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V v

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vide. Latin for `see.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victoria and Albert Museum (in London).

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

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

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

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

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

Domain name for Vatican.

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

Veterbi Algorithm.

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

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

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

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

VirginiA ARmy National Guard. See also VaDF.

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

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

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

Vascular Access Device.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vinyl Acetate/Ethylene copolymer (adhesive).

`Venezuelan Academy of Esthetic Dentistry.'

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

Vandenberg Air Force Base.

VESA Advanced Feature Connector.

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

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

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

See valpac.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Why does sign let tering slid ear ounds omuch?

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

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

British for tube. More precisely: Fleming tube.

Variational Analysis Method.

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

Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center.

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

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

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

Vesicle-Associated Membrane Protein.

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


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

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

VANcouver. Probably the one in British Columbia.

Vehicular Adhoc Networks. (Capitalization and spacing sic.)

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

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

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

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

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

The Preface begins thus:

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

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

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

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

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

Value-Added Network (VAN) Service.

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

Valence Atomic Orbital (AO).

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

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

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

Value-Added Reseller. As opposed to the OEM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visual Average Speed Computer And Recorder. Cf. NASCAR.

Variable-Angle Spectroscopic Ellipsometry.

An unusual variant spelling (deservedly so) of vasectomy.

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


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

Vertical AnisoTropic Etch.

Variable Air Vent.

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

VESA Advanced Video Interface.

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

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

Vertical-Axis Wind Turbine.

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

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

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

VAX Bus Interconnect.

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

Violating All-Zero Octet.

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

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

Vertical Bridgman (crystal-growth method).

Visual Basic.

Visual Basic for Application.

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

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

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

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


Voice-Band Audio Processor.

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

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

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

Vertical Blanking Interrupt. Same as Video Blanking Interval.

Vehicle-Borne IED. Car bomb.

Vertical Bloch Line.

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

Very high-speed Backbone Network System of the NSF.

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

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

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

VBR delay sensitive
Variable Bit Rate delay-sensitive.

VBR delay tolerant
Variable Bit Rate delay-tolerant.

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

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

Variable Bit Rate non-RT (real time).

Variable Bit Rate Real Time.

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

Valence Band (of a semiconductor or semimetal) Splitting.

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

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

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

Visual Basic eXtension.

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

Vapor Compression.

Venture Capital[ist].


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

Video {Camera|Conferencing}.

Viet Cong. A blast from the past.

Virtual Channel.

Virtual Circuit.

Virtual Connection.


Voice { Circuit | Channel }

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

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

Virtual-Crystal Approximation.

Voltage-Controlled Amplifier.

Vision Council of America.

Veterinary College Admission Test.

Verification Coordinating Committee. (NATO acronym.)

Virtual Channel Connections.

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

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

Voltage-Controlled Current Source.

Vibrational Circular Dichroism.

Variational Cumulant Expansion (method for statistical mechanics).

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

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

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

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

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

Vigiliae christianae. A journal catalogued in TOCS-IN.

Virtual Channel Identifier. (Same as VPCI.)

Virtual Circuit Identifier.

Virtual Connection Identifier.

Villanova [University] Center for Information Law and Policy.

Visual Communication and Image Processing.

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

When it was new, it was also called NVCJD.

Vibrating Coil Magnetometer.

Vinyl Chloride Monomer. The monomer that polymerizes to PVC.

Volatile Condensed Material.

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

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

Video-Cassette Recorder (and player).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia Commonwealth University.

Voltage-Controlled Voltage Source.

Voltage-Controlled Crystal Oscillator.

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

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

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

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

Vapor Deposition.

Venereal Disease. Now STD.

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

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

Virtual Device Coordinates.

Volts DC. Term parallel to VAC and ADC.

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

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

Video Display Editor.

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

Virtual Disk File Manager.

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


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

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

Vertical Double-diffused MOS power transistor.

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

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

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

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

Virtual DMA Service[s].

Video Display Terminal.

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

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

Visual Display Unit.

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

(Domain code for) Venezuela.

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

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

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

Virtual Environment[s].

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis.

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

Veep, veep
Vice President.

Attends state funerals overseas and breaks ties in the Senate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quickie FAQ:

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

Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor.

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

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


Latin conjunction meaning `or.'

Vela. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

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

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

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


vel sim.
Latin for `or similar.'


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

`Voluntary' Early Retirement.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Try Virgil.

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

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

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

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

Cf. vermilion.

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

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

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

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

Vehicle Emissions Reduction Responsibility.

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


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

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

very eligible
Personalsese: `desperate.'

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

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

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

Vocational English as a Second Language.

Review and approve.


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

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

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

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

Vanity Fair. The magazine used this abbreviation on the cover of its June 2003 issue, in a tease, or whatever it's called. They've probably used it other times, but I never noticed. The reason I noticed this time was that I looked at the cover. This cover had a picture of Drew Barrymore. I've studied pictures of Drew Barrymore before, even frequently, so you can imagine that I was bored and ignored the magazine. Well, you can imagine it -- I didn't say you believed it. I was intrigued, in fact, because she was wearing a warm knit top yet she was sitting in the wet surf on the beach. I searched the cover for some explanation. Maybe it was the May issue.

The earliest use I'm aware of, of the name ``Vanity Fair'' itself, is in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. That book, very popular in colonial America, is an extended allegory of a man making his progress toward Christian salvation. One of the stops along the way is Vanity Fair, which seems at first to be a fun festival, but turns out on closer inspection to be an occasion of many small degradations and hidden sadness (so I recall, less than three centuries after reading the book). Vanity Fair is the world in microcosm. Thackeray chose the name for a famous novel set during the Napoleonic wars.

Ventricular Fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation is twitching, ineffective heart beats. It's not exactly a stopped heart, but it has about the same effect, so it's called cardiac arrest. About a quarter million Americans suffer cardiac arrest each year. Spontaneous recovery from this condition is not common. Survival depends on the use of a defibrillator, which uses a strong electric shock to try to get the heart going again. (The current is passed between two paddles applied to the chest.) Defibrillation works best within the first three minutes. Survival probability declines by roughly seven to ten per cent with each minute of delay; there is little hope after ten minutes. In the US in the year 2000, cardiac-arrest survival rates were estimated at between 2% and 5%, reflecting the delay in applying a defibrillator in almost all cases. Most defibrillators are located in hospitals, but they are also available by prescription for those at high risk of cardiac arrest. That prescription runs about $2500 to $4000, but what's the alternative?

In September 2000, an FAA rule took effect giving airlines three years to train its flight attendants to use portable defibrillators and put the devices -- smaller versions of the ones in ER's -- on all planes configured to carry 30 passengers or more. The devices weigh about five pounds, and nonmedical personal are usually certified with five or six hours of training.

Two studies in the October 26, 2000 issue of the NEJM reported good results with portable public defibrillators. The survival rate in a study of their use in airplanes was 40%. In a similar study in casinos, the rate was 53%, a number whose wider significance is discussed in this glossary.

Vienna Fortran. A Fortran extension which can handle distributed memory across multiple processors.

Voice Frequency.

Volunteer Fireman. ``VF'' appears in a little shield outline on NY state licence plates.

One of Kurt Vonnegut's books (Rosewater, I think) eulogizes volunteer firemen as embodying the true spirit of greatness in America.

Volatile Fatty Acid.

Vienna Fortran Compilation System. (An interactive system that automatically translates a dusty deck of Vienna Fortran (VF) to explicitly parallelized Message Passing Fortran.)

Vanishing Fiber Diameter. Metal Matrix Composite (MMC) Model suggested by G. J. Dvorak and Y. A. Bahei-El-Din, in ``Elastic-Plastic Behavior of Fibrous Composites,'' Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, 27, pp. 51-72 (1979). [Bahei-El-Din's Ph.D. dissertation work at Duke.]

Vacuum Fluorescent Display.

Variable Frequency Drive.

ViaFers Federalas svizras. Romansch name of Swiss (.ch) national railway. The acronyms in all the other languages also consist of one double letter and one single:

Ventricular FIBrillation. Discussed at VF.

Variable Frequency Oscillator.

Verein für Raumschiffahrt. German, `Society for Spaceship Travel.' An organization founded by nine men in a Breslau restaurant on 5 June 1927, and lasting for six years. Freeman Dyson cited this as the founding event in the history of space travel, in a lecture before the German and Austrian Physical Societies in Salzburg. [That's according to The Curve of Binding Energy by John McPhee (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973, 1974), p. 178.]

In those days, much of my family was living in Breslau, but the men generally went in for things like the Society for Rowboat Travel, however named. Once when my mom was a little girl, one of Graf Zeppelin's airships came to town, docking at an airfield that really was not much more than a marshy field. My mother wanted to wear her nice patent-leather shoes to this important event, but her mother didn't want her to. The ensuing argument delayed them so long that my mom never got to see the Zeppelin.

There was a joke going around after the shock of Sputnik in 1957 -- the President of the United States called in his experts and asked ``What happened? How did the Russians get so far ahead of us in rocket technology?'' His advisors answered:

``Their Germans were better than our Germans.''

Wernher von Braun was a member of the VfR as an engineering student in Berlin. More von Braun content at the V2 entry.

Visual Flight Rules. Contrast with IFR.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the FAA banned VFR aviation over thirty US metropolitan areas. Aviation security legislation passed that Autumn included provisions for the lifting of those bans. In any event, on December 19 the FAA lifted the ban on most of those areas.

On that day also, firefighters stopped pouring water on the rubble at ground zero (the wreckage of the WTC), believing that the fire was finally, after 100 days, extinguished.

V. Fudge
Vanilla Fudge. Not an odd name for a rock group.

Veterans of Foreign Wars. US military veterans' organization. Not the only one: there's also AmVets, the American Legion, and others, but they don't seem to want to talk about each other.

Video for (Microsoft) Windows.

Visual eFfeCtS.

Vacuum Generators. A brand of MBE.

Very Good.

Voice Grade. Cable quality designation. Cf. RG.

Voltage Gain.

Video Graphics {Array | Adapter | Accelerator} Monitor standard. Up to 16 bits of color on 640 × 480 screen for IBM compatibles. Successor of EGA. Most cards offer some extension or other, typically up to 24 bits of color at lower resolutions, which is called SVGA (super VGA), but there is not yet an SVGA standard.

Variable-Gain Amplifier.

Virtual Gameboy. Freeware for emulating Nintendo Gameboy on a PC. There's similar freeware (Genecyst) for Sega's GameGear/Master System. You can download either or both at the home of the ROMulan Empire.

Very Good Condition.

German, vergleich. `Compare.' Functions like confer cf.

Vergleich. German `comparison.'

Very Good-Looking.

Vienna Group for Multiple-valued Logics. (Limited stuff.)

Video Graphics Network Adapter.

Van Hove.

Video Hits. Video Hits One in 1985 as a sister station of MTV. The idea was to tap in to the senior demographic -- ``senior'' as in high school seniors and other old people. They avoided rap and played the music of people like Elton John and Diana Ross. In a world where people pay money to watch barely prolate artists talk rap music, you'd suppose VH-1 (written VH1 since 1994) might have been able to scrape up some video material from the pre-video music era. (Heck, Dean Martin had a video of ``Since I Met You, Baby'' that got so much MTV airplay that I actually saw it.) I don't know how or what they managed, but eventually they drifted away from videos, as MTV did. One of VH1's programs is Behind The Music. Here's what Joe Queenan had to say about it in his book, Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation:
I will be the first to admit that I enjoy watching a weekly show where I find out that the guys from bands like Whitesnake or Kiss or Grand Funk Railroad wasted all their money on limos or women or drugs or all of the above and are now pasting up billboards or doing time or dead. But I hate it when they announce that they're going back to the studio, that they're planning a limited tour, that they're coming back. To me, the whole appeal of the show is to be reminded how terrific the present is precisely because none of these people are in it.

VH2 was a British sister channel of VH1. The main source of income for the channel was ringtone advertising. (My mind rejects this fact; I can't get even get it inside my head temporarily. I'm only just able to move it from one web resource onto this page. Thanks be to cut'n'paste.) Although everyone agrees that VH2 achieved a nonnegative audience share, the business model was apparently not cutting it in 2006, and on August 1, MTV2 was closed to make way for MTV Flux.

Volatile Hazardous Air Pollutant. I dunno: it seems to me that if it's volatile and hazardous, it already stands to reason that it's an air pollutant.

Vietnam Helicopter CrewMembers Association.

Video High Density (videodisc). One hour per side. Available in both NTSC as well as the similar PAL format, but only used in Japan.

VHSIC HDL. A mutual support group called VHDL UK offers an explanation.

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. ``May we live long and die out.'' Nothing to do with this other HEMT. They're serious, in a certain sense.

Very High Frequency (30-300 MHz). This includes television channels (2-13 in the US) and the standard commercial FM audio broadcast band right around 100 MHz, as you know if you look at your radio dial or display.

In the North American scheme, VHF channels are allocated in three smaller band segments within VHF: 2-4, 5-6, and 7-13, and the separation between adjacent subbands is smaller than the separation between adjacent channels within each subband. In other words, the frequency separation between channels 4 and 5, and between 6 and 7, is larger than those between other nominally adjacent channels.

Vietnam Helicopter Flight Crew Network.

Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association.

VHS, vHs, VHs
Van Hove Singularity.

Video Home System, developed by Matsushita and JVC. The videocassette that survived. Other systems fought it out (Phillips's Video 2000 system; SONY's Betamax --which staggers on).

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia. An infectious viral disease of fish. It's deadly to many fish species, but not harmful to humans. VHS was traditionally a disease of freshwater fish on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the US and the Atlantic coast of Europe. Starting in 2005, a previously unknown strain of VHS was found in the Great Lakes, the Saint Lawrence River and various smaller inland lakes.

Very High Speed Integrated Circuit[s]. Pronounced ``vissick.''

Vehicle-Hours of Travel.

VH-1, VH1
See this VH entry.

See this VH entry.

Verb Intransitive. An intransitive verb is a verb that is not transitive. Not now anyway. Since a transitive verb (v.t.) is one that takes a direct object, an intransitive verb is one that doesn't. But it might take an indirect object.

VIsual editor. The most standard full-screen text editor in Unix.

Here's an FAQ.


It's not pronounced `six' and it's not supposed to be pronounced `vai.' It's `vee eye.' (Vai is the name of a West African syllabary.)

An introduction and a reference manual can be found here.

See also vim (a freeware vi clone).

And just in case you missed it the last time: It's not pronounced `six' and it's not supposed to be pronounced `vai'! It's `vee eye.' For further clarification, visit a pronunciation guide for unix.

Vibration Isolation.

(US) Virgin Islands. USPS abbreviation. Also USVI. Here's a nice promotional site.

The Villanova Center for Information Law and Policy serves a page of US Virgin Islands territorial government links.

VI also stands for six, which sounds like sex. A natural thought about virgin islands.

Intentional ``vertical'' electrical connection in planar-processed (IC) circuit. A conductor connecting different metallization levels through a hole in SiO2 or other dielectric. I've only ever heard it pronounced with the first vowel stressed and pronounced as a ``long e'' (/i:/ in the IPA), and the second vowel a shwa. Somehow that seems natural for a noun (or maybe it just seems natural to a Spanish-speaker), even though the preposition via (`by way of, by means of') is also pronounced with a ``long i'' instead of ``long e.'' In other words, it's pronounced like the Canadian VIA (infra).

Short name of VIA Rail Canada. VIA is Canada's national passenger-train operator, like Amtrak in the US. (Huh! Whaddaya know: there's a passenger-rail carrier in the US.) Although written in block capitals, VIA is not an acronym. (``How dare they do this?'' is not one of the ten most frequently asked questions answered at the VIA website.) The nonacronym is pronounced ``VEE-uh'' in English, and not ``VIE-uh.'' Cf. via.

Visual Inspection with Acetic acid. A cheap alternative to the Pap smear, promoted for use in developing countries. Also referred to as visual inspection, direct visual inspection (DVI), and acetic acid test (AAT).

Verein der Ingenieur AgronomInnen und der LebensmittelingenieurInnen. (Capitalization sic.) Basically, this means `Society of Engineer Agronomists and Nutrition Engineers.' However, agent nouns in German generally come in different male and female forms. There was a time (in German as in many other European languages) when you could simply use the male forms, and depending on context those forms would be understood as either strictly male or not. The clumsy alternative is to give both forms, and VIAL did that too: ``Der Fachverein der Ingenieur Agronominnen und -Agronomen und der Lebensmittelingenieurinnen und - ingenieure (VIAL) heisst Dich an der ETH Zürich und am Departement für Agrar- und Lebensmittelwissenschaften (D-AGRL) herzlich willkommen.'' [`The professional society of female and male Engineer Agronomists and of Nutrition Engineers female and male (VIAL) bids You a hearty welcome to the ETH Zürich and to the Department of Agronomic and Nutrition Science (D-AGRL).'] Gag me with a ladle. You probably noticed that they used the outrageously antediluvian ``ladies first'' order... twice! This proves that the writers are disgusting unreconstructed sexists.

However, either to conserve Ink or In a baldly insincere effort to be politically correcter than thou, the standard expansion of VIAL (given at the top of this entry) uses only the female forms of the agent nouns and capitalizes the first letter of the suffixes that indicate gender. It's like writing ``hostEsses'' to mean ``hosts and hostesses.'' Further curmudgeonly ruminations on this sort of stuff can be found at the gender-inclusive and CLC-CTC entries.

Incidentally, the capitalization of the pronoun dich is conventional. (Dich is the singular familiar form of `you' in the accusative case, cognate with English thee.) In letters and some other texts, German capitalizes all second-person pronouns. (First-person pronouns -- like ich [`I'] -- are not capitalized except as required by other grammatical rules: at the beginning of a sentence, say, or in noun use such as Freud's ``das Ich'' [`the ego'].)

The formal second-person pronouns are always capitalized. I suppose that one reason it occurred to me to mention this is the pronoun Ihnen, the formal second-person personal pronoun. It has (as the spelling indicates) the long i vowel instead of the short one that occurs in the feminizing suffix discussed above (plural form -innen). So these don't sound entirely the same, as they also do not quite look the same. [I refer to standard German pronunciation. Educated native speakers of German from Switzerland and southern Germany are effectively bilingual in the rather different standard and home dialects. (The phenomenon is known as diglossia.) Vowel quantity distinctions are different in the local German.] Anyway, a quick reading of the acronym expansion above nevertheless gives the impression of `Society of Engineer Agronomist-to-you and Nutrition Engineer-to-you.' (Needless to say, the word ``engineer,'' with its cognates, is used here as an aggrandizing courtesy title, as in the euphemism ``sanitation engineer'' for garbage collector.)

For your convenience, the organization has changed its name to SVIAL.

Value Inquiry Book Series. An international scholarly program founded in 1992. It publishes philosophical works in all areas of value inquiry. (That's values as in ethical, moral, and political values.) It's published by Editions Rodopi, Amsterdam and New York, and the package is sometimes confusingly written as ``VIBS-RODOPI.''

Did the thought even cross your mind that maybe you should see what VIBS means? (Sorry, bad day.)

Volcano Information Center. ``The purpose of [VIC] is to provide links to websites that are resources for data not contained in VIC and to inform the user about general volcanology in an organized way, including features of volcanoes, volcanic eruptions and volcanic hazards.''

`in place of.' Latin.

Brand of cough remedies and stuff.

Voluntary Inter-industry Commerce Standard for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

Victoria Day
Not a famous member of the Day family, but a public holiday in Canada. I've encountered slightly conflicting information in my sources on the history of this holiday, so the next two paragraphs should be regarded as provisional.

Queen Victoria's birthday (May 24) was declared a holiday by the legislature of the united Canadas in 1845. It continued to be celebrated after Confederation in 1867, but in years when this fell on a Sunday, a proclamation was issued moving the celebration to the following Monday (viz., May 25). (Between 1845 and the end of the nineteenth century, I am pretty sure that May 24 fell on a Sunday in 1846, 1857, 1863, 1868, 1874, 1885, 1891, and 1896.)

The year she died (1901), the Canadian Parliament established the anniversary of her birth as a holiday. This continued until 1952. Since then, Victoria Day has been celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, which means that it can fall as early as May 18. I hate that kind of rule. Some dates you just know, and it feels silly to be celebrating almost a week early or late.

Victoria Day is celebrated primarily in parts of the British Commonwealth whose names begin with C: Canada, the Cayman Islands, and Caledonia. Regarding the last: it's actually celebrated in scattered parts of Scotland. When the Scots finally gain the complete partial independence they want -- complete self-government plus representation at Westminster, taxes no, subsidies yes -- I imagine they will celebrate not celebrating Victoria Day.

The famous Days I alluded to in the first sentence of the entry are Doris and Dorothy. Dorothy Day co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement with Peter Maurin in 1933. They advocated inefficient means of production (``worthy labor'').

Doris Day was a real famous actress, but she wasn't a real Day. She was born Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff and changed her name to Doris Day at the suggestion of band leader Barney Rapp sometime in the late 1930's. The name occured to him after he heard her sing ``Day by Day.'' Her signature song, however, was ``Que Sera, Sera.'' [That's the English spelling, by the way. In Spanish it's ``Que Será, Será.'' Any way you choose or look at it, though, her song involves two of something simple.]

A member of the Day family who is famous in Canada is Stockwell. He led the Canadian Alliance Party to second place in Canada's federal elections in November 2000. Canadian election campaigns are not perpetual, as in the US, but instead last only about a month. This might be going too far in the direction of brevity, leading to problems with name recognition. In the November 2000 campaign, Stockwell Day had only been party leader since July. A voter interviewed in Winnipeg, who said he couldn't vote for (Liberal leader) Jean Chrétien, was asked if he knew about Stockwell Day. He hesitated, and then asked ``when is it?'' Journalists live for these moments; they probably interviewed thousands of confused-looking street people just so they wouldn't have to make the story up. Therefore, I imagine that they also asked the obvious follow-up question, but that the interviewee did know about Victoria Day.

Even without the help of journalists, Stockwell Day kept his political performance well-stocked with opportunities for ridicule. (I make no claim regarding the fairness of the ridicule.) Two weeks before the election, a CBC-TV show called ``This Hour Has 22 Minutes'' found an amusing way to ridicule a CA reform proposal. As outlined in briefing books distributed to Alliance candidates, the proposal was that a petition by 3% of the electorate could force a national referendum on any issue, such as abortion, capital punishment, or immigration, or less pressing issues. On the show, comedian Rick Mercer urged viewers to log onto This Hour's website and subscribe to the proposition ``that the government of Canada force Stockwell Day to change his first name to Doris.''

That 3% threshold then amounted to a bit under 400,000 voters. (I guess only registered voters count towards the electorate, and not those eligible to vote who might yet register in time.) The show has about a million viewers, the proposition was apparently popular with many of those viewers, and Canada is certainly among the most Internet-active countries. At one point, ``signatures'' were accumulating at a rate of 10,000 per hour, and in a few days the 400,000 threshold was far exceeded. It doubtless helped that there was no mechanism to prevent anyone from registering the same name and email address two or two hundred times. As the show's full name suggests, they might even be quantitatively challenged. Confusion can arise. Chrétien, who made the Day-name proposition part of his own campaigning, had occasional trouble getting the program name straight. At one rally, he called the show ``This Hour has 22 Hours'' until he was corrected by the audience. Later, at a MuchMusic interview, he tried ``This Hour has 20-20 minutes?''

Obviously, Canadian culture doesn't get any respect -- at least from some people. In fact, if you're an American, this is the first time you've heard of any of these people or events. They took place in C-A-N-A-D-A, a neighboring country. Canadian news is not reported in the US. Canadians consider Americans' inattention to Canada deplorable, either because it is inappropriate or because it is appropriate. Anyway, even without the news black-out, that month there was a riveting distraction stateside that sucked up the limited supplies of American attention: a close presidential election that took about four years to resolve.

Meanwhile back in Canada, Stockwell Day was getting walloped on the Doris issue. After a few days of this he decided to roll with the punches. The political counteroffensive seems to have begun on the Alliance campaign plane, which he'd dubbed ``Prayer Force One.'' (Hey, have I said anything about ridicule opportunities yet? I'll have to remember to mention that. Stockwell Day was made Minister of Public Safety in Stephen Harper's government.) Shortly after the plane took off on a flight from Edmonton to Brandon, Doris Day's voice came on over the intercom, singing ``Que Será, Será.'' Then Stockwell Day came dancing and singing into the section of the plane where reporters and cameramen were wearing their safety belts and facing their air-sickness bags. When they learned about this, the estimated 8.3 Americans who keep abreast of Canadian events all had the same horrifying flashback: Reform Party founder and presidential candidate H. Ross Perot dances to Patsy Cline's ``Crazy,'' election night 1996.

Shudder. Let's move on. Victoria Day is a Canadian holiday commemorating Queen Victoria's birthday or Monday, whichever comes sooner. We've covered Canada, now let's do Alexandrina Victoria. Crown Princess Victoria was 12 in August 1831 when, during parliamentary discussion of a grant to the Duchess of Kent (her mother), there was a suggestion that her name be changed to Elizabeth as something ``more accordant to the feelings of the people.'' There seems to have been some powerful support behind the idea, but the moment must have passed. In 1836, King William IV approved of a proposal to change it to Charlotte. To Victoria's delight and my relief, the proposal was dropped. ``The Charlottean Era'' doesn't have the same ring. The teenage princess acceded to the throne the very next year, and in 1840 married her beloved Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In a future episode of this entry, I will relate the Kaiser's clever remark when he heard about the House of Windsor. If you can't wait, you can read it now at the UK entry.

Some Days not mentioned in the foregoing entry are mentioned at this other Day-related entry.

Village Independent Democrats. A political group in Greenwich Village in New York City (NYC). Originally a liberal reformist faction within the Tawana Club, which latter was the local clubhouse for Tammany Hall. Edward Koch got his start in politics there, making street-corner speeches for Adlai Stevenson (AES) in the 1956 campaign. In 1962 he ran unsuccessfully for the NY State Assembly. His three main campaign planks were
  1. repeal of state criminal laws against Sodomy
  2. relaxation of prohibitions on Abortion
  3. making Divorce easier

Even in Greenwich Village, this was known as the SAD campaign.

The famous writer Gore Vidal was born Eugene Luther Vidal, in 1925, into an upper-class, well-connected family, and he grew up to be an enfant terrible. He idolized his maternal grandfather, Thomas P. Gore, for many decades the senior US Senator from Oklahoma.

He seems to have a talent for putting words in other peoples' mouths that they didn't say.


French adjective `empty' or noun `vacuum.' Vide etiam vide.

Latin imperative `see.' (Plural form is videte. I suppose that could come in handy in church.) Commonly used as an instruction to visit another part of a book or work. Suetonius, in sec. 37 of his Lives of the Caesars, claimed that Julius Caesar said ``veni, vidi, vici'' (`I came, I saw, I conquered'). Maybe he did, but JC was murdered in 44 BCE, and Suetonius was born in 69 CE.


vide ante
Latin, `see before.' Isn't it too late for that?! (Used synonymously with vide supra.)


vide etiam
Latin `see also.' Used with and like vide. I think some things are obvious. If you want a bit of citation Latin that isn't so obvious, try ibid. Vide etiam vid. id.


vid. id.
Vide idem. Latin for `see also.' This is not a common Latin abbreviation. In fact, considering how bad my Latin is, vide idem may not even be Latin. But let's face it: vide etiam has had its chance, and it just hasn't caught fire.


vide infra
See below.


vide infra
Latin meaning `see below.' Commonly used as an instruction to look further down the page or later in the book. So it's kind of bookish. But you could work it into normal conversation as an instruction to look down. Vide vide. Vide etiam vide etiam. Vide vide supra (infra). There's also a vide post (vide post). And of course q.v. (q.v.).


`I see' in Latin. See veo.

The Buggles had a huge international hit in 1979 with ``Video Killed The Radio Star.'' On August 1, 1981, the video for this song became the first ever aired by MTV.

video encoding
There are three widely used standards: NTSC, PAL, and SECAM (qq.v.). NTSC is standard in most of the Americas and in Japan, SECAM is the standard in France and the former Soviet empire; PAL is used in the German-speaking countries, Australia, the UK, and probably in most other non-Francophone countries of the Eastern hemisphere, but check before you buy.

The definitions of the standards are general enough to allow, in principle, for arbitrary screen resolutions and field rates. In practice, however, each standard is used primarily in one mode: NTSC mostly uses 525 lines/frame and 60 Hz (i.e., 30 frames/sec); PAL and SECAM mostly use 625 lines/frame and 50 Hz. (Vide line frequency.) There are exceptions, however: Brazil uses PAL with 525 lines and 60 Hz (``PAL-M''). [The frame rate is half the stated frequency because alternate lines are interleaved: in successive raster scans the odd and even lines are rewritten alternately. This produces smoother-looking motion.]

It is not necessary that the frame rate equal the line frequency or divide it evenly or, in fact, that it have any particular numerical relation to it. For example, in 60 Hz NTSC encoding, a color sync signal is ``squeezed in'' by sending frames very-slightly-less frequently: the frame rate is 59.94 Hz.

The reason for using a frame rate equal to about half the line frequency is to minimize the effects of power line interference. For example, if power-line interference causes the image intensity to increase every 1/60th of a second and the frame rate is 30 per second, then the brightness is distorted at a fixed place on the screen. If the frame rate were 24/sec, common for movie film, then the bright region would drift up the screen (for a screen image that was scanned top-to-bottom). Note that the brightness distortion appears at one height rather than two, even though the frame rate is only half the frequency of the distortion signal; this is because of the way images are interleaved: at 30 frames per second, a full-screen image is projected every sixtieth of a second, but only at half density: odd and even lines are scanned alternately. A kind of line-frequency interference is seen in TV pictures of TV pictures: Given the 50 Hz that is prevalent in Europe, American television images recorded optically (i.e. by training a camera on a European screen) will show a pattern moving downward across the screen.

In Japan, which uses NTSC, half the country uses 50 Hz and half the country uses 60 Hz line voltage.

In addition to video encoding scheme, the broadcast encoding (audio signal) varies. PAL-I, -B, and -G are all PAL 625/50, but while -B is commonly used for VHF, for UHF Germany and the UK use -I, while Australia uses -G. [PAL-I uses 6 MHz sound-vision spacing; PAL-B uses 5.5 MHz (there are minor differences in the size of the vestigial sideband as well).]

Virtual Interactive Design of Electronic and Optoelectronic Systems. A programme for ``innovative methods for high fidelity computational modelling of the next generation of optoelectronic and electronic devices and systems using state-of-the-art parallel processing and network access across the Internet.'' Research conducted under a University of Glasgow / University of Strathclyde joint SHEFC-funded Research Development Grant.


vide post
Latin, `see after.' Commonly used expression synonymous with vide infra. Well, not especially common. To be perfectly honest, it's been years since I read any of these vide directions in anything I didn't write myself. I'm starting to get lonely.


vide supra
Latin, `see above.' Commonly used (yeah, sure) as an instruction to look up the page or earlier in the book. Why don't you go to the vide entry (vide supra) and read down from there, just to make sure you didn't miss anything.


vide supra
See above.

Not the name of a text editor. Try vi, pronounced `vee-eye.'

The Fleetwood Mac song is called ``Rhiannon.'' It only sounds like ``Vienna.'' For more on such mondegreens, see the deconstruction entry. Sorry, that's just how the glossary is organized. Be grateful I at least placed a cross-reference here.

Food for thought if you have a hard time imagining how speakers of East Asian languages might have difficulty distinguishing /r/ and /l/. Note also that in Czech, the sound we write zh (the s in measure and vision) is written with a hachek on r. And spare a thought (a nasty one; something involving their ancestors) for those who pronounce régime as ``rih-JEEM'' with the j of Jim.

viewers like you
People who, unlike you, contributed to public broadcast stations (directly, not just by paying taxes). As best I have been able to estimate, there are in fact only five ``viewers like you'' in the entire country (John, Dee, Catherine, Tee, and MacArthur). They're rich, they use pseudonyms, and they were surprised when Alistair Cooke stayed dead instead of rising again. [If you don't know what I'm talking about, it may be that you haven't had a moment to watch US public TV anytime these past forty years. Don't be embarrassed: most people haven't. To get up to speed, just visit our convenient PBS entry, particularly the bit after CPB is mentioned.]

Cooke was originally named Alfred, but changed his name to Alistair because that's more pretentious. In Britain, Alistair Cooke was known for LfA, which I'm not going to define here so you might as well make up your mind to follow the link. In the US, Cooke had a long-time gig as the introducer-shill for episodes of a made-for-BBC-TV drama series called ``Masterpiece Theatre.'' Masterpiece Theatre had a thick patina of culcha, but was so extremely tedious that only viewers like you and the terminally pretentious elite could bear to watch it, and that only for pride. It was the Emperor's New Clothes of television. A few high-speed car chases and some nudity would have improved the claustrophobic, dreary ``Upstairs, Downstairs'' immensely. MT-watching was a leading cause of depression, alcoholism, and suicide in the pretentious classes, so let's have more of it.

VIsualization Graphics Library. A distributed graphics library built using Tcl/Tk. Described in U.C. Berkeley Technical Report CSD-93-764, 1993. I'm not surprised that link is dead.

VIrtual Gap States. Appear at semiconductor heterointerfaces in Jerry Tersoff's theory of band line-ups in non-reacting interfaces [Phys. Rev. B 30, 4874 (1984).]

Virus de Inmunodeficiencia Humana, virus d'immunodéficience humaine. Spanish and French, respectively, for `Human Immunodeficiency Virus' (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS.

Also spelled ``villain'' and a bunch of other ways. Middle English spelling was not at all standardized. Once, the word referred to a member of the wealthiest class of peasant, typically cultivating scattered plots totaling maybe 20-40 acres.

According to Barbara Tuchman's book about the terrible fourteenth century, however, the term referred to any kind of peasant, although it excluded serfs. Over time, of course, the term took an increasingly negative connotation, and then denotation, as it came to have its current meaning.

In origin, the word simply referred to someone from a ville.

Vendor Independent Messaging.

Vi IMproved. A freeware vi work-alike with many additional features.

Vocabulaire international des termes fondamentaux et généraux de métrologie. `International Vocabulary of Basic and General Terms in Metrology. Published by ISO, every decade or so now. Here's the April 2004 draft document.

vim and vigor
Vigor and vigor.

Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer. An instrument on NASA's Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan. It seems like ``mission'' in almost any context is a euphemism for spying.

Vacuum Induction Melting/Vacuum ARc furnace. Refers to a standard double-melt process for making a high-purity stainless steel for use in semiconductor process gas lines and mass-flow controllers (MFC's). The resulting material is relatively inexpensive and not especially hard to machine, and fairly proof against reactions with pyrophoric gases (i.e. silane) and corrosive ones (hydrogen halides), and has a low density of the surface sites that might collect the seeds of future destruction from inert gases (nitrogen, hydrogen, argon). Its greatest weakness is in protection against corrosive gases.

Vehicle Identification Number. Seventeen characters, required by 49 CFR 565. (Title 49 is transportation law; section 565... uh, I can't find.) The characters can be numbers or (upper case) letters. I can't tell the zeros from the ohs.

The tenth character indicates the year:
CodeYear CodeYear CodeYear
A1980 L1990 Y2000
B1981 M1991 12001
C1982 N1992 22002
D1983 P1993 32003
E1984 R1994 42004
F1985 S1995 52005
G1986 T1996 62006
H1987 V1997 72007
J1988 W1998 82008
K1989 X1999 92009

Hmmm. It looks like they gave some thought to the distinguishability problem.

VIN is pronounced as an acronym sensu strictu (i.e., pronounced as a word, like laser) and also as an initialism (``vee eye en''). The acronym form often occurs as an AAP pleonasm. You could suppose it served as the model for ``PIN number,'' if heedlessness needed a model. Pronounced as an initialism, it is probably less likely to become (the corresponding entity) an a.-a.p. pleonasm. This unuseful paragraph is the electronic equivalent of motormouth -- just so you know.

This is a traditional ``retained'' name for a simple unsaturated alkyl radical. In the ``standard'' IUPAC system, this is ethenyl:

In common usage, `vinyl' is polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic.

The most prominent use of vinyl, for many years, was in audio discs called ``records,'' based on a largely mechanical analog encoding. Hence ``vinyl'' was used as an uncountable noun equivalent to records. Expressions like ``record company'' and ``gold record'' continue in use, but the physical medium used for storing and selling new music is now rarely ``records.'' For a different kind of record altogether, see the AREA entry.

What you get from vinyl when you remove the one of the hydrogens from the carbon that's got two:

As written, this is a free radical. More commonly, the radical is bonded and ``vinylene'' refers to the CHCH functional group. One can't say that vinylene double-bonds, and its two bonds would each normally be sigma-type. Note, however, that in a molecule like cyclopropene (C3H4), both single bonds of a vinylene group are to the same atom (carbon, in this case).

The IUPAC-approved name is ethenylene, but no one really cares. All that matters is what Chemical Abstracts prefers.

What you get from vinyl when you remove the single hydrogen from the carbon that's only got one to lose:

As written, this is a free radical. More commonly, the radical is bonded (either double-bonded or twice single-bonded) and ``vinylidene'' refers to the CH2C functional group.

Perhaps you've wondered why parking meters have a yellow ``VIOLATION'' flag, in addition to the red ``EXPIRED,'' since in ordinary use the yellow flag is only visible (if ever) while coins are added. The yellow flag is just an out-of-order sign. Meters are designed so that the most common failure modes (jamming by a slug, for example) will bring up this flag. It says ``VIOLATION'' instead of ``Out of Order'' because it's a parking violation to park at a metered space with a malfunctioning meter.

Most people are unaware of this, and municipalities have evidently begun (after a few short decades' delay) to make the system less mysterious. One approach is to use a longer, more explicit message than ``violation.'' Another, which I saw in the visitor parking meters at Purdue Calumet in August 1997, is making the VIOLATION flags the same color as the EXPIRED flags. Definitely check it out!

All the puns I've ever heard about dogma and karma involve the latter running over the former, and never the former chasing the latter.

Illumination engineers generally take the optical spectrum as the range of wavelengths between 380 nm and 760 nm. Yeah, that's one octave. The sensitivity to light at the edges of the spectrum falls off continuously, so the edge of the spectrum is somewhat arbitrary. The precise value of 760 nm probably reflects a strong desire to justify prejudices described at the Roy G. Biv entry. One of those is to have the spectral lights extend across one octave. The other prejudice is the desire to have seven color ranges, corresponding to a musical scale of eight notes in an octave. Hence the term ``violet'' is assigned the range 380-420 nm, and ``indigo'' the range 420-440 nm. This is very silly. If measured in terms of smallest perceptible difference, the entire range of indigo and violet spectral lights combined is roughly one twentieth the range of blue spectral lights (physically 440-490 nm). That is, there are twenty times as many distinguishable shades of blue in the spectrum as there are shades of indigo and violet combined.

Very Important Person. Pronounced in Russian as ``veep,'' which, when you think of it, is sort of ironic. Motown used to own a label called V.I.P., which was also sort of ironic, since it was used for less-successful acts that didn't rate one of the higher-prestige labels (Motown, Gordy, Tamla, and Soul).


From what I can tell, ``very important personage'' was about as common an expression in the nineteenth century as ``very important person,'' and a novel published in 1946 gives ``very important personage'' as the expansion of V.I.P. (see the BF entry), but I think that today, the -age expansion is very aged indeed.

Very Important Playboys. In September 1963, long-time FBI director J. Edgar Hoover received an invitation from the New York Playboy Club, courtesy of HMH himself. The invitation included a complimentary club key, and the V.I.P. room was commended to Mr. Hoover's attention, but even he would have to call ahead for reservations. He had other reservations and never went. As a boy growing up in the 1930's, HMH describes himself as having been a fan.

We have the preceding important information thanks to files released to APBNews.com under the FOIA. They also got some feedback from Hef, available in stream format at the site. He recalled ruefully that as a boy growing up in the 1930's, he had admired the FBI. A NYTimes article (page 7 of the October 8, 2000 Week In Review) picked up the story and mentions the apbnews item as a source; I'm not sure the NYT did any actual reporting beyond that. APBNews, also accessible at the domain apb.com, specializes primarily in crime and justice news, secondarily in safety issues. I had a hard time finding APBnews's Hoover/Hefner story with their search function, but I did learn about FBI vigilance to protect us all from Groucho Marxism. I suppose the name (apbnews, not Groucho) stems from the common police abbreviation APB.

To give the FBI devil its limited due, it was following up the groundless complaints of citizen cranks and repeatedly concluded that Groucho (which they often misspelled Graucho) Marx was not a subversive. In fact, he was a political coward, who quit some left-leaning Hollywood organizations when he heard that he was being described as a Cadillac Communist. Groucho Marx was not a Marxist.

Karl Marx once also said that he was not a Marxist. The comment is discussed in detail in Hal Draper's three-volume Karl Marx's Theory Of Revolution (1977), foreword of vol. 2, pp. 5-7. Karl Marx was objecting to the dogmatic or rigid application of his ideas by French Marxists whose discipleship he evidently did not approve. The quip was a favorite of Engels's, and it is only on his authority that we have it. Hmmm.

Eddy Mitchell and any number of others are credited with coining the witticism

Je suis marxiste -- tendance Groucho!

There was a common postage stamp in the Soviet Union, showing Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin standing shoulder to shoulder, at an angle to each other, each looking up into the inspirational distance at opposite corners of your envelope. After the fall of the Soviet Union, one of the former republics (Kazakhstan or maybe Uzbekistan, I think) issued a postage stamp that parodied that one, with Groucho Marx and John Lennon in place of Karl Marx and Lenin. One of the lyrics in Don McLean's ``American Pie'' was

And while Lennon read a book on Marx,

The FBI and the CIA investigated John Lennon more vigorously than Groucho Marx, trying to find an excuse to deport him. The FBI file on Frank Sinatra ran to 1275 pages and has been edited by Tom and Phil Kuntz into a 268-page book entitled The Sinatra Files: The Secret FBI Dossier. In one memo of that file, a G-man wrote ``Sinatra denied that he sympathized with Lenin and the Marx Brothers.'' More on Sinatra and the FBI at this point in the glossary, which for subtle reasons happens to lie within the KFC entry.

Vitiligo Information Pages. (There's a vitiligo entry in this glossary as well, so everyone can understand what an albatross it is for a cause to have a posterboy like Michael Jackson.)

Virgo. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

Virus in the blood.

Vide feudal land measure.


Publius Vergilius Maro. If interested, you might subscribe to Mantovano -- An Online, Ongoing Discussion of Virgil and His Influence.

Given Vergil's signal service guiding Dante through Hell and back, it's not surprising that an Italian internet guide is called Virgilio.

Here's the beginning of a review from 2001, of the PC video game called Virtual Pool 3:
The ``Virtual'' tag, which probably seemed kinda ``now'' when the original game appeared seven years ago, these days smells like a leftover of antiquated cyber-lingo.

This is from Videogames: The Ultimate Guide, based on reviews from Britain's best-selling game magazines. There's also an uncatty review of the original Virtual Pool, for a PS-1 platform, from February 1997. Those are the only games with names beginning in Virtual (not counting Virtua games).

After the collapse of communism in Bulgaria, epidemics of real computer viruses temporarily subsided, to be replaced by the much less virulent email virus hoaxes. Check out http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACHoaxes.html for information, including an amusing ``Good Times Spoof'' (named after the legendary ``Good Times'' virus hoax). Symantec serves a more up-to-date page of hoaxes.

Verification Interacting with Synthesis. ``[A] verification and synthesis system for finite-state hardware systems, which is being developed at Berkeley and Boulder.'' A successor to HSIS and SMV.

Vertically { Interconnected | Integrated } Sensor Arrays.

VISualization Accelerator.

VIetnamese Standard Code for Information Interchange. Gee, I wonder how they dreamed up this acronym. In English, yet. VISCII is necessary because Vietnamese is written with a large number of accented vowels, which don't fit into the usual ISO Latin-# scheme.

Volunteers In Service To America. Sort of a domestic Peace Corps.

Visual Basic
The Visual Basic Project kept moving its homepage at first. It seems to have settled down at http://www.vbproj.com/, at least since 96.11.21. There are VB FAQ's in hypertext format at OSU, associated with the comp.lang.basic.visual newsgroup.

A Latin word meaning `life.' Root of the adjective vital. If you think of the etymology, the term ``vital statistics'' makes more sense. Cf. vitamin.

VMEbus International Trade Association. ``Promoting Open Technology Solutions.''

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. Don't get your hopes up: it's just a bunch of IRS-trained volunteers who help low-income taxpayers to fill out their tax forms. They don't assist in paying the taxes.

A word introduced by Casimir Funk in a 1912 article in the Journal of State Medicine (a British journal of public health medicine published by the RIPHH). The landmark article, in vol. 20, pp. 341-68, was entitled ``The etiology of the deficiency diseases. Beri-beri, polyneuritis in birds, epidemic deopsy, scurvy, experimental scurvy in animals, infantile scurvy, ship beri-beri, pellagra.'' He wrote (p. 342)
It is now known that all these diseases, with the exception of pellagra, can be prevented and cured by the addition of certain preventive substances; the deficient substances, which are of the nature of organic bases, we will call vitamines; and we will speak of a beri-beri or scurvy vitamine, which means a substance preventing the special disease.

(Funk guessed, correctly, that pellagra was a vitamin-deficiency disease.) The neologism vitamine was self-evidently a compound of vita (Latin for `life') with -amine. The word vita is discussed at the CV entry and in detail at one A.M. entry. Its occurrence in the word vitamine was explained in an article in the Times Literary Supplement on, of all days, November 11, 1915: ``The point about vitamines is that without them the animal ceases to grow or becomes diseased on a physiologically pure diet.'' The ``physiologically pure diet'' referred to is one containing only the bulk nutrients -- protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

The amine business was a bit speculative on Funk's part. A reasonable guess, since the most common organic bases are all amines. Eventually it was recognized that not all of what Funk counted as vitamines were amines, and so the word vitamin was proposed and accepted. (A similar change could have been made in Spanish, but was not: amina is `amine' and vitamina is still the word for `vitamin.')

In English, the word vitamin is pronounced with primary accentual stress on the first syllable and perhaps some secondary stress on the last. The second and third vowels are typically shwas, but in careful pronunciation the third vowel is a short i. The first syllable has different vowels in British and American pronunciations. In Britain, the i is short; in American it's long. By ``long,'' of course, I mean that it is either the half-long i usually used before an unvoiced consonants by those who articulate different long i's, or it's just the undistinguished long i. (The half-long i is shwa followed by /i:/, the ordinary long i is /ai:/.)

Here is Edmund Wilson criticizing a practice of Van Wyck Brooks that he thinks Brooks borrowed from Léon Bazalgette.

``[Brooks] has attempted to convey the qualities of the literary personalities he deals with by compounding a kind of paste out of their writings. This paste he spreads on the page and expects it to give us the essence of his author. But, though sometimes, as in the case of an inferior figure like Longfellow, he does succeed in extracting thus a tone and a color which we should not easily catch in dipping into Longfellow himself, since it is necessary to boil down a good deal of such a poet in order to distinguish a flavor--on the other hand, with a first-rate writer like Emerson or Hawthorne or Thoreau, you simply get a sort of predigested sample which seems to have had all the vitamins taken out of it and which causes constant irritation to an admirer of these authors, because it gives the impression of a travesty that is always just off-key and off-color.

(This is from Wilson's essay ``Van Wyck Brooks's Second Phase,'' first published in the September 30, 1940 TNR, and reprinted in Classics & Commercials. Vide etiam obscure allusions.)

Vertical Interval Time Code.

The disease that turned Michael Jackson's skin pink. On the other hand, the disease that smoothed his hair, narrowed and shrank his nose, and reshaped and clefted his chin is an acute case of money. According to the Merck Manual, the medical profession knows no satisfactory treatment for the former affliction. As his then-pre-ex Lisa Marie pointed out to Diane Sawyer: ``he's an artist, he has a perfect right.''

Still, these things don't make him a babe (in the technical sense, I mean) so how those blind Limey customs agents mistook LaToya for Michael on June 30, 1995, no one will ever understand.

Flash! According to the front page of the March 12, 1996 National Examiner, MJ's skin problem has gone into spontaneous remission! Stay tuned here, where we will not be keeping you posted! Send your own damn money to Lantana, Florida!

Okay, we relent. In November 1996, Jacko married his second wife, Debbie Rowe, whom he met and had known for fifteen years as an assistant to a dermatologist who has been treating him for vitiligo. (See, this entry really is about vitiligo!) Doctor and assistant often accompanied Jackson on his tours.

In 1984, before Elton John officially emerged from the closet, he married a sound engineer in Sydney. Interviewed on the reputedly ``nice'' Rosie O'Donnell talk show after Jackson and Rowe were married in Sydney, John commented that Australia was where ``all the loonies get married.''

According to vicious rumors [i.e., rumors that if true would be embarrassing, and if not true are still embarrassing] Rowe was impregnated artificially, and the marriage has not been consummated. [This situation suggests technical issues that we will not address.] If true, this would certainly simplify the matter of divorce. California is ``a community property state.'' It's not the only one. On the other hand, there was a prenuptial agreement (this is generally presumed, and frequently even described in detail).

This entry is losing its way. I disclaim any responsibility for this situation. I have an alibi. I was away at the time.

Michael Jackson is known by some as the ``King of Pop.'' Pop here does not stand for `father.' In any case, he seems to be some kind of royalty. For the story of another royal whose marriage was unconsummated, see the Audrey entry. For the story of one recent royal who appears to have consummated an LTR that is not a marriage (not that this is unusual) see the scurrilous nonsense at Stark Effect.

Oddly enough, there's another Kriman (cousin? Boris) on the web who has more to say about the treatment of vitiligo.

See also the Vitiligo Information Pages V.I.P.

VHDL International User Forum.

Old, but try to act young. Personals ad vocabulary.

(Chicago Board Options Exchange's Market) Volatility IndeX. A/k/a ``Fear Index.'' Historically, it has been in the range of 18 to 20. In October 2008, it peaked at 89.



That is to say, namely. Commonly used to introduce examples. This expression lies ambiguously between i.e. and e.g., in the following way: The list of examples that follows it may not be an exhaustive list, in which case it means something like e.g. Alternatively, the list following it may be exhaustive or complete, from some point of view, in which case viz. means something like i.e. This expression is a good way of covering your ass when you don't understand a thing well enough to define it, but you think that you can give a list that probably covers all cases.

Viz. is an abbreviation of the Latin adverb videlicet, which originally meant something like ``clearly,'' and came from the expression videre licet, meaning ``to be able to see.'' You may ask: `where does the z come from?' What z? Oh! That z. The one in the abbreviation. Well, this may be hard to believe, but back in the Middle Ages, before the time when life started to get hectic, books were reproduced by hand. Even monks, who have centuries to work, would get writer's cramp, so they would come to another long and frequently-appearing word like videlicet, peer down towards the end of it and think: `everyone knows what the word is.' Like good sports they'd start out to write it, but by the time they'd written v i they would begin to LOSE HEART, so they'd just sort of write a squiggle that looks like a resistor in a circuit diagram, except that those things didn't exist yet. Instead, they saw that it resembled a z (especially a script z), so they got into the habit of writing v i z.

Victory over Japan. The day that Japan surrendered in 1945, ending WWII. The surrender was communicated by cable to U.S. President Harry S. Truman via the Swiss diplomatic mission in Washington, DC, on August 14 -- in the morning hours of August 15 in Japan. At noon JST, a radio broadcast to the Japanese people announced Japan's acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. Because the US was on daylight saving time and not, like Britain, on double daylight saving time, the hour of this broadcast also fell on August 14 in all parts of the US.

The term VJ Day refers variously to the date (14th or 15th) commemorated and to the day of the commemoration or celebration. Out of a perception that fairness requires a formulation parallel to ``VE Day,'' VP has been substituted for VJ. This seems to have caught on primarily in Australia.

The hyphenated forms (V-E, V-J) were common in 1945, but seem to be rare in 2005.

Video Jockey. Evidently constructed on the model of DJ (Disc Jockey).


Virginia Junior Classical League. Affiliated with the NJCL. Virginia also has a state Classical Association (CAV).

Vertical-Junction Field-Effect Transistor. That is, a FET in which the source-drain current runs parallel to the wafer surface.

Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte. A German-language history journal that might have been named `Quarterly Notes in Recent History' or not. See Stuart Jenks's page of Tables of Contents of Historical Journals and Monographic Series in German for a partial table of contents (deutsche Seite: Zeitschriftenfreihandmagazin Inhaltsverzeichnisse geschichtswissenschaftlicher Zeitschriften in deutscher Sprache).

Vehicle Kilometers Traveled.

Veronica Lodge! The black-haired beauty of Archie Comics! Her luggage is monogrammed -- her dad is rich!

Virtual Library.

Vulgar Latin. Latin as it was spoken by the uneducated masses. The language whose various local versions evolved into Romance languages.

Very Large Array. A radiotelescope consisting of twenty-seven receiving antennas (25-meter diameter dishes) mounted on railroad cars and stationed on a wye-shaped railroad 36km (22 miles) across. Located near Socorro, NM. The basic idea (in VLBI) is that while sensitivity is proportional to the receiving area of the antenna, resolution is essentially proportional to the transverse length scale of the antenna. Hence, an antenna consisting of various small dishes scattered across 36km has a resolving power comparable to a single enormous dish about 36km in diameter. The VLA's sensitivity is comparable to a single dish with the same total area -- in other words, of a single dish with diameter 25m × sqrt(27) = 130m, which is not shabby.

The VLA is operated by NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory), which serves a nice information page on it.

The SETI Institute runs a systematic search program called the Phoenix Project to find high-information radio signals from outer space. The movie Contact, with characters and search modeled on this, imagines the search successful. The Phoenix project is more interested in detecting weak signals rather than in resolving their origin precisely, so the radiotelescope at Arecibo is a better tool than the VLA (other telescopes have also been used). On the other hand, the VLA is more visually impressive, so that's the telescope featured in the movie. The VLA is also featured in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. The latter movie, a sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), was released in 1984, when the VLA was two years old.

Virtual Local Area Network.

Verzeichnis Lieferbarer Bücher. `Index of Available Books' -- the German Books-in-Print.

Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) Local Bus standard ultimately used principally on 486's. Cf. PCI.

Very Long Baseline Array. VLBI using ten 82-foot diam. dishes scattered from St. Croix to Honolulu, and to New Hampshire and northern Washington state, giving an effective aperture of over 8000 km.

Very Long Baseline Interferometry. VLBI is the basic idea behind the VLA. Here's a page served from Arecibo. Here's an Italian site. Here's a site to collect data from an extraterrestrial VLBI.

Very Large Crude (oil) Carrier. Supertanker. A typical VLCC can hold two million barrels of oil. Typically (as of 2012), a VLCC requires P&I coverage (against personal injury and pollution claims) of $1 billion.

Very-Low-Density Lipoprotein. Very ``bad `cholesterol'.'' Cf. LDL. Be afraid, be very afraid. Also, read Chekhov's short play ``The Marriage Proposal.'' If you think it makes sexist assumptions, please astound someone else with this discovery. Try to imagine that there was a century before this one that was not merely different from but actually unlike this one. Relax. It's good for your health.

Vapor-Liquid Equilibrium.

Very Low Frequency. (3 kHz to 30 kHz, in the context of electromagnetic radiation.)

Very Long Instruction Word. Probably not exactly the same thing as what Sir Boss uttered in Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, before the pumps kicked in.

More likely it's the instruction words which encode multiple (four or more) operations. These can be as much as 1Kbit long, and serve to parallelize ordinary user code on appropriate machines. The approach was invented in 1979 by Josh Fisher of Yale University. In 1984, he formed Multiflow to design VLIW supercomputers. Josh Fisher is related to SBF by marriage.

FOLDOC has some material.

VLIW is characterized as static instruction-level parallelism (ILP) because parallelism detection and scheduling occur at compilation rather than at run time.

Oh, alright: here's what you want to know. Sir Boss is the name adopted by a Connecticut Yankee who finds himself transported back in time to King Arthur's realm. He meets Merlin, who turns out to be an ignorant fraud, a pious charlatan. In chapter 22, the waters of a holy fountain (a spring-fed well) that are the main attraction at an abbey have failed. As chapter 23 begins, Merlin is failing to repair it by incantations, smoke powders, and ``pawing at the air'' as Twain puts it. Finally Merlin delivers the bad news to the abbot:

If any labor of mortal might break the spell that binds these waters, this which I have but just essayed had done it. It has failed; whereby I do now know that that which I had feared is a truth established; the sign of this failure is, that the most potent spirit known to the magicians of the East, and whose name none may utter and live, has laid his spell upon this well. The mortal does not breathe, nor ever will, who can penetrate the secret of that spell, and without that secret none can break it. The water will flow no more forever, good Father. I have done what man could. Suffer me to go.

(A big thank you to my fellow proofers at the Gutenberg Project. Choose your format for Part 5 here.)

Sir Boss offers to try his thaumaturgic hand, and allows Merlin to maneuver him into committing to utter the fatal word. The leaky masonry of the well is easily repaired, and the greater efforts of Sir Boss and his assistants go to preparing stage effects. On the appointed day, after the audience assembled...

We had a solemn stage-wait, now, for about twenty minutes—a thing I had counted on for effect; it is always good to let your audience have a chance to work up its expectancy.  At length, out of the silence a noble Latin chant—men's voices—broke and swelled up and rolled away into the night, a majestic tide of melody.  I had put that up, too, and it was one of the best effects I ever invented. When it was finished I stood up on the platform and extended my hands abroad, for two minutes, with my face uplifted—that always produces a dead hush—and then slowly pronounced this ghastly word with a kind of awfulness which caused hundreds to tremble, and many women to faint:


[Gesellschaft sic.]

Just as I was moaning out the closing hunks of that word, I touched off one of my electric connections and all that murky world of people stood revealed in a hideous blue glare!   [Greek fire.] It was immense—that effect!  Lots of people shrieked, women curled up and quit in every direction, foundlings collapsed by platoons.  The abbot and the monks crossed themselves nimbly and their lips fluttered with agitated prayers.  Merlin held his grip, but he was astonished clear down to his corns; he had never seen anything to begin with that, before.  Now was the time to pile in the effects.  I lifted my hands and groaned out this word—as it were in agony:


—and turned on the red fire!  You should have heard that Atlantic of people moan and howl when that crimson hell joined the blue! After sixty seconds I shouted:

"Transvaaltruppentropentransporttrampelthiertreibertrauungsthraenen- tragoedie!"

—and lit up the green fire!  After waiting only forty seconds this time, I spread my arms abroad and thundered out the devastating syllables of this word of words:


—and whirled on the purple glare!  There they were, all going at once, red, blue, green, purple!—four furious volcanoes pouring vast clouds of radiant smoke aloft, and spreading a blinding rainbowed noonday to the furthest confines of that valley.  In the distance one could see that fellow on the pillar standing rigid against the background of sky, his seesaw stopped for the first time in twenty years.  I knew the boys were at the pump now and ready.  So I said to the abbot:

"The time is come, Father.  I am about to pronounce the dread name and command the spell to dissolve.  You want to brace up, and take hold of something."  Then I shouted to the people:  "Behold, in another minute the spell will be broken, or no mortal can break it. If it break, all will know it, for you will see the sacred water gush from the chapel door!"

I stood a few moments, to let the hearers have a chance to spread my announcement to those who couldn't hear, and so convey it to the furthest ranks, then I made a grand exhibition of extra posturing and gesturing, and shouted:

"Lo, I command the fell spirit that possesses the holy fountain to now disgorge into the skies all the infernal fires that still remain in him, and straightway dissolve his spell and flee hence to the pit, there to lie bound a thousand years.  By his own dread name I command it—BGWJJILLIGKKK!"

Then I touched off the hogshead of rockets, and a vast fountain of dazzling lances of fire vomited itself toward the zenith with a hissing rush, and burst in mid-sky into a storm of flashing jewels! One mighty groan of terror started up from the massed people—then suddenly broke into a wild hosannah of joy—for there, fair and plain in the uncanny glare, they saw the freed water leaping forth!  The old abbot could not speak a word, for tears and the chokings in his throat; without utterance of any sort, he folded me in his arms and mashed me.  It was more eloquent than speech. And harder to get over, too, in a country where there were really no doctors that were worth a damaged nickel.

You should have seen those acres of people throw themselves down in that water and kiss it; kiss it, and pet it, and fondle it, and talk to it as if it were alive, and welcome it back with the dear names they gave their darlings, just as if it had been a friend who was long gone away and lost, and was come home again.  Yes, it was pretty to see, and made me think more of them than I had done before.

I sent Merlin home on a shutter.  He had caved in and gone down like a landslide when I pronounced that fearful name, and had never come to since.  He never had heard that name before,—neither had I—but to him it was the right one.  Any jumble would have been the right one.  He admitted, afterward, that that spirit's own mother could not have pronounced that name better than I did. He never could understand how I survived it, and I didn't tell him.  It is only young magicians that give away a secret like that. Merlin spent three months working enchantments to try to find out the deep trick of how to pronounce that name and outlive it. But he didn't arrive.

When I started to the chapel, the populace uncovered and fell back reverently to make a wide way for me, as if I had been some kind of a superior being—and I was.  I was aware of that.  I took along a night shift of monks, and taught them the mystery of the pump, and set them to work, for it was plain that a good part of the people out there were going to sit up with the water all night, consequently it was but right that they should have all they wanted of it.  To those monks that pump was a good deal of a miracle itself, and they were full of wonder over it; and of admiration, too, of the exceeding effectiveness of its performance.

It was a great night, an immense night.  There was reputation in it. I could hardly get to sleep for glorying over it.

Very Light Jet. Also known as a microjet. A jet aircraft (``airplane'' sounds so old-fashioned) with a range of about 1200 miles, with seating for 4 to 6. As of early 2006, they cost between about $1.8 and $2.4 million, much less than business jets. About 5000 general-aviation airports in the country can handle VLJ traffic. A number of companies are getting into the business of manufacturing these planes, in the expectation that they will be the basis of a new air-taxi business in the US. It helps that the barriers to entry for small-jet manufacture are low. The FAA predicts that about 4,500 VLJ's will be in service by 2016. The expectation is that an air-taxi flight would cost 2 or 3 times what a commercial flight would cost.

Visceral Larva Migrans.

Visitor Location Register. Part of the cellular voice reference model.

Vapor-Liquid-Solid (triple point; whisker-growth mechanism for single-crystal growth).

Very-Large-Scale Integration. Used both in a restricted technical sense (>10,000 transistors but less than 1,000,000 transistors), and in a more inclusive general sense, roughly including anything larger than LSI.

Here's a VLSI links page served by the Univ. of Idaho.

VLSI Technology
A US microelectronic fabrication company. Specialty is ASIC.

Variable Length Subnet Mask.

VoLTaGe. Don't blush; if it makes you feel any better: I wondered too.

Very Long Wavelength InfraRed. I.e., Far IR.

Vacuolar Myelopathy.

Virtual Machine.

Virtual Memory. Term has two rather different meanings:
  1. Data overflow from the fast-access memory (core or main memory, usually DRAM or SRAM) that has been ``swapped out'' or ``paged'' and stored on a slow-access medium (typically disk). The Atlas computer was the first to have this feature, in 1962.
  2. On personal computers, it refers to extra memory space gained by transparent-to-user disk file compression software like RAM Doubler.

VM, vm
Voice { Messaging | Mail }.

VTC part number prefix.

Video Music Awards. Put on by MTV. I can't decide whether it's refreshingly honest or just arrogantly crass that they don't bother with the fiction or formality of an Academy of Video Music or some such.

Voice Message Bank.

Visual Meteorological Conditions. Which allow flight under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). Contrast with IMC.

VESA Media Channel.

Virtual Machine Control Program.

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Versa Module Eurocard, Versabus-Module-European. IEEE 1014.

Virtual Manufacturing Enterprise.

Virtual Memory Environment.

Virtual Machine/Enterprise Systems Architecture. (IBM trademark.)

VentroMedial Hypothalamus. Damage to the VMH can increase the desire to eat. Stimulation of a healthy VMH can reduce hunger. Cf. LH.

Physicians have developed drugs that stimulate the VMH and eliminate the need for agonizing diets and stomach staples. These drugs were suppressed when the doctors realized that this would reduce the sadistic joy they get from tyrannizing the increasing ranks of the obese (excuse the pun). As Shaw revealed before he died, all professions are conspiracies against the rest of us, so it was easy to suppress this knowledge.

Vendor-Managed Inventory. The ``vendor'' here is the supplier of a product to a distributor. In this arrangement, the supplier manages the inventory of its product in a distributor's warehouse and replenishes the inventory based on consumption.

There's a similar arrangement between suppliers and grocery stores, particularly supermarkets, where the supplier shelves the product in the market. This is particularly common with bread and soft drinks. I'm not sure if this is called VMI or something different.

Virginia Military Institute. In Lexington, Virginia.

Vertical MultiJunction (solar cell). A stack of PV cells of different materials, intended to maximize efficiency.

If you don't know about photons, start reading explanation here:

Although frequency is a wave concept, light also has a particulate character. A monochromatic beam of light with frequency f consists of particles called photons that each have energy hf, where h is Planck's constant. The light that PV cells convert to electricity is rarely monochromatic. Usually it is solar, or has a similarly broad spectrum of frequencies. White light, or any polychromatic light, is a mix of photons of of different energies.

If you know about photons, but don't understand the transparency of insulators, begin here:

Insulators and semiconductors are materials with a band gap energy Eg. Electrons in the material occupy states of fixed energy, one electron per state (Pauli Exclusion Principle). The standard situation, if there isn't an enormous amount of doping, is that there are just enough states below the band gap for all the electrons. Now imagine when a photon comes poking along at the local speed of light, and wants to be absorbed. It's carrying a load of energy, and if the photon is absorbed (vanishes into the solid), that energy has to go somewhere. Since the photon is an excitation of the electromagnetic field, it can interact with thing that have charge, or dipole moment, or some kind of current that reacts to electromagnetic field. Mostly, that means the electrons. (If you want a reason that doesn't require a calculation, it's because the electrons are lighter than the ions. In a collision, momentum is shared roughly evenly among participating species, but that means that the lightest particles carry off the most energy.)

If an electron is to absorb the energy of a photon, it must change its state (change to a state with a different energy). After absorbing the photon's energy, the electron leaves a hole (unfilled state) behind and occupies a new state of higher energy. Since two electrons can't occupy the same state, that final state of the excited electron must be initially empty. So what we need initially is an occupied state plus an unoccupied one that has an energy higher by the amount of the photon's energy. (Almost. A little energy does go into the phonon system -- into motion of the ions -- and allows momentum to be conserved.)

The occupied states are almost all below the gap (because that's where the electrons are in equilibrium; electrons find lowest-energy states about as balls roll down hills). The unoccupied states are above the gap. This implies that the energy separation between an occupied-unoccupied pair of states is greater than or equal to the band gap. Hence, if the photon has an energy that is less than the gap energy, then there's no way it can dump its energy into an electron. And hence transparency -- a quantum effect.


Virtual Machine Loosely Synchronous Communication System.

Virtual Machine Monitor.

Vertical MultiNational Enterprise.

V-groove MOS. Used for power applications.

Varnish Makers' and Painters'.

Vmp, VMP, Vmp
Voltage at Maximum Power. You know, electric power sources have I-V characteristics just as do power sinks. See MPP.

Virtual Machine Pass-Through.

Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

Vehicle Management System or Variable-Message Sign. You know: road-side, driver-level electronic marquee signs.

Vertical Motion Simulator.

That was fun! Let's go again!

Vertical Motion Simulator.

Virtual Memory (Operating) System. Standard user-slobbery-friendly operating system on ye olde Digital VAX. (Of course, that was the height of user-friendly before Microsoft. Today's MS Word is so user-friendly that you have to spend half an hour hunting down and turning off help features before you can get any practical work done.)

Voice Mail System.

Vehicle Miles Traveled.

Velocity Modulation Transistor. A device intended to exploit velocity modulation induced by wavefunction engineering. Basically, there are two parallel conduction channels connecting a common source and a common drain; one channel has much higher mobility, but as source-drain voltage increases the carriers in the high-mobility channel heat up and transfer (vide real-space transfer) to the low mobility channel. See H. Sakaki, JJAP 21, L381-3 (1982), and C. Hamaguchi, K. Miyatsuji, and H. Hihara, JJAP 23, L132 (1984).

Vertical MagnetoTransistor.

Virtual Machine/Extended Architecture. (IBM trademark.)

v. n., v.n.
Verb Neuter. One place where I've seen this usage is Coleridge 1863. In modern terminology: an intransitive verb (v.i.). Cf. v. a. (That entry has something like a terminus ante quem for common use of the terms abbreviated.)

Etymologically speaking, a ``verb neuter'' ought to be a verb that is neither. I suppose it might be neither active nor reflexive (v.r.).

Virtual Network. (Alternatively: ``VN.'')

Viet Nam.

(Domain name code for) Viet Nam.

There's a web page at http://www.vnn.vn/.

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

Their currency is called the Dong.

Virtual Network. (Alternatively: ``V-Net.'')

Vector Network Analyzer.

Virginia Nurses Association. Founded in 1900.

Virtual Network Architecture.

Virtual Network Computing. A desktop is saved for each machine you are working on, and you can bring up any of those desktops on any of the machines.

VietNamese Internet? I dunno. Software house that provides free downloadable fonts for Vietnamese and other software, oriented mostly to the PC and Mac communities. Cf. VISCII.

Visible and Near InfraRed.

Visible and Near InfraRed.

(Someone complained that he had trouble understanding this entry, so I repeated it. Now do you understand?)

Via Net Loss.

VomeroNasal Organ. The basic controversy about this is whether humans really have a functional one. (There are little pits on either side of the nasal septum, observable in most adult humans, and these are interpreted as ducts for the VNO, though they differ from other mammalian VNO's. For ethical reasons, it is more difficult to perform VNO research on humans than other animals. And lawyers are too expensive.)

In other mammals where it has been studied, the VNO apparently serves primarily to sense pheromones; it sends nerve signals to the amygdala. (In reptiles, the sensory feature identified as a VNO or Jacobson's Organ serves both for phermomone communication and hunting. Hmmm.) There is some limited evidence that steroid breakdown products found in the skin may serve as human pheromones and be detected (unconsciously sensed) by the VNO.

Here's a nice introductory page on the VNO (from Michael Meredith at FSU).

But here's something interesting to make you think again about the role of VNO. An article from 1997 entitled ``Sensitivity and behavioral responses to the pheromone androsterone are not mediated by the vomeronasal organ in domestic pigs.'' Published in Brain Behavior and Evolution, vol. 49 (#1), pp. 53-62, authors Kathlee N. (sic) Dorries, Elizabeth Adkins-Regan, and Bruce P. Halpern. The complete abstract:

Based largely on results of studies of laboratory rodents, the vomeronasal or accessory olfactory system is believed to function mainly in social communication, mediating the effects of stimuli such as urine or glandular secretions on the behavior or endocrine response of conspecifics. In the domestic pig (Sus scrofa), the steroid androstenone has been identified as a pheromone that facilitates expression of both attraction to the male and a receptive mating stance in estrous females. Though the domestic pig is one of the few vertebrate species in which the identity of a compound that functions as a pheromone is known, the role of the vomeronasal system in domestic pigs has never been investigated. We have examined the role of the vomeronasal organ in mediating the pheromonal effects of androstenone in pigs. In addition, we have examined the structure of the vomeronasal organ at the gross and light-microscopic levels. The vomeronasal organ appears functional, with sensory epithelium lining the medial wall, and has access to stimuli from both the oral and nasal cavities. To determine whether the vomeronasal organ is necessary for androstenone detection or attraction or receptive behavior in female pigs, access to the vomeronasal organ was blocked with surgical cement, and androstenone detection threshold and sexual behavior were measured. Experimental animals did not differ significantly in androstenone sensitivity, measured behaviorally, from untreated controls. Vomeronasal organ-blocked animals also did not differ from untreated controls in either androstenone-mediated receptive standing behavior or attraction to the odor of androstenone. We conclude that in the domestic pig, the vomeronasal organ is not necessary for androstenone detection or androstenone-mediated sexual behavior in estrous females.

Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. Van Nostrand was a good old publishing house that for many years used to publish a beloved one-volume encyclopedic dictionary of science and technology called ``Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia.'' It went to two volumes at some point. Van Nostrand later merged with Reinhold, and at some point before 1981 it was gobbled into the Hudson Group.

Video News Release. PR or advertising meant to be mistaken for a news report.

Virtual Network System.

Variable Number of Tandem Repeats.

Voluntary Organization. One sort of NGO.

Voice Of America.

Gertrude Stein spent WWII in a village in the Rhône valley (in Vichy France). In Wars I Have Seen (1945) she wrote (pp. 155-6)

The English always begin with here is London, or the B.B.C. home service, or the over seas service, always part of a pleasant home life, of supreme importance to any Englishman or any Englishwoman. The Americans say with poetry and fire, this is the Voice of America, and then with modesty and good neighborliness, one of the United Nations, it is the voice of America speaking to you across the Atlantic. Then the Frenchmen, say Frenchmen speaking to Frenchmen, they always begin like that, and the Belgians are simple and direct, they just announce radio Belge, and the national anthem, and the Frenchman also say, Honor and Country, and the Swiss so politely say, the studio of Geneva, at the instant of the broadcasting station of Berne will give you the latest news, and Italy says live Mussolini live Italy, and they make a bird noise and then they start, and Germany starts like this, Germany calling, Germany calling, in the last war, I said that camouflage was the distinctive characteristic of each country, each nation stamped itself upon its camouflage, but in this war it is the heading of the broadcast that makes national life so complete and determined. It is that a nation is even stronger than the personality of any one, it certainly is so nations must go on, they certainly must.

I have double-checked my transcription from a first printing, at least nominally a wartime book. ``It is manufactured under emergency conditions and complies with the government's request to conserve essential materials in every possible way'' for the duration and perhaps a little beyond.

Look, I'm not going to pepper the transcription with sics. Another approach is taken by editor Gilbert A. Harrison in his introduction to Gertrude Stein's America (a book of excerpts and reprints published in 1965). Harrison quotes most of the above passage and silently introduced a number of changes (mostly punctuation and capitalization, and ellision of one very sic-making bit). And who can blame him? E.E. Cummings has often been cited as a typesetter's nightmare, but Gert was no editor's dream. Yet here's something. Also in Wars, Stein mentions that towards the end of the war, as the Germans are staying out of sight, Alice Toklas is beginning to type up her manuscript. For security they had left it in ms. before, since her handwriting is virtually illegible. How often is what we regard as a singularity of Stein is really the solecism of Toklas? As to Harrison's version, we can say with Borges that the original is unfaithful to the reprint. (Sure, Borges said that ``el original no es fiel a la traducción,'' but by his own reasoning that simply distorts what I just wrote.)

VOlume Bragg LAser.

Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie. (Modern spelling: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie.) The old Dutch East India Company, literally `United East-Indian Company.' (VOC was dissolved in 1800. Judging from fictional works, until 1800 the expressions ``East Indies'' and ``East India'' were equally common. However, the VOC was known systematically by an ``India'' expansion.) Cf. WIC. If this were an encyclopedic dictionary instead of an acronym glossary, I'd have to explain the fascinating history of this company, whose business model included limited colonial settlement and less limited administration, privateering, and war-making.

Voice Of the Customer.

Many years ago, there was a popular customer-service slogan that ``the customer is always right.'' In reality, of course, and depending on the product or market, the customer is sometimes pretty reliably wrong. I'm thinking of the help desk.

As a child in Breslau, my mother had a cat. On account of the Nuremberg laws, the family lost its business, and they gave away the cat. As her grandmother explained to her, they hardly had the money to feed themselves. Anyway, some time before that, they had washed the cat. It was extremely difficult, and required three people to hold the cat, because cats have a violent aversion to immersion or anything approximating it. I guess cats can never be Baptists. When my mom told me about this, I wondered whether it caused problems later. Was the cat traumatized? Distrustful? Unwilling to be petted? My mom explained: ``What are you talking about? It's a cat!''

Mary used to feed her cat with Iams, a premium pet food. Earlier this year, a day after littering (not Mary but the cat: six kittens), she stepped out of her basket, she wobbled, staggered, and fell on her side. Mary resumed indirect payments on the vet's yacht. Major kidney and liver trouble. The vet wondered if perhaps she had gotten into some cleaning fluid, or transmission fluid or something. Mary loves animals (the nonhuman kind), and over the years she's had many cats, dogs, birds, a few of the less common pets, and part-ownership of a horse. On many previous occasions, vets had suggested putting down one of her ailing dogs. This was the first time she had a vet suggest putting down her cat. For one night she used an eyedropper to feed the cat and keep her (the cat's) cracked lips moist. A couple of days later, the cat poked up her head and looked around, and was soon back to her energetic old self -- jumping at the bird cage and attacking the mail carrier and the dogs. [A couple of weeks later, the melanine-contaminated pet-food story of 2007 broke, and Mary and her cat were interviewed on the local TV news. The kittens, incidentally, were adopted by a veterinary assistant; most of them survived.]

The connecting thread here is that afterwards, the cats acted as if nothing had happened. Cats are not prone to complexes. (Except the cats of one of my grandmothers, but she was a psychiatrist, so what do you expect?)

One day my friend Peter fired Bob, a host in his restaurant. As he explained to me afterwards, when a customer complains about the service, you don't respond with ``we have good people here'' and a stiff denial. The restaurant business is not a debating society. The VOC should be allowed a respectful venting, in one ear and out the other if necessary. Some weeks later, Peter's quarrels with his partners culminated in his buying them out. He was suddenly shorthanded, and he rehired Bob. I asked, ``didn't you just fire him?'' Peter said ``well, I encouraged him to leave.'' [BTW, the names in this paragraph are invented, and the quotes are only as accurate as I can recall.] So Bob's back, as if nothing had happened.

Volatile Organic Compound. Term used primarily by the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) folks. Don't breathe the housepaint!

Volts, Open-Circuit as a label accompanying a number (of volts). Read ``Open-Circuit Voltage'' as a symbol for the quantity. The maximum voltage a power source can supply, achieved when there is no load (oh yeah, a lot of good that does). Cf. ISC; see FF or MPP for more complete discussion.

Vessel Operating Common Carrier.

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Content.

Veno-Occlusive Disease.

Video On Demand. I.e. online digital videos. Here's more in Japanese from NEC.

An alternative spelling of Völkerball, used when ö cannot be displayed.

Voice Over Frame Relay.

Valence-Orbital Ionization-Energy.

Voice-Over-Internet Protocol. Pronounced as a single syllable, like ``voyp.''

Volans. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

VOLunteer. Cf. voluntold.

VOLume. Of one sort or another.

A French adjective meaning `flying,' also used as a noun meaning `steering wheel' and `flywheel.' In Spanish, volante has the same meaning as an adjective and also means `steering wheel,' but a flywheel is a rueda volante (literally a `flying wheel'). It's probably worth noting that in vehicles without power steering, one can use ordinary mechanical advantage to reduce the force the driver must exert to steer: by gearing the steering linkage so that more turns of the steering wheel are needed for a given turn of the wheels on the road, one reduces the required force proportionately. With such gearing, the motion of a steering wheel resembles a little bit more closely that of a flywheel.

I'm away from my reference sources right now, but I suspect that these wheels are to be understood as ``flying'' in the sense of not being in contact with the ground, so the naming has more to do with elevation than angular momentum. Then again, in Italian the adjective is volante, but a flywheel or steering wheel is a volano, which means `they fly.' Having survived the streets and dangerously adjacent sidewalks of Rome, I think I might understand.

This is the name of a major bad guy in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. The name suggests some sort of `death wish' in various European languages (discussed below). Those who notice this meaning, and who notice the resemblance to Germanic forms of the name Vladimir (such as German and Swedish Waldemar, Spanish Baldemar, etc.) might think that a sufficient analysis of the name (at least until the revelation in The Chamber of Secrets). Here as elsewhere, however, Rowling appears to make a specific literary allusion, evidently to Edgar Allen Poe's story, ``The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,'' about one M. Ernest Valdemar mesmerized as he lies dying.



He dies but fails to decay, and remains conscious but lacking in will. This state of suspended demise ends (Dorian Grayishly, minus picture) when he is brought out of the mesmeric trance. The parallel with JKR's Voldemort is loose but obvious, I think.

In the short story, Poe plays with the identity of Valdemar in a not-very-enlightening way. It's a little reminiscent of Swift playing with the name of Laputa (see ATC), and I suppose both expected the reader to ``get it'' when forced to contemplate the name for the duration of a paragraph. Valdemar is more of a stretch, but Poe was apparently unwilling to create such a novel name as Voldemort. Perhaps he simply expected more of his readers. I can't believe he chose that name (much less ``Rue Morgue'') oblivious to its morbid resonance (ditto JRRT choosing ``Mordor'').

Because certain Proto-Indoeuropean roots survived in essentially the same form in Germanic languages and Latin, there are many roughly equivalent ways to parse Voldemort. In various forms of Latin, in many Romance languages derived from Latin, and in various Germanic languages, the root vol- means `wish, desire, will.' (Recall that in German, w has the sound usually represented by v in English. In the Germanic languages, because the vol- root verb is ``strong,'' it undergoes a change of stem vowel under conjugation. The German verb with infinitive form wollen, for example, has first-person singular form will. The latter is the form the word ended up with in Modern English, though now the verb mostly functions as part of a future construction.) More later, okay?

(Actually, it's been explained to me that Voldemort really means ``flying ferret of death,'' but I didn't want to erase all the BS I wrote before.)

German, literally meaning `people ball.' The name of the team sport called `war ball' in the US. You might argue that the German name emphasizes the community spirit of the game. When my mom was growing up in Breslau in the 1930's, this was played boys-against-the-girls in classes with children as old as 13.

German: `anthropology.'

German: `folklore.'

Alessandro Volta discovered the electrochemical cell and made the first batteries of them at the end of the eighteenth century. In 1801, Napoleon recognized his achievement by making him a Count.

The River Volta in West Africa was given this name by Portuguese traders who reached it in 1471. The word volta means `return' (like Spanish vuelta), or in this context `meander.' The mouth of the river is on the Ghanaian coast, and over 70% of Ghana is in the river's watershed. In north central Ghana, the White Volta flows into the Volta. Upstream of this, the Volta is called the Black Volta. The Black Volta rises in Burkina Faso, forms the northern third of Ghana's western border, then flows east to join the White Volta. The river originally extended 1600 km from its source in Burkina Faso. Since completion of the Akosombo Dam, at least 400 km of the lower part of the river has been submerged in Lake Volta, the world's largest artificial lake (about 9000 sq. km).
    Haute Volta, `Upper Volta' in English, was a French colony, part of French West Africa, which became independent on August 5, 1960. It changed its name to Burkina Faso on August 5, 1984. Three rivers -- Black Volta, White Volta, and Red Volta -- are poor, landlocked Burkina Faso's main resources (by some sloppy measure). The country's flag is a stack of three horizontal bars, black, white, and red from top down. Use of Volta waters is a major bone of contention between Ghana and Burkina Faso.

Interestingly, the most common adjectival form of Volta used in Burkina Faso appears to be Voltaique. Likewise in English Voltaic is apparently the most common, with Voltan (perhaps especially as a gentilicial) apparently less common.

Radio Volta is a leftist radio station in Philadephia, named after the Philadelphia anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre. Why couldn't they have called it ``Voltairinairian Radio'' or ``Radio Cleyre'' or ``Volt Air'' or something?

The Mars Volta is a progressive rock band that has toured with or opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so they can be said to have broken through to mainstream. I suppose their name refers to the river, if anything. If you happen to know, tell me. Here's a link to their website.

The phrase
``I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it''
is widely attributed to Voltaire, but cannot be found in his writings. With good reason. The phrase was invented by a later author as an epitome of his attitude.

It appeared in The Friends of Voltaire (1906), written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall under the pseudonym S[tephen] G. Tallentyre. Chapter VII is devoted to Helvétius (1715-1771), whom she depicts as a kindly, generous person, with a hint of more talent to raise him above mediocrity. He married and settled in the sticks, with a new wife who was unfashionably old (32), and they were happy. This was ended by his tragic aspiration, to earn some small glory for himself as a philosopher.

In 1758, he published ``De l'Esprit,'' which Hall renders ``On the Mind.'' From the little Hall says of it directly, I take it that this was a moral-relativist tract, adducing bad social conditions as the cause of immoral behavior, regarding humans essentially as animals, and skeptical of the validity of moral claims generally.

This was unpopular with everyone - secular philosophers, all of the church, the government. It certainly got him noticed, but not by all at once. Voltaire immediately regarded the work as a serious disappointment from one who had been a somewhat promising protege. He was most insulted to have been compared in it with lesser intellectual lights (Crébillon and Fontenelle). It was widely criticized by other wits of their enlightened social circle. For a few months, however, it escaped the notice of the government.

Then the Dauphin read it.

The privilege to publish was revoked; the censor who approved its publication was sacked. A rolling wave of official condemnation began, culminating with the Pope (Jan. 31, 1759) and the Parliament of Paris (Feb. 6) and public book-burning by the hangman (Feb. 10), an honor shared with Voltaire's ``Natural Law.''

On the principle that anything so unpopular with the government must ipso facto be pretty good, the official condemnation permanently established Helvétius's philosophical repute among the fashionable salon crowd, and rehabilitated him among the intellectual elite as well, to a great extent. He became popular in Protestant Germany and England.

Hall wrote:

...The men who had hated [the book], and had not particularly loved Helvétius, flocked round him now. Voltaire forgave him all injuries, intentional or unintentional. `What a fuss about an omelette!' he had exclaimed when he heard of the burning. How abominably unjust to persecute a man for such an airy trifle as that! `I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,' was his attitude now. But he soon came, as a Voltaire would come, to swearing that there was no more materialism in `On the Mind' than in Locke, and a thousand more daring things in `The Spirit of Laws.'
(Boldface added here for emphasis.) Friends is not a scholarly work, but Hall is fairly scrupulous throughout the book to state within the text whether she is quoting speech or text, and whether various reports are first-person or likely hearsay. I believe it was reasonable of her to expect that `I disapprove ... say it' would be recognized as her own characterization of Voltaire's attitude. I think some readers were confused because of the way she follows this with paraphrases of his spoken criticisms.

In any case, the phrase was too eloquent, so it became quoted, and famous names attach themselves to quotes, to the detriment of the less well-known originators.

Hall herself claimed later that she had been paraphrasing Voltaire's words in his Essay on Tolerance:

``Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.''
Hall died in 1919. In his A Book of French Quotations (1963), Norbert Guterman suggested that the probable source for the quotation was a line in a 6 February 1770 letter to M. le Riche:
``Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.''

volume number
An arbitrary symbol that the publisher prints on the bindings of multivolume works like encyclopedias, so that library cataloguing departments will know where to place the sticker with the call number. The sticker should be placed just above or below the volume number, in such a way as to obscure any unsightly text that mars the homogeneity of the work. So, for example, if the following markings appear on a volume --

then the call-number sticker should be placed just below the volume number, to obscure "Rubens" and "Somalia".

volumetric efficiency
The volumetric efficiency of a piston engine cylinder is typically defined not as a volume ratio but as a mass ratio:
                mass of air inhaled per cycle
ηv = --------------------------------------------------------- .
     mass of air that would occupy the cylinder's swept volume
(If you can read this text clearly, then your browser probably doesn't correctly display the symbol at left; it's eta-sub-vee.)
The swept volume is the product of the stroke length and the area of the cylinder bore. (For the typical two-stroke engine, the swept volume is a bit of an idealization, since openings in the side of the cylinder are always open at bottom dead center.) The denominator in the definition is computed using the density of air at ambient temperature and pressure. Therefore, one can express the volumetric efficiency as a volume ratio in the following way:
     volume of ambient air inhaled per cycle per cylinder
ηv = ---------------------------------------------------- .
                   swept volume of cylinder

(I'm making the assumption here that the air is ambient in origin, and not from some self-contained automobile breathing apparatus. If you're interested in diesel-powered submarines, tough.)

To force someone (TELL them with authority) to perform a service normally supposed to be performed by a VOLUNteer. Traditionally, particularly in connection with the military, this idea was conveyed by a phrase like ``the officer volunteered me,'' using transitive volunteer with a personal direct object that might be called the reluctant agentive. It seems the condition is more frequently spoken of than the action; at least, the form voluntold is much more common than the present-tense form. The word that's really needed is voluntee.

TOLD (i.e., required) to VOLUNteer. Made a mandatory volunteer. The past participle of voluntell.

A report available on line from the US Department of Education includes this finding:

No difference in the likelihood of volunteering 8 years after graduation was detected between young adults who performed only mandatory volunteer service in high school and students who performed no high school volunteering (28 vs. 26 percent, respectively) (table 2). Both of these groups - mandatory and nonvolunteers - were less likely to volunteer 8 years after high school than persons who were strongly encouraged to volunteer or did it for strictly voluntary reasons (43 percent).

One category of the informally voluntold is pre-med undergraduates, who need to demonstrate the personal moral characteristics that score a point or two in the medical-school admissions lottery.


Swedish car company whose name was specifically selected as the Latin word meaning ``I roll.''

It is to be understood here that it is the wheels that are supposed to roll. In airplane terminology, the motion of rolling over sideways (rotating about an axis oriented along the direction of motion) would technically be described as ``roll'' also, but it's Saab that makes planes. And of course, rolling about a vertical axis would be called ``turning'' (``yaw'' in planes). Those Scandinavians have a thing about vertiginous motion. See yrast.

Volt-Ohm-Milliammeter. Why not ``Volt-Ohm-Ammeter''? Because most ordinary devices have resistances with numerical values in ohms that are much greater than the numerical values of the voltages in volts.

VOM is susceptible to a variety of different expansions. In particular, volt-ohmmeter (the em in the acronym being assumed to be from meter) is a correct expansion in the sense that many people think that's what it stands for. It's worth noting how this renaming (which is what it is) came about. Back in the day, the elementary analog meter was a current meter -- a milliameter in the first instance (see EMF). By using a current divider (i.e., by putting the milliameter in parallel with a precisely calibrated small resistance), this could be made into an ammeter. By putting the milliammeter in series with a very large resistance, it could be used as a voltmeter, and by putting the milliammeter in series with a voltage source, it could be used as an ohmmeter. (See the zero-adjust for some explanation of how.) The old Simpsons and other analog multimeters were basically switchboxes that put different passive elements in series and parallel with a milliammeter. One function unlikely to be excluded from the multi-function meter was that of DC milliammeter, because that function was easiest to implement. The manufacturers described these meters in a way that emphasized their versatility. That's why the em in VOM refers to milliammeter. (Modern multimeters use op-amps, and so fundamentally they are voltmeters constructed from current amplifiers.)

On the other hand, it is understandable that milliammetry is the one function users would most likely forget. There are two common ways to use a VOM. The most obvious way is to measure an isolated element before it becomes part of a circuit, or after it is removed. That entails measuring the resistance of a resistor or the voltage of a battery. It's not very varied, but it can be very handy. (It would be nice to measure the impedance -- the complex-valued, frequency-dependent generalization of the real, DC resistance. Meters that do that are rarer than oscilloscopes on the home hobbyist's workbench.)

The second way to use the VOM is by probing a connected-up, functioning circuit. This is typically done by inserting probes at two nodes and measuring the voltage difference. That's a crude static version of what one does with an oscilloscope. It is also possible to use the milliammeter (or ammeter, passim) in a functioning circuit, but it requires opening one of the connections and closing it through the milliammeter. This is usually inconvenient, and doesn't often yield any more useful information than voltage measurements. For that reason, the milliammeter function is much less used and is likely to be left out of a recollected expansion of VOM. (AC ammeters can rely on mutual inductance to measure net AC current in a cable without breaking a circuit. Such meters are a common specialized tool for electronic technicians.)

von Neumann architecture
Architecture for a general computing machine (computer), in which instructions and data are treated equivalently -- data and instructions are stored in the same memory regions, and that a single bus is used to fetch instructions and data. Harvard architecture is more popular.

Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex.

VHF Omnidirectional Range. Aviation acronym.

Voice-Operated Recording. Fails to record silence, even though silence is golden.

Vehicle On-board RADar. Like flying in fog, but on the ground. It's intended to alert drivers, of commercial vehicles in the initial implementations, of targets beyond visual range ahead, so they can speed up and scare them off the road, decreasing traffic in foggy weather and thus improving safety. I think that's how it goes. Initial large test: 2400 Greyhound buses.

German: `first name.' D.h., `given name.' Vgl. Nachname.

Vorsitzende[r]. German: `chairperson.' If the `chair'-related words did not exist, an adjective vorsitzende might be translated literally by `that sits at the front.'

Vorsitzender is one of those words that functions as (and is capitalized like) a noun or a title, but is declined as an adjective. (Titles preceding names are normally declined as nouns, as if the proper noun following were a postpositive attributive noun.) Hence, in the nominative, Vorsitzender is `chairman' and Vorsitzende is `chairwoman.' Other examples of nouns declined as adjectives are Reisende[r] and Abgeordnete[r] (for the latter, see the Abg. entry).

There is something very slightly jarring in this, about on the same low level of noteworthiness as Spanish ending in a and having male grammatical and natural gender. In German, the -er is such a common male agentive ending that one expects the corresponding female form (* Vorsitzenderin). Of course, in Spanish a large fraction of male nouns ending in -a are simply Greek (or Greekish New Latin) loans (e.g. lema, programa, tema) or with Greek endings (periodista).

Similarly, there is a good reason for the class of nouns following the Vorsitzender pattern. Since vorsitzen must mean `to sit in front,' the straightforward personal noun Vorsitzer would mean `he who sits in front.' This use of the -er suffix is still productive in German, as it is in English, and if there were not already another term for chairman, this one would be acceptable. However, the verb also has a present participle vorsitzend, `sitting.' In English the present participle can be used as a noun (see this paragraph under A.M.), but in German it is available for use only as an adverb or (appropriately declined) as an adjective. The practice evidently arose of describing the chair as ``sitting at the front.'' (That a German adjective is expressed by an English adjectival phrase corresponds straightforwardly here to the fact that a prefixed verb in German is expressed by a phrasal verb in English.)

Vhf Omni-directional Radio range with Tactical Air Navigation.

Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment.

Spanish, word meaning `you.' It's an archaic usage in Spain and most of Latin America, but the standard familiar form in Argentina and Central America. The vos Sprachraum extends east from Central America as far as Medellín and Cali in Colombia, but not as far as Bogotá.

Until this entry grows up, you can get a bit more information on vos conjugation from the pasa entry. The Usted has a bit more on second-person pronouns in Spanish.

Voice of the Shuttle. ``Web Page for Humanities Research.''

Vulcan Operating System. (For a Harris machine.) This is on the level. I swear this is not a Star Trek (ST) joke. At least, not on my part; that is what Harris called the OS.

VESA Open Set Top.

Russian word for `east.'

Vote here if you're a UB student.

Vocational-Technical. Typically labels technical vocation training.

One of the stones that form part of an arch or vault. In a cross section in the plane of the arch, the stones are approximately trapezoidal.

Another use of the term is to indicate number of arches. If an arch is said to have two or three voussoirs, what is obviously meant is that the arch is two or three voussoirs thick.


vox clamantis in deserto
Clamoring for [obsolete brand] dessert. Since the dessert brand went out of business after one of the sackings of Rome, and the trademark lapsed in a dark age, the phrase is now used to mean `voice crying out in the desert.'

vox populi, vox dei
Standard Latin expression: `the voice of the people [is] the voice of god.'

VOYager. The fourth Star Trek television series. More at the alternate abbreviation ST:VOY.

Spanish, `I go, I am going.' Also used as a modal to construct a periphrastic future: voy a mover means `I will move.'

Spanish, `voice.' Also used in the sense of `word' as distinguished from a `word meaning' (acepción). It is natural in a phonetically spelled language like Spanish, that a word (as distinguished from its meanings) should be thought of as a sound. A different sound (in a given dialect) would have a different spelling. But a different spelling might have the same sound. Latin America is a region of seseo, where the letter z and the consonant sound in ce and ci are all pronounced ess, so voz is a homophone of vos.

Vector Processor.

Verb Phrase.

Vice President.

Victory in the Pacific (theater of WWII). See VJ.

Virtual Path.

Virtual Path Connection.

Virtual Path Connection Identifier. (Same as VCI.)

Vapor-Phase Decomposition. As in ``automated VPD sample collection,'' a tool for surface contamination analysis of semiconductor wafers. (It strikes me as almost amazing -- I've never seen ``VPD'' used for ``vapor-phase deposition.'' There's VPE infra, but too fast, and it ain't epitaxy no more.)

Vapor-Phase Epitaxy. CVD performed under conditions that allow epitaxial (i.e., perfect-crystal) growth. This requires a crystalline substrate to begin. In addition, the vapor pressure must be ``low.'' That is to say: at high pressures the growth rate is so high that added layers do not have time to align with the (putatively) uniform crystal layers below. Diluting the reactants in a nondepositing phase can allow for growth at higher pressures, possibly producing better film. It's pretty much black magic. See also MOVPE.

Virginia Power Electronics Center. At the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Virginia Tech.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Officially ``Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.'' Informally ``Virginia Tech'' or just ``Tech.'' More on the name at the VT entry.

I attended a small workshop on (mostly theoretical approaches to) amorphous materials there in the summer of 1983 or so. The campus was hosting a training camp for high school cheerleaders. Perhaps I was more amazed than I should have been.

Virginia Tech is at Blacksburg, in the forested mountains of western Virginia, which makes it relatively comfortable in Summer. It's a bit isolated. With nothing much on offer, Vlad and I drove to a few miles to dusty Princeton, West Virginia, capital of Mercer County. I bought a Princeton Tigers (high school) tee shirt. I've also bought a couple of Princeton Tigers (high school) tee shirts in Princeton, Illinois. The story of how the town of Princeton, Illinois, got its name is very interesting, and you can easily learn all about it in documentation at the town library.

[Oh, alright, you've twisted my arm long enough! The leading men of the new Illinois town all wanted to name it after the towns back east where they were from, or where they went to college. When they couldn't come to an agreement, they wrote the competing names on pieces of paper and put them in a hat, and they had a stranger pick the winning name out of that hat. It seems to me that if the pieces of paper were in proportion to the lengths of the names (I don't know that they were), then Princeton had a natural orthographic advantage. The Princeton in West Virginia, of course, is named after the General Hugh Mercer of the Continental army, a Virginian who fell at the Battle of Princeton. New Jersey created a Mercer County in 1838, and since then the New Jersey Princeton (Princetons, actually) has (have) also been in Mercer County.]

Virtual Path Identifier. Part of the ATM cell header. Eight bits that identify the virtual path (and therefore the virtual channel) to which a cell belongs.

Virtual Photonics Incorporated.

Victorian Premier League. A soccer league in the state of Victoria, Australia. If you're a Victorian (I mean, that way), you will not be amused to learn more about a once and would-be future VPL team.

Visible Panty Line. On the authority of Woody Allen movie dialogue. Oh wait, it's used here too.

Vice Prime Minister. An unusual portfolio, but in 2005, Shimon Peres was VPM in the Israeli cabinet under PM Ariel Sharon. Oh, alright, it's just the standard translation. In Hebrew a prime minister is rosh memshala, literally `government head,' or a little more fluently `head of government' (incidentally, rosh mimshala would be `head of fable') and there are a couple of words (mishne, s'gan) which are used to construct subordinate titles in the same as words like assistant, second, deputy, and vice in English. (I don't know which is used here.) A few other countries seem to have had VPM's from time to time, but apparently also only in translation. DPM is much more common.

Virtual Private Network. Software that creates LAN functionality -- an intranet -- over the internet. This can be a cheap alternative to an extranet, or it can simply enable customers or off-site employees to access the office net. More at PPTP, the Microsoft VPN software.

Vice President of the United States. The president of American vice, in other words?

Variable Parts Per Million.

Vice President for Research.

Vulval Pain Society. They're not promoting it.

Varaible Pressure Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). There's one from LEO.

Virtual Path Cross-connect.

Vector supercomputer introduced by Fujitsu in 1985.

Vocational Qualification.

{ Vector | Voice } Quantizing Code.

Very fine pitch Quad Flat Pack[age] (QFP).

{ Vector | Variable } Quantizing Level.

Virginia Quarterly Review.

Viewers for Quality Television. A group of 1,000 discerning TV viewers headquartered in Fairfax Station, Virginia. They publish a list of endorsed shows. They've been called a television watch-dog group. Truer words were never spoken.

Dorothy Swanson is president.

ValtionRautatiet. Finnish national Railway.

Italian vedi retro. `See reverse [side of sheet],' i.e., PTO.

Verb Reflexive. A verb whose action is directed at the agent (the subject in the active mood). E.g.: ``he washed, she dresses, it will self-destruct.'' Reflexiveness may also be indicated explicitly by use of a reflexive pronoun (``washed himself''). Cf. v.t.

Virtual Reality. As opposed to RL.

Voltage Regulator. A VR diode is usually a Zener or avalanche breakdown diode operating in reverse bias.

Voltage Reference.

Veteran's Readjustment Appointment. A VRA-eligible person ``is someone who served in the military for a period of more than 180 days active duty, all or part of which occurred after August 4, 1964, and was discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.'' Maybe you want to visit the OPM entry.

Voluntary Restraint Agreement. Import relief. A/k/a ``orderly marketing agreement'' or ``voluntary export restraint.'' Interesting word, ``voluntary.''

Voting Rights Act. The landmark VRA of 1965 made illegal the creation of districts intended to divide existing minority communities so as to disenfranchise their voters. One imagines such intent might be difficult to demonstrate. In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled essentially that, setting stringent tests for the claim. Not to worry: the same year the law was amended so that a voting district with minority representation not in proportion to its minority constituency was ipso facto in violation. In the nineties, the Rhenquist (sp.?) court has been ruling the amendments out of existence. A number of districts that were redrawn to be ``majority-minority'' after VRA litigation were eventually invalidated by the Supreme Court recently, so that in the 1996 Congressional elections, there were seven fewer of such ``necessary,'' ``safe'' districts than in the 1994 elections. The number of blacks elected to the House decreased from 38 to 37 out of 435 representatives, both numbers are a couple of percentage points below the proportion of blacks in the general population of the US.

Video RAM. Specialized RAM for video applications, which require large frame buffer memories with high data rates. Dual-port VRAMs have a serial access memory (SAM) post for periodic screen refresh operations and an independent RAM port for updates.)

Verbatim [Court] Reporters Center.

Volcano Research Center. Part of the Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo. About ten percent of the world's volcanoes are in the Japanese island arc.

Vertical Redundancy Check.

Variable Resistive Components Institute. Resistive to or of I-don't-know-what.

Virginia Railway Express. Trains from Washington, DC, to suburbs in Virginia. This is in an area called ``Northern Virginia,'' even though you can go considerably further north (out west of DC, where Virginia almost pinches off Maryland against the Mason-Dixon line). There's also a lot of unincorporated suburbia in Fairfax County that's called Alexandria, which I suppose is close enough for government work, as they say. Cf. MARC, WMATA.

Vegetarian Resource Group.

Variable-Range Hopping.

Valve-Regulated sealed Lead-Acid batter{y|ies}.

Voltage Reference Module.

Virtual Reality Modeling Language. (``Modelling'', in Britishese.)

There's also a VRML talk shop.


Virtual ROMA. ``A virtual community for teaching and learning classics.''

Standard children's onomatopoeia for powerful internal combustion engine accelerating.

(Microsoft) Virtual Realtime Object-Oriented Memory Manager.

Vroom-Yetton Model
(The V-Y model.) A set of seven questions whose answers are rarely exactly yes or no, which are to be answered yes or no to arrive at a management decision. Described in V. H. Vroom and P. W. Yetton: Leadership and Decision-Making (U. of Pittsburgh Pr., 1973).

The questions are

  1. Is there a quality requirement such that one solution is likely to be more rational than another? [Why the conditional?]
  2. Do I have sufficient information to make a high-quality decision? [Notice the assumption that intelligence is not in short supply.]
  3. Is the problem structured? [Is it object-oriented?]
  4. Is acceptance of decision by subordinates critical to effective implementation? [This is a problem? Send nonverbal messages indicating that ``buy-in'' is mandatory.]
  5. If I were to make the decision by myself, is it reasonably certain that it would be accepted by my subordinates? [Whom am I fooling?]
  6. Do subordinates share the organizational goals to be attained in solving this problem? [Do I?]
  7. Is conflict among subordinates likely in preferred solutions?

The answer to each question in order determines which is the next question (in order) that must be answered.

The ``answers'' are of no conceivable interest.

Vehicle Recycling Partnership.

Voyageur Représentant Placier. French for `rep.'

Virtual Reality Society.

Vancomycin-resistant MRSA. MRSA is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and the methicillin resistance is a marker for resistance to all the antibiotics known as beta lactams, as well as other antibiotic families. Intravenous vancomycin has become the drug of choice for MRSA, at least until VRSA becomes very common.

Virtual Reality Software and Technology. Since 1994, there's been an ACM Conference (also called Symposium) on VRST annually, cosponsored by SIGGRAPH and SIGCHI.

Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

In January 1998, yet another scandal began ``swirling'' (I suppose these things go around, but do they have net angular momentum?) about an extramarital affair of Bill Clinton, who was US president at the time. (When he first ran for president, new rumors of this sort were called ``bimbo eruptions.'') A week into the scandal, on January 27, First Lady Hillary Clinton stood literally by her man as he scowled and declared ``I did not have sexual relations with that woman.'' It eventually turned out that he was apparently upset that the term ``sexual relations'' would be used when all he did was irrumate ``that woman.'' Something like that. Anyway, the next day Mrs. Clinton sat for an interview by host Matt Lauer on NBC's Today (a morning show). Here is some of the unmemorable stuff she said in the interview:

Matt Lauer: There has been one question on the minds of people in this country, Mrs. Clinton, lately, and that is what is the exact nature of the relationship between your husband and Monica Lewinsky. Has he described that relationship in detail to you?

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Well, we've talked at great length, and I think as this matter unfolds, the entire country will have more information. [Oh gawwwd was she ever right.] But we're right in the middle of a rather vigorous feeding frenzy right now. And people are saying all kinds of things, and putting out rumor and innuendo. And I have learned over the last many years, being involved in politics, and especially since my husband first started running for president, that the best thing to do in these cases is just to be patient, take a deep breath and the truth will come out. But there's nothing we can do to fight this firestorm of allegations that are out there.

ML: But he has described to the American people what this relationship was not, in his words.

HRC: Right.

ML: Has he described to you what it was?

HRC: Yes. And we'll find that out as time goes by, Matt.

ML: Has he described to you what it was?

HRC: Yes. And we'll find that out as time goes by, Matt.

[further on]

ML: Let me take you and your husband out of this for a second. Bill and Hillary Clinton aren't involved in this story. If an American president had an adulterous liaison in the White House and lied to cover it up, should the American people ask for his resignation?

HRC: Well, they should certainly be concerned about it.

ML: Should they ask for his resignation?

HRC: Well, I think that -- if all that were proven true, I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not going to be proven true. I think we're going to find some other things. ...

The next day's issue of USA Today commented -- err, reported -- that ``the first lady didn't make excuses for President Clinton or try to deflect questions.'' Also that day, the New York Daily News ran some comments of people who watched the interview. Glenda Sandusky, of Kansas City, had this instant analysis after watching the interview on a TV monitor: ``She's good. She's smooth, she's calm, she's very professional. I think she knows he's guilty, but she's got no choice but to stand by him.'' Okay, Ms. Sandusky had a few years on wet-behind-the-ears USA Today, but I think this demonstrates that instant analysis can be incisive.

Anyway, the really memorable part of the interview was this:

HRC: But I do believe that this is a battle. I mean, look at the very people who are involved in this. They have popped up in other settings. This is, the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.

John Whitehead, a conservative lawyer heading the Rutherford Institute, a Christian civil liberties advocacy group in Charlottesville, Virginia, was understood to have been one of the ``very people'' referred to. He scoffed, but offered to investigate the charges if Mrs. Clinton would provide further details. Others, however, had harsher reactions. Paul Weyrich, then head of the conservative Free Congress Foundation, complained bitterly about not being explicitly identified: ``What do we have to do to get on her list?'' In a press release, he threatened to sue her for discrimination, but I guess it was settled out of court or something.

Look, I'm laying on the context because a thick cloud of protective amnesia and polite silence have obscured the entire, uh, unfortunate episode, and there are probably people today who don't get the joke. But that's enough; let's just skip over all the sordid stuff that perspired before or transpired afterward. Pres. Clinton survived the impeachment and trial, and almost immediately everyone resolutely forgot all about the affair. Hillary Clinton became a moderate centrist (I mean -- she always was!), and all that was really left was her lovely phrase, which is good for a laugh every so often. It has appeared in the titles of at least a few books. (These are listed below in order of decreasing prominence and total sales, as best I can determine. The number preceding each title is the year of first publication.)

  1. How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace), by Harry Stein.
  2. The Official Handbook of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy: The Arguments You Need to Defeat the Loony Left, by Mark W. Smith. It comes with a free tear-along-the-perforation membership card.
  3. The Shrinking of Ken Starr: The Leader of a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Against President Clinton, by Anne-Renee Testa.
  4. Fascists in Christian Clothing: The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, by Richard J. Weisman. It's published by iUniverse: ``There's no need to waste years hoping that someone will publish your book. iUniverse makes it possible for you to become a published author today.''
Also worth mentioning: A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President, by Jeffrey Toobin (1999).

There's a book with the title How the Left Can Win Arguments and Influence People: A Tactical Manual for Pragmatic Progressives (yes, it's over, that's all of the title), by John K. Wilson (2001). I think one of the tactics conspiracies left, right and ambidextrous use is putting people to sleep with long titles. This book has a chapter entitled ``The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Why the Left-Wing [sic] Needs One, Too).'' This book would rank second if it were on the list above. Another book that references a VRWC is The Left Stuff: How the Left-Handed Have Survived and Thrived in a Right-Handed World, by Melissa Roth. It has a chapter entitled ``The Right-Wing Conspiracy: the Historical Bias Against the Left Hand.'' Look, is it just me, or are titles growing out of control?

There's a music CD entitled simply Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, of sounds by Michael Conlon (analog) and Eric Ewing (digital). Don't ask me what this means; I'm just quoting the liner notes. It's distributed by Pine Tree State Mind Control, which explains that it ``uses subliminal messages and hypnosis techniques to create a happier, more productive society. The messages encoded on this CD will help you work harder, smile more often, and get the best out of your leisure time.'' There's a live track, ``Chronoplasty Live (a Cute Depression),'' which demonstrates that they managed to get a gig once in Rhode Island (``The Ocean State''). Other tracks include ``Acetic Pepsid,'' ``Enochian Deathmatch,'' and ``Declasse Posse.''

Lehigh University's student-run conservative newspaper changed its name at the end of 2005 to become The Lehigh Patriot in January 2006. As I suggested, some younger folk may be missing the joke these days.

There are also quite a few VRWC websites, possibly with associated membership organizations. They may be conspiring as they say, but coordinating they aren't:

That's just scratching the surface. A lot of blogs have names that play off VRWC. There's also LeftWingConspiracy.Com, and googling turns up a smaller but comparable number of hits for Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy than for Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. All right, that's it. This thoroughness has bored me out of my mind.

Variable Star. You might learn more at VSNET, the Variable Star Network.


Vergilian Society, Inc.

Victoria's Secret. As secrets go, this one is pretty well known. Some marketing person seems to have discovered that VS is perfect for products intended to enhance women's attractiveness (cf. VS Sassoon). I think I can understand why.

Virtual Scheduling. Sometimes it seems that's the only kind.

Visual Studio. The Microsoft Windows IDE.

Vehicle Stability Assist. One synonym, used by Acura, for electronic stability control. For other synonyms, see the ESC entry.

Virtual Storage Access Method. One of the two standard approaches to data storage in IBM mainframes. The other is ISAM. VSAM differs from ISAM in having more efficient space management. VSAM can create three different kinds of data sets:

Very Small Aperture Terminal. One-meter satellite dish, as opposed to three-meter head-office dish, in a satellite-linked network.

Vestigial SideBand.

VME Subsystem Bus. Motorola TM.

Vehicle Skid Control. A term used by Toyoto; a synonym of electronic stability control. For other synonyms, see the ESC entry.

According to the help pages of McAfee VirusScan (from Network Associates), ``VSC is the acronym for VirusScan.'' According to the June 11, 2002 issue of PC Magazine, you should be using Norton AntiVirus 2002.

Visual SCCS. Available for Sun Sparc, HP, and DEC Unix workstations. Cf. SCCS.

Variable-Speed Drive.

Ventricular Septal Defect. A defect of the septum separating the two ventricles (lower, pumping chambers) of the heart.

Vienna Sausage Definition Language. A language for describing or defining general hyperfood links. You should understand that this entry is a joke, but the VDL entry is not. (Normally, I wouldn't be so heavy-handed as to pronounce which entries are jokes, but I figured this one was too much of a challenge.)

However, there is a ``Sausage Software -- makers of HotDog HTML Web-editor.'' It's difficult for leaping absurdity to stay more than half a step ahead of dogged reality.

An ESA operating system from IBM, for the IBM/390.

Vancouver Stock Exchange.

Valence State Electron-Pair Repulsion. Developed by Gillespie and Nyholm to describe the bond bending that arises from ``Pauli repulsion.'' The strength of the repulsion between lone pairs (lp's) is strongest, between bond pairs (bp's) weakest, and between a lone and a bond pair intermediate in energy.

Thus, for example, the excimer XeF2 is surrounded by five d orbital electron pairs: two bonding and three lone. Because the repulsion between the lp's is greatest, they arrange themselves in a triangle (120 degree bond angles) about Xe, which minimizes their repulsion. Next in importance are the lp-bp pair repulsions, minimized by placing the bond pairs on a common axis perpendicular to the plane of the lone orbitals (going through the Xe in the center of that triangle). This gives a bp-lp angle of 90 degrees -- smaller because in the competition to repel electron pairs, a large angle between the lone pairs is more important. In the present case, the weakest repulsion, between the two bp's, plays no rôle, but the bp-bp angle is 180 degrees. The bonds form a trigonal bipyramid, and the molecule is linear.

I think that's chemistry, and you're welcome to it. Give me a million-state-basis Hartree-Fock (HF) any day; I'd rather have numbers than insight.

Vertical Scanning Frequency.

Vector Spherical Harmonic[s].

According to the help pages of McAfee Virusscan (from Network Associates), ``VSH is the acronym for VirusShield.''

Vitiligo Support and Information Group. Here's an informational posting by a cousin.

Virtual Software Library. Service originally known by more descriptive title of SHAreware Search Engine (SHASE).

Vector Sum, Linear Excited Predictive Coding.


Votum Solvit Laetus Libens Merito. Latin, `paid his vow gladly, willingly, and deservedly.' That ``deservedly'' in the translation is according to Appendix 2 of Lawrence J.F. Keppie's Understanding Roman Inscriptions (1991). I hae me doots; perhaps ``deservingly'' or ``meritoriously'' would make better sense.


Votum Solvit Libens Merito. Latin, `paid his vow willingly and deservedly.' Cf. V.S.L.L.M.

Volume Serial Number.

Verb Subject Object. A syntax class. See SVO.

Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Serving the Hampton Roads communities (Norfolk area) since 1979 as the VSO, and since 1920 as the Virginia Symphony (at the time, the only one between Baltimore and Atlanta). The VSO was formed in 1979 by merging the Virginia Symphony with the Peninsula Symphony Orchestra, the Virginia Beach Pops Symphony, and the Virginia Orchestra Group.

Voluntary Service Organization.

Very Small-Outline Package. National Semiconductor publishes specs on the web

VLBI (very long baseline interference) Space Observatory Program. There are principal servers for the program in the US (from JPL) and in Japan (from ISAS).

Virtual Symphony Orchestra Performance. If, like me, you have neglected to achieve an adequate -- or any -- mastery of the Finnish language, you may find the DIVA page more informative.

Vertical Surface (microelectronics) Package.

Victor Sawdon Pritchett. A journalist and a writer of novels, travels books, biographies, and memoirs, but best remembered for his short stories and (popular, not --- ewww! -- academic) literary criticism. He signed his pieces VSP, and his friends called him that. His name usually appeared in print as ``V. S. Pritchett.'' A useful mnemonic, for as long as information about him may be useful: he was named after the Queen, who died the year after his birth. (Queen Victoria, 81, died on January 22, 1901. Her timing was impeccable: her reign of 63 years is a convenient periodization almost equivalent to ``nineteenth century'' in British politics, morals, literature, and art. Hers was the longest reign in British history. If you're keeping score, Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne at the age of 25 in February 1952, on the death of her father George VI, age 56. Queen Elizabeth's mother, born the same year as VSP, lived to be 101.)

Volume Surveillance Radar.

Vaginal Surgeons Society. Now renamed; see SGS.

Visual SourceSafe. Source-code back-up in the Enterprise Edition of Microsoft's Visual Studio. Instead of saving source code under version numbers, it stores it to a database. Visual Studio is a collection of developer tools for various Microsoft language versions.

VS Sassoon
Vidal Sassoon Sassoon (tm). Vidal Sassoon was a trendy hair stylist to actors and other beautiful people in the fifties and sixties, but he hasn't cut any hair in years. As of November 2001, the seventy-three-year-old was head (nudge-nudge) of VS Sassoon. The company was a subsidiary of P&G, which changed the name from Vidal Sassoon in a ``brand restaging'' with ``improved products'' in fall 2000.

[You know, that ``improved products'' thing above came as a real shock to me. I thought that all these companies always offered the best products at the lowest prices, and that the products only changed when there was a scientific breakthrough (you know -- new! improved!). It never occurred to me that there might be a correlation between price and quality; this could have ramifications.]

Anyway, the renaming was gradual, starting with Vidal Sassoon Redline products in fall 1998, and not yet completed by late 2001. However, the new company logo had a large vee ess over the name Sassoon in capitals, and the company apparently treated ``VS Sassoon'' and ``Sassoon'' as equivalent, sort of like Coke and Coca-Cola. This is one of those rare intentional AAP's. It wasn't not a very good intention, because the Sassoon brand's value was in its high-end-niche name recognition, and those who recognize the name know that ``VS Sassoon'' doesn't make sense.

Intentional AAP's seem to have been fashionable in the beauty and elective ``health care'' industries. Cf. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

Anyway, P&G also raised its prices about 70%, and market share shrank. Duh. (Okay, maybe if they'd sunk some money into advertising, raising the prices might have reinforced the perception of upscaleness or whatever, and at least kept revenues up.) Late in 2001, there was speculation that P&G, which found itself with nine brands of shampoo, conditioner, and styling products, would sell off VS in the following year or two. In 2003 Sassoon (the guy) sued P&G for destroying his brand by skimping on marketing in favor of some of the company's other brands, like Pantene. (P&G spent only $90,000 in US ads for VS Sassoon in 2002, down from $34 million in 1998.) Things are pretty bad when you have to take your own holding company to court. By 2004 it seems Vidal was no longer head of the company that bore his name, and around 2005 the brand seems to have quietly disappeared. The interesting thing is that (in the opinion of industry analysts) P&G could still have sold the brand -- to a competitor like Unilever, say. P&G's reasoning would seem to have been that a brand is a weapon: even if you don't want to use it, it's better to destroy it than to sell it to your enemies and have them use it against you.

Anyway, P&G was arguing that the Sassoon brand had lost cachet with young people. Not so. You can take it from me: pleonasm killed the brand; the steps-on-its-own-letters ``VS Sassoon'' was unclassy, and everything went downhill from there. Soon ``Sassoon'' will evoke only the WWI poet.

There are still beauty salons bearing Sassoon's name. Some were started when Sassoon was still creatively dressing hair in Europe. More were started by the consortium of former colleagues who bought him out and paid for the right to use his name. In 2002 that group sold out to Regis Corporation, which (as of 2008) continues the Vidal Sassoon salons as one of its subchains (based in Western Europe, with salons in East Asia also). The models on their websites look ghastly.

Vikram Sarabai Space Centre. In India.

Very Short Take-Off and Landing. Cf. VTOL.

Very Shallow Water.

Vierteljahresschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte. A German journal that might have been named `Quarterly Notes in Social and Economic History' in English. See Stuart Jenks's page of Tables of Contents of Historical Journals and Monographic Series in German for a complete table of contents (deutsche Seite: Zeitschriftenfreihandmagazin Inhaltsverzeichnisse geschichtswissenschaftlicher Zeitschriften in deutscher Sprache).

Voltage Standing Wave Ratio. Standard name for the standing-wave voltage ratio.

Valkyrie Spatula One. A gunspatula for intergalactic food fights and worse; from Spatula City.

Vt., VT
Vermont. USPS abbreviation in capitals with no period.

With a growing population that stands at 600,000, it is surging to overtake shrinking North Dakota, which was one of only three states to suffer a population decrease from 1980 to 1990 (Connecticut and Rhode Island were the others). More information on the population of Vermont can be found at the C.U. entry.

The Villanova Center for Information Law and Policy serves a page of Vermont state government links. USACityLink.com has a page with very few city or town links for the state. What did you expect?

Wait -- you wanted to read something interesting about Vermont? What are you doing here!? You need to visit the manual transmission entry.

Verb Transitive. A transitive verb is a verb that takes a direct object. This can get complicated, so I'm going to punt, and wait until I have a D.O. entry. Cf. v.i.

Vertical Tab (EBCDIC and ASCII 11 (decimal)).

Vetus Testamentum. There are supplements, too.

Presumably ``Video Terminal-.'' Prefix designation for a popular line of computer terminals from Digital equipment (VT-52, VT-100, VT-200 series).

``Virginia Tech.'' Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in Blacksburg, Va. Just a few miles across the state line from Princeton...West Virginia, in Mercer County. The school colors of Princeton, WVa's HS are not orange and black, so save yourself the visit.

Okay, since this is a glossary, we're interested in words and names and such, rather than just any old facts. So here's what we wanted to know, courtesy of James B. Bell, possibly, or W. L. Gibson Jr. (less likely), or the anonymous compiler of ``Agricultural Economics at Virginia Tech --The First Sixty Years--.''

The university was chartered on March 6, 1872 as the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. Before the 1896 academic year, the name was modified to Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute. During the 1896 year, the college was first referred to as Virginia Polytechnic Institute, but with the subscript, Virginia's Agricultural and Mechanical College. Soon thereafter, the institution used only Virginia Polytechnic Institute and was commonly referred to as VPI. Not until March 16, 1944 was legislation enacted to change the official name of the institution to Virginia Polytechnic Institute. On July 1, 1970, the name was changed to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to better describe the scope and status of the institution as a university. Since that name change, Virginia Tech has emerged as the most commonly used name.

Virtual Terminal.

Virtual Tourist. ``A map-based directory of all the WWW servers in the world, operating in close association with W3C's Master Web Server Directory.'' Cf. VT-II.

Valley Transportation Authority. ``Valley'' -- oh yeah, real descriptive. Buses in San Jose, CA. Cf. CalTrain.

Virtual Terminal Access Method. IBM trademark for a suite of programs that control communication between nodes and application programs in SNA. Also seen expanded as Virtual Telecommunications Access Method.

Variable Timing Control. Honda uses the term VTC System for an electronic adjustment of the intake camshaft phase. (They put it on a DOHC; the exhaust valves are controlled from a separate camshaft.) This page for the model-year 2002 Civic Si explains that the timing is adjusted for engine load. I have a hard time seeing how this could be very useful. Obviously, spark timing is advanced with increasing engine speed. Presumably the fuel is injected, so the intake cams only control the air intake. Why mess with that? Intake on the downstroke before compression. I suppose they might have a reason, and there's even a chance they'd state it if I asked, but do I really want to donate my email address to the Honda advertising department? It's an ugly car with Ford-Focus lines. Bring back the 1990 CRX!

Video TeleConferencing.

Voltage Transfer Characteristic. Output voltage as a function of input voltage, or a plot of this function.

Variable-Threshold CMOS.

(See T. Kuroda, et al., ``A 0.9V 150 MHz 10mW 4mm2 2-D Discrete Cosine Transform Core Processor with Variable-Threshold Voltage Scheme'' ISSCC 1996.)

Vehicle Tracking Equipment.

Virtual Tourist II. A map-based guide to local and regional information on the WWW, operating in close association with City.Net'' and later ... ``is no longer in service. The full content of VT2, including a new map-based interface, can now be found in City.Net. You can go directly to the City.Net World Map page.'' Cf. VT.

(Maritime) Vessel Traffic Management and Information Systems.

Voltage-to-Frequency. A VCO is a VtoF converter.

Vertical Take-Off (and) Landing. E.g., Harrier jump jets. Cf. VSTOL. NASA likes the term VTVL.

Virtual Terminal Protocol.

Virtual Toilet Paper Museum.

Very Thin Quad Flat Pack[age] (QFP).

VideoTape Recorder.

(Seagoing) Vessel Traffic Service[s].

Variational Transition-State Theory (TST).

Vertical Take-off, Vertical Landing. NASA term for VTOL. Like the Lunar Module (LEM). Systems have also been tested that take off on their own first and then land. VTVL is contrasted with VTHL.

Vacuum-Tube Volt Meter. This is not a meter for measuring vacuum tube voltages, but rather a voltmeter with vacuum tubes inside. And they're not just rolling around in there; they play a constructive rôle in the voltage measurement process; they're a part of the circuit. ``In the loop,'' so to speak.

The designation indicates that the [input] impedance of the voltmeter is especially high (because the grid currents of vacuum tubes are small).

This is a relatively late entry in the glossary. The 11063rd, to be precise, not counting temporary entries that were removed beforehand. A lot you care, you say. [If you have not already said this, do so now. Go ahead: ``A lot I care.'' Something is facetious in here.]

I have been aware of this acronym for a long time, possibly even throwing it around some myself occasionally, when social pressures dictated, but I could never work up the courage to ask, and admit that I didn't know, what it meant. The trouble is, the longer you wait with these things, the worse it gets when you finally `come out.'

The other day, Gary was regaling me with the story of his latest savvy auction bid, or liquidation sale discovery, or theft or whatever it was, and it happened to involve some VTVM's. I decided that it was now or never: I would risk my reputation for general with-it-ness and ask, real casual-like, ``uh, yeah, uh, I forget now, what does VTVM stand for?''

My fears of public humiliation were instantly confirmed. A secretary poked her head out from behind a door, pretending to look for something. Two sociology majors tittered as they walked past, covering their mouths like Japanese schoolgirls. I studied my shoes intently. If they hadn't been velcro I would have retied them. With a look of pitying incredulity, Gary slowly explained the acronym, using small words so I wouldn't panic and become confused. ``[Expletive], Al,'' he concluded, ``the other day Matthew learned that in nursery school!''

``Uh, I guess I was sick back when my nursery school covered it,'' I replied lamely. ``Uh, anyway, uh, I wasn't following real good in those days; I was still learning English'' [vide ID entry for possible clarification]. ``It was quite a few years ago.''

Realizing my distress, Gary immediately tried to salvage the tatters of my self-respect: ``it's okay, you probably learned it and forgot. Happens to everyone. The problem is, the schools teach this without any context, so it's difficult to remember. Why, when Matthew's day school taught it, he came home and asked what `volt' was. Same thing with counting: they learn `one, two, three ...,' but it's all rote memorization -- no Peano's axioms, no transfinite generalizations, so they don't really understand! I dread when they do geometry. I can see it now: `circle, square, dodecahedron.' Nothing about Euclid's fourth postulate, no embeddings in higher dimensions, none of the real fundamentals. So, heh-heh, I'm sure you knew what VTVM stood for once, you just weren't given what you needed to heave it into long-term memory.''

``Thanks, Gary,'' I replied gratefully, as I brushed away a tear.

``So Al, is this going in the Stammtisch glossary?''

``Only if I can make it funny.''

``Funny? What could be funny about VTVM?''

``I'll make stuff up, but I won't say that. I'll say it's `enhanced dialogue' or `not verbatim' or something.''

Velvet Underground. A concept rock group that started out in 1966 or so as the musical component, loosely speaking, of Andy Warhol's happenings.

Vrije Universiteit. Dutch and Flemish: `[tuition-] Free University.' (One of these days, I'm going to make a special effort to discover some difference between Dutch and Flemish, besides the fact that it's spoken in different countries.) VU is productive prepositionally; e.g., Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). Cf. German Freie Universität (FU).

Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in Belgium (.be). Other Brussels schools: ULB, KUB.

Vulpecula. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

A special kind of meter intended for tracking rapidly varying audio signals. Maximum undistorted signal power is designated 0 VU (for 0 dB), and standard specs for a VU require rise time from zero intensity to 99% of a sudden 0 VU signal of 1/3 second and no more than 1-2% overshoot. Nowadays, more equipment is switching over to a row of LED's.

Heraclitus of Ephesus is reported to have observed:

Eyes are more accurate witnesses than ears.
[The fragment is Diels-Kranz #101a, Bywater #15. The translation is that of Philip Wheelwright in his Heraclitus (Princeton U.P., 1959), p. 19.]

Vlasov-Uheling-Uhlenbeck. Nuclear dynamics model based on single-particle distribution-function description. See Kruse, H., Jacak, B. V., Stocker, H., Phys. Lett. B 54, p. 289 (1985); Kruse, H., Jacak, B. V., Molitoris, J., Westfall, G. and Stocker, H., Phys. Rev. C 31, p. 1770 (1985);

Vacuum Ultra-Violet (light frequency).

Vacuum Ultra-Violet Free-Electron Laser. The description, and originally the name, of a DESY facility. On April 6, 2006, the DESY directorate decided to give it the apposite and flashier name FLASH.

This page explains that a change had been suggested ``to find a compact name for the facility which is more attractive and easier to pronounce in different languages.'' FWIW, in German the acronym ``VUV-FEL'' ought to be pronounced to sound like ``Foof-fell'' in English. In every European language, afaik, it's heavy on labials.

Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand).

V & V
Validation and Verification. Or is that Verification and Validation?

V & V
Viruses and Viagra. Email. Made that one up myself, but it's true enow.

Vice versa. Latin for `with the order inverted.' `Conversely.'

VV & A
Validation, Verification, and Accreditation. [Military jargon.]

VV & C
Validation, Verification, and Certification.

Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc.

Varios Autores. Spanish, `various authors.' Cf. Latin A.A.V.V.

Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation.

Veddy Veddy Important Person. Used mostly in India (.in), home of the caste system, along with VIP. Also common in Pakistan (.pk) and Sri Lanka (.lk).

Vermont Veterinary Medical Association. See also AVMA.

Virginia Veterinary Medical Association. See also AVMA, NVVMA.

Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail. See DRE.

Voter-Verified Paper Ballot. See the DRE entry.

Voter-Verified Paper Record (of cast ballot). See DRE, already.

Voter-Verified Paper Trail. How many times do I have to tell you? See DRE!

Vereniging voor VreemdelingenVerkeer. Dutch `Society for Foreigners' Travel.' A private Netherlands tourist bureau. The link above is all in Dutch. They direct visitors to the NBT's English-language site (and to its foreign websites, listed at the bottom of this page).

VaporWare. Software that doesn't arrive as announced. Vide gas.

Betatest some vaporware now.

Virginia Adeline Woolf (neé Stephen). Discussed at the Bloomsbury entry.

Before he used her name in his play (discussed at the microscope entry), Edward Albee sought her widower's (Leonard Woolf's) permission. The story is told in Peter F. Alexander: Leonard and Virginia Woolf : A Literary Partnership (NYC: St. Martin's Pr., 1992), pp. 199-200.

Volkswagen. German `people's vehicle.' Not ``-wagon,'' understood?! The original Volkswagen, what came to be called (affectionately!) the ``Beetle,'' was invented by the engineer Porsche. New for his design were unibody construction and torsion-bar suspension. He convinced Hitler to support it, some prototypes were built and tested, and a plant began to be built using government support as well as a subscription system among Germans who were effectively buying their own future jobs. (Oh yeah, and some slave labor, as current VW ownership discovered when they funded some internal historical research.) After the war, automobile manufacturers among the Allies had the opportunity to buy VW but were not, for various reasons, interested.

The Beetle prospered and became an icon. I should probably say more about that.

In 1971, as sales were flagging, a relatively major set of changes was made, including a few-inches-longer nose. This was called the ``Superbeetle'' (175Kb noninterlaced gif). And the bumpers kept getting bigger. The Beetle surpassed the Model T Ford for the largest number of automobile units ever manufactured. Then in 1975, VW introduced the Rabbit model in the US (marketed elsewhere as the Golf, German word for gulf) and stopped selling the Superbeetle sedan in the US. In 1980, the Rabbit Cabriolet (convertible) model was introduced, and no more Beetles were imported to the US.

The Beetle continued to be sold elsewhere. It was made in Brazil, and later manufacturing was transferred to Puebla, Mexico. This Beetle model shared internal parts with the Superbeetle, but the exterior continued the shorter, less muscular style of the old Beetle. After the Superbeetle ceased to be made, the old Beetle continued to evolve in small ways. It was a little as if Homo Sapiens had become extinct and Neanderthals had continued to evolve, but a more relevant analogy would be with the Checker, which continued as a popular taxi-fleet vehicle (particularly in New York) for decades after the 1950's-style vehicle ceased to be sold as a passenger vehicle for personal use. The Beetle was very popular as a taxi in Mexico City, where owners typically ripped out the front passenger seat to facilitate entry to the back seat. VW tailored the vehicle to its market; externally, the most obvious change was that the number of chrome elements on the body was reduced.

In 1998, VW introduced the New Beetle (not to be confused with the Superbeetle). It had obvious Beetle bloodlines, or inspiration or something, but it was not mechanically related to the old Beetle. For the North American market, the car was manufactured at the same Puebla plant that continued manufacturing old Beetles for the Mexican market. I had the impression, after the New Beetle was introduced, that I was seeing a lot more of the old Beetles in mint condition. I suppose a few new old Beetles were making it over the border. Under NAFTA, I guess a Mexican who owns one of those in Mexico must be allowed to drive it into the US, but you couldn't register a new old Beetle in the US, because it is way non-federalized. It's basically a Trabant, and Mexico City has the air quality to prove it.

On July 30, 2003, the last old-style VW Beetle rolled off the assembly line in Mexico. The last hundred or so models were highly sought-after collectors' items. They were a little bit nonstandard -- spiffed up a but to resemble the earlier private passenger vehicles. They got whitewall tires, and they scrounged up some extra chrome trim somewhere.

The VW company still has the largest automobile market share in Europe.

Vibration-induced White Finger. A term coined by the Industrial Injury Advisory Council in 1970.

Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership. A program run by Mary Baldwin College for the State of Virginia. It was originally created to offer women a `separate but equal' alternative to VMI, which fought for years in the courts to stay all-male. There's an article on this (cover story, actually) by Jeffrey Rosen in the February 19, 1996 issue of The New Republic (``Like Race, Like Gender?''), with follow-up editorial mail on March 19.

Summer of '96, the Supreme Court finally ruled that separate-but-equal doesn't work for sex any more than for race. This basically affects only The Citadel and VMI, the two state-supported all-male military academies. The Citadel's governing body voted to comply immediately and vowed to embrace coeducation enthusiastically. (At least they didn't vow to embrace coeds enthusiastically.) VMI considered the option of using alumni funds to take itself private, but did not. Apparently they decided instead that what they would do was accept coeds but harass them mercilessly.

Van Waters & Rogers, Inc. Specialty chemicals.

VWR Scientific Products
Known for waterbottle Mitbringseln.

Victorian Women Writers Project.

Voltage-Controlled Crystal Oscillator. Really, this should be VCXO, but the inverted order is too common.

Virtual eXtension for Instrumentation.

Virtual eXtension Interface.

VME eXtension for Instrumentation. (Often seen: `VME/VXI.')

Voice eXtensible Mark-up Languaege.

V-Y model

Varicella-Zoster Immune Globulin.

Varicella-Zoster Virus. Primary infection causes chickenpox (varicella). The virus may lie dormant for years and then cause shingles (herpes zoster).

V2, V-2
Vergeltungswaffe 2. German for `Retaliation Weapon 2.' It was originally designated A4, the fourth in a sequence of rockets. It was the first ballistic missile and the first supersonic rocket, and it became the first production liquid-fuel rocket (thrust from alcohol and liquid oxygen). [Robert Goddard made the first liquid-fuel rockets in the 1920's. He lived long enough to see one of the German rockets, and died on August 10, 1945.]

The Reichswehr's interest in rocket technology dated from 1930, and was partly motivated by the fact that post-WWI arms limitations did not regulate rockets (or gliders, which they also developed). The V-2 rocket was first used in September 1944, at first primarily against London and Norwich (about 1000 fired). The V-2 had a range of about 300 km. Later in the German retreat, they were used against continental European targets (about 2000 fired). The principal target became Antwerp, an important port supplying the Allied invasion.

Two booms were heard when a V-2 hit. First there was a sonic boom, then the explosion. Since the V-2's approached at supersonic speed on essentially straight trajectories, they could not be heard coming. There was no direct defense against them. An RAF attack (August 17, 1943) against the Peenemünde Rocket Research Center caused enough damage to delay the V-2 weapon program by an estimated one to six months. Once the V-2 came into use, the Allies were successful in destroying the fixed launch sites, but unsuccessful in destroying the mobile launch sites.

They would have bombed the factories if they had known where they were, but intelligence was never adequate to define a target. In fact, Allied bombings contributed to a German decision to reduce the three planned V-2 production sites to one. Peenemünde was one planned site for assembly, apparently judged to be too exposed. Another was the the Zeppelin works at Friedrichshafen, which was bombed on June 22, 1943, to damage Giant Würzburg production. The bombing also damaged the assembly factory there that had been planned to be used for V-2 production (something Allied intelligence did not learn during the war). In the end, V-2's were only manufactured at a large underground plant (Mittelwerke) near Nordhausen, where V-1's were already manufactured. [I think that V-1 production, originally decentralized, was eventually also concentrated at this facility. But since this is the V-2 entry, and we don't have a V1 entry, I don't have to check.] The Mittelwerke were manned by prisoner slaves and run by the SS. Between 1943 and 1945, 60,000 prisoners worked there; 20,000 of them were executed, starved, or worked to death, which is somewhat less than the number killed by V-1 bombs in England (about 25,000). V-2's killed about 2700 in England and 7000 on the continent.

Wernher von Braun led the effort that designed the rockets. After the war, the US, Britain, and the USSR all found the rocket technology verrrry interrressstink, and the scientists and engineers who developed them useful. Von Braun and many of his people became American citizens. The double-thinkish conversion of German scientists from service to the Nazi regime to service to the former enemy was satirized in the movie Dr. Strangelove (mentioned at the F entry) and in a song of Tom Lehrer. The V-2 itself is of central importance to Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.

The V-2 carried an explosive warhead (Amatol Fp60/40) whose weight I have seen variously reported as

  1. ``approximately 738 kg (1 ton)'' (this page concurs, though the consistent wording and unit-conversion ignorance suggest that this may not be corrobration),
  2. ``2,006 lb (910 kg) of Amatol,''
  3. ``975 kg (0.96 tons)'' (the Oxford Companion to WWII agrees),
  4. ``1000 kg (2204 lb),''
  5. and most often simply as ``one ton'' (whether short, long, metric, or heaven-forfend shipping, is rarely explicit).

It is instructive to consider how one might get at the truth that might lie behind these numbers, but you could also skip to the table at the end of this entry. The likeliest a priori explanation of disagreement among sources is that some and possibly all sources were careless or misinformed. There are similar disagreements, and sometimes much more preposterous ones, regarding the range, maximum altitude, speed, and other details of the V-2.

There is rarely any indication of whether the stated figure is net (the explosive itself) or gross (including the case and perhaps the impact fuse). One tends to assume net, since the distinction between the immediate casing of the warhead and the rest of the missile seems a bit pedantic. On the other hand, if the casing weight is included it can make a significant difference: the highest charge-to-weight ratios in RAF bombs were about 80%, so the difference between net and gross might well account for the range of reported weights (i.e., might allow figures at two extremes to both be correct in some sense). This is consistent with the discussion in ch. 45 (``V-2'') of R.V. Jones's Wizard War. The chapter is concerned in large part with the struggle to get firm information on the V-2, with Jones estimating a warhead of one ton early on, and sticking to that estimate against the usually much higher and at one point lower estimates of mistaken experts. As he writes the story, his estimates were eventually vindicated. However, on page 438, before beginning this story, he quotes without demur Albert Speer's comments in Inside the Third Reich that ``... 5,000 long-range rockets ... would have delivered only 3,750 tons of explosives.''

Is there any other possibility? Well, the explosive was amatol, which is just a name for a mix of ammonium nitrate and TNT. Amatol is a weaker explosive than TNT, but tolerates a higher temperature. There were several attempts to use more powerful explosive mixtures, but in tests these detonated prematurely, at altitudes of a few thousand feet. It is conceivable that the volume allowed for the explosive was initially chosen to accommodate one ton of TNT, and was afterwards impossible to modify rapidly. However, ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) has a density of 1.725 g/cc, and TNT a density of 1.654 g/cc, so this could only explain an increase in explosive weight. (If -- an unlikely if for that time -- the explosive was described in terms of TNT equivalence, then it might explain the range of reported values.)

I don't know about you, but after considering all this I am inclined to believe that something like the 738-kilo figure is correct for the net explosive weight, though so far I only have (the linked) web sources (above) for it.

What, you're still not convinced? Okay, let's see what one of the designers, Dr. Walter Dornberger (wartime Commanding Officer of the Peenemünde Rocket Research Institute), had to say about it. He published a book entitled Der Schuss ins Weltall (in German, 1952), entitled V-2 in the English translation of James Cleugh and Geoffrey Halliday (New York: Viking Pr., 1954). Who knows -- there might be some relevant information there. The list of specs on page xvii gives the payload weight as 1000 kg, 2205 lb. The ``high explosive carried'' is 750 kg, 1654 lb. As he explained on p. 222:

  The sheer momentum of a rocket weighing over 4.5 tons and traveling at 1500 miles per hour caused a crater 30 to 40 yards wide and 10 to 15 yards deep even without an explosive charge. Apart from fairly violent earth tremors, no lateral effects were produced beyond the edge of the crater.

  The warhead of 1/4-inch steel was originally designed to hold an explosive charge of 1 metric ton. To lessen deadweight our first plans for the A-4 were based entirely on the use of aluminum and magnesium alloys. Calculations based on wind-tunnel experiments showed that the temperature of the skin would reach 1250 degrees Fahrenheit, and orders to avoid these alloys, which were scarce, compelled us to substitute sheet steel. Deadweight was thus increased. To get anywhere near the required range of 160 miles, we had to give up the idea of carrying 1 ton of explosive and restrict to that figure the total weight of the warhead including the steel casing. ...

Here's the entire table of specs offered at pp. xvii-xviii, very lightly edited. (Brennschluss is `close-of-burning.' The translators preferred this word to English terms then in common use because the latter, unlike Brennschluss, implied that fuel had been exhausted. It will be clear that many of the original metric data are round numbers, and that the precision implied by some of the converted figures is specious.)

                                               METRIC                      U.S.
Length                                           14 m                    46 ft.
Diameter of body                               1.65 m               5 ft. 5 in.
Diameter over fins                             3.55 m              11 ft. 8 in.
Weight, empty but with warhead                4000 kg                  8818 lb.
Take-off weight                             12,900 kg                28,440 lb.
Payload                                       1000 kg                  2205 lb.
High explosive carried                         750 kg                  1654 lb.
Alcohol (containing 25% water)                3965 kg                  8740 lb.
Oxygen, liquid                                4970 kg                10,957 lb.
Fuel consumption, per second                   127 kg                   280 lb.
Mixture ratio (alcohol/oxygen)                             0.81
Burning time (max.)                                     65 sec.
Thrust at take-off                          25,000 kg                55,100 lb.
Thrust gain near Brennschluss                 4200 kg                13,230 lb.
Acceleration at take-off (effective)                      0.9 g
Acceleration at Brennschluss (effective)                    5 g
Temperature in motor                         ~2700° C                  ~4890° F
Pressure in motor                           15.45 atm            227 lb./sq.in.
Injection pressure (above motor pressure)     2.4 atm           35.3 lb./sq.in.
Nozzle expansion ratio                               15.45:0.85
Exhaust velocity                           2050 m/sec             6725 ft./sec.
Rocket stays vertical after take-off for                 4 sec.
       completes tilt within                            50 sec.
       attains angle of 49° from vertical at            54 sec.
       passes speed of sound after                      25 sec.
Velocity along trajectory (max.)           1600 m/sec                1 mi./sec.
Impact velocity                        900-1100 m/sec        3000-3600 ft./sec.
Height at Brennschluss                          22 km                  13.7 mi.
Distance from take-off point at Brennschluss    24 km                    15 mi.
Apogee of trajectory                         80-90 km                 50-56 mi.
Range (max.)                                   320 km                   199 mi.

Verb 2nd. A feature of North Germanic and most West Germanic languages, including Old English and Middle English. In V2 languages, the second element in an independent declarative sentence is always the verb. To a speaker of Modern English, this looks normal if the the first element is the subject (as in an SVO sentence, say). It can look odd if the first object is an adverb (forcing the subject to follow the verb.) In Yiddish, even subordinate clauses are verb-second.

I never had any trouble with this, possibly because I learned Spanish first, then a little German, and then English. When I heard about V2, I mistakenly thought it referred to the separation of the finite verb (in the V2 position) from the infinitives and participles at the end. Sorry. (I really mean that.) That bit is properly, or at least somewhat commonly, referred to as SVOV. SVOV is less common than V2. Swedish, for example, is a V2 language like German but an SVVO language like English. The SVOV structure does seem to be general in languages closely related to German. At least, it seems to be standard in the Plattdeutsch and Yiddish that I have heard. I've also heard Swiss German, but I could only make out one or two words.

I don't find V2 as interesting as linguists do, so the rest of this entry is dedicated to that other feature, since anyway I already wrote that up. In simple declarative sentences, German uses the SVO word order common among SAE languages. For example:

                 German                           English
       Sie erwartet einen Freund.           She awaits a friend.

(For this and the next two examples, it's possible to give translations that are virtually word-for-word, and even cognate-for-cognate. That's why I don't use the more conventional wait-for locutions.) German, like English, has a system of verb aspects and tenses that is mostly analytic. That is, verb conjugations are mostly periphrastic constructions using modals. Here are two examples:

       Sie kann einen Freund erwarten.      She can await a friend
       Sie hat einen Freund erwartet.       She has awaited a friend.

As you can see, the only thing preventing the German and English from corresponding cognate-by-cognate is that the second part of the verb has been moved (``translated,'' in the mathematical term) to the end of the sentence.

It's not just direct objects that get sandwiched between verbs. Indirect objects and adverbials are stuffed in there too -- the whole predicate. Only subordinate clauses escape. Have I mentioned that German sentences can become quite long? Here's a relevant passage from chapter 22 of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court:

I was gradually coming to have a mysterious and shuddery reverence for this girl; nowadays whenever she pulled out from the station and got her train fairly started on one of those horizonless transcontinental sentences of hers, it was borne in upon me that I was standing in the awful presence of the Mother of the German Language. I was so impressed with this, that sometimes when she began to empty one of these sentences on me I unconsciously took the very attitude of reverence, and stood uncovered; and if words had been water, I had been drowned, sure. She had exactly the German way; whatever was in her mind to be delivered, whether a mere remark, or a sermon, or a cyclopedia, or the history of a war, she would get it into a single sentence or die. Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.

(``[T]his girl'' is Sandy. Eventually he (``Sir Boss,'' the book's eponymous Yankee) marries her. More on transcontinental railroads at the golden spike entry.)

Hmmm. Here's a very characteristic bit of prose from (a couple of pages into ch. 1 of) Gertrude Stein's Wars I Have Seen (1945):

And there was my mother and my brothers on horseback and there was a Czech tutor, one did not realise [spelling sic] how important all these nationalities were going to be to every one then and a Hungarian governess, and there was the first contact with books, picture books but books all the same since pictures in picture books are narrative.

The infinitive form of most verbs, and the past participle of strong verbs (which constitute a large fraction of the most common verbs) end in -en. All the rest of the past participles end in -t. So if all you want to do is make rhymes, in German it's easy.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle. I've encountered the term in the field of communications engineering.

An international 300 bps full-duplex FSK modem standard. Equivalent to Bell 103 modem. At least it fits in the garbage can. An old computer you may have to pay to get towed away. See the Woz entry for examples.

V6, V-6
A six-cylinder engine with the cylinders in a vee pattern, as illustrated here. An advantage of a vee configuration is that each cylinder head need only be long enough to accommodate half of the cylinders, so the engine is shorter (i.e., the crankshaft is shorter). The engine may also be a bit shorter in height.

V8, V-8
An eight-cylinder engine with the cylinders in a vee pattern. See the V6 entry.

The international standard for 56 kbaud modems. For a few years before the standard was defined, hardware based on two incompatible industrial standards, x2 and 56Kflex, was already available. The installed-base investment seems to have delayed acceptance of a common standard.

56K modems are asymmetric by design: they can receive at 56K (provided that all other things, particularly cabling and the mux on the other end, allow it), but can send at a maximum speed of 33.6 kbaud.

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