Something weird about me

At pretty regular intervals, I’m sometimes burdened with an acute sense of smell. If it weren’t also accompanied by terrible gut pain, it might be more amusing. Folks at work have even accused me of having a psychic sense of smell. So, maybe the pain is the trade-off for my “gift.”

Once, when my boss walked into my office, I could smell the yellow roses he’d bought for his house on him. When I asked him about it, he got very freaked out. Right now, my office is filled with the almost overwhelming smell of the handsoap from the bathroom. This is a marked improvement over the general smell of earwax that seems to be permeating the floor. And, the woman down the hall had some kind of warm fast food for breakfast. Worse is, at the moment, everything in the house smells like the dog. Everything on my bed smells like the dog and even my clean clothes smell like the detergent and the dog.

I saw an interesting show on the Discovery Channel about how cats recognize members of their “pride” (if one can call the groups domestic cats live in “prides”) by how they smell, and that they spend a great deal of time making sure they all smell like each other. One scientist was hypothesizing that this may be why cats seem to cuddle up to the very people who are most allergic to cats–by virtue of their allergies, they are the least likely to smell like any cat group, and thus, might appear to be ripe for adoption.

It makes me wonder about smell, though. Scientists say that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory, and, though I usually am not aware of the ambient smells of the world, they must always be there, and I wonder if my nose and brain are just chugging away, bringing me bits of information that I usually ignore, like the scroll at the bottom of the news cast.

Proto Indo European

You know, I was just thinking how hard it is to tell a story of history if you’re attempting to leave open possibilities. Like, say I wanted to tell you a story about the Proto Indo European people (or PIEs), but didn’t want to presume too much about a group of people we know little about or your own feelings about various Neolithic cultures in what is now Europe.

I might say something like, after we started walking upright, we spread out over Africa, into central Asia, across Europe, into the Americas, and over to Australia. After some time, a group of us came out of some place–southern Russia, central Asia, northern India–and spread out over a lot of other places, carrying with us ancient versions of many of the words we now use.

The existence of the PIE people has not been verified, but it’s a theory that seems to fit the evidence we have–that many of our modern languages evolved from one now lost proto language, and thus, someone must have spoken that language. This is why languages as seemingly diverse as Sanskrit, Greek, and English all have similar words for father, brother, foot, etc.

So, being a big nerd, I enjoy poking around in the dusty corners of words (ha, as you may have noticed) and, thus, spend a lot of time thinking about the language of the PIE people. Here’s something that has recently amused me: PIE might have a word (there’s definitely a root, but whether it was a whole word, we don’t know) like “gher” which connotes liking or wanting. You can see it in modern words like greedy or yearn or even charisma. Bruce Lincoln thinks “gher” in the PIE world probably meant something closer to greedy or ravenous and that the sound of the word was the sound of the dogs who would scavenge the battlefields for things or dead folks to eat. Gher and grr.

Tee hee. I love words that mean what they sound like or sound like what they mean. Not an onomatopoeia… well, kind of… but grr, the sound the greedy dog makes and gher the greed itself.

Oh, or take barbarian, which is just a person who makes noises that sound like “bar bar,” the Greeks’ way of pointing out that the folks to the north talked funny–maybe like sheep.