May 18, 2004

Great stuff from Q.

Over the past few days, Q. Pheevr at "A Roguish Chrestomathy" has posted a series of typically entertaining and enlightening items. Especially fine are Q's posts about Ugol's Law, about a nearly-Escherian sentence due to George W. Bush, and about the petition for freedom of gender identification on Livejournal.

Ugol's Law:

"Recently, while traversing the labyrinth of data that is Everything2, I stumbled across something called Ugol's Law. This principle, which is apparently common wisdom among the denizens of , states that whatever one's kink or fetish may be, there is almost certainly someone else out there who shares it. Readers familiar with Optimality Theory may recognize this idea as a variant of Richness of the Base."

A true scholar, Q. tracks Ugol's Law to its textual source, and discovers that Harry Ugol's original statement was also an example of overnegation, literally saying exactly the opposite of what Ugol proverbially meant.

A nearly Escherian Bushism:

Q discusses a quote from George W. Bush: "The American people are just as appalled at what they have seen on TV as Iraqi citizens have".

And in another post, Q. observes that "Bush was decent enough to announce to the press that he had said he was sorry, which is of course the most expedient way of expressing contrition in public without actually expressing contrition in public."

Freedom of gender identification:

Q supports the petition to open up the gender field in Livejournal's author profile, which is limited to "Male", "Female" or "(Unspecified)", and announces that "given the choice, I believe I'd fill mine in as 'Mostly harmless.'"

Another thought: the additional gender names would be even more useful if paired with suitable pronouns. For instance, Q. might choose to suggest we refer to qim and to qer posts using the nominative qe, the accusative qim and the genitive qer. Though of course I don't presume to make this choice on qer behalf -- qe'll be free to fill in the form however qe likes, once Livejournal introduces the option.

Coincidentally, I saw recently on ProMED-mail that there is an epidemic of Q fever in Banja Luka, and learned that Q. is short for "query":

Q (query) fever is caused by _Coxiella burnetii_, the only common rickettsia to be usually transmitted by aerosol rather than through an arthropod vector. Worldwide, this zoonosis is primarily found in cattle, sheep, and goats, but many mammals and birds may also be infected. The diagnosis is usually serological, and the illness is most commonly either a self-limited febrile illness lasting up to 2 weeks or pneumonia with or without hepatitis.

The OED's citations for Q fever clarify the history:

1937 E. H. DERRICK in Med. Jrnl. Australia 21 Aug. 282/1 The suspicion arose and gradually grew into a conviction that we were here dealing with a type of fever which had not been previously described. It became necessary to give it a name, and ‘Q’ fever was chosen to denote it until fuller knowledge should allow a better name.
1964 E. H. DERRICK in Queensland's Health Dec. 11/2 ‘X’ is a recognised term for an unknown quantity. But Australia already had an ‘X disease’, now known as Murray valley encephalitis. However, the rest of the alphabet was open. Query also signified the unknown. ‘Q (for query) fever’ it became. Ibid., Many have wrongly assumed that the ‘Q’ stands for Queensland.

Posted by Mark Liberman at May 18, 2004 07:59 AM