Saturday, February 9, 2008

Parvum Opus 264 ~The Uncommon Reader


Number 264



The PO is a day late because one has what one’s doctor called the crud. Not pneumonia, not quite bronchitis, but definitely lung crud. Meanwhile, one has just read The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, an entertaining little fiction (120 pages) in which Queen Elizabeth suddenly discovers the pleasures of reading books, to everyone’s consternation, becoming so enamored of reading that she decides to abdicate. In the book, she always refers to herself as “one” instead of “I”. One expected royalty to use the editorial “we”, which creates an anonymous, distant authority; but one is pretty remote and authoritative too. One wonders if she actually speaks that way. She also observes that in her time, Buckingham Palace staff went from Servants to Personnel to Human Resources. If anyone ought to be able to have servants, it should be a queen.

If I were the Queen, I would do something about the Archbishop of Canterbury. He says England must accept at least some aspects of sharia law. Why does he think he can, or want to, wipe out centuries of English Common Law? I’d haul him off to the Tower of London. Apparently England now gives welfare benefits to people with multiple wives, and polygamy is of course illegal for non-Muslims.

Meanwhile around the world, Jihadists recently used women with Downs Syndrome as “suicide” bombers. Moderate Muslims all over the world offered moments of silent protest. Days, actually.

What else happened this week on the language scene:

Mark Steyn wrote:

My favorite headline of the year so far comes from The Daily Mail in Britain: "Government Renames Islamic Terrorism As 'Anti-Islamic Activity' To Woo Muslims."

Well, it is, of course. But why “woo”? I think the wooing is on the wrong foot here.

Regarding Steyn’s legal troubles, here’s a brief Canadian TV panel discussion on freedom of speech, which surprisingly is not a given in Canada’s constitution. And check out

Meanwhile back at the ranch:

Last week, Mohammed Khan, the imam of the Islamic Center of Des Moines, led the opening prayer in the Iowa legislature at the request of Iowa State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, a former Iowa school board member who has worked as a counselor in the Iowa prison system, and has questionable associations with Islamic extremists. In his four-minute prayer before the Iowa legislative session, Khan made a plea for “victory over those who disbelieve” and “protection from the Great Satan.”

In case you aren’t quite sure, “those who disbelieve” are all non-Muslims, and “the Great Satan” is the United States. Let’s see, wasn’t there an Iowa primary recently?


Bill Clinton is still getting trashed for comparing Obama’s campaign to Jesse Jackson’s failed campaign some years ago, because this implies that Obama is running merely as a blackchurchblack “values” and who’s magazine lauded Louis Farrakhan. Also, Obama’s wife said in a speech that he was faced with the threat of being shot every time he goes to a gas station, which somehow she made a racial issue, though that’s no more true of him than it is of any politician or indeed any of us. Depending on the neighborhood. Further, Obama introduced race into a speech he made after last year’s massacre at Virginia Tech. After decrying the violence, he compared the shootings to the “violence” of Don Imus making an insulting racial joke on radio. I’m not buying him as a “uniter”. Read Shelby Steele’s new book about him, A Bound Man (only 134 pages). (In her review of this book, a Dr. Helen Smith blogged, oddly: “Obama ~ and quite a few sexual minorities ~ have a problem.” How many sexual minorities are there? I guess I lost count.) candidate. People on both sides of the campaign are shocked, shocked. I guess it would have been more tactful to compare him to some other failed Democratic candidate. However, primary voting reports say that Obama carries most black voters (although of course many whites are voting for him also). Are they voting for him solely on the issues? It’s questionable. For one thing, Obama’s views are almost identical to Hillary’s (except he has an even more liberal voting record). For another, even if he doesn’t bring up race, he doesn’t have to; he belongs to a that’s all about

Lest you think I’m only picking on Dems, I noted the flap between McCain and Romney, when McCain intentionally confused “timetable” (for leaving Iraq) with “benchmarks” (which aren’t locked into a timetable), but the story didn’t stick with me. I find the race issue more colorful, if you will. Though I was taking an interested look at Obama when he first appeared on the scene, that post-massacre speech turned me right off.

If you want to keep track of campaign lies, check out It looks like a pretty even-handed site. And, read Silly Talk by Walter Williams, a diatribe on political dishonesty, plus sloppy speech habits in general.


John Leo in City Journal:

“In order to enhance diversity, it was necessary to suppress it,” Walter Olson writes at,

Those who forget the past tense are doomed to sound silly

||| 20-ish guy to friends: Talk about sweat ~ I never swat so much in my life! (From Overheard in New York.)

||| Supermarket cashier: I was actually valedictorian in high school, and I wore four-inch heels to graduation. And surprise, surprise ~ I falled. (From Overheard in New York.)

||| Guy to friend: If the Yankees win the first two, it'll be a swept. (From Overheard in New York.)

Counterfeit coinages

||| Paint department clerk to customer: Do you want interior or outerior? (From Overheard in New York.)

||| Bimbette: Oh my god, I was dramatized! I couldn't even look at him. (From Overheard in New York.)

||| Dennis Miller made up an almost real word, “recompensation”, compounded of recompense and compensation, which are very close in definition, but usually aren’t used interchangeably. You can be compensated for work, while you might receive recompense for an injury sustained on the job.

||| Super Bowl commentary: “It all comes down to the differentio of pass completions [between Eli Manning and Tom Brady].” This sounds like an almost Shakespearean coinage combining difference or differential and ratio.

best name of the superbowl

Plaxico Burress.


||| What American accent do you have? Take a short quiz to identify it. I have a Midland accent (which is also known as the Ohio River Valley accent), what we consider neutral in the U.S. To test the quiz, I retook it trying on the best Boston or East Coast accent I could manage, and sure enough it identified the accent as Northeastern.

||| The Phrase Finder is pretty good source of the origin of over 1,200 English expressions, including lists of phrases that originated in the Bible or in Shakespeare.


Dave DaBee’s Blog had an interesting quote from Eric Hoffer:

In a time of drastic change it is the learners who survive, while the 'learned' find themselves fully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.

Of course I think much important learning is timeless, but Dave is thinking of the latest medical knowledge that saved his life.


Reader Ezra Sykes reminds us that he’s still training for the Boston Marathon, to raise money for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC). So far, he’s raised more than $3,200 of his $5,000 goal, and offers his CD Juvenile by Design as a thank-you gift. Go to to make a contribution. Or make your check out to "MSPCC" and send it to him at 44 Nonantum Street, Brighton, MA 02135.


It has been noted that the date on last week’s PO was wrong. I have a code to automatically insert the current date, but all by itself, when I wasn’t looking, it went wrong. Since the whole point of an automatic field code is not to have to think about it, I guess it has to go.

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