Saturday, October 31, 2009

Parvum Opus 345 ~ Befriend Berate Betrend

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere.


Lon Don Undone

Mike Sykes, our go-to Brit, wrote about whether “Lon Don” is pronounced like “Don John” in the south of England:

In a word: No! I've never heard of it, and although I come from the north I've heard plenty of southerners, not only on TV, and I've never heard the second syllable stressed. Many natives call it Lunnun, or Lunn'n (if there's a difference). Round here it's mostly Lundun.
What intrigues me it that a son & family have just moved from London to Loddon — change one consonant and the vowel sound changes from u to o. Oh well.

I guess if we went into the histories of the names London and Loddon we’d find the key to the pronunciation and spelling.

Possibly the Lon Don man I heard was a foreigner who’d been there a long time but not long enough. Or he may have had a speech impediment, or suffered the effects of a stroke. Some years ago I had a burst blood vessel in one eye which probably signaled something else going on inside the brain, and my speech slowed slightly (a disadvantage in Boston where they talk fast and think everyone from west of Philadelphia is a farmer, i.e. stupid, partly because everyone else not from New York or New Jersey speaks more slowly) and one particular phrase was noticeably harder to enunciate at normal speed: “That’s a good idea.” Apparently I say that often enough that I noticed I couldn’t spit it out fast enough. It’s better now. But you never know what’s going on with people. “Hey, are you deaf?!” Maybe. Congenitally deaf people not only can’t hear, they don’t speak exactly the same as everyone else either.

Speaking of British English, I have a scrap of paper in my pile noting that the expression “to shop around the corner” means to be gay.

Oh Kludge

Bill Roberts wrote about kludge:

Used it for decades—it is both noun and verb. “That’s a kludge, but it’ll hold.” “We’ll kludge that back together and it’ll be okay until we get back in.” Pronounced “kloodj”.

He added that it does sometimes rhyme with “fudge, or even rougher”. And he added,

“Remember that a boatswain’s mate can frequently achieve an f-word percentage of 75 percent (that’s number of f-word uses divided by number of words in the sentence) and still communicate.”

The f-word can function as most parts of speech, except articles, conjunctions, and prepositions, those relationship function words. It does very well as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb.

Twice Is a Trend

This week I heard, “We friend our teenagers”, the idea being that we don’t parent them. “Parent” has already been turned into a verb anyway, without quite meaning “sire”, “mother”, “teach”, or any other action that might be attributed to a parent. But why “friend” when the perfectly serviceable Old English “be” prefix produces “befriend”, which is still extant?

Then I heard it again this week in the new sitcom about a community college called Community: “…and friend the hell out of that green-tea drinking…” You can watch all the episodes online (the one about the “human beings” team mascot is hilarious), and I listened to it a couple of times just to be sure of the verb “friend”.

Of course there’s a history to both forms, as in bewitch and witch, yet “to witch someone” means something different from “to bewitch someone”. Bewitch means to enchant or charm in the positive, glamorous sense; to witch means to use witchy spells.


Somehow I thought “Ms.” was invented by Gloria Steinem or somebody just before Ms. magazine appeared on the stands, but Ben Zimmer writes in the New York Times that it was proposed as early as 1901.

Not Enough Light

On the radio a caller said, “Better not make too much light of this.” It doesn’t really matter what the subject was because his meaning wasn’t too clear. It seems to be a kludging of several idioms: to make light of (to treat as unimportant); and to make too much of something, which means the opposite of making light of. I couldn’t make sense of it.

Directional and Hyphenated Teams

Fred told me that former U. of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins used to say that had he scheduled more games with directional teams and hyphenated teams, he would have had a better lifetime win/loss record. He meant teams from schools with names like Southwestern Podunk U. and Springfield-Rivertown Community Technical College. Fred said that isn’t as true anymore of directional and hyphenated football teams, though, which have beaten some big schools.


A local convenience store has a rack of incense sticks with names like:

Patti LaBelle

Paris Hilton

True Calling

Black Women

Some of the names are conventional, like Egyptian Musk, but who knows what Paris Hilton or Patti LaBelle smells like?

Product naming is an art of sorts. Lately two new terms for women’s pants styles are “Jackie” and “Audrey”. Jackie has a wider leg at the ankle, almost but not quite bell-bottom. Audrey is a very slim leg. Jackie is named for Jackie Kennedy, of course, who reigned in the era of the bell-bottom; Audrey is Audrey Hepburn, the very thin, elegant actress who wore slim Capri pants. Wearing these styles will not make you look like either woman. I know.

D.O.A. Berated Noir

I watched another bad remake of an old movie. I understand remaking a movie. As someone once said, it’s like a new singer covering an old song. But I usually like the original song better and the original movie is often better than the copy. (Warning: spoiler ahead.)

This pair of movies is D.O.A. (Dead On Arrival). The original 1950 D.O.A. is a film noir classic starring Edmond O’Brien and other actors you’ve never heard of unless you’re a super film buff. A 1988 remake starred Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan. The basic premise is the same — the protagonist is poisoned and tries to find out why in the remaining day or so he has to live. But everything else has been changed, including the characters’ names. Why? The original is a pretty good film noir, good acting and some good music in a hip San Francisco jazz club. The 1988 version shifts from a businessman trapped by criminals to an English professor attacked by a jealous colleague. The newer movie has more murders with more of a soap opera rationale. In the old movie, the protagonist realizes, as he is dying, that he loves his loyal long-time girlfriend, whom he’s neglected. In the new movie, as Quaid is dying he regains his enthusiasm for life, the loss of which drove his wife to divorce, and he and Meg Ryan (not his wife) exchange quips and body fluids even though his wife was just murdered and he’s about to die and can’t be feeling at all well. And if he’d had more time, he’d probably have gotten over his writer’s block too.

The only explanation for the script rewrite is that the script writers were recent college graduates with degrees in English literature.

By any other name…

You may have heard about the recent sting on Acorn, which is willing to lend money for houses of prostitution. For the benefit of the IRS, one Acorn employee said to report their profession as “performance artist”. A shrewd lawyer could make that stick. Maybe.

My Gritty Bits This Week on

Reining in free speech fits a pattern

Monday, October 26th, 2009

This story is in today’s Wall Street Journal. It is not about Obama. He became president … and set...

Cincinnati Tea Party concluded four-day protest on Saturday

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

On Saturday, October 24, Cincinnati Tea Party and Cincinnati 9/12 members came together for the conclusion of the...

Cincinnati Tea Party continues today downtown

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

The Cincinnati Tea Party: "Our resolve was tested as we stood in the rain yesterday, but we stood steadfast....



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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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