What Planet is This?

04 Aug 2005


I've rewritten the software powering this website and called it Azimuth. When I looked up the etymology of the name, Webster's said that it's from "OE. azimut", which I thought a little strange since it's clearly an Arabic word. So I checked the OED, and there it was said that it's from the French "azimut", a cognate of the Arabic form. That was a bit closer to what I expected, but was still a little suspect, so I checked the Online Etymological Dictionary, which confirmed that it's from "O.Fr. azimut, from Ar. as-sumut 'the ways'". It's a shame they don't cite sources.

This still didn't explain why Webster's said Old English, though, and it was suggested that it may be a loanword from Latin. About 3% of Old English was loaned from, mainly ecclesiastical, Latin, so it was certainly plausible. But then upon reading Wikipedia's entry on Old English I found that in "some older works (such as the 1913 edition of Webster's Dictionary), Old English refers to Middle English, or also more specifically Middle English as used from 1150 to 1350, with the older form of the language referred to exclusively as Anglo-Saxon." So at least that mystery is now clear.

The first recorded use of the word in English was by, surprise surprise, Chaucer in his Treatise on the Astrolabe of circa 1391: "From this cenyth, as it semeth, there comen a maner croked strikes like to the clawes of a loppe, or elles like the werk of a wommans calle, in kervyng overthwart the almykanteras. And these same strikes or divisiouns ben clepid azimutz, and thei dividen the orisounte of thin Astrelabie in 24 divisiouns. And these azymutz serven to knowe the costes of the firmament, and to othre conclusions, as for to knowe the cenyth of the sonne and of every sterre."

In other words, an azimuth is the imaginary line pointing out from an observer along a particular cardinal direction. It's a horizontal point outwards from the viewer, a way of looking out at the surroundings. The software allows you to take a particular view of the textual dataset depending upon whether you're requesting HTML, Atom, Contents, etc., so the name is fairly apt. The code is still a work in progress, but it's as functional as the old Blosxom code was, and it fixes several bugs already:

  • Non-existent pages now come up with Not Found
  • It's possible to put the entry headings in the HTML titles
  • Atom is the default feed, and the RSS 0.91 is gone
  • Comments now work according to my model and are built-in
  • Contents pages are now automatically generated
  • The sidebar archive list is automatically generated

I would also like previous and next links on the entries, and possibly some other forms of data filtering, but I'd also like to keep the code as simple as it can be. It's mainly based on Blosxom, but only on those parts that I needed, and I didn't port the code: I just made it mimic the functionality that I was using, and added the pieces that Blosxom was lacking. It's implemented in Python not Perl, too. I didn't just patch the old code because I like to program, and it was an interesting challenge.

Having said that, once again the project naming was probably a fair bit harder than the programming.

Cite: Palmer, S.B. (2005). "Azimuth", in: What Planet is This?
Archival URI: http://inamidst.com/notes/azymuth


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