cow oak

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  • To:
  • Subject: The case of the cow oak: a lexicographical anecdote
  • From: Arnt Richard Johansen <>
  • Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 12:35:31 +0100 (CET)
  • Sender: nobody <>

On Jbovlaste, we (that is, Robin :) ) have imported the contents of

luj1999.ZIP into these pages:

This word list has, I believe, been assembled programmatically by Nora

based on occurrences in the corpus.

Now, many of these words are nonce, typos, or simply erroneous

registrations of natlang words. But one thing that caught my eye in the

first few pages of that list was:

{bakcindu} bovine+oak

It *could* simply be an error, I thought, but there are many species of

oak. Maybe one of these species is the "bovine" one in some language the

original author wanted to calque from, possibly Linnean binomials. I

searched for "bakcindu" in the search interface (which covers,

among other things, this mailing list since the dawn of time). But no

occurrences were found. I pored over the List of Quercus species on

Wikipedia, but nothing seemed remotely cow-like there.

I then asked Pierre Abbat, our resident taxonomist, to help out. A few

minutes after receiving a response that there was no such thing as cow

oak, I started racking my brain about how it could come to be that that

word had ended up in the list. Did Nora have access to some texts back in

1999 that wasn't searchable on yet? Probably not. So it *had*

to be in there somewhere.

Then it hit me. Obviously, Nora's script did canonicalization of the lujvo

forms. Otherwise, there would be at least some alternative forms in the

list. So it was probably registered from a non-canonical form. I tried

searching for "baknycindu", and BINGO!:

That was, apparently, the only usage ever of that word. And in a really

bizarre metalinguistic discussion, too (read it!).

I feel a bit bad about going to Pierre before thinking through *why* there

was no hits on the search form now.


Arnt Richard Johansen

Så mange ord som mulig per gram var utvelgelsesgrunnlaget da bøkene

skulle plukkes ut. --Erling Kagge: Alene til Sydpolen


And now I discover that there actually is a cow oak. See ordnet.