Spanish Etymology: Spanish for Nerds. I am obsessed with understanding where words come from, in many languages — and connecting the dots. My passion since I was 8 years old. I recently turned my decades of notes into a blog (with tens of thousands of subscribers!).
I love this speech I gave, all about my idiosyncratic way of walking around cities. (It starts out slow the first ~4 minutes… but stick it out for 13 minutes, it gets awesome as I get into the groove!)
Penn, the Low Ivy. Won the Alumni Society Award as one of the 10 best students of my year. Won the Lilian & Benjamin Levy Award for writing, too. And yes, I’m a pretentious grammar snob for saying “was graduated” rather than “graduated.” I also use the Oxford Comma, folks.
I discovered ‘the Net’ (information superhighway?) and had lots of ideas for web pages–and taught myself programming, made them, and years later, they still get a ton of traffic. There are many, but here are a bunch, for Memory’s Sake: Yiddishisms: Yiddish Sayings (I also interviewed my relatives and wrote a book on my family history but that’s not for public consumption!); the first Antoine de St Exupery page; the first Albert Einstein page; the first Simpsons Quote page; the first Ogden Nash page; the first Francis Bacon page; the first site about my hometown; my long-time game of finding words-in-other words; my favorite etymologies; my long-time favorite poem; my thoughts on wandering around; my game of trying to understand business-ese; the only guide to walking around NY’s ethnic neighborhoods; some ancient quotes that once influenced me; my cv; books that moved me; and pre-Facebook photos of me.
Childhood math nerd.
Childhood piano freak.
In middle school, I read John & Abigail Adams’ collected letters and loved their epistolary style. So I found lots of pen-pals and wrote to them like this. I did this for years until I became quite good. Then I spent a decade doing the same but for other lots of other people’s styles.
Starting when I was approximately 8 years old until late high school, I’d spend 2 hours every morning memorizing the dictionary (and its etymologies), before the school bus came. The trusty, unpretentious World Book Dictionary, of course.
Don’t remember it well. But my dad looks great in this photo with me, taken generally around that time.
The entire extended family — everyone, very poor — all came to my great-aunt’s house for dinner every Sunday night, for decades. The weekly luxury. When she was in her 90s, she laid down her head while cooking the dinner, and died. The whole family arrived over the next hours, as scheduled. They ate the dinner. It’s what she would have wanted.
Five poor brothers emigrated from Minsk, Belarus to NY. The great depression was so bad for them that four of them returned to Belarus. Those four were murdered (you know, that issue with Germany). The one who stayed in NY was my great-grandfather. Thanks for not moving back to Eastern Europe on the eve of Hitler and Stalin, G-Gramps!
My great-grandfather emigrated from “Minsk Gubernia” to NY. Saved money, sent enough back to send for his wife… and the ship arrived, and his wife’s sister stepped off. Wife died and she took her place. She ended up being my great-grandma! Love those traditions.
23andme tells me I’m 100% Ashkenazi via Minsk/Belarus, confirming the family lore. 23andme has not yet confirmed the other family lore, on all sides, that we were all the poorest of the poor peasants: penniless rabbis, and the women who took care of them.
My story begins with my first known ancestor, Y Chromosomal Adam. He’s the first “anatomically modern human” (as the evolutionary-biologists call them!), the one man whom science has taught us that I’m descended from. Oh, and all other modern humans, too. (Ignore the number of years ago it says: I don’t know how to make it say 170,000 years ago!).