About

I’m Matt Shockey, Kalamazoo resident and philosophy professor at Indiana University South Bend. This is my blog.

Why the weird name for it?

There’s a scene in Tolkien’s The Return of the King, where a hungry Pippin, recently arrived in Gondor, is promised that they will check on Gandalf’s horse Shadowfax and go “thence to the butteries.” Until I looked it up, I assumed a buttery was where butter was churned and stored. It turns out, however, that the word comes from old Latin and French words for casks (“butts”) or bottles  of wine or other liquor. (“Butler” derives similarly.) According to the OED, “the transition from the sense of ‘store-room for liquor’ to that of ‘store-room for provisions generally’ is in accordance with analogy, but may have been helped by association with butter.

So: think of this blog as the portal from my verbal pantry/wine cave to yours. If a little butter will help you make that association, don’t hold back.

And the Latin subtitle of the blog? It’s a play on the 17th century philosopher René Descartes’ cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). It means “I eat, therefore I am” or, if the “e” is short, “I publicize, therefore I am.” (Thanks to my classicist wife for helping me with my Latin here.) Since both meanings suit my purposes, there’s no need to choose the long ‘e’ over the short, or vice versa. E’s all good, as one might say (or not).