Saturday, July 28, 2007

Let's Enjamb


Number 236

July 26, 2007



Bill R. sent this from The Chronicle of Higher Education. It’s also linked to writer Evan Eisenberg’s site where there’s a lot of amusing stuff. So for all you English majors, engineers, mechanics, and wordsmiths, here I go flouting copyright again:

Poetic License Exam

By Evan Eisenberg (author of The Ecology of Eden and The Recording Angel)

1. According to Code, spaces between stanzas must be

a. no greater than two inches

b. no less than one yawp

c. provided with a vermin-proof cap

d. filled with fine sand

3. To prevent leakage, the lower end of a stanza of ottava rima (e.g. Byron's "Don Juan") should be sealed with

a. a couplet

b. a doublet

c. a stainless-steel cap and rubber gasket sleeve

d. duct tape

4. Enjambment is permitted when

a. space does not allow installation of a fixture on one line

b. a long-sweep 1/4 bend is used to connect the lines

c. a relief yoke vent is installed to vent overflow

d. a variance is granted by the Prosody Department

6. According to Code, internal rhyme may not be used unless

a. it is installed at least six inches below grade

b. assonance is limited by local ordinance

c. metrical fittings are clearly labeled

d. a schematic is filed in the building superintendent's office

7. Which of the following types of rhymes or rhyme schemes does not meet Code?

a. macaronic

b. Hudibrastic


d. PVC

8. To couple a line of iambic trimeter to a line of dactylic hexameter, the poet should use a

a. spondee

b. trochee

c. flange, gasket, and locknut

d. anapest, amphibrach, and 5/8-inch compression fitting

10. The purpose of the trap in a canto drain line is to

a. hold water

b. form a barrier to sewer gases

c. insulate individual talent from the Tradition

d. prevent afflatus from escaping into the living area


I told Bill I love the word “spondee” then he took off:

Bill: I think it's the "other woman" in a divorce case. Or maybe that's "respondee"

Moi: Correspondee. The man is a correspondude.

Bill: So a younger woman would be a correspondette?

Moi: I think so. A pro is the corresponsored. But I have to go to work now.


Bill appends this quote to his e-mail:

If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.

--Zhongni, Analects

Zhongni (Master Kong) is known as Confucius in the west. Zhongni is also the name of a “conceptware project aiming to build a computer-aided translation (CAT) environment with prototype tools and working models” (at a company in Taiwan). Anyway, the quotation is what the PO is about.

On the other hand, what I’m all about is what Miss Marple said in one of the BBC productions (with the late great Joan Hickson): “Oh, my dear, you mustn’t believe what people tell you! I haven’t for years.”


Overheard in New York is a web site where people send in snippets of conversation they hear in New York. (There’s a book too.) It’s surprising how much of it is obscene, and how very obscene it is, and also how ignorant. But there are gems of obscenity and gems of ignorance, like this one:

And Even Then, Only Cereal Boxes

Male suit: So, you're a literary agent? That's so cool. How's it going?

Lady suit: I just sold my first book! And the movie rights were optioned the same day!

Male suit: Totally exciting. What's the book about?

Lady suit: Oh, I don't know. I haven't actually read it.

Male suit: That's cool. I didn't really read much until I started college.

--Overheard on a train (or the A Train?)

--Overheard by: Max Perkins Is Rolling in His Grave

(Max Perkins was the famous Scribner’s editor who worked with Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and more.)

Here’s another piece of NY conversation:

Kid: Mom, where you at?

Mom: I'm right here, baby, and it's not where you at, it's where you is.

The web site has headline contests for the entries (like “And Even Then, Only Cereal Boxes” above), in case you’d like to contribute, and you can also submit overhearings (could we make that be a word?) to Overheard In the Office, On the Beach, and Everywhere. There’s also Celebrity “Wit” (sardonic quotation marks added by me).


Weird Al Yankovich, who does all those great parodies of popular songs, parodied Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, both song and film, using only palindromes (phrases that read the same backward and forward). “Bob” can be found on YouTube. I’d never heard of most of the palindromes he used. Here are a few:

Senile felines

Was it a car or a cat I saw?

Rise to vote, Sir.

Do geese see God?

A dog, a panic in a pagoda

We panic in a pew.

Won’t lovers revolt now?

Oozy rat in a sanitary zoo

If you like parodies, here are a few limerick parodies of famous poems.


My young Japanese student, who plays drums in a rock and roll band back home, calls his music “fastcore” ~ very fast, short spurts of punk music.


||| Keeping up with media buzz words: The right calls the major TV companies and newspapers the “drive-by” media. The left often calls people “arch-conservative” but never “arch-liberal” (“arch” meaning chief), which always sounds like the arch-enemy in a super-hero comic book.

||| On the education front, as noted in Radical Teacher magazine #78: College students raising organic food for poor people study agriculture and read an article by Jared Diamond that calls agriculture “The Worst Mistake in Human History”. They also read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, who won a half-million dollar prize for this “series of Socratic dialogues between a telepathic gorilla and his eager human student, another scathing critique of the last 10,000 years of humanity’s experiment with manipulating nature.” I’d call it a scathing critique of education too, if we’re to be learning from Socratic-dialogue wielding gorillas. After digging for three hours with hand tools, the students decided they could accomplish more with power tools. One of the things the students might have learned is that the low-income people they labored for apparently have already decided for themselves that agriculture is a big mistake, since they did not choose the life of the soil themselves. As one of my uncles, who grew up on a farm, put it: “Nothing but back-breaking work from dawn to dark just to put food on the table.” Nuts and wild raspberries, anyone?

||| In “Read It and Weep” (The Weekly Standard, July 16, 2007), Charlotte Allen reports on the “whole language” method of teaching reading that disastrously replaced the traditional phonemics system. The whole language theory is that children don’t have to be taught to learn to read, they will absorb it automatically, like speech. They don’t need to and in fact should not learn the alphabet and English language patterns. It turns out there’s been an analogous theory about teaching math ~ “fuzzy math”. (So why haven’t I absorbed physics or the ability to play a musical instrument? I’ve listened to plenty of music and I’m absolutely surrounded by physics.)

I detect a pattern here: Agriculture classes teach that agriculture is bad, English teachers avoid the alphabet, and we are to be instructed by gorillas. My adult foreign students who want to learn English wouldn’t pay for this educational theory. They expect the teacher to know something and to tell them what it is.

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