Friday, July 4, 2008

Parvum Opus 285 ~ This Week in Literacy


Number 285


This Week in Literacy

From Overheard in New York:

||| Teenager in a bookstore: “Dude, my sister is always stealing her friends' books, but like, sometimes no one has the book she wants, how much easier would it be if there was like, a Blockbuster, but for books.”

Dude, that would be like a library, only better than Blockbuster ‘cause it’s free.

||| Teenage girl in a bookstore: “I need Romeo and Juliet. But do you have any with, like, the English on one side and Shakespeare on the other?

In my day we just had footnotes. Today it’s the No Fear Shakespeare. Example from Hamlet:


To be, or not to be?

That is the question—


The question is:

is it better to be alive or dead?


||| Chick: “So they called him up on stage, and they were like: ‘We want to bestow this honor upon you.’ And he was like: ‘It is indeed an honor, an honor indeed.’ And I'm all like: ‘Come on, like, I mean, seriously, like, who talks like that? Can't you take it down a notch! Don't you read US Weekly or anything?’”

The honoree could have taken it down a notch maybe to, “I’m like, whoa!”

I’m all like, let’s reduce everything to the lowest common denominator except then we’d be like, you know, amoebas. Elevated language is like formal clothing, use it for certain occasions. Duh.

Thou Shalt Not Plagiarize

Dennis Prager said there’s a Rabbinic teaching about giving credit when you quote someone, and by implication against plagiarism:

He who repeats a teaching in the name of the person who first said it, brings redemption to the world. (From the Office of the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth)

This may mean that the authority of the source is what’s important, but it can also be an admonishment to give credit for ideas; i.e., don’t steal.

New Fonts

Thanks to Kate (the virtual daughter-in-law soon to be real-time) for finding the AnAkronism type font at I’m from Akron, and an old friend from college days, Ed Shope, coined “anakronism” to refer to some of Akron’s peculiarities, such as the then rarely sighted city buses. Also from the same web site, the Jane Austen font is an appealing copy of the divine Jane’s script.

Redneck Redux

Kathy Taylor wrote:

when i first moved to wv, i thought rednecks were just stupid, tobacco spitting, all around idiots. my sister was (and still is) a big believer in that definition. of course, she also is convinced she is of the high and mighty, lol. as a self proclaimed redneck (if you've read my articles lately ~ i've used it quite a bit [see]) i consider rednecks to be people who are not afraid to be themselves. ... there are those who actually know more about certain areas than an average person might think. for example, i know absolutely nothing about engines or tires, whereas, a lot of these folks that enter mud bogs and demolition derbys know the ins and outs of cars and trucks. it’s funny, when i look back, i thought i would never enjoy a good mud bog. now, i like to go and relax with the crowd. sometimes i don’t always feel i fit in, but sometimes i don’t feel i fit in with the family i grew up in.

As one who’s usually not quite a fit in most places, including inside my own name, I can appreciate Kathy’s sentiment.

Rise to the Occasion

A few thoughts for the Fourth of July:

||| I haven’t yet commented on the government’s new policy not to use the phrase “war on terror” (much less “Islamic terror”), introduced, says Charles Allen, senior intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security, because "it creates animus in Islamic countries." What are the gov’t officials saying instead? “The recent unpleasantness”? “The unfortunate incidents”? “The acts that dare not speak their name”? It’s the Fourth. Today, open your mouth and say what you think as simply and clearly as possible.

||| The American Consumers Cooperative movement of the 1930s adapted “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to “The Battle Hymn of Cooperation”, but somehow lyrics about co-ops and shopping are less stirring than those about death and sacrifice for higher ideals. We all might like to be heroes, but who aspires deeply to be a better consumer? “Consumers marching on” is a ridiculous line. Maybe if they’d patterned the song after “Row Row Row Your Boat” or something....

||| The Black National Anthem is not an “alternative” version of the American National Anthem, nor is the Mexican or Puerto Rican or any other. Singing these in place of the National Anthem in an official, public context, as Rene Marie did at a public occasion in Denver, is singing a separatist song. She was, she said, expressing her “feelings” as a black woman and an “artist”, though she had been invited to sing the National Anthem. Well, as Jim said in Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, artists don’t have any special needs that can’t be readily fulfilled by a tattoo* of kicks on the backside. It’s important to have a sense of occasion. Don’t wear a shroud to a wedding. Remember the scene in Casablanca where the patrons in Rick’s Café started singing La Marseillaise to drown out the Nazis singing a song about the fatherland? Not that I’m comparing Miss Rene to a Nazi, but I don’t buy her saying she didn’t mean to offend. She meant to express her own feelings of offense. The Black National Anthem is a fine song (though the lines “Till now we stand at last / Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast” have a suspiciously white-centric bias) but it was the wrong time and place; the time and place were not all about her. In Denver, the crowd did not counter by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

*Tattoo in the sense of drum beat, not skin ornament.

||| Francis Scott Key wrote “Defence of Fort McHenry” during the War of 1812. According to Wikipedia, the last stanza of what became “The Star-Spangled Banner” is seldom sung, so here it is:

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war's desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Our complicated history, from the Declaration of Independence in 1776, to the War of 1812, to the Civil War and beyond, through all its dark passages, has produced a civilization worth protecting. Read again Lincoln’s thoughts on the preservation of the Union and the ideals on which it was founded in the Gettysburg Address of 1863:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


Trivium pursuit ~ rhetoric, grammar, and logic, or reading, writing, and reckoning: Parvum Opus discusses language, education, journalism, culture, and more. Parvum Opus by Rhonda Keith is a publication of KeithOps / Opus Publishing Services. Editorial input provided by Fred Stephens. 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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