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Thran. 23rd of October, 2018 POST·MERIDIEM 11:53

Thran /θræn/ (th of thin, rest of the word as in ‘ran’) is a word used in this part of the world to mean “stubborn, obstinate.” This little vignette on Reddit, about the roads I drive to do my grocery shopping, prompted me to look it up. To my surprise it’s not in the second edition of the OED, but from the Scots dictionaries it is likely the same word as ‘thra,’ which is. For your edification, here is the OED2 entry.

thro, thra, a.¹ (adv.) Obs. Forms: 3­4 Þra, (5­7 Sc.) thra, 4­5 Þro, thro, throo (5 throe).
[ME. a. ON. Þrá-r ‘stubborn, obstinate, unyielding, refractory, persistent, zealous, eager, keen’, adj. cognate with Þrá n.: see prec.]
1. Stubborn, obstinate, persistent; reluctant to give way, or accede to a request.
(The spelling throw in quot. c 1500 is app. due to confusion with other words.)
a1300 Cursor M. 5803 (Cott.) King pharaon..es ful thra [Trin. Þro], Lath sal him think to let Þam ga.
13.. Ibid. 28092 (Cott.) Vn-buxum haf i bene, and thra A-gayn my gastly fader al-sa.
c1400 Destr. Troy 5246 þat were Þro men in threpe, & thre-tyms mo.
?a1500 Chester Pl. (Shaks. Soc.) II. 11 In this place, be you never so throe, Shall you no longer dwell.
c1500 Smyth & his Dame 317 in Hazl. E.P.P. III. 213 Be thov neuer so throw, I shal amende the sonne, I trow.
c1560 A. Scott Poems (S.T.S.) xiii. 31 Than be not thra ȝour scherwand to confort.
1603 Philotus xl, Scho is sa ackwart and sa thra, That with refuse I come hir fra.
b. Of a corpse: Stiff, rigid.
a1400­50 Alexander 4452 Graffis garnyscht of gold & gilten tombis Thurghis to thrawyn in quen ȝe Þraa worthe.
2. Stubborn in fight, sturdy, bold; fierce. Also fig.
c1320 Sir Tristr. 777 þei Þou be Þro, Lat mo men wiÞ Þe ride On rowe.
?a1400 Morte Arth. 3757 They..thristis to Þe erthe Of the thraeste mene thre hundrethe.
c1400 Ywaine & Gaw. 3570 Thir wordes herd the knyghtes twa, It made tham forto be mor thra.
c1400 Destr. Troy 6422 Merion..With Þre thousaund Þro men Þrong hym vnto.
Ibid. 6446, 6462, etc.
c1470 Henry Wallace ix. 846 Wallace with him had fourty archarys thra.
1513 Douglas Æneis viii. xii. 128 And Gelones, thai pepill of Sithya, In archery the quhilk ar wonder thra.
1535 Stewart Cron. Scot. (Rolls) I. 250 The Albionis, thocht tha war neuir sa thra, Out of the feild on force wer maid to ga.
3. Angry, wroth, furious, violent.
13.. E.E. Allit. P. A. 344 Anger gaynez Þe not a cresse, Who nedez schal Þole be not so Þro.
c1375 Sc. Leg. Saints ii. (Paulus) 504 As he, Þat firste wes cristis fa, And in thra will his men can sla.
c1380 Sir Ferumb. 3968 Wan Þay come to Þe dupe Ryuer, þat wilde was & thro, Entrye Þanne ne darst hy noȝt.
c1400 Destr. Troy 147 He bethought hym full thicke in his throo hert.
c1440 Bone Flor. 2075 Sche dyd me oonys an evyll dede, My harte was wondur throo.
c1475 Sqr. Lowe Degre 1017 With egre mode, and herte full throwe, The stewardes throte he cut in two.
4. Keen, eager, zealous, earnest.
a1300 Cursor M. 14392 (Cott.) Ful deueli war Þai Iuus thra þair blisced lauerd for to sla.
c1320 Sir Tristr. 615 Rohand was ful Þra Of tristrem for to frain.
c1350 Will Palerne 3264 þre M. of men Þat Þro were to fiȝt.
1400 Destr. Troy 470 Mony thoughtes full thro thrange in hir brest.
c1425 Wyntoun Cron. v. vi. 1198 Sancte Gregor..Made special and thra oryson Þat God walde grant his saule to be..fre.
?a1500 Chester Pl. (E.E.T.S.) 451 Falsehed to further he was euer throe.
[1775 John Watson Hist. Halifax 547 A person is said to be thro about any thing, who is very keen or intent about it.]
b. fig. Of a thing: Ready, apt, disposed.
a1425 Cursor M. 16560 (Trin.) þei..cut Þis tre in two..What Þei wolde Þerof shape: þerto hit was ful Þro.
B. adv. Obstinately; vigorously; boldly.
a1425 Cursor M. 5997 (Trin.) ȝitt Þe kyng hem helde ful Þro For wolde he not lete hem go.
c1450 St. Cuthbert (Surtees) 6032 Oxen twenty and twa War drawand Þis bell full thra.
c1470 Golagros & Gaw. 60 The berne bovnit to the burgh..and thrang in full thra.

Obstetrics and gynaecology and politics of the sexes. 23rd of October, 2018 ANTE·MERIDIEM 01:28

Professor Chris Fitzpatrick of the Coombe (one of the major Dublin maternity hospitals) just had a piece published by the Irish Times on the energetic condemnation of men involved in the CervicalCheck scandal and his discomfort with it, as a male obstetrician and gynaecologist. It’s a cry from his heart, not particularly well-sourced, and that’s fine, he’s not publishing an academic paper, he’s trying to change hearts more than minds.

I posted some of the below on the comments on the Irish Times site and prefer to re-post it here: of course, it’s not in the interest of women to have the male half of medical students rule out obstetrics and gynaecology as a career choice, especially when female doctors and medical students already disproportionately choose those specialties with a good work/life balance. Obstetrics and gynaecology is not, and can never be, absent a 90% elective Caesarean section rate, a specialty with a good work/life balance, particularly in the training years. The ideal thing for women in general would be to have all medical students and junior doctors interested in general surgery (which equally has a terrible work/life balance) conflicted about that vs. obstetrics and gynaecology, something very different from how things are now.

To be clear, I have no issue with doctors choosing speciality based on work-life balance; someone has to do the more agreeable jobs, and that generally leaves plenty of work for the rest of us, and I like my job, I get paid well for it.

Most working doctors won’t particularly disagree with me on sex and speciality choice with regard to work-life balance, but for any lay readers, let me support my comment with data. The Canadian figures on speciality by sex (I don’t see any Irish figures published, but there’s no particular reason to think there would be a massive proportional difference) are oriented by proportion of doctors working; it is more useful for my purposes to break them down by percentage of each sex working. The below is calculated from a subset of the table, ordered roughly by best work/life balance to worst work/life balance.

Speciality% of working female doctors in that specialty% of working male doctors in that specialtyRelative likelihood of a female doctor working in that speciality vs. a male doctor working in that specialty Comments
Medical Genetics0.1%0.008%2.3809:00–17:00, Monday to Friday
Rheumatology0.7%0.4%1.64One very rare wake-me-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night emergency
Dermatology0.8%0.6%1.39Almost no emergencies
Haematology0.6%0.5%1.29 Emergencies almost always handled over the phone
Urology0.2%0.9%0.23A really undervalued specialty when it comes to work/life balance
General practice56%48%1.17As I understand Canada versus .ie, these figures would underestimate how agreeable GP is here in its work/life balance.
Cardiothoracic surgery0.03%0.2%0.17Actually more comparable to urology in work/life balance, but the path to get there involves general surgery, which see
Emergency Medicine0.8%1.3%0.6
General Surgery1.4%2.8%0.51Loads of competition, ridiculous hours while training, minimal opportunity at the end (general medicine is eating the specialty’s lunch from one end, interventional radiology from the other)
Obstetrics and Gynaecology3.5%1.7%2.04This figure is very very different from General Surgery, see above.

I have excluded anything paediatric from the table, because, well, a) the paediatrics specialities throw off the correlation massively and b) it is super-routine to come across doctors of either sex who went into the speciality because they liked children, when the speciality involves in massive part sticking needles into various parts of children who are really not on-board with the idea, and in lesser part WATCHING CHILDREN [you can’t cure] DIE, which is something you should not volunteer for if you like children. I have also excluded the laboratory medicine specialists, because I know nothing constructive about their work/life balance, beyond assuming it’s good.

Kontrollieren, contrôler. 14th of October, 2018 POST·MERIDIEM 05:10

Back at the turn of this decade, when I was an enthusiastic medical student in Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, I had a group tutorial with Dr Eamon Leen, an excellent lecturer and the chief pathologist there. He mentioned, apropos of something reasonable and medical which escapes me at the moment, the attack on Mers-el-Kébir, and his interpretation of it was that the main reason for it was the differing semantics of English ‘to control’ versus French « contrôler », German „kontrollieren“ (the Fremdwort borrowed from French and meaning what the French word does.)

The idea was that « contrôler » was ‘to [be able to] check’ in French, but ‘to have power over’ in English, so the British ended up sinking the Vichy French fleet at huge loss of French life (and substantial post-war rancour) because they were led to understand that the Germans would have power over it, changing the balance of naval power in the Mediterranean and on the Atlantic coast.

I had studied French and this wasn’t a difference I had been aware of, but it sounded plausible and I wasn’t about to dismiss something Eamon Leen said without good reason. I searched around a little bit at the time, but there wasn’t anything definitive to be had via Google then. The relevant text of the armistice:

Article 8. La flotte de guerre française - à l’exception de la partie qui est laissée à la disposition du Gouvernement français pour la sauvegarde des intérêts français dans son empire colonial - sera rassemblée dans des ports à déterminer et devra être démobilisée et désarmée sous le contrôle de l’Allemagne ou respectivement de l’Italie.

La désignation de ces ports sera faite d’après les ports d’attache des navires en temps de paix. Le gouvernement allemand déclare solennellement au Gouvernement français qu’il n’a pas l’intention d’utiliser pendant la guerre, à ses propres fins, la flotte de guerre française stationnée dans les ports sous contrôle allemand, sauf les unités nécessaires à la surveillance des côtes et au dragage des mines.

Il déclare, en outre, solennellement et formellement, qu’il n’a pas l’intention de formuler de revendications à l’égard de la flotte de guerre française lors de la conclusion de la paix ; exception faite de la partie de la flotte de guerre française à déterminer qui sera affectée à la sauvegarde des intérêts français dans l’empire colonial, toutes les unités de guerre se trouvant en dehors des eaux territoriales françaises devront être rappelées en France.

I haven’t spoken or listened to much French in the interval, but my usual driving-across-the-country podcast material is in large part in German, and it’s a difference I’ve been looking out for. Now of course podcast material (usually Deutschlandfunk broadcasts of some sort) from today is not amazingly representative of the usual use of German or French in 1940, but it can be helpful for some insight.

And usually, given the big semantic overlap between ‘to [be able to] check’ and ‘to have power over’, it hasn’t been that clear that there has been a difference, and I have an underlying suspicion that current journalists speak and read too much English to be careful about the German meaning. One example where it did came up the other day in a piece from the Bayerischer Rundfunk; one of the commoner anti-hypertensives was recently found to have been adulterated with carcinogens, and this piece went into detail on the international regulatory system for medications, as background. The semantic difference there becomes very relevant, in that the legal situation provides for inspections, but no definite power over the producers (beyond withdrawing the accreditation if the inspections are not up to standard). And, lo and behold, the choice of vocabulary is exactly that described by Eamon Leen.

Anyway. Lesson to take away; historically English and (likely) Standard Average European have had slightly different interpretations of ‘control,’ ideally you should be careful about this in translating SAE, and ideally you should use something like „steuern“ when translating the word into German. And there’s a good chance it won’t matter much if your interlocutors speak lots of English.

And I don’t know if I would have done anything anything differently had I been in the Brits’ position in October 1940, the text of the armistice is not reassuring at all!