ASTERISM, MEET DINKUS

Geist - - Miscellany -

Lest you think any­one around here has a life: at 10 p.m. on a Fri­day evening, a text ex­change took place be­tween two Geist ed­i­tors: Af­ter some in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and af­ter check­ing with other literary-minded as­so­ciates, it was dis­cov­ered that an asterism is a stacked set of as­ter­isks used to call at­ten­tion to the text that fol­lows it. Like this: ***. (It’s also—ac­cord­ing to “Big Blue,” what we around the Geist of­fice af­fec­tion­ately call the Ox­ford Cana­dian Dic­tio­nary—a name for a group or clus­ter of stars. You may think the term for this is “con­stel­la­tion,” but that’s not quite ac­cu­rate. Though the two terms are re­lated, they are not synonyms, as­tro­nom­i­cally speak­ing.)

In any case, what M. was look­ing for was the word used to de­scribe a set of as­ter­isks laid out thusly *** and which are used to de­lin­eate a sec­tion break in a writ­ten work. Texts flew back and forth; re­search was con­ducted. Some time later, M. re­ceived a note from a mu­si­cian friend about an ar­ti­cle that ap­peared in the Paris Re­view in June 2018 re­gard­ing the “dinkus,” the true name for the se­ries of three as­ter­isks. From the piece on the dinkus by Daisy Alioto: “The dinkus has none of the asterism’s lin­guis­tic as­so­ci­a­tion with the cos­mos, but that’s why I love it. Due to its prox­im­ity to the word din­gus, which means, to de­fine one ridicu­lous word with an­other, “doo­dad,” dinkus likely evolved from the Dutch and Ger­man ding, mean­ing “thing.” To the less con­ti­nen­tal ear, dinkus sounds slightly dirty, and I can con­firm that it’s brought se­ri­ous aca­demics to gig­gles.”

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