Thursday, March 6, 2008

Parvum Opus 268 ~ Nomenclatter


Number 268

March 6, 2008



I just taught Fred the Tom Swifties game, named after a series of boys' novels by Edward L. Stratemeyer about Tom Swift, whose dialogue was always marked with adverbs, as in, "Tom said jokingly." In the game, you add a punning adverb to a "he said" tag. For example, "I think my pH balance is off," he said acidly. A really clever one from the Fun with Words site linked above is, "Elvis is dead," said Tom expressly. It took me a minute to get that one.

I read once that John F. Kennedy liked to play this game with his friends.


This week the Frazz cartoon had a funny storyline on Wednesday and Thursday about naming artwork. A school kid tells Frazz she needs to think of a name for her painting:

Girl: It was a horse until my coughing fit. Now it's abstract art.

Frazz: And you think the right title will save it. Are you thinking a poetic title, an ironic title, or a controversial title?

Girl: I had no idea art was this complicated.

Frazz: I.e., a good grade, a good price or a good deal of attention?

Jef Mallett, the cartoonist, must have read Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word.


Before the recent Ohio primary, a local radio host named Bill Cunningham was asked to warm up the crowd at a McCain rally, and ended up in a squabble with McCain because Cunningham called Obama "Barack Hussein Obama". Which is his name, but it's not considered polite to mention it. Actually, Cunningham uses people's middle names rather often, but in this instance he may have been name-calling intentionally. Cunningham likes to provoke people, and he provoked McCain into apologizing for him, upon which Cunningham said he was going to throw his vote to Clinton. Cunningham kind of looks like Alfred E. Neuman, anyway, so no one cares. But he's smarter than he's given credit for. He gave up lawyering when he learned that one of his former clients, whom he'd gotten off for murder, was actually guilty.


I just finished listening to a book on CD, State of Fear by Michael Crichton, about eco-terrorism, eco-money, and eco-politics. As literature, it's so-so, but it's entertaining, full of hair-raising escapes (including one unfortunate cannibal victim), and Crichton did three years of research on the science. His appendices are well worth reading even if you don't care to read the entire lengthy novel. I didn't realize the organization called ELF in the book is real: Earth Liberation Front.

We've chatted about climate change before in PO. Though I'm all for tidying up and finding alternate sources of energy, for various reasons, I don't think we're doomed, while others who do nevertheless aren't giving up their cars and so on. You might want to check out The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change held this week in New York.

I think we could all agree that there's money and political goals on both sides of the debate. Mark Steyn wrote,

Take Mayer Hillman, senior fellow at the Policy Studies Institute in London and big-shot eco-panjandrum. "When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet from the death of life, the end of life on it," he said recently. "This has got to be imposed on people whether they like it or not." David Suzuki, Canadian eco-messiah, is cool with that: he recently called for politicians who disagree with him on "climate change" to be thrown in jail.

All this because of computer weather projections. My French student actually wouldn't agree that the science fiction catastrophe movie The Day After Tomorrow is fantasy. (I haven't seen the movie but am confused by the plot description ~ the disasters are all about the beginning of a new ice age.) When he told me people with old cars that emit more carbon dioxide have to pay higher taxes in France, I said, "Why not tax bigger people more than smaller ones? Bigger people use more oxygen and emit more carbon dioxide." He liked that idea, but then I outweigh him.

Meanwhile, Weather Channel founder John Coleman may sue Al Gore.


||| In the produce department, an extra small variety of fruit is called a "personal watermelon". No thanks. I have my boundaries.

||| A sign in a semi-gated condo community: "No street parking community." Why isn't it simply "No street parking"? The shorter a street sign is, the better. And safer. Anyway, it's one of those "communities" where no one really knows anyone else.

||| From Dennis Prager: "I've done this since I'm very young" instead of "since I was very young". Prager himself has commented on this. I think it may be a carry-over from Yiddish.

||| In PO 266 I entered, "...took home well more than minimum wage." I was pleased to find that Evan Jenkins has written about this "mangled idiom" in the online Columbia Journalism Review.


You may have read the story about Harvard providing restricted gym hours for Muslim women students. This is a private university and they can do what they want, but I wonder that these very strict students did not choose to attend religious schools, as do many very orthodox Jews and Christians who want a controlled educational environment. A Muslim woman at Harvard said it's only right that the majority compromise for a minority. Huh? What have Muslim students been doing in the last many decades they've been in the U.S.? Does anyone remember them requesting special accommodation before 9/11? Coincidence? Perhaps.

You might remember a similar flap in the same locale, when Professor Mary Daly at Boston College refused to let men attend some of her classes. At least it seems similar to me: ideological bullying, administrative caving.


How scientific ideas get made: Some researchers say that your vote is affected or even determined by your genetic makeup. Forget rational thought. According to New York University psychology professor David Amodio, liberals use a part of the brain that makes them more responsive to different ideas. "More liberal people tend to be able to deal with pros and cons of decisions, and as they get more conservative, people like to focus on one side of the story," Amodio said.

But what happens when people change from one mode to another over the course of a lifetime? And what are the "different" ideas?

For instance, like many people, I was taught a traditional (say conservative) view of history in grade school, and more or less traditional morality at home. Then, like many people, I went to college and adopted "new" (liberal to radical) ideas whole hog. And like many people, years of experience led me to reevaluate the old and the new, and I got nuancy as the "old" ideas took on a new complexity. So I've looked at clouds from both sides now, as Judy Collins sang.

And what happens to the brain of someone from a very lefty environment (say, the old Soviet Union or Cuba) who encounters the West?

Furthermore, there are any number of "different" ideas that would shut my brain down entirely. Necrophilia, for instance. Of course that's not an entirely new idea.

Amodio is attaching biased interpretations to his data. His own language is slanted and judgmental, not scientifically objective. For instance, I'll bet he does not consider that a passionate belief in coming climate-change disaster caused by human carbon emissions is focused on only one side of the story ("The debate is over!" ~ Al Gore), although those believers are usually what we call liberal.


My older son is getting married in Scotland in September, and would like to find a formal black Eisenhower jacket, size XL, to wear with his kilt. The only one he's found so far costs more than $300, I think. So if anyone knows of any good sources for a more reasonably priced jacket, let me know. (I already suggested getting one custom made or dying an olive drab jacket black.)


Discussing language, education, journalism, culture, and more, Parvum Opus by Rhonda Keith is a publication of KeithOps / Opus Publishing Services. Rhonda Keith is a long-time writer, editor, and English teacher. Back issues from December 2002 may be found at Feel free to e-mail me with comments or queries. The PO mailing list is private, never given or sold to anyone else. If you don't want to receive Parvum Opus, please e-mail, and I'll take you off the mailing list. Copyright Rhonda Keith 2008. Parvum Opus or part of it may be reproduced only with permission, but you may forward the entire newsletter as long as the copyright remains.

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