Sunday, August 1, 2010

All absurdum

At school in grades 9 and 10 I studied Latin. I wanted to be a dispensing pharmacist, and potions and pastes and pills had Latin names. But in mid grade 12, with pen in hand filling in my university application preferences, I suddenly shuddered at the prospect of a career selling lipsticks to old ladies. So I changed my first choice from Pharmacy to Medicine. And the rest, as they say… Despite this, I’m grateful for my Latin knowledge. Though it’s too basic for me to read the Latin classics, it gives me the key to etymology – of medical terms and non-medical words alike. Recently, in relation to baking, two Latin phrases popped into my mind: Aiming for a thin pizza crust, I’ve been progressively reducing the yeast in each batch. I ended up with a yeastless dough – which I liked but Sweetheart Vivienne didn’t. So now I use ¼ teaspoon per 550 grams of flour (compared with the original recipe’s ¾ tablespoon). Also, noting our diets are oversalted, I’ve been reducing the salt in my bread dough. The UK’s Food Standards Agency’s benchmark’s 1g salt per 100g loaf [1]. I’m already below that. I’m interested to see how low I’ll get before the taste’s affected. Oh, I almost forgot, the two Latin phrases: de minimis [2] and reductio ad absurdum [3]. (The latter’s come to have a technical meaning [4], but its Latin meaning is ‘reduction to the absurd’.) Valete [5].

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