JF Ptak Science Books Post 2746
I just came upon this fine word, which for a moment challenged my probably under-corrected vision, and saw that it contained three consecutive f consonants! On a Saturday, cranky with a fever and stiff(f) neck, this was a superb BLAST! Or “blast”. Or “b”. Anyway the word is Luftschifffahrft and it occurs in the title of a pamphlet by Wenzel Kotzauer, Die Luftschifffahrt und ihre Zukunft, printed in Vienna in 1895.
The forty-page pamphlet is about the future of air flight and as fixed-winged aircraft rather than airships, noting in particular the 1894 Hiram Maxim “aeroplane1”. The Maxim machine was prodigious, and was mainly built for testing purposes—it weighed 3 to 4 tons, carried two steam engines that generated 180hp (!) and had pushing props that were 17.5' in diameter, making the thing a beast-and-a-half. It was fixed to a very wide two-track system to keep it from lifting off the ground when the engines were running—or to keep it from careening around out of control. In any event, Maxim's dream machine didn't make it very far and was dismantled after a few years. (He also attempted an unsuccessful return to heavier-than-air flight in 1910.)
But back to the three Fs. “Luftschifffahrt”, which translates basically to “airplane” or perhaps “aeroplane”, and thus the title is about Airplane/ship/aeroplane Travel in the Future. Or thereabouts. It is a technical work, with much on the actual “aeroplane”, which in its first use were the wings, and here there is much discussion on their size and shape.
What most interests me though are the repetitive consonants. They just don't seem to happen in English, naturally, without being hyphenated. (Using the word “un-hyphenated” again I just want to point out its terrific irony!) The word appears with fewer letters as “Schifffahrt”, which is simply "shipping”.
The most obvious hyphenated candidate for me is “cross-section”, which I use often in this blog, though I can't kill the hyphen and pulling the two words together as it makes it look like overstuffed snake-sausage: crosssection. As smaller snake is the person who sees a seer is not a seeer, and Scrabble-challenged words like “zzz” and “brrretc” definitely do not count, noooo sir.
1. In general at this time "aeroplane" referred to the wings/airfoils of a plane, not so much as an aircraft itself. Mostly, it seems. The Oxford English Dictionary says that the first use of the word in this sense occurs in 1866, with a useful explanation of it found two years later:
All of the following come from the Oxford English Dictionary:
1868 3rd Ann. Rep. Aëronaut. Soc. 36 He had turned his attention to the wing and to the sustainer, or what he might call the aëroplane.
1894 O. Chanute Progress in Flying Machines 237 This main aeroplane..is trussed and stiffened in every direction by wire stays.
1905 G. Bacon Balloons 111 What are called ‘aeroplanes’—large flat surfaces, light but rigid inclined at a suitable angle to the horizon.
Aeroplane=aircraft/airplane (as a noun) comes at about the same time:
1868 Eng. Mechanic 24 Apr. 91/2 We have yet to see the ‘aëroplane’ with buoyancy sufficient to sustain 150 lb., or with apparatus sufficiently light and portable to make headway on an ‘air plane’... Supposing an aëroplane to have raised itself, if it reared out of equilibium it and the occupant would come to grief.
1873 D. S. Brown in 8th Ann. Rep. Aëronaut. Soc. 17 I think this [sc. impetus] will be more requisite with respect to the aëroplane than any other vehicle.
1873 Ann. Rep. Aëronaut. Soc. 20 Mr. Bennett introduced an Aëroplane invented by a Frenchman, to be worked by a screw by motive power derived from elastic springs.
Finally, "airplane" as a noun comes into existence, or nearly so, in the early part of this past century:
1906 Sci. Amer. 29 Dec. 487/1 Air-plane is a much better word than aeroplane. It is as good etymologically, and much better when it is spoken.
1907 Westm. Gaz. 19 July 4/2 It is this ease of going against the current, with no motive force in evidence, that is..the despair of the aeronauts with their air-planes.
1917 N.A.C.A. (U.S.) Rep. Nomencl. Aeronaut. 31 Airplane..This term is commonly used in a more restricted sense to refer to airplanes fitted with landing gear suited to operation from the land. If the landing gear is suited to operation from the water, the term ‘Seaplane’ is used.