Saturday, October 10, 2009

Parvum Opus 342 ~ Language-Change Index

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere.


Thematic Nudity

Cheryl S. sent this explanation of the “thematic elements” movie rating:

With regard to The Time Traveler's Wife, I'm guessing that the reference is to a scene where the time traveler first meets the young girl who will, in the future, become his wife (when she becomes an adult). He has no clothes on. For some reason, when he time travels his clothes are always left behind.

Why not a nudity warning, then? Maybe nudity is OK but not in a scene with a man and a young girl. (The director was not Roman Polanski.)

As for time-traveling clothes, why did the Hulk always have pants on when he changed into the much larger green guy? Someday science will explain all that.

The Real Primrose Path

Herb H. wrote:

In Appalachia where I come from, the evening primrose blooms at twilight in one of the more remarkable displays on mother earth. Here's a wonderful video in real time.

Many a young lady, 'tis repeated in the folklore, has been taken by a man to see this wonder, a walk that leaves her out in the great outdoors with him as dark has fallen. She has been "led down the primrose path." And as the scoundrel has many times not been persuaded to the rule of not-below-the-neckline, that term means led on a path to hell in rather a specific way — not at all the life of ease that leads to fire and brimstone in the end.

Well, it seems easy at first.


Harry H. commented on worst-stadium-name, Akron U.’s InfoCision:

I remembered reading a recent story in the Beacon about the big wind we had come through town a week or so ago. And the paper showed a picture of part of the 'InfoCision Stadium' signage that had blown down. That, and an article by Beacon writer Bob Dyer, made me think it said only the letters 'd', 'i', and 'u' had fallen (I might be mistaken). But it occurred to me that a good nickname for the team might be the "D,U,I's".

I don’t follow sports myself.

The Common Army

Someone I know with a military education (though not in the U.S.) said the reason England has the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and Royal Air Force, but not the Royal Army, is because the Army rose against the Crown some time in the 20th century. I’ve never heard of any such uprising. Wikipedia says, more believably, it’s because historically British Armies were composed of individually raised regiments and corps; “nevertheless, many of its constituent Regiments and Corps have been granted the Royal prefix and have members of the Royal Family occupying senior positions within some regiments.”


Neil Cavuto talked about a “short-lived event” with “lived” rhyming with “strived” — the rarely heard correct pronunciation. The adjective “lived” comes from “life”, not from the verb “live”: something has a short life. He said it twice in one paragraph so it was not an accidentally correct pronunciation.


Snatched from someone else’s messages: “You should be writing suspense scripts. I think my breath is actually baited.” If you know the difference between bated [abated] breath and baited breath, this comment will give you the amusing image of someone with a nightcrawler or a minnow in her mouth.

Two Wrongs

From an article on Bill Ayers: “In the 1990s, Ayers obtained Obama access to the deep pockets of Chicago foundations.” Should be “got Obama access”. Even though obtain and get are synonymous here, they are not grammatically equivalent and obtain doesn’t take an indirect object (“Obama”) unaided by a preposition (“for Obama”). I don’t know why.

It’s Not a Crime-Crime

More on the language of crime:

Theodore Dalrymple wrote about “antisocial” vs. “hate crimes” in the UK: “the seriousness of an offense committed in Britain now depends upon who the victim is.” For example, a murder is worse if the victim is gay or disabled, etc. Why?

Bertha Lewis, the head of Acorn, said about the Acorn employees who gave helpful advice to a supposed pimp and prostitute (“allegedlyaccording to CNN, which posted a video of them doing that very thing), “Acorn workers thought they were doing the right thing and were trying to be nonjudgmental.” Nonjudgmental, that is, about the idea of importing groups of extremely young girls into the country to work in a brothel. In what sense did they think they were doing the right thing?

Kathleen Parker wrote that more than 100 Hollywood people signed a petition for Roman Polanski’s release from his legal sentence. Parker said “we have reached the point, identified by the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, at which deviancy has been defined down to such an extent that we no longer recognize it.” Deviancy or deviance is a statistical term meaning variant on average behavior, though it has also come to mean psychological perversion. Who can be judgmental about mere deviancy? The term reeks of science, not of evil. Yet even Parker writes, “That so many have rallied to protect him, insisting that he has suffered enough, is evidence of a much stranger development in human history than that a man has seduced a child.” Seduced? Polanski drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl; this is not Paul Henreid lighting two cigarettes for himself and Bette Davis. Polanski said he had a “penchant” for little girls, a simple matter of taste, like preferring mixed drinks to beer. You can hear a bit of his original statement in this amusing pastiche with an old Dragnet show.

Is it art? “At London's Tate Modern art gallery, a spotlight shines on a blank space where a photograph of a nude Brooke Shields, aged 10, was supposed to hang. A sign warns: "This room contains images that some visitors may find challenging." … The photograph … shows the young Shields standing in a bathtub and wearing heavy makeup.”

The choice of words is essential in making rape, murder, and pedophilia sound either intolerable or merely deviant.

Language-Change Index

From Garner's Usage Tip of the Day:

The most interesting new feature [of the third edition of Garner's Usage Tips of the Day, published by Oxford University Press in July] is the Language-Change Index. Its purpose is to measure how widely accepted various linguistic innovations have become. …

In these tips, the five stages are tagged as usages that are rejected (Stage 1), widely shunned (Stage 2), "widespread but . . ." (Stage 3), "ubiquitous but . . ." (Stage 4), or fully accepted (Stage 5). Here's a more thorough explanation:

Stage 1: A new form emerges as an innovation (or a dialectal form persists) among a small minority of the language community, perhaps displacing a traditional usage (e.g.: "notary publics" for "notaries public").

Stage 2: The form spreads to a significant fraction of the language community but remains unacceptable in standard usage (e.g.: "nuclear" mispronounced /NOO-kyuh-luhr/).

Stage 3: The form becomes commonplace even among many well-educated people but is still avoided in careful usage (e.g.: "octopi" used for "octopuses").

Stage 4: The form becomes virtually universal but is opposed on cogent grounds by a few linguistic stalwarts (die-hard snoots): (e.g.: "often" pronounced /OF-tuhn/).

Stage 5: The form is universally accepted (not counting pseudo-snoot eccentrics) (e.g.: "possum" for "opossum").

These stages may also be called:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance

The Gritty Bits: My Week in

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Thursday, October 8th, 2009

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Gun show attracts a cross-section of Americans

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Bill Goodman's Gun Show at Sharonville Convention Center attracts a cross-section of Americans totally alien to...



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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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