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December 23, 2013


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I believe the mayfly, which is said to live for only a day, is called an ephemeris, but I don't know if this literal application preceded the metaphoric use or the other way around.

John: Close! Mayflies are "ephemerids" belonging to the order Ephemoptera; the two species are Ephemera danica or Ephemera vulgata. (Source: OED.)

Wikipedia gives some names for mayfly in non-English languages, all of which contain the "one-day" element: German Eintagsfliege, Dutch eendagsvlieg, Slovenian enodnevnica, Swedish dagslända, Danish and Norwegian døgnflue, Polish jętka jednodniówka, Finnish päivänkorento, Hebrew בַּריוֹם.

Mayfly would be a good name for an ephemeral app!

Yesterday on Fresh Air, Geoff Nunberg did a piece on SAT words; at the end he said:

I asked my daughter if she recalled any of the items we went over on flashcards when she was preparing for the SAT about seven years ago. "The only one I remember is 'ephemeral,' " she said, then added, "I'm aware that there's a certain irony in that."


Hard to tell how it was spelled, but I think the drug that halted telekinetic powers in the film "Scanners," by David Cronenberg, was called Ephemerol. Did Cronenberg mean that it rendered the scanners mind control ability "ephemeral," or was it just a meaningless term he threw in because he had to quickly finish the script? Hopefully, Cronenberg (he wrote it also) will write in and tell us. Probably ain't gonna happen though.

Timothy: Ephemerol is on one blog's list of "11 Awesomest Fictional Drugs": http://www.ugo.com/the-goods/ephemerol

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