cygne noir [rara avis / black swan -- Forum Mod.]

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cygne noir [rara avis / black swan -- Forum Mod.]

Post by Archived Topic » Fri Mar 12, 2004 5:49 am

directly translated [[cygne noir]]means "black swan" but i am curious as to the nuance within the french language. i found this phrase listed in a thesaurus under perfection. how would a black swan be perfect? perhaps someone can explain?
thank you.
-dolcej, usa
Submitted by Jessica Dolce (Cleveland - U.S.A.)
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cygne noir

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Mar 12, 2004 6:03 am

According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,The phrase seems to originate as follows:

Swan. A nickname for a blackamoor. (See Lucus A Non Lucendo.)


"Ethiopem vocamus cygnum."
Juvenal, viii. 32.

A black swan. A curiosity, a rara avis. The expression is borrowed from the well known verse- "Rara avis in terris, nigroque simillima cycno."


" `What! is it my rara avis, my black swan?' "- Sir Walter Scott: The Antiquary.

Perhaps due to the black swan's rarity it became synonymous with perfection? As to the French use of the term "cygne noir, je ne sais pas. I noticed in my meanderings on the net that term has been adopted by black musicians, and nightclubs. Perhaps there has been a mixing in with the term swan song, in which a dying swan is supposed to emit a song of great beauty and sadness.

Hope this helps.
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
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cygne noir

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Mar 12, 2004 6:17 am

Does this have anything to do with the medieval custom of 'droit du cygne noir'?
Reply from Erik Kowal (Reading - England)
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cygne noir

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Mar 12, 2004 6:32 am

Conceivably, if Zeus had assumed the shape of a cygne noir, this could leda one to start a tradition.
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
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cygne noir

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Mar 12, 2004 6:46 am

_The Harper Dictionary of Foreign Terms, Third Edition_ (1987) gives:
cygnet noir [Fr], black swan; rarity.
"Black swan," "rara avis" and "rare bird" stand for "a person or thing seldom met; rarity."
The word "swan" means figuratively "a person or thing that is considered faultless and has purity, great beauty, or other similar physical attribute thought of in relation to the swan." (World Book Dictionary)
A feathered phenomenon to which a black swan was a matter of course. (Dickens, _Christmas Carol_)
Prokofiev?fs opera ?c first saw production in Chicago and is a rare bird in England (Manchester Guardian Weekly).


Reply from Susumu Enomoto (Shiraokamachi - Japan)
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cygne noir

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Mar 12, 2004 7:01 am

thank you, all!
Reply from Jessica Dolce (Cleveland - U.S.A.)
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cygne noir

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Mar 12, 2004 7:15 am

Leif and Erik; our own answer to Gallagher & Sheehan.
Reply from Shay Simmons (Colfax - U.S.A.)
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cygne noir

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Mar 12, 2004 7:29 am

Yes, we do all functions from christenings and store promotions to celebrity rehab photo-sessions and bar mitvahs. Very cheap rates!

If interested, please start praying now.
Reply from Erik Kowal (Reading - England)
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cygne noir

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Mar 12, 2004 7:44 am

I have been dredging my mind (and also the internet) for the lyrics to Gallagher and Sheehan. Do you recall them Shay?
Reply from Charles Becker (Murray KY - U.S.A.)
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cygne noir

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Mar 12, 2004 7:58 am

Have again been searching for Gallagher and Sheehan, Shay, but at wwwe.nb.sympatico.ca/muldrew/vaudgs.htm I found that it is Mister Gallagher and Mister Shean. The complete (?) lyrics are found at this site also. Worth a look for old vaudeville buffs.
Reply from Charles Becker (Murray KY - U.S.A.)
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Re: cygne noir [rara avis / black swan -- Forum Mod.]

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Apr 18, 2011 6:07 am

Last week I ran into a interesting discussion of the term BLACK SWAN (not the movie). The article was titled Black swans: from 9/11 to Japan’s earthquake, history is shaped by events that seem impossible—until they happen. (The Week, April 8, 2011, page 13).

Doing a Wordwizard search I found that the subject had been discussed in the posting cygne noir [rara avis / black swan--Forum Mod] . However, the discussion was very limited and I felt I could provide some further enlightenment. I was surprised that the only word and phrase dictionary that even mentioned (in just a few lines) Black swan was Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. So, all the information and quotes in this posting were gleaned from The Week, Oxford English Dictionary, World Wide Words, Wikipedia, various books (see below) and internet sources.

The BLACK SWAN has three nonliteral meanings that I am aware of. They are all related – one of ancient vintage, one from the 20th century, and one very new one from the 21st century.
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BLACK SWAN: noun:

1) An ancient ‘proverbial’ phrase for something extremely rare (or non-existent); something quite out of the ordinary; a surprise; a RARA AVIS (Latin, ‘rare bird’) The term was first applied to the (black swan) by Juvenal (luvenalis) – 1st and early 2nd century Roman poet in Satires, vi. 146, which until its discovery in Australia was unknown. WHITE CROW is a similar example of a rara avis (see 1606 and 1843 quotes below).

In the 20th century the term BLACK SWAN was first used nonproverbially in the study of philosophy and the of logic of scientific proof. Karl Hopper (1902-1994), economist and a renowned professor of the philosophy of science came up with the idea (which seems obvious now) that in science one could never prove anything is true by induction (or deduction for that matter). I’ve seen ‘A’ to be the case a thousand times and have never seen ‘A’ not to be the case, therefore, by induction, it is true that all swans are white). Hopper showed (couldn’t nail down a date, but probably in the 1930s or 40s) that the only way to prove an assertion in science is true is by ‘falsification’ (a single counterexample will do). The classic example attributed to Hopper is the disproof of the hypothesis that ‘All swans are white,’ which was thought by Europeans to be true because they had never seen a black one. This assertion was proved wrong when a 17th Dutch explorer found them to exist in Australia. Therefore the assertion, ‘All swans are white’ is false because a black swan has been observed. However, falsification should not be confused with verification: This swan is black ‘verifies’ that ‘There are black swans.’ It should be noted that in mathematics the process of ‘mathematical induction’ (and deduction) can be used to prove an assertion, hypothesis, or theory is true (math and science are two different animals when it comes to proof), but again all that is needed to prove a hypothesis is false is one counterexample.

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The 21st–century term Black Swan or Black Swan Event (should be capitalized) was coined by the author in his book titled Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (2001) and he used it again in the title of the his next book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007). The author, Dr. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is a Lebanese American financial philosopher (born 1960) and expert in mathematical finance. As a hedge fund manager and Wall Street trader he criticized the financial industry’s risk management methods. He is an advocate of what he calls a ‘black swan robust’ society, meaning a society that can withstand difficult-to-predict events (and not just in the field of finance).

3) BLACK SWAN or BLACK SWAN EVENT noun [2001]: ] A phenomenon of large magnitude and consequence that is difficult or perhaps even impossible to predict.

Such events may have negative or positive outcomes. Their three main attributes are:

i) The event is of very low probability, an outlier, a complete surprise (to the observer).

ii) The event has a major impact; a transforming occurrence.

iii) In hindsight, armchair analysts will say the event could have been predicted or at least preparations could have been made to deal with it.

Negative examples of this concept of a black swan or Black Swan / Black Swan Event would be the 9/11 attack, the financial collapse of 2008-2009, and the recent catastrophe in Japan. A few positive Black Swans might be the sequencing of the human genome, the invention of the Internent, and even the introduction of the iPod. And note that both positive and negative occurrences still fulfill the proverbial requirements – it was out of the ordinary, rare, a surprise.
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Quotes using the proverbial meaning of BLACK SWAN:
<2nd century A.D. “‘Rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cynco’ (A bird rarely seen on the earth, like nothing so much as a black swan).”—in Satires by Juvenal, I>

<1398 “The swanne hatte signus in latine and Olor in grewe, for he is al white in feþeres. for no man findeþ a blacke swanne.”— De Proprietat. Rerum by by Bartholomew de Glanville, translated by J. Trevisa, xii, xii (Bodl) 1f. Xii, page 120/1>

<1576 “What man is so mad as wil say the swan is black?—Comforte byG. Cardano, translated by T. Bedingfield, page 4>

<1606 “The abuse of such places [sc. theatres] was so great, that for any chaste liuer to haunt them, was a black swan, & a white crow.”—Schoole of Abuse by S. Gosson, f. page 12>

<1694 “Husbands without faults (if such black Swans there be).”—Ladies Dictionary by N. H., page 192 (bis)>

<1764 “I breakfasted . . . with Mr. B——, a black swan, an honest lawyer!”—Journal of J. Wesley, 2 October>

<1843 “The rara avis—the white crow—a good President.”—New Purchase by ‘R. Carlton,’ II. lvi. page 235>

<1890 “He may not be such a black swan as Aunt Susan makes him out.”—Misadventure by W. E. Norris, ix>

<1903 “Genius is a black swan . . .”—The Spectator, Vol. 88, page 325>

<1913 “The clever non-classical boy of a literary turn is a black swan; at least, he has never come across a specimen.”—Journal of Education, Vol. 35, page 439>

<1925 “A real friend is the most valuable blessing a man can possess, and, mark me, it is by far the most rare. It is a black swan.”— The remains of Henry Kirke White by H. K. White>

<1994 “In health care, Canada is a ‘black swan’ . . . It has less wealth than the United States, but since 1972, it has eliminated virtually all economic barriers to health care . . .”—Dominant Issues in medical Sociology by H. D. Schwartz, page 377>
(quotes from Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources)
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Quotes using the recent meaning:
<2004 “But, Taleb observed, the fact that an investor has not seen a black swan does not mean that he can rule it out.”— Bull!: A History of the Boom and Bust, 1982-2004 by M. Mahar, page 284> [[using Hopper’s falsification idea above and Taleb’s modern definition]]

<2006 “Taleb’s point is that, while we may think we have sufficient information to form an opinion on a particular topic, we often underestimate the total sample size of the data required to make a rational decision [[We don’t know what we don’t know]]. We are thus surprised by a ‘black swan’—an event that we might have anticipated had we known the total realm of possible events.”—Where are the MWDs? by A. J. MAuroni, page 24>

<2007 “Terrorism is no longer much of a ‘black swan’ event for markets.”—The Economist, 7 July>

<2008 “I know of no one who seriously predicted that oil would rise so spectacularly in this five-year time frame. It has been as is commonly referred to in investment circles, a ‘black swan.’”—Syracuse Post-Standard, July 7, page 38>

<2009 “Asia is at risk for a liquidity-related ‘Black Swan’ event if the loose lending comes to an end, . . .”—Fiber Optics Weekly Update, 11 December>

<2010 “The collapse of Fannie Mae’s stock would have been unthinkable just a year ago or two earlier. The near complete loss of value qualifies as a Black Swan, or if you like, it was part of the larger Black Swan that swept through the housing, mortgage, and capital markets.”—Stalking the Black Swan by K. A. Posner, page 31>

<2011 “Events like the Arab revolutions, Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, and other rare, so-called ‘black swan’ events seem to be on the rise, said Mark Williams, downstream director at Dutrch oil giant Shell.”—UMCI News (Potomac Falls, Virginia), 8 April>
(quotes from archives sources)
____________________

Ken G – April 17, 2011

P.S. And Jessica, if you are still of this world, I did take a look and couldn’t find a written connection between the black swan and ‘perfection,’ which was your original question. But they are definitely beautiful.
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Re: cygne noir [rara avis / black swan -- Forum Mod.]

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon May 23, 2011 6:23 am

Who says that Wordwizard isn't up on the latest hot topics in science, engineering, urology, . . . and financial news? Not I! (or is it ‘Not me!’?)
<2011 “PLANNING FOR THE NEXT BLACK SWAN: The surprising accident at Fukushima puts the spotlight on a new generation of U.S. nuclear reactors. Are they safe enough?”—Scientific American, June, page 48>
Wow! Am I glad I no longer live in New York City with those 3 Indian Point nuclear reactors sitting on a fault zone 38 miles north. And with having to evacuate the 20 million people living with a 50 mile radius, can you imagine the time I'd have trying to hail a cab? (>:)
_________________

Ken – May 22, 2011
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Re: cygne noir [rara avis / black swan -- Forum Mod.]

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon May 23, 2011 9:21 am

Many in that situation would doubtless resort to hailing a Mary.

(Better than hailing a john, I suppose.)
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Re: cygne noir [rara avis / black swan -- Forum Mod.]

Post by marie26 » Wed May 25, 2011 3:22 am

Wow! Am I glad I no longer live in New York City with those 3 Indian Point nuclear reactors sitting on a fault zone 38 miles north. And with having to evacuate the 20 million people living with a 50 mile radius, can you imagine the time I'd have trying to hail a cab? (>:)
Ken, with a few weeks' training I can throw a rock at them from my house :-( But I DO DO DO love the Hudson Valley! :<)
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Re: cygne noir [rara avis / black swan -- Forum Mod.]

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed May 25, 2011 5:01 am

.. damn we Aussies feel left out again .. not only don't we have any nuclear power stations we don't have any fault lines to build them on ... BUT we DO have thousands of black swans !!! ..

WoZ who loves watching them nest and grow up
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