Monday, November 30, 2009

Parvum Opus 349: Apocalypso

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere.



I have written about the practice of inserting a capital letter in the middle of a word, usually a compound word, usually a product name, such as CafePress. As a writer and editor I find it annoying, although I’ve done it myself (KeithOps). I didn’t know there’s a name for it, though: Camel Case, because the second capital makes a hump in the word. Could have been called boa-eating-a-pig, too. Caleb Crain (coincidentally alliterative with Camel Case), writing for the New York Times, is against it, and also has some interesting things to say about the function of spacing in sentences. Certain poets think they’re being avant garde by eliminating capital letters, punctuation, and other conventions of print that aid comprehension. They can make only very limited points this way, but possibly the aim is to distract readers from the meaning of the words while at the same time attracting attention to them by novel formatting.

Crain’s objections also fit with what I’ve written in the past against what I call the Teutonization of English, i.e. forming compound words unnecessarily. Just because it’s been done doesn’t mean it must always be done. Just because a phrase is fairly common, especially a noun-as-adjective-plus-noun combo, that doesn’t mean it would be better off as one word. How about (to pick out possibilities from these paragraphs): capitalletter, compoundword, productname, oneword.


Did you know “apocalypse” means, at its root, revelation or disclosure? We (or I) usually think of an apocalypse as the end of the world, or a world. I wasn’t aware of this meaning, but doesn’t it make you feel a bit more hopeful about the end of the world?

The name Calypso, a Greek sea nymph who kept Odysseus on her island for seven years, comes from the same root, to conceal.

Perhaps this means that Armageddon, in the classic, not the Hebraic, sense, is an illusion, or a revelation; each implies the other. This is the kind of etymological fiddling that’s more entertaining than instructive.

Dave Pitches In

Dave DaBee wrote:

Okay, THIS one is FASCINATING. A subject of which I'd never heard, and the ESL impact is particularly interesting.

He found this in Daily Writing Tips:

A phrasal verb is one that’s followed by an adverb or a preposition, and together they behave as a semantic unit. (The adverb or preposition following the verb is called a particle.) A phrasal verb functions the same way as a simple verb, but its meaning is idiomatic:

The numbers don’t add up.

That’s an offer he can’t turn down.

Call off the wedding.

Phrasal verbs are among the most difficult concepts for ESL students to grasp; the particle changes the verb in a way that’s entirely colloquial.

Some phrasal verbs are separable: their particles can be separated from the verb and a noun inserted. Others cannot be separated.


She added up the numbers.

She added the numbers up.


We have enough to fall back on.

He broke into the conversation.

Some are both separable and inseparable, depending on their meaning.


She threw the ball up.


She was so nauseated, she felt like throwing up.

The “nauseated” example is not correct, however. If the verb phrase has an object, you could say (though rather clumsily), “She was so nauseated, she felt like throwing her lunch up.” Or, “The soup was spoiled and she was throwing it up all night.” In fact, in the latter example, the phrase must be separated, since you can throw up the soup, but you can’t throw up it.

One of the biggest difficulties with phrasal verbs is that there’s no guideline for which ones are separable and which are not.

It’s true, these are rather daunting for my ESL students, so they just have to memorize the phrases, and accept that the prepositions may or may not be operating as prepositions.

Dave also wrote:

btw, "co-sleeping" has been in use for years. It's a subject that's FULL of blog posts on both sides equally characterized by ignorant certitude. I'd never heard of it until Ginny's granddaughter was born six years ago, but by then it was apparently in full bloom.

There’s even a web site for co-sleeping. Everything has to be authorized, professionalized, and expertized.

I LOVE "Click to embiggen." Thanks. CafePress needs to offer boxers with that imprint. I want.

“Embiggen” shorts are now available.


Here is the Thanksgiving Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln from 1863, when the Civil War was still going on. We have been at war for a long time, too. Our losses in blood have been much smaller than in the Civil War, and we don’t see or experience the war directly as Americans in the South did, but the strains are showing within. It’s hard to say whether the Union was at greater or lesser risk then than it is now, yet Lincoln was grateful:

The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart, which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to invite and provoke the aggression of foreign states, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict, while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
The needful diversion of wealth and strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense has not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship. The axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect a continuance of years, with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be reverently, solemnly, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and voice, by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

The Weekly Gizzard:

Thanks again

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

More to be thankful for in the USA, based on stories people have told me about their experiences here: A...
Be thankful for the USA

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

In the last six years I’ve worked with many people from all over the world, and I’ve learned quite a...
Chavez has an epistemological question

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez has doubts about whether or not Idi Amin of Uganda was really so bad. Was he...



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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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