September 11, 2008

Earmarks

So I'm reading this book, Lost Country Life, about agricultural methods in medieval England. One of the things the author keeps doing is noting elements of those methods that remain in the language. For example, "by hook or by crook," but not by saw or axe, regulates how shepherds are allowed to take wood from a tree. They can knock down dead wood, but can't cut live branches, using only their hooks and their crooks in the process.

"Earmarks" are notches and holes in the ear of a sheep that document its ownership and breeding history.

8 comments:

Paul said...

It amazing to me how many commonly used expressions literally make no sense without the historical/archaic context. Cf. "willy-nilly" (i.e. 'will ye or nil ye,' whether you want to or not). So much of language is just mouth-noise learned by repetition.

Also, I love a post that begins: "So I'm reading this book about agricultural methods in medieval England..."

PhD9 said...
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PhD9 said...
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PhD9 said...

I've used the firing up of the Large Hadron Collider as a reminder that just because something is an 'earmark' doen't mean its a bad investment.

The superconducting supercollider was considered a boondoggle as well, but if we'd built it we'd be years ahead now AND drawing significant scientific talent to Texas of all places.

Jay Ackroyd said...

It's funny, Paul, because this spotlight on earmarks has convinced me that they are not wrong in principle, and that the bill Obama cosponsored to make them transparent should be sufficient to reveal patterns of corruption. Who knows better which projects make sense in a Congressional district, a federal agency or the district's representative?

Sure, it's a path for corruption, and they were one of the reasons I despised my NJ Congressman Torricelli, and really despised Al D'Amato when he was my Senator, but those guys were gonna be corrupt anyway.

PhD9 said...

More:

http://government.zdnet.com/?p=3993

Todd and in Charge said...

That book sounds very interesting.

Note too that earmarks work on both a federal and state level. Without earmarks much of South Florida -- particularly after our storms come -- would be unlivable.

Jay Ackroyd said...

I didn't look for a link on amazon because I bought it remaindered in the mid-80s at the U of Minnesota. Started reading it by accident really. Taking all the books out to redo the bookcases, it came out on top of a pile. I'd always meant to read it...