January 4, 2013

Old news about "news" and dog-powered machines.

In the 19th century, there were lots of inventions like this:



I discovered that as a result of having looked up the word "news" in the Oxford English Dictionary and run across this sentence in Richard Burton's 1621 book "Anatomy of Melancholy": "As a horse in a mill, a dog in a wheele, they run around without alteration or newes." I could picture working horses harnessed to a mill, trudging around in a circle, but what was the corresponding situation for a dog?

How about a dog-powered car?



The reason I was looking up the word "news" was that it was the last word in today's Gatsby sentence, and Meade, reading what I wrote, asserted that "news" was a word that dated back to the early days of movie newsreels and was an acronym for "north, east, west, south." No way, I said, dashing into the OED for confirmation. The idea of the pluralizing the word for "new" to mean news, is quite old, much older than English:
Spec. use of plural of new n., after Middle French nouvelles (see novel n.), or classical Latin nova new things, in post-classical Latin also news (from late 13th cent. in British sources), use as noun of neuter plural of novus new (compare classical Latin rēs nova (feminine singular) a new development, a fresh turn of events).
Meanwhile, Meade found a Snopes item, which established a pedigree for the misconception.

31 comments:

Ernst Stavro Blofeld said...

There's the Conan the Barbarian powered wheel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIPlaor68DU

Nonapod said...

I've fallen down a wikipedia rabbit hole as well, the discussion of the etymology of the word news got me thinking of Gary Gnu from the Great Space Coaster, a show I used to watch as a kid, which in turn lead me to wonder WTF a "Gnu" was, which turned out to be a Wildebeest, which in turn lead me to an article on even-toed ungulates.

Rocketeer said...

How the heck much spare time do you have, looking up wiki articles about gnus? Seems wasteful. If you ask me, when it comes to do something constructive with your time, no gnus is good gnus.

Rocketeer said...

I know that was strained, but I couldn't stop myself.

traditionalguy said...

"You've got mail" announcements once seemed cute. Now they would be a nuisance.

Gatsby needed an E-Mail address for Daisy. Or better yet, a Lab to take for walks near her house.

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam L. said...

Have you heard of the Australian colony of North South West (NSW)?

New South Wales, actually, but I read somewhere, years ago, that a US announcer saw NSW and said North South West.

bagoh20 said...

I just imagine those dogs asking: "So, what's my motivation here?"

Peter said...

If you Google "horse powered boats" you'll come up with quite a few hits. And there were certainly many 19th century farm machines powered by horses walking on treadmills (with a power take-off, of course).

A horse can provide more power than a dog, and I'll bet the output/feed ratio is also better.

But I'm sure dog power works a whole lot better inside one's home.

Now, a flying machine powered by a million or so mosquitos would be interesting.

Surfed said...

I'm with Meade. "News" was the the first word that caught my eye too (even if it was the last word in the chosen sentence). This was much the same in the example you chose the other day where my eye and mind went straight to "station wagon". It's probably a guy thing.

KJE said...

Today's dog is too liberated by the likes of PETA and the Humane Society to work such contraptions.

Alex said...

The point is that there was a time when this story was new and fresh!

Mitchell the Bat said...

"Albert, what the hell are you talking about? Look, let's not argue - say the family's fine, say the family's perfect.

"Let's talk about you for a minute. Look what you've done. You failed! That's what you did, you shmuck, you failed!

"You started out with this artsy-craftsy reality crap and what did you end up with? The news! The goddamned NEWS!

"People get that for free! You think somebody's gonna hire a babysitter, take a taxicab, go all the way the hell downtown, walk to the box office, shell out four bucks, and say, 'Here, here - here's my four dollars. What time does the news go on?'"

-- Martin Brand, Real Life (1979).

The Drill SGT said...

The Turnspit Dog

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turnspit_dog

Palladian said...

Until the early 19th century, it was fairly common practice, especially in the kitchens of great houses, to turn meat on spits powered by dogs running in wheels.

There was even a breed of dog, now extinct, called the Turnspit Dog, developed for the task. Here's Whiskey, the last Turnspit dog.

dreams said...

A few years ago I heard on CSPAN a black author say the pedigree for the word fuck was fornicating under the consent of the king. I suspect that is a misconception too.

Bill Harshaw said...

My mother would recall that their dog would run and hide on Monday, wash day, because he was expected to walk the dog power to run the washing machine.

Amexpat said...

Dogs need exercise, so, as long as the dog doesn't suffer, why not put that need to good use?

Why not do the same with people by having an exercise bike or treadmill that generates electricity?

edutcher said...

For the Indians, the dog was the only beast of burden available until the horse appeared.

Wonder if they got any of these ideas from them?

Crunchy Frog said...

A few years ago I heard on CSPAN a black author say the pedigree for the word fuck was fornicating under the consent of the king. I suspect that is a misconception too.

Back in the day, when I was working on police cars my cop buddies claimed it stood for Forcible Unconsenting Carnal Knowledge, aka rape.

Darrell said...

Even if Meade said it, it was pretty pissy to blog that fact. Just think of what he could blog. People should always present their beloved in the best light. That's the kind of thing that people from Generation Juicebox fall for--like saying "saved by the bell" comes from the Victorian practice of people being buried with a string tied to their finger, attached to a bell, in case of narcolepsy, misdiagnosis, or other reason for being buried alive.

Darrell said...

And in the case of bells, I don't care what any expert says about the subject (I never looked). Since bells--at least in small form--have been around for thousands of years, and we know that bells were often used to warn of danger because they can be heard for a greater distance than shouting alone, it is impossible to believe that someone HADN'T been saved by a bell before Victorian times (and the casket bell thingie), and to believe that expression had NOT made its way into common use.

Crunchy Frog said...

In the second picture - how do you get the dog inside the spokes of the wheel?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Amexpat,

Why not do the same with people by having an exercise bike or treadmill that generates electricity?

Oh, it's been done, lots. Google "human powered machines." Some designed to provide small amounts of electricity cheaply in Third World countries, many others to make some incidental use of First World gym nuts' exercise.

My husband has an electric-assisted bicycle that operates more or less like a hybrid car, in that much of the energy involved in braking goes towards recharging the battery. Not only does it make for extremely effective braking on steep descents, but you have more battery left at the bottom of the hill than you did at the top. The same goes for pedaling without the assist on, or with the braking/resistance turned on (which you can also do, if you want a harder workout).

Nichevo said...

Fuck: from German fick, to pound. Endit.

Darrell said...

In the second picture - how do you get the dog inside the spokes of the wheel?

My guess would be "some assembly required." Picture an "upside down" pie tin on a dinner plate, where the dog would be inserted beween the two and the "pie plate" attached with the hub nut shown.

Dr Weevil said...

Amazing that Wikipedia's article on the Turnspit Dog missed that such dogs are mentioned several times under another name by Shakespeare. Most memorably, in Comedy of Errors 3.2, Dromio of Syracuse is mistaken for his identical twin by the latter's fat greasy kitchen-wench girlfriend who is far too affectionate for his comfort. After a whole list of complaints, comparing her to a globe with various ethnic jokes for her various parts (where are her "nether lands"? "oh sir, I did not look so low"), he concludes:

"And I think if my breast had not been made of faith, and my heart of steel, / She had transform'd me to a curtal dog, and made me turn i'th'wheel."

A curtal dog was one that had had its tail cut off so it could run round and round in an enclosed wheel like a hamster, providing the power to turn the spit on a roasting pig or other animal, without getting its tail caught in the spokes. I imagine the wheel was placed so a stupid dog would think that if he could just run fast enough he could get to the roasting animal and take a bite, like a horse encouraged to pull a carriage by a carrot dangled in front of his nose.

Etymologically, 'curtail' means 'shortened', and its frequent use in describing dogs and horses whose tails had been docked made it turn into Modern English 'curtail', as if it referred specifically to tails (etymologically, I mean).

Horace uses the Latin equivalent (curtus) in a nasty dig at 'foreshortened' (i.e. circumcised) Jews. Dromio's fear of being turned into a curtal dog looks like castration anxiety.

Dr Weevil said...

Oops. Let me rephrase one bit:

Etymologically 'curtal' (the original form) means 'shortened' - it's related to 'curt' - and it had no etymological relation to tails, so the modern spelling 'curtail' involves a folk etymology.

Anglelyne said...

Robert, not Richard. Jus' sayin'.

Darrell said...

Sure. Robert Burton in the cite.

But does your ISP charge you by the word? More is more and sometimes better.

Hanna Aggassa said...


watch hindi movies online
love your post and very interesting topic
love the way everything was explained by the author book marking this page to come read more of this authors post lovely very nice topic engjoyed reading