Friday, September 5, 2008

Parvum Opus 292 ~ Vintage Hemlock


Number 292


Free World

For a history of “free world” read William Safire’s column on this resuscitated phrase.

Dalrymple on Immigrants

In a TV interview (only the intro is in Dutch), Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels), the son of a refugee from Nazi Germany, made some interesting remarks about immigrants that could apply to the vast numbers of illegal immigrants to the U.S. (a topic that has disappeared from the political radar screen this year). He said that many or most of them come up with money to pay for their transport. Mexican immigrants pay the “coyotes” to bring them to el norte. They are willing to take dangerous risks and make sacrifices to get where they want to go. But if they are immediately pampered by the perks of a caretaker government, nanny state, whatever you want to call it, the enterprise and courage they bring ~ qualities most welcome in any country ~ are snuffed out. Why should the government act as though their qualities of independence, strength, resolution, and ambition suddenly disappear once they cross the border?

The New Hemlock

What I learned at my new school so far: An education “professional” asked why someone with a Ph.D. in English is qualified to teach English composition. As Fred pointed out, Socrates would have not been allowed to teach without that teaching certificate controlled by the education pros.

A Bad Year for Chemises

Do you know what a vintage silk charmeuse chemise is? You know silk; most women probably know what kind of garment a chemise is; charmeuse is a type of silk or silky fabric weave. Vintage is the ringer. I never did like “vintage” used to mean just old or antique. It originally meant the year a wine was produced, the vintage of the grapes. Gradually it’s been laden with the meaning of charmingly old or collectible, though of course you can have a good or poor wine vintage. But in a catalog I just received, the vintage silk charmeuse chemise isn’t an antique item; it’s not even made of antique fabric. Only the style is somewhat retro. It’s a misleading ad. Thus the meaning of the word vintage deteriorates further.

A Credit to Her (Political) Race

Although I would never vote for or against anyone because of sex or race, I’m admiring Sarah Palin, for being a pit bull/barracuda reformer in her own party, for raising a big family, for having a child with Down’s syndrome, for being able to kill what she eats and eat what she kills, and looking better than I do. Except for the politics, she could have been any of my grandmothers or great-grandmothers or my other hardscrabble farm foremothers. My great-great-grandmother Lucinda Godbey Bailey of West Virginia (then Virginia), according to one of my uncles, knocked a marauding, thieving Yankee soldier into the cauldron of water she was heating up to clean a hog she had butchered, while my great-great-grandfather Squire Bailey was away in the Army. I’m not sure why he joined the Confederate Army rather than the Union; they were small-time mountain farmers and certainly not slave-owners; probably didn’t care much about the issue one way or the other but may have been generally opposed to government, in the hard-headed way of mountain people.

The business of Palin’s afflicted infant and her daughter’s pregnancy reminds me of a passage from the Bible (of which I know little; I recall phrases and then look them up):

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:27

In other, more scientific terms, I once read an anthropology/archaeology article about ancient bones that said the bones of a skeleton discovered someplace or other showed the individual had been ill or deformed, whether at birth or from a later illness or accident, and had lived quite a long while afterward, which showed that those people were of sufficient affluence and civilization to care for a member of the group who couldn’t work or hunt or otherwise contribute to their survival, someone who would be a burden, in other words.

Open Mike

Mike Sykes wrote:

While Brits usually talk about "holidays" where others talk of "vacations", there are two contexts in which the latter is preferred: at the older universities and law courts. When I switched subjects at Cambridge after two years of mathematics, I was required to go up for the Long Vac Term in order to get up to speed in economics ~ six weeks in the middle of the three month summer vacation. The shorter "vac" was a widely used colloquialism, pronounced with a short 'a', because the first 'a' in 'vacation' is usually schwa. The same word was sometimes used to denote a vacuum-cleaner, more often known as a hoover.

Mike and I differ on the following:

I do wish the BBC would shed a little of its enthusiasm for regional accents for news-readers, weather-persons and such. Especially when I hear my local news reported in a Northern Irish accent you could cut with knife.

I like regional accents, as long as I can understand them. We’re losing them over here, they’re beaten out of most news and weather people. Mike winds up:

(moi) Eventually it will probably be offensive to say in any way that some people are different from everybody else.

But with any luck I shan't live to see the day,

Which brings me back to the subject of referring to people with mental or other handicaps, or I should say with serious and obvious mental handicaps. We all have some, and we all have relatives and friends with greater or lesser disabilities, who confound us, or confound our pride.

Wild About Harry

Harry H. wrote:

Isn't 'bible' spelled with a cap? At least that's what I've always thought, if referring to the Holy Bible.

I distinguish between what we call the Holy Bible, the Jewish/Christian book, and generic “bible” designating any holy text.

Harry wrote about heroes:

I'm surprised this word hasn't been changed by now to: 'Sheroes' ~ when referring to a female hero. Maybe that won't happen until the name for manholes gets changed. Is it also possible that "Men’s Room" and "Women’s Room" will someday BOTH carry the word, "Restroom”? It should be obvious that at some point the line of propriety has been crossed, as in that old story about the king having no clothes.

It seems I’ve read about unisex restrooms in coed dormitories in some colleges. Modesty is anti-progressive.

Just Worming Up

Fred heard that giant annelids have been spotted off the coast of Africa. It’s not clear whether they are caused by, or cause, global worming.


A local citizen wrote a letter to the newspaper about the economy, complaining about “supile” consumers. I can’t find that word; I assume he made it up. It seems to be an amalgam of docile, submissive, etc., or it could have simply been a typo for “supine”.

Pat on the Back

Thanks to Pat S. for passing these on (there were more and you can probably find the rest on the Web):

Only a Southerner knows:

||| the difference between a hissie fit and a conniption fit, and that you don't "HAVE" them, you "PITCH" them.

||| how many fish, collard greens, turnip greens, peas, beans, etc., make up "a mess."

||| the general direction of "yonder."

||| exactly how long "directly" is, as in: "Going to town, be back directly."

||| exactly when "by and by" is.

||| the difference between "right near" and "a right far piece." They also know that "just down the road" can be 1 mile or 20.

||| knows and understands the difference between a redneck, a good ol' boy, and po’ white trash.

||| fixin’ can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adverb.

||| y'all is singular, all y'all is plural.

Most New Yorkers don’t know, as evidenced by this Overheard in New York conversational scrap:

Mom: They had a big mansion over yonder.

Girl: In Yonkers?

Mom: No, over yonder.

Girl: Where's yonder?


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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