Thursday, January 3, 2008

Parvum Opus 259 ~ Smartastic


Number 259

January 3, 2008



Richard Lederer sent the more thorough explanation of Shakespeare and the 46th psalm:

In 1610, the year of the most intensive work on the translation, Shakespeare was forty-six years old. Given this clue, we turn to the Forty-sixth Psalm as it appears in the King James Bible. Count down to the forty-sixth word from the beginning and then count up to the forty-sixth word from the end, excluding the cadential Selah:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed,

and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,

though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,

the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved:

God shall help her, and that right early.

The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved:

he uttered his voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,

what desolations he hath made on earth;

He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth;

he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder;

he burneth the chariot in the fire.

Be still, and know that I am God:

I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

If you counted accurately, your finger eventually lit upon the two words shake and spear. Shakespeare. Whether or not he created the majesty of the forty-sixth psalm, he is in it. Whether the embedded shake spear is a purposeful plant or the product of happy chance, the name of the world's most famous poet reposes cunningly in the text of the world's most famous translation.

(In the slightly earlier Douay-Rheims translation, the words shake and spear do not appear.) Since there’s no record of Shakespeare working with the KJV translation committee, I wonder who first came up with this bit of cryptography?

And I’ve always wondered about “Selah”; says:

a Hebrew word of unknown meaning at the end of verses in the Psalms: perhaps a musical direction, but traditionally interpreted as a blessing meaning “forever”

Other dictionaries offer different possible meanings, some pertaining to musical pauses. Dick Lederer’s “cadential” has a nice cadence.


Kathy T. wrote vis a vis “blush” vs. “rouge”:

Do you remember that crayon nobody ever liked? I think it was called burnt orange. We have an elementary school teacher here that wears that shade of "glow" and by the way, also complements it with the up-to-the-eyebrow blue eyeshadow. What is it that you would call "burnt orange blush"? Could it be "Blazing Sunset" instead of the usual generic "Rose"? I have never seen a "blush" the color of hers ever in my life until my son started school there. If we could call the eyeshadow something like "Ocean Blue" and we add the "Blazing Sunset", we would have a postcard from the beach image.

In a way, I admire manic makeup. It shows a hopeful nature. Blue eyeshadow was considered the depth of tacky for years but I believe it snuck (sneaked?) back in the bruised or heroin-addict look. I’d like to have a job naming makeup colors. I did in fact dream up a line of transparent nail colors to be called Cellophane, and I had some fun naming the various shades. I think there was a Beach Glass, but I can’t recall the others.


Lake Superior State University announced the 2008 Banished Words List. I have to disagree with two entries, waterboarding and the surge. I think people are just tired of hearing about the war, but these are pretty specific terms, not easily replaced. The surge could have been called something else, but it wasn’t, and now it refers to a specific military build-up and change of tactics in a specific time and place. Waterboarding is pretty specific too. It does sound like a sport, but what else are you going to call it?


Dave DaBee tipped me to the Stupidity Filter Project, mentioned on Bad Language. The Stupid Filter Project would filter faulty or poor use of English. I guess I’d be out of my unpaid job, then. Bad Language is a more useful site.

Dave also contributed a couple more nuggets: He heard people on NPR misuse between. For example, you say “between January 1 and January 3” but “from January 1 to January 3” (not “between January 1 to January 3” or “from January 1 and January 3”; if you use a dash, you don’t use either between or from). It’s a matter of logic. Dave expects more from NPR.

He also heard someone from the Society for the Preservation of the Queen’s English ~ it must have been Albert Tudor-Smythe, president of S.P.E.C.S. and a very great man ~ offer to be BBC’s grammar police. When asked if that wouldn’t annoy a lot of people, he said, “Damn them!” Hail Britannia!


On New Year’s Day the local paper suddenly dropped some cartoons and substituted some others. The great loss is Agnes by Tony Cochran, but we’ve gained Dilbert daily and Get Fuzzy. Two January 1 strips fooled around with words:

In Get Fuzzy, the cat came up with dinnerfying, session de chew, and eatification for dinner; he said his editor was smartastic; and the dog said the cat wanted him to call the waffle iron the waffle hottie.

In Frazz, a kid made a clever point:

If I have myself an orange juice every new year's morning, it's a tradition.

If I have an orange juice every single morning, it's a routine.

If I leave the glass in the living room twice, apparently it's a habit.

Where is this going?

If I gripe about the language instead of about my control-freak mom, it's a diversion.

I guess a tradition has some meaning or ritual attached; a routine is purposeful; a habit could be good or bad, but may not be thought out. Do you have any traditions? If so, how many repetitions are necessary for something to become a tradition?


Bumper sticker: “Pre-school is not bootcamp for kindergarten!” I didn’t get it but it was such a forceful statement that I looked it up and sure enough, the phrase appears on numerous web pages. It’s about making too many demands on pre-schoolers. Too much scheduling, too many goals.

Another interesting mini-seminar thanks to Hugh Hewitt, December 31 and January 1: 3 1/2 hours on the history of ideas in the West by Hillsdale College President Dr. Larry Arnn, recorded 6 years ago. He also explains the scope and purposes of a traditional liberal education. Example of an interesting idea that’s new to me: “The Hebrews wandered the desert 40 years after their release from Egypt, partly to work the slavishness out of them so they’d be worthy of the promised land.”


Some time ago I started posting Parvum Opus on a blog as well as on my web site, just because blogs are done now. I didn’t think anyone read it (besides, the formatting is out of my control), but today I got an e-mail about PO 256 Tunavision, and not from a regular reader. It was, perhaps, a form letter, from the Muslims Against Sharia blog. (The letter does not appear as a comment in my blog.) In the Tunavision PO, I mentioned the British teacher in Sudan who allowed her students to name a teddy bear Mohammed. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

Most of the Western Muslim establishment is comprised of Islamist groups claiming to be moderates. True moderate Muslims reject Islamic supremacy and Sharia; embrace religious equality and democracy.... Muslims Against Sharia compiled a list of issues that differentiate moderate Muslims from Islamic radicals. Hopefully you can help us grow this list.

I consider this an encouraging sign. I don’t know who is behind this Reform Islam web site, but it’s posted in Swedish and Russian as well as English. Take a look.

By the way, did you know that Mahmoud Ahminajihadmood has a blog? Seriously.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Muslims Against Sharia are moderate Muslims who are sick of Islamists speaking on our behalf.