Saturday, May 23, 2009

Parvum Opus 326 ~ Foreword

I published the first year of Parvum Opus digitally this week, and although I have other material ready to use, I decided that this issue would carry the Foreword of Volume I, plus a list of all the titles, which I rather like seeing all together.


Parvum Opus (Latin for small work) is a weekly column on the English language, and more, that I’ve been writing since before Christmas of 2002. I’m an English teacher, writer, and editor: one of those compulsive readers and proofreaders.

My original intention was to write a short note on one point of English usage per week. It would be not just a grammar tip, but a comment on the way language is used and misused. The first issue was on the word “actionable”, which I’ve heard misused quite a bit. (By the way, in PO 13, I explain why I gradually came to use the British punctuation system, putting the punctuation mark outside the quotation marks, when it belongs there.)

But it was impossible to confine myself to one item a week. There’s just too much material in print and on TV, and live too. So Parvum Opus gradually got longer, and now averages around 1,200 words a week. I usually take a couple of weeks off from writing every year, thus this first volume of 52 columns comprises the beginning columns of 2002 and all of 2003.

The content expanded also. Since language is always about something, I wrote about the substance as well as the form of language. I could not, for instance, ignore the Iraq war. My views on that and other public issues have shifted since this first year of writing, which lost me some readers in subsequent years. Nevertheless, PO has surprised me with its persistence and longevity.

Parvum Opus includes a lot of comments, questions, and information from readers who have been steady readers and writers over the years, and I thank them.

Someday, when I get to some round number such as 500, I may change Parvum Opus to Trivium Pursuit. In the Middle Ages, when the great universities were established in Europe, students studied the Trivium and the Quadrivium.

The Trivium consisted of grammar, rhetoric, and logic. The Quadrivium consisted of arithmetic; geometry; music, harmonics, or tuning theory; and astronomy or cosmology. The Quadrivium is usually out of my range, but rhetoric and logic allow me to discuss politics and culture, which cover just about everything that’s not hard math and science.

Unfortunately, I’ve never actually studied Latin. I started to take it in junior high. I lived in Texas then, where classrooms were hot in the fall semester, and Latin required more of my adolescent attention than my hormones allowed, so I dropped the class rather than fail it. But I’m attracted to Latin, and since 2002 I’ve attached two more Latin phrases to my opus. Vincit Veritas (Truth Conquers), the motto of the Keith clan, my paternal family, is sort of a company motto (see Dulce, Utile, et Decorum (pleasant, useful, and proper), combines two familiar Latin tags. Dulce et utile was Horace’s description, or perhaps prescription, of what literature is, or should be: amusing and instructive. Horace also wrote Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (Sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country). I have not been called upon to die for my country, but Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere. If my Latin is incorrect, blame my 12-year-old self.

Any correct Latin comes from my husband, Fred, who stuck with four years of Latin in high school. Fred is my copyeditor and saves me from many errors. Again, the ones that remain are my own. Fred is also responsible for the change of my name from Rhonda Keith to Rhonda Keith Stephens in 2004.

A writer is always tempted to rewrite or add to earlier work. I’ve mostly resisted this urge, other than making corrections and adding a few notes here and there.

— Rhonda Keith Stephens

P.S. Utile: I sometimes refer to formatting problems caused by trying to send PO through the mail; I’ve tried to please readers and myself, but the technology sometimes dictates, thus formatting is inconsistent as I tried over the years to come up with something simple and clear within the constraints of the technology. (This applies to the Kindle upload as well.) I sometimes mention my typos but I’ve tried to correct them. Formatting has been inconsistent as I tried to work it out over time. You’ll also notice that links to some Web sites may no longer exist. Almost all issues are at In 2007 I began posting them also at


1 Actionable 2 As Far As 3 Christmas Potpourri 4 New Year's Muse 5 Ghoti Hell 6 Deadheading 7 Fiercely Waging War Against Feisty Wordstyles 8 Relevant to What? 9 In the News 10 Articulation and Extrapolation 11 The Bad, The Good, and The Silly 12 The English Follies 13 Creative Wordcrafting 14 Punctuation: Separating the Dilettantes from the True Nerds 15 The Language Police 16 Tension 17 Who's Right? 18 Language Through the Looking Glass 19 All Intents and Purposes 20 Fine Indistinctions 21 Teutonization 22 McGuffey's Fifth Eclectic Reader 23 My Week, and Welcome To It 24 Unruly 25 Reviews 26 Lost Worlds 27 The Blair Bitch Project 28 Be My Guest 29 Road Trip 30 The Universal Slagheap of the Particular 31 Assume a Virtue 32 Bumpers 33 Pronounce It Trippingly 34 Sentence Makeover 35 Word Noodling 36 Off Road Driving 37 Ladies and Gentlemen 38 Your Dime 39 Avoid Using Common Language Errors 40 English as a What Language? 41 Spell Spiel 42 An English Teacher Gone Wrong 43 Definitions of Sorts 44 Reflexions 45 Nucular Attack 46 Droning On 47 Public Discourse 48 Namely 49 The Thing's English 50 Word Imperfect 51 Majorly Thankful 52 52 Pickup 53 Lost in Translation 54 The Big Story 55 Yes, Spot, There Really Is a Christmas 56 Dulce et Utile 57 Dulce Et Futile 58 Comparisons Are Odious 59 Sentient Structure 60 Parvitude 61 Good Foolishness 62 Old Words 63 Shmembolism 64 All in Your Head 65 Veritas Vincit 66 Elitist Grumble 67 No End in Sight 68 Bad Writing 69 Let Us Define Our Terms 70 Why We're Confused 71 Something Blue 72 Something Old 73 Somethings Borrowed 74 Something New 75 You Said It 76 Make the Brains Run on Time 77 Now What? 78 Absolutely American 79 May I Have a Word With You? 80 Rhetoric: "I'm Shocked, Shocked!" 81 Haunted Words 82 Ironically Speaking 83 Reading Like a Banshee 84 Iconography 85 Feelin' Herby 86 Sensitivity 87 Tongue Lashings 88 Road Trip 89 Changing Course 90 Want Fries With That? 91 Name Those Parts 92 The Point of Balance 93 Teach a Person to Officiate... 94 Reason 95 Attention All You Well Known, Authors! 96 Notes from the Home Front 97 Wrap It Up 98 Up and Up 99 Code Switching 100 Happy Thanksgiving to All of You 101 No Bobtail Parking 102 Custom Spam 103 Portly's Complaints 104 Merry Solstice 105 Resolution Moon 106 Happy Winter 107 Learn Latin and Make the Big Bucks! 108 Little Latin, Less Geek 109 Shakespeare in Iraq 110 Verbal Implants 111 Wordcraft 112 Levels of Diction 113 No Accident 114 Plew 115 Crash Bam Alakazam 116 Persistent Vegetable Love 117 English Major's Reading of the Schiavo Story 118 Genie Us 119 Bleep 120 Heteronormative Like Me 121 Trader Joe's Novitiates 122 Hot Ice 123 Culture Noted 124 I Is You 125 Making Sense 126 O Beautiful 127 Be the Plucky Comic Relief 128 Summer Reading 129 Foot in Hand 130 The Issues Issue 131 Courage 132 Good Vibrators 133 Quite the Blitz 134 No Music-Only Lyrics Needed 135 Nifty Bits 136 Shakespeare Did Not Write This 137 Word Puzzle 138 Summer Scene 139 Not a Word 140 Be Prepared for Catastrophe; Do Not Commit Tragedy 141 Constant Proofreader 142 Than Which 143 Terms of Address 144 Walla-Walla and Rhubarb 145 Art, Law, and Truth, Part 1, Margaret Garner 146 Art, Education, and Truth, Part 2, Chronicles of Dylan 147 Need a Deadline? 148 Why Not? 149 Snidely Marmish 150 The Inimitable Jane 151 Thanks 152 Fun With Your Brain 153 How Swearing Works 154 Nuf Said 155 A Christmas Blessing 155 Lustrous Winter 157 Well Done 158 Scraps 159 English Math 160 Phemism 161 Phemes and Misnomers 162 Stet Happens 163 Next Time 164 Wergle Flomp 165 Countereditor 166 Audible Punctuation 167 Fightin' Words 168 Blak Market 169 Liber Education 170 So Shew Me 171 Call Me Becky 172 Misphiled 173 Lost by an Ethnicality 174 So Much Depends 175 Rage the Soup 176 Rough Stough 177 Effort This 178 So Called 179 Irony Bored 180 Logorrhea 181 What Are You Laughing At? 182 Wordplay 183 From Motorvatin' to Truckin' 184 Everybody Has a Book Inside... 185 The Breeder Next Store Waters the Cat 186 Na-Nish-Yazzie 187 Laissez le ton beau de Marot rouler 188 Peccable English 189 Flammatory Words 190 Unchurch Me, You Cad 191 Ephemera 192 I Don't Think, Do You? 193 Alien Writing 194 Logic-101 195 Good Nevsh 196 The Wordist 197 Travelogos 198 Glibly Retreat and Think of Cakes 199 Do Bust My Chops 200 Happy Thanksgiving 201 On a Wish and a Prayer 202 Standard Slaughter and Conquest 203 Nonce Words 204 Whaddya Say? 205 It's a Long Way to Literary 206 Happy New Year! 207 Love Me for My Floy-Floy Alone 208 Can of Words 209 Salty Dog 210 Golden Bull 211 Bogspot 212 Frim Fram Sauce 213 Lobal Cooling 214 Word Control 215 Bananas 216 Opuscule 217 The Ideas of March 218 The Sky Is Warming! The Sky Is Warming! 219 Sad Is To Stupid As Challenging Is To Cargo Cult 220 Dueling Aphorisms 221 Made You Say It 222 Creative Writing 223 Who's Your Daddy? Or What? 224 Anti-Irony 225 Prosaic Qualities 226 Insider's Secrets to Good Writing! 227 Professional Nitpicking 228 Pass on These Words 229 Distortion, Violation, Corruption 230 Swanning Around 231 Geek Chorus 232 Scot Logic 233 Tiki Talk 234 Typo Blood 235 Hari Kari 236 Let's Enjamb 237 The Glass Wind Eye 238 Language Profiling 239 Webly Words 240 Tiny Muskens 241 Civilly Defensive 242 Gitter Done 243 A Call for General Victory 244 This Is Your Brain On 245 Mongoose in a Mudhole 246 Shared Culture 247 Little Read Riding Herd 248 Meat Puppet on a Mission 249 Librivox 250 The Writester Stuff 251 Au Contrarian 252 I Preapproved This Message 253 Thanks 254 And Then There Were None 255 Confabulogistic 256 Tunavision 257 Bon Bon Mots 258 Special Effects 259 Smartastic 260 Smoke Filled Brains 261 Babel 262 Diverse Dispissal 263 Rectification of Language 264 Uncommon Reader 265 PO of Pallor 266 Giving Grammar Its Due 267 Nuancy 268 Nomenclatter 269 VIP RIP, RIP VIP 270 Foi Grace 271 Yo Grandma 272 American Tongues 273 Lying on My Mind 274 Inelegant Variations 275 Power Lines and Buzz Words 276 Standardized Egotesting 277 High Toned Vagaries 278 Veritas Vincit et Snafut 279 The Ivory Factory 280 Speak Softly and Carry a Big Axe Stick 281 Fierce Rhetoric 282 Fecieval Studies 283 'Tis a Gift to Be Simplex 284 Find Shades of Meaning 285 This Week in Literacy 286 LOL Writer 287 Happy Occident 288 Drop Rancor 289 Why I Am Called to This Work 290 Unrecovery 291 Hatable Slang 292 Vintage Hemlock 293 Into the Morass 294 Pleasant Shrewdness 295 Home to Home 296 Distractions 297 Font of Wisdom 298 Code Words 299 Bakers Dozens 300 Transgressive Reading 301 Hell in the Hallway 302 Taxonomy of English 303 Synchronized Spooning 304 God Speeden 305 Allegedly Happy Holidays 306 On Mendication 307 Cultivating Commas 308 Happy Hogmanay 310 Back in Business 311 Acronymical 312 Kindling 313 Plexiglas Belly Button 314 Grammatorically Speaking 315 Serial Killer Examples 316 An Education Carol 317 Person-Caused Weasling 318 The Invisible Circus 319 Eve Span 320 Quack 321 Endowed Purposes 322 A Few Choice Words 323 Screeching: Halt 324 Turf Language 325 Dulce, Utile, et Decorum



I’m publishing for the Kindle digital reader with Amazon and now also on for download to computer and for printing. Most of these titles are available in both locations. Search for Rhonda Keith on Kindle store and

* A Walk Around Stonehaven is a travel article on my trip to Scotland. Short article with photos. ( only.)

* The Wish Book is fantasy-suspense-romance featuring the old Sears Roebuck catalogues. Novella.

* Carl Kriegbaum Sleeps with the Corn is about a young gambler who finds himself upright in a cornfield in Kansas with his feet encased in a tub of concrete; how would you get out of a spot like that? Short story.

* Still Ridge is about a young woman who moves from Boston to Appalachia and finds there are two kinds of moonshine, the good kind and the kind that can kill you. Short story.

* Whither Spooning? asks whether synchronized spooning can be admitted to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Humorous sports article.

* Blood, Sweat, Tears, and Cats: One woman's tale of menopause, in which I learn that the body is predictive; I perceive that I am like my cat; and I find love. Autobiographical essay.

* Parvum Opus Volume I. The first year (December 2002 through 2003). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get PO’ed. Collection of columns.

10% discount on my Lulu publications:

Browse to:

Click "Buy" and enter 'BESTSELLER10' at checkout.

Save 10% on your order.


SIGG WATER BOTTLE, ORGANIC T-SHIRTS IN GREAT COLORS, MINI-CAMERAS, DENIM SHIRTS, MUGS, TOTE BAGS, MOUSE PAD, TEDDY BEAR, AND MUCH MORE AT Parvum Opus CafePress shop: (NOTE: There are problems viewing this site with Firefox but Earthlink seems OK.)

Graphic covers of my books

Dulce, Utile, et Decorum (Sweet, Useful, and Proper: title of new collection of Parvum Opus, Volume I)

No Pain, No Pain

Star o’ the Bar

Veritas Vincit (Truth Conquers) with Keith clan Catti insignia

Flash in the Pants

If you're so smart why aren't you me?

PWE (Protestant Work Ethic)

I am here maternity tops

I eat dead things (doggy shirt, pet dishes, and BBQ apron)

If you don’t see exactly what you want — a particular design or text on a particular item — let me know and I’ll customize products for you.

ALSO Scot Tartans T-shirts and more (custom orders available).


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; 2009 issues are 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 2009. 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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