Thursday, July 24, 2008

Parvum Opus 288 ~ Dropping Rancor


Number 288


Free Speech (And That's an Order)

Read all about it: Mark Steyn's "case" got dismissed by the Canadian Human Rights Board. I think it was because it got so much unfavorable publicity only because Mark Steyn, and MacLean's magazine, are so well known. Although common wisdom has it that cultural influences go one-way from the US to Canada, some think that Canada influences the US, and indifference to free speech will seep over the border. On the other hand, there's some pressure to get rid of Canada's Human Rights Commission. One of the most frequent plaintiffs (though it's not a court of law) is a former member of the HRC, and since the plaintiffs always win, he makes money off his righteous offenses. Doesn't look good. Religious liberty is being threatened as well. While Muslim plaintiffs are protected, Christians who've written about their objections to homosexuality are not. Muslims at home execute homosexuals, which is why Ahmajenidad said there are no homosexuals in Iran, but over here so far Muslims just file suits with the HRC when they (the Muslims) quoted.

Though the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC), and the State Department have been supported in the House of Reps (mostly Dems) in their recommendation of a "terror lexicon" prohibiting use of words such as Jihad, jihadist, Islamist, mujahadeen, caliphate, Islamo-fascism, or Islamic terrorist (by the gov, not by the rest of us ~ so far), an amendment from Congressman Hoekstra to bar the use of intelligence funding for such "terror lexicon" measures passed 249-180 (with 10 abstentions). It's like talking about body parts and sex in the old days. We were sort of supposed to pretend none of it existed, except maybe in the doctor's office or out behind the barn.

I just happen to run across almost the same construction in two different articles within a few minutes: "xxx has done what yyy failed to do". And I do have a pertinent point.

Theodore Dalrymple wrote in La Cite, C'est Moi:

The socialist mayor of Paris, in cooperation with French architects, is about to do what both Hitler and Le Corbusier wanted to accomplish but couldn't: destroy the city.

I've never been to Paris but it sounds like I ought to go right away if I want to see the beautiful city that survived the 20th century.

Walter E. Williams wrote in Black Education:

The welfare state has done what Jim Crow, gross discrimination and poverty could not have done. It has contributed to the breakdown of the black family structure and has helped establish a set of values alien to traditional values of high moral standards, hard work and achievement.

Will Canada's protection of hurt feelings do to free speech what a few highjacked planes and Homeland Security failed to do?

Non-English Major Says Her Piece

From an online discussion of business neologisms:

I spent 37 years in Corporate. Trying to get 400,000 employees to move in the same direction sometimes requires speaking english at less than a 12th grade level. I was never an English major and I am sure I have used many of the words and phrases that "stick in your craw". However, I still think I have some skills that perhaps english majors, or others taught finer english in their lives lack. So what a happy world where we can all use our talents without rancor toward those who don't have them. [sic]

She doesn't sound happy.

The discussion group has to do with writing and editing books, so it hardly pays to take personal offense at discussions of language. The business world is particularly afflicted with jargon; maybe this is the first time it's been brought to her attention. The first Parvum Opus, more than five years ago, was just one paragraph, about the misuse of "actionable" as in the business jargon "actionable list". It's worth repeating. A "to-do list" or even an "action list" cannot, or should not, be actionable, which means liable to expose one to a lawsuit.

Journalistic Woes

Journalists are tormented by what to call aging people or old people or people who are older than other people, and have produced a treatise on it 14 pages long. I couldn't read it but it might help someone out there. Looks like "senior citizen" isn't doing the job anymore and will be forced to retire.

SOB Patients

If you're an SOB patient (short of breath) you'll be pleased to learn doctors will be promoting you to SOA (short of air), at least to your face.


Mike Sykes pointed out the difference between rising to the bait like a fish (which he refused to do), and reacting to baiting like a bear on a chain. The result is bad for both of them but the nature of the bait is different. Then Mike quoted G. K. Chesterton: "I hate a quarrel because it interrupts an argument."

He sent a couple more items worth dissecting:

No one can underestimate the scale of the challenge that climate change represents.


He feels strongly that he would derive less satisfaction from his research if it was not reaching a wider audience.

I think I'm missing something in these examples. They're both awkward sentences ~ too many hairpin turns ~ but I think they're at bottom logical. If you can't underestimate the challenge that means the challenge is big, which is what the writer meant. The second, from the alumnus magazine of Cambridge University, is a bit vague about wider, as Mike pointed out (wider than what?), but that form is fairly common: a comparative (-er) used as an adjective without a specific point of comparison, meaning, "wider than it might be".

And finally Mike sent this:

Saint Peter is at the pearly gates, responding to requests for admission. There is a knock. "Who's there?" asks St P. "It's me, Charlie", says a voice. "Come in Charlie" says St P. This is followed by several more similar exchanges, until the reply to the challenge is "It is I, James". "Oh dear", says St P, "another [expletive deleted] schoolmaster!"

It could be worse. Some people think the most interesting people will be in hell, but that won't include English teachers.

Like, Duh

I've got to backtrack on an item from a couple of weeks ago, because I didn't get it the first time around.

Rich Lederer wrote:

Following up your "This Week in Literacy," here's another book store incident:

In one of the megachain bookstores, a woman asked a young clerk for the author of Like Water for Chocolate. After the salesperson had spent five minutes searching and still could not locate the famous title, the customer realized that the young man had been looking for Water from Chocolate.

I overlooked the obvious, that the young clerk thought "like" was the ubiquitous verbal appendage, not part of the title. I'm going to do penance by eating some chocolate.


I'm typing in Starbucks and one of the baristas just said, "I told you not to drink the Kool-Aid." They don't sell Kool-Aid here so I guess that little joke has become ubiquitous.


Here's a great little free program for people who spend hours on a computer, Ergocise. It automatically opens a window at intervals of 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes and gives you a simple, brief stretching exercise to do sitting or standing. Get that blood moving.


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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