Friday, December 5, 2008

Parvum Opus 304 ~ God Speeden


Dave DaBee noted this old verbal maze ~ try to punctuate this sentence:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Wikipedia explains it, I won’t. I wrote Dave that it seems to me a possible sentence, but an impermissible one, and he suggested that might be “impermossible” but I preferred “impersible”.

Wait and Hurry Up

From a news story that couldn’t have turned out well:

“That person was later rushed to the hospital.”

I Spam, You Spam, We All Scream for All Spam

In “Blacklisted in Cyberspace” in The Washington Post, James McGrath Morris wrote about why his harmless newsletter is occasionally rejected by spam filters, as is mine. A very strict filter might block articles with the word “bre*ast” (asterisk inserted for my protection), for instance, whether it occurs on a porn site or in an article about cancer. Reminds me of the famous dictum about pornography by Justice Potter Stewart in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964): "I can't define pornography, but I know it when I see it." He might have said spam.

Multi-Cultural Hoopla

I watched Bride & Prejudice again, a cheerful Bollywood extravaganza that combines at least three major cultural hallmarks: the Hollywood musical romantic comedy; Bombay’s wildly popular singin’n’dancin movie spectacle; and Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice. It works well. India is all saturated color and celebration, including the hijras, transvestites who often provide entertainment at Indian weddings. Most of the main characters in Austen’s book are in the movie, including the long-suffering father, and even recognizable bits of original dialogue. As for the Hollywood strain, Paula Abdul is a greater influence on Bollywood than Fred Astaire, and you probably wouldn’t go home humming any of the songs, but how can you not like beautiful girls, energetic boys, and no problems that aren’t solved by the end of the last reel?

A Holiday Wish

This week’s field trip was a jaunt to the local contemporary arts museum. The students enjoyed the children’s area best, and we all drew little pictures and taped them to the walls. The Saudi student (a princess in her own mind) wrote something in Arabic with a picture of a sword. I asked her what it said, and she said it was Allah is the only God and Mohammed is his prophet, or words to that effect. She told her friend that she had meant to make the sword larger. I didn’t respond because I’m already lectura non grata because of the insensitivity of my questions, but I thought the sword would be instructive to the children who use the art classroom next and who can’t read Arabic. Can you say “Mumbai” (or even “Bombay”), kiddies?

Name Game

In “The Name Game - Inuit or Eskimo?”, Steve Sailer explains the difference between Inuit and Eskimo, leaving me back where I started: I always said Eskimo, but did I mean Inuit, and how would I know, and is someone going to hit me if I use the wrong word now?

But it is useful to learn two more names tribes use to refer to themselves that mean We Are the Ones: the Khoi are “the people” (the erstwhile people of South Africa); the Inuit are the people; and the Tsalagi are the true people, even if you call them Cherokee, which I’m thinking is an attempt at phonetic pronunciation of the same name: “ts” possibly was or is pronounced something like the English “ch” sound, “l” and “r” are confused or interchangeable in some languages, and the hard “g” is very close to “k”. And vowels can go any direction. So I don’t see what it matters whether you say or spell Cherokee “Tsalagi”. My Cherokee ancestry does not object.

God Speeden

From Overheard in New York:

Girl to boy: “I just got this computer software that's supposed to, like, speeden my reading comprehension.

This girl must have been flashing on the “en” participle ending that still exists in sweeten, whiten, enlighten, brighten, the Appalachian relic “store-boughten”, and other words. It does not, however, exist in “speeden”.


You probably know the stores called Tuesday Morning and the restaurants called Ruby Tuesday. The Ruby Tuesday web site says the chain was started over 30 years ago, and though it doesn’t say so, I assume it was named after the 1967 Rolling Stones song. Tuesday Morning closes regularly and re-opens on selected Tuesdays with new merchandise. Their web site has even less info than Ruby Tuesday’s, but surely the store name has a connection with the Crosby Stills Nash Young song “Suite Judy Blue Eyes”: “Tuesday morning, please be gone I'm tired of you” ~ unless, of course, it had something to do with actress Tuesday Weld. Can you think of any more businesses named for popular songs of recent decades, particularly with “Tuesday”?

Christmas Books

*** The movie A Christmas Story has become another holiday classic (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”). I just picked up a collection of the quasi-autobiographical stories by Jean Shepherd that the movie was based on, also called A Christmas Story (ISBN 0-7679-1622-0). Writing about the Red Ryder air gun ads that so entranced him as a boy, he also wrote about an old lady in New York who carried a sign saying “Disarm the Toy Industry!” which coincidentally resembles a G. K. Chesterton essay I happened to read recently, “The Terror of a Toy”.

*** A new book that might be useful to you is No Tech Hacking, by Johnny Long et al, is about security (and breaching security) that doesn’t require high-tech skills, obviously. Some of the chapters are Dumpster Diving, Tailgating, Shoulder Surfing, Physical Security, and Social Engineering. And it has photos! I recommend it, and it might be good for anyone on your Christmas list who’s concerned about security, or who wants to be a criminal. Profits from sales go to charity.

Metaphor Mix

William Safire wrote something good, as usual, on mixing metaphors in the NYT.


Names Disney rejected for the Seven Dwarfs:

Awful, Baldy, Biggo-Ego, Biggy, Biggy-Wiggy, Blabby, Burpy, Busy, Chesty, Cranky, Daffy, Dippy, Dirty, Dizzy, Doleful, Flabby, Gabby, Gloomy, Goopy, Graceful, Helpful, Hoppy, Hotsy, Hungrey, Jaunty, Jumpy, Lazy, Neurtsy, Nifty, Puffy, Sappy, Sneezy-Wheezy, Sniffy, Scrappy, Shifty, Silly, Snoopy, Soulful, Strutty, Stuffy, Sleazy, Tearful, Thrifty, Tipsy, Titsy, Tubby, Weepy, Wistful, and Woeful

“Neurtsy”? Would that be a cross between nuts and neurotic?

Synchronized Spooning Update

This week synchronized spooning team Jem Whittle and Shirley Purley of Ontario debuted a new move in practice sessions that will blow everyone else out of the water ~ if they can pull it off again when Whittle recovers from a sprained ankle. They call it Cubing the Circle. Whittle and Purley already upped the ante by revolving around a bonfire while rotating. Their performance has been described as a two-person Busby Berkeley production number. Now the pair are jumping over the bar they set by adding 360 degree turns in a third dimension: not only do they pivot individually around an imaginary line extending the length of each of their bodies, which from the audience perspective looks at a distance as if they are remaining in one spot, they also revolve around the fire while doing this, thus moving from a point to a line to traveling in a flat plane. Now they are piercing the third dimension, by inserting vertical rolls: picture a pair of hoop snakes coiling and uncoiling. Whittle and Purley haven’t yet worked out the finer points of this new addition, but it will be interesting to watch.


Read The Wish Book, a novella by Rhonda Keith, free online.

New interview with bluesman Sonny Robertson.


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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