Craig Carver, in A History of English in its Own Words, reveals that the word 'nice' once meant something very close to 'weird':
Its early history covers such disapproving and derisive senses as 'stupid,' 'lascivious,' slothful,' and 'unmanly,' all now obsolete. Its earliest sense, 'foolish,' 'stupid,' 'senseless,' appears in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries ('He made the lady so mad and so nyce that sche whorshipped hym as the grettest prophete of God Almighty,' 1387, John de Trevisa, trans. of Higden's Polychronicon), and is from Old French nice (silly), from Latin nescius (ignorant), literally 'not to know,' a compound of ne (not) and scire (to know).
From there it is difficult to trace the convolutions of its senses, the next apparently being 'wanton,' 'lewd' ('These are complements, these are humours, these betraie nice wenches that would be betraied without these,' 1588 Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost), followed by 'strange,' 'rare,' 'uncommon' ('For there be straunge wonderous workes, dyverse maner of nyce beestes and whall fishes,' 1535, Coverdale Bible) and 'slothful,' 'lazy.'
So in Shakespeare's time, Weird Universe might have been called Nice Universe, or Nyce Universe.
'Weird,' on the other hand, (according to Carver) originally meant 'fate' or 'destiny.' In this form, the word was used as early as the 8th century. In the plural, the Wyrdes, it signified the three female goddesses, the Fates -- which is how Shakespeare used it in Macbeth to characterize the three witches, the Weird Sisters.
It was only in the early 19th century that the Romantic poet Shelley first used the word 'weird' in its modern sense to indicate 'uncanny,' 'strange,' or 'unusual.' In his 1816 poem Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude he writes: "In lone and silent hours, / When night makes a weird sound of its own stillness."
News of the Weird/Pro Edition You're Still Not Cynical Enough
Prime Cuts of Underreported News from Last Week, Hand-Picked and Lightly Seasoned by Chuck Shepherd
January 9, 2012
(datelines December 30-January 7) (links correct as of January 9)
Warren Jeffs Prescribes Hell on Earth (Rather Than Kool-Aid), plus Other Things to Worry About
★ ★ ★ ★!
Sex Alert for Texas, Utah, Arizona! Horny, Mormonish Women Increasingly Climbing Walls! Prophet Warren Jeffs has issued an encyclical from his prison cell: no sex for anybody . . because all marriages are void until he can return to "seal" them (which won't be for a while because his sentence is life plus 20). (Bonus: Jeffs has so far filed two kinda-amicus petitions in court from the Lord, himself, commanding that Jeffs be set free, but the judge has failed to grant them. Must be that they, y'know, were mis-formatted or in the wrong font, something like that.) (Double Bonus: Reportedly, many followers have fled the sect, but many continue to observe his every word.) World's Greatest Newspaper
NPR's Robert Krulwich possesses a perpetual supply of fascination about ordinary but complicated things, for example, how scientists learn about famously reclusive pandas. He has a screen shot of researcher Robert Schaller's notes on a particular panda in the wild and the tracking of its every bowel movement. Lots of bowel movements. Of course, the samples must be collected, catalogued, and analyzed, and inferences made. Yr Editor stands in awe of Krulwich's level of fascination, but Schaller's is more worrisome. NPR blog
Sweden's Missionary Church of Kopimism (whose mission, mainly, is to encourage computer file-sharing irrespective of things like "copyright") issued a press release last week, uncontradicted so far, announcing that it had fulfilled the legal requirements to be a religion and had been granted that status by the government. Torrent Freak via NPR
Arrested in Madison, Wis., on weapons and drug charges: Mr. (legal name) Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop, age 30. WISC-TV (Madison)
A case report in the New England Journal of Medicine describes a woman who coughed so hard that she pushed her lung out through her ribs. That's got to be painful.
According to msnbc.com, violent coughing can also result in collapsed lungs, ruptured spleens, and eyeballs coming out of their sockets. Lovely!
This hits close to home for me because my wife occasionally suffers from an intense cough. She may go for several years without any problems, but when "The Cough" (as we call it) returns, it's always pretty bad. And it usually takes several months for it to go away. Thankfully it's been a while since she last had The Cough. (knock on wood).
A few weeks ago, over at the Museum of Hoaxes, I described how I came into possession of a miniature Cardiff Giant. I then decided to send it on an around-the-world tour. This involves sending it to volunteer hosts in various farflung regions who show it the sights in their neck of the woods, send me photos of its adventures, and then ship it on to the next volunteer.
The giant is currently in Perth, Austrialia, and I'm looking for people in that part of the world willing to temporarily adopt him. "That part of the world" is meant, in the broadest sense, to encompass all of Asia, Australasia, and India. Because while I've got a lot of volunteers from the U.S. and Europe, I haven't got any from anywhere else. And I'd like the giant to see as much of the world as possible.
So I'm posting here to see if there are any Weird Universe readers in exotic locales who'd like to play host to the giant. If you're interested, let me know.
Even if you live in boring-old Europe and the U.S. and you'd like to host the giant, let me know also. Because eventually the giant will be touring these regions. (possibly very soon if no one from Asia/Australia can be found.) I'll add you to the list.
Just one word of caution. If you agree to host the giant, you HAVE to send him to someone else after a few weeks. If you decide to keep him permanently, you'll incur the Curse of the Cardiff Giant, which is too awful to describe in words, though it's rumored to be similar to that melting flesh scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.