Category Archives: Words

A fathomless, fortnight long podcast about furlongs

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Today we have three f-words. Don’t worry, this is a family friendly podcast. The three words are:

  • Fathom
  • Furlong
  • Fortnight

These are all units of measurement.

fathomless oceanFathom is a sailor’s term for describing the depth of water. A fathom is six feet deep or 1.8 meters. Not living near an ocean I never hear anyone use the term, but I do hear a variation fathomless. Fathomless means too deep to be measures or understood. For example the fathomless world of Search Engine Optimization

Fathom comes from the old English fathme. Fathme means “outstretched arms.” Presumably outstretched arms are about six feet wide- one fathom.


Will Simpson Wheat  FieldFurlong comes from the Old English furh meaning furrow and lang meaning long. A furlong is a distance of 220 yards, 660 feet or about 201 meters. Eight furlongs equals a mile and 5 equals about a kilometer. As the etymology suggests it comes from the length of a furrow, a long shallow trench plowed for farming. Originally furlong referred to the length of one furrow in one acre.
Prior to researching furlong I had only heard the term in the context of the sport of kings- horse racing. In horse racing are used to describe distances less then a mile. Remember a furlong is an 1/8 of a mile.

A fortnight is a period of two weeks or 14 days. I thought it came from a mutation of a fort, as in a military fort. But as it turns out fortnight is also from Old English. It comes from feowertyne niht meaning 14 nights. When your boss asks you to get a project done by next week tell them it will take more like fortnight.

A sennight is one week, 7days.
Today’s Podcast needs a new name. Please help me by sending me you name change suggestions.

Wheat rows photo courtesy of Will Simpson at PalousePhotography.org

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There is no antipode for this podcaster’s home

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Today’s we have a rather obscure technical term from the world of geography. Antipodal is a word I came across in a BBC article. The article is about a replica of the U.K.’s famous stonehenge. This new henge is antipodal to the original. Which is to say it is on the opposite side of the Earth.

Antipodal points also called antipodes are points on the surface of a sphere that are diametrically opposed. So if you could tunnel straight through the center of the earth you would emerge at the antipode of where you started. For example the Antipode Islands of New Zealand are so named because they are roughly on the other side of the world from the Crown of England.

After learning this word I decided to figure out what is the antipode of my new home in Cincinnati. For this I turned to a new piece of free software, Google Earth. Google Earth is amazing. It is a digital map of the entire Earth. You pick any place on earth and zoom in on it. As you zoom in the software displays ever more detailed satellite photos of the area. Depending on the area the photos maybe be so detailed you can see your car parked in front of your house. Add to this the amazing topographic detail that displays 3d hills and mountains; animation that lets you tilt your view so you can appreciate the topography and the ability, and this is this coolest, to “fly” from one location to another. I can’t praise Google Earth enough. It can be downloaded from earth.google.com. Sorry it is Windows only.
So I used Google Earth to find my house by using my address. I noted the latitude and longitude. Then I switched the north for south and subtracted 180 from my longitude. This spun the globe and displayed my antipode. Sadly it is an uninteresting spot in the middle of the South Pacific.

Antipode comes to us by way of the Greek anti meaning opposite or opposed and pod meaning feet.
I have a little house keeping today. I need a little help. I am considering renaming Today’s Podcast. I think the name is too vague and confusing. The name doesn’t really describe the content of the shows and it can be confusing talking about today’s Today’s Podcast. Or even tomorrow’s Today’s Podcast.

Please help me by emailing me your suggestions. My email address is scott at todays podcast.com.

UPDATE: Gerry of Vancouver BC. corrected my methodology. I first stated you could switch East for West but that only works if you are 90 degrees east or west. The correct method is to subtract 180 degrees from longitude. Thanks Gerry.

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This podcast is not canonical, but the Daily Source Code will be part of the canon

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Today we have a request from Will Simpson. The word is Canonical and it came up in a recent episode of the Gillmor Gang.
In this clip Jon Udell used canonical to describe a standard permanent link.
Two side notes: This Gillmor Gang, from July 2nd 2005, is very interesting. They discuss some of the emerging issues with podcasting and audio blogging. For example how do you properly site an audio clip you play in you podcast. Unlike a text entry I can’t very easily give you a link back to the entire Gillmor Gang episode.
I would also like to praise John Udell. He does some great screencasts of interesting Internet phenomena. Tune in later this week for more on screencasts.

Back to canonical. It is an interesting word with a rich history and many definitions that vary based on the context. They include:

  • Appearing in a Biblical canon.
  • Related to canon law- the laws of the Roman Catholic and/or Anglican churches.
  • Conforming to orthodox or recognized rules.
  • In math canonical refers to the standard form or the simplest form.
  • In linguistics it is the simplest form possible without loss of generality. Opposite of nonstandard.
  • Pertaining to or resembling a musical or literary canon.
  • Authoritative.
  • Standard.

This is a seemingly diverse group of definitions but in short canonical is an adjective that means standard, generally accepted, essential or a significant part of the history. If you decide to do a little more research on canonical and it’s root canon at Wikipedia be prepared for a lot of disambiguation pages.

Obviously a word this rich has rich etymology too. It made it way from the ancient Greek kanon to the Old English and Old French to the Middle English to modern English. The Greek kanon means rule or rod.

Will, thank you for the great suggestion. Will has an a wonderful portfolio of photographs available at PalousePhotography.org. My favorite is the “Palouse Morning on Linville Road.” Check out last weeks post to learn about the Palouse.

Will also reminded me “there is a popular Linux distro, Ubuntu, available from [a] philanthropic organization called Canonical -Canonical.com/ which is doing great work.”

I would now like to welcome all the new iTunes subscribers. I hope you are enjoying Today’s Podcast and podcasting in general. Please tell you friends about podcasting.

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Who will be the podcasting ombudsman?

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Today’s word was suggested by Brian over at the Mostly Trivial podcast. The word is ombudsman, and Brian found it in recent post at Slashdot.org.

An ombudsman is person who acts as an mediator between an organization and its public or constituency. They are often charged with investigating complaints.

The ombudsman in the Slashdot post is a blogger who writes on video games. You can read his posts at vgombud.blogspot.com.

You can subscribe to the Mostly Trivial podcast at MostlyTrival.com

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This is a redundant audio podcast

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Today’s word is redundant. It is an adjective with several related definitions. It means extra, profuse, superfluous, no longer needed or duplicate. For example describing Adam Curry as a married husband is redundant. If he is married we know he is a husband.

The term redundant is also used to describe backup systems that take over when the primary system fails. Redundant servers is one way major internet companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft ensure you can always reach their sites.

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An acronym from last weeks podcast, not quite

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Today we have a word that describes words- acronym. An acronym, like most words that end in -nym or -onym, describes a word or a name. An acronym is a word formed by the initial letters of a longer term. My favorite example is laser. Laser stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

It is important to contrast an acronym with an abbreviation. An abbreviation, like IBM or ADR is not pronounced as a word. Each individual letter is pronounced.

Some good acronyms include Radar, Nato and Opec.

Acronym comes from the combination of the Greek akron and onoma. Akron means tip or end and onoma mean name.
A interesting modern acronym phenomenon is the recursive acronym. In a recursive acronym one of the words that makes up the initials is the acronym. Gnu, the popular linux flavor is a well known example. Gnu stands for Gnu is Not Unix. I suspect the most recognized recursive acronym is VISA. What Visa is a recursive acronym? I know. I was surprised too. Visa is the VISA International Service Association.

You can look up most acronyms at:

Both are great sites for research and browsing the amazing variety of acronyms and abbreviations.

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An beautiful photo podcast becomes a horse

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Today I have a word that was inspired by a photo taken by Will Simpson of PalousePhotography.com. When you are back at your computer be sure to take a look at the beautiful photo titled “Palouse Morning on Linville Road.”

Today’s word is Palouse. It is a proper noun. It both the name of a river that flwos through north western Idaho and south eastern Washington state. It flows west into the Snake River. Palouse is also the name of the fertile hilly region in the same region.
I have never heard of this region but Will’s beautiful photo made me want to visit.
Will also shared with me an interesting fact- the Palouse was home to the Nez Perce tribe. The Nez Perce are credited with developing the Appaloosa horse. Originally the Nez Perse breed was called a Palouse horse. Eventually the name evolved to Appaloosa. So I guess we get two words for today.

I first came across Will’s podcast when he suggested the word abracadabra. Unfortunately Will hasn’t been podcasting lately, but his photos and earlier podcasts are available at PalousePhotography.org.

A final note about Will: He is an artist living in Moscow Idaho. You can see some incredible examples of his wood working at kestrelcreek.com.

A precocious playmate without a podcast


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Today’s word came to me from MindHacks.com. The word is precocious and it appeared in an a post describing Dr. Zdrok who earned her undergraduate degree by the age of 18.

Appropriately, precocious describes exceptionally early development. I often hear it describing particularly mature or bright children. Precocious sometimes has a connotation implying a child is out of line, that the child’s expectations or behavior is out of line with the child’s age.

In the movie Rushmore, the lead character, Max, is a bright precocious high school who attempts to negotiate his way out failing grades. He is bright enough to negotiate with the headmaster, but not mature enough to realize that headmasters don’t negotiate classes and grades.

Precocious originated in the lexicon of biologist where it described plants that bloomed or ripened early. It is a combination of the familiar prefix pre- meaning before and coquere meaning “to ripen” or “to cook.”

Now the precocious Dr. Zdrok who was recently interviewed by MindHacks.com is interesting for a combination of achievements, not just her precocious adolescence. Dr. Victoria Zdrok is a doctor of clinical psychology, a Playboy Playmate, a Penthouse Playmate of the Year (2004) and a member of New York and New Jersey Bar Associations.

To read Dr. Zdrok’s interview visit MindHacks.com.

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The sound of an ephemeral podcast


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Welcome back to Today’s Podcast. I am sorry I have been gone for so long. As you may have heard my girlfriend and I just moved to Ohio. That combined with a trip to Boston, a new business and a road trip from Colorado to Ohio I have not made the time to podcast. But fear not I have built up quite a collection of words for future shows.


For today we have the word ephemeral. I came across it on David Allan’s blog. Ephemeral is a noun describing something short lived or fleeting. It can also describe something lasting a single day. For example even the greatest kiss is ephemeral.

Ephemeral is also a noun- something that is short lived or disappears quickly. We could use ephemeral to refer to a kiss, “It is the most sweet ephemeral.”

David Allan uses it in describing his realization that life and health are precious and don’t last forever.

From the same post I have a quote too:

To lose one’s health renders science null, art inglorious, strength unavailing, wealth useless, and eloquence powerless.

- Herophilus

Herophilus was a 3rd century BC greek physician. He was the first to base his methods and treatment on actual dissections of the human body.

Ephemeral, like Herophilus, comes from the Greek. Hemera is Greek for day and the prefix epi has a lot of possible translations including- at, close, upon, toward or against.

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A catholic podcast, not Catholic


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Sorry for not posting any podcasts lately. I have had a very sore throat and it has cut into my talking and podcasting. In addition my girlfriend and I are moving to Ohio so I have had a few distractions as well.

Today’s word is catholic. I am sure many of us know Catholicism is a major world religion that just chose a new leader. But catholic is also an adjective that describes something universal or comprehensive in scope, something that included all of mankind.

Catholic can also describe someone or something that is broad or liberal minded. Although be careful using the definition most people only know a catholic as a member of the Catholic church.

The word catholic has evolved from the Greek katholikos meaning universal to Latin to Old French to Middle English to our current spelling, pronunciation and meanings.

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