage (`state parliaments').

At one point it was thought that the PDS and the Greens might merge to form a more viable party. The motivation on both sides presumably was the declining individual electoral strength of each. The Greens were drifting a little bit rightward economically, however, and that merger did not occur. Instead, in 2005, the PDS merged with dissenting former socialists to form the Linkspartei.

Philips Development System.

PhotoDischarge Spectroscopy.

Photothermal Deflection Spectroscopy.

Planar { Diffusion | Dopant } Source. Solid dopant source in the form of a wafer, stacked in alternating sandwich structure with wafers to be doped, the whole stack heated in a furnace. This is usually done with silicon wafers and, say, a boron dopant (using BN wafers with a witch's brew of other stuff). Why doesn't someone try this with garlic-doping of pizza?

Premises Distribution System. Wiring system from AT&T.

DiaminoPropaneTetraacetic Acid. Obviously, it's not called DPTA to avoid confusion. Usually, PDTA means 1,2-PDTA. Basically, this is 1,2-diaminopropane with acetic acid groups substituted for the hydrogens on the amine groups.

Packet Data Unit. Conflation of OSI-defined PDU expansion (Protocol Data Unit) with its synonymn, packet.

Process Development Unit.

Protocol Data Unit. OSI synonym of packet.

Peculiar Dorsal Vertebra[e]. The first dorsal vertebra, and ninth through twelfth inclusive, are peculiar. It doesn't bother me. (I have no idea whether anyone uses this acronym. I rather prefer to hear the expansion.)

Microsoft PC Paint Brush (graphics format).

(Domain code for) Peru.

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

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

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


PhosphatidylEthanolamine. Same as PtdEtn.

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

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

Plasma Etch[ing].

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Private Equity.

{Processor | Processing} Element.

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


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

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

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

Pulmonary Embolus.

Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's farce the first time as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Lady was right!

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

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

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

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

Plasma Electron And Current analyzEr.

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

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

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

peace process

Presidential Emergency Action Document. US governmentese.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Process and Experiment Automation Realtime Language.

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

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

Let that be a mnemonic to you.

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

Partial EtchBack.


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

Packet Error-Checking.

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

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

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

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

Presidential Early Career Awards in Science and Engineering.

Latin, `I have sinned.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

`Bad luck' in German.


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

See also positive logic discussion.

PCML is a synonym of PECL.

Purged Exclusive COSY (COrrelation Spectroscopy).

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

Plasma-Enhanced CVD.

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

Plastic-Encapsulated (semiconductor) Device.

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

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

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

Übersetzung: Fußgängerüberweg.

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

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

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

Positive End-Expiratory Pressure.

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

Pennsylvania Emu Farmers' Association.

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

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

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

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

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

Pegasus. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

PolyEthylene Glycol.

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

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

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

Playboy Enterprises, Inc.

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

PolyEthylene Imine.

PolyEthylene Isophthalate.

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

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

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

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

PolyarylEther Ketone Ketone.

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

Old term for pixel.

Programmable Electronics Load. Test apparatus.

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

PhotoElastic Modulator.

Plastic Epoxy Molded. Used for plastic microelectronics packages.

Polymorphic Epithelial Mucin.

Privacy-Enhanced Mail.

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

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

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

Plasma-Enhanced silicon Nitride.

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

Membership by invitation only:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PolyEthylene Oxide.

Progressive External Ophthalmoplegiai.

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

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

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

Peak Envelope Power.


Post-Exposure Prophylaxis. Better late than never.

Predictability, Efficiency, and Profitability.

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

Pupil Evaluation Program.

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

Policy Enforcement Point. Cf. PDP.

Haitian term for `imported second-hand clothing.'

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

PhotoElectron PhotoIon COincidence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other entries with some Pepys comment:

Perseus. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

Physics Education Research.

Program Event Recording.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The current limit of my imagination.

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

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

Of possible interest: 13.

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

Perhaps. Common dictionary abbreviation, particularly appropriate for etymologies.

Nearest approach of orbiting bodies. Cf. apoapsis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Søren Kierkegaard wrote that

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Cf. paroxytone and properispomenon.

A perquisite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Provider Education and Relations Management System.

Not exactly the same as nefarious.

Programmable and Erasable Read-Only Memory (ROM).

A compound with the (O2)2- anion.

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

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

Spanish for `dog.'

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Person is PC for `female human.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other specific names mentioned include

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's all a crock. ECE rules.

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

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

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

perversely charming
A music term meaning inexcusably bad.

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

PhotoElectron Spectroscopy.

PolyEther Sulfone.

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

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

Spanish verb meaning `to weigh.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Positron Electron Tomography. The CPET offers a description.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Positron-Emitting-Tracer Imaging System.

PentaErythritolTetraNitrate. A high explosive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Petaelectron Volt (eV).

Phigs/Phigs+ Extension[s] to X.

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

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

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

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

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

(Domain code for) French Polynesia.


Picofarad. Also pronounced ``puff.''

Points For. The usual way to win a game is to score more points than the opponents (have PF > PA)

Polyurethane Foam.

Popular Front. In the opinion of its leadership, at least. Often in reality too, until the period of power begins.

Power Forward. Basketball position.


Expressions like ``the proof of the pudding is in the eating'' and ``the exception that proves the rule'' are widely misunderstood today, because the meaning of the word proof has drifted from its earlier sense of test. The exception that proves the rule used to refer to the difficult case that provided the hardest test of the validity of a rule, not -- as it seems to do today -- to the exceptional case that establishes where the limits of the rule's validity are to be found.

PerFluoroAlkoxy polymer. One of the polymers that du Pont markets as ``Teflon'' ® (along with FEP and PTFE).

Players' Football Association. A players' union representing professional soccer players in England.

People For the American Way. There may be some slight disagreement on what the ``American Way'' might be besides right. PFAW is a promoter of left-wing causes and views. You can't say they ``lobby'' Democratic legislators; it's more like they provide them with scripts.


The Papyri of FAYum, Egypt. Published by B.P. Grenfell, A.S. Hunt and D.G. Hogarth in 1900.

PerFluoro{ Chemical | Carbon } (compound). Also expanded perfluorocompound.

Power Factor Controller.

PreFrontal Cortex (of the brain).

Private First Class.

Power Flux Density.

Parameterized Format Description Language.

Pedal-Feel Emulator. A system that controls the displacement or force of a motor vehicle's brake pedal. Traditional brakes don't have this, of course, and neither do ``power brakes'' (``vacuum-boosted'' brakes). PFE's are used with brake-by-wire systems, in which the brakes are actuated completely electronically (that's normally; the back-up emergency brake is mechanical). PFE's are designed to emulate the feel of ordinary power brakes.

Please Find Enclosed.

Pressurized Fluid Extraction. Well, we still haven't explained Folch, so we'd be getting ahead of ourselves if we explained PFE now.

German, `penny.' I would guess that this is a cognate.

Philippine Football Federation. After 400 years in a convent and 40 in Hollywood, they shouldn't call it anything but soccer.

Preparing Future Faculty ``is a national network of academic leaders reshaping graduate education to include preparation for the full range of faculty roles subsumed by the terms teaching, research, and service. Participants observe and experience how these responsibilities can be carried out at a wide range of academic institutions with varying missions and diverse student bodies.''

Presidential Faculty Fellow.

Pulsed Field Gradient.

(US) President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. It ``provides advice to the President concerning the quality and adequacy of intelligence collection, of analysis and estimates, of counterintelligence, and of other intelligence activities. The PFIAB, through its Intelligence Oversight Board, also advises the President on the legality of foreign intelligence activities.''

``The PFIAB currently [text copied February 2005] has 16 members selected from among distinguished citizens outside the government who are qualified on the basis of achievement, experience, independence, and integrity.

``The Board was established in 1956 by President Eisenhower and was originally called the President's Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities. It gained its current name under President Kennedy and it has served all Presidents since that time except for President Carter.'' In some documents, the PFIAB is referred to without the A-word: ``President's Foreign Intelligence Board.''

Pillow Fight League. A dry variant of mud wrestling, launched by Stacey Case in Toronto in early 2006. Early in 2007, they're taking the show on the road.

Mary informs me that at a logging festival in Montana in the 1990's, she watched a pillow fight contest that was conducted on floating logs. The contestants were allowed to soak their pillows, but not to put foreign objects (stones, apples, pears, and soap were mentioned) into them. She says the women who participated (it was an all-distaff event) were big and strong.

In July 2006, Mary attended the Idaho Potato Mash-A-Thon. Among the events were mashed-potato sculpting, potato-eating contests, and mashed-potato wrestling.

Parents, Family and Friends Lesbians And Gays. Hey wait! I thought that was the last refuge of a...

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. FPLP in French.

Paschal Full Moon. The full moon preceding Easter Sunday. This is a nominal full moon -- a full moon date determined by an algorithm that determines ecclesiastical full moon dates. It's very accurate, so I suppose that most of the time it's wrong. (Like a watch that's just a bit slow.)

Patent Foramen Ovale. Medical Latin for a small opening between the left and right atria of the heart. It's thought to be a risk factor for stroke.

Program For Persons With Disabilities.

Personal Financial Specialist. An AICPA specialization certification for CPA's.

PFU, pfu
Plaque-Forming Unit. A phage, in so many words. Here ``plaque'' is used in the sense of a region of an agar plate that has been denuded of bacteria by the action of a bacteriophage (bacteria-killing virus). Literally, of course, bacteriophage means bacteria-eater (just like coprophage means, oh never mind). What a typical bacteriophage (``phage'' for short) does is break into a bacterium and hijack its transcription apparatus so it produces lots of copies of the virus. Eventually, the bacterium becomes filled up and bursts, releasing the virus copies. (Virus is an odd Latin word without a known or obvious plural.)

[Football icon]

Pro Football Weekly.

PaGe. Equivalently: p.

Plurals: pgs and pp.

(Domain code for) Papua New Guinea. Hmmm. Well, I already wrote all I know that's even slightly relevant to Papua New Guinea at the entry for the Dominican Republic. Sorry, I'm fresh out of material.

Parental Guidance suggested. Indicates that movie is not about cartoon animals, but also would not have shocked you by the time you were eight.

It's a movie rating of the MPAA (q.v.), originally called M (mature) and then GP (General audiences, Parental guidance suggested) later renamed GP and finally PG.

Point Guard. Basketball position.

Post Gazette or Post-Gazette. The sort of compound you get when newspapers named ``The Post'' and ``The Gazette'' merge. Like the Pittsburgh (PA) PG.

ProstaGlandin[s]. Part of the reason why parents' not letting their kids see any but PG movies won't be enough to keep'em pure.

Prince George's (county, in Maryland). Northeast of Washington, D.C., it experienced tremendous growth in the late 1950's and 1960's, as the population of DC expanded into the (fled to the jurisdictionally separate) suburbs. During the 1960's alone, the county population increased by almost 70%. Nowadays something like 40% of workers living there are federal employees.

``Prince George's'' is a bit of a mouthful when you're busy announcing school snow closings and such, so the abbreviation, pronounced ``pee-gee,'' is common in speech.

Prince George of Denmark (1653-1708) was the consort of Anne (1665-1714), queen of England and scattered other parts from 1702. Prince George's was constructed from Calvert and Charles counties in 1695. The original name did not contain an apostrophe, following seventeenth-century punctuation conventions. This is reflected in the homepage and emblem of the Prince Georges Radio Control Club (PGRC), founded in 1964. A style manual for the ``Papers of George Washington Editorial Project'' has in its list of troublesome vocabulary a line
Prince Georges County, Md. (No apostrophe)

Not enough attention has been paid to this important issue. In 1971, the official seal of the state was altered by the addition of an apostrophe (and by the use of a modern u glyph in the word county instead of the old vee style), but confusion remains. In 2002, author guidelines from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) made the following claim:

... NIJ differs from GPO on using apostrophes in county names (e.g., Prince George's County).

Au contraire! The GPO's style manual for 2002 listed (in chapter 4 -- ``CAPITALIZATION EXAMPLES''; scroll down to page 43 or else do something creative with your search function)

County, Prince George's; county of Prince George's; County Kilkenny, etc.; Loudoun and Fauquier Counties; the county.

Who give's a rats ass about a prince of Denmark? I say, rename it P.G County and save all the punctuation hassles.

P+G, P&G
Procter and Gamble. Based in Cincinnati.

Project Gutenberg. Begun by Michael Hart when he received a grant of computer time at the University of Illinois in 1971. Hart felt (I had to write that) that the greatest value created by computers would not be number crunching, but rather the storage, retrieval, and searching of texts. In other words, he was a visionary.

Patient Global Assessment. As opposed to the physician global assessment (MDGA).

[Download PGA image from http://www.nsc.com/pkg/gifs/ppga.gif]

Pin Grid Array. A pin-through-hole Chip package with pins in a square array on the bottom surface. Pins are usually in a generally-but-not-quite-symmetric pattern which does not cover the bottom surface completely.

National Semiconductor publishes specs on the web. A plastic PGA is illustrated (upside down) at right.

Professional Golfers' Association. There's a history and one of the PGA tour.

More interesting is the Bad Golfers Association (BGA).

Professional Graphics Adapter.

Programmable Gate Array.

Project Gutenberg of AUstralia. An independent PG partner. Since Australia is a Life+50 country, you should go there to download some etexts that aren't in the public domain (PD) in Life+70 countries.

Of course, if you yourself are in a Life+70 country, then you shouldn't do this, because you're cheating a poor book-publishing conglomerate. Don't tell me that the book has been out of print (OOP) for a century; that's irrelevant. You see, keeping works out of the greedy clutches of the public domain encourages potential readers to purchase new, often better books that are in print. The heirs of the original authors, recognizing this fact, gratefully reward publishers for their loyalty by refusing to allow books they own the rights of to enter the PD. Actually, they reward the conglomerates that swallowed up the companies that used to show some loyalty to the authors of the books that sold well, but basically it's the same warm, gooey feeling.

PostGraduate Certificate in Education.

Prince George's County Public Schools. Yeah -- that P.G. County.

Plant Genome Data and Information Center (of the NAL).

Project Gutenberg's Distributed Proofreaders. ``Distributed Proofreaders was founded in 2000 by Charles Franks to support the digitization of Public Domain books. Originally conceived to assist Project Gutenberg (PG), Distributed Proofreaders (DP) is now [text copied from website January 2004] the main source of PG e-books. In 2002, Distributed Proofreaders became an official Project Gutenberg site and as such is supported by Project Gutenberg. All our users, managers, developers and so on are volunteers.'' As of January 2004, there's a separate DP Europe which is targeting books in other languages than English and other scripts than Roman.
This site provides a web-based method of easing the proofreading work associated with the digitization of Public Domain books into Project Gutenberg e-books. By breaking the work into individual pages many proofreaders can be working on the same book at the same time. This significantly speeds up the proofreading/e-book creation process.

When a proofer elects to proofread a page of a particular book, the text and image file are displayed on a single web page. This allows the page text to be easily reviewed and compared to the image file, thus assisting the proofreading of the page text. The edited text is then submitted back to the site via the same web page that it was edited on. A second proofreader is then presented with the work of the first proofreader and the page image. Once they have verified the work of the first proofreader and corrected any additional errors the page text is again submitted back to the site.

Once all pages for a particular book have been processed, a post-processor joins the pieces, properly formats them into a Project Gutenberg e-book and submits it to the Project Gutenberg archive.

Platinum-Group Element[s].

Point-contact GErmanium Diode.

Project Gutenberg in the European Union. An independent PG partner based in the Netherlands. Situation very fluid as I write this entry in January 2004. See DP Europe entry. The gift culture has some rather funky organizational charts.

PittsburGH. A city with a lot of hometown pride. One point of pride has been the letter aitch at the end of the town name. Two days before Christmas in 1891, the grinches of the United States Board on Geographic Names got their wish -- and a bill was signed into federal law that standardized place names by, among other things, changing the spelling of names ending in ``burgh'' to end in ``burg.'' You really have to wonder whether the tenth amendment to the constitution and the entire notion of federalism isn't a dead letter, when even your own town name isn't safe.

By Christmas 1891 or so, the people of Pittsburgh were incensed. Somehow they managed to remain incensed for two decades, and on July 19, 1911, the United States Geographic Board (the renamed United States Board on Geographic Names) restored Pittsburgh's original name. (It seems the wound never completely healed; see the Pittsburg entry for a bit more.) The board's concession was half a loaf, at best. The proper resolution would have been a state-court finding that no federal agency had the authority to name any state-incorporated entity, followed by a federal court's refusal to hear an appeal.

It's instructive to consider this case in detail. The original ten-man Board on Geographic Names was established by an executive order of Pres. Benjamin Harrison in 1890. At the time, some states had as many as five different towns with the same name. Shortening all burghs to burgs was one of the first decisions taken by the board. Decisions of the board were accepted as binding by all departments and agencies of the federal government.

This is typical in many ways. There was a plausible case that a real problem existed, of course, though it was probably not as serious as it was made out to be. It was the responsibility of the states to solve it. The states could certainly solve it themselves, and were likely better-situated to solve it knowledgeably and with sensitivity to local concerns. A federal agency was created to solve it, even though neither the executive nor the federal government as a whole had any authority in the matter. (Oh sure, it was necessary to standardize the names for smooth federal government operation.) Among the first actions of the board was one which was largely irrelevant to its charge. Without legally imposing its (nonexistent) authority (i.e., without legally changing the names) but merely by acting as if it had, the federal government created a version of the problem the problem it had set out to solve: name confusion for one of the country's largest cities, created in the name of solving the problem that there were five places named Dry Gulch in New Mexico (or whatever).

(You know, the partial-concession method of securing authority was not invented by the USGB. Consider Marbury v. Madison.)

Projection Gas Immersion Laser Doping.

Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation. The charitable foundation that supports the work of Project Gutenberg (PG).

Platinum-Group Metals. The period-5 and period-6 transition metals of three adjacent groups. (The ones under the period-4 metals Fe, Co, and Ni. I won't try to give the group numbers because there are two or three common numberings.) In atomic-number order they are ruthenium, rhodium, and palladium, then osmium, iridium, and um, um, oh yeah -- platinum.

PGM, .pgm
Portable GrayMap. An image format: MIME-type image/x-portable-graymap.

Precision Guided Munitions.

Propylene Glycol (mono) Methyl Ether.

PGP (tm)
Pretty Good (tm) Privacy. A public-key encryption for email and data storage. Visit the User's Guide or a jump-start-like introduction, with appropriate out-links.

PGP is the creation of Phil Zimmerman.

Procuraduría General de la República. Sounds fishy, doesn't it?

Prince Georges Radio Control Club. Established in 1964 to promote the enjoyment of building and flying radio-controlled model aircraft. If you're not in or near Prince George's County, then you're just SOL, yer scrood. Oh wait -- there's hope! More information in the next edition of the glossary.

PaGeS. Equivalently: pp.

Singulars: pg. and p.

Philosophy Graduate Students Association. There exists at least one PGSA (at Marquette University).

P. G. Wodehouse
Pelham (`Plum') Grenville Wodehouse (1881-1975).

Parental Guidance suggested before age 13. Indicates that movie is not about cartoon animals, but also contains nothing at all shocking. The only reason for this rating is to attract fourteen-year-olds to see G movies. PG is for attracting eighteen-year-olds to see G movies.

More at PG and MPAA entries.

[pH scale illustrated]

Potential of Hydrogen: -log[H+]. A measure of acidity on a logarithmic scale like the open-ended Richter scales. 7 is neutral, numbers larger than 7 are basic (roughly equivalent term alkaline) and smaller numbers are acidic (``sour''; although there is a sense of sour taste which measures acidity there is no equivalent taste sense for basicity). Acidic and basic solutions with pH's smaller than 0 and greater than 14, respectively, are rare. The pH of lemons is around 2.2, and vinegar is around 2.9.

Acid taste is not a perfect measure of acidity, however: e.g., apples and grapefruit have comparable acidity (3 to 3.3). An important factor in determining sour taste is sugar: sweetness masks acidity.

Cf. pK, pOH.

The figure above the entry is from Water Watch.

The pH measure was introduced in 1909 by the biochemist S.P.L. Sørensen. At the time, he was working on controlling acidity during the brewing of beer. You should celebrate this fact soon by performing GI-tract experiments with Danish beer.

(Domain code for) Philippines.

PH, ph
Pinch Hitter.

Postage and Handling.

Prentice Hall, which is now a division of Simon and Schuster.

Pulse Height Analy { sis | zer }. A feature of some optical multichannel analyzers (MCA).

Short for bacteriophage. A virus that eats bacteria, to judge from the etymology. Since the largest viruses are smaller than the smallest bacteria (don't hold me to that, there may be some overlap in the size range), the "eating" is from the inside: a phage invades, commandeers the genetic apparatus, replicates itself, and then its copies burst out of the cell wall of the bacterium.

  1. Member of a 50's singing group. There's a bit of further information hidden toward the end of the Mojo Risin, Mr. entry.
  2. [column] Dead king of ancient Egypt.
  3. Maybe you're thinking of farrow.


  4. Definitely you're thinking of farrow.

pharmaceutical names
See drug names.

Pig-Headed Boss.

PolyHydroxyButyrate. I guess really that should be polyhydroxybutanoate, but let's face it, the later nomenclature just doesn't have the old pizzazz.

Prairie Home Companion. A Sunday afternoon program produced by Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), hosted by the great storyteller Garrison Keillor, and featuring live music that it surprises no one has not made the performers rich or famous. Famous tagline: ``Lake Wobegone, where the women are strong, the men are good-lookin', and all the children are above average.''

Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National-Association. Yeah-that's-how they-write-it. Looks like piping-on-the-brain.

Photon-induced CVD. CVD in which a reaction on the surface is catalyzed by light, or accelerated by substrate heating caused by illumination.

Ph.D., PhD
Post-Hole Digger.


Ph.D., PhD
Philosophiae Doctor. Latin, `Doctor of Philosophy.'

Also, according to the progression B.S. (Bull Shit), M.S. (More Shit), Ph.D. is expanded ``Piled higher & Deeper.'' Illustration of the process

[The animated gif to the left is not a server-push graphic. You can stop it by pressing the escape key or using the selection item under the rightmost (if not the only) button on your mouse.]

Someone has suggested the expansion Pretty Hard to Date. I dare say I have been.

Theodore Ziolkowski wrote a famous article entitled ``The Ph.D. Squid,'' for American Scholar vol. 59(2) pp. 177-195 (Spring 1990), concerned with how long it's been taking to get one. (See ABD.)

The medieval universities mostly had two degrees: bachelor of arts and master of arts. I suppose this pattern was set by the University of Paris. The MA was the ``teaching degree'' attained by someone who was competent to teach the subject matter. A friend of mine who got her BA at Cambridge (UK) and her Ph.D. at Princeton returned and joined the faculty at Cambridge. They gave her an honorary Cambridge MA so that she would be technically qualified to teach. The Oxbridge universities are deeply steeped in tradition. I stayed in a guest room at her college (with a view of the cemetery), and judging from the electrical fixtures (vintage nineteenth-century)...

The Ph.D. was invented in Germany and adopted in the US and elsewhere as a research degree, and over time it has come to be regarded as necessary for university-level teaching. (Adoption has been somewhat nonuniform, however. The first Ph.D.'s were not awarded in Italy until the 1980's.)

Probably most people find the ``philosophy'' part of the term ``doctor of philosophy'' puzzling. The origin is in the traditional division of universities, dating back to medieval times, into four faculties: theology, law, medicine, and philosophy. Philosophy was broadly construed as scholarship not targeted toward a specific professional end (churchman, lawyer, physician). The Enlightenment expansion of knowledge for the most part inflated the catch-all faculty of philosophy (elsewhere called ``arts'' or ``arts and sciences'').

Plastic High Dome (watch crystal). Kindamusing, since ``high-dome'' is a synonym of egg-head, unnecessarily smart person.

Pigeon-Harvesting Dog. The recruiters that supply Google with the warm bodies needed for its PC's.

Peer Health Educator.


Phoenix. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

Pseudomorphic High Electron Mobility Transistor (HEMT). It is Stammtisch practice, or will be as soon as we use the word, to pronounce it ``PEE-hemp'd.'' You should follow us in this, even now before we have led.

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle[s].

Public Health, Education and Welfare. Rare deprecatory invented acronym for HEW. Aw, man.

Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association.
100 Witherspoon St. Rm. 3228,
Louisville, KY 40202-1396.

No longer room 3041. I think they moved things around a bit.

Web site under redevelopment as of June 2001. There's an amusing sort of pot-calling-the-kettle-black aspect to this, I'll leave that as is and merely note that as of 2014, they have a separate domain distinct from that of the PC(USA) which they originally used.

Paired Helical Filaments. Helical assemblies of neurofilament proteins found in Alzheimer's disease (AD) brains.


Packard Humanities Institute
300 Second St., Suite 201; Los Altos, CA 94022

The website was under construction as of late August 2003.

Tel: (415) 948-0150
Fax: (415) 948-5793

They sponsor some digs, but they are best known for producing a series of searchable CD-ROM for Classical Scholarship. CD-ROM 5.3 contains various Latin authors, and seven versions of the Bible. CD-ROM ``PHI 7'' contains collections of Greek papyri and inscriptions.

Programmer's Hierarchical Interactive Graphics System. A 3D graphics library.

Programmer's Hierarchical Interactive Graphics System Plus Lumiere Und Surfaces. (What the hell language is that?!) A PHIGS extension with depth-cueing, NURBS, and complex primitives (I love this stuff, whatever it is).

PIIGS plus Hungary. The PIIGS are all in the eurozone. Hungary, like the UK, is part of the EU but uses its own currency.

PHILadelphiA. A Greek place name derived from the Hellenistic Greek philadelphía, `brotherly love.' It was the name of one of the Decapolis (`ten city') cities located mostly in present-day Jordan. Philadelphia was the site of modern Amman (q.v.). The ancient city was named after a Ptolemaic rebuilder of the city. The Greek term philadelphía was used in post-classical Latin, and I presume that is the source of the name of the Pennsylvania city.

It is my irritated duty to point out that the translation `brotherly love' suggests a gender preference that is largely absent in the original Greek. Brother and sister in ancient Greek were adelphós and adelphê, respectively. (There's an acute accent on the final eta in the second word, but it's inconvenient to mark up.) Whichever of the two words you choose as basis, you get the same compound word with the -ia abstract ending. So philadelphía means both `brotherly love' and `sisterly love.'

At the time of the American Revolution, Philadelphia was the second-most-populous city in the British Empire, after London. According the census of 1800, Philadelphia had 70,000 inhabitants. The other four US cities with populations over 10,000 were New York (60,000), Boston (25,000), Charleston (18,000), and Baltimore (13,000). The first census of London, taken in 1801, yielded a count of 959,300. (London was the largest city in Europe; Edo, now called Tokyo, was very likely the largest city in the world, with a population estimated to be over a million.)

PHILEX, PhilEx, Philex
PHILadelphia Stock EXchange. Founded in 1790, it is the oldest exchange in the US. [There's an old building called the Bourse on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, but that institution (see bourse) is not directly related to the Philex.]

The NASD negotiated to buy the PhilEx in 1998, with a plan that included moving its options business to New York. Given that options were the largest part of the PhilEx's business, it seems hardly surprising that NASD was never able to make an offer that was attractive to PhilEx members. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported by April 20 that year that the deal appeared dead.

The following August, the PhilEx, CBOE, and Amex got into what was described as an ``old-fashioned market brawl,'' trading options on a few of the stocks that had previously traded exclusively on one or another of the exchanges. The CBOE and Amex started the fight, listing options of the Dell Computer Corporation, which for years had been traded exclusively on PhilEx and which was almost a third of its business. Philex countered almost immediately by listing options in Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Coca-Cola, and Apple Computer, which had traded primarily or exclusively on CBOE and Amex. By September of 1999, the CBOE had captured half of the Dell option business, and PhilEx, which kept only a third, was adding listings for GE, AT&T and Wal-Mart options. Remember AT&T? Things got even more exciting later when PhilEx began a price war, putting a ceiling on commissions for high-volume customers. Of course, that was all before ISE.

In harmony with Phil. (There may be other meanings.)

Phil's kind of harmonica. (Ditto.)

PHILosophy and LITerature. Reported at one time (by one of its board members) to be the best philosophy list in this or any possible universe. It was associated with a scholarly journal (also called Philosophy and Literature) that is published by Johns Hopkins University Press. When I visited on May 19-20, 1999, a more accurate description would have been: a lot of pretentious, half-informed talk about literature. Apparently they overcame the pretentiousness and started talking about politics. By 2003 it had become just another talk.politics. The owners, Denis Dutton and D. G. Myers, decided to put the list out of their misery and pulled the plug on May 18, 2003. Andreas Ramos, the ``moderator'' (nonstandard terminology; the list was completely unmoderated; he was just the technical facilitator) wanted the party to go on, and he created a list called Literature and Ideas at Topica.com. After a couple of weeks, the old list at TAMU was also reassembled, but perhaps on something like an invitation-only basis.

It looks like one of those long official military acronyms. Boy they have their fingers in everything. You'd never suspect it stands for PHILosophy of MInd, Language, and COGnitive Science, a graduate conference held annually at UWO.

A word constructed from Greek roots that can be understood as `love of words,' as philosophy can be understood as `love of wisdom.'

The term philology was originally a comprehensive term covering the study of all aspects of language. Indeed, early on the American Philological Association (APA, now mostly devoted to classical antiquity) had sections for Germanic philology, etc. Some time in the first quarter of the twentieth century, the word linguistics took over most of this meaning. Roman Jakobson (b. 1896, Moscow, d. 1982, Cambridge, MA) entered the historico-philological faculty [i.e., department] at the University of Moscow in 1914. In 1915, he and six other students there founded the Moskovij Lingvisticheskij Kruzok (`Moscow Linguistics Circle'), with the stated aim of studying `linguistics, poetics, metrics, and folklore' [translation from his Selected Writings II. Word and Language (The Hague: Mouton, 1971)]. He went on to make contributions in all those fields. In 1976, an interviewer referring to his broad scholarly activity and his multilinguistic competence, asked him ``Who are you?'' He answered, ``A Russian philologist. Period.'' On his gravestone are the words ``Roman Jakobson -- Russkij Filolog.''

But the word was not completely forget as late as fall 1949, when the novelist John O'Hara sent a letter to his friends Jim and Helen Thurber, preserved in Selected Letters of James Thurber.

Dear Thurbs:   By the way, what does a thurber do? What is thurbing? ``I think I'll go out and thurb the nasturtiums.'' ``Shall we go thurbing this afternoon?'' ``That goddam thurbing son of a bitch Ross.'' ``Father, the greeve needs a new thurber.'' All these years, and I never had the philological curiousity to ask a simple question.

It's a shame if the reply was not saved, because it ought to have been pretty good. Better, at least, than what I came up with.


philosopher kings
Plato, in Republic, bk. V, 473-C, wrote:
Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils - no, nor the human race, as I believe - and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.

A famous remark of Frederick the Great:

``If I wanted to punish a province, I would give it to philosophers to govern.''

Doctors of Philosophy, maybe? The Best and the Brightest! And do not forget that great philologist and foiled lexicographic reformer, Claudius.

William F. Buckley has famously remarked that he would rather be governed by the first 1000 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard University. Of course, WFB is a Yalie.

Philosophical Writing
No, no, this entry isn't about philosophical writing per se. It's about a book recently discarded by an undergraduate, and I'm so excited I have to share. The book's title is -- you guessed it: Philosophical Writing. It's by A.P. Martinich, and it is the most completely slapdash book I can ever recall skimming. It is slapdash from start to finish, and probably at a few places in between. It's an absolute treasure: every page has something to contemn! Do I mean literally every page, have I checked? Oh, alright, it's absolutely a relative treasure.

Sloppy from the start, though, as I said: The first extended prose in my copy is the ``Note to the Second Edition,'' on p. vii. (None of the roman-numeral pages displays a page number; I got the page number from the ToC. Useful, eh?) It begins thus: ``Writing to a friend, Voltaire apologized for the length of his letter: `If I had had more time, this letter would have been shorter.' '' The author (Martinich) means this quote to say something about his own writing and it does: it says that he couldn't be troubled to check any handy reference to find out that the author was Blaise Pascal.

It goes on like this, but I'm not going to work any harder writing a review than the author did writing the book in the first place. The book is a great deaccession candidate for any library that has it.

philosophically unsophisticated
Reasonable, sensible.

A poison that generally sharpens verbal reasoning ability while destroying the ability to think.

That succinct definition is just the second fruits of my research. I'll be adding more later, after I think even more deeply about it.

Philosophy Now
A periodical. Some of the content is online, because it's urgent. It comes out five, maybe six times a year. What is the deeper significance? I vow not to know until I find out.

philosophy team sports
The World Cup final between Germany and Greece, as presented by Monty Python, is available in many versions on YouTube. This link is to the most complete coverage I found.

A chart of APA Philosophy Referee Hand Signals was created by Landon W. Schurtz (a Ph.D. candidate at U. Okla.) in 2009, but seems to be available only on other peoples' blogs, like this one or this other one. The signals are similar to those of (North American) football, though the meanings differ slightly. Here is a comparison:

Football meaning(s) of signal          Philosophy signal meaning
=============================          =========================

Clipping                               Straw man

Delay of game                          Can you state that claim
                                       more concisely?

False start                            Please let me finish
                                       before you object

First down                             Premise accepted

Holding                                Irrelevant

Illegal cut                            I'd like to make a
                                       friendly amendment

Illegal motion                         Non sequitur

Illegal use of hands                   Unilluminating appeal to intuitions

No play, penalty declined              I'll spot you that claim for now

Ineligible receiver downfield          That thinker does not
                                       argue what you think

Intentional grounding                  Naturalistic fallacy

Loss of down                           I'll have to consider that

Offside                                I don't actually believe this,
                                       but for the sake of argument...

Pass interference                      Unilluminating appeal to skepticism

Personal foul                          Personal foul

Safety                                 I believe that claim actually
                                       supports my objection

Start clock (time in)                  Your argument is circular

TD, successful PAT or FG               Q.E.D.

Time out                               Your claims are inconsistent

Touchback                              Those claims yield an unexpected

Unsportsmanlike conduct                Was that article from
                                       a refereed journal?

After the game, we can all get together and sing The Philosophers' Drinking Song.


The vertical indentation between the nose and upper lip of a human. Etymologically related to philter, from the Greek root meaning `love.'

Penn Harris Madison. The P-H-M [Public] School District is in the town of Mishawaka, Indiana. P-H-M is one of the reasons private school education is so popular in this area.

Public-Health Nurs{ e[s] | ing }. There's a mailing list (generic link) for Public Health Nursing Discussion and Information. Read the archives. To subscribe to the mailing list, send the one-line message
SUBSCRIBE phnurses Firstname M. I. Lastname
to <listproc@u.washington.edu>

phone booth
A restaurant table between two padded bench seats, or with at least one padded bench seat and with the table against a (usually low) room divider. When people speak over the phone, they must raise their voices so they can be heard throughout the restaurant, because the person they're speaking with is far away.

phone sex
  1. Flirting with an unseen prostitute, usually. (I almost wrote ``normally.'' Out of sight...) And paying for the privilege. (Out of mind.)
  2. Ooooh, getaload o'that sleek Trimline. Hubba-hubba!
  3. The best thing about phone sex is that you don't have to sex them to make sure they're properly paired. They'll ring and swing anyway. Have a conference-call orgy!

See also sexting.

Appletalk over phone cable. Pronounced ``phone-net.''

phonetic alphabet
There is a standard set of words used to assure that voice-transmission of spelled-out sequences of letters are properly communicated.

A quantum of excitation of lattice deformation. As a particle, the phonon obeys Bose-Einstein statistics -- it's a boson.

``The Living Encyclopedia of Physics'' has an entry

They have lower internal resistance, to discharge faster. Ftp site here.

photoflash capacitors
They have lower internal resistance, to discharge faster.

The eye is not equally sensitive to power at different frequencies, even when the different frequencies are within the visible spectrum. In order to be able to discuss perceived light intensity, it is necessary to scale light intensity by the eye's sensitivity at each component frequency. Obviously it is impossible to do this in a way that is exactly appropriate for all human eyes, since eyes differ. Nevertheless, a standard sensitivity table was defined based on measurements for a number of people.

I will try to finish this.

[Phone icon]

Personal Handy Phone. See PHS.

Personal Home Page. PHP was originally a set of tools for people to track hits to their own web pages, but grew into a more general server-side scripting language. Eventually the expansion became PHP Hypertext Preprocessor. In principle, despite the appearance, this needn't be a recursive acronym (XARA). The new PHP expansion contains the old PHP, so one could as well expand PHP as Personal Home Page Hypertext Preprocessor.

Michael Neumann's extensive list of sample short programs in different programming languages includes a couple of bits of PHP script for insertion in a PHP document.

PHarmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America. A drug-company lobby in Washington, D.C. As of fall 2002, it employed at least twenty former members of Congress and various top staffers from the previous (Clinton) administration. Recent acquisitions included top health care aides from the staffs of Senators John McCain and Bill Frist. The wife of the then Senate minority leader was also working for them, demonstrating that she was a liberated modern woman who does not depend on her husband for her income and status. I imagine that PhRMA values her chemical expertise. She has also pointed out that all those young kids on congressional staffs don't even realize that she has a family connection. I hadn't realized that Daschle was such a common name.

The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group.

[Phone icon]

Personal Handyphone System. Wasei eigo for a Japanese-standard cordless digital phone service. It functions at much lower power than ordinary cellular phone systems, so it's intended as a walking-around phone for high population-density areas. The sets are cheaper and lighter. Since its introduction in July 1995, the standard has been adopted in Australia and Southeast Asia. Here's one from NEC, and s'more info at Q6 of this FAQ. Initially developed by NTT. Operates at 1.9 GHz.

Public Health Service. Part of the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Public High School.

Ph.T., PhT
Putting Hubby Through. A certificate that Harvard used to award to ``spouses'' (as news reports many years later sensitively describe it). I find it hard to believe that they used the word hubby, which word it seems to me is a recent import from England by way of the supermarket tabloids, rather than husband. I mean, we're talking Harvard here.

I learned of it during the celebrated 1997 divorce trial of Gary and Lorna Jorgenson Wendt. Gary Wendt, CEO of General Electric (GE) Capital Corp., and Lorna separated in 1995. He offered her $11 million, she sought half of an estate she claimed was worth $100 million as her due for being a ``career corporate wife.'' She introduced the Ph.T. in evidence (inter alia, of course). She was awarded over $17M plus over $0.252M alimony.

pHVA level
Plasma level of HomoVanillic Acid.

This entry is on the level.

Pressurized Heavy-Water Reactor.

PHYsical layer of the OSI model. Cf. AAL.

Disease that attacked French vines many years ago. France had to import American grape (Chilean and I think US were used), which has a natural resistance. The American vine was used as a root graft. This is subject to change as soon as I get the straight dope.

physical demography
Well, there's political geography and physical geography -- why not political demography and physical demography?

Here's my contribution to physical demography. On February 2, 2008, on his regularly syndicated weekly (Saturdays) radio program (``America's Car Show''), Tom Torbjornsen gave his evaluation of the Kia Spectra5 Wagon, I think it was. He said he had one basic problem with it: it was inappropriate for a person of his ``stature.'' He didn't mean his eminence as an automobile talking head. He also didn't mean his height. He drove it 200 miles and was very uncomfortable. The seats were narrow -- adequate for a 120-lb. woman or a 150-lb. man, but not for anyone bigger. He commented that this made the vehicle inappropriate for ``a large part of the population.'' From his intonation it was clear that he did not intend or recognize the pun. That's why it was cool.

Physics and Astronomy, Department of
UB used to have a department of Physics and Astronomy until the early 1990's. Then one day, it was suddenly gone! Fortunately, none of the members were hurt. Everyone was safely transferred to a newly created department, called the Physics Department.

According to a Stammtisch informant in a good position to know, the following event occurred in the old days. Someone called the department's director of undergraduate studies (the informant, as a matter of fact) to ask what courses the department offered in astrology. The caller probably was not satisfied with the answer.

physics crossword puzzles
US-style, newspaper-density, reasonably difficult physics-themed or physicsy crucigrams. (Not vocabulary puzzles.) They're coming soon. The target date is February 28, at <http://www.plexoft.com/PXW/>.


Le Parole e le Idee. Rivista internazionale di varia culture. Napoli.

PaleoIntensity. A term used in radioisotope (mostly C-14) dating. Until AMS became common, radioisotope fractions were determined from the activity of the material. Thus, it was common to think of the age as being measured by the intensity of radioactivity, rather than by the fraction of a particular isotope remaining undecayed.

Periodontal Insights. An approximately quarterly journal, subtitled ``a newsletter for the dental team,'' that was published by the American Academy of Periodontology. The old PI website is no longer reachable, though various academic libraries have an electronic version of the print publication available via ProQuest for the final five issues: v.5, no.4 (Dec. 1998) to v.6, no.4 (Feb. 2000). (Vol. 1, no. 1, was dated Sept. 1993.)

This is not very interesting, and it'll likely become less interesting over time. It's a lot like political coverage -- in the US, at least. Hours and hours about who's ahead and who's behind, or gaffes, scandals, and whose behind. Occasionally a few seconds about policy positions and related trivia. You know -- the drearily substantive stuff.

Philosophical Investigations. Just the TRUTHs, ma'am. By Wittgenstein.

PhosphatidylInositol. Same as PtdIns.

Physik Instrumente GmbH.

PolyImide. Capacitors take a lot of area but don't need silicon or even any crystalline material. Capacitors are a large fraction of the components in DRAM. In order to increase DRAM memory density, fabrication engineers have taken advantage of the limited requirements of capacitors to build them in odd ways (i.e., as something other than MOS capacitors). The first approach, developed at TI, was trench capacitors: a deep groove was etched into the silicon substrate using anisotropic etchants. This approach was used by TI and others, but for the highest degrees of integration it has not been found workable, and instead capacitors have been oriented perpendicular to the surface but outward instead of inward, using high polyimide walls.

Another reason to use PI is to reduce soft errors (vide SER, RSER) due to radioactive impurities in other packaging materials.

There's an informative polyimide entry in the Macrogalleria.


There's an informative PI entry in the Macrogalleria.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer. As of mid-February 2009, the paper's website could still claim that ``[t]he Seattle Post-Intelligencer is the oldest morning newspaper in the state of Washington and has a following throughout the Northwest. It has been `The Voice of the Northwest since 1863.' '' That text is gone now: ``For hundreds of thousands of people in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, it's not morning without their P-I.'' These are historic times, and part of that history is that 2009 will apparently see a mass die-off of venerable newspapers. The P-I was put up for sale by the Hearst Corporation in early January and given 60 days to find a buyer. The last print edition was distributed on St. Patrick's Day 2009.

They have another webpage entitled ``The P-I's name evokes mystery, if not confusion.'' But Intelligencer is not such an unusual or obsolete name for a periodical publication: there's also the famous Mathematical Intelligencer.

Preussischen Instruktionen. `Prussian instructions.' A system of literature cataloguing rules once widely used.

In this as in many cataloguing conventions, the main entry is usually the title entry. A justification often given for this was that many complex works, or works of diffuse or corporate authorship, have unclear or multiple authorship, but most works have a title. Anglo-American rules (see AACR) normally make the main entry the author, and it is claimed on sparse systematic evidence that users remember authors more accurately than titles. In recent revisions, the AARC has been moving closer to the more common European mode (title main entry), but at the same time technology is nullifying the distinction between main and added entries.

Principal Investigator. Term used in government contracts and grants to designate the person who is responsible for completing the terms of the contract and filing reports, and who has authority to spend monies provided. Cf. SI.

Privacy International.

La donna e mobile, la donna e mobi-- Eeeek! Close the international border!

``Each year, the members and affiliated organizations of Privacy International present the "Big Brother" awards to the government and private sector organizations in their countries which have done the most to threaten personal privacy in their countries.'' As of Spring 2001, ``11 ceremonies have been held in six countries and have given out over 50 awards to some of the most powerful government agencies, individuals and corporations in those countries.''

As the PI page for these awards fails to mention, probably because it is universal knowledge, the name ``Big Brother'' or ``BIG BROTHER'' in the relevant sense was introduced by George Orwell in his dystopic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). ``BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU'' is one of the three slogans of the party, and true. After Winston Smith has been detained, O'Brien tells him ``If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--forever.'' A boot stamping on a human head is the form of PI's Big Brother award.

Interesting coincidence of initialisms with the next item.

It occurs to me now that a few people (I'm being polite; I really mean just you) might not get the joke at the beginning of the entry. The scenario is of someone singing in the shower; it's instantly recognizable because people tend to sing catchy opera lyrics in the shower, where the echo from the hard walls makes their voices seem larger.

Private Investigator. An investigator (typically of individuals) hired privately. Although a PI does not have any particular legal privileges or powers, a large fraction of PI's have a background in the police (a profession in which retirement may be quite early), and keep up connections with their former colleagues. In the US, there are about half a million police officers (as well as more than a million privately employed guards and other security personnel).

Jack Webb's first big break in radio came playing a traditional (hard-drinking, gam-chasing, rapid-firing) dick; it was not until a few years later that an LA cop's suggestion and offer of technical help led to his creation of the historic ``Dragnet.'' [sound file]

Program Interrupt[ion].

Protease Inhibitor. A kind of AIDS drug.

Protocol Interpreter.

Parallel Interface Adapter.

Printing Industries of America.

(Canadian) Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

Particle In a Box.

Policy Information Base.

PolyIsoButylene (polymer). There's an informative PIB entry in the Macrogalleria.

Potential-Induced Breathing (model). ``Breathing'' here and often in microscopic modeling refers to a monopole-like mode -- oscillation in which deformation is all simultaneously outward or simultaneously inward.

Producto Interno Bruto. Spanish for `GDP.' Less than half as common is the expansion Producto Interior Bruto. I think it may be be a regional-dialect thing. To me, in general, interno means `internal' and interior means `inside, interior.' But without giving it any thought, when I saw PIB, I assumed before checking that it stood for interno. ``PBI'' is also used.

Paired-Ion Chromatography (IC).

Parallel Interference Cancellation. PIC and SIC (sequential) are favored by industry because they are compatible with the current transmission coding. Adaptive linear filters are favored in academic research but require (to keep computational complexity low) short PN sequences not so compatible.

Particle-In-Cell. Computational method; see, e.g., C. K. Birdsall and A. B. Langdon: Plasma Physics via Computer Simulation (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985), p. 179.

Personal { Information | Intelligent } Communicator.

Photonic Integrated Circuit.

Pictor. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

Pilot In Command.

Plastic-Insulated Cable.

Position-Independent Code. Assembled code whose addresses do not need to be adjusted by the linkage editor.

Power Integrated Circuit.

Primary Independent Carrier.

Prior Informed Consent. Name used by UNEP for an international hazardous chemicals information exchange program.

Priority Interrupt Controller.

Product[s] of Incomplete Combustion.

Program Interrupt Controller.

Microcontrollers made by Chandler, Arizona-based MicroChip Technology. Someone claims they don't have external address or data bus, but are useful for small controller applications.

Portable Image Computation Architectures. A fine-grained message-passing architecture designed to support high-throughput parallel applications.

Posterior Inferior Cerebellar Artery.

Unit of type measure, and a disorder of humans and other mammals -- eating dirt or dust. Frequently occurs in pregnant women and those suffering mineral deficiencies, particularly of iron (Fe) or zinc (Zn).

Palaeoenvironmental records from antarctic ICE cores. A bid to give Greenland some competition in the ice core business. A ``scientific task group'' jointly sponsored by the global changes programs of SCAR (GLOCHANT) and of IGBP.

pico, p
10-12 prefix in SI.

Picolinate is synthesized in the body as a breakdown product of tryptophan. It is a ligand -- i.e., a chelating agent. That is, it is a molecule that forms a weak electrostatic bond to an ion, screening its charge. This is very important in biological systems, because it enables metal ions to be incorporated in cells and tissues that are mostly assemblages of nonpolar or not very polar organic molecules. (For example, globin chelates iron to form hemoglobin, which binds oxygen in blood cells and moves it around the body.)

Some fans of the hypothesis that chromium picolinate is GTF, believe that the body doesn't produce enough picolinate to chelate chromium. Whether or not that detail is correct, picolinate is not toxic at ordinary levels of consumption by the most furious pill-poppers, and the body is able to eliminate the excess easily. A more immediate reason to take picolinate is that chromium has been demonstrated repeatedly to be poorly absorbed in salt form (it is not very bioavailable in this form). Hence, the chromium chloride typically found in multivitamins is worthless. If you believe that you need or could benefit from chromium supplementation (and for this there is substantial evidence), then chromium tripicolinate (the ``picolinate'' form normally sold) is the best known way to get it.

Human milk contains significant amounts of picolinate; cow's milk and baby formula do not.

Platform for Internet Content Selection. A trademark ``specification [that] enables labels (metadata) to be associated with Internet content. It was originally designed to help parents and teachers control what children access on the Internet, but it also facilitates other uses for labels, including code signing and privacy. The PICS platform is one on which other rating services and filtering software have been built.''

Plug-in Inventory Control System.

Protocol Implementation Conformance Statement.

Photo-Induced Current Transient Spectroscopy.

{Particle- | Photo-} Induced Desorption.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. General term for infectious inflammation of the uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes.

PhotoIon[ization] Detector.

Pre-Implantation Diagnosis. Testing for genetic disease before artificial implantation of a fertilized egg in a uterus.

(Computer) Process IDentifier.

Proportional Integro-Differential.

Protocol Identifier. Governs Connection Type.

Photonics Industry and Technology Development Association. The Taiwanese member of the ICOIA.

Planetary Instrument Definition and Development Program. A program of NASA's Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES).

Process Integration, Devices and Structures.

Department of Primary Industries and Energy of the Australian government. Now renamed AFFA.


The capital of South Dakota (SD). Pronounced as ``peer.''

Pressure-Induced Extra Resonance in Four-wave mixing.

Paid In Full. Squared.

Process Interchange Format. A common translation language that for communication between different process representations.

Problem [is] In Front Of [the] Keyboard. A more precise version of this is PEBCAK.

Australian hunters' term for a pit bull (a/k/a bull terrier). Pigdogs, as you may imagine, are prized for their tenacity and savage courage. They're used to hunt wild boar and feral hogs. There's a lot more (little of it relevant) at the dogger entry.

Pig Latin
A recent achievement has been the translation of the Bible into this language.

Particle-Induced GaMma ion Emission.

Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain. Well, no, as a matter of fact -- it's not a neutral term. A more neutral term, and one in which the first three letters are arranged according to order in which they sought relief from the EU (i.e., from the eurozone, i.e., via the ECB, i.e., from German taxpayers), is GIPS. See also PIIGS.

Plasma Ion Implantation.

Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. This acronym, as well as PIGS, began to be widely used in 2009 to refer to eurozone countries in financial trouble. The qualifications for admission to this club are not formally defined. As of June 2010, only Greece had come to the brink of default (and been pulled back, temporarily). As of June 2011, all the fat was in the fire. (No, I'm not going to define that technically.)

Plasma-Immersion Ion Implantation. See X. Y. Qian, et al., ``A Plasma Immersion Ion Implantation Reactor for VLSI Fabrication,'' Nucl. Instruments and Methods in Physics Res., Section B-Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms, 55, No. 1-4, 884-887 (1991).

PIK, Pik, pik, p.i.k.
Payment-In-Kind. Also interpreted as pay-in-kind, paid-in-kind. In general, this refers to barter arrangements.

The word salary stems from the Latin salarium, noun use of (the neuter form of) an adjective meaning `pertaining to salt.' (Salt is sal.) The term salarium was apparently first used in the time of Augustus Caesar, and usually referred to payments in the form of both money (i.e. precious-metal coins) and supplies. Hence, part of the salarium was usually PIK wages. Here sal was evidently understood as a synecdoche for `things required.'

When PIK is used as an adjective modifying bond, instrument, loan, security or (usually) structure, it has a more specific sense. It means that interest is paid in additional securities rather than in cash.

Page Interchange Language.

Pilling-Bedworth Ratio (PBR)
Ratio of oxide volume grown to unoxidized material consumed in oxidation. The ratio is 2.22 for silicon and 2.01 for silicon nitride, theoretically. YMMV a little bit because the density of the oxide is a bit lower in the amorphous oxide than in the crystal, and lower in steam-grown than in dry-oxygen-grown oxide. Abbreviated PBR.

Payment In Lieu Of Taxes.

Hospitals, colleges and universities, and other non-profit organizations are typically exempted by state law from municipal property taxes. PILOT programs of different sorts partially compensate municipalities for the ``lost'' property-tax revenues.

  • Most commonly, municipalities pressure or convince these organizations to participate in a PILOT program under which they pay perhaps 50% of the taxes they would if they were not exempt, sort of as a good-will gesture for basic services like police and fire protection.
  • Under Connecticut's PILOT Program, enacted in 1978, the state pays each eligible municipality a ``grant in lieu of taxes with respect to real property owned by any private nonprofit institution of higher education or any nonprofit general hospital facility or free standing chronic disease hospital.'' The grants amount to 77% of the property tax that would have been collected (two years earlier).

Another kind of PILOT program is essentially a development-incentive tax abatement: a municipality (or state) agrees to accept PILOT payments (AAP alert!) from a commercial enterprise that are less than regular taxes, in return for the business's signed commitment to invest in expansion or development. One version of this is sketched at the IDA entry.

Passive InterModulation distortion.

Patient Interface Module. `Patient' here is an attributive noun. I.e., PIM is not specifically a user-tolerant system. Cf. Sir Francis.

Penalties In [units of] Minutes. Hockey stat sheet abbreviation for penalty minutes accumulated.

Personal Information Manager.

Processing-In-Memory. Memory and logic coupled on a single VLSI chip.

There are a variety of related ideas and terms, including Embedded RAM, Merged Logic in Memory, System on a Chip, Intelligent Memory, and IRAM. It appears to me that the main reason for the multiple terms is pride. Different research projects were started independently, each with its own mix of stated reasons for blurring the memory/processor dichotomy in microelectronics and each with its own mix of methods and emphases. All of these projects are still in the R&D stage as of 2008, afaik.

Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. It's based at the University of Toronto, not in Vatican City, so you're probably wondering how it became ``pontifical,'' and what mechanisms are in place to implement medieval practice in the present day. ``The Institute of Mediaeval Studies, the oldest humanities research institute in Canada, was founded in 1929 under the auspices of St. Michael's College and the Congregation of the Priests of St. Basil (CSB). [Saint Basil is, I believe, the patron saint of condiments. A basilica is a very large spice rack.] The original foundation was principally the work of Etienne Gilson [and a bunch of others].''

``The Institute progressed so well in its first ten years that, in 1939, it was honoured with pontifical status. As the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, it was to be regulated by pontifical Statutes and its governing Council empowered by charter to grant the pontifical Licence in Mediaeval Studies and Doctorate in Mediaeval Studies. ...''

``The Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies has direct relations with the Apostolic See in Rome through its Chancellor and the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, which approves its Statutes. The Institute Chancellor is the Archbishop of Toronto, and its governing Council is composed of Senior Fellows and Junior Fellows (voting), Institute Professors, Fellows Emeriti, and Invitees (non-voting), and Representatives (voting) from the Junior Associates and Alumni. The Chancellor ordinarily presides at convocations and doctoral examinations and takes a personal interest in the life and work of its members.'' (The same paternalism obtains at some other Catholic schools.)

``A Senior Fellow has tenure in the Institute. A Junior Fellow holds an appointment for a duration determined by the Senior Fellows. ... The governing authority and administration within the Institute rests primarily with its Council, whose policies and decisions are executed by its Officials and Committees.''

Personal Identification Number. Common usage: PIN number. (Proof here.)

One of the most heroically addled instances of acronym-assisted aap pleonasm (AAP) occurs in this 1999 memo (an internal educratic document, naturally):

You will be asked for your personal pin identification number (PIN) when you enter this site.

PIN, pin
P-doped, Intrinsic, N-doped. A pn junction interupted by an intrinsic region. A popular structure for lasers, because it can be optimized easily.

PIN, Pin
Postal Index Number. Indian postal code. Also referred to as PINCODE, PIN code, Pin Code, pincode, etc. India Post apparently regards it as good style or decorative or something to use at least two different forms on a page. I swear, this ethnic divisiveness is going to tear India to pincode-size pieces!

Procedure Interrupt Negative.

pinball game
Huh? There's no such thing. Perhaps you're thinking of a pinball machine.

Refers to closing of conduction channel in JFET or MESFET.

Particle Impact Noise Detection. We're talkin' loose bits in an electronics package. Use sensitive acoustic detectors. Method is cousin to shaking a light bulb. Reminds me of how the other day we tried to shake a two-hundred-pound FedEx mailbox to see if there had already been a pickup. For PIND down to 25µm (i.e., 1 mil) diameters, try

Dal Porto, J., Loescher, D., Olson, H., and Plunkett, P.:
``LSI packaging that passes PIND test,'' 31st Elec. Comp. Conf., pp. 218-222 (1981).
[Same authors]:
``SEM/EDAX analysis of PIND test failures,'' 19th Ann. Proc. Rel. Phys. Symp., pp. 163-166 (1981).

Dutch, `peanut butter.' (Literally ``peanut cheese.'') If there are any other words of Dutch that you will need to know, we'll get them in here.

One of the many theories of the origin of the word Yankee is that it evolved from Jan Kaas, `John Cheese,' like John Doe (John Dough?) in New Amsterdam before the British came over. (Remember that the ``J'' is pronounced ``Y'' -- a consonantal I.)

A mail user application (MUA). The name reflects fundamentally the fact that Pine is a common tree in the Pacific NorthWet (sic), just like Elm, which is the acronym for an antecedent MUA.

While the name has remained constant, the acronym expansion has not. It initially stood for ``Pine Is Nearly Elm.''

It never stood for ``Pine Is Not Elm.''

If you want more on the acronym expansion, get it from one horse's own web page.

The University of Washington owns the trademark, and their pusillanimous Pine homepage refuses to acknowledge that the acronym is recursive. Thus is the net overrun with deathly seriousness.

pink fuel
Since 1994, the IRS has required refiners to dye diesel fuel intended for off-road use, which is not taxable, to prevent its being sold, illegally since not taxed, for on-road use. The fuel is colored by the addition of 11 ppm of a red dye, enough to turn the diesel fuel cherry red, but apparently not enough to damage diesel engines.

Many pipelines used to transport diesel fuel are also used to transport jet fuel. Tests run by GE have shown that 0.5 ppm of the dye in jet fuel can begin to gum up fuel nozzles. There are also concerns that the dye could cause uneven heating, hence turbine blade cracking and catastrophic failure of engines.

The fuel left behind after pink diesel flows through a pipeline can easily cause visible contamination of jet fuel: one part per billion of the dye is enough to give a pink tinge to jet fuel, which is normally clear or white-wine colored. In the absence of better information about what levels of the dye are safe, all the major engine manufacturers (GE, PW, RR) have advised airlines not to use fuel that is visibly pink.

Evidently (read carefully above), the levels at which jet fuel is pink are well below the levels that have been demonstrated to be dangerous. The FAA is unconcerned -- unsurprising, given its decades-long record of irresponsibility. The aviation industry has established its own pink fuel committee to investigate the possible hazards.

More in the 1997.04.28 NYTimes, pg. A7.

pink noise
Any noise with a power spectrum that falls as 1/f². Cf. white and brown noise.

Correspondence between circuit terminals and pins on the outside of a semiconductor package.

A Romanization (transliteration to Latin characters) of Chinese, based on the Mandarin pronunciation. This one was adopted by the PRC during the fifties, and became the standard in American journalism shortly after Nixon's ``opening to China,'' most noticeable in the sudden replacement of China's famous old capital city Peking by a previously unknown place called Beijing. Pin-Yin also has wide acceptance in Western academic use.

Unusual features of Pin-Yin include the use of ``x'' for the consonant typically written ``sh'' in English. There is precedent for this usage in various Romance languages of Iberia, especially if you go back a half a millenium or so, and it's still the practice in Catalan and, with some inconsistency, in Galician and Portuguese. More unusual is the use of ``q'' for some instances of the consonant written ``ch'' in English. There is also some precedent for this in one or another European language, I forget which.

The decision to base the new Romanization on Mandarin was natural, since that is by far the most widely used language variety, but it's unfortunate in yielding the least amount of spelling variety: Proto-Chinese was monosyllabic, but the Chinese varieties have been losing phonemes, none more so than Mandarin. Consequently, an estimated 70% percent of words used in ordinary Mandarin speech are now poly- (mostly di-) syllabic. This makes the spoken language less mysterious, while the writing system -- based on logograms -- is about as unambiguous as ever. However, the Romanization is essentially logogram-by-logogram, so because it is based on Mandarin the Romanization yields the least information about the component morphemes.

In the preceding paragraph, I have used the neutral term ``language variety'' in order to force a pun on ``spelling variety,'' but I have an excuse for using this relatively less common term rather than ``language'' or ``dialect.'' It is sometimes convenient to describe as ``language varieties'' two forms of speech that are mutually comprehensible to an intermediate degree (between dialects and distinct languages). That is not the case here, because the languages derived from Proto-Chinese that are widely used in China today clearly include what must be counted by linguists as different languages: speeches that are not at all mutually understood. And in modern linguistics, where spoken languages are concerned, it is the spoken form that is regarded as the basis for comparison, rather than any written form. That usually wouldn't affect the assignment, but the standard written form of the Chinese languages is logographic and makes the written expression of the one Chinese language substantially comprehensible to literate speakers of other Chinese languages. For this reason, the various Chinese languages have traditionally been regarded as ``dialects,'' and are so called even by many linguists.

Parallel Interface Output.

Person of (subcontinent) Indian Origin. More interesting alternatives: Desi and ABCD.

`Pious' in various Romance languages. Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, at least, all without an accent. It's a regular development from the Latin pius, and in the three mentioned languages, the Latin proper noun Pius, used by a few popes, at least, is Pio.

Nickname of Philip Pirrip, protagonist of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations.

Small seed. Spanish cognate: pepa, `seed.' (A small seed is pepita. A small Pepe is Pepito.)

Back in English, `pip' can stand for anything small.

It's been verbed; at least in the UK, it can have the sense of `edge [out],' as in this quote from a BBC opinion piece (``NEWS: BUSINESS''):

The big question is whether the radical left-wing upstarts of Syriza will pip the established centre-right New Democracy to first place.

Package-In-Package. An approach to three-dimensional microelectronic circuit integration.

PhosphatidylInositol-4-Phosphate. Same as PtdIns 4-P. The bisphosphate is PIP2.

Picture-In-Picture. A primitive windowing system for the old boob-tube technology.

Plot Inconsistencies Project. ``A list of, and explanations for, all of the plot inconsistencies within the Red Dwarf TV series. Also lists production errors.'' Cf. BPIP.

Political Intellectual Property. Cool acronym, huh? I just invented it so I can avoid explicitly using the words political and intellectual in such close and uncomfortable proximity. Besides, it also suggests the usual intellectual magnitude of such IP.

Proximal InterPhalangeal (joint). The second knuckle from the end. That is, the closer (more proximal) of the two joints between phalanx. Cf. DIP.

Piping Industry Progress and Education. ``[A] Labor-Management Cooperation Committee that was formed to improve communications between labor and management, to study and explore new and innovative joint approaches to problems, to work to eliminate potential problems, to improve occupational safety and health and other working conditions within the plumbing and piping industry.''

pipe flow
The kind of flow that occurs in a closed channel (q.v.).

Parallel-In, Parallel-Out.

At various times and for various reasons, they performed independently of Gladys Knight. See the stealth acronym entry for some of their story.

Polymerization-Induced Phase Separation. A method for PDLC fabrication.

Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. French initialism: IPFPC.

A pejorative term for someone unimposing either physically or socially. A term whose mere existence should have given pause to the coiners of ``PIPSC.''

PhosphatidylInositol-4,5-bisPhosphate. Same as PtdIns 4,5-P. The monophosphate is PIP.

Photon-Induced x-Ray.

Polyisocyanurate (polymer).

Program Information Report.


Prosopographia Imperii Romani (database).

Protein Identification Resources.

Provisional Irish Republican Army. The IRA.

`Pyre' in Spanish and Italian. (Feminine noun.)

A violent, carnivorous little fish with big teeth, found in the Amazon. When these fish attack, the water's surface seems to boil. [Pron. /pi:ranja/.] Affectionate nickname for traditional cleaning mix of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide. Sulfuric acid works best hot, at a point where one is releasing lots of acid steam. With H2O2, it works well at merely 100°C. Moreover, no external heating is needed because first H2SO4 heat of solution, and then H2O2 heat of dissolution, heat the bath.

Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. PIRE describes itself as ``one of the nation's preeminent independent, nonprofit organizations merging scientific knowledge and proven practice to [blah, blah, and more blah].''

Public-Interest Research Group. An advocacy organization with its own agenda, typically funded by the student-activity dues of students without their own agenda.

Penning (-trap) Ionization Spectroscopy.

Program for International Student Assessment. A triennial embarrassment.

pis-aller, pis aller
French expression meaning `last resort,' borrowed in English with the same sense. Normally hyphenated in French, normally written as two words (without hyphen) in English. Despite the modification, the expression is not yet considered sufficiently naturalized that italics may be dispensed with (by those who haven't altogether dispensed with italicization of unnaturalized loans).

Literally, pis is `worse.' It should be noted, however, that French (like Spanish) has no inflectional distinction between comparative and superlative forms. This is a distinction, of course, that English can indicate by inflection (-er vs. -est). (Sacrebleu!) Superlative in French or Spanish is normally indicated by combining the comparative form (or ``nonabsolute'' form, if you prefer) with a definite article. (In the case of an expression like au pis, of course, the definite article is hidden by contraction into au.) The periphrastic construction of a superlative form does not always lend itself to a graceful idiom, so we should be ready, as in the case of pis-aller, to understand the comparative form as implicitly superlative. Aller is the infinitive of a verb meaning `to go,' but here it functions as a gerund. The gerund of choice in English, for odd historical reasons, is the present participle (`going').


Latin for `fish.'

PoISson and Continuity Equations Solver. Poisson, of course, is fish in French.

Spanish for `fish tank' and `swimming pool.' It sounds like a good pun in English. Now I think of it, in my family (from Argentina) a swimming pool is usually called a pileta or pileta de natación.

In Spanish: v. `I step' or masc. n. `floor.' More usage notes about the noun are at the this SICS entry.

Parallel-In, Serial-Out.

An abrupt depression in a flat surface.

Airport code for Pittsburgh.

Powder-In-Tube. Fabrication process for high-TC superconductors (HTSC).

Pain In The Anatomy. (``Anatomy'' here represents a specific part of the anatomy. Look, just because transparent coyness and polite euphemism have virtually disappeared from public discourse doesn't mean I must also be vulgar.)

Pi Tau Sigma
National Honorary Mechanical Engineering Society. Link from PTS.

Here are only some of the most common meanings of the word, when used as a noun:
  1. The least volatile fraction of tar. A sticky black or dark brown resin that was traditionally obtained by boiling tar. It was traditionally used as a final sealant over the caulked seams of a wooden boat's hull, and generally as a coating to protect wood.
  2. Anything that physically resembles pitch but is not known to be molasses. By physically resembles, I mean that it is viscous and sticky somewhere between room temperature ant the temperature of boiling water, hard at room temperature, and not even sticky at cold temperatures. And dark brown or black.
  3. The act of putting something down. The something is usually inanimate: pennies, drinks (hence pitcher), slop (I mean food), a tent, cricket wickets.
  4. The act of pitching oneself forward. Usually the ``one'' here -- the subject of the verb pitch -- is a vehicle. As in the pitch of a ship. A ship is said to pitch when its prow plunges. If you are drunk or pass out, you may pitch forward, but the act of doing so is not usually called a pitch.
  5. The angle between the direction of the relative wind (the wind velocity in an aircraft's reference frame) and a horizontal plane of the aircraft.
  6. Restricted subsets of the throws that take place within various ball games. For example, in baseball, pitches are only those throws by a baseball pitcher that, when thrown, can result in a strike or ball. (Of course, when any fielder throws very fast and straight, that may also be called a strike metonymically.) When the pitcher throws the ball to the catcher so he can pass it to the umpire for inspection or replacement, that's just a throw, not a pitch. (I'm going on the theory here that practice throws are not pitches.)
  7. A figurative throwing or casting that attempts to achieve some end for the thrower, particularly a sales pitch.
  8. Any thing pitched.
  9. A spot of land marked or occupied for pitching (in any loose sense of the last word), or where something has been pitched (as the wickets in cricket). (Or a spot in a river, for fishing.)
  10. Slope of a surface or of a feature in geology (e.g. vein, coal seam) or architecture (roof, stairs) away from horizontal.
  11. The height of any sloped thing.
  12. The height of any thing.
  13. The height of any thing, figuratively.
  14. The height -- in the sense of highness or lowness -- of audible sound.
  15. The frequency of a mechanical vibration or other periodic oscillation -- an extended sense of musical pitch.
  16. The common spacing between adjacent points, gear-tooth centers, screw threads, parallel scribed lines, etc. You know, the only reason I put this entry in in the first place was that when I first encountered the term pitch in the last sense -- as the spacing between adjacent lines in a pattern of lithographically defined lines on a semiconductor surface, it seemed an odd usage. Now I can see how it all hangs together.

The German word for pitch (the sticky-when-warm substance) is Pech. One of its meanings is `bad luck.'

A mineral consisting of the native oxides of uranium (mostly UO2, some UO3), with oxides of radium, lead, thorium, and rare earths. Marie Curie chemically separated most of the uranium compound from a large mass of pitchblende. What she was left with had a blue glow in the dark: radium oxide.

Pitchblende takes its name from its appearance in the form of deposits with a pitch-like luster (cf. zincblende). The general mineral is called uraninite, and in the rare instances when it is found in crystalline deposits, it is just called that and not pitchblende.

Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance. Pay by the month, build equity.

Spanish noun meaning `whistle.'

Photo-Induced current Transient Spectroscopy. Or else Photo-induced current (I) Transient Spectroscopy. Acronym expansion is subtle work that often involves intellectual heavy lifting, oh yes.

You were looking for Pittsburgh but you can't spell worth a hill of beans! You would be lost if we weren't hear to save you.

Just so you won't feel so bad: there were a couple of decades when a meddling federal-government insisted that the name of Pittsburgh (along with all other US -burghs) be spelled without the h (see Pgh for some detail). As recently as 2001, a study found that Pittsburgh is the ``most misspelled city'' in America (see the misspelled city names entry). According to that study, the most common misspelling of Pittsburgh is Pittsburg.

Though the feds finally granted an exception to Pittsburgh in 1911, I think their action contributed to the misspelling problem. I mean ``contributed'' not just directly but indirectly, through the absence or paucity of -burgh names. In fact, there's even a Pittsburg in California that we mention at our Tempe entry.

Pittsburgh, founded in 1758, was named by General John Forbes in honor of William Pitt.

Apparently Pitt came to like the idea of having things named after himself. The next year, William Pitt's second son was born and he was named William, too. As the younger William Pitt went on to become prime minister of Britain, it is useful to distinguish Pittsburgh's Pitt as William Pitt the Elder. Regarding these two, it is worth noting that the Elder died very picturesquely. On May 11, 1778, he fell backwards into the arms of his son William, as the latter was reading to him the passage in Homer's Iliad on Hector's farewell.

Franz Boas (born in 1858), was the first professor of anthropology at Columbia University and a legend in his discipline. On December 21, 1942, he convened a luncheon at the faculty club in honor of Paul Rivet, a refugee recently arrived in New York from Nazi-occupied France. Sitting beside Boas was Claude Lévi-Strauss, another such refugee only less recently arrived. CLS was then still a future legend of anthropology; born in 1908, he celebrated his hundredth birthday this past November 28. I'm sure it was a wild party. Boas was enveighing against the pseudo-scientific race theories of the Nazis when he collapsed. He died holding the arms of CLS. It was looked back on afterwards as a passing of the torch.

Peak Inverse Voltage. Reverse bias at which diode begins to conduct significantly.

Informal plural of picture.

{ Particle | Proton }-Induced X-ray Emission.

PIXEL, pixel
PICTure ELement. Here are some remarks from whatis.com.

Protocol Implementation eXtra Information for Testing.

pizza "deep dish" +Chicago
This is a sample search string that the Alta Vista search engine used to give, back when it was more important. A lot of people probably cut-and-paste it in and see what they get. As soon as Alta Vista updated its entry on the page with this entry, we expected to see the hit rate really take off. Before then, if you searched with this string you got a lot of pages with search-engine links.

In the event (which occurred in the fall of 1996), the page with this entry (it was P.html at the time) was consistently among the three most-visited pages of this site.

PaJama. Also PyJama. Looks funny written in mixed cases like that, when there's a descender between upper-case characters. I think Ogden Nash wrote it with a wye.

Partido Justicialista. Roughly, `justice party.' Normally translated, or glossed, as the `Peronist Party' (los Peronistas). The most popular local flavor of insanity. From the time of the first government (1945-1955) of Juan Perón until the second (1973-1975), roughly speaking, this was the most popular party in Argentina. A junta brought an end to the second Perón period, conducted the infamous Dirty War, invaded the Falklands, and eventually allowed free elections in 1983. The presidential election was unexpectedly won by Raúl Alfonsín, standard-bearer for the UCR.

Pointer Justification Count.

Pacific Justice Institute. It's ``a non-profit 501(c)(3) legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties. Pacific Justice Institute works diligently, without charge, to provide their clients with all the legal support they need.'' For an example of their work, read about Charles and Stephanie Fromm.

(Domain code for) Pakistan. The origin of the name is explained at the Pakistan entry.

The Pakistan News Service (PNS) offers a hypertext faq.

PeaceKeep{ er | ing }. Coincidentally, many UN PK's are from the domain known to computers as .pk

Penalty Kick. Where will you take it?

Potential of the equilibrium constant K: -log[K]. The equilibrium constant is the one appearing the law of mass action for a reaction. Cf. pH.

PreKindergarten. Nursery School.

Press Kit.

Pyruvate Kinase.


Public-Key Infrastructure..

Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan. Kurdish for `Kurdistan Workers' Party.' It has had a couple of name changes, and is now usually referred to by expressions of the form ``Foobar (formerly known as the PKK).''

Passenger KiloMeter[s]. About 0.6 passenger mile[s].

PeaceKeeping Operation. A large susbet of PKO's is UNPKO's.

Polskie Koleje Panstowe. Polish (.pl) national railways. Name may have changed.

PhenylKetonUria. People who have PKU should avoid aspartame (`NutraSweet' is the brand name). If like me, you irrigate yourself internally with a few daily six-packs of diet soda, you may have wondered if you might be a phenylketonuric who should be avoiding this possibly dangerous behavior. You are not. The untreated disorder expresses itself in infancy or early childhood, causes mental retardation, seizures and hyperactivity. Screening of neonates for the disorder is now nearly universal. It's rare, and if you had it you'd either know it or be in such a bad way that you'd neither know it nor care.

PKU is a disorder in metabolism of the amino acid phenylalanine. Specifically, there is a deficiency of the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase, which converts phenylalanine to tyrosine. As a result, phenylalanine accumulates in the blood, and the increased amounts of the breakdown product phenylpyruvic acid appear in urinary excretion. The treatment is a low-phenylalanine diet with tyrosine supplementation.

Here's a great deal more from NIH.

Phil(lip W.) Katz ZIP. Text compression freeware.

In a 1993 Milwaukee Journal interview, Katz said the concept behind PKZip was launched at his mother's kitchen table in 1986. It started as a hobby and grew into a successful business. On April 14, 2000, Katz was found dead in a motel room, holding one of the six empty liquor bottles in the room.

  1. Perl script filename extension.
  2. Prolog filename extension.

(Domain code for) Poland. There is a homepage written in a foreign language and also available in English. If you're interested, the English edition of a Polish electronic newsletter (DONOSY) is archived.

UB hosts a Polish Academic Information Center.

[Download six-step illustration
from http://http.cs.berkeley.edu/~tokuyasu/hip-course/gif/photolith.gif]

PhotoLithography. Photographically exposing an image on the surface of a wafer in order to create a mask for some fabrication process (i.e., to define ``windows'' -- regions exposed to deposition, diffusion, implantation, and other fabrication processes).

Image at right is from Patricia Schank and Lawrence Rowe, U.C. Berkeley.

PhotoLuminescence. Immediate emission of light induced by photoexcitation. You know it's not reflection because the luminescence has a different spectrum (lower-energy, absent some Stokes effect) than the exciting light. If there's a significant delay in some of the emission, it's called fluorescence.

Photoluminescence is a physical process, of course, and a signal that can be usefully measured. The measurement of photoluminescence, which is usually done as a spectroscopy (i.e., the signal is measured as a function of light wavelength or frequency) is usually also just called ``photoluminescence'' or PL.

Physical Layer (of ATM).



PLease. Mail and email abbreviation. Also abbreviated Pls. Don't beg.

PLural. As a grammatical term, it generally applies to inflected forms distinguished from the singular (sg. or sing.) or distinguished from the singular and dual. In Indo-European (IE) languages nowadays, duals are rare, but Icelandic retains a distinction between a dual first-person pronoun (we two) and a plural (we all).

Private Line.

P & L
Profit-and-Loss (statement; analysis).

Programming Language.

P & L
Projects and Logistics.

People's Liberation Army. The Army of the PRC and other ``people's'' tyrannies. That's the name, anyway.

Programmable Logic Array. A proprietary name for a Programmable Logic Device.

Public Library Association. A division of the ALA.

Pulsed Laser Ablation.

A word with more meanings in French and English than I care to list. The word was also borrowed from French into Dutch, and thence into German.

Spanish also borrowed it; spelled placarte, it has the relatively restricted sense of an official notice posted on walls or at streetcorners. I suppose the word was borrowed when the final d in the French word was still pronounced. The spelling placard is used in Argentine Spanish for a word pronounced placar. (This would be the natural pronunciation anyway if the word had been borrowed from English, but the pronunciation apparently follows the French.) This placard is a closet -- a wardrobe that's built into a wall. In Spain one would say un armario empotrado. The word armario, corresponding to the place or piece of furniture in which one keeps clothing (rather that wardrobe that one keeps in it), is etymologically equivalent to the English word armory: a place where one keeps one's armor. (One of the original senses of wardrobe was the same -- a place to keep one's armor. Hardwear, so to speak.)

plague, purple
  1. The NCAA requirement, in effect since 1983, that the home football team wear colored jerseys, as manifested 1983-1995 at LSU.

  2. Purple Loosestrife, or Lythrum salicaria a hardy and pretty weed from Europe, useful for drying up wetlands. Available from landscape supply stores, according to this source, which provides a map indicating that Louisiana is one of only nine states not suffering this plague.

  3. A children's TV show about a purple dinosaur. See the PDOS entry.

  4. An interconnect failure problem at interfaces of Gold (Au) and Aluminum (Al). [According to this transcript of an interview with J. Leland Atwood, the problem was first discovered during the deployment of Minuteman II ballistic missiles in the 1970's.] The gold-aluminum system makes a number of intermetallics, and the interconnect failure problem took its name from AuAl2, which happens to be a good conductor. In fact, breakdown can occur in a couple of ways:
    1. Above 624 °C, a transformation yields Au2Al. This is a poor conductor, but its color is tan and its presence is easily missed when the purple AuAl2 is present. If the presence of this high-resistance intermetallic causes failure, then electrical failure can precede mechanical failure.
    2. At temperatures as low as 400-450 °C, intermetallics begin to form at the interface between aluminum and gold (the eutectic is at 370°); this progresses by interdiffusion, and a sequence of layers with different compositions forms, in order from Au-rich to Al-rich, growing at different rates. As a slower-growing layer is overtaken and consumed by a faster-growing dense layer, cavities form. This process is called Kirkendahl voiding, and leads to brittle and broken interconnects that fail electrically because they fail mechanically.
    This is an example of a problem that is so bad, it's not a problem at all: no one ever bonds gold wire to an aluminum bonding pad. At any rate no one does so and continues to be employed at that general sort of work. Infectious diseases are like that too: strains of virus that are instantly fatal to all their hosts don't have the same opportunity to propagate as less virulent strains.

    Intermetallic compounds grow from the interface of solid reactants in a process that is diffusion-limited, so the rate is proportional to the square root of time. Since the ionic diffusion process is activated, the thickness growth is as well.

    The other metals in gold's period -- copper (Cu) and silver (Ag) -- also form unwelcome intermetallics with aluminum, only not as fast as gold does. A small percentage of copper (0.5%) is included in aluminum interconnects to alleviate the problem of electromigration failure (passivation layers -- PSG and the like -- do the rest).

    Problems caused by Au5Al2 are called white plague.

  5. A phrase William Blake used in his The French Revolution, to describe I'm not sure what, but it may have to do with the fact that the color purple was in medieval times reserved to royalty, so that it even took on the character of synecdoche. This probably has nothing to do with the movie, ``The Color Purple.''

  6. A bug in the DynamIP, a free multi-functional internet utility, in which a window turns purple (indicating that connectivity has been lost). Sounds like a cool multidysfunctional feature to me.

plague, red
  1. A rock band that broke up in 1998. It had a distinctive Canadian-content sound, hey. Manitoban sort-of-punk. Words fail me.

  2. Erysipelas. In Shakespeare's ``The Tempest,'' (Act I, Sc. 2) Caliban says
    You taught me language, and my profit on't
    Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
    For learning me your language.

  3. Early 20th-c. euphemism, or maybe dysphemism, for prostitution.

  4. Vibriosis ``... a systemic bacterial infection of primarily marine and estuarine fishes, caused by bacteria of the genus Vibrio (Ross et al. 1968; Ghittino et al. 1972) [cites listed as endnotes at entry]; it is a major cause of mortality in mariculture operations. It sometimes also occurs in freshwater species. ''

    ``Vibriosis has been known for centuries; outbreaks were recorded as early as the 1500's along the Italian coast. Terms such as "red pest," "red boil," "red plague," or "saltwater furunculosis" have been used to describe vibrio infections, but "vibriosis" is now the specific and standard name of the disease.''

plague, white
  1. Gold-Aluminum intermetallic compound Au5Al2 and the problems it causes for gold-aluminum interconnects. Cf. purple plague supra.

  2. Any epidemic disease that makes one pale, principally tuberculosis (TB) in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

  3. The White Plague (New York: Putnam, 1982) is a sci-fi story by Frank Herbert (better known as the author of the Dune books), in which an epidemic plague is created by a molecular biologist maddened by the IRA bombing murder of his wife and kids. A rather misogynistic plague, too: it only kills females. In J. D. Beresford's, A World of Women, 1913, the plague gets males only, but there it's the story itself that's misogynistic.

  4. ``The White Plague'' is a translation of Bílá nemoc, a play about fascism by Karel Capek (see R. U. R.), adapted into a two-hour movie, directed by Hugo Haas (who cast himself in the starring rôle of altruistic slum doctor) in 1937 (!). Haas and cinematographer Otto Heller fled Czechoslovakia after the Nazi occupation (sanctioned by Neville Chamberlain at the infamous Munich capitulation). Hugo Haas went to Hollywood, Heller to Britain. Never saw it, but it sounds as pure-hearted and pitifully naïve as you like.

  5. A disease of unknown cause that afflicts coral in the summer.

  6. Heavy hail.
  7. Inappropriate snow.

Plainville, USA
Plainville is the pseudonym used for a small Missouri farming community that was the subject of an anthropological study by Carl Withers, who lived there from June 1939 to August 1940 (and made a further visit during July and August 1941). He published the study in 1945 under the title Plainville, USA, using the pseudonym James West for himself.

Art Gallagher, Jr., went to the town in 1954 and found that the local folk remembered ``West'' and knew about the book, which they resented; they believed it showed them in a poor light and even purposely exposed them to ridicule. Nevertheless, Gallagher spent his year or so there and managed to win enough cooperation for a restudy, which he published as Plainville Fifteen Years Later in 1961. That year also, the original study was reissued with the real author's name. (This is handy to understand if you're searching a library catalogue.)

Another, better-known anthropological study of a ``modern'' (i.e. industrialized-world) community was that of Middletown, USA (Muncie, Indiana), which suffered through at least two restudies. ``Jonesville,'' Illinois was studied by a separate researcher as ``Elmtown.'' There have been dozens of such studies; I think that the best-known, if it isn't the Lynds' original study of Middletown, is that of ``Yankee City,'' Massachusetts. Of those studies I've read, the most interesting was Withers's of Plainville, perhaps because the relative backwardness allowed a look deeper into the past. This will become apparent as I start adding tidbits from the Plainville studies to other entries.


I imagine you know what a planet is, so for now this entry will be about what planets were, or more precisely about the etymology of the word planet.

Until the heliocentric-universe idea started to gain traction in the seventeenth century, ``planets'' were those discrete heavenly bodies distinguished from the ``fixed stars.'' The fixed stars were the large number of bright points that maintained fixed relative positions in the sky (even as they ``turned,'' in geocentric terms). In modern terms, of course, each individual fixed star was either a star nearby within the Milky Way, or a group of stars too close to be distinguished by the naked eye. Strictly speaking, they were not exactly fixed, but their relative positions changed imperceptibly. The angular motion of celestial objects as seen from earth is called proper motion, and this was not detected until the eighteenth century.

The fixed stars were conceived to be fixed upon a distant spherical surface (the ``firmament'') that rotated around the earth once per sidereal day. Atlas wasn't imagined to hold up the Earth -- that's ridiculous! Earth was at the center of the universe and didn't need to be held up. Atlas held up the firmament.

Seven ``planets'' were known in antiquity: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. These were the objects that, in striking contrast to the fixed stars, wandered across the sky below the firmament. The ancient terms express this idea. In Classical Latin the common term for any of these seven objects was stella errante, `wandering star.' The second Latin word is the present participle of errare, which meant to wander. (You recognize in this the origin both of the English term ``knight errant'' and words like err and error.)

The plural -- wandering stars -- was stellae errantes. The corresponding Greek plural was astéres planêtai; from this, Latin borrowed planetae, a less common word for `planets.' Since the individual planets all have particular names, a word for planet is likely to occur more frequently in the plural. That may not entirely explain the fact that the singular form planeta is not attested at all in extant Classical Latin texts, but anyway it became common in late Latin.

Planeta is the singular form of the word in modern Spanish and Portuguese (as well as Czech and, properly transliterated, Russian). In Italian, it's pianeta. The pl to pi is a regular shift, evident in piano, piattaforma, piazza, piegare (`to fold,' cogn. with Sp. plegar), piombare (`to plumb'; I hope you guessed that), appiombo (`perpendicularly'), più, and piuma. On the other hand, Italian has plenty of words with pl, many Latinate, and I'm not sure what the rule for the sound shift is, if there is one. Among the words with pl are planetario [for `planetary, planetarium, and orrery'], planetoide, planetologia, and planetologo [`planetologist'], which were, I presume, all borrowed (after the shift took place). As you realized when you learned the word chiaroscuro, the same kind of regular shift turns cl into chi.

All the languages mentioned in this entry make the word for planet female if they can (English gets a bye here) with two exceptions: Italian makes pianeta grammatically male, hence with plural pianeti. German makes Planet masculine also (plural Planeten). This reminds me of futile thoughts like the gender inversion (kinky!) of Sun and Moon (male and female in Romance languages, vice versa in German and Old English).

You know, when I started writing this entry I only planned to point out that the English word planet comes from the Ancient Greek planêtês, meaning `wanderer.' Then I was just going to say, ``You knew that, of course, but here's something interesting: The Sumerians and the Akkadians (the pre-Babylonian inhabitants of the Euphrates valley) had a cool humanizing (can I call it `anthropomorphizing'?) terminology for the planets as well. They called the stars collectively by a term that meant `heavenly flock,' and they called the seven planets something equivalent to `old-sheep stars,' reflecting the idea that old sheep may stray. (The singular old sheep was the sun.)'' Then the editor pestered me about the capitalization, and suddenly the entry ballooned astronomically. Never start something like this on a weekend when you've got time to spare.

The list of planets above was given in order of increasing distance from Earth, according to the consensus of opinion in classical antiquity. There were other canonical orders, however. (Mostly in the Near East, I think.) The days of the week are named in order after the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. This arose from an Egyptian practice of naming parts of the day after the planets. Because the seven parts didn't go evenly into a single day, each successive day began (and was called after) a different planet. Later I'll track down the details and move this discussion to a week entry. For now you should know that apart from the astronomically natural time units of day, month (moon), and year, other divisions of the calendar comparable to the seven-day week were used (three- and ten-day periods, that I can recall off-hand). The seven-day week apparently spread around the Mediterranean independently of Jews and Christians.

The Modern Greek word for planet is planêtês, the same as the ancient word for wanderer (except that first letter eta, transliterated ê in English texts that bother to distinguish it from epsilon, is normally written with a circumflex accent for Ancient Greek, and with the common accent, similar to an acute accent, in Modern Greek; you have no idea what problems are associated with this in Unicode).

I've been told that the Greek word in its modern sense is regarded as being reborrowed from modern French. I hope this is true, because it would be very apt for the planetarch entry. That sounds crazy, given what I wrote above about the origin of the Latin word planetae in Greek, but it might be true in the following way: although the noun planêtai might occur in the ordinary sense of `wanderers' in Ancient Greek texts, it might not occur in isolation as a noun meaning `planets.' Instead, it might only occur as the adjective `wandering' in phrases like astéres planêtai. I did a TLG search on planêtai, and my main conclusion is that the word occurs a lot. They really shouldn't let intellectual children like me play with such sophisticated tools. I checked the first couple of dozen hits, and it does seem to me (proceed with caution) that in astronomical contexts it either modifies astéres or some other astronomical term.

Just for completeness (yeah, now I'm going for completeness; brevity is out of reach), I should mention that another Greek form was plánês, occuring in the plural expression astéres plánêtes, which gave rise to the Latin planetes. Both planet and planeta are used in English for a chasuble. That's basically a round poncho or a large one. The word was medieval Latin (7th c.) for a traveler's garment (and so presumably is from the same root as the more common planet) but now is terminology for an ecclesiastical garment. In Portuguese the corresponding use of planeta is apparently not obsolete. I just had to mention that.

You know, in the werewolf scene in Satyricon, the guy who doesn't turn into a werewolf counts stars. There's more. People find this puzzling. (I'm trying to imitate the effective ``style'' of Satyricon arising from the fragmentary form in which it has reached us. Completeness is impossible.)

I hear that in 2006 we lost a planet! After astronomers worked so hard to find them! I'll get right on it.

Probing Lensing Anomalies NETwork. A network of five (as of 2008) one-meter optical telescopes ``distributed in longitude around the southern hemisphere in order to perform quasi-continuous round-the-clock precision monitoring of Galactic bulge microlensing events.'' This microlensing collaboration has been operating since 1995. Since 2005 it has coordinated closely with RoboNet. See MicroFUN or MOA for more about microlensing and why it's interesting.

Translation into English of planêtarchis, coined at the end of the Cold War and still appearing in Greek newspapers as recently as 2004, meaning `ruler of the planet.' It's almost an ambivalent expression; it recognizes power but is disdainfully anti-American. In the same spirit as the French hyperpuissance, usually translated `hyperpower.' My impression from the French resources in Lexis-Nexis is that it was used as a nonce word in general context until 1998 (as for example in l'hyperpuissance des médias, `hyperpower of the media'). It seems to have taken until 1998 for the term to stick to the US (musta' been the Clinton charm), but then the popularity of the phrase took off. (Useful phrase to scribble into your traveler's phrase book: L'hyperpuissance américaine ... `the American hyperpower.' While you're at it, add préservatif ... `condom.' Believe me because I write from experience: when you need this word and it's not in your pocket, uh, dictionary, extreme awkwardness happens.)

When Natan Sharansky met President George W. Bush at the White House, he told Bush ``Now you are the chief dissident of the world.'' Cf. LFW.

PLANar OXide.

Private Line Automatic Ringdown (ARD).

A gas of ions and electrons, under conditions of temperature, pressure and density such that collective, long-range behavior is exhibited. Most of the matter that we can find in the universe is in the form of plasma in stars.

Also, a gas of electrons or holes or both, in a condensed system. This does not necessarily refer to an unusual state of these particles, but suggests that the speaker or writer is interested in properties of the distribution far from equilibrium.

Also (blood plasma) the liquid portion that is left when blood cells are removed from blood.

plasma reactor
An electron tube with a gas. In operation, current between anode and cathode ionizes the gas. The resulting plasma of hot ions and electrons is used in a variety of semiconductor fabrication processes. (Vide: sputtering, plasma-enhanced-whatever, RIE, dry etching.)

Plastic, in its modern usage as an uncountable (`mass') noun, refers to synthetic polymeric materials (mostly organic, but also including inorganic polymers like silicone).

Plastics Technology Center has a lot of materials, including a polymer name acronym expander and an extensive tutorial.

Polymers DotCom talks big, and they do seem to offer some service. Go direct to their content page for links to tutorial stuff.

A lubricant at the microscopic level for long-chain molecules, making bulk pieces, sheets or filaments of the stuff flexible or ductile. DBP (used in commercial plastics) and water (used in living tissue) are examples.

plastic surgery
Author Olivia Goldsmith's debut novel The First Wives Club was a runaway best-seller when it came out in 1992. It's about three women who band together to seek revenge after their successful husbands discard them for younger women. It was made into a hit movie in 1996, starring Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, and Bette Midler. The Goldie Hawn character, a celebrity of some sort (I forget exactly which) is deep into plastic surgery (okay, she's no Jacko, but fiction has to be believable).

On January 7, 2004, as she went under general anesthesia for plastic surgery (specifically, to remove loose skin from her chin), Olivia Goldsmith suffered a heart attack and went into a coma. She never regained consciousness and died on January 15.

The Writers Directory listed her as born in 1954, but she must have been born very, very early in that year, since the announcement of her death gave her age as 54.

``Olivia Goldsmith'' was her pen name. She was born Randy Goldfield and changed her legal name to Justine Rendal.

Spanish, `dish.' Cognate of English plate. A flying saucer is a plato volador.


Some very old (``ancient,'' as the French would say) Greek guy who idealized his seditious teacher.

Hey, he's got a page! Or two. And now a whole site! Just like the ancient Rolling Stones! He's hip!

Among his works is a book we now call Plato's Republic. ``Plato's Republic'' was a popular name for, uh, bathhouses back before AIDS, because pederasty was legal and considered normal in Athens and many other ancient Greek city states. Those bathhouses are becoming popular again, along with unprotected sex, now that there's a cure for AIDS. What!? There isn't a cure for AIDS!? This could be a problem....

``Plato's Republic'' is the title of a comic strip series in the adventures of Modesty Blaise (more at dead man's handle).

Plato's original name was Aristocles. Platon was his nickname. The plat- stem means `wide' or `broad,' and is probably related to the English word flat through a common Indo-European root. There are a few different stories about how Plato got his nickname and what it meant. One is that his wrestling coach gave it to him for having broad shoulders (I think I remember this from Diogenes Laërtes; have to check), another is that he had a broad forehead, another is that what was behind his forehead was figuratively broad. English doesn't preserve the final en in this name (more on that at Platón).

A nonprofit organization that offers to help you get various kinds of funding, especially ``private, credit-based'' P.L.A.T.O. loans. They have a website that does not expand ``P.L.A.T.O.,'' and a toll-free number. In a spasm of investigative fervor, an SBF reporter called that number, outlasted the automated call-answering service and was placed on hold twice to be told by a loan information person and her supervisor that the letters in ``P.L.A.T.O.'' don't stand for anything. The information person did not regard this, or the use of periods in the name, as bizarre. P.L.A.T.O. is a registered trademark of EduCap, Inc.


  1. PLanetary Analysis TOols (NASA is a repeat offender; cf. ARISTOTELES.
  2. Programmed { Logic | Learning } for Automated[ic] Teaching { Operations | Options }

Plato Epictetus Marcus Aurelius
The author of a handsomely bound work entitled Excerpts, published by The Harvard Classics.

Spanish, `very large dish.' From plato and regular augmentative ending -on.


Spanish, `Plato.' Preserves the final en that English drops. Apollo is in the same declension. So is Gellon, relative of Archimedes and the last king of independent Syracuse before it was conquered by the Romans, but there English keeps the en. Of course. Pharaoh is faraón in Spanish.

I saw a Soviet stamp commemorating some joint Soyuz-Apollo mission or missions, and I noticed that they also preserve the final en.


Platonic Solids
No, no, not that kind of Platonic! Platonic solids are the five solids in which all faces, edges and angles are equal. They are the tetrahedron, cube, and the regular octohedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron (4, 6, 8, 12, and 20 faces, respectively).

plato volador
Spanish, `flying saucer.'

Consistent with prejudice.


T. Maccius Plautus, of course. Died 184 BCE, but not before he'd written and even had performed some comedies. This was apparently before the invention of the punch line.

Payload Loop-Back.

Proclaim Liberty Bible Church. Sounds rather Baptist. In Houston, Texas. They don't have a website, but I know they've got a minivan with that initialism on it. Sore it on US-22 in New Jersey. Takin' it to the heathens, uh-guess.

We's got a rush awn, t'see if'n we-c'n reach 25000 entries bah Nyoo Yeah, so we-uh easin' the standids some foah entry.

Palestinian Legislative Council.

Planar Lightwave Circuit[s].

Platoon Leaders Class.

Polymer Liquid Crystal.

Programmable Logic Controller.

Programming Language - { Cornell | Compiler }. That is, the PL/I compiler written at Cornell University (the ambiguity in the expansion of the C in the acronym was official).

PL/C implemented only a subset of PL/I. This was a feature. PL/I was an enormous language, and PL/C was considered useful pedagogically. The usual claims were made on its behalf: fast code, fast coding. Introduced in 1972, I think. Obsolete.

plc, Plc, PLC
Public Limited Company. A kind of corporation with publicly held ownership (stock) and liabilities limited legally. (This limit does not prevent it from going bankrupt.) Abbreviation popular in Britain.

[Download PLCC image from 

Plastic Leaded Chip Carrier. A (typically square) chip package with leads on all four edges. It's suface-mount technology: leads are intended to attach directly to a PC board; 64 leads is typical. (Cf. pin through a hole.)

It is easy to get confused about the L's appearing in PLCC and CLCC. In ``PLCC'' the ``L'' stands for leaded, and serves to distinguish this plastic package from some others which are similar in general outline but have pins on the bottom (pin-grid arrays). The PLCC also has J-bend leads, while the PQFP (quad flat-pack) has gull-wing leads. There are no ``plastic leadless'' packages for chips, because plastic melts or burns when you solder the contacts directly against the body of the package. In contrast, the ``L'' in CLCC stands for leadless, and since there are no leadless plastic packages this is also abbreviated ``LCC.'' The ceramic analogue of the PLCC is the Ceramic Quad J-Bend (CQJB).

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

Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (cancer).

Physical Layer Convergence Procedure. Mapping of cells to a specific physical transmission medium.

Programmable Logic Device. Generic term for devices like the PAL's and PLA's.

Pulsed-Laser Deposition.

PhotoLuminescence Excitation spectroscopy.

Piecewise-Linear Expression.

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally
A mnemonic for a hierarchy ordering the operations in algebraic expressions: Parenthesis, Exponentiation, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction.

Please wait.
Please wait longer than you expected.

A 1935 Rohm & Haas trademark for PMMA, q.v.

People Living with HIV. Implicitly: asymptomatically. When they develop symptoms they become people living with AIDS.

Programming Language One. Also written PL1 (particularly in JCL, to avoid the punctuation) back in the days when it was written at all. A high-level general-purpose programming language like Fortran, but not as popular, from IBM. If you can find someone who still programs in this language, just say ``Oh, Fortran with semicolons.'' They just love that.

The first PL/I compilers were available in around 1968. PL/I is a ``structured programming language.'' That means it's a sect of the I-hate-GOTO cult. Structured programming was hot in the seventies the way object-oriented (OO) programming was hot in the nineties. Never mind: learn what's available, use it, and don't complain. All useful programming languages suck until they become familiar, and then they become obsolete.

Programmable Low-Impedance Circuit Element. Proprietary Actel antifuse. They've put a description on line. Here's their overall illustration.

Planar Laser-Induced Fluorescence.

Phase-Lock[ed] Loop. Invented by Robert Dicke. Digital version is DPLL.


Papers from the Leeds Latin Seminar.

Private Label Manufacturers Association. Has one of those private: members only sites. According to their 1999 Private Label Yearbook, store brands account for 19.9 percent of sales in supermarkets; 13.4 percent of sales in drug stores; and 11.8 percent of sales in mass merchandisers, and are now a $43.3 billion industry. All the percentages have been climbing slowly, and these are all-time highs.

Palestinian Liberation Organization. Founded by Egyptian President Nasser in 1964. Currently the property of Yasir Arafat, trained as an engineer in Egypt, who is reported to be in poor health.

Political opinion? How is this opinion?

Permanent Latrine Orderly.

The term occurs in ``No Time for Sargeants'' (1958, based on a novel by Mac Hyman). Will Stockdale, played by Andy Griffith, is a yokel drafted into the USAF. He receives PLO punishment.

Please Leave On. Instruction to janitors, written on school chalkboard. (According to one informant.)

PLOKTA, plokta
Press Lots Of Keys To Abort. Normal human reaction to program run amok.

A filigreed silver serving tray. Well, that's my best guess, anyway. I often hear of people ``carry[ing] it off with a plomb,'' though it's never very clear what ``it'' is. The plomb is never described either. But though I don't know what it is, it certainly seems to have a lot of je ne sais quoi. Great heaping helpings of je ne sais quoi, in fact, but other than that, I don't really know what.

To plonk someone on Usenet is disdainfully to drop the person's email address into one's killfile. That's according to the Jargon-file entry. For alternative senses, see the next entry.

Going on at stupefying and inexorable length, point by point by point, without any sense of humor or proportion, about any topic under discussion. Plonking has nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of the arguments advanced, but refers solely to their boringly soporific effect, very often produced by the solemn and endless reiteration of the obvious. It's like plodding, but with a tinnier echo.

I having encountered the above-defined sense repeatedly in mailing list usage, and it appears to be closely related to the British slang term plonker meaning `someone who behaves stupidly,' an earlier sense attested by the Jargon-file entry. The Jargon file reports an almost opposite sense as widespread on Usenet by 1994 (see *plonk*). As the further senses listed by the OED indicate, the word has a moderately broad semantic range. I think the simplest way to cope with this word is to recognize that it is evocatively onomatopeic, suggesting the sound of something hard and something soft colliding. This goes some way to explaining more than just the variability of its meaning. It is thus also naturally associated in some way with sexual intercourse and with something inappropriately inanimate (a drunk hitting the ground, say).

The natural sound of plonking, or perhaps the resemblance to plunking, suggests the first time one hears it that one has heard it before. This may partly explain an aspect of the word's use as I have encountered it. The term generally is used in agonistic situations, of course. Almost every time, an element of the discussion is one party's accusing the other party of not understanding what ``plonking'' really means.

I'm as tired of this entry as you are.

Punk Ladies Of Wrestling. I might pay cash to see a face-off with a Zamboni.

Physical Layer Convergence Protocol.

Personal Liability / Property Damage. Insurance numbers.

Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996.

Partial Least Squares (method).

Physical Layer [PL of ATM] Signaling.

PLasma Subsystem. On NASA Galileo space probe.

PLeaSe. Usually the interjection or adverb is abbreviated, and not the verb.

{ Preliminary | Primary } Landing Site.

Professional Land Surveyor or Principles and Practice of Land Surveying. The latter is the name of an exam one must pass to be board-certified as the former in the US. The exam is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES, q.v.), which administers corresponding exams in various Engineering disciplines called the PE (q.v.) on a different day. Preliminary to the PE and PLS exams are the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and Fundamentals of Land Surveying (FLS) exams, respectively.

See also the Land Surveyor Reference Page.

Program of Liberal Studies. A Great Books curriculum that you can take as a major at Notre Dame. The program originated in the invitation of Otto Bird, a Great Books booster, uh, scholar, to Notre Dame in 1949. Professor Bird inaugurated a General Program in Liberal Studies in 1950, a four-year program requiring study of a ``several'' languages, as they say (French and Latin). There was resistance from other departments jealous of their academic turf, and some resistance based on the fact that some of the Great Books were on the Roman Catholic Church's index of prohibited books. (Permission had to be obtained from University President John Joseph Cavanaugh. I guess the principle of subsidiarity does not extend down to the university-program level. It's a convenience in this case that lists of Great Books changes only glacially.) Against the regular departments' resistance, however, the program was strongly supported by Father Cavanaugh (who had invited Bird and other Great Bookies to Notre Dame) and by Father Theodore Hesburgh, who took over the ND presidency a couple of years later. Father Hesburgh, president for thirty-five years, is a local celebrity and the only person I know who ever had an ``AA'' parking hangtag.

In 1954, the university introduced a common set of freshman course requirements, and the PLS, like all the other majors, was reduced to three years. Because PLS is very inward-looking -- i.e., because it taught 85% of the courses it required -- PLS felt that it was especially hard-hit by this change. Then again, the talk-and-write emphasis of the first year program led more smoothly into PLS than into, say, physics. (The First Year of Studies was formalized and restructured in 1962, getting its own dean and becoming the official major of all freshmen.)

People who prefer not to acknowledge the decline of academic standards, and of plain old competence, lean heavily on the crutch of denial. Some claim that PLS is essentially unchanged since it began -- a few books gone, a few books added. Here is what Otto Bird had to say on this head in 1991:

I do not think that the program today is as good as it was in its first years. In theology and philosophy it has been watered down so that it no longer studies as intensively and extensively as it once did the writings of Plato and Aristotle, Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas. It has opened its readings to classics of the Orient, thereby further diluting its study of the Western tradition. There is also less study of logic and mathematics than there used to be and so less in the way of discipline and rigor. More attention is given to the fine arts. As a whole, the program is less "intellectualistic" than it was in the beginning.

Portable Life-Support System.

PLaTelet. Red blood cell.

Power Line Transient.

The conducting material in an integrated circuit (IC) via.

Plumbers' Poker
A flush beats a full house.

plum pudding
When the musical ``The Wizard of Oz'' opened in Chicago in June 1902, it was an instant hit. During the intermission L. Frank Baum went to producer Fred Hamlin's office and recommended that David Montgomery (Tin Woodman) and Fred Stone (Scarecrow) be signed for a five-year run. Hamlin agreed. During curtain calls there was a clamor of ``Author! Author!'' Baum came down and delivered a speech that was reported in the newspapers (and which I have cribbed from the source cited at the item linked above):
Kind friends, thank you for your enthusiasm. It is heart-warming. You have been generous enough to call for the author, but I do not need to remind you that he is only one of many whose efforts you are enjoying tonight. If you will pardon a homely comparison, our play is like a plum pudding, which combines the flavor of many ingredients. The author contributes only the flour--necessary, of course, but only to hold the other good things together.
    What would The Wizard of Oz be without the spice of Paul Tietjens' wonderful music or the brilliant scenery of Walter Burridge; the skill of that master stage chef Julian Mitchell; the golden touch of Manager Fred Hamlin, and above all, our agile comedians Dave Montgomery and Fred Stone, and the plums and peaches of our talented stage company? All of us are happy you have enjoyed the show, and we hope that you and your friends will be back for a second helping.

Here's an old-style recipe for plum pudding that uses plenty of flour. Notice the absence of plums. Plum and prune were roughly interchangeable terms in the 16th and 17th centuries, both ultimately derived from the Latin pruna -- the latter via French and the former a word already present in Old English. The change of pr to pl occurred very early in the Germanic borrowing of this word (apparently via pfr --> pfl or phr --> phl), and was adopted from English into Celtic languages. The nasal has wobbled. The Classical Greek cognate had mn, which became n apparently under Latin influence. Most Germanic languages use m, and German influence may explain the form prume found in south-east French dialects. The standard French form is prune, Portuguese has pruna and Italian prugna (gn represents, as in French, the palatalized en written ñ in Spanish). The plum tree (Prunus domestica) is prugno in Italian. I don't know if this (female fruit, male tree) is a pattern in Italian as it is in Spanish (cf. Banana).

Prunes have generally been dried plums or other fruit, but as Baum's speech suggests (see below), the separation in meanings was still not complete at the beginning of the twentieth century. Hence the expression ``dry prune'' was used. Even worse, the expression ``French plum'' has been used for prunes from France. (Because ``French prunes'' are plums?)

Plum pudding was originally made with what we'd call prunes (at least I'd call them that), though these were gradually replaced with other dried fruit: raisins (or, as in the recipe cited, currants). Maybe they switched fruit because too many people got confused and used fresh fruit when the recipe called for prunes. You really ought to read our pasa entry.

Prune is a mild laxative, but evidently some people consume prunes as food.

plural nouns in stock Spanish terms
Spanish has many idioms and compound nouns that use plural forms where not only English and German, but cognate Romance languages like French, Italian, and even Portuguese typically use singular forms. Of course, language is ultimately conventional, and broad conventions may arise from small, essentially random causes. Nevertheless, this is the sort of thing one suspects one might find a cause of, or reason for. (There: did it twice.) This plurality in Spanish is quite singular, and as Sherlock Holmes noted, singularity is almost invariably a clue.

So here is a collection of clues. In the following, the language name is underlined if its term uses a plural form. Ideally, in each cluster the terms would be semantically equivalent -- ``translations of each other.'' Since the semantic fields don't line up exactly, this is impossible. Instead, the terms are the usual translations of the term in boldface (so far that's been the English term of the cluster).

  • Spanish: buenos días
    Portuguese: bom dia
    Italian: buona mattina
    French: bonjour
    English: good morning
    German: guten Morgen

  • Spanish: buen día
    Portuguese: bom dia
    Italian: buon giorno
    French: bonjour
    English: good day
    German: guten Tag

  • Spanish: buenas tardes
    Portuguese: boa tarde
    Italian: buon pomeriggio
    French: bonjour
    English: good afternoon
    German: guten Tag

  • Spanish: buenas noches
    Portuguese: noite boa
    Italian: buona sera
    French: bonsoir
    English: good evening
    German: guten Abend

  • Spanish: buenas noches
    Portuguese: noite boa
    Italian: buona notte
    French: bonne nuit
    English: good night
    German: gute Nacht

  • Spanish: paraguas
    Portuguese: guarda-chuva
    Italian: ombrello
    French: parapluie
    English: umbrella
    German: Regenschirm

  • Spanish: parabrisas
    Portuguese: pára-brisa
    Italian: parabrezza
    French: pare-brise
    English: windshield
    German: Windschutzscheibe

  • Spanish: lavaplatos
    Portuguese: lava-pratos
    Italian: lavapiatti
    French: lave-vaisselle
    English: dishwasher
    German: Spülmaschine

We're working on, or thinking about, ``sweet dreams,'' memoirs, ``con malas ganas,'' clothesline, and some related items.

Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students. Designed to make up the difference between the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to the cost of a student's education, and the actually possible family contribution. [Get information from the government or from a university resource (CMU).]

plus size
Women's dress size 12 or above. According to an article on Emme Aronson in the New York Times (1997.2.12, Living Section), 60% of women in the US and 66% of women in Australia wear plus-size clothing. Emme Aronson, a 33-year-old Ford model, was at that time the world's highest-earning plus-size model, 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, dress size 14 or 16, shoe size 11. She was pushing her just-published book, True Beauty: Positive Attitudes and Practical Tips From the World's Leading Plus-Size Model. In 2004, I saw her hosting a TV show about fashion make-overs or something.

PipeLine[s] Under The Ocean. Not a generic acronym for any such, but the name of a project to supply motor fuel (``gasoline'' to us Yanks and ``petrol'' to the Limeys). The first ``major PLUTO'' in use was a set of four pipelines laid from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg in Normandy, to supply gasoline to Allied forces after D-Day.

The embarrassingly stupid name ordained by the IAU in 2008 for any dwarf planet beyond Neptune that has enough mass for its self-gravity to give it a near-spherical shape. Oh, and it also shouldn't be too dim, I hear. The satellite, that is. The IAU can be very dim. Cf. scientoid.

According to the official definition that was sprung on the scientific community on June 11, 2008, ``[p]lutoids are celestial bodies in orbit around the sun at a distance greater than that of Neptune that have sufficient mass for their self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that they assume a hydrostatic equilibrium (near-spherical) shape, and that have not cleared the neighborhood around their orbit.'' It's a sloppy definition, but a sloppy definition may suffice if there are no borderline cases.

It happens that as this nomenclature is being perpetrated there are two named plutoids (Pluto and Eris) and at least a couple of plutoids that are in the process of being named. With so few yet, there shouldn't be too many borderline cases... unless you count Pluto. Pluto is periodically within the orbit of Neptune. Also, Pluto should really be called a binary plutoid system, since its moon Charon is comparable to Pluto in size. Regarded as such, it's not very spherical at all. So Pluto isn't a very good example of the class of objects named after it.

They should be called erisoids; Eris was named for the Greek goddess of strife and discord. Then Pluto can be like Ceres, sui generis. (Ceres is not an asteroid because it's too big, not a plutoid because it's too close to the sun, and not a dwarf planet because that category has been eliminated -- which is just as well because other astronomical dwarf foos are foos themselves, and there's no big lobby to promote Ceres to planetary status.) There are many sensible solutions to this growing and nonexistent problem, and they are all less likely to be adopted than various unsensible solutions, one of which will probably be promulgated after another couple of years of secretive cogitation.

A region of magma injected into the crust, but not breaking the earth's surface in a volcano. Common above the edges of melting plates at subduction zones.

Why gold (Au) is often found with quartz and pyrite:

A pluton would typically have temperatures of a couple of thousand degrees C. The porosity of rock is still maybe a per cent at ten kilometers depth, maybe 5% at five kilometers, so there's a lot of water down there, and it reaches temperatures of a few hundred degrees Celsius. The water above a pluton forms convection cells: hot water directly over the pluton rises, while cooler water further away falls in the usual way and diffuses into pores nearer the pluton, where it is heated and rises. (The heating caused by the pluton fractures the area around it, increasing the porosity and thus pulling in water from around the pluton.) Before it cools, the pluton is estimated to cause the water volume to cycle a few thousand times. (One of the major unsettled questions is what fraction of the water in circulation is originally ground water, and what fraction is water from the top of the subducted plate.)

The solubility of most room-temperature solids increases with increasing temperature. This trend is quite dramatic for quartz, which is in equilibrium with silicic acid at part-per-million concentrations at room temperature, but already has a saturation concentration approaching 0.1% at a mere 300 °C. Similarly, gold and iron (as hydrosulfides and in other compounds) are dissolved in the hot water over the pluton. Near the surface, where the superheated water cools and spreads, its solutes precipitate. This includes quartz and pyrite, and gold.

Silver is found with lead ore (galena) in much the same places and for similar reasons. The main silver mines of European antiquity were at the edges of the European tectonic plate: Laurion in Greece and various places in Spain and England. Similarly, the richest gold mines were in Ireland.

Incidentally, NaCl, table salt, happens to be an exception to the solubility trend: its solubility is remarkably constant as a function of temperature.

Pitch-Line Velocity. The velocity of a gear at the radius of its pitch (its teeth). The velocity of any point on an object rotating about a fixed center equals the product of the distance to the center (the radius) times the angular velocity (inverse of the time needed for the object to rotate by an angle of one radian). Equivalently, it equals the circumference at the given radius times the circular frequency (revolutions per unit time).

Polish (.pl) Zloty.

PostLeitZahl. German ZIP code. Hey, that's the same abbreviation as the neighboring Poles use for their currency unit! What are they trying to say here, huh?

Pb:La Zirconate Titanate. When not abbreviated, it's normally written ``lanthanum-modified lead zirconate titanate.'' Less often, this is called ``lanthanum-doped lead zirconate titanate.'' I suppose the ``doping'' term is avoided because a typical doping level is 10 or 17%. It's more like an alloy. PLZT is a dielectric material with a substantial electro-optic effect, proposed for various applications since the 1970's. I'm not sure about the extent of implementation or commercialization.

PayMaster. Who pays the piper calls the tune.

Performance Monitoring.

Permanent Magnet. A ferromagnetic material with an alignment of domains that produces a net magnetization.

Phase Modulation.

Physical Medium.

Plasma Membrane[s].

Popular Mechanics. On the cover, underneath the title, the words
Written so you can understand it.

Post Meridiem (after noon).



Presentation Manager.

Preventive Maintainance. The least sexy activity.

Prime Minister. Catch up on who is the latest Japanese PM here. Read quickly, the page has a timed fuse.

Say you're standing on a street corner of Main Street, U.S.A., and a fellow from the ``CBC'' comes up and says he wants to ask you a few questions. He comes up with a real obscure one like ``who's the prime minister of Canada?'' You haven't had the time lately to bone up on your international trivia, and you didn't even realize that Canada had a national church. No problem! Just answer ``Rick Mercer'' and smile.

Project Manager.

(Domain code for) St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Promethium. Atomic number 61. Named after the titan who gave fire to man and was punished by having birds pick at his immortal innards. Eventually he cooperated (became an informer, ratted) with the olympian authorities to get off that rock. [column] Learn more, but only about this rare earth (RE) element and not Greek mythology, at its entry in WebElements and its entry at Chemicool.

It's hard to fight the feeling that it ought to be PromethEum.

Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association.

Precision Metalforming Association.

Produce Marketing Association.

Property Management Assocation. For example, here's a link to the PMA of Western Michigan, an NAA affiliate.

Publishers Marketing Association. ``The largest non-profit trade association representing independent publishers of books, audio, video and CDs.''

Hey, we're all trying to move product -- apples, books, whatever.

Petroleum Marketers Association of America. But see also CSP.

Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) Educational Foundation.

Polymethactylonitrile (polymer).

Pietermaritzburg. A symbol or initialism used in South Africa.

Preliminary Multistate Bar Review.

Prosopographie de mittelbyzantinischen Zeit. A five-volume encyclopedia, copyright 2001. They're thick volumes, but not that thick: PMBZ is the form of the title that appears on the spine. Even on the cover, mittelbyzantinischen is hyphenated.

Postmodern Culture. ``An electronic journal of interdisciplinary criticism, published by North Carolina State University, Oxford University Press, and the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.''

(International Conference on the) Performance and Management of Complex Communication Networks.

Physical-Medium-Dependent (sub-layer; layer in the sense of OSI model).

Pre-Metal Dielectric.

Permanent Magnet Direct Current (DC) (motor). The permanent magnet(s) provide the fixed (external) field surrounding the rotor. They replace the ``stator'' field windings in a shunt motor.

Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. A facility of the US NOAA, it ``carries out interdisciplinary scientific investigations in oceanography and atmospheric science.''

Professionals, Managers, Executives, and TechnicianS. The acronym is common in Singapore, and apparently nowhere else, as of February 2009.

IIME (Pi Mu Epsilon)
National Mathematics Honor Society.

Pardon Me For Jumping In. Email abbreviation. PMJI is also used.

polarization modulation Fourier Transform InfraRed (FTIR) (spectroscopy).

PostMaster General.

PseudoMorphic High Electron Mobility Transistor (HEMT).

Private Mortgage Insurance.

Program Management and Integration.

Project Management Institute. Tests and certifies project management professionals (PMP's).

Purchasing Managers' Index.

Poly Methyl IsoPropenyl Ketone.

Pardon My Jumping In. Email abbreviation. PMFJI is also used.

Perfect Matched Layer (numerical boundary conditions). Scheme for constructing Absorbing Boundary Conditions (ABC's).

Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy. A neuropsychiatric disease caused by JC-viral infection. Devastating. Occurs in a few percent (estimates around 5%) of AIDS patients. Symptoms hard to distinguish from AIDS dementia (q.v.), but progress (not my choice of word) is more rapid.

Poly(methyl methacrylate). Common resist for electron-beam- and ion-beam-lithography, and for light-beam photography in energies from UV to X-rays. Basically, it's a positive resist: the pattern of exposed polymer is damaged and dissolves more easily in developer solution.

Okay now, we're going to step through the simple organic chemistry of this plastic in the order dictated by the derivation of its name. This is going to be so simple, even I could understand it. [In fact, I might as well warn you, if you know anything about organic chemistry this will just about make you retch, but it's still better than if it made you a wretch.] First off, ``acrylic acid'' is just a confusing name for propenoic acid. Now propane is a three-carbon alkane (a flammable gas at room temp.); it has only one form: CH3CH2CH3. This is also written H3CCH2CH3 and just plain C3H8. It doesn't matter, there's only one stable compound with this formula.

          H    H    H
          |    |    |
     H -- C -- C -- C -- H
          |    |    |
          H    H    H

Representing carbons by kinks in, or ends of, a chain of C-C bonds, omitting to indicate H's, this becomes:


(In this mode of displaying organic compounds, the precise compound can be reconstructed by satisfying the valency of all carbons by adding as many hydrogens as necessary. This is a very efficient scheme for representing organic compounds, since carbon chains and lots of boring hydrogen predominate.)

Propene is an alkene, an alkane with a double bond. Since the two C-C bonds of propane are equivalent, there is no need to indicate which bond is doubled. The formula is CH2:CHCH3, which we can represent

        H      H    H
         \     |    |
          C == C -- C -- H
         /     |    |
        H      H    H


Organic acids are formed by replacing methyl (-CH3) with carboxyl (-COOH) groups, so propenoic acid can only be CH2:CHCOOH ...
        H           O--H
         \          |
          C == C -- C == O
         /     |
        H      H

or (in a representation that more closely approximates the physical conformation)

          H        C == O
           \      /
            C == C
           /      \
          H        H

or (most schematically)
              \== O
Methacrylic acid is 2-methyl propenoic acid: a methyl (CH3) group has been substituted for the hydrogen on carbon number 2 (the middle carbon) of the backbone to yield CH2:C(CH3)COOH. (Really, there's no need to specify 2-methyl, since putting the methyl group on the only other available carbon would mean that the molecule should have been designated butenoic acid. Oh, well, what do I know about IUPAC nomenclature?)
H          C == O
 \        /
  \      /
   C == C     H
  /      \   /
 /        \ /
H          C
          / \
         /   \
        H     H

              \== O
Up to this point, I reemphasize, the construction has followed the nomenclature and not the synthesis. Methyl methacrylate is an ester: methanol has been reacted with methacrylic acid in what resembles an acid-base reaction.

Methanol was previously known as methyl alcohol; an even older name is wood alcohol. It is present in minute quantities, and occasionally not-so-minute quantities, in the cheap stuff winos drink. As is well known, enough (and not that much) methanol will blind or kill you. In Simon and Garfunkel's song ``Blessed'' (from the Sounds of Silence album) winos are called ``meth drinkers.'' There were roadblocks and a scandal a couple of decades ago when cheap table wine imported from Italy to France was found to be contaminated with methanol, but you'll have to track that old news down yourself. The SBF offers recipes for a couple of recent-traditional Soviet poisons (Tears of a Komsomol Girl and Spirit of Geneva).

In esterification, which is a standard synthesis, the OH groups from the acid and alcohol combine to release one water molecule and leave a single bond through oxygen. In the present example: CH2:C(CH3)COOCH3 ...

                      H     H
                       \   /
                        \ /
        H           O -- C -- H
         \          |
          C == C -- C == O
         /     |
        H      C -- H
              / \
             /   \
            H     H


       ---- O
              \== O
Because this molecule has a carbon-carbon double bond, there is a natural mechanism for its polymerization. Energy supplied by a photon of UV light is sufficient to break the double bond and initiate polymerization. This process tends to continue because the process of bonding to a neighbor breaks the neighbor's double bond and makes a new carbon reactive. The resulting chain has the following monomer unit:
	  H -- C -- H
       H       C == O
        \      |
         \     |
· · ----- C -- C ----- · ·
         /     |
        /      |
       H       C -- H
              / \
             /   \
            H     H

San Diego Plastics, Inc. serves a short page of application-oriented information on PMMA plastic. There's an informative PMMA entry in the Macrogalleria.

PMMA was first discovered in the 1870's, but was first commercialized by Rohm and Haas in 1935 as Plexiglas. DuPont brought out PMMA as Lucite in 1937.

A copolymer of methyl methacrylate (vide PMMA supra) and methacrylic acid. A beam resist.

Paged Memory Management Unit.

Passive MilliMeter Wave (imaging).

PolyMorphoNuclear leucocyte.

PreManufacture Notice. Required by the TSCA, as noted at the CHEMEST entry.

Prime Minister's Office.

P-channel MOSFET, which in digital logic occurs primarily in conjunction with nMOS in CMOS circuits.

There's not much utility for pMOS alone, since everything you can do with pMOS alone you can do with nMOS alone, but the higher mobility of electrons than holes in commercial (and indeed most simple) semiconductor materials gives nMOS a higher gain factor.

PolyMethylPentene (plastic). (Mitsui Petrochemical Industries, Ltd.: TPX ®.)

Post-Metal Programming. National Semiconductor (tm) term for the strategy of using nearly-finished, tested nMOS NOR ROM to speed the hardware development process. Generally speaking, nMOS technology is the cheapest basis for ROM that can be programmed before leaving the fab. The two main types of nMOS ROM are NOR and NAND. From the standpoint of PMP, the crucial difference is that the bit pattern of NOR core can be written at a late stage of fabrication, while the bit pattern for NAND core must be written at an early stage. In detail:

nMOS NAND ROM, zeros and ones are typically implemented by a diffusion or implantation mask that shifts a transistor threshhold voltage (so the transistor is always on). Thus, bit pattern storage must be done relatively early in fabrication, before metal or polysilicon row lines are deposited (the row line functions as a gate where it crosses over a bit line -- bit lines are diffused or implanted). In contrast, nMOS NOR ROM's are encoded at a late stage of fabrication (the bit pattern is stored by contacting or not contacting transistor drains to bit lines). (It can also be performed at a very late stage of fabrication by means of a high-energy implantation.) Thus, NMOS NOR ROM chips can be pretested and stored, and large numbers of chips can be available almost immediately after the ROM program is written.

Project Management Professional.

Precision Machined Products Association.

Pre-Markan Passion Narrative. A document that is either no longer extant or never existed.

Prime Minister Question time. An entertainment sponsored by the British House of Commons. In terms of posturing and bogus news generation, roughly, comparable to presidential press conferences in the US. Apart from some linguistic conventions (e.g., the PM answers for ``the government'' -- the parliamentary party in power), the main difference in the presumed adversarial position of the questioners: In a US presidential press conference, the press is nominally neutral, and poses questions crafted to put the president in the uncomfortable position of having to make an embarrassing admission or be seen to avoid answering directly. In stark contrast, in PMQ the questioners are opposition MP's who pose questions crafted to put the president in the uncomfortable position of having to make an embarrassing admission or be seen to avoid answering directly.

Partido de la Revolución Mexicana. `Party of the Mexican Revolution.' The revolution was not televised, but a good time was had by all. Okay, not true. More factish statements at the PRI entry.

Private Mobile Radio.

Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada.

Pacific Missile Range Facility.

Particle Measuring Systems. (Company name.)

Performance Management System. [Standard avionics.]

PreMenstrual Syndrome. The non-crime that dares you to speak its name. Also ``Putting up with Men's S...'' and ``Postal Management Syndrome.''

Post-Modern Slut.

PM scholarship
Papa-Mama SCHOLARSHIP. A euphemism for no scholarship in the ordinary sense at all. Like a marital fellowship, it's not an arrangement with a very official status.

Polymer MicroStructure Waveguide.

Phiroz Mehta Trust. Phiroz Mehta (1902-1994) seems to have been a syncretistic guru. I feel transcendent already.

PhotoMultiplier Tube. A sensitive photon detector. An evacuated tube with a number of electrodes of increasing positive voltage onbliquely facing each other (geometries vary). Any single particle impinging on a low-voltage anode produces a cascade of increasingly amplified current, as each stage emits more electrons than it receives (multiplies). It's a photo multiplier tube because the initial electrode receives a photon and emits one or more electrons (photoelectric effect).

Here's some instructional material from Virginia Tech.

Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of (a disease or disease-causing agent). The term is not used to refer to amniocentesis to detect bad genes. In fact, the term mostly seems to refer to preventing a human fetus from being infected with AIDS.

Physical Mass Unit. The atomic mass unit, according to the definition favored by physicists, back when chemists and physicists used different definitions. Read the details at this amu entry.

Perfluoro(Methyl Vinyl Ether).

Palestinian Media Watch.

Pardon Me, You Must Have Mistaken Me For Someone Who Gives A Damn.

A common expression, and an abbreviation that occurs frequently in newsgroup acronym lists, but never in actual postings. Cf. tanstaafl.

PM-10, PM10
Particulate Matter of diameter less than 10 micrometers.

p-type semiconductor, then n-type semiconductor, together. A bipolar junction. A homojunction, but not just any homojunction (it could be n-n+ or n-n-, or something similar with p).

Passion Narrative. Described in Christian gospels. One of the many questions that occur in HJ studies is whether Mark (see Mk 14-16) invented the PN out of whole cloth, or whether there was a pre-existing tradition for it (set aside what actually happened and who might have known).

Disagreements between the Matthean and Lucan PN's (and BN's and resurrection stories), coexisting with a large number of agreements between the two (sometimes together against Mark), are the principal motivation for positing a distinct Q document.

Petri Net.

(Domain code for) Pitcairn.

Pottery Neolithic. Later part of the Neolithic period, when clay pottery was made. Cf. PPN

Practical Nurse.

Professional Network. The British electrical engineering organization (IEE) uses this abbreviation productively, approximately as the ACM uses SIG (Special Interest Group) and the IEEE uses ``[technical] society'' and ``council.''

PseudoNoise. Pseudorandom Number sequence. Designates a spreading signal used in SS.

Project for a New American Century. What -- did we use up the previous American century already? Aren't these things supposed to last, like, at least 90 years?

PNAC is a Washington, DC, think tank consisting of three thinkers plus, I think, some support personnel. It plays a major role in the current (2005) demonology of the US left. In the Boy Scouts, I learned that three of anything (fires in a line, for example) can be used as a symbol of danger. Maybe that played a role in the design of the tail-lights on the original Chevy Caprice/Impala series (two-light Bel Air excluded) and the Ford Mustang. Detroit must have forgotten, but they're not selling many cars now, are they? For some stupid remarks on the trilateral commission, another three-headed monster of legend, see our old conspiracy entry.

Pageant News Bureau. Beauty pageant news. Reading this, you get the idea that there would be enough titles to go around if only they didn't give anyone more than one or two titles.

Poly (n-Butyl Acrylic).

Petri-Net-Based Hypertext.

People, Networks & Communication © (Conference). Sponsored by ICICX.

Pacific Northwest Council for Languages. ``[T]he oldest regional organization [i.e., ACTFL regional affiliate] of world-language teachers in the [US].''

Peaceful Nuclear Explosion Treaty.

When India entered the nuclear club, back in the seventies, they did not detonate any bomb. Noooo! Indira tested a peaceful nuclear device. Big difference.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation.

Pack 'N' Go. The name of various programs, tools, and options, and associated data formats (this PNG is not one of them), that are supposed to simplify data transfer.

Papua New Guinea.

Pawnee National Grassland. In northern Colorado.

Persona Non Grata. Hey, you gotta go along to get along.

PNG, .png
Portable Network Graphics. A graphics format. According to this authoritative page, this PNG is not related to the others listed around this entry. (English avoids these homograph confusions by the method of randomized vowel insertion. The disambiguation symbols can be distinguished from ordinary vowels by the fact that they have nothing necessarily to do with the pronunciation, just like the consonants. As you know, English uses a logographic script as Chinese does, but the logographs are constructed from a finite ``alphabet'' of strokes called letters. The logograph ``radicals'' of English are borrowed from Swahili and other languages.)

Professional Numismatists Guild.

pnicogen, pnictogen
An element in the nitrogen group. (group VA American, VB European, 15 IUPAC). From the Greek pnígein, `to choke.' You would choke in an all-nitrogen atmosphere, I guess, but you would also choke in an all-argon atmosphere. It only happens that air is about 78% nitrogen and only about 1% argon.

Batelle (Memorial Institute-operated) Pacific Northwest Laboratories of the Department of Energy, in Richland, WA.

Planetary-Nebula Luminosity Function. Used to determine distances of galaxies as far as 100 Mpc away.

PNM, .pnm
Portable aNyMap. An image format: MIME-type image/x-portable-anymap.

Any idea what that means?

Proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). The other popular one is based on the C12 nucleus.

Private Network-to-Network Interface.

Plug'N'Play. Substantially facilitated by object-oriented coding.

This is different from `pay to play.' In `pay to play,' a citizen (C) makes a contribution to a political candidate (P), and later the public official (P) spends public moneys ($) or writes legislation (pork) in a way that benefits the citizen (C). The ``citizen'' may be a citizen, a corporation, or a foreign government. In the last case, pay-to-play may be illegal.

A BJT with net n-doped base and p-doped collector and emitter. Traditionally, IC manufacture used n-doped substrates (taking advantage of factor-of-three higher mobility of electrons over holes in silicon), and was dominated by npn transistors.

Partido Nacional Revolucionario. `National Revolutionary Party' of Mexico. Original name of the PRI, q.v.

The Pakistan News Service. Distributed on the bitnet lists PAKISTAN@ASUACAD and PAKISTAN@PSUVM, with a bidirectional gateway (at American University) to a moderated (by the PNS editors) usenet newsgroup <bit.listserv.pakistan>. A little bit more at .pk entry.

The Philosophy News Service. Came into being in June 2004. Of course, if it came into being, then it is one of those entities that is ever in the process of becoming, and therefore is not. That's not news, that's Plato. Too bad, it might have useful humor content, if it existed. There's a mailing list, too.

Peripheral Nervous System.

PNS Syndrome
PIN-Number Syndrome. The term PNS Syndrome is an instance of an AAP pleonasm, as is the term AAP pleonasm (an acronym-assisted AAP pleonasm, in fact). The unconscious use of an AAP pleonasm, or the conscious use with reckless disregard, is an instance of PNS Syndrome. This sentence and the last might be examples of PNS Syndrome. This sentence is not.

Early in the 21st century, The New Scientist magazine has been doing a number of columns on the phenomenon, which it calls ``RAS Syndrome.''

Permanent Normal Trading Relations.

Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo. Spanish, `United Nations Development Program' (UNDP).

Programme des Nations Unies pour l'environnement. French for UNEP.

Piss Off. Impolite but useful phrasal verb. Note that imperative-form meaning (depart) and indicative- and subjunctive-form meaning (anger) differ substantially. Cf. PO'ed.

Note that pissed (without the particle) is equivalent to pissed off in the US, but means `inebriated' in Australia. (That's most of the difference between American and Australian, as explained below.)

Polar-Optical. Refers to the interaction of LO phonons in a polar crystal with any net charge concentration. Fröhlich model is commonly used. Cf. DO phonons.

Polonium. Named after discoverer Marie Curie's native country (which one day would have the ccTLD of .pl). More isotopes are known for polonium than for any other, and not one of them is stable. It's poisonous in microgram quantities; black sheep of the chalcogenide (Ch) family.

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

POrch. You'd think it might stand for POol instead. See this NC entry regarding the possible prevalence of this real estate abbreviation.

Post Office. In Europe and elsewhere, they often double as telegraph and banking service offices.

Potassium. The original symbol for this chemical element in the notation proposed by Berzelius (now represented by K).

Power Output.

Print Out. One reason that the once-vaunted paperless office is taking such a long time arriving is that many people think of computers as a tool for printing out something to read.

Project Officer.

A river in Italy.

Point Of (internet) Access. On the pattern of POB (place of birth), POC (point of contact), POE (point of entry), POP (point of presence or purchase), and POS (point of sale). Preferable to more ambiguous AP.

Place Of Birth.

Person[s] Overwhelmed By Acronyms. Take a benzodiazepine.

PO Box
Post Office Box.

Spanish: `poor.' Cognate with Old French pouvre (source of the English word poor) and Modern French pauvre. Words like poverty and pauper are also cognate. Interestingly, the equivalence of u and v before the seventeenth century has made it difficult to determine when the vee sound was lost in English pronunciation.

Parents of Ostomy Children. ``... a national network within the United Ostomy Association. Our goal is to offer support and information to the parents of children who through birth anomaly, disease or injury have had, or will have, ostomy or diversion surgery.'' See also colostomy.

{ Person | People } Of Color.

Picosecond Optical Calorimetry.

Point Of Contact.

Pocari Sweat
Name of a popular Japanese drink in the Gatorade market niche. The name is defined in romaji (Roman characters), and is apparently designed to seem odd in Japanese as well as English: Pocari translates approximately as the onomatopoeia `bonk,' like the sound made by a head experiencing mild impact trauma. It could be worse; vide BM.

On a related note, Shoko Asahara, the guru leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, sold his used bathwater to his followers for about US$200 a bottle. It was one of the few beverages he allowed them to drink (his blood, at $10K, was another), but at least he called it `miracle pond.' Related information at this LPF entry.

Also, the dominant powdered coffee creamer is called ``Creap.''

pocket door
A door that opens by sliding into a pocket within the wall. I never knew!

In beautiful Sedona, Arizona, there is a ``Poco Diablo Resort.'' I remember traveling in the beautiful Sedona area in the late 1980's, seeing all the vistas, which were strikingly red (iron oxides) and all the billboards and smaller advertisements for Poco Diablo Resort, which were just striking (iron and wood signs). I suppose whoever came up with the name wanted to suggest rustic old New Spanish days, so they traduced the name into Spanish, by looking up the words little and devil in an English-Spanish dictionary. And indeed, diablo means `devil' and poco means `little.' However, poco diablo does not mean `little devil' in Spanish. Instead, it means ¡soy un gringo estúpido!

The word poco is a Spanish adjective that means `little' in the sense of `not much' but not in the sense of `small.' It precedes and modifies a mass noun. The sense of `little' appropriate to a count noun is expressed by (the inequivalent) pequeño or chico (as in diablo pequeño or even pequeño diablo), by a diminutive ending (the most natural choice in this case -- diablito) or by a combination, the diminutive ending modifying the noun, the adjective, or both (as in diablito chiquitito, one you might encounter in a children's book). There is a very large number of such quantifier endings, but their use is subject to a mix of fashion and tradition, and not many rigid rules, so they provide plenty of nonce words like diablecito.

A few European languages -- Spanish, Italian, Polish, that I know of -- that have found themselves a bit short of words have gone the way of multiple endings. Often a diminutive or augmentative form of a word takes a specific new meaning. Thus, in Spanish, where la caja is `the box,' el cajón is not `the large box' but `the drawer.' This has the diminutive form el cajoncito (`the little drawer'). For ``large box,'' I recommend caja grande. For a slightly more complete list of forms, see the ppp entry.

Paulson Oil COmpany. ``[A] premier distributor of fuels and lubricants to the greater Chicagoland and Northern Indiana markets.''

POst-COlonial. Let's get together a post-independence movement to make that POst-ColOnial.

(Retrospective) Projection Onto Convex Sets (for super-resolution). Dang, that MRI stuff uses more than just linear algebra.

Post Office Code Standardization Advisory Group. Advises on pager codes. Defined a pager protocol that also goes by the name POCSAG.

A base station that broadcasts to POCSAG pagers (i.e., pagers that receive POCSAG protocol). A pocsagger converts text information in ASCII to POCSAG, a pager that displays text converts POCSAG to ASCII.

Periodically Oscillating Crystal Temperature.

POD, PoD, P.O.D.
Pay[ee] On Death.

Pay On Delivery. A different perspective on COD.

Plain Old Documentation. Perl terminology for documentation embedded in the source code. Delimited at the beginning by an equal sign in a place where a statement would be legal, and by =cut at the end. The pod2x directory contains programs to extract the documentation and convert to HTML, FrameMaker, a Unix man page, TeXinfo, or plain text.

Professional and Organizational Development. Acronym used by POD Network (also just POD, they're not very careful or consistent) -- Professional and Organizational Development NETWORK in Higher Education. They seem to be linguistically challenged -- they describe their goals and activities rather vaguely. I think they're about the people who organize universities' in-house continuing-education seminars for professors to improve their teaching techniques and staffers to improve their, uh, staffing techniques.

Proof Of Delivery. Like, receipt.

Point Of Entry. Generalization of Port of Entry.

(Of course, the word port itself is a specialization of the original meaning `door.')

PO-ed, PO'ed
PissED Off. Angry. Past and past participle of PO. Vide grammatical remarks at MP.

Center for Photonics and OptoElectronic Materials. Part of the Princeton Materials Institute (PMI).

Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite[s].

Protect Our Earth's Treasures. An animal-exploitation activist group. Recognizing that when an animal species comes to be exploited as a food, the enormous resources of the food industry can be mobilized to guarantee its continued existence, P.O.E.T. endeavors to popularize the mass consumption of endangered and threatened species. One of their most successful projects -- you've probably heard about it -- has been to distribute recipes featuring targeted species (giant armadillo burgers, pygmy hog chops, etc., with a side of elfin tree fern salad). Small insect species still present a problem for this approach, although ``spice'' ideas have been cooked up, such as pumpkin pie with ground puritan tiger beetle topping. Other efforts include, ummm, according to their website, umm, they were founded in 1984, umm... All I can find on their website is unappetizing stuff about lab animals. Apparently they want pain research and experiments on spinal-cord injuries to be conducted on humans instead of other animals. Where are the recipes?!

If it were pronounced with a long a, this word might represent any of these:
  • A blend of poetry and taster, suggesting a person of refined, if possibly synesthetic, taste.
  • A contraction of poet and taster, suggesting one of the following:
    • A poet and connoisseur: a poet with refined culinary appreciation.
    • A person who tastes poets.
    • A person who tastes poets as a chick sexer sexes chicks, detecting and possibly sorting poets by what the poets' tastes are.
One day I should probably take a vote and shorten the above list. Fortunately, however, it was entirely unnecessary for you to have read through the list, as you realized from the contrary-to-fact subjunctive (``were''). The a in poetaster is pronounced short, as in trash.

It used to be possible to define the poetaster briefly as a bad or poor poet. Things have gotten so bad, however, that the traditional poetaster should now be regarded as a noble paradigm to be exalted above the ordinary run of what are now loosely regarded as bad poets (or even poets). The traditional poetaster is ``an inferior rhymer, or writer of verses; a dabbler in poetic art'' (Webster's Revised Unabridged, 1913) or a ``writer of insignificant, meretricious, or shoddy poetry'' (American Heritage, 2000). What is implicit in these typical definitions is that the productions of a poetaster are poetry. Spilling ink at random across a page may be bad (we don't have an entry for modern art yet), but it is rarely bad poetry. In order to produce bad poetry with any degree of consistency, one must have some notion of what poetry is.

In short, the old poetaster was a poet, if a bad one. The writers of what is passed for poetry today are non-poets. They think that poetry is prose typeset in unjustified lines.

In ``Notes on Prosody,'' an appendix to his translation (1964) of Eugene Onegin, Vladimir Nabokov wrote this to begin his discussion of feet:

If by prosodies we mean systems or forms of versification evolved in Europe during this millennium and used by her finest poets, we can distinguish two main species, the syllabic system and the metrical one, and a subspecific form belonging to the second species (but not inconsistent with certain syllabic compositions), cadential poetry, in which all that matters is lilt depending on random numbers of accents placed at random intervals.
[If all this species/subspecific talk seems misplaced, recall that Nabokov was an accomplished butterfly taxonomist.]
A fourth form, which is specifically vague and is rather a catchall than a definite category (not yet having been instrumental in producing great poetry), takes care of unrhymed free verse, which, except for the presence of typographical turnpikes, grades insensibly into prose, from a taxonomic point of view.

Poetastry is not some confection of poetry and pastry, but the work (or at least the production) of poetasters.

Prose typeset in unjustified lines. (This is the modern definition. I gave up.)

As you can imagine from the definition, it's hard to get poetry published -- the linotypists rebel at the waste. It's easier to have it broadcast, particularly if it's written in a commercial genre (see the 43 beans entry for an example). Despite the low rates of emission, it is nevertheless necessary to protect the population at large from exposure to harmful poetry. (To understand the danger, carefully view the Arnold droppings at the touchstone entry. And that is mere poetastry.) For this reason, the public-safety agencies of the government work to prevent poets from earning more than a pitance. (If they had money, they would publish their work as magazine advertisements.)

Despite government efforts, some poetry manages to slip through. Here is the accident report from one such instance [described in translator David McDuff's introduction to Osip Mandelstam: Selected Poems (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1975), p. x.]:

Mandelstam's first poems date from 1908. There seems to have been some conflict between the poet and his mother about what course his life was to take, she preferring for him some securely established career to the life of a writer or journalist. Sergei Makovsky, the éminence grise [very appositely, this is Russian for `grisly imminence'] and editor of the literary journal Apollon, describes in his memoirs how one day the eighteen-year-old poet and his mother appeared together in the offices of the journal. Mandelstam's mother at once began to ask Makovsky to read her son's poems and to tell her if he saw any talent in them; she would agree to her son's continuing to write poetry only if Makovsky gave the seal of his approval. Makovsky says that he read one or two of the poems, did not find them particularly attractive, and was about to terminate the interview with some piece of formal politeness when he read in the young poet's face ``such an intense, agonized beseeching, that I immediately somehow gave in and went over to his side--for poetry, against the skin trade,'' and that he solemnly declared to the mother: ``Yes, madam, your son has talent.'' After this there was nothing left for Makovsky to do but print the poems so insistently offered him. This was Mandelstam's literary début.

Physics Of Failure. There, there -- it's not your fault! You got a bad grade on your strength-of-materials test because of fatigue!

Project On Government Oversight. Like jumping up and down and getting nowhere. We have met the enemy and he is us.

`Weather' in Polish. It can also mean `good weather' and `cheerfulness.'

(Data transmission) Path OverHead (cost). Cf. TOH.

Potential of Hydroxide (OH-) ion: -log[OH-]. [That's the common logarithm: log10.] A measure of alkalinity on a logarithmic scale. Complementary to pH, because by the law of mass action,

k = [H+] [OH-] ,

where k is about 10-14 at room temperature, so that

pH + pOH = 14.

More at the pH entry. I mean, why should I repeat myself?

(Data transmission) Path Overhead (cost) Indicator.

Hawaiian name for taro root paste, which is a staple there, in Samoa, and in other Pacific islands. Taro root is pulpy rather than fibrous, so the paste is made by mashing. That's called ``pounding'' to make it sound more colorfully ethnic. The taro is often allowed to ferment. Here's a hint: cook first, then mash.

A minor typographical error corrected in editions or reprints following the first. A term used by book collectors. Often the only way to distinguish a true first edition from others is by points. (See, for example, Allen Ahearn's Book Collecting.)

Percentage pOINT. Doubtless people have been using the word point to mean one one-hundredth part for a long time, occasionally in psephology and regularly in scattered other domains of study and activity. Nevertheless, it seems to me that a dam broke after the 2004 US national elections. There was so much analysis, and there were so many polls and surveys, that a psychological barrier was crossed and many more people felt that it was acceptable to elide the ``percentage.''

pois não
A Portuguese expression pronounced about as ``poyz NOW'' in English. It's best to approach this expression from Spanish. A word-by-word translation of the head term into Spanish is pues no, a common phrase meaning `but no' or `of course not.' The Portuguese phrase generally means the same thing, but in Brazil in the 1940's, my father encountered the paradoxical use of pois não in the sense of `yes.' Perhaps this began as irony and became standardized for a time, although there are other possibilities. [Pois] como não? and ¿[pues] cómo no? can be translated approximately literally as `[but] how not?' and more idiomatically in many cases as `how could it be otherwise?' or simply `of course!' One could imagine pois como não? evolving into pois não in its contradictory sense. It wouldn't be any stranger than people saying ``I could care less'' in English with the opposite sense of `I could hardly care less.' (See ICCL. Or don't. Do what you want, ICCL.) The strange pois não usage seems to have abated, so there's hope for those who really could care less about paradoxical English as well. Confusion alone ought to be enough to explain why the usage didn't (AFAIK) last. I asked a fellow from near São Paolo about it in January 2005, and he said that it was an expression used now by grandfatherly sorts, but by no one else.

Among the regional languages of Spain, probably the one that most closely resembles Portuguese is Galician (called galego in Galician and gallego in Standard Spanish). The last time the Portuguese-speakers held a major international convention to hammer out a standard spelling of Portuguese, they invited a delegation of Galician observers. Nevertheless, Galician is closer to Spanish than to Portuguese. I mention it, however, because of an intriguing item I found in a list of English faux amis in Galician that occurs in a Galician Wikipedia page. The word is absolutely, which is translated as totalmente, completamente. The contributor of this item expects the English word to be misunderstood as meaning en absoluto, which would have to be rendered as `not at all' or `absolutely not' in English.

Just to be clear and thorough: Galician en is a preposition like English `in,' used here to make an adverbial from the adjective absoluto. The Spanish adverb absolutamente, which means `absolutely,' does not seem to occur in any similar form in Galician. The best source I have handy for Galician is the Diccionario de Usos Castellano Gallego edited by Xosé María Freixedo Tabarés and Fe Álvarez Carracedo (Madrid: Editoriál AKAL, 1985), which translates Spanish terms into Galician. There, absolutamente is translated as ``inteiramente [`entirely'], de todo en todo.''

This entry is a spin-off of the ou entry. Maybe you want to go back and refresh your memory.

Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. An Indian acronym that evidently expresses a POV. An alternative POV is built into the country name Pakistan.

It's not a polygon. It is the surname of Leopold Pokagon, chief of the Potawatomi in southwest Michigan, during the early part of the nineteenth century. In the Chicago Treaty of 1833, the US government claimed most of the Potawatomi land remaining in the area, and many of the Potawatomi were forced to move west. Pokagon was able to keep his band in the area because he held title to a bit of land near Niles. Later he sold that land for food and a parcel of 874 acres at Silver Creek near Dowagiac.

Petroleum, Oils, and Lubricants. As Heller illustrated in Catch-22, the military has a special talent for ingenuously laying out its stupidity in the most explicit terms. For example, the DOD defines this POL (it's official) as a ``broad term which includes all petroleum and associated products used by the Armed Forces.'' This is obviously incorrect, since the military uses plastics and even fertilizer, to say nothing of pumps, grommets and rakes, which latter must be the ``associated products.''

More later. I want to add something to the Cu entry.

Those who acknowledge a distinction recognize that this is used to mean both (1) a POLitician, and (2) a corrupt POLitician.

Physicians' OnLine (Network).

POLIOmyelitis. The name is constructed from the Greek poliós (`gray') + myelós (marrow) + -itis. Cf. fahl.

Poli Sci, poli-sci
POLItical SCIence. Pronounced ``Polly Sigh.'' I guess that whenever it is written with neither space nor hyphen, it's an acronym, but polisci looks like it must mean `police' in some LCTL. See Pol. Sci.

My informant on the subject of the Romanian language and I have been talking about her discipline off and on for at least a couple of weeks. She's pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science, and her area of concentration is international politics. She just came by and said she realized that in all this time she had neglected to mention the best book that she knows of in her discipline: Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis, by Graham T. Allison and Philip Zelikow (xv+416pp.). She was not aware that this is the second edition (1999) of a book that was first published in 1971 by Graham Allison alone (xii+338 pp.). I haven't had a look yet.

The language of Poland (.pl). With its strings of four or more consonants, (e.g., the word czczy, meaning `empty') this language is regarded as very difficult to pronounce. When non-Poles try to speak it, Poles who hear them give a slightly pained, indulgent smile. The pain comes from the effort to suppress laughter. They're keeping a secret: the secret is that it's actually impossible to pronounce Polish. Not just for non-Poles. Early in the twelfth century, Polish ceased to be a spoken language. When no foreigners are present, Poles speak in another language, usually !Kung or Welsh.

Poland is a kind of experimental theater of nationalism. Poles had already tried the more common experiments, like existing without any territory, so to top it they tried shifting their borders a couple of hundred kilometers west on a moment's notice. (In Transylvanian dance, this is known as the ``Time Warp.'' It is explicated in the documentary ``The Rocky Horror Picture Show.'') Similarly, other countries, like Ireland and India, have already tried having official languages that no more than a small minority can speak. Attempting to break new ground, and because virtually all Poles maintain to foreigners that they speak Polish, they have established dialects, so that you can fail to speak Polish in two or three different ways, automatically! In addition to eastern and western alleged pronunciations, there is also a special dialect ``spoken'' in the Gdansk area. Back in the eighties, they tried to get together an army to make the Gdansk dialect a language. This effort broke down, but they ended up forming an independent trade union that eventually led to the first peaceful surrender of power by an established communist government in Europe. All because of linguistics.

And Australian! Oh, man, don't get me started. It's not a dialect at all, just an advertising gimmick that got out of hand. (Rather like the joke called C.) ``Australian speech'' was invented by the tourist office many years ago, after a marketing study to determine what kind of accent and colloquialisms are thought colorful by people who don't already think that koalas are cute enough to visit. (That ``billabong'' stuff? First they invented the vocabulary, later they developed folklore around it.) Anyway, the subsequent advertising campaign was so successful and memorable that they've had a struggle to keep up appearances ever since. In the run-up to the 2000 Olympics, they spent millions on a campaign to teach the locals how the accent is supposed to go. Anybody who couldn't get the hang of it had to relocate out of the Sydney area for the duration. (Normally, Australians just talk like everybody else.)

You know, I once got an email protesting that czczy doesn't have four or more consonants (presumably because cz is a digraph representing what the writer regards as a single consonant). My correspondent's problem was that she was taking this entry seriously--er, I mean too seriously, er, too literally, yeah, that's it. Obviously I meant either that Polish has words with four or more letters together that represent consonants, or I was thinking of the ch sound the way it is represented in the IPA, or in German and Catalunian orthography: as a t sound followed by a sh sound.

People say that if you look long enough at a correctly spelled word, even when you know it is correctly spelled, it can start to look odd or wrong. That must depend on the word; it seems likelier to happen with ``weird'' than ``and.'' But viewing this phenomenon another way, it suggests that we don't easily notice spelling oddities when we are habituated to them. For example, in German it takes four letters (tsch) to spell the sound of cz in Polish. (It also takes four -- dsch -- to represent the sound of j in English. Hence, they write Dschungel and Dschihad for what we write more compactly as, uh, `tropical rain forest' and `no comment.') Even taking ``consonant'' in a narrow sense, English and German have some fairly dense clusters of them.

A word commonly used to exemplify English consonant clustering is ``strengths,'' which really only has three initial and three final consonant sounds. I thought of this recently when I bought a book by mistake. There was a used-book sale at an online bookstore I use, and as the sale was about to end I noticed a book that intrigued me: ``Rechtsprache in der Frühen Neuzeit.'' That was either the title as I misread it or as someone mistyped it, and it means `Proper [presumably German] Pronunciation in the Early Modern Era.' When it arrived, I discovered that the title begins with the word Rechtssprache. With the extra s, it's actually a book about legal language in the early modern period, and considerably less interesting to me. The chtsspr string represents six distinct consonant sounds (again three final ones, from the first syllable, and three initial ones, from the second). Even in not-very-careful speech, you can hear the difference between this s and ss: The s preceding the p has a sh sound, and the s that may precede it has an s sound.

The confusion ultimately arises from some of the multiple meanings associated with right. Recht is an adjective meaning, among other things, `right, correct' and also a noun meaning `right, law.' The extra s in the second case is a genitive inflection, related to 's in English.

Und die Moral von der Geschicht?
Two ``right''s can make a wrong.

political arithmetic
An old term for social or economic statistics, used in the latter half of the seventeenth century and in the eighteenth century. Early England political arithmeticians were John Graunt, Sir William Petty, Charles Davenant and Gregory King. In 1696, basing himself on government tax records (particularly those of a hated ``hearth tax''), King estimated the population and income of various social classes, ``calculated for the year 1688.'' It was evidently the first such survey of its kind, at least for England and Wales, and has been widely used from Macaulay on. His total-population estimate of 5,500,500 for that time is consistent with later estimates.

King divided the various classes into two large categories: those ``increasing the wealth of the country'' and those ``decreasing'' it. For a household to increase the wealth of the country, in this context, meant for it to have expenses smaller than income. Those who relied on poor relief, charity, and theft to, so to speak, balance their books, were in the decreasing-the-wealth category. It's an interesting terminology, because it confronts us explicitly with the idea that income to a person is a measure of the person's contribution to national wealth. On this reasoning, if I went to Las Vegas and hit the jackpot, I'd suddenly become a major benefactor of the country. (Come to think of it, I might suddenly become reacquainted with some long-forgotten good ol' buddies who thought just that.)

In an agrarian economy, where a large portion of the food is grown by individual families for their own use, where much cloth is homespun and bread home-baked, etc., and where much trade is still based on barter (i.e., rather literal ``trade''), it is very difficult to assign monetary value to the flows of goods and services. With all that said, his results can be surprising to a reader in our time, because King estimated more than half the population as ``decreasing the wealth of the country.'' Equally surprising, or at least corroborative, is that neither he nor his contemporaries found this surprising. When Cervantes in the sixteenth century, and Disraeli in the nineteenth, wrote that the poor and the rich constituted two distinct nations, they were describing salient and substantial realities of their times. In Gregory King's time, he estimated the two nations' populations at 2,675,500 (``increasing the wealth'') and 2,825,000 (``decreasing''). More of Gregory King's findings are discussed at the UOSA entry.

political commentator
Illiterate mind-reader.

politically astute
Unencumbered by inconvenient scruples.

political opinion
Invalid generalization.

poll date
In the days before the presumptive Democratic candidate for president Barack Obama (as he was then) announced Joe Biden as his choice of running mate, a couple of organizations ran polls to determine how well-known or well-regarded long-time Senator Joseph Biden, Jr. was. A CBS News/New York Times poll conducted August 15-20, sampling 1014 registered voters, found that 13% had a favorable opinion of Biden and 12% had an unfavorable opinion. In a Rasmussen poll, the corresponding numbers were 43% and 38%. Results from both polls were released on August 23, 2008, the day Senator Barack Obama announced the selection. (The linked CBS/NYT poll might still be accessible.)

I originally planned to make this contrast exhibit A of a ``consistency check'' entry, since the differences in the percentages found by the two polls seemed far too large to be explained by any reasonable estimate of the random measurement uncertainties. However, it seems the Rasmussen poll was conducted on the evening of August 22, at the end of a week of public speculation about whom Obama would choose. During that week Biden was widely touted as the or at least a front-runner for the nod. So perhaps many people made up their minds about Biden during the last few days of media coverage.

So it's really not so interesting. Especially now, years later. But I hated to discard the entry after all that exhausting work, so here it is.

I don't propose to define them, I just needed an entry at which to list them. What do you think?

At a seminar given by the late Mr. Gallup, I learned that many of the polling organizations use presidential polling as a kind of loss-leader -- demonstrating their capabilities, accuracy, utility at a loss they can recoup with the business they attract as a result. Since that time (1980), though, things may have changed. There's a lot more polling, for one thing, and a lot of it is conducted by organizations that primarily serve political campaigns.

(Many of the organizations, or the principals of those organizations, tend to work primarily for candidates of one or the other major US party, hence the R's and D's below.)

A kind of metapoll site is <PollingReport.com>, which collects in a single place the results distributed free by many of the best-known news and polling organizations. Notably absent from this collection are the results obtained by Rasmussen. (The omission is not explained, but it may be a judgment against Rasmussen's automated-voice polling methods. In the end, Rasmussen had the most accurate overall and state-by-state predictions of the presidential vote in 2004.) The RCP website posted similar collections during the election year 2004, yet as late as February 2005 it had barely started comparing polls for the 2006 races and had few polls for the 2008 presidential contest. Nothing at all for 2010, and that was less than six years off! (No, I'm not a political news junkie. I'm a political news junkie in denial.) Electoral-Vote.com has a Democratic tilt and the focus you would guess from the domain name. That site also offers largely meaningless linear least-squares fits (three-month baselines!) to state polling data. It's good someone is doing this, and it's very good not to be the one wasting his time doing it. The relatively nonpartisan National Journal used to have good content but eventually made most of its site accessible by subscription only, so I've eliminated links to their site.

The list below is mostly of organizations or temporary collaborations set up for the US election cycle in 2000 (subsequently updated in a haphazard manner). Sometimes different groups collaborated in polling but did separate analyses; sometimes a news organization joined with two political pollsters, choosing one Republican and one Democratic in an attempt to balance out the biases. The most closely watched contest in 2000 was, of course, that for the presidency. In the event, it was too close to call, and most pollsters had more or less predicted that.

One organization that deserves to be singled out for special recognition is the infamous Rupert Murdoch's Fox ``News'', pretty much universally recognized to be slanted to the Republican side. Why can't he just toe the liberal line like the rest of the media?! Mr. Murdoch craves respect, but he doesn't understand that not everyone is as simple as the people he targets as audience. Oh, we've added another Murdoch-related entry.

  • ABC News Poll Archive.
  • American Research Group. I'm not entirely sure if this is the same company as the American Research Group that was acquired by Global Knowledge Network.
  • American Viewpoint (R).
  • CBS News.
  • Gallup. Founded as AIPO, q.v. On March 21, 2006, the Gallup organization announced that it would end its 14-year relationship with CNN when the current contract ended in June 2006. In a memo to his employees, Gallup CEO Jim Clifton praised the past relationship with CNN, but said ``it is not the right alignment for our future,'' because ``CNN has far fewer viewers than it did in the past, and we feel that our brand was getting lost and diluted.'' Calling the memo ``unprofessional'' and ``in every respect untrue,'' CNN claimed Gallup was ending the partnership because ``the CNN brand was so dominant that Gallup wasn't getting the attention for the polls that they wanted.'' Gallup also announced that it planned to continue its relationship with USA Today; Gallup was in discussions with other polling services and planned to announce a new partner soon.
    According to Steve O'Brien, a senior advisor to the Gallup Poll, ``we just decided it was time for us to get involved in producing and distributing our own content.'' He also said that Gallup planned to enhance the video capabilities of its website and to show the kind of lengthy pieces that are difficult to do on television.
  • GSG -- Global Strategy Group (D).
  • Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (D).
  • Harris.
  • Hart Research (Peter D. Hart (D) and Robert M. Teeter (R); does presidential polling for NBC.) (Garin-Hart-Yang (D)).
  • ICR -- International Communications Research.
  • JM&A -- John McLaughlin & Associates (R).
  • LA Times.
  • LSPA -- Lake Snell Perry & Associates, Inc. (sic, D).
  • Netpollster (online polling arm of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence).
  • Opinion Dynamics. (Does presidential polling for Fox.)
  • Pew.
  • The Polling Company (R).
  • POS -- Public Opinion Strategies (very R).
  • Public Agenda.
  • Rasmussen Reports.
  • Roper.
  • SRBI.
  • Strategic Vision (R).
  • SurveyUSA. (SurveyUSA is admirably and unusually open about its polling procedures, and apparently it has good reason to be open its results. At this page, SurveyUSA has various statistical comparisons demonstrating that in 2008, its polls are among the very best. [When I visited on April 14 (a week before the Pennsylvania primary), the latest comparisons were based on polls by 38 organizations for contests held up to 8 pm ET 02/20/08. SurveyUSA had a self-reported median error to that point of 2.0, and an average error of 4.12, based on 26 contests it had polled. They did less well in subsequent polling, but they went ahead and 'fessed up. When I visited on June 15, they had integrated the results for contests up to May 6, and a total of total of 41 polling organizations. Based on 33 contests polled, their median error was 3.0 and their average error was 4.52. It's important to note that in comparisons by either measure, they were bested only by organizations that polled fewer than a quarter of the contests SurveyUSA did. This is important because the large number of occasional pollsters is bound to include some that get lucky. For example, the three pollsters with smaller median errors than SurveyUSA each conducted only two polls.)
  • TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence and its TIPP (Technometrica Institute of Policy and Politics).
  • TTG The Tarrance Group (R).
  • USA-Today/CNN/Gallup. Well, this is a very old link, though not a dead one. Gallup (vide supra) decided to break off its collaboration with CNN in 2006, but continued to work with USAT.
  • Voter.com/ (defunct after 2000).
  • Washington Post.
  • Wirthlin Worldwide (R).
  • Yankelovitch Partners.
  • Zogby International. In early 2004, this organization is doing the most extensive (publicly available) polling of the campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
    Zogby International is a New-York-based polling organization of John Zogby, an Arab-American of Lebanese Christian (I presume Maronite) descent. He does political polling for Republicans. His brother James Zogby is a lobbyist and director of the Institute of Arab-American Relations in Washington. During the 2000 election campaign, James was employed by the Democratic Party as Advisor on Minority Affairs. According to Al Ahram Weekly for Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2002, he published numerous articles in the Arab press, cautioning Arab leaders against the prevalent sanguine assessment -- until September 12, 2001 -- of George W. Bush as sympathetic to Arab interests.
    The Zogby website has links you can follow to purchase services of the company. The linked texts suggests different ways Zogby polls can be helpful. One text reads ``Have a candidate who needs to know where they stand?'' (Granted, there is a more innocent interpretation.) (They probably knows where they stands on pronoun issues, without even knowing it.)

A couple of university-based regional pollsters:

Pol. Sci.
POLitical SCIence. The name of an academic department. In a small number of more honest universities, ``Politics'' is the name of that academic department. Politics is an activity in all academic departments. None of this has anything too excessive to do with reality.

Pol. Sci. is a formal abbreviation. Informally, ``Poli Sci'' and ``poli-sci'' are used, with variable punctuation and capitalization, and the pronunciation ``Polly Sigh.''

``Police Science'' doesn't seem to have an abbreviation, sir. Cf. Poly Sci.

Short for polycrystalline silicon.

Polyester and cotton fabric.

Used for shrink-wrap. Also for extremely cheap carpets. We were looking over the rolled-up carpets in a closet with a professional cleaner, and he said the olefin carpets cost more to clean than to buy new. (The price schedule is about the same for cleaning any kind of carpet.)

Poly Sci
An album by John Forté. Rap or hip-hop or something.

Poly. Sci.
POLYmer SCIence. Abbreviation, as in J. Poly. Sci. The abbreviation alone is rarely pronounced as a name.

In chemical terms this is usually just an oligomer of words bound by conjunctions. And since words don't generally ``condense out'' when the monomers are conjoined, yes: it's an addition oligomer. Usually an addition co-oligomer.

Maybe an example would be helpful (from Yeats):

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book.

Polysyndeton is a good thing to have when the comma-producing nations form an export cartel. Cf. asyndeton.

Passenger-Operated Machine. A ticket-vending machine. Usually operated by people who plan to become passengers, and who typically have been passengers in the past, but who -- oh, never mind. I imagine you can figure it out, and if you can't there may be a fellow in a uniform and a cramped booth who might help you. The acronym might be unique to LUL.

Phase-Of-Moon (as an attributive noun) or Phase Of the Moon. Usage: ``The PLL is POM-dependent; maybe someone will fix it.''

PolyOxyMethylene (plastic). Also called acetal and ACL. San Diego Plastics, Inc. has a short page of information on Acetal.

Palm Oil Millers' Association. It was set up in 1985 to promote and foster good relations among millers throughout Malaysia. This apparently doesn't include hoe-downs.

Pulsed OrganoMetallic Beam Epitaxy. A method of controlling stoichiometry and film quality in the growth of cuprate superconductors. See S. J. Duray, et al., ``Pulsed Organometallic beam epitaxy of complex oxide films,'' Applied Physics Letters vol. 59, #12, pp. 1503-1505 (16 Sept. 1991).

pomo, po-mo
POst-MOdern. Generalized post be-bop. Always in mixed or lower case, because that way `m' is almost indistinguishable from `rn.' This misunderstanding is probably the principal reason for the popularity of postmodern whatnot. For an alternative opinion (that pomo is evil, probably), visit the Pondering Postmodernism page kept by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) as a resource for journalists and glossary compilers looking for a quick target to ridicule.

Eric Idle (Monty Python emeritus) published The Road to Mars : A Post-Modem Novel in 1999. You need to know that authors normally have little or no influence on the cover art their publishers select. On the cover, the subtitle is shown on a paper tape being pulled out of the red planet by the sort of hand that might appear in the Monty Python opening, closing, or in-the-middle credits. On the paper tape, Post-Modem is written in ALL CAPS! Grumble. The man has been ill-served by agents. His last regular acting gig was on the Brooke Shields vehicle Suddenly Susan (I understand it was supposed to be a comedy) shortly before it was canceled, leaving Eric idle.

Visit this postmodernism generator for a completely original pomo essay, complete with footnotes, generated while-U-wait. Hey look, we've got our own stretch of pomo entries starting at postmodern.

Spanish, `paste, cream.'

A non-precision instrument for exhorting crowds and drawing their attention. An accessory for cheerleaders. Reminiscent of the ``flappers'' of Laputa described in Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

What a complete idiot I am! All these years I've been calling it a ``pom-pom''!

Problem-Oriented Medical Records.

Passive Optical Network.

Pump Octane Number. Also called Road Octane Number by people in the field. Get the complete low-down at the Octane Number entry so you can see why this is a bad idea.

They say the holiday season is a ponnus. That's all I know.

It's mentioned in at least one of the Harry Potter books, in a non-holiday context.

I guess ponnus is a second-declension masculine noun in Latin.

The Irish word pus (`lip, mouth') is used in the US and Ireland as a slang word with various senses that may be summarized as `unhappy mouth or face.' It may mean an `ugly face,' or a `glum or angry face' (sourpuss more often refers to a person than the face) or `frown,' or it may, in the OED's efficient description, refer to ``the mouth or face (considered as the object of a blow).''

In Hebrew, panim (stress on second syllable) is `face.' (Masculine, plural in form, construed singular -- a curiosity discussed at the chaim entry.) In Yiddish, the word is rendered in the Ashkenazi Hebrew pronunciation. In particular, the vowels are different (just as Yisrael in Modern and Sephardi pronunciations is Yisroel in Ashkenazi) and it is stressed on the first syllable. I've encountered it as a neuter singular, and pronounced something like ponum. ``Das busche ponum'' is `the shamed face.'

A section of the cranium located at the base of the brain, in front of the cerebellum. It has been supposed that it coordinates the activities of various lobes of the brain.

Program on Noncollegiate Sponsored Instruction. National PONSI ``is a not-for-profit educational advisory service that links learning experiences that take place outside of college classrooms to college degrees. How? National PONSI evaluates learning experiences [in the work environments of participating US employers -- member organizations] and makes the results available to colleges to use as a guide in awarding credit for noncollegiate course work.''

The US Postal Service is not and has not been a member organization. Why did I even wonder?

Pennsylvania, Ontario and New York. The PONY league was an eight-team Class D baseball league that existed shortly after WWII. As if you needed to know that.

Generally, someone else's translation (intended as a crutch for one's own). More specifically, a trot.

Rodney Dangerfield died yesterday, October 5, 2004. He built a pretty respectable comedy career around a persona who ``don't get no respect.'' He got in relatively early on the trend of well-known actors burnishing their careers as the voices of cartoon characters in 1991, when he was the voice of Rover Dangerfield, a dog who don't get no respect. (Jim Backus, discussed at this other entry, was the voice of Mr. Magoo much earlier, but I don't think that counts as part of the trend. I mean, it was just some voice-acting work he did. It didn't really advance his career, did it? He got stuck on Gilligan's Island! Barbara Feldon has done voice work too: see the 99 entry.)

Anyway, Rover Dangerfield is a Bassett hound, and the animated feature didn't get much respect. I suppose the breed was chosen to suggest the, ah, body style of Rodney, but the dogs that really don't get any respect are poodles. They tend to be regarded as at least somewhat ridiculous (because they are). As it happens, I had already been planning to put in a poodles entry because I noticed that I had two books that mention poodles in the title:

  1. When Did Wild Poodles Roam the Earth? by David Feldman. It's another in the author's ImponderablesTM series. (Another one is Do Penguins Have Knees? Penguins are sort of avian poodles, gracefulness- and respect-wise.) Feldman or one of his researchers posed the poodle question to the biology department at UCLA, and making a reply was delegated to Nancy Purtill, an AA there. She wrote: ``The general feeling is that, while there is no such thing as a stupid question, this one comes very close.'' Then she explained the obvious. Even people who ask questions about poodles get no respect.

    Sally Kinne, of the Poodle Club of America, Inc., noted that the earliest certain depictions of poodles in art date from the fifteenth century. (In work by Albrecht Dürer, of all people. I never figured him for the late medieval Norman Rockwell.) The word poodle is a transliteration of German Pudel, short for Pudelhund. Hund, of course, means `hound, dog.' Pudel is a pool of water, cognate with English puddle. The verb pudeln is `to splash [around] in the water'; pudelnass means `dripping wet.' The poodle was originally bred as a water retriever. (Water retrievers don't retrieve water, you understand; they retrieve in or from the water. Everything about poodles is ridiculous.) I guess that poodles, like penguins, seem better adapted in the water. Anybody can seem awkward when out of his element. (For a riverine version of a similar concept, see the fünf entry.)

    When I was a little boy in Argentina, I was at first taught Spanish and German (my mother's mother tongue), until it was clear that English would be a higher priority (we were emigrating). My mother claims that the decision to finally stop teaching me German came when we were walking one day, and as she was trying to remember the German word for puddle to warn me, I walked into the puddle she was going to warn me about.

  2. Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, by Ben Watson. The book actually has a lot of thoughtful references to poodles. I'm going to have to get back to this entry later.

Rodney Dangerfield's last movie, incidentally, was Angels with Angles (2004), in which he played the role of Dog, er, God. The angles/angels pun, incidentally, is literally ancient.

Programación Orientada a Objetos. ``Object-Oriented Programming' OOP in Spanish.

As it happens, there's also a small town named Poo in Spain -- it's on the northern coast, about 3 km from Llanes. In English, poo evokes the childish or euphemistic term poo (approximately equivalent to poop, but the use of poo as a verb is very childish). It also evokes Pooh, as in Winnie-the-Pooh. POO or OOP -- either way it sounds faintly ridiculous.

Pool, Daniel
Daniel Pool wrote a book entitled What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew (1993). This isn't meant to imply that Charles Dickens knew what Jane Austen ate, at least not intimately and particularly. The subtitle is ``From Fox Hunting to Whist -- the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England.'' The principal criticism I have encountered is that Pool is insufficiently attentive to variations over the course of the century. I'm not qualified to judge, but it can only be a matter of degree, as he does try to give some indication of how the facts of daily life changed over time. The website called A Victorian Passage has a great deal of information in the same genre (it also features a profusion of careless misspellings, malapropisms, incoherence, and other signs of a standard education, for those who like that).

Wherever in this glossary I write ``according to Pool'' vel sim., I am citing this book. My own complaint about the book is that there's not enough about what Jane Austen or anyone else did eat or drink, even at Charles Dickens's limited level of awareness. I could say that there's too little about food for my taste. Well, I could say it, but I wouldn't. I'd only say it if I were willing to perpetrate a distasteful pun. You can trust me. (Write it? That's something else altogether.)

To be fair, Pool does drop some comments on drippings into three different places in the book (see the glossary as well as the index). And in the section on dinner parties, there's half a paragraph on the food. It reminds me of James Davidson's celebrated Courtesans and Fishcakes (1998), punnily subtitled ``The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens.'' In the introduction he writes (p. xix):

While scholarly attention has been distracted elsewhere, some extraordinary gaps have been allowed to open up in our knowledge of ancient culture and society. The lack of work on Greek heterosexuality and (until recently and outside France) ancient food are [sic] particularly striking. ... Anyone with time on their hands and a desire to make a substantial contribution to human knowledge will find few more promising areas of investigation than Greek bring-your-own `contribution-dinners', Attic cakes, the `second' dessert table, the consumption of game, gambling, perfumes, flower wreaths, hairstyles, horse-racing, pet birds and all the various entertainments of the symposium, including slapstick, stand-up comedy and acrobatics.

Pocket Outlook Object Model. POOM? For PIM: allows adaptation of Windows CE applications to interact with standard Microsoft PIM application included in ROM on Windows CE devices.

Package-On-Package. An approach to three-dimensional microelectronic circuit integration.

Permanently Out of Print.

Point Of Presence. On the internet. A functioning IP address, in effect.

Point Of Purchase. Place where a retail sale is made. The term could also be interpreted to refer to the point on an object by which it is held fast (after the old meaning of the word purchase), but to do so would be to commit deconstruction and anachronism -- to be postmodern and premodern at the same instant.

It might also be the point, in the sense of purpose of or reason for, a purchase. That kind of point is rare, however.

Post Office Protocol. Rather than maintain a full-time message transport system (MTS), a `client host' sends and receives mail via a maildrop service. POP is a simple protocol for this; IMAP is one with greater functionality. As of June 1996, we're at version 3 (POP3).

Pop Art
A category of modern art that represents the kitsch of a modern plastic world. (It's the sort of undemanding ironic work even an Andy Warhol could do.) You know, once upon a time, the hip avant garde bohemian people thought it was profound to mock the modest material aspirations of the somewhat well-to-do. A slow movie called the ``The Graduate'' was regarded as an incisive moral commentary. Then the avant garde got some money and found other things to mock.

The Protean semantic range of the word pop may suggest many explanations of how it came to name an art genre, but the origin of the name is certain. Richard Hamilton (born Feb. 1922) is considered the father of Pop Art, and the name arose from his most famous picture, Just What is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?, a collage of modern consumer advertisements and artefacts (Hoover vacuum, sofa, TV, comic strip) and images of the body-beautiful. One figure holds a lollipop inscribed with the word ``Pop.''

Hamilton went on to design the cover of the Beatles' ``White Album'' in 1968.

Corn kernels exploded by pressure of superheated moisture inside. [In British usage, corn is called ``maize.''] (Not just any corn will do either: you can microwave your frozen corn to a steaming ash (not really), but you can't make it pop.) Special cooking utensils for popping corn are called popcorn poppers, but the ``popper'' alone means various different things.

This comprehensive glossary contains yet more information on corn at high speeds.

In Spanish, maíz and choclo are both used for corn (in the American sense). Pop is not a word in Spanish; in Argentina (though not much elsewhere) popcorn is called pochoclo.

popcorn noise
Noise with pink (1/f²) power spectrum, associated with individual recombination events, a particular problem in OpAmps and other analog amplifiers. This noise was identified and named by Bob Widlar. Unlike most other noise sources, this noise consists of individual events whose magnitude distribution does not have a maximum at zero and is not even symmetric about zero. Popcorn noise consists of isolated spikes in the output voltage (always in the same initial direction and quickly back), and the voltage height of spikes has a mean value that is significantly (i.e., by more than about a mV) different from zero.

Mexican word for a `drinking straw.'

A Jalapeño pepper deep-fried in batter. Apparently this is a registered trademark of Anchor Food Products, Inc. of Appleton, Wisconsin.

It doesn't give me a real good feeling, when I read the words ``food product.'' Why can't they call them ``foods''? Is there something about these ``products'' that makes them food-like, but not quite completely foodful?

Sir Karl Raimund Popper (1902-). You can tell a lot about a philosopher from his picture.

Hits (doses) of amyl nitrate. Makes people do sexual things they probably wouldn't do in their right minds.

Jesse Jackson -- the famous one, not the son -- used the word poppycock in an editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times published July 18, 2006. I thought that was worth mentioning, obviously, or else why would you be reading it here, huh? What a fuddy-duddy old word from a guy who used to be cool before he began his run for the White House (1980).

Reverend Jackson was writing under the title ``False piety is wrong cure for Dems.'' The article didn't mention the junior Senator from Jackson's state of Illinois, Barak Obama. In a widely-discussed speech in D.C. the previous March 28, Obama had urged Democrats to pretend to respect voters' religions even though they think it's silly superstition, although he didn't say it quite that way. Instead what he did say was that he was a believing Christian, which I suppose you could interpret uncynically. After all, what motive would the senator have for insincerity besides the desire for success in politics? So Jesse was probably not taking a dig at Barak. After all, what motive would he have for insincerity?

The word poppycock had gotten prime TV exposure during the debate between Democratic Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and his primary opponent Ned Lamont. Maybe Jesse heard it there. (This analysis is reminiscent of one way that scholars used to try to order Shakespeare's plays: they'd assume that he played one of the parts of each play, and that the words he memorized for that part would crop up unusually frequently in the script for his next play.) The day after the debate, Lieberman campaigned at the Athenian Diner...

He laughed along as DeLauro and a few other friends at the Athenian tried to cheer him up and cheer him on, poking fun at Lamont's use of the word poppycock in the debate, a term conveying his Wasp-millionaire [WASP sic] upbringing. ``Lamont's a pup, momma's little rich boy,'' chimed in one Lieberman friend.
[This is from an article by Meryl Gordon (``Joe Lieberman's War'') for New York magazine.]

I hope they criticized Lamont's awkward use of it as common noun: ``He brings up a lot of poppycock about the days when I was on the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance.'' You have to be careful about the quantifiers you use. A praecisio like ``that's so much poppycock'' works, but ``too much poppycock'' inappropriately suggests that there is an acceptable quantity or level. ``A lot of poppycock'' is not as bad, but it implies that there could be ``just a little poppycock.'' At least he didn't make it countable. Play it safe: use the word as an interjection.

One of these days I'll have to track down Jesse's use of ``blasphemy'' in connection with MLK, Jr., and a California ballot proposition back in 1996 or so.

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

Preferred by fools.

population explosion
It is claimed that the sociologist and demographer Kingsley Davis, dead in 1997 at age 88, coined the term ``population explosion,'' but Malthus certainly deserves credit for the idea.

Latin: `destroyer, ravager, spoiler, plunderer.' not what I'd expect either. The meaning follows from the verb populare, `to populate.' The latter was used also in the sense `to fill, to spread out.' A populator satisfied this sense of the word by spreading destruction, laying waste. I'm not kidding. According to Lewis and Short (no, not Lewis and Martin), the word populator may not be pre-Augustan.

Post Office Protocol, version 3. The current version as of June 1996, defined in RFC 1939.

Pacific Ocean Region. A range of longitudes for geosynchronous satellites.

PORtrait. Abbreviation used in the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. Plural ``pors.''

Power-On Reset.

Spanish pronoun typically Englished as `for' or `by.' It's not an arbitrary connection. Things done both for and by an entity are usually done on behalf of, or for the benefit of, that entity -- regardless whether done by the entity for by another (for the entity). See, for example, the occurrence of ``for or by'' in the legal language quoted at the FACA entry. An extended discussion of this ambiguity occurs at the UDI entry.

Palm Oil Refiners' Association of Malaysia

French, `pig fish.' Origin of English word porpoise.

P or I
Radio geniuses' pronunciation of PRI (Public Radio International).

The Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia.

Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was first elected to the US Senate in 1980. At the time, he liked to describe himself as ``just a hog farmer from New Hartford.'' Eventually, he rose to become the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

pork rinds
Why would I put information about pork rinds here? That's too obvious. Instead, I'm going to tell you about the Irish Kosher Deli. It's on the southbound side of Route 23, the last business before Edison Road. This is near the University of Notre Dame, at (near but not in) South Bend, Indiana. It's Irish in the sense that it welcomes students from ND (``the Fighting Irish''). It's a kosher deli in the sense that it's a delicatessen that keeps kosher, so they don't sell pork rinds. They just opened in May 2003. Jazz on Thursday evenings. I like to give local businesses a little publicity. We also have an entry for Mendoza's Guitars. Erasmus Books is next up. But first I have to tell you that in the days after I wrote the words immediately preceding, the Irish Kosher Deli folded. Closed its doors. Kaput. Fini. Friday July 25, 2003. It's been that kind of season. The Indian restaurant called Malabar, just a block away, also closed a few months ago. I don't understand why -- they haven't had any customers in years, so what could have changed to make them close? The Thai restaurant a couple of blocks away on Ironwood closed too. The restaurant business is tough, ferocious. It's dog-eat-dog. Okay, maybe that's not the best expression.

Our pork-rind information is at the cracklings and SFA entries.

Palm Oil Registration and Licensing Authority of Malaysia.

porous Si
Porous Silicon is made by etching silicon in HF solution under an applied field (the Silicon itself is an electrode). The electric field inhomogeneities resulting from etching nonuniformities are such as to produce a kind of positive feedback: more-deeply-etched regions experience faster etching action, so an oriented dendritic structure arises. The resulting material exhibits blue luminescence which is not yet understood. The Cardona group has a short overview.

PORtraitS. Abbreviation used in the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. Singular ``por.''

Nautical usage, also adopted by air transport workers. The left side, as determined by an observer in the vehicle, when vehicle and observer are right side up, and observer is looking ``forward'' (in the normal direction of travel of the vessel or vehicle). Cf. starboard.

Spanish, `bearer.' ``Al portador'' written on the ``paguese por este cheque a'' line is the equivalent of ``To bearer'' written on the ``pay to the order of'' on a check.

portfolio employee
Independent contract employee; consultant.

A heavy curtain hung across a doorway. Since the word is perhaps not yet entirely naturalized from the French, you can display your erudition en passant by writing the word as portière. Here's an unnecessarily long example of the use of this word in a loose sense. (Don't worry if it makes no sense.)

  The mealy look of men today is the result of momism and so is the pinched and baffled fury in the eyes of womankind. I said a while ago that I had been a motherless minister's son and implied that I had been mauled by every type of mom produced in this nation. I pointed out that the situation was one on which the moms would try to fix their pincers. I did not bother to prod at any misgivings they might feel about what the rude minister's boy, trained in snoopery by the example of the moms, might have found out about the matriarchy and its motivations through hanging around sewing clubrooms, hiding in heavy draperies, and holing up in choir lofts. Rather, I let any moms and adherents of momism who may be reading this slug along in the happy belief that, whether or not I knew it, they had got me off base.
  Now, really.
  Some of the doting ones, ready to write off all I have said if I will only make up and shove myself back into the groove for them, are now about to be clipped--but good. For, by a second contumelious revelation, I have caught onto all of middle-aged, middle-class, earth-owning Mrs. America that I happened to miss in the portieres. Hold your seats, ladies. I have been a clerk in a department store. Not merely that, but I have been a clerk behind the dress goods remnant counter. And not only that, but I have served and observed the matriarchy from the vantage point during sales. If there is a woman still on her feet and not laughing, nab her, because that will mark her as a ringleader in this horrid business.

(This is from p. 199 of Generation of Vipers, in the famous or infamous chapter 11, ``Common Women,'' All italics above are in the original.)

POS, p.o.s.
Parts Of Speech.

Permanently Out of Stock.

Philosophy Of Science. Science, that is, per se. Science is composed of many particular sciences, and a few of those sciences have philosophies (in some sense of ``have,'' discussed below). The main example is quantum mechanics, but classical mechanics had a philosopher, Clifford Truesdale, so I suppose you could call his ``Rational Mechanics'' a philosophy of classical mechanics. Anyhow, the examples aside, I just wanted to note that the relation of science to its specialized branches is not the same as that of philosophy of science to the various (at least two) philosophies of those specialized branches. The philosophy of science is not composed of the philosophies the particular sciences.

Physician Office System.

p.o.s., POS
Piece Of Something. Something in particular. Pejorative.

Plasma Opening Switch. There was a special issue of IEEE Transactions Plasma Science, vol. PS-15 (1987) dedicated to plasma opening switches.

Point-Of-Sale. Often the cash register. Use in the sense of ``purpose of sale'' is unattested, but it would be cool.

Prefix post-, as it occurs in many Spanish words such as posguerra (`postwar') and posmoderno (`postmodern').

Product-Of-Sums. (I.e., a logic function expressed as the universal AND of individual terms constructed by ORing the function arguments or their logical complements.) All logic functions can be expressed in POS form, but if a certain term appears in many of the sums, then a more efficent expression (either on paper or silicon) can involve separating out the common term. Cf. SOP form.

Public Opinion Strategies. A polling firm, its own subentry resting unobtrusively like a fly on the wall of our pollsters list. It describes itself as ``a survey research company specializing in corporate and public policy research.'' Its campaign polling is for Republican candidates.

Petrotechnical Open Software Corporation. ``...a not-for-profit corporation, is dedicated to facilitating integrated business processes and computing technology for the exploration and production (E&P) segment of the international petroleum industry.''

Here in this secluded, out-of-the-way part of the glossary, I am prepared to make a private admission: when I created this site, it was intended as a joke, the absurdity lying in the ostentation of creating an internationally accessible resource for a rather local and really completely informal lunch group. Having seen multiple home pages dedicated to the little hamlet where I grew up (which don't even mention me), as well as the site linked from the current entry, I have learned that on the web, nothing is too insignificant to present to an international audience.

positive logic
The standard convention, that the logic level for True is higher than the voltage level for False. Note that ``higher'' is greater in the algebraic sense (more positive or less negative). Cf. negative logic.

Portable Operating System for unIX. Unix standard required for US government purchases.

Person Of the apposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters. Pronounced ``POSSLE-cue.'''

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. Advises Houses of Commons and Lords on science issues. Cf. German TAB and the defunct US OTA.

Periodically Oscillating Source Temperature.

Point-Of-Sale Transaction.

Power-On Self-Test. Performed by the BIOS when an IBMish PC is turned on. Various kinds of beep signal trouble.

An exception to this definition might be G. Gordon Liddy. For him, a power-on self-test would be holding his hand over a lit candle.

Postcards should be fashionable again, just because they're so antiquarian. But if you're not sure whether your correspondent has a nonvirtual existence, use an ecard.

A deltiologist, a practitioner of deltiology, is someone who collects postcards.

POST-DOCtoral fellow[ship]. A research position, or the person who holds it, at the lowest rung of the job ladder in academia and at government research labs for those with a Ph.D. Postdocs are common in science and engineering. At universities in the US, they are typically hired by individual researchers, who include one or more postdocs as specific line items in their research-proposal budgets. There also exist a number of programs that fund postdocs to work at government labs. In these programs, the prospective postdocs typically submit their own research proposals in cooperation with a government-lab researcher they wish to work with.


Posterior Analytics
`Science My Ass.' Part of the Organon or `tool' of Aristotle.

In a hurry. From the practice of writing ``haste, post, haste'' as an instruction to a letter carrier. Cf. ampersand.

POST-INTELligencer. Abbreviation for people outside the newspaper's home town of Seattle. Locals use ``P-I.''

Post-It notes
Invented at 3M; poster-child for 3M's aggressive innovation policy. When all you've got is lemons, make lemonade: this idea started as a failed adhesive. Here in tiff format is an SEM micrograph of the back of a Post-It note, courtesy of ESEM.

Generalized post-bebop, as we explained already at the pomo entry.

This definition was promulgated and even grudgingly approved at one time during Stammtisch. But by the very nature of language, we recognize the indeterminacy of the Stammtext, so this definition may no longer be, in that lovely Watergate expression, operative. After all, when I wrote above that the definition was ``grudgingly approved,'' it must be admitted that what I really mean is that the others were eating and didn't want to open their mouths to object. Table manners do make rhetorical cowards of us all. Or something like that, I'm sure.

For more on how a random comment is enacted into iron Stammtisch law, see the document on governance.

postmodern English
A form of English in which the active voice is mostly absent, reflecting the irrelevance of authorship. Most common noun: furiously; most verb: green. Patience, I'll eventually think of something more amusing. Remember, I don't really matter. Pay no attention to the man behind the screen!

(Just for the record, I should mention that attempting to assess literature while ignoring anything that may be known of the author outside the text is an older approach than postmodernism. It was introduced seriously by the ``New Critics'' early in the twentieth century. But don't take my word for it.)

This is a pretty bad entry, conflating 1959 Chomsky and 1960's Derrida. Until I repair it, let's just observe that writers interested in [postmodern critical] theory are generally committed to a profound scepticism about language and even truth. In the first instance, this leads to a lot of scare-quoting, used as a kind of apology for employing clearly problematic or discredited terms (e.g., the last word of the preceding sentence is written with quotes: ``truth'').

Part of the postmodern program is to subvert or transgress (favored term) the perceived illegitimate (no quotes there) ``author(ity)'' of writing by exposing the (supposed, by postmodernists) contradictions of its distinctions. This motive leads to a wearying wariness about perfectly innocent words, and ignorant on-the-fly etymological comment (``herstory''). Postmodern writing is winkingly playful, attentive to often weak or recherché puns which are usually more distracting than amusing, let alone enlightening. This is an easy game to play. For example, the word coercion appearing in an ordinary English sentence would be replaced by the phrase in(tension)al coercion in pomo English (the parentheses do appear in P. Eng.).

The scepticism is also more deeply problematic in undercutting the authority (excuse me, I meant ``(author)ity'') of the critic's own writing. This leads to an excessive degree of self-reference in postmodern writing, to sloppy solipsism. (By the way, have you visited our postmodern glossary entry? It's quite clever.)

postmodern glossary
The controlling trope is alphabetical metonymy.

postmodern glossary entry

postmodern narrator
Nothing if not unreliable. I'm pretty sure that's right. I am the very model of a postmodern minor glossarist.

Link here on a good day for annotated Modern Major-General stuff.

postmodern Stammtisch
The usual postmodern stance is that everything is a text. With lunch at the cafeteria, this assumption can be proven by taste tests, thus imparting scientific rigor, or at least verisimilitude, to food post-structuralism.

Like all texts so far studied, however, the explicit portion is finite; a limit point is reached. In the case of Stammtisch, that's usually around 12:30. We deconstruct the text, bus our trays, and soon we have a gut feeling -- a visceral feeling perhaps: it is something we sense within ourselves -- that the food is pretty post-structural as well, and we go off in search of other texts. Maybe the text will be minimalist in respect of, like, written words (TP scroll), or perhaps there will be time to pick up the New York Times, which if you don't want to pay a premium isn't to be had on campus until noon at the earliest.

Stammtisch is a serial, however, with reentrance. Though we deny the text this afternoon, tomorrow we eat again. Riverrun.

[Note: I have made the easy assumption above that the finiteness of the Stammtext implies its boundedness. All those who are working through this glossary as part of a mathematics course should prove an appropriate extension of the Heine-Borel theorem. You may assume lunch is compact before digestion.]

A note added after a text. Either at the bottom of a letter or at the end of a published text. From Latin postscriptum, `written after,' the neuter past participle of postscribere, `write after.'

A popular programming language from Adobe Systems, specially adapted for graphics--a page description language. Normally interpreted rather than compiled. Stack-based. If you wanted to, you could probably get your printer to do your database management, if you just wrote the code in PostScript. ``But,'' to quote a former President, ``that would be wrong.'' Inefficient, anyway, even though a low-end PostScript-capable laser printer comes with at least a 286 or equivalent microprocessor. (I originally wrote this entry in the dark ages -- you know: when everyone used only black-and-white printers.)

On-line, you can learn what it is and have a short tutorial courtesy of P. J. Weingartner. There's also an FAQ. Adobe itself has a ``Q & A''-style advertising page.

There are some tutorial materials available in German at the University of Zurich's Postscript Corner, with an emphasis on color.

So far, the best on-line tutorial in PostScript programming that I've seen is by Lance Lovette and Marshall Brain. [Which reminds me, did you know that this glossary contains some evidence for the hypothesis that Nomenclature is Destiny?]

Of course, there are also archived FAQ's.

In the early days of laser printers (from the mid '80's), there were two dominant command languages in which laser printers understood instructions: Epson and Digital proprietary. Today, the two dominant languages are PostScript and PCL.

``Postscript is a long-established mail order company specialising in good quality publishers' overstocks and remainder books at discounts of up to 80% off the published price.'' I suppose the name is a jocular misconstrual of postscript or postscriptum -- `after writing' rather than `writing after.'

A factual claim. The word is derived from the Latin postulatum `demand, claim,' and once had a broader range of meanings in English, covering various sorts of demands, preconditions, and stipulations.

In current usage, it suggests a degree of logical rigor. I'd like to adduce an early example from the writings of Robert Malthus, since the chasm is particularly wide between the imaginary rigor he postulated and the reality of his failure. I can't do it, however, because as far as I can recall he used the word postulatum (and the plural postulata).

There is not much distinction in meaning today between axioms and postulates, but in Euclid's geometry there was a consistent distinction that was eventually expressed in Latin by the opposition of axiomata (yeah, I think Latin used the Greek plural) and postulata. (I have yet to track down what word corresponded to postulatum in Euclid's Greek.) In English versions of Euclid, the postulates were originally called petitions. (As should be clear from the discussion above, the two words once had a substantial overlap of meaning.)

The old distinction in geometry (still to be found in textbooks at the end of the nineteenth century) was simply this: an axiom was a general statement admitted to be true without proof, while a postulate was an axiom about a construction.

The first three postulates in Book I of Euclid's Elements [of geometry] were simply assertions that certain constructions were possible (that a straight line can be drawn between any two points, etc.). The most famous postulate of Euclid's geometry was the fifth. In his own formulation, it amounted to this: given two lines on a plane, both crossed by a third, if the interior angles on the one side of the crossing line amount to less than two right angles, then the two straight lines, if extended indefinitely, themselves also cross on that side of the crossing line.

Euclid's lines were what modern geometries regard as line segments -- that is, as segments of lines, the latter being conceived as infinite in ordinary plane geometry. (This modern notion of a line is a slight further abstraction from the physical notion of a line or straight path which motivates the geometrical abstraction.) Euclid's fifth postulate is clearly a postulate, because it involves the construction of straight lines extended (or ``produced,'' in an older terminology) from the original segments. If the same proposition is expressed in terms of lines, there is no construction and the proposition is an axiom. Hence, the subset of axioms that should be called propositions is not so fundamental: it can change under relatively minor reformulations. The fourth postulate of Book I is that all right angles are equivalent. I can see a couple of ways that this may be regarded as a claim about constructions, but again: whether it is or not can depend on small details of the formulation.

There was a widespread feeling that the fourth postulate was just a bit too involved to be acceptable directly as a postulate or axiom, and an immense effort went into trying to derive it as a theorem (1) on the basis of the other postulates of Euclid, or (2) on the basis of these plus some other, simpler axiom. The second approach yielded a variety of alternative statements equivalent to Euclid's fifth postulate. The invention of ``non-Euclidean'' geometries made clear the situation regarding the first approach: Euclid's other postulates are logically independent of his fifth postulates. On can prove a number of theorems with them alone, and one can combine them with the original fifth to prove some more theorems. (In fact, to prove all of the traditional theorems truly rigorously, one has to expose certain assumptions that were originally implicit.) It is also possible to combine the other postulates (and axioms) with one or another alternative to the original fifth postulate, even alternatives that directly contradict Euclid's fifth, and prove an alternate system of theorems that are, from the standpoint of pure mathematics, not less true than Euclid's system.

Metal or ceramic food container of moderate size (1-10 liters, say).

Slang name for marijuana, like, grass, dope, and Mary Jane, but not like. (All three major Scrabble dictionaries accept maryjane as a word, along with maryjanes.)

Hemp and weed are not really slang terms. Marijuana, or cannabis sativa, is a species of hemp. It just happens to have more than one practical use. At latitudes like Virginia's, it was widely grown for rope and paper cellulose fiber, until the marijuana scares at the beginning of the twentieth century. It used to grow wild along roads in the US Midwest, where it went by the name of ditch weed, but it seems to be mostly eradicated. Grown outdoors at these latitudes, it doesn't have any noticeable psychoactive strength.

I suppose one must distinguish between grammatically countable and uncountable synonyms here. A ``jay'' is a single marijuana cigarette.

Khat is another plant that also has more than one practical use. Its leaves have been a traditional chaw for centuries in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula, much as coca leaves have been in the Andes. Khat contains a stimulant that is described as being like a weaker form of cocaine or amphetamine. Its other practical use is mentioned at the MSP entry.

Periodic Orbital Theory.

Philosophy Of Technology. Man, whutcha been smokin'!?

Okay, time for some recreational mind-bending, uh, stuff. Heidegger is good for a laugh: a wacko, but not a wack job. That is: crazy, but not personally inclined to participate directly in violence. Especially now that he's dead. He could fix up a really tasty word salad, or maybe it was a word soup, let's discuss that. He had a real talent for pretentious nonsense, and philosophers have been fressing at his trough ever since. That's a good thing, because they mine it for pearls that they cast in our general direction. If you think I'm mixing my metaphors, you don't know Heidegger. So Heidi (let's be friends) wrote an essay with the title Die Frage nach der Technik (that's not translatable, but it means `The question concerning technology'). Richard Rojcewicz has written an entire book based on his close reading of it, entitled The Gods and Technology: A Reading of Heidegger. According to the blurb, his ``goal is to mine [that essay] for the treasures only a close reading of the original German text can bring out.'' See?

What are some of those treasures? For you, I will do a close or at least a nearsighted reading of Gods and Tech to find out. I may even open the book. I'll list my discoveries as I progress:

  1. ``[E]specially for the late Heidegger [he is dead], the philosophy of technology is a philosophy of Being, or of the gods.'' (Back cover.) Arthur Clarke said it better.
  2. ``For Heidegger, technology is not applied knowledge, but the most basic knowledge, of which science, for example, is an application.'' (Back cover.) Could I have another example?
  3. ``In short, the smith must actively let the essence be revealed to her in advance. That is how she is semicreative: the appearing of the chalice in advance is a joint product of the silversmith's uncovering efforts and the thing's own self-revelation. (P. 43 -- a random page, I swear it!) I'd like to see a flowchart for that. A PERT diagram? You couldn't make this stuff up, and I couldn't either.
  4. ``What is disrespectful or excessive about the modern windmill? [Actually, it can be noisy.] Why does Heidegger find it necessary to describe it with such pejorative terms as `ravish' and `hoard'?'' (P. 73 -- another random stop. As the blurb says, this is rich.) That's pejorative if you've lived a very sheltered life. Maybe this bit shows the influence of Cervantes or Blake. They're not listed in the index, so let's see why Chaplin is listed (p. 229).
  5. P. 229: The reader is commended to Charlie Chaplin's great movie, ``Modern Times'' (I approve) because Sartre liked it. I'm beginning to have second thoughts already.
  6. Dasein is mentioned on page 166. Am I supposed to kneel at this point, or does that come later? On this page it is also explained that ``technology is the destiny to disclosive looking.'' I think I wet my pants.

Point Of Termination.

POTentiometer -- a mechanically controlled variable resistor.

Potassium carbonate: K2CO3.

Polarization Optical Time-Domain Reflectometry.

potential risk
Thoughtless expression that usually means risk. Cf. downside risk.

potentially life-threatening
Life-threatening. The possibility of a possibility is a possibility. Cf. potential risk.

potholes, silver lining of
  1. As potholes accumulate, they start to overlap and the road starts to level out again. Just watch out for those manhole bunkers.
  2. That's not silver, that's wheel-rim metal.

A craze (one that actually occurred, if that's what crazes do, in the nineteenth century) for imitation fine porcelain. Yeah, it sounds pretty lame to me too. Apparently the idea was to make something that looked like Japanese or Chinese porcelain by covering the inner surface of glass vessels with designs on paper (paper!) or sheet gelatine (whatever that was). Soon enough, the name for the craze was also used for the practice of doing it, which I suppose was crazy enough anyway. The English word potichomania is a minimally domesticated borrowing of the French potichomanie, constructed in turn from potiche, which originally referred to oriental porcelain vases, and then also to the glass imitations made by potichomania. Cf. decalcomania, source of the English word decal.

Potiphar's wife
Roughly speaking, you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't.

pot luck
Apparently this is not a modern innovation. See the quotation of Davidson in the Pool entry.

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Phase Of The Moon. Usually written POM.

Programmer Of The Month.

Part Of The President Of The United States. That's not the canonical, um, expansion of the acronym, but since we are not as indiscreetly voyeuristic as the US Congress was during the Monica Lewinsky thing, that's as explicit as we care to get. Let's put it this way: this acronym is only operative, so to speak, when the POTUS is an anatomically correct male. We mention a body part at the POTUS entry; that's not it, but you're getting warmer. Unlike POTUS, POTPOTUS is not a standard military term. On the other hand, Ms. Lewinsky worked at the Pentagon part of the time that this organ of the government was in her hands.

Plain {Old | Ordinary} Telephone {Service | System}. This acronym is an ordinary part of many nonfacetious conversations. An equivalent term is PSTN.

President Of The United States (US). Military usage.

In Spanish, poto is butt or rump. Regular back-formation would make potus the Latin for butt. There must be something to it. Naturally, one would associate flatus with such a potus, and as it happens, the military uses FLOTUS for the presidential spouse, who so far has always been female.

Publicly Operated (water) Treatment Works.

Point Of Use.

A French surname equivalent to Purdue (q.v.).

French word for spam. A portmanteau word formed from pourri (`rotten') and courriel (`email'), itself a portmanteau word.

Persistence Of Vision.

Point Of View. Perspective. (Also used as the name of a start-up magazine in 1995, and a propaganda-film showcase on PBS.) How you see things depends on where you see them from.

Privately Owned Vehicle. Term used in law enforcement and the military.

If your POV was a truck, then your POV used to be above the crowd's.

POV Interactive
Point Of View Interactive. A site where PBS viewers are encouraged to feed back on the PBS's `POV'' film showcase.

Persistence Of Vision(tm) Ray Tracer. Sounds like a gringo saying pobre.

Player Of the Week. I was only familiar with the POW (infra) associated with military internment camps, so you might imagine my confusion on reading the headline ``BYU's Hall named Walter Camp POW'' (on Sept. 6, 2009, on ESPN.com). BYU senior quarterback Max Hall was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation Bowl Subdivision National Offensive Player of the Week for leading his 20th-ranked team to a 14-13 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma. (OU's starting QB Sam Bradford was injured and left the game in the second quarter.) ``Foundation Bowl Subdivision'' is the NCAA's latest stupid name for college football's Division I-A.

Prisoner Of War.

A line of CPU products (RISC, CMOS VLSI) from IBM, initiated in 1986.

power-delay product
The product of average power consumption and average propagation delay. Since the clock cycle is limited by the propagation delay, this number is essentially the energy consumption per cycle per gate. Typical values are currently in the few pJ range. One thing that makes this a good figure of merit is that many of the simple things one can do to improve (decrease) the propagation delay essentially increase (degrade) the current, and thus the power consumption, by a proportional factor, and conversely, so that the PDP remains constant.

See discussion at the acronym expansion (PDP).

powerful vocabulary
There are people who want to help you improve your vocabulary and thereby achieve wealth, fame, and the respect of other people on your shift. They have books you can buy that-- no wait, scratch that. Now they have a revolutionary new method that works while you drive. Just insert it into your CD-drive and it will ``inject the words directly into your long-term memory'' is how I think the ad goes -- I can't remember exactly. Everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten, so the only thing holding you back is that you don't know five-dollar words for all that stuff.

I certainly don't have any vocabulary to teach you -- at least not in this glossary. I only wanted to point out that this word-power thing has been going on for decades, so it's clearly not a fad. This is something Donald J. Lloyd and Harry R. Warfel wrote about in 1956 in their book American English in Its Cultural Setting. The title of their chapter ``Thirty Years to a More Powerful Vocabulary'' is a play on 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary, title of a book popular in those days. Another popular title then was Increase Your Word Power. (Opportunity Alert! There is no book entitled Word Wattage.)

[column] This is a good opportunity to mention that there are two kinds of high-school Latin program: some teach Latin, and some teach word power. It's much easier to get an ``A'' in the second kind of program, but after four or five years of this, you won't be able to read or write a Latin sentence.

Without power, of course. But not usually without electrical power. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, however, I did see a story captioned ``Powerless Connecticut families and commuters seek unlikely refuge to stay working.'' It was about people who brought their laptops to the second floor of southern Connecticut's Danbury Fair shopping mall, where a dozen cafeteria tables were placed end-to-end and supplied with chairs and power outlets, all within antennashot of McDonald's wifi. The mall can accommodate about 200 people needing a place to connect. A carousel and play area keep children home from closed schools out of their working parents' hair. Yes, I do enjoy writing obstacle-course sentences.

PowerPC (tm)
A line of CPU products from IBM. Now of historical interest only.

POWER2 (tm)
A line of single-chip IBM POWER products. Only POWER2, and not POWER is an IBM trademark. Perhaps some things are sacred.


The OXYrhynchus Papyri. Published by B.P. Grenfell and A.S. Hunt starting in 1898. Were you thinking of PO2, perhaps?

(Partial) Pressure of Oxygen. Abbreviation used in medicine, along with PAO2 (A is for alveolar).

Pages. Equivalently: pgs.

Singulars: p. and pg.

Parallel Plate. (Typically refers to a plasma reactor configuration. Vide PPR.)


Parola del Passato. Classical journal catalogued by TOCS-IN.

Partido Popular. `Popular Party.' A Spanish conservative party; the ruling party from 1996 until 2004, when Islamic terror convinced the Spanish to change their government.

During the Spanish Civil War of the 1930's (a dress rehearsal for WWII), Dolores Ibárruri (christened Isidora Ibárruri Gómez) was a famous communist speaker and writer who earned the epithet ``La Pasionaria.'' Her most famous phrase was

Antes morir de pie que vivir de rodillas.

(`Rather die on your feet than live on your knees.' This is not the most literal possible translation. Eloquence should be translated with eloquence, or the closest available approximation.) Time will tell whether the Spanish live or die on their knees.

As an organization, the PP is the continuation of the ultraconservative AP, q.v., which changed name at its ninth party congress in 1989. Of course, there is bitter disagreement on the degree to which it continues the philosophy of the earlier party. At the tenth party congress at the end of March 1990, Fraga (long-time leader of the AP) was named honorary president. Nevertheless, José María Aznar, who became party leader in September 1990, was generally given credit for the party's success until 2004. He moved the party towards the center, to credibility and power -- something of a mirror of what Blair did with the British Labour Party on the left. (In these decades, it's been called a ``third way'' if the party starts from the left.)

Something else Aznar has in common with Blair is that supporting the 2003 US (``US-led'') invasion of Iraq cost them politically. Blair survived the 2004 elections, though in 2007 his party pestered him to honor his commitment to resign as PM and party leader. Almost immediately (actually, just following a Labour Party conference in September, after which Blair's successor Gordon Brown had planned to schedule snap parliamentary elections), polls showed a shift in support from Labour to the Conservatives. The other major Western European supporter of the US in Iraq was Berlusconi, and his coalition lost narrowly in 2007. On the other hand, the two most active opponents of the Iraq invasion -- Schmidt and that French guy -- were out by the end of 2007.

The PP formed a minority government in 1996, and won an overwhelming majority in 2000. Subsequently, Aznar's policies moved rightward. In a work of reference, you expect a more substantive description than ``moved ... towards the center'' and ``moved rightward.'' You might eventually get that here, if we ever clean up some of the more serious deficiencies.

Physically Partitioned.

PolyPropylene (plastic).

Recycling code 5 (in PCS).

There's an informative PP entry in the Macrogalleria.

Prepositional Phrase.

Pride and Prejudice. A novel by Jane Austen.

Principles and Practice. Among other things, title of licensure exams administered in engineering: vide PE.

PhenylPropanolAmine. An OTC decongestant in the US for decades until the year 2000, when the FDA banned it. (On 2000.11.06, the FDA issued a public recommendation against its use and said it was beginning steps to ban it formally.) It turns out that there are a few chances in a million that it will cause hemorrhagic stroke in any individual. At the time of the announcement, PPA is also the only OTC appetite suppressant.

Okay, I have to look into this more carefully. PPA is sometimes refered to as a particular drug, and sometimes as a class of drugs. My guess is that the single drug -- the one mentioned in the preceding paragraph, is the simple amine, a compound with an NH2 group, and that there is a class of related compounds (``PPA's'') in which various organic groups are substituted for one or both of the remaining hydrogens. That's the obvious guess. I have to look doing so, but until I get around to it, this note will have to do.

Philosophisch-Politische Akademie, e.V., für Politische Bildung.

PolyPhthalAmide (plastic).


Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council. One of the UK's eight research councils. The research councils report to the Office of Science and Innovation. (We've spruced up this entry a bit since last you were here. We performed some New Labours on it, hence New England. Something like that.)

PPB, ppb
Parts per Billion (109) American usage. [N.B.: ``billion'' means million million in traditional British and current French and German usages, which have ``thousand million'' and ``milliard,'' respectively, for 109. I don't know what expression corresponding to ppb, if any, is used in Britain.]

PPB(a) means atoms per billion atoms.
PPB(v), ppbv mean parts per billion by volume.
PPB(w) means parts per billion of weight.

ppb., ppbk.
PaPerBound or PaPerBacK. Also pb.

Point Pleasant Beach.

Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System.

Panama Ports Company. A subsidiary of Singapore-based Hutchison Port Holdings. Two other companies handling container transshipping in Panama are Taiwan's Evergreen Marine Corp and US-based Manzanillo International.

Parish Pastoral Council. Visit the more intriguing FFC.

Persistent PhotoConductivity. In GaAs semiconductor, this arises from the photoexcitation of DX centers. The persistence of free carriers is now generally understood to be due to the large lattice distortion associated with the DX center.

Pin-to-Pin Compatible. We're talking functionally equivalent chip substitutions here.

Platform Position Computer.

PolyPhthalate Carbonate. A copolymer of polycarbonates (PC's, q.v.).

Preparatory Provisional Certificate. A New York City certificate allowing someone to be a PPT.

Process Proximity Correction.

Production, Planning and Control.

Program-to-Program Communication.

Public-Private Competition.

Partial Pair Correlation Function. This is a subtype of the kind of correlation function that occurs in the description of fluids and disordered solids. A ``correlation function'' in these contexts is the conditional probability density for finding a particle at the point (the spatial location) r + r0, given that there is a particle at point r0. (For a homogeneous system, this is a function of the single variable r.) The ordinary pair correlation function is computed as a sum over contributions from all pairs of particles separated by r0. A partial pair correlation function is computed by performing the same summation but counting contributions only from particular kinds of pairs. For example, in an alloy of elements A and B, one can compute PPCF's for AA, AB, and BB pairs. This is the characteristic sort of data that can be extracted (after a bit of modeling) from EXAFS.

Plane Poiseuille-Couette Flow.

Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Middle English.

Partido por la Democracia. One of the two large socialist parties in Chile, part of the dominant Concertación.

PPD, ppd.

PostScript Printer Description.

Purified Protein Derivative.

Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. A diffuse ``area of concentration.'' A popular one with young Labour MP's in the UK. For example, ahead of the annual party conference in September 2006, MP's serving in the government who had read P.P.E. at Oxford included the following: David Milband, age 41, Environment Secretary; Ed Milband, age 36, a minister in the Cabinet office; Douglas Alexander, 38, Transport Secretary.

PolyPhenylene Ether. Prevex is one.

Production Process and Equipment.

Property, Plant, and Equipment.

Portable Practical Educational Preparation Training for Employment Centers.

Panamanian Public Forces. National Police, National Maritime Service, and National Air Service. Since the a constitutional amendment abolished the PDF, these are the only armed forces of Panama.

Points Per Game.

Plastic Pin Grid Array.

Power Projection Hub. The status of Japan in the GPR.

Producer Price Index. An index of the prices paid by producers.

Progressive Policy Institute. In-house think tank of the DLC.

Public Policy Institute of California.

Put Prevention Into Practice. [There must be something called ``theoretical prevention.''] PPIP is ``a national [US] program to improve delivery of appropriate clinical preventive services. PPIP materials are derived from the evidence-based recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.''

Oooh, ``evidence-based''! A revolutionary idea, sounds like science without the boring parts. And yes: PPIP materials are partly ``[b]ased ... on focus group testing with clinicians, office staff, and patients.''

The ODPHP launched PPIP in 1994; in 1998 management of PPIP was transferred to the AHRQ.

Charles Dickens's great novel Great Expectations is about a young orphan who is called Pip.

Passive Physiological InterVertebral Movement.

PeoPLe. Chatese abbreviation. Written peep by peeps who can spare an extra letter.

PleuroPneumonia-Like Organism.

PPM, ppm
Parts per Million.

PPM(a) means atoms per million atoms.
PPM(w) means parts per million of weight.

PPM, .ppm
Portable PixMap. An image format: MIME-type image/x-portable-pixmap.

Prediction by Partial Matching. A compression technique that generalizes additive coding by trying to take advantage of higher-order correlations among the coded symbols, up to a finite order.

Pulse Position Modulation.


PeroxyPropionyl Nitride. One of the peroxyacyl nitrates (PANs, q.v.) found in the atmosphere.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic. Earlier part of the Neolithic period, before clay pottery was made. Cf. PN

Penicillinase-Producing Neisseria Gonorrheas.

PolyPhenylene Oxide. Noryl is one.

Preferred Provider Organization. A medical benefits plan with greater customer freedom than an HMO. Usually defines a network of (decreasingly) independent health care providers who agree to provide service following certain rules and price schedules.

(Swiss) Priority Program in Optics.

Per-Pupil Operating Revenue[s].

Pakistan People's Party. The Bhutto party. Secularist, and still the most popular party. During the October 2002 elections, anti-Americanism increased by the American attack on Afghanistan dramatically improved the showing of Islamist parties, the PPP nevertheless won the largest share of the popular vote.

Palestinian People's Party.

Parti Populaire des Putes. `Popular Party of Prostitutes' is the typical translation, and it has the virtue of identical initials, but I think that pute has a tone more like `whore' (see Pav). As everyone points out, they have the cutest logo of any Canadian political party.

The Montreal-based party was founded in June 2000 at the Foufounes Electrique bar by members of la Coalition Pour les Droits des Travailleuses et Travailleurs du Sexe (`coalition for the rights of sex workers'). It made the news in early July, it had gathered about 400 signatures from supporters and was going to send them to Elections Canada to apply for official party status. The party seems to be most popular among nonvoters, which is probably just as well, because they seem to have no candidates. A few days before the federal parliamentary elections in November 2000, a PPP spokesman announced that complex federal election rules governing party status had prevented them from becoming an official party. The rules required such a party to have a minimum of 50 candidates (each paying a deposit of $1,000). They were hoping that a court challenge of those rules by the Communist Party of Canada would make things easier the next time. The next time was 2004, and though their website is still up, they apparently didn't field any candidates.

In addition to a cool logo, they have the political slogan ``Pour avoir du fun en chambre, ralliez vous au PPP!'' [As best I can make out, this means, `to have some fun in the chamber, join the PPP!' I hope this isn't an illegal solicitation. The word fun (also fonne) is an English loan used in Quebec; the phrase ``avoir du fun'' as a whole looks like a sort of calque.] The slogan is a double entendre in the English sense, since chambre may be understood both as `parliamentary chamber' and as `bedroom.'

Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology. A quarterly (published March, June, September, and December) that ``focuses on the area of overlap among philosophy, psychiatry, and abnormal psychology. The journal advances philosophical inquiry in psychiatry and abnormal psychology while making clinical material and theory more accessible to philosophers. Each issue features original and review articles and an `International News and Notes' section. The journal is affiliated with the Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry (AAPP) and the Royal College of Psychiatrists Philosophy Group (U.K.) and sponsored by the Royal Institute of Philosophy (U.K.).''

Italian, pianississimo. Very, very soft[ly]. Sometimes this is translated or interpreted as ``as soft[ly] as possible.'' (One possible cause of this misunderstanding is given at the superl. entry.) By a natural extension, symbols of progressively greater rarity are used to indicate progressively diminished loudness: ppp, pppp, ppppp, pppppp.

It is feckless to assign repetitious names to these symbols, but the names exist. For example, pppppp is pianissississississimo. Some may wonder whether this is a legitimate construction for Italian. It is, but not everything that is grammatical is worth saying. Spanish has a somewhat similar system of endings, and its diminutive morpheme -it- can be iterated also. Hence, acceptable but progressively more childish constructions like chico, chiquito, chiquitito, chiquititito, ... (`small, very small, very very small, ...'). It is also acceptable, though less common, to iterate the intensifier morpheme -is(im)-, hence mucho, muchisimo, muchisisimo, ... (mucho means `much'; big surprise there). Chiquitisimo is approximately equivalent to chiquitito, but if you want to get any more precise, I recommend a micrometer.

For more on Spanish diminutives, see the poco entry. Evita is another example. For an insight into the etymology of piano, see the planet entry.

[Phone icon]

Point-to-Point Protocol. An internet standard defined in RFC's Nos. 1332, 1333, 1334, 1661, 1662, and 1663. See also 1841.

During the 90's this superseded SLIP as the standard protocol for telephone-line computer-to-computer communications. One of its advantages is that it can handle both synchronous and asynchronous communication. Try this link. If it works you'll get a bit of PPP information from whatis.com.

Public Policy Polling. An organization that polls for Democratic candidates.

Public-Private Partnership.

Purchasing-Power Parity.

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

Pacific Plant Protection Organization.

Point-to-Point Protocol Over ATM.

Point-to-Point Protocol Over Ethernet.

Italian, Pianissississimo. Very, very, very soft[ly]. This is about as ridiculous as PPPP. Cf. ppp.

Polska Partia Przyjaciól Piwa. `Polish Party of the Friends of Beer.' Llleeeeets Par-tay!!!!! A similar pun may work in Polish about as well as in English: the noun partia applies to a part or role (in a play), a political party or side in a [nonpolitical] game, and by extension a game. I haven't found out yet whether partia can describe the convivial or celebratory sort of gathering called a party in English.

PPPP was founded in December 1990 by actor and satirist J. Rewinski. It supported a ``common-sense liberal program'' and won 3.27% of the vote in the 1991 elections, getting 16 seats in the Sejm. Later, the party split into groups known as ``Large Beer'' and ``Small Beer,'' and overall became ``small beer'' so far as Polish politics was concerned.

Plant Protection and Quarantine.

Planar Plate Reactor (refers to anode and cathode geometry of plasma reactor).

Project Plan Review.

Physician Payment Review Commission.

(Online) Payment Processing System.

PolyPhenylene Sulfide. Engineering-grade plastic. GE's is Supec.

Post-Polio Syndrome.

Latin: Post post scriptum. English: `A postscript to a postcript.'

It's written in Latin because it's embarrassingly stupid if people can understand it.

Postscript is abbreviated P.S.

Latin is abbreviated Lat. and L. or L, but usually not all at once. You have to choose.

Abbreviation is abbreviated abbrev.

I think I need some sleep.

PPS, .pps
PowerPoint Slide show. Please, just use a nonproprietary format and save other people the hassle of getting the (power)pointless software you have (or Quickview or Keyview in this case). We'll probably just can your email anyway, if it takes a few seconds of trouble.

PPS, pps
Pulses Per Second. A standard spec for a stepper motor is the highest rate of pps.

This would make a good unit of expressed audience disapproval, if they didn't throw fruit and non-pulse vegetables as well.

Purchasing Power Standard.

PolyPhenylene SUlfone (plastic).

Parts Per Trillion. Cf. ppb.

Polysilicon Pressure Transducer.

PPT, .ppt
PowerPoinT. A Microsoft application for producing overhead-projector slides, slide shows, and primitive animations.

Preparatory Provisional Teacher. New York State term for a primary or secondary public school teacher who does not possess state certification and has made a commitment to complete the requirements within a specified time limit, not to exceed four years. As of September 2002, the state Education Department does not intend to allow uncertified teachers to work after September 1, 2003. Since employment recovers slowly in the wake of a recession, they may be able to make this stick. In order to work as a PPT, a qualified individual has been required to obtain a temporary state license, which is just a demeaning document setting forth supposed pedagogical deficiencies that specified hours of indoctrination by an ed school will supposedly remedy. In New York as elsewhere, the paperwork is overwhelming, the training mind-numbing, and the only way intelligence enters into it is in figuring out what you can avoid doing. Never ask whether certification has been demonstrated to improve teaching effectiveness, or whether teachers think it was useful. Vide PPC.

Printer Pass-Through.

Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol. A Microsoft extension of Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP). One kind of virtual private network (VPN) software, it allows secure tunnels to interconnect separate LAN's of one corporation over the public internet. Here's a bit from whatis.com. Competing system from Cisco Systems is Layer-2 Forwarding. PPTP is built into Windows 95/98/NT, but don't assume every ISP will provide VPN service, or that those that do will make PPTP connections. Note also that those which do may surcharge for the service.

Pyridinium p-TolueneSulphonate.

Pay-Per-View. TV programming pay scheme.

Poly(p-PhenyleneVinylene). PPV and its derivatives have interesting properties and potential applications in electroluminescent devices.

Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test.

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
  • Chili Rubbed Chicken Breast with Pepperjack Cheese, Avocado Spread and Pico de Gallo. [Is rubbed a verb here?]
  • Grilled Sirloin Burger with Carmelized Onion Jam and Horseradish Cheddar Cheese. [What a waste of hamburger!]
  • Smoked Trout. Sorry, I mean Smoked Trout Cake. No wait -- it's Smoked Trout Cake Sandwich. With Vine Ripe Tomatoes, Lettuce & Cheese Remoulade.
  • Turkey Pastrami with Baby Swiss [Cheese?!] & Cole Slaw & Orange Cumin Bread.
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:
  • piastra (Italian name for Spanish peso coins; short for ``piastra d'argento,'' `plate of silver')
  • piastre (French; borrowed from Italian)
  • ``piece of eight'' (from the fact that some coins were scored for breaking into eight reales or denominated as 8 reales, or both; see 2 bits entry)
  • dolar and various related names (ummm, have you visited the 2-bits entry yet?)
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.

Pale, Soft, Exudative. Sounds like a medical report, and it pretty much is. It's a technical description for pale pork meat. The paleness and other properties all arise from rapid change in muscle pH after the pig is slaughtered.

PicoSECond. Not the SI-standard abbreviation for picosecond, but clearer and even necessary in some contexts. And still just 10-12 second. Cf. ps.

European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference. See EU-PSEC.

The study of voting. By my count, it's today's word of the day. The ancient Greek word psêphos meant pebble originally, and took on the sense of ballot (voting in elections was done by placing one's pebble in one or another jar).

Heterostructures made between materials whose crystals do not have a very good lattice match are called pseudomorphic.

It seems to me that a large fraction of the nonfiction works currently published under pseudonyms are written by academics. Then again, maybe that simply reflects my reading preferences. In any case, the principal recent exception I can think of is Joe Klein's Primary Colors (1993), and it's not even nonfiction or recent. Klein was outed by Vassar English professor Donald Foster who identified him on the basis of minor details like punctuation patterns. (I would put a comma after ``Foster.'')

One case of pseudonymous academic authorship is that of Carl Withers, who published as James West. He did an extensive anthropological study of a small rural town, which remained anonymous in his publication (Plainville, USA). In principle, one could regard his use of a pseudonym as a way of further protecting the anonymity of the town where he did his field work, but as I understand it he also used the pseudonym during the many months he lived there. Did he have to get a fake driver's license and everything, or was ID so rarely used in those days? What did he do when he needed money? I imagine that he was really protecting himself from possibly irate ``informants.'' (It was reported in a follow-up study that people of the town found the original book unflattering.)

In the usual case, one suspects that the academic (or probable academic, given the author's apparent familiarity with university faculty conditions) is hiding behind a pseudonym for protection from other academics. Here are some other examples:

Bruce Truscot: Red Brick University (1943). It was about a typical red brick university (that's a moderately well-defined category in England) which bore the pseudonymous name of Redbrick University. The 1951 edition (which included additional chapters first published in 1945) includes a preface. Here are its second and part of its third paragraphs:

  Red Brick University was published under a pseudonym, and had no preface. That was not because there was no room for one, or no need for one, but because of the author's desire to sink his own personality and focus attention on his theme.   The policy, however, was not entirely successful. Most Redbrick readers were less moved by the book to a healthy introspection than to excited speculation on the identity of the author. Frenzied fingerings of Who's Who and the Oxbridge University Calendar [calendar?] failed to reveal any mention of Bruce Truscot -- which was not entirely surprising, as that gentleman had carefully examined the same volumes a few months earlier in order to ascertain that he did not exist. Then began a search through the book itself for what is known in academic groves as internal evidence -- again with no great success, as the author had also anticipated these activities and had taken some little trouble to cover his tracks. ...

Bruce Truscot was the pseudonym of E. (Edgar) Allison Peers, 1891-1952.

Josef Martin: To Rise Above Principle: The Memoirs of an Unreconstructed Dean (Univ. Ill. Pr., 1988). As you can probably guess from the title, this is a fun read -- compared to your typical dean's memoir, anyway. There's a smidgen of internal evidence suggesting the author was a dean at ASU.

Rebekah Nathan: My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student (Ithaca: Cornell U.P., 2005). She enrolled as a student at ``AnyU,'' the state school where she is an anthropology professor. She was in her mid-50's, which isn't unusual for a ``returning student,'' but she lived in a campus dormitory, which is. Her dorm-mates guessed and propagated rumors of a tough divorce. As a disguise, she donned a back-pack and flip-flops, and I think she claims somewhere that her colleagues didn't recognize her. Nathan also wrote: ``The ultimate test of my analysis will be undergraduate students, who can decide for themselves if they recognize their lives and their world in this book.''

Funny thing, but one of the former students of ``Truscot'' wrote him from Burma during the closing months of WWII, where he was an officer... ``He had just been reading a book which had made him feel quite homesick, so vividly did it recall the old days at the University. `I should like you to read it too... I expect you can get hold of it somewhere. But I ought to warn you that it draws a very unflattering picture of a professor, and I shouldn't like you to think that was why I wanted you to read it. Don't worry: none of your old students would ever think that the author was drawing you'.''

That's all I can think of for now. Somewhat related are nonpseudonymous authors who write fiction based largely on a particular university whose identity they dissemble to some degree. There was, for example, a lot of speculation on the identity of the real ``Moo U.'' that was the basis of Jane Smiley's Moo (NY: A.A. Knopf, 1995). MSU and ISU were popular guesses, but the riddling is clearly vain: this dense novel is a creative work and not some thinly disguised roman à clef.

The Dupont University of Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons (FSG, 2004) is well known to be modeled in part on Duke University. The man manages to be preternaturally timely. This time it seems he peaked a year early. (The sex scandal at Duke, false accusations of rape by a stripper against some members of the school's lacrosse team, broke in 2006.) I read somewhere that a movie based on Wolfe's book was supposed to be in development for release in 2007. As of 2011, a TV series based on the book was scheduled for 2011. Maybe someone merely bought the rights.

I ought to say something about blogs. There, I did it! Okay, some more: it is very common for bloggers to maintain, or try to maintain, anonymity. Hence, it is not noteworthy that many academic bloggers do too. But here's a noteworthy instance nonetheless. A friend of mine who teaches at a private high school maintains two blogs, one anonymous. The other one he sometimes refers his students to. The anonymous one does not contain opinions or material that would be obnoxious or inflammatory to an adult audience, but it occasionally has ``adult'' material. That's ``adult'' in two senses: it may be vulgar (in two senses as well: common and ``low'') and it is usually learned. Maybe one word would be clearer: it may contain poems of Catallus. Keeping that blog anonymous prevents uncomfortable situations that might arise when his students surf the Internet.

I finally remembered a pseudonymous nonfiction book not written by an academic! A friend of mine self-published a book about how to lose weight. (You'd figure that's a genre that really makes the shelves groan, but they say the market is huge. Her book at least went into a second printing.) The pseudonym she used is the patron saint (or something along those lines) of her native island. The personage and name is female, but still I wonder if this didn't make things awkward at the book-signings.

A work presented as a translation in its original language.

Point Spread Function. The image pattern generated by a point source object.

And I thought the function of the point spread was to create a marketable bet on a contest that is not evenly matched. Heck, you learn something new every day.


PhosphoSilicate Glass. Glass formed when phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5-SiO2) is included during CVD oxide deposition. The phosphorus is a plasticizer for the SiO2 glass: PSG is less brittle than SiO2 and has slightly better step coverage. The glass transition temperature is at about 1000-1100°C.


PasSenGeR. Airline fare abbreviation. It seems they come in three sizes: adult (ADT), child (CHD), and infant (INF). Oh no wait -- that's ages. The three sizes are first class passengers, business-class passengers, and steerage (a/k/a Coach). Coach passengers are assumed not to have legs.

If you look at airline ads from the late fifties and early sixties, you'll notice the prices listed look reasonable in today's dollars. In other words, they were way expensive then. The entire business model has changed. Airline travel has been considerably democratized, and now most seats on any plane are coach class. (In the fifties, it was not unusual for a plane to be mostly first class. Coach class was called by less euphonious names such as ``Economy'' and later ``Tourist.'')

Pavement Serviceability Index. Cf. PCI.

PSI, psi, p.s.i.
Pounds per Square Inch. Unit of pressure common for pumps and gauges. Perhaps a bit more popular in the US than elsewhere.


PreSentence Investigation.


Better getcher eyes checked. That's not a Greek letter, that's a saguaro cactus!

PSIA, psia
Pounds per Square Inch Absolute. In other words, if the atmospheric pressure is 14.7 psi, then a pipe holding water at 14.8 psia only needs to apply a force to compensate 0.1 psig. The rest of the force is applied by the atmosphere.

PSID, psid
Pounds per Square Inch Differential. Not just a unit, but a comment that the number represents a difference between two pressures. PSID gauges have two input connectors. PSIA is PSID relative to vacuum, PSIG is PSID relative to local atmospheric pressure, and PSIS is PSID relative to a sealed 14.7-psi pressure vessel.

PSIG, psig
Pounds per Square Inch Gauge. That is, pressure in PSI as measured by a gauge. Since the gauge is typically immersed in the local atmosphere (i.e., not encased in a vacuum chamber), the most directly measurable pressure is the difference in pressure between that exerted on one side of a diaphragm by the fluid to be measured, and the pressure exerted on the other side by the atmosphere.

In other words, PSIG is the deviation of the measured pressure (PSID) from atmospheric. Local atmospheric pressure is 14.7 psi at sea level and 12.2 psi at an altitude of one mile. This is still the most common type of pressure measurement and gauge.

PSIS, psis
Pounds per Square Inch Sealed. That is, pressure in PSI relative to the atmospheric pressure at sea level. The word sealed refers to the idea that one way to construct a PSIS gauge is to seal an ordinary PSIG gauge in a one-atmosphere pressure vessel (with an exposed inlet port, of course).

Phase-Shift Keying.

[Football icon]

Permanent Seat License. Being sold by the Browns to finance their divorce from Cleveland. The stadium they moved into was called Owings Mills. That stadium was home until the mid-eighties to the maverick Colts, who literally snuck out in the middle of the night, and are now in Indianapolis, the largest urban center in the world without a significant body of surface water (there's an enormous underground aquifer). Where was I? Oh yeah, and after that, Baltimore briefly had an expansion team of the Canadian Football League (CFL).

The Browns changed their name after the divorce, to Ravens. Ravens perch on bleached skulls in wizards' laboratories, eat carrion and like to collect shiny things that didn't originally belong to them, but perhaps the really positive feature is that they're black birds, and at the time of the move, black was the hot color for team uniforms.

PolyStyrene (PS) Latex.

Phase-Shift Mask.

Porsche Stability Management. A feature that helps keep Porsche management personnel steadily employed. A synonym of electronic stability control. For other synonyms, see the ESC entry.

Piecewise Stationary Memoryless Sources. Well, you can hardly prove basic coding theorems based on no assumptions.

Penicillin, Streptomycin, and Neomycin. Antibiotics often administered admixed.


Petronian Society Newsletter. See also the journal Ancient Narrative (AN) and the International Conference on the Ancient Novel (ICAN).


Public Service Organization. A kind of NGO, q.v.

Partido Socialista Obrero Español. It's a weirdly uninflected name, something like `Spanish Worker Socialist Party.'

It was one of the first socialist parties in Europe, founded clandestinely in Madrid the day after May Day 1879. The initial membership consisted of intellectuals and workers, mainly typesetters. Typesetters (tipógrafos or cajistas) are people who set type; I'm not sure what an intellectual (intelectual) is, but here it apparently means someone who doesn't work.

The party was headed by Pablo Iglesias Posse, and with a Republican-Socialist alliance in 1910, he became the first socialist deputy in the Spanish Parliament (Cortes). Iglesias was a typesetter and journalist. It reminds me of Virginia Woolf. It seems that at the beginning of the twentieth century, a lot of intellectuals got their hands dirty and published their own stuff. On a smaller scale, something like the beginning of the twenty-first, when so many clowns do their own web publishing.

Following the Russian Revolution, the Third Socialist International (the Leninist or Communist International) led to a split in the Spanish socialist movement, with partisans of Lenin leaving the PSOE to form a communist party (PCE).

Philosophical Society Of England.

Partido Socialista Popular. Spanish: `popular socialist party.' A distant-third political party of Argentina. It is probably the most popular socialist party. Cf. PJ, UCR.

Preventative Service Planning. Also Preventive Service Planning. If you figure that means `planning to prevent service,' it would explain a lot.

Probability-of-Single-Pulse (detection).

Palm-Size Personal Computer.

Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. Cf. PCPO.

Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Princeton Survey Research (Associates). Logo of organization that usually refers to itself as PSRA.

Produced in Specific Regions. (Refers to geographically named wines.)

Princeton Survey Research Associates.

Pseudo SRAM. DRAM with a long refresh time, with R/W clocking and enables that make the chip substantially compatible with SRAM designs.

Privacy and Security Research Group (of the IRTF).

Power Supply Rejection Ratio.

Philosophical Society of Southern Africa. Host for the 31st and 32nd annual conferences of the PSSA (Jan. 2004 and 2005): the Philosophy Department of the University of KwaZulu-Natal; conference venue: the Fern Hill Hotel, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands; proceedings of each conference appearing in an issue of the South African Journal of Philosophy.

Physical Science Study Committee. A post-Sputnik group that produced new physics study materials that were widely used in the US in the 1960's and 1970's. My high school tracked students into two different levels in both chemistry and physics; the more challenging classes used the PSSC and CHEM Study materials while the others used more traditional materials.

Pseudo-Steady-State Hypothesis.

Planar Supercell Stack Method. Numerical technique in semiconductor heterostructure device modeling.

Yeah, you!

Pacific Standard Time. GMT - 8 hrs.

[Phone icon]

Public { Service | Switched } Telephone Network. A/k/a POTS.

Protocol Specification, Testing, and Verification. In 1997, this international conference is being held in Osaka in conjunction with FORmal Description TEchniques for Distributed Systems and Communication Protocols (FORTE).

Parti Socialiste Unifié. French `Unified Socialist Party.' There is some justification for the name, but as usual it's all hopelessly schismatic and complicated.

Pennsylvania State University. ``Penn State.''

Power Supply Unit.

In his `For A Rocker' (©1983 Night Kitchen Music ASCAP) in the album ``Lawyers In Love,'' Jackson Browne sings:

Don't have to change, don't have to be sweet
Gonna be too many people to possibly meet
Don't have to feed 'em, they don't eat
They've got their power supplies in the soles of their feet
They exist for one thing, and one thing only
To escape living the lives of the lonely

Related information at the USSR entry.

Jackson Browne's full name is Clyde Jackson Browne; he is the son of Clyde Jack Browne.

The lower-limb/power-supply nexus theme sounded by Jackson Browne was anticipated in the song ``You're The One That I Want'' from Grease:

I got shooooooes,
they're multiplyin',
And I'm looooooos-
in' contro-ol
Cause the power
you're supplyin'--
It's electrifyin'!

That's the way I heard her sing it, anyway. A girl can never have too many shoes, they say. Just ask Mrs. Marcos. Shoes are probably safer than little yellow pills, to say nothing of jagged little pills. For an alternate opinion about the lyrics, see the alternate power-supply initialism PS.

Public Service and Urban Affairs. The Office of the Vice President for PS&UA at UB has a website.

(Ocean drilling-) Platform Supply Vessel. They also take the garbage back.

Program Status Word.

Philadelphia Sports Writers Association. The name also appears prominently with the unspaced form ``SportsWriters'' in many places.

Pacific Society for Women in Philosophy.

PSYchologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PSYchological (warfare) OPerations.

PSYchological WARfare.


Pacific Time.

Paper Tape. Shortly following the age of dinosaurs, computer information was stored on strips of paper tape about an inch wide. A pattern of holes at up to seven or eight fixed positions away from the edge would encode a character of information. I actually used this Jacquard-loom-like technology in 1974.

PT, P/T, p/t
Part Time.

Patrol Torpedo. PT boats are torpedo-armed patrol boats.

Payload Type. Perhaps I could interest you in one of our excellent one-octal-digit PTI's?


Perturbation Theory.

p.t., PT
Phase Transition.

PhotoTransistor. Typically a bipolar junction transistor (BJT) in which the base current is generated by photons.

Physical Therapy.

PinT. Half a quart, two cups.

Plasma Triode (etch[ing]).

PlaTinum. Atomic number 78. A precious metal that has a group named after it (PGM). Learn more at its entry in WebElements and its entry at Chemicool.

``Platinum records'' (1,000,000 units) and multi-platinum (multiple millions) are recognized by the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Point. The singular of points (pts.).

(Domain code for) Portugal.


Precision-to-Tolerance ratio.

Pressure-Treated (wood).

Promotion and Tenure.


Pro Tempore, ``Pro Tem'.'' Latin: `for [the|a] time.' Sessions of the US Senate are usually presided over by the President Pro Tem, since the Vice President has important stuff to do.

Psychology Today. A monthly, almost.

Pt, Pt
Transverse momentum transfer. Particle-collision terminology.

Parent-Teacher Association. This is the usual sense, referring to a local organization (a/k/a PTO, PTSA, PTSO, etc.). There's also a (US) National Parent Teacher Association, and it goes by ``PTA'' too.

Preferential Trade Agreement. Bilateral international trade agreements, whether the sides are individual countries or groups of countries. The largest category of PTA's is FTA's (free trade agreements, though ``freer-trade agreements'' is often more accurate). Customs unions (CU's) are also classed as PTA's. Bilateral investment agreements (or treaties, see BIT) are often made in the context of a PTA. Sometimes BIT's are combined with PTA's and may be called PTIA's (preferential trade and investment agreements).

German pharmazeutisch-technischer Assistent or pharmazeutisch-technische Assistentin. English `pharmaceutic technical assistant (male or female, resp.).

Project Technical Advisory Board.

Physikalische-Technische Bundesanstalt. They prefer not to translate the name (see English homepage). Free translation: `Federal Physico-Technical Institute.' In Braunschweig, Germany.

Pacific Telecommunications Council. Holds a conference in January, just to demonstrate to the other councils just what a temperate climate is all about.

Parents Television CouncilTM. One thing is certain: they're not concerned about barenaked unpunctuated text

Positive Temperature Coefficient. Often used to describe resistance of thermistors. Cf. NTC.

The Publishing Training Centre at Book House (London).


Phosphatid{ ic | yl }. Productive abbreviation.

Pre-Trial Diversion. The state of Indiana's (IN) option of attending driving safety school or something, in return for dismissal of moving violation charges. The precise deal (and whether it's available) depends on your record and the offense, and may involve community service. A lot of states have something like this -- Arizona (AZ), California (CA), and Oklahoma (OK), that I'm aware of.

California's program is famous because it has spawned a proliferation of privately run driving education programs with creative gimmicks intended to keep students awake, on the theory that students remember lessons better if they're awake when taught.

An interesting thing about Indiana's PTD is that it's a kind of unadvertised special: you're not told about the program when your summons is issued, but only if you schedule and attend your initial court date. Of course, that suggests that you're one of those who has some sort of case. You can schedule a trial date at the initial hearing, but here's an interesting thing: the standard of proof is not ``beyond a reasonable doubt.'' That holds for misdemeanors and felonies. For mere infractions and violations, which are regarded as ``civil'' cases (as opposed to criminal), and which carry monetary penalties only, the standard is merely ``preponderance of the evidence.'' So you're at a big disadvantage: the officer's word alone trumps yours sufficiently to carry the case.

The usual advice in fighting a speeding or parking ticket is to look for even the smallest error in the ticket, like a streetname misspelled. I've never understood the legal theory behind this sort of technicality defense. I mean, the Supreme Court has gone so far as to sanction evidence obtained under an invalidly issued warrant, so long as the police claim that their motives were pure. Of course, that ruling was handed down by the evil Rhenquist court, which probably regrets the exclusionary rule almost as much as the man in the suburban street. Maybe the theory runs that any small error calls into question the officer's alertness at the time of the citation.

A lot of well-known bits of legal knowledge could use a fuller public explanation. For example, everyone knows that criminal defendants reply to reporters' questions with something along the lines of ``I will refrain from commenting, on the advice of my attorney.'' The reason for this is very simple, and perhaps the reporters fail to explain it just to put pressure on defendants. (Or possibly they don't know. After all, they've only heard the comment a few thousand times.) The reason is simply this: it is very easy for a prosecutor to twist the public words of a criminal defendant into a threat or intimidation or related aspect of witness subornation. Thus, on top of the original crime(s), the defendant can be charged with obstruction of justice. Often those OJ charges are easier to prove than the original charges. It's interesting (though not illogical) that you can be found guilty of obstructing justice in the prosecution of charges of which the courts claim to have found you not guilty.

One of the favorite similes that law professors have for the law is that of an onion: the law is like an onion because there's always another, deeper layer. This demonstrates the towering selfishness of the legal establishment, that complacently and even happily accepts a make-work complexity that confounds justice. An alternative interpretation of the simile is this: the deeper you go into it, the more you want to cry. Another similarity is that the onion seems transparent, but through sheer multitude of layers it is opaque. For more on the leek group, see the garlic entry.

Of course, the opinions above, however heartfelt, should not be regarded as the opinions of the author.

PhosphaTiDylCHOline (Ptd Cho). Also PC.

PhosphaTiDylEThaNolamine (Ptd Etn). Also PE.

PhosphaTiDylGlyceROl (Ptd Gro).

PhosphaTiDylINoSitol. Same as PI.

PtdIns 4-P
PhosphaTiDylINoSitol-4-Phosphate. Same as PIP.

PtdIns 4,5-P2
PhosphaTiDylINoSitol-4,5-Phosphate. Same as PIP2.

Patent and Trademark Depository Librar[ y | ies ]. ``PTDL's receive current issues of U.S. Patents and maintain collections of earlier-issued patents as well as trademarks published for opposition. The scope of these collections varies from library to library, ranging from patents of only recent years to all or most of the patents issued since 1790 and trademarks published since 1872.'' You can find details, and a list of participating libraries, at the web site of the PTDL Program. Or, you could get a service like ID Research to do the search for you.

Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries Program of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

PhosphaTiDylSERine (Ptd Ser). Also PS.

Path-Terminating Equipment.


Pte. Ltd.
Private Limited partnership. Business type.

I've seen this expanded as Private Trade Entity Limited. Since British practice now commonly omits the period from abbreviations as well as from acronyms, it's harder to distinguish them. The capitalization style argues against the acronym interpretation, however, and the variant expansion appeared in an intellectually weak, unscholarly publication (The Chronicle of Higher Education), so for now we'll mark this expansion as possible, but unlikely.

Phase Transfer Function.

Program Temporary Fix. [Get real. If it works, you'll never go back to that section of code again.]

PolyTetraFluoroEthylene. Better known as teflon (not that that glossary entry has any additional information). Reagan was known as the teflon president because scandals never stuck to him.

After Teflon ® became available on consumer cookware, Roy Plunket of Du Pont, the guy who discovered it, would insist on frying his eggs with no oil or butter. This is like the families of Wonder bread distributors: they have to eat that white sponge at home or risk insulting the family's livelihood. I had a relative who sold natural sausage casings for a living, and man you didn't ever suggest that the artificial kind could hold a candle to 'em. The guy lived past a hundred; he was probably preserved by all the sodium nitrite in his system.

PTFE is the classic teflon; du Pont also markets other polymers with similar properties -- FEP and PFA.

PTFE is obviously well-known to withstand high temperatures. Microelectronics fabrication processes are a lot like cooking, and there is a need for insulating materials that have low k and resistance to temperatures as high as 425°C. PTFE is not used in this application yet (as of 2001), but its k of 1.9 is in the ``ultralow-k'' regime, so it's being studied for future use. More on teflon at the razor's edge entry.

Public Telecommunications Facilities Program. Sponsored by the US DOC Technology Administration and NIST.

Pin-Through-Hole. Also called ``through-mount.'' The alternative to surface mount technology (SMT).

Plated Through-Hole. Not exactly the same thing as pin-through-hole.

Pardon The Interuption. A much-copied ESPN commentary feature in which two sports commentators go talking-head-to-talking-head.

Payload Type Identifier. A three-bit ATM-cell header field for encoding information regarding AAL and EFCI.

Portable Test Instrument.

Press Trust of India. A name Orwell could have invented.

Preferential Trade and Investment Agreements. See PTA.

PhotoThermal { Ionization | Infrared } Spectroscopy.

Part-Time Lecturer. I have a paperback floating around somewhere that dates back to the struggle to unionize graduate assistants at Yale. The title is Will Teach For Food. That probably describes PTL's better than GA's, although the latter often become the former upon graduation. The good news is that Ph.D. production is so excessive that only a small minority of them can look forward to the miserable life of a PTL.

Found it! Edited by Cary Nelson, with a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich, whose daughter was a student at Yale Law. The book was published in 1997. The first part of the book is eight essays about organizing graduate teaching assistants and trying to have the union officially recognized, etc. The second part is seven essays about the miserable life of non-tenure-track (i.e., nontenure-rut) faculty. It's not a scholarly book, although there are a few endnotes -- almost for the sake of appearances, it appears. It's a book of advocacy, so I was tempted to think it might be one of the most tendentious books ever published by the University of Minnesota Press. Then I noticed that it's volume 12 in the Cultural Politics series from the Social Text Collective.

Praise The Lord. There used to be a TV ministry by that name; wasn't this the one of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker?

Process Tolerance Limit[s].

Professional, Technical, and Management. Like, personnel.

Getting A Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers is a seminal study by Mark Granovetter (Chicago Univ. Pr., 1974) that studied PTM employees. It was based on the author's survey of suburban Boston men who held PTM occupations and had recently changed jobs. Granovetter found that those who had found new jobs through personal contacts had much higher job satisfaction than people who found jobs by other means (``formal'' [advertisements, agencies], ``direct contact'' [cold-calling], or ``other''). This demonstrates that people who are satisfied with their jobs were more likely to have sought jobs through personal contacts. It's not clear why people who don't like their jobs didn't, but there you are: statistics cannot identify cause and effect, only correlations.

Pulse-Tie Modulation.

Pacific Theater of (military) Operations. That sounds so domestic, so blissfully pacific. Cf. ETO, MTO, and now STOW.

Parent-Teacher Organization. Another civic-minded area of discourse. See PTA.

(US) Patent and Trademarks Office. This glossary has a separate TM (trademark) entry.

Seventeen-year patents were the rule from March 1861 to June 8, 1995. but they now run on the Japanese model, 20 years from date of application.

Please Turn Over (the page).

Power Take-Off. A truck transmission attachment used to take mechanical power off the drive mechanism for auxiliary use (like a winch, cement-mixer, etc.).

Public Telecommunication Operator.

Progress of Theoretical Physics.

PhotoThermal Phase-shift Spectroscopy.

Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt. The first national physics laboratory of Germany. It was largely the creation of the industrialist Werner Siemens, who donated land and capital for its creation, and who campaigned for its creation and prevailed against various opponents; government officials feared the long-term costs, some universities and Technische Hochschule saw the PTR as a prospective rival, and there was regional opposition to the Berlin-based PTR from south-German interests.

Siemens intended the PTR as a kind of gift for, or an opportunity to deploy the gifts of, his friend Hermann von Helmholtz. Helmholtz at that time was the most prominent physicist of Germany, and he served as the PTR's first president, from its founding in 1887 until his death in 1894.

PlaTinum Resistance (thermometer).

Post-Tenure Review. There's an unmoderated mailing list by the same name. Subscribe by emailing <listserv@listserv.temple.edu> with the message body
unless your name is not Joe Blow, in which case you're on your own. If you have forgotten or are unsure of your name, then on a unix system you can type
finger jblow
at the shell prompt. Again, if jblow is not your userid, you'll have to think hard and invent your own variant of this. The command users could help, especially if you are the only user. Of course, you could always subscribe under a pseudonym. That way, if your university president reads the PTR mailing list, he won't know whom to punish for your vicious attacks, unless he can find someone who knows anything about computers.

There's a web resource resource called PTR resources on the web. The details of one PTR implementation are described by the Arizona State Board of Regents. Howard A. Levine, a math professor at Iowa State, has posted his letter criticizing the system proposed at ISU.

Phillips Theological Seminary.

PhotoThermal Spectroscopy.

Pi Tau Sigma. National Honorary Mechanical Engineering Society.

Points. The plural of point (pt.).

Post-Traumatic Stress. Stress caused by trauma, but not immediately after the trauma.

Pressure Tuning Spectroscopy.

Princeton Theological Seminary.

Post-Traumatic Stress Ahhh... No. PTSA actually stands for Parent-Teacher Student Association. There are a number of substantially equivalent names and associated initialisms. We're going to try to centralize our information on this topic, if we get any, at the PTA entry.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Walter Menninger, of the famous Menninger Clinic, called it ``whiplash of the soul.'' (I think that whiplash has been a common complaint in ambulance-chasers' suits for damages, partly because it is is a common injury, and thus plausible, yet difficult to diagnose; X-ray and other imaging techniques may fail to show damage. Hence, diagnosis is usually based on direct observation and may depend largely on the putative victim's self-report. Of course, it might also be a common complaint because it's a common injury. I'll have to track down the quote to see what exactly Menninger had in mind [pun alert].)

PTSD may be caused by various kinds of catastrophes: severe trauma from combat, major accidents or natural disasters, and also from severe abuse such as being deprived of Twinkies. (Okay, I'll have to double-check on the Twinkies thing, after I track down chapter and verse on the Menninger quote.) In WWII, PTSD fell under the category of ``battle fatigue.'' There was an odd euphemism for PTSD in WWI (to the extent that it was recognized as a legitimate pathology rather than as malingering): ``shell shock.''

Parent-Teacher Student Organization. See PTA.

Post, Telephone & Telegraph (administration). Term reflects the government-directed nature of these services in Europe.

Petroleum Technology Transfer Council.

Public TeleVision.

Peak-to-Valley Current Ratio. A figure of merit for devices, like resonant tunneling diodes, exhibiting N-type negative differential resistance (NDR).

Physical Unit. Like, as opposed to a Logical Unit (LU). The terminology of computing really brings home the difference between physics and logic. It's practically a new Cartesian duality.

Plutonium. Atomic number Z = 94. An actinide. The fissionable material in Fat Man, the atomic bomb dropped over Nagasaki, was Plutonium-239. Plutonium is an unusual metal. At the time of its discovery (or creation, if you prefer) it was the only element known to have five allotropic solid phases. (It may still be unique in this respect; I don't know.) The delta phase, stable between about 300°C and 475°C, has a negative coefficient of thermal expansion. The linear contraction coefficient (you just gotta use terms like that whenever the opportunity arises) averages 2.1×10-5/K in that range.

Other solids that shrink on heating over some range of temperatures include various zeolites and zirconium tungstate (ZrW2O8). Liquid water is well-known to contract up to about 3.984°C), but the stable low-pressure allotrope of ice (ice Ih -- hexagonal phase I) has a positive thermal expansivity at high temperatures (i.e., temperatures not far below freezing). Ice Ih does have a negative thermal expansivity from 73K down to 10K or below. (The expansivity and its temperature derivative must vanish at 0K, so polynomial have the expansivity varying quadratically near zero. So far as it is possible to tell by extrapolation from data above 10K, the expansivity is negative between 0K and 10K.)

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

Police/Umbrella. It's not anything to do with a police cordon. It has to do with a pattern in English accentuation. There is a tendency in English for nouns to have initial stress and verbs not to. In P/U dialects, this tendency is strengthened. (This is especially noticeable in <-tion> homographs, with noun and verb distinguished by their different stress.)

Typically in P/U dialects, nouns like police and umbrella are pronounced with stress on the initial syllable. The term ``PU dialect'' is used in at least two slightly different ways. It may refer to dialects in which only some polysyllabic nouns that don't normally have initial stress receive initial stress, or it may refer to dialects in which initial stress for nouns is regularized, and nouns without initial stress are exceptional.

PolyUrethane. Also called PolyUrea.

There's an informative polyurethane entry in the Macrogalleria.

Princeton University. Actually, ``PU'' is rarely used because it's already an expression of disgust at a bad odor. There's no other obvious acronym, though.

Spanish noun for various hard things that come to a point. The spines or quills of a hedgehog (erizo) or porcupine (porcu espín) can be called either espinas or púas. The teeth of a comb (peine) can be called dientes (literally `teeth') or púas.

The word is also applied to some sharp things that are not necessarily pin-shaped. For example, a guitar pick (or ``plectrum,'' if you want to be that way) is a púa. Regardless of shape, the barbs on barbed wire and the (normally metal) hooks or points of a carding brush (carda) are called púas.

A sewing or knitting needle is normally called an aguja in Spanish, as is the sharp end of a syringe.

For some reason (or perhaps for no reason), the word púa seems to have caught the fancy of bonaerenses: A phonograph needle is called a púa, although I may have the wrong tense on the copula, and there are colloquial expressions like ``darle la púa a algien'' (`to needle someone'; literally `to give someone the needle') and ``meter la púa'' (`stir up trouble, intrigue'; literally `stick in the needle').

PUBlic house. A house where the general public can come in and drink beer. In the US until the 1970's, bar was the common word and pub was a British affectation. (In a bar, anything you say that I don't get is a personal affront, unnerstan!?) Then people noticed that commercial beer tasted like soda, and microbreweries spread across the land -- a movement! The bars attached to these breweries were called pubs, and the combined establishments were called brewpubs. Eventually the word pub came into more general use as the equivalent of bar.

Disclaimer: the assertions in this entry are not based on any particular research, just my impressions over the years.

When adjectives ending in -ic form -ly adverbs, they usually get a bonus -al: -ically.

I don't know why public becomes publicly. A much less common example is anticly, which appears to be about as common as antically. Cholericly seems to be six or seven times more common than its longer form. It may be significant that public, antic, and choleric all function as nouns as well as adjectives, and that the -ical adjectives of these words are rare. (``What corpus?'' What ``corpus''? All ratios have been determined by ``googling the web.'')

All other such exception forms that I can track down are less common than the corresponding regularly constructed -ically forms. Phlegmaticly seems to be about four times less common phegmatically. A few other terms have -icly frequencies on the order of one tenth those of their -ically forms. These tend to be technical terms like metalicly and cubicly. Other instances of -icly are typically 100 times less common than the corresponding -ically forms.

Someone who keeps a pub. I guess a republican is someone who keeps a pub again.

public art
Oh! You said ``art''? I thought you said ``fart''! So you wanted something that inspires or maybe looks good, instead of something that stinks? But we'll have to tear down the whole sculpture and start all over again!

See Priestley for an uplifting anecdote. Well, an anecdote. See Pulitzer Prize entry for the uplift, or get a push-up bra if that don't suitcha.

Faraday's maxim was ``Work. Finish. Publish.'' James Clerk Maxwell noted that

[Faraday] ... shews us his unsuccessful as well as his successful experiments, and his crude ideas as well as his developed ones.

Franklin had a maxim similar to Faraday's, but he was a printer by trade, after all. Franklin cautiously withheld publication of some experiments he had not at first properly interpreted. [But by sending them to his contact P. Collinson at the Royal Society, he assured himself priority in case they were correct. Franklin wasn't born yesterday, you know. He was born in 1706 (New Style; i.e. Gregorian calendar).]

public key encryption
Encryption system probably based on computational-complexity results of Rivest, Shamir and Adleman (some public-key systems are known as RSA-algorithm systems.) PGP is such a system, and the evil Clipper chip which the US government encourages private industry to use is also such a system.

The general idea is: you issue a ``public key'' and maintain a private key known only by yourself and by the untrustworthy ``friends'' you've been fool enough to trust, and all the people they told. Anyone who knows your public key can encrypt a message for you. However, only someone with your private key can decrypt a message thus encrypted. In principle, no public key system is safe against code-breaking. Someone with the public key can just encode a moderately long message and test enough candidate private keys until the right one is found -- the one that decrypts the known encrypted message correctly. By making the decryption depend on a sufficiently long private key, however, one can make this approach impractical. This is not the whole story, however. In any real private key system, a great deal is known about the encryption/decryption code, and so one can imagine that someone could find shortcuts to discover the private key. Crudely, one could imagine that only the first twenty bits of a long private key affected decryption of the first five characters, so one could quickly test the 2^20 or about one million possibilities on the first five characters, and with odds of 26^5 or about 12 million to one, chances are good that only the correct combination of the first 20 bits would be able to correctly recover the first five characters. No one would design an encryption system quite this stupid, but one might accidentally design a system in which a subset of the decryption task depended only on a subset of the private key in some way. This would enable someone to break the code by small steps.

The essence of the problem of designing a safe public-key code, therefore, is to make sure that the decryption algorithm is a sufficiently complicated function of all of the private key. What RSA did was to find a class of algorithms which were in a sense as complicated as prime factorization. That is, they were able to show that the task of breaking the code was equivalent in difficulty to that of finding the prime factors of a large composite number. That is a quite difficult problem, even with all the short-cuts that have been developed in the more than two thousand years since Eratosthenes came up with a sieve algorithm for quickly determining if a particular number was the factor of another. It is by that thread -- the difficulty of factoring numbers -- that much of the privacy people believe they have hangs.

public library
An echo chamber for bawling babies and screaming children.

The PUBlic PATent Foundation. ``The Public Patent Foundation protects civil liberties and free markets from wrongly issued patents and unsound patent policy by providing those persons and businesses otherwise economically, politically, and socially deprived of access to the system governing patents with representation, advocacy and education.''


``PubPat works against wrongly issued patents and unsound patent policy through several activities.''

Percutaneous Umbilical Blood Sampling. More accurate than the alternative methods of fetal genetic testing (amnio and CVS) but with a higher risk of miscarriage. Not normally performed until the eighteenth week of pregnancy, and then very often to confirm amnio results.

Public Utilities Commission.

A dark reddish color, maybe purplish or brownish or grayish or some combination of these. The word comes from French, where couleur puce means `flea color.' I suppose the precise shade of red depends on just how blood-engorged it is when squashed. Yuck. The word puce is derived from the Old French word pulce < Latin pulex, pulic-. In Spanish, a flea is una pulga (and el pulgar and una pulgada are `the thumb' and `an inch,' resp.).

Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador.

PolyUrethane (PU) Dispersion. A suspension of polyurethane in water. Used as an adhesive or as a veneer. See the LMA's downloadable glossary.

Potior, utor, fungor, fruor. Four of the most important Latin verbs that govern an object in the ablative case. Another such is vescor. Yeah, they're all deponents. Believe me, fifteen years ago, if you had told me that one day I'd be writing ``of the most important Latin verbs,'' I'd have answered ``what are you smoking? Let me have a puff.''

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Princeton University Library.

Pulitzer Prize
Joseph Pulitzer was a tabloid-newspaper publisher. Like Henry Ford, Alfred Nobel, Cecil Rhodes and Cecil Rhodes, he was able to use the money he made in life to purchase a sterling name in death. He endowed what is now the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and the Pulitzer Prizes. There was a nasty article about the Columbia School of Journalism in TNR in 1995. It made some telling points about the school's lack of candor or of anything useful to impart. Look, everybody's beating up on journalists nowadays, but this is meta-beating-up. The fault is not in the journalists but in their star professors. This is really hip; blame the J-schools. Then again, the article had no good news on the students' basic news sense, either.

Anyway, back on-topic: Joe's prize is given in fourteen different journalism categories:

  • Public Service (collect gold medal)
  • Spot News Reporting (collect $3000)
  • Investigative Reporting (collect $3000)
  • Explanatory Journalism (collect $3000)
  • Beat Reporting (collect $3000) (This must've been easier in the '50's.)
  • National Reporting (collect $3000)
  • International Reporting (collect $3000)
  • Feature Writing (collect $3000)
  • Commentary (collect $3000)
  • Criticism (collect $3000)
  • Editorial Writing (collect $3000)
  • Editorial Cartooning (collect $3000)
  • Spot News Photography (collect $3000)
  • Feature Photography (collect $3000)
There are six ``Letters & Drama'' categories:
  • Fiction
  • Drama
  • History
  • Biography
  • Poetry
  • General Non-fiction
and there's a music prize.

Prestigious prizes like this are a lot like speeding tickets. The speeding ticket may be $100, but you'll pay many times that in increased insurance premiums.

Visit the homepage, apparently set up by CJR, for further information, including copies of the actual winning articles, photographs, etc. that won a Pulitzer in journalism.

Edible seed. Examples mentioned in this glossary include lentils, mung, and peas. The standard for ``edible'' is a little higher than ``ingestible in moderate quantities without ill effect.'' One might say that pulse is not-just-incidentally edible seed. I mean, grape pits are not pulses. As is common with foods, the distinction between singular and plural is not carefully observed, and the plural of pulse can be pulse or pulses.

If you want to puff up your erudition without conveying or even expressing any additional information, you can say that a pulse is the esculent seed of a leguminous plant. By extension (say ``metonymically''), the word pulse is also used to refer to the plant that yields the pulse (i.e., to the legume).

[Phone icon]

pulse dialing
Old-style phone number signaling. A typical pulse is a 40 msec connect and 60 msec break (``60% break''). The pulse is the break (contacts open) interval. Interdigit time (interval between last pulse of one number and first pulse of next) should be greater than about 700 msec. Vide normally-on, normally-off.

pulsed CO2 laser
Here's a bibliography assembled to understand some details.


Cougar. The cougar's binomial monicker is Puma concolor. It is said to have over 40 names in English; other names are mountain screamer and catamount, and more commonly mountain lion and panther. The last is shared with other species: The name panther (or painter -- probably a variant) in North America is applied to the cougar. A panther elsewhere is a member of a different genus: Panthera. The panther of Central and South America is the jaguar (P. onca); the panther of the Old World is the leopard (P. pardus). (For more on the etymology of the latter, see the pardo entry.)

They're all more or less beautiful animals. They should all have the opportunity to become more beautiful through taxidermy.

The name puma is originally from the Quechua language of Peru, and entered English via Spanish. The word cougar is originally from Tupi (or at least from one of the Tupi languages of South America). The name was apparently first borrowed into Portuguese as çuçuarana, and went from there into the French of Buffon's zoological work, and thence eventually into English. The principal Tupi language today, and the best-documented, is Guaraní (one of the official languages of Paraguay). Guaraní is reported in some references as the specific source of the the word cougar, but at least one reference I have seen gives contradictory information.

I'd like to nail down some of the ulterior etymology, but it will have to wait. Frustratingly, one promising sources available to me for this language, a bidirectional Spanish-Guaraní dictionary, has a printing defect at a critical place (an incorrect fascicle is inserted, leaving out the fascicle where puma ought to be). (And the dictionary I reference in the next paragraph has a number of pages printed blank.) I think my library will repair the problems by ordering or scrounging replacement pages; I'm putting in the problem reports on September 1, 2008, and will get back to this entry later.

For now let me say that it seems that cougar (and possibly jaguar also) is a compound noun based on ara or (possibly just modern Guaraní) eira. The latter is ``lince o gato montés; animal carnivoro, feroz y sanguinario'' according to an abridged 2005 edition of a dictionary by Félix Giménez Gómez (``Félix de Guaranía''). [`Lynx or mountain cat; animal that is carnivorous, fierce, and sanguinary.'] Cougar in this book is eira guasu, where guasu probably means `large.'

Party Unity My Ass. Originally a D.C.-based group of die-hard supporters of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party presidential nomination that urged her to fight for the nomination all the way to the party's Denver convention in August. PUMA was founded on June 1, 2008. The final primaries were held on June 3, Obama claimed that he had clinched the nomination (an assertion based critically on a count of superdelegates declaring for him) on June 4, and Clinton conceded the Democratic contest and endorsed Barack Obama on June 9. By the time of the convention, PUMA was being used primarily to mean a die-hard backer of Hillary, without reference to the formal organization.

Public Use Microdata Area. That's the expansion according to the US Census Bureau; literate people write the expansion of PUMA with a hyphen between public and use.

Young cougar, where ``cougar'' is understood in the slang sense explained at the cougar entry.

Public Use Microdata Samples. US Census Bureau usage. A literate person would expand that with a hyphen between the first two words.

The comment ``the cliché `hope springs eternal' springs eternal'' springs eternal.

Since C is free-format, you have the opportunity to develop your own distinctive style:

The comment

the cliché
springs eternal
springs eternal
springs eternal;

I just received the following email message. (It's from someone known by no one reading this entry, so why should I name him and embarrass him in front of all his friends?)

> I understand completely.  I've passed up many come-ons
> from women due to poor punctuation.  It's a real turnoff.

(After all -- isn't that the point, really?)

(Very sorry couldnt resist)

punitive and compensatory
Damages awarded by a jury. Mostly punitive, or it wouldn't have been big enough to make the news. The judge will probably set aside or reduce the eye-popping punitive damages, but that news will be buried in the back of the business pages in a week or two.

punto de quiebre
Spanish for `breaking point.' This idiom and more generally the use of quiebre as a noun are widespread, but appear to be recent innovations.

PARC Universal Packet Protocol.

Princeton University Press.

Progressive Unionist Party. A left-wing unionist (q.v.) party of Northern Ireland. PUP supported the Good Friday Agreement. PUP is the political ally of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

I don't know much about Northern Ireland -- I need this scorecard just to keep track of who some of the players are. Here's something possibly relevant from another former part of the British Empire that was partitioned.

One of my friends who was disappeared during the dirty war in Argentina lived. She was bribed out and fled to Israel the day she was released. (That evening, a different part of the state apparatus came by to try to take her.) She had been a typical nonviolent leftist in Argentina -- a socialist. She told me that after she arrived in Israel, she realized how completely irrelevant the usual left-right distinctions were there.

PUP is firmly unionist, but also declares itself dedicated to ``bettering the lot of the ordinary person.'' PUP won two seats in the first Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

Puppis. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

Potentially Unwanted ProgramS. That's the prohibitively standard expansion, but I would have expanded the first P as Probably. Is there a singular form? No, the litter is large, but there is an uncountable form: crapware.

This is usually some kind of error for ``population,'' but ``Zero Pupulation'' seems to be the slogan and part of the name of a program associated with Spay Houston and similar organizations. ``Spay Houston'' sounds overzealous to me. Look, it may be public-spirited and all, but outright enthusiasm is uncalled for.


PURCHase. Airline fare abbreviation. Not much abbreviated. I guess they like that word pretty much as it is. I notice that this list of travel-industry abbreviations doesn't have anything for refun.

(You can't use BUY as an abbreviation for purchase, because buy is not an abbreviation. See?)

Another meaning of purchase is grip or hold. I suspect that is its original meaning. It's irresponsible of me to just mention it like that, but I'm tired and no one is paying me to look it up. In the 1980's, Russian language purists used to bemoan the fact that the Russian word for `get' was replacing that which originally meant `buy,' and there was speculation that the peculiarities of the centrally controlled economy (controlled prices and controlled supply, both low for consumer goods, and gee: shortages) were driving this semantic shift. The idea was that whether one bought was not the question; whether one found to buy was. Soviets never left home without a mesh bag, just in case they ran across anything to buy. Here's a joke from the good old Soviet days:

An inventor has just been awarded an Order of Lenin for designing a new small plane. Soon every Soviet citizen will have his own personal plane. He is being interviewed (I mean the inventor, not Lenin) on State TV, and the interviewer wants to know what practical good it does to have a personal plane. The inventor explains: ``Suppose you're in Moscow, and you hear that there's cheese in Minsk. You can fly to Minsk and get cheese!''

A variant of the surname Purdue (q.v.).

A variant of the surname Purdue (q.v.).

A Scots variant of the surname Purdue (q.v.).

A cat's allowance, I suppose.

A variant of the surname Purdue (q.v.).

Long ago, I was taught that this surname represented the French word perdu, meaning `lost,' and that the name was given to some orphans. A Dictionary of Surnames, by Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges (1988), apparently does not consider this theory worth mentioning. It explains this as well as the English surnames Purday, Purdey, Purdye, and Purdu, and the Scots surname Purdie, in terms of the Anglo-Norman French oath pur die, from the Old French p(o)ur Dieu (`by God,' ultimately from Latin pro Deo). There's also a French surname Pourdieu, which would appear to clinch it. The idea is that Purdy or something similar became the nickname of anyone who used the oath frequently, and eventually became the surname of his descendants. It reminds me of the Spanish word coño, which in its plain sense names the external portion of the female genitalia, and which was widely used as a coarse interjection by Spanish conquistadores. It is still used this way to indicate anger or surprise. Ironically, in some South American Indian languages, it became the word for Spaniard.

A similar class of surnames, which includes Perdue, is described at the Depardieu entry.

Purdue University
The original Purdue University was established by an act of the Indiana State legislature in 1869, to be located near Lafayette (now West Lafayette). More details at this page.

Purdy, Purdye
A variant of the surname Purdue (q.v.).

The name of a particular nitrogen-containing double-ring organic compound, and also of derivatives obtained by substitution of one or more hydrogens. In nucleic acids, by far the most common purines are guanine (G) and adenine (A).

A breakdown product of purines is uric acid. Uric acid crystals cause the inflammation associated with the famous disease gout and certain kinds of kidney stones. The trademark Purina I presume is intended to suggest purity and is unrelated to purines. Like humans, however, Dalmatians and some other dog species form urinary stones -- ``urate'' or ``purine'' stones. Those animals should not consume too much organ meat (``beef by-products''). Other foods which are high in purines, and which you should therefore avoid feeding that ``stone-forming dog'' dog, include caviar, anchovies, clams, sardines and herring.

Persistent Uniform Resource Locator. Developed by OCLC: a PURL is a kind of logical name or alias for a URL. A location given as a PURL is interpreted by an intermediate resolution service which maintains a database linking the PURL to its current URL and returns that URL to the user client, similar to the use of email aliases. References expressed as PURL's are intended to remain viable even as documents change their physical locations.

OCLC operates its own PURL resolution service but is distributing the source code to promote the use of the system.

pursuing other opportunities
Collecting unemployment.

Public Understanding of Science. Really! I saw it in that well-known quarterly of erudite nonsense, Social Text. The European Union funded a related entity called OPUS.

Now if they could come up with an acronym that suggested something that wouldn't be worth bending over to examine more closely...

Public Understanding of Science (not abbreviated PUS, that I have seen yet) is also the title of a quarterly journal (vol. 1 in January 1992) originally published by the IOP and now by Sage Publications.

push parenting
Never mind a definition. Suffice it to say that I first encountered the term in Ralph Schoenstein's book My Kid's an Honor Student, Your Kid's a Loser: The Pushy Parent's Guide to Raising the Perfect Child (2002). A book I haven't read, but which seems to be the cause of many of the ghits for this term, is No More Push Parenting: How to Find Success and Balance in a Hypercompetitive World (2003), by Elisabeth Guthrie, M.D., and Kathy Matthews.

Schoenstein (p. xvi): ``...America is now crawling with parents who are driving their darlings toward acceptances at both Harvard and the Menninger Clinic, parents who will sacrifice anything to make their children superior. They will even sacrifice the children.''

A Japanese term for female push parents is kyoiku-mama.

push present
A gift a husband gives to his wife for popping out an offspring unit. Usually jewelry. Perhaps especially if labor or morning sickness was prolonged. I first encountered the phenomenon of the push present in the year 2000, but a reader of this glossary reports that in New York City at the end of 1998, a horrified colleague of her husband couldn't believe he'd never heard of it.

Pontificia Università San Tommaso d'Aquino. `Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas.' (Also has the Latin moniker Pontificiae Universitatis a Sancto Thoma Aquinate in Urbe and what I guess is the nickname Angelicum.) It was founded and is run by the Dominicans, and is located near the Lateran basilica in Rome. (Italians, and particularly Romans, often refer to the city of Rome somewhat elliptically as la cità -- `the city,' urbe in Latin. What nerve!)

Pope John Paul II received his doctorate in Philosophy from PUST. (Thesis: ``The Problems of Faith in the Works of St. John of the Cross.'' Philosophy? Whatever.) He went back to Poland and got another degree there afterwards.

John Paul I got his doctorate from the Gregorian University in Rome, in Sacred Theology. (Thesis: ``The origin of the human soul according to Antonio Rosmini.'' Whatever.) The Greg is a Jesuit institution. John Paul I died only a month after being elected pope. I don't think it was after-effects of the white smoke. Draw your own conclusions.

The academic press of PUST, called Angelicum University Press instead of something stupid like PUSTSA (ess for stampa), publishes Angelicum, a quarterly journal of theology, philosophy, social science, and canon law. Articles are published in the principal European (scholarly) languages -- mainly Italian, English, French, German, and Spanish. Well, there seems to be some controversy about this. According to my local library catalog entry, they only publish articles in English, French, German, Italian or Latin. I promise to have look-see some day if I remember. I want to see if they publish in Polish.

Are-a you stupid-a sumthin? See PUST.

An option to sell (stock) at a certain price during a certain time. If the price of the stock falls, you can buy the stock at a reduced price and exercise the option for a profit. If the stock goes up, you don't exercise the option, but you're out the price of buying the option itself. Nowadays, this time-honored kind of trading goes by the fancy new name of ``derivative trading.''

Programmable Unijunction Transistor.

Power-Up 3-State. Logic device that goes into high-impedance state (vide tri-state) during power-up and power-down, to protect devices that are inserted in live circuits.


PhotoVoltaic. The photovoltaic effect -- an electric current flow or potential difference induced by the absorption of light -- was first discovered by Alexandre Edmond Becquerel in 1839. Selenium photovoltaic cells, originally with energy conversion efficiencies of no more than 0.5%, have been used since the 1880's as light meters for photography.

It should be noted that historically, the better-known effect associated with selenium (Se) is photoconductivity: conductivity different (higher, in this case) under illumination than in the dark. Photoconductivity was discovered by Willoughby Smith in 1873, as he was investigating the tetchy behavior of a selenium resistor he had in a box....

Currently, the noun use of the term photovoltaic or PV designates photovoltaic devices used as power supplies, a/k/a ``solar cells.'' As a practical matter, these are mostly silicon-based.

Principal Value.

PolyVinyl Alcohol.

PolyVinyl Acetate. To avoid confusion with polyvinyl alcohol (supra), you can use the abbreviation PVAc (q.v.).

PolyVinyl ACetate. This was once used for flexible transparent films. I still have a few twenty-year-old books wrapped in vinyl acetate book covers, and they're all still pretty flexible. Unfortunately, they're also sticky on the outside: the PVA has sweat some of its plasticizer. That's why it's not used for that any more. Vinyl chloride is also used for thin flexible films (vide PVC infra) but it eventually hardens up and cracks.

It may be called ``acetate'' for short, and under that name San Diego Plastics, Inc. has a short page of information.

Vinyl acetate-alcohol copolymers are used in acrylic latex paints to hold hydrophobic acrylic monomer in suspension, as explained in the PVA entry of the Macrogalleria.

The Roberts & Etherington Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology for Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books is entirely too sanguine about this stuff in its entry.

PolyVinyl Butyral.

Permanent Virtual Circuit.

Permanent Virtual Connection.

Poly n-Vinyl Carbazole. Has some application in microelectronics. Production negligible compared to polyvinyl chloride (next entry).

PolyVinyl Chloride. Invented at a B. F. Goodrich laboratory in 1926; originally used in adhesives and sheets.

Code 3 in PCS. May be indicated by `V' embossed on surface.

San Diego Plastics, Inc. serves a short page of application-oriented information on PVC. There's an informative PVC entry in the Macrogalleria. It's popular in applications that require a cheap flexible barrier between the wet and the the dry (garden hoses, raincoats, floortile). Related comments at PVA entry.

``Exotic'' clothing is available from clothiers with no apparent awareness of the utility--nay, the necessity--of the apostrophe in forming the English genitive case, in Nylon and PVC as well as Leather and Rubber. The traditional considerations of comfort and warmth do not appear to have played an important rôle in the design of this bas couture. Link dead? There's always more.

There are other kinds of good, also possibly not clean, fun that you can have with PVC. Apparently polymer clay is PVC that one finishes polymerizing--crosslinking, I guess--in the oven.

See as well the acrylic acid entry.

Private Virtual Circuit. Mocked up by a communications protocol called Frame Relay.

Permanent Virtual Channel Connection.

Peak-to-Valley Current Ratio.

Physical Vapor Deposition. [Deposition by beams.]

Most epitaxial deposition methods fall into one of the two broad categories PVD and CVD. As explained in more detail at the CVD entry, PVD is the relatively low-pressure situation: the term is applied when molecules of the material to be deposited are unlikely to suffer a collision in going from source to deposition surface. (Hence the material moves in a straight line, hence ``beams.'')

* Plasma Vapor Deposition. This usage is completely disapproved. This disapproval is completely unenforceable.

Poly(VinyliDene Fluoride). (Elf Atochem North America: Kynar ®.)

Parallel Virtual Machine. A software package that permits a number of Unix computers to work together like a single parallel computer.

Here's a tutorial introduction served by the Maui High Performance Computing Center. Here's one from Paul Marcelin at NERSC and LLNL. Here's some more.

Another such package is MPI (Message Passing Interface).

Parallel Virtual Machine (PVM, entry above) message-passing library from and for IBM.

Private Voluntary Organization. A kind of NGO, q.v.


PolyVinylPurolidone. Novel material for breast implant gel. See the AA entry.

Permanent Virtual Path Connection.

Perpetual Vice-President--Member Pickwick Club. That would be Joseph Smiggers, Esq. Cf. G.C.M.P.

PhotoVoltage Spectroscopy.

Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners. ``In order to protect and preserve local streams and rivers from water pollution, the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners (PVSC) operate one of the country's largest treatment plants for the wastewaters of northern New Jersey. With many expansions, and recent upgrading to secondary treatment, the facility has been striving, since its initial operation in 1924, to improve local water quality in accordance with federal and state water quality legislation.''

Pennsylvania Vintage Snowmobile Club. ``Vintage'' in this context seems to mean twenty or so years old at minimum. There's been a Vintage Snowmobile Webring since 1998.

IEEE PhotoVoltaic Specialists Conference. (Sic: no apostrophe.) This is one of the three major PV conferences. PVSC is the American conference, EU-PSEC is the European, and PVSEC is the Asian. Each of these conferences is held every year-and-a-half. The EU-PSEC is held a half year before (or one year after) the PVSC.

Grafted uneasily onto this schedule since 1994, there is a world conference (called ``World Conference on Photovoltaic Energy Conversion'' two out of the first three times) every four years or so.

  1. 1990 May 21-25 (Kissimmee, Florida)
  2. 1991 October 7-11 (Las Vegas, Nevada)
  3. 1993 May 10-14 (Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky)
  4. 1994 December 5-9 (Hilton Waikoloa Village Waikoloa, Hawaii)
    (Billed as the ``First World Conference on Photovoltaic Energy Conversion'')
  5. 1996 May 13-17 (Washington, D.C.)
  6. 1997 September 29 to October 3 (Anaheim Marriott Hotel, Anaheim, California)
  7. 1998 July 6-10 (Vienna, Austria)
    ``Second World Conference and Exhibition on Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conversion''
  8. 2000 September 15-22 (Anchorage Hilton Anchorage, Alaska)
  9. 2002 May 20-24 (Hyatt Regency New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana)
  10. 2003 May 11-15 (Osaka, Japan)
    ``Third World Conference on Photovoltaic Energy Conversion''

The fourteenth PVSC organizing committtee established an award to recognize persons who have made ``outstanding contributions to the advancement of photovoltaic science and technology,'' named in memory of one of the founders of the photovoltaic field, William R. Cherry. The award is given to one person (generally a different person) at each PVSC. You're probably wondering why I would bother to mention this. I mention this because Charles E. Backus was the recipient in May 1987, and I know Chuck, and I wanted to name-drop.

Pittsburgh Vintage Scooter Club.

Pocatello Valley Soccer Club.

Potomac Valley Samoyed Club.

PV Science and Engineering Conference. Name is prefixed with ``Asian,'' ``Asia/Pacific,'' or ``International'' according to the whim of the writer. By any name it's one of the big-three PV conferences. This one is usually thin-film-dominated (i.e., has a materials focus), with most of the presentations coming from Japan.

  1. 1990 November 26-30, Kyoto, Japan
  2. 1999 September 20-24, Sapporo City, Japan
  3. 2001 June 11-15, Cheju Island, Korea
  4. 2004 January 20-30, Bankok, Thailand


Physical Vapor Transport.


PW, .pw
Palau. USPS abbreviation and top-level domain name.

Pratt & Whitney. ``Pratt'' ``is the world's leading designer, developer and manufacturer of gas turbine engines for commercial, military and general aviation aircraft.'' A subsidiary of UTC.

Public Works.

Publishers Weekly. Industry magazine. From the same people who publish Bowker's Annual.

Pacific Weightlifting Association. ``Northern California's Local Weightlifting Committee (LWC) of USA Weightlifting'' (USAW). That LWC ``covers California from South of Fresno to the Oregon Border and includes ten Western Counties of Nevada.''

Anther weightlifting PWA is the Philippine.

Permittivity and Wave Analyzer.

Person With AIDS. I'm not aware of any other diseases whose victims are known as PWX's, with any X. On the other hand, there's EDP -- Emotionally Disturbed Person.

Philip W. Anderson. Nobel laureate in Physics.

Philippine Weightlifting Association. Aren't the Philippines in the Pacific?

Printed Wiring Assembly.

Progressive Writers Association.

Public Works { Administration | Authority }.

FDR was elected US president in 1932 to end the Great Depression. (That's right, it was a time when everyone was bummed out. At least there were a lot of bums out. You know -- farmers, industrial workers, craftsmen, and other out-of-work riff-raff.) FDR's recovery plan, if trying anything that might work can be called a plan, was entitled the New Deal. One of the best-known New Deal programs was the PWA (Public Works Administration; officially the Federal Administration of Public Works), established by the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. Man did they spend money. Man did they build a lot of public works. They also loaned money to states and cities so they could spend a lot of money.

The PWA was headed by Harold L. Ickes from 1933 to 1939, when a reorganization made it a division of the Federal Works Agency. As war approached, industrial production became more important, and the PWA was abolished in June 1941.

People With AIDS. It's not surprising that PWA (in the sense of Person With AIDS) often occurs in the plural at places in text where it must be expanded. The gloss in these cases typically avoids the awkward ``persons'' in favor of ``people.'' It's a positive sign, a healthy sign. A positive sign of lexical health, anyway.

Where treatment is available, PWA's are a large proportion of HIV positives. However, the vast majority of HIV+'s live in Africa, where treatment is available to very few. Without drugs, PWA's tend to survive only 18 to 24 months after the onset of full-blown AIDS.

The country with the largest number of HIV+'s is South Africa, which is also the richest country in Africa for now. As of Spring 2004, the South African government's effort against AIDS consisted almost entirely of encouraging condom use. (Condom use soared to the 5-10% level by 2002. Whoopee. Congratulations all around.) Another large portion of national AIDS-prevention expenditures appears to go to the production of overpriced plays about AIDS by Prime Minister Thabo Mbeki's wife. (Also, some provinces are distributing antiretroviral drugs.) Mr. Mbeki, an economist by training, made a name for himself (more precisely an eponym, as in ``some crazy mbeki'') by questioning whether AIDS was really just HIV infection. South Africa held its third post-Apartheid national elections in April 2004, and as expected the ANC won again handily, with over two-thirds of the vote. (It's a parliamentary system with at-large, list-only voting.) As Mbeki began his second term that month, 5.3 million of South Africa's population of 45 million were estimated to be infected with HIV.

Accurate statistics are hard to gather for most of Africa, and are quickly out of date. Indeed, HIV+'s are asymptomatic for as long as a decade after infection (and contagious for most of that time), so in the absence of systematic testing, most victims are unaware or uncertain of their own status. A major source of information is sampling of pregnant women. Their rates of infection, even when already at high (a few percent) levels, have exhibited alarming doubling times of as little as a year. Among the most horrifying statistics, it seems well agreed that in Botswana in 2003 over 35% of the population was HIV+. Almost all of these people will die young. Namibia may be worse, but data are virtually nonexistent. Across southern and western Africa, AIDS is a holocaust. In thirty to forty countries, with a total population of 800 million or so, it is or is becoming the leading cause of death. Life expectancy is declining rapidly; infant and adult mortality rates are rising. The population of South Africa at least has already begun to shrink. In some countries a quarter of all children are orphans, and significant numbers of these are homeless and alone. The most productive age segment of the population is dying off so rapidly that it is creating labor shortages. Resources are shifting toward care of the weak and sick, and away from food and education. Up next: India.

Printed Wiring Board. A rigid support, like G-10 fiberglass, with connections in the form of flat metal strips. Typically the connections are ``printed'' as a pattern of lines of etch-resist ink over a uniform metal coating on the board. Etching removes the unmasked regions, leaving the interconnect lines. The etch-resist is then also washed off, leaving the wires exposed and available for connection.

At the ends of the lines, holes may be drilled to allow the leads of surface components or sockets to be passed through. Discrete components like resistors and power transistors are inserted directly. Chips, and long ago transistors and even longer ago tubes, were not usually soldered on directly. Instead, sockets were soldered onto the board and these active components were inserted. This served two purposes: (1) Since hot solder and iron didn't touch the active components, there was no need for careful heat-sinking and shorting of sensitive leads when the board was assembled. (2) Tubes and transistors could be replaced easily.

Actually, tube circuits tended to have the sockets on a hard metal chassis, and then later some separate circuit boards that might be printed. I've decided to take a little trip down vacuum tube memory lane, so you may want to skip down.

Tubes especially had lifetimes much shorter than other components. When your old (black and white) TV started malfunctioning, you'd take off the back panel and, if there was nothing obviously toasted, you'd look at the circuit diagram pasted on the inside for clues. The tubes on the diagram, or the circuit blocks they were part of, had labels indicating their function. Thus, if your sound crapped out, you looked to see what tubes were part of the audio amp block. (I should say that some of this worked in reverse: if the blocks weren't labeled, you'd recognize them, or maybe identify them from familiar tubes with very standard functions. The more you looked, the more clues you'd find.) After doing all this intellectual heavy lifting, you'd rip out all the tubes and take them to Radio Shack or even a good drug store -- why risk wasting a trip? The old jalopy could break down any time.

Down at the store, there was a tube tester with a slanted top surface and a shallow lip at the edge. One of the tubes you placed there would roll off and could be replaced without further testing. The rest you would look up in alphabetical order in a binder attached to the tester. The binder would tell you what settings to use on the tester (these corresponded to pin pattern, plate and filament voltages with corresponding meter settings, etc.) and tell you what number to expect on the meter. (The meter face was on the top surface of the testing station. That's the reason the top surface had to be slanted, see?) Sometimes there'd be two sets of settings for two separate tests, but let's face it: it was a pretty crude test. Mostly you found out if the tube was working approximately right as a diode. However, when tubes go down the tubes, they tend to go big time, so crude tests are fine. When you found a bad tube, you said: ``Yup, it was obvious from the circuit diagram.'' If the TV didn't have a circuit diagram, you said ``Ahh, these 6AU8's, they don't make'em like they used to.''

If you were a professional, of course, you used professional methods. The first method was checking that the tube filaments got hot. You could do this a number of ways. One way was to

That's not a method. There's no ``CONTINUE'' method in professional tube testing. ``CONTINUE'' is just a note the glossarist left to himself, that he should add stuff to this entry later.

Printed Wiring Board Assembly.

Personal WaterCraft. ``Personal'' like a ``personal pan pizza'' at Pizza Hut: large enough only for one person. Actually, some PWC's can now carry as many as four riders. Popular PWC's include the Kawasaki Jet Ski, Yamaha WaveRunner, and Bombardier Sea-Doo. Basically riding lawn-mowers for the waves, but faster.

p-w.c., pwc
PieceWise Constant.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP. One of the Big Four accounting firms.

Person infected With HIV.

Predominantly White Institution. I've only seen this in reference to US or North American colleges and universities. PWI is often used as a contrast to HBCU, but of course it isn't. Among other things, HBCU is an official designation.

Public Windows Interface. An emulator planned as part of COSE, that will allow Microsoft Windows codes to run within an X window. That's Windows 3.1 emulation, as far as I know, I don't know of any Windows 95 emulation by Unix machines.

Personal Watercraft Industry Association. Founded in 1987 as an affiliate of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, it represents all (as of 2008) four U.S. PWC manufacturers: Kawasaki, Yamaha, Honda, and BRP.

PWL, p-w.l., p.-w.-l, pwl
PieceWise Linear.

Pulse-Width Modulation.

Particles per Wafer Pass.

The expansion seems to be some kind of secret, but anyway they publish Math, Engineering, and Computer Science Pedagogy. As it happens, they've apparently been swallowed up by Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

Person Who Stutters. (Except in the UK, where the person stammers instead.) I suppose this is another of those supposed euphemisms.

Public Water System.

Post eXchange. The general store on a military base.

PXA lamp
Pulsed Xenon Arc. A kind of lamp used in graphic arts applications requiring instant-start, high-stability light output, and daylight-quality color temperature (6000 K is typical of xenon).

Portable X-Ray Fluorescence (spectromet{er|ry}).

Low-resolution video compression for teleconferencing.

(Domain code for) Paraguay.

The major event in Paraguayan history since independence was the war of 1864-1870, known as la Guerra de la Triple Alianza in Spanish and a Guerra da Tríplice Aliança in Portuguese, `the War of the Triple Alliance.' It was easily the bloodiest conflict in Latin-American history. Fighting began in December 1864, when Paraguay, with a population of half a million, invaded Brazil, which had a population of 11 million (all numbers approximate). In response, that triple alliance was formed between Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, and declared war on Paraguay on May 1, 1865. At the end of the war, Paraguay's population was about 200,000 and mostly female.

Percus-Yevick (equation). An approximate, closed nonlinear integral equation for the pair distribution.

Per Year. Often in percentage growth rates as in ``24%py.''

Program Year.

PYrimidine. The name of a particular six-membered nitrogen-containing organic ring...
       H         H
        \       /
        //     \\
       //       \\
      N           C---H         pyrimidine
       \         /
        \ _____ /
... and also of derivatives obtained by substitution of one or more hydrogens. In nucleic acids, by far the most common pyrimidines are cytosine (C), thymine (T), and uracil (U).

Presidential Young Investigator.

Iron sulfide (FeS2). Mineral with shiny metallic crystals that sometimes look like gold sometimes does in its naturally-occurring state. Thus, pyrite is also called fool's gold. Interestingly, gold typically is found in association with pyrite or (more often) quartz.

[column] There is another connection between quartz and pyrite, apart from the association with gold: the name pyrite is evolved from the Latin word for flint [ultimately from Greek for fire (pyr-) stone], and flint itself is made of finely divided quartz. Perhaps this is not a coincidence. See the explanation of how quartz, pyrites, and gold all happen to be found together under the pluton entry.

The word pyrite is also used in indefinite singular and plural forms (i.e., ``a pyrite,'' ``pyrites'') to refer to metal sulfides in general. This is most often for metal-sulfide compounds that include iron stoichiometrically, like chalcopyrite, CuFeS2. Another well-known sulfide is galena (lead sulfide: PbS).

Flipping channels the other day, I found an elegant lady (so far as I could tell) explaining to a select audience of QVC insiders like me about the precious but affordable jewelry made with ``iron pyrite.'' It turns out that this is found underground in Southern France and Switzerland (she didn't mention other sources, such as New Jersey), so it's a mineral. The pyrite is surrounded by ``silver,'' so it's precious. Oh, brother. All that glitters ain't copper either (see Cu for related story).

This attribute is perhaps best expressed by an equation:
	pyrophoric substance + air (at STP) = Kaboom.
Sometimes a nasty look is required to initiate the reaction of marginally pyrophoric substances. A very useful concept to be aware of: silane is pyrophoric.

Pretty Young Thing. As you get older, you realize that ``pretty'' might be an adverb.

Pythagorean triple
Three positive integers a, b, c which could be the lengths of the sides of a right triangle:
a² + b² = c².

It is clear that the 3,4,5 triple was used to generate right angles in the Middle East in times when it is not clear that the Pythagorean theorem was known. Leonardo Pisano (Fibonacci) devoted seven of the twenty-four propositions in his Liber quadratorum (`Book of Squares') to finding different kinds of Pythagorean triples.

There are a few equivalent construction methods for Pythagorean triples. Here's one that essentially defines one Pythagorean triple for every fraction u/v: if u and v are integers, then a = u² + 2uv, b = 2v² + 2uv, and c = u² + 2uv + 2v² are a Pythagorean triple.

The usual approach takes q = v and p = u + v, so a = p² - q², b = 2pq, and c = p² + q² are a Pythagorean triple. It's worth noting that in looking for inequivalent triples, only p and q of opposite parity need be considered: if p and q are both odd or both even, then a, b and c will all be even and the triple will simply be a multiple of a smaller one.

The inbounds region of a US football field is a rectangular region 300 feet long and 160 feet wide. These dimensions are the legs of a Pythagorean triple (proportional to an 8, 15, 17 triangle), so the diagonal of the rectangle is 340 feet long. I suppose this could be useful if your mensuration technology is four zebras and ten yards of chain. Note that all boundary markers (pylons and lines) are outside the playing field; measurements are taken to the inside of the boundary markers. Hence, a player who steps on the sideline is out of bounds.

The inbounds region of a Canadian football field is 110 yards long by 65 yards wide (330 by 195 feet). This does not yield a Pythagorean triple, so the diagonal is irrational. (But it's only an algebraic irrational -- it's not transcendental. There's no crying in baseball, and there's no transcendence in football.) Since practical conversion factors are normally defined to be rational, the diagonal is also irrational in unreasonable international units that will remain unnamed. Frankly, there's no particular rational reason for sending the ball precisely along the diagonal, either. On the other hand, at 127.8 yards, it would be a mighty, impressive pass (read the comma at your discretion).

The playing-field aspect ratios above are 1.875 and 1.692 (US and Canada, resp.), or 2.25 and 2.308, resp., when you add in the end zones (ten and twenty yards deep, resp.). As long as we're on the subject of rectangles with aspect ratios that vary by nationality, let's consider paper. In the US, by far the most common size of paper sold in sheets is 8.5 by 11 inches, with an aspect ratio of 1.294. Less common, but also a standard, is ``legal paper,'' 8.5 by 14 (ratio 1.647). Nearest half-centimeter approximations to these standard sizes are used in any country that uses the metric system but which has an economy closely integrated with that of any large country that does not, much. Otherwise, they use a boring system of paper sizes which have aspect ratio equal to the square root of two (i.e., about 1.4142), because it's such a clever-seeming idea. Here's a thoroughly informative (though typically biased) page on irrational ISO paper sizes. Here's a proposal to convert Canadian football to metric dimensions.

Pyxis. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

Lead Zirconate Titanate: Pb(Zr,Ti)O3. Popular piezoelectric material for generation of ultrasound up to 5 MHz.

Power at 1 DeciBel of gain compression.

Power at 1 DeciBel of gain compression, referenced to the input.

Power at 1 DeciBel of gain compression, referenced to the output.

Plug and Play. I've seen this abbreviation in a military RFP. I guess ``PnP'' doesn't seem serious enough. But hey, if you want a laugh, check out how the missile-shield tests are rigged.


Platform for Privacy Preferences Project. Yes, that's four P's altogether.

The 5 Permanent members of the UN Security Council.

An ad hoc group comprising the P5 plus another country. The designation P5+1 was used in 2006 for talks on what to do about Iran's nuclear program. Germany, which had been part of the E3, was the one non-P5 member engaged in the discussions.

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Oops! Overshot the pointers.

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© Alfred M. Kriman 1995-2016 (c)