# Unabashed Naïveté

## Assorted free entertainment #1

Web stuff that I thought worth the time.

Written by leonxlin

July 29, 2012 at 4:18 am

## Steven Pinker: Words and Rules

The kind of wordplay Pinker sometimes engages in is mindblowing (read to the end):

A governor-general is a general governor, namely, one who has several governors under him. The puzzle is, why didn’t they simply call him a general governor? After all, the adjective comes before the head noun in English, not after it. The answer is that these words, together with many other terms related to government, were borrowed from French when England was ruled by the Normans in the centuries after the invasion of William the Conqueror in 1066. In French, the adjective can come after the head noun, as in États-Unis (United States) and chaise longue (long chair, garbled into the English chaise lounge). The earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1292: “Tous attorneyz general purrount lever fins et cirrographer” (All general attorneys may levy fines and make legal documents). Anyone who insists that we eternally analyze (hence pluralize) these words as they were analyzed in the minds of the original speakers of Norman French also should insist that we refer to more than one major general as majors general, because a major-general was once a general major (from the French major-général). Long ago our linguistic foreparents forgot the French connection and reanalyzed general from a modifying adjective to a modified noun. So if you are ever challenged for saying attorney-generals, mother-in-laws, passerbys, RBIs, or hole-in-ones, you can reply, “They are the very model of the modern major general.”

(If reading that was not a profound, life-changing moment for you, then perhaps you are unaware of the “Major-General’s Song”, in which case you should look it up. It is widely parodied; for example in this xkcd.) I can only wish he were still at MIT.

Written by leonxlin

July 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm

## Forgotten calculus: integrating powers of sine, powers of cosine, and their products

I cannot integrate to save my life. The purpose of this series will be to attempt to remedy this deplorable and embarrassing situation.

Let’s look at integrals of the form $\int \sin^m x \cos^n x\, dx$.

Written by leonxlin

July 20, 2012 at 2:37 am

Posted in forgotten x, math