Sunday, October 15, 2006

I'm gnu to this...


The reason behind this post: I woke up one morning and found myself saying "gnu" repeatedly, first with the 'g' and then without. This I did for a long time. I've known myself long enough to not question why...so I haven't. Maybe it's because my earlier curiosity with 'how now brown cow' was over-satiated. Who knows.

I couldn't decide whether I liked the word or not. This silent consonant business has always been a little tricky. Things like 'should', 'could' and 'would' have been happily internalised. As have 'pneumonia', 'knee', 'knit', 'knot', 'knight', 'knife', 'knob', 'know', 'knock' and even 'knickers'. But not 'gnu'. Led me to the conclusion that I had a problem with silent G's (considering silent L's, K's and P's were all fine). So I put it to a test. Sure enough, there was 'gnat', 'gnome', 'gnaw', 'gnarl' and 'gnash' (can't seem to think of more) and all categorised as problematic. A winning theory. Come to think of it, if they were all spelt with a silent K, none of this would be happening. I would've woken up one morning and brushed my teeth and everyone would have gone on to lead happy lives.

Anyway, the bug was in place. I needed to know someone else's view on the topic. Serendipitously, a close friend of mine – Aditi Halbe (photo supplied herewith for your reference) happened to be online. As a brief introduction, I can tell you she has immense affection for most things–from papayas to puppies, and a sizable opinion on why she does, if prodded. Grabbing the opportunity, I asked her what her views were on gnus, gnats and gnomes. She did not respond for three days. A few days later I dropped her a threatening line stating this was serious and got a prompt reply. Needless to say she is one of the few who cares for my mental health.

This is what she had to say:
"I was a little flummoxed.... gnats, gnomes, these words make sense in my brain. I can pronounce them, speak them and see them. The Gnus stumped me. There was a vague recollection of thinking and saying it, but was struggling with the seeing part. Wikipedia to the rescue. And it tells me of gnus (pronounced with the g) in the guise of some operating system (computer jargon). Very confused. This word had no business being in my brain, forget jostling it. "Gnus is a message reader running under GNU Emacs and XEmacs." Then I saw the bit that basically said for gnus animal click here! Phew! I'm glad I am not carrying any operating system information in my head. Now to digest it. I like the idea. But you might want to consider the operating system instead of the wildebeest. Personally I prefer the latter. They are warmer and fuzzier and wear an expression. And they snort."

I decided. I liked the word.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Veer said...

I somehow found it much easier to get used to gnu. Also, I happen to see a lot more of it because I delve into operating systems. A lot of freeware that people use on Windows might also refer to that same GNU.

I did some research to figure out what really does perturb me. What got me stumped was gnathic. It has something to do with jaws. Why couldn't they simply call it jaw-ey? Did you know that the gnomon is the pin of a sundial? What's wrong with calling it the sundial pin?

Gnotobiology is the study of life under germ-free conditions. You remember all those researchers and doctors wearing robotic suits in Outbreak? I think that's what it refers to.

Why does any language need to have any phonetic content which is silent anyway? Why make words that are different in spelling and sound? I'd have scored so much higher in school if fones were spelt as fones and prinsipal was spelt as prinsipal.

3:31 am  
Anonymous Veer said...

Interesting read? http://www.cloudworld.co.uk/english-spelling-rules.htm

3:33 am  
Blogger Magpie said...

Aparna,
Our friend Gurpreet also goes by the name GNUpreet :)

11:47 pm  
Blogger Jonh Neo said...

Hi apucalypse, I want to introduce you to http://freearticle.name

5:18 pm  
Blogger Mohinish said...

Good Gnus

When cares attack and life seems black,
How sweet it is to pot a yak,
Or puncture hares and grizzly bears,
And others I could mention;
But in my Animals "Who's Who"
No name stands higher than the Gnu;
And each new gnu that comes in view
Receives my prompt attention.

When Afric's sun is sinking low,
And shadows wander to and fro,
And everywhere there's in the air
A hush that's deep and solemn;
Then is the time good men and true
With View Halloo pursue the gnu;
(The safest spot to put your shot
is through the spinal column).

To take the creature by surprise
We must adopt some rude disguise,
Although deceit is never sweet,
And falsehoods don't attract us;
So, as with gun in hand you wait,
Remember to impersonate
A tuft of grass, a mountain-pass,
A kopje or a cactus.

A brief suspense, and then at last
The waiting's o'er, the vigil past;
A careful aim. A spurt of flame.
It's done. You've pulled the trigger,
And one more gnu, so fair and frail,
Has handed in its dinner-pail;
(The females all are rather small,
The males are somewhat bigger).

-Charlotte Mulliner
(-- P. G. Wodehouse.)

3:06 am  
Blogger apucalypse now said...

:D Beautiful! Although, it is as dark as my future as a blogger. There is also a lovely piece by Ogden Nash on the Gnu that I faintly remember...but I can't seem to locate it. Where is my copy of 'The Zoo' when I need it? But here's some bad gnus... "Gnu Dung" makes a nice, wholesome palindrome.

5:45 am  
Blogger Mohinish said...

Hmm.. I'm not sure I feel comfortable with the words "dung" and "wholesome" so close together. And while on the scatological theme, here's a word that stuck from early biology days: autocoprophagia. Hint: bunnies do this. (hintlet: no, it doesn't go directly into making more bunnies)

2:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gnu (gnu's not unix) was coined by richard stallman founder of the free software foundation in the 1980's. once a widely respected venture in 'true' hacker circles. the fsf has since morphed into a new avatar - in the opinion of some. the gnu project remains free, continuing it's not so flippant jab at unix.

4:00 pm  
Blogger apucalypse now said...

poochah? it's you?? :) why you hiding?

1:50 am  
Blogger Minal said...

he he.
am glued!

7:46 am  
Blogger Bibbi said...

Just wanted to tell you that in Swedish the "nu" word means "now". Which is kind of nice to repeat to oneself throughout the day as a reminder of preecious moments...
BIbbi, new blogger, happy to visit India for a while

4:59 am  

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