Friday, February 15, 2008

Parvum Opus 265 ~ PO of Pallor


Number 265



Bill R. sent a cartoon about a trick riddle that you’ve probably heard before, quizzing you about words that end in -gry. Here’s a link to the cartoon. (I won’t try to e-mail it because some readers might have images blocked by their spam filters.) The punchline is great: “Communicating badly and then acting smug when you’re misunderstood is not cleverness.”


Zounds! by Mark Dunn about interjections, “zounds” being an old variant of “His wounds” (or “God’s wounds”). Dunn says it’s from “Christ’s wounds” but that might have become “soonds”, wouldn’t it, because of the ess sound.

Under “honest injun” he suggests that the potential for ethnic offense might come from this spelling of “Indian” (rather than from assuming Indians are dishonest, though it could mean they’re honest, couldn’t it?). So why is the normal looseness and elision of American pronunciation more offensive than the very careful pronunciation of every letter? The “dia” spelling can become a J sound, as happened permanently with Cajun (from Arcadian). Of course we know what happened with the loose Southern and British pronunciation of Negro, but I doubt if every such usage was always intended to be malicious.

The entry for “hello” says that we might be saying “Ahoy!” when we answer the phone today if Alexander Graham Bell had had his way, and it was actually used for a while in the world’s first telephone exchange in New Haven, Connecticut. Feel free to try it out.


Thomas Dalrymple called the “present archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams” a cross between Goldilocks and Neville Chamberlain. Note “present” and note the lower-case “archbishop” (although that may be a matter of British stylistic usage). Dalrymple sees vague language and sloppy thinking in Williams’ lecture before the Royal Courts of Justice. Williams is a clever fellow without doubt. But it is not possible to accept two conflicting laws. For instance, a man in Dallas recently killed his two teenage daughters for behaving like normal American girls. He has disappeared, probably protected by fellow Muslims here or abroad. What he did is acceptable in many Muslim countries ~ “honor killings”. According to Western law, there is no such thing. Furthermore, this is not the Western idea of honor, which is honor within oneself, not from someone else’s behavior. Why should we accept this “communal standard” in the name of tolerance? Dalrymple wrote, “There is only one word for a society in which such discourse can pass for intellectual subtlety and sophistication, and lead to career advancement: decadent.”

Regarding the re-naming of you-know-what terrorism, Mike Sykes wrote:

The term "anti-Muslim terrorists" seems to me absurd, in that we don't usually use "anti" in that sense (do we?): they're not opposing Islam, rather they're arguably contravening Islamic teaching. It would be more accurate to call it counter-productive terrorism. If only there was an organisation we could refer to from which we could derive a more convenient word than Al-Qaedaists. The IRA were much more considerate in that respect.

Yes, the problem is that we don’t have just one terrorist organization or just one country to refer to. The only unifying theme is, in fact, Islam, and, in fact, very likely Koranic teaching, even if all Muslims are not performing these acts. Someone recently said that we’ve just stepped into an ancient Islamic civil war. True enough, Sunnis and Shiites have been killing each other for centuries, but they like to expand their field when possible. It’s in the book.


A couple of smart blogs about PC names from Minding the Campus:

The bit about "Asian" being useless is hilarious as well as true because it is precisely the PC crowd who foisted that useless word on the rest of us. "Oriental" as the man-in-the-streets catch-all for Chinese/Japanese/Korean fell into disfavor. Same for the traditionally technically correct "Mongoloid".* It was the PC idiots who decided to lump these peoples in with the Indo-Europeans of "southwest Asia" (i.e. the ME) and India. "Asian" is even more of a useless stretch than monolithic "African", which as we all know is usually shorthand for "sub-Saharan African", IOW "black".

Thus part of my complaint about “African-American” ~ it always means black, not Arab or Egyptian or South American Boer or whatever.

I quibble with commenter Orlando Ray's statement that "Americans of European decent* cannot be diverse, unless they are gay." Being gay is not enough to render you diverse if you are of European decent. Volunteering legal services to a Gay and Lesbian (oops, Lesbian and Gay) organization in the early 1990's, I was required to attend a diversity training session where the facilitator, a black woman, basically berated the group of volunteer lawyers for being almost entirely male and white. But one can fight fire. At another Lesbian and Gay lawyers' meeting addressed by city council candidates, a white Lesbian and a gay Hispanic who relentlessly referred to persons of pallor as "Anglos", I was able to do an AZZA. "As a person of Irish decent, I am deeply offended by your referring to me as an Anglo." We are all victims here.

*He may be decent but he meant descent. Let us remember that “diverse” ONLY means “different”. By the way, why did the writer have to reverse “gay and lesbian”? Is it ladies first? Love the AZZA: “As a this or that” ~ almost always followed by a proclamation of offense.


Someone pointed out that we must distinguish between health care and health insurance. Maybe 15% of Americans don’t have health insurance. This doesn’t mean they don’t have health care. When I had a lot of medical tests a couple of years ago, without insurance, the billing administrator at the hospital told me, “Don’t tell anyone I said so, but if you were an illegal immigrant you wouldn’t get a bill.” I got all the care I needed, maybe more, plus the bills. Rarely is anyone turned away from urgent care because of money. The best suggestion I ever heard about health care came from a Canadian physician (I’m not sure but it may be Dr. David Gratzer), who isn’t a fan of the Canadian system. He recommended that we buy insurance only for major medical expenses, which would make insurance pretty cheap. Ordinary medical expenses should be paid out of pocket. Makes sense to me.

3:10 TO YUMA

Movie comparison: Recently I watched both the old (1957) and the new (2007) versions of the western 3:10 to Yuma. Warning: This contains spoilers for both movies. Both were good movies, but much of the plot was changed. Can you guess what would be changed in 50 years? That is, what of significance, never mind the color and the expensive effects in the new movie. Both have a charming villain who exhibits a trace of humanity despite being a cold-blooded murderer. Both have a honest rancher who takes on the dangerous job of escorting the criminal to a train bound for prison, because the rancher is desperate for money; he is willing to risk his life for his family. But added in the new movie: the faithful wife is angry at her husband for not being more forceful in the face of drought and greedy neighbors; their older teenage son is typical of modern sons in that he is contemptuous of his father for not being more forceful and successful; the rancher’s game leg was incurred when he was running away from a fight during the Civil War. And finally, though he behaves heroically, in the end he gets killed. Is this necessarily more “real” than the softer humanity of 1957? In the old movie, the rancher perseveres and survives. Virtue prevailed. Were the audiences of 1957 ~ not long out of World War II, where right prevailed ~ less realistic about life than the new director and writer, who were born in the 1960s, and unlikely to have been to war?


||| Dick Lederer of wrote: Just to be helpful, it's "Down Syndrome," not "Downs Syndrome." I’m sure I’ve made this mistake before in PO. Why can’t I remember it? It is named after Dr. John Langdon Down, which would justify the Down’s form, and Wikipedia says the British form is Down’s, but for some reason Down Syndrome is correct in the U.S.. Some of you may remember when the disorder was called Mongolism*, because the people who have it have almond-shapes eyes.

||| I wrote who’s when I should have written whose last week.

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