Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Happy Birthday, cmdr_kitsune!

For your present, here's today's Forgotten English!

The instinctive love of offspring. A hybrid word [from the pseudoscience of phrenology] from Greek philos, loving, and Latin progenies, progeny.
--Daniel Lyons' American Dictionary of the English Language, 1897

Birthday of Franz Joseph Gall (1757-1828),
the Swabian founder of the pseudoscience known as phrenology. According to this system, the bumps, shape, and size of one's skull determined a person's capacity for various physical and mental functions. Inhabitiveness was just one of a litany of odd names for the various functions coined by Gall and his followers. Others included marvellousness, which was determined to have its seat in the upper parietal regions of the skull; adhesiveness, located in the occipital area; amativeness (based on amorousness), found in the cerebellum just above the back of the neck; and eventuality, which supposedly arose from the gray matter just above and behind the bridge of the nose. The theories of phrenology were developed in eastern Europe, but "applied phrenology" took hold in small-town America, where itinerant "bump doctors" shared the medical stage with snake-oil salesmen and other mountebanks.


That reminds me of "The Physiognomizer," a weird science gadget I created for the Technomancer's Toybox supplement for Mage: The Ascension. The Physiognomizer was this enormous machine you'd strap people into with a metal dome over their head, and it would change their personality by altering the shape of their skull. It was primarily intended as a "mind control" gadget for evil masterminds, although I suppose Doc Savage types could have used it as a way to rehabilitate criminals.

Technically, "physiognomy" said your personality was shaped by the contours of your face, rather than your skull, but "The Physiognomizer" was a better name than "The Phrenologizer."

-The Gneech


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 9th, 2007 02:17 pm (UTC)
In one of the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels, there is a troll who goes by the name of Zorgo the Retro-Phrenologist.

The logic being, of course, that if the bumps on your head define your personality, then altering those bumps will naturally alter the personality, too.

People seeking treatment sit in his chair, and Zorgo, with a carefully tuned set of hammers, sets about making subtle alterations to the topography of his patient's skull.

He was a bit character, but it was an amusing concept.
Mar. 9th, 2007 03:26 pm (UTC)
Yup, yup! Same concept. :) One of these days I really oughta read some Pratchett. :)

Mar. 9th, 2007 05:40 pm (UTC)
As you saw when you visited, I've got shelves full, you may borrow at your leisure.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 9th, 2007 03:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Swabian (adj.)
Well, well, you learn something new every day!

Mar. 9th, 2007 06:17 pm (UTC)
"The Physiognomizer"
There is a brilliant moment in an episode of the old-time radio series VIC AND SADE: Vic (the father) is trying to work at home because he thinks there will be more privacy; unfortunately due to some streets being blocked-off, the neighbors (and eventually, random strangers!) are taking a short-cut through the house. Vic is increasingly impatient, but maintains a polite veneer throughout the proceedings. At one point, Mrs Keller strikes up a conversation with a man on his way to the pool hall:

Keller: How've you been?

Man: Oh, I'm fine!

Keller: I understand you've had the shape of your head changed.

Man: That's right! Doctor did it with a hammer and two flat rocks.

Keller: Didn't it hurt?

Man: Oh, it hurt awful! You could hear me yellin' a block away! Doctor thought it was great; he screamed too.

Keller: Looks good though.

Man: Sure does! Course I can't wear a hat...

(All of this is transcribed from memory, so I may have a couple of words wrong, but you get the idea. V&S is hard to describe; in format, it was a daily soap opera, but instead of being melodramatic, it was a good-natured, slightly absurd slice-of-life. The conversation here is more overtly bizarre than the typical V&S script, but the whole series showed a uniquely skewed vision of suburban life in the 30's and 40's. I've always wanted to BE Vic, but I'd have to get a wife & kid from somewhere...)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

November 2019


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow