December 26th, 2003


Today's Forgotten English


Exact, precise, minutely accurate.
--John Jamieson's Etymological Scottish Dictionary, 1808

Hence, on one's perjinks, on one's good behavior; perjinkity, exact details, nicities, proprieties.
--James Murray's New English Dictionary, 1909

Birthday of English mathematician Charles Babbage (1791-1871), best remembered for developing a forerunner of the modern computer, known as the "analytical machine," that was abandoned due to a lack of interest among investors. Exacting to the nth degree, Babbage once commented to Alfred Lord Tennyson on the lines from his poem, A Vision of Sin, "Every minute dies a man / Every minute one is born," saying, "I would therefore take the liberty of suggesting that in the next edition of your excellent poem the erroneous calculation to which I refer should be corrected as follows: 'Every moment dies a man / And one and a sixteenth is born.'" Although he did not adopt Babbage's ridiculously technical recommendation, Tennyson did later soften this passage by changing the more exact "minute" to the nonspecific "moment."

Kwanzaa begins/Boxing Day (Canada, U.K.)

I hereby dub "perjinks" an excellent word, and will be finding a use for it in my writing somewhere!

-The Gneech
  • Current Mood
    good good