Did John Hawks Call Me Uncool

In a discussion of whether to us “T” or “TH” in spelling Neanderthal Hawks says:

…all the cool kids write it with a “T”.

Afarensis used to be quite the cutting edge cool anthro guy, apparently though, the cutting edge of cool has passed me by. As you can see, I use the “TH”. I guess I will turn into to one of those grumpy old archaeologists (“trowels, we don’t need no stinkin trowels, back in my day all we had were toothpicks, and we were damn glad to have them”)…
On the other hand, since the dominant culture uses “T” perhaps I can present “TH” as counterculture. Kind of a rebellion against the old fogeys kind of thing…

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21 Responses

  1. And so the anthropologists divided themselves into to two tribes, each clustering around its own particular spelling of the name of an ancient hominid. First they shouted at each other with great shouts, then they yelled with great yells, each tribe espousing the correctness of its chosen spelling. Finally, they began to hurl bifaces of knapped chert at each other …

  2. What else would you expect anthropologists to do? At least we are not like those primatologists – flinging poop at each other.

  3. I use the “th” without fail. It always seemed to me that the change in spelling occurred because the stuffy academics kept getting tired of hearing those that read their work pronounce the “th” and decided if they dropped the “h” they could eliminate this pronunciation.

  4. cfeagans and all:
    You want to know why I spell it “Neandertal”? The “old” spelling tends to be associated(as Hawks kind of hints) with the idea that that particular group of prehistoric people were stupid and brutish. Bear in mind that when you call somebody a Neanderthal(*not* Neander*tal*!), it is not a compliment.
    Just some food for thought here,
    Anne G

  5. You want to know why I spell it “Neandertal”? The “old” spelling tends to be associated(as Hawks kind of hints) with the idea that that particular group of prehistoric people were stupid and brutish. Bear in mind that when you call somebody a Neanderthal(*not* Neander*tal*!), it is not a compliment.

    Unfortunately common discourse does not seem to make any such distinction, but rather treats ‘Neandertal’ and ‘Neanderthal’ as merely alternate spellings of the same word, see e.g.: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/neandertal

    So while the distinction you make is in some sense historically consistent, that is a history which seems to have been forgotten.

  6. What else would you expect anthropologists to do? At least we are not like those primatologists – flinging poop at each other.

    You’ve got to admit that flinging poo is a more widely used tradition, with a more ancient history. Showing off one’s knapping skills is pretty cool though.

  7. I’ve managed to spell it incorrectly using both th and t over the years…how uncool is that?!

  8. I’ve managed to spell it incorrectly using both th and t over the years…how uncool is that?!

    Does this mean you’ve drawn pictures of Neandertals who looked stupid and brutish and pictures of Neanderthals who didn’t?

  9. For some reason, this hair-splitting reminded me of Tom Lehrer’s old song “Bright College Days”:
    “Soon we’ll be out, amid the cold world’s strife.
    Soon we’ll be sliding down the razor blade of life”

  10. Bonus Question: What other common English word was also derived from the German “thal”?
    Answer: Dollar.
    In 1519 the Counts of Schlick, who lived near the small Bohemian town of Sankt Joachimsthal (Saint Joseph’s Valley) began minting their own coins from silver found on their property. The coins had a picture of Saint Joseph on them, and were called Joachimsthalers, latter shortened to thalers (pronounced in the local dialect like ‘daler’, that rhymes with ‘tailor’). The dahler became a standard unit of currency in Germany until it was replaced by the Mark in 1873.
    The English picked up the word, changing it from ‘thaler’ to ‘daller’ and finally to ‘dollar’. To the English a dollar was used to refer to any foreign coin, in particular the Iberian pesos and pieces-of-eight. These coins were in wide circulation in North America, and so when the Americans came to name their own money, they used that term when they ditched the British pounds.
    Thus endith our daily history lesson. :)

  11. I hate to disagree with Dr. Hawks, but I’m with you on this! The ‘th’ is the German version and it has the precedence. (However you spell THAT word…) We want the ‘h’! We demand the ‘h’!

  12. I had a cat that used to call “australopitecideo” ( guess in english ). What a beautiful sound, isnt´ it ?

  13. wot cfeagans sez:
    +if we’re going all the way, let’s dump the trendy neoclassical greek bit and sub the original ‘neumann’?
    Some wacko romantic poet geezer, IIRC.

  14. The name comes from the fact that the first fossils were found in the Neander Thal (Neander [Neumann] Valley). In 1904 lots of German spelling was altered and the “h” was dropped, (There is no “th” sound in German, so the spelling was altered to account for this.)
    However the spelling of H. neanderthalensis does not change due to the rules of biological nomenclature.
    Personally I don’t care how you spell it as long as you are consistent. Most people are going to know what you’re talking about.

  15. I hate to disagree with Dr. Hawks, but I’m with you on this! The ‘th’ is the German version and it has the precedence. (However you spell THAT word…) We want the ‘h’! We demand the ‘h’!

    You haven’t been reading the newspaper, have you? The Germans reformed their spelling about a century ago, dropping the ‘h’. That’s how the whole issue got started.

  16. “The ‘t’ is the German version.” True, and we can go one step further and call them ‘Neandertaler’. Like Germans do.

  17. A German reader of my site points out that the term “Neandertal” refers to somebody who lives in the Neander valley today, and prefers that we use ‘Neanderthal’ to refer to our ancient pal.

  18. Kris – That is extremely interesting. What was the context?

  19. I spell it with an “h” because I’m a grouchy old fogey, and John Hawks can get himself off my lawn before I swat him one with my cane.

  20. Alan,
    Get with the program! Those of us who use “H” are not grouchy old fogeys. We are countercultural hipsters rebeling against the dominant “T” culture! All we need now is a cool handshake to make all the old fogey “T” types jealous…

  21. I support your use of the “TH” in Neanderthal 100%. I do it the same, and the cool kids use “TH” as well. I mean seriously, it may be old school, but you know its correct.

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