The Laboratorium
April 2005

Questionable Horoscopes


Friendster has added a “joint horoscope” feature. It tells you, on the basis of some hidden algorithm (biorhythms, anyone?) whether you and each of your friends have good, so-so-, or bad cosmic karma on a particular day. Apparently, half of my friends have bad karma and the other half are so-so.

I’m reminded of the horoscope from Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. A friend of Dirk’s with a funny sense of humor and a job at the newpaper makes sure that Dirk’s horoscope is always filled with dire predictions and vicious insults. The paper’s editors are unable to determine why readership has fallen off by a twelfth.

Never Believe Anything I Say


Did you know that “jihad” and “yee-ha!” are etymologically linked? In some North African dialects of Arabic, the “dja” sound of the arabic letter jim softens to more of a “dya” (thoough enough of the “d” remains to distinguish it from the pure “ya” sound of the ya). In the early 19th century, many speakers of this dialect were affiliated with the fluid confederations of quasi-privateers known as the Barbary Pirates. During the American expeditions to suppress the Pirates, a number of Marines from the southern states were impressed by the battle yells of some of their adversaries and took to imitating the practice. The famed Civil War “rebel yell” was itself a further derivation from the sound. Etymologists also believe that the Marine Corps’ “hoo-ah!” originated in the same way, although the Arabic phrase that it imitated remainds obscure.