Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere.
We Keep On Trying
Karl Popper wrote, “It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood.”
Using three negatives as in that sentence is one way to be misunderstood, but it makes his point better than:
· It is impossible to always be understood.
· It is always possible to be misunderstood.
· You cannot always be understood.
Here are more everyday examples of the possibilities of misunderstanding:
1. Listen to “Pancho and Lefty” by Townes Van Zandt; also performed by Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, with lyrics on this web site. I also like the video with Willie and Merle Haggard. Listen, read, watch, and see what you think of these two interpretations on the Van Zandt link (note that the first two lines should read “Living on the road my friend / Was gonna keep you free and clean” instead of “Is gonna keep you free and clean”):
The first comment is better written, spelled, and punctuated, showing that the writer reads more and may be a better literary interpreter. However, I don’t know what he means by the three sides never meeting since the Federales definitely met with somebody. On the other hand, there’s evidence in the lyrics that Lefty sold out Pancho and is remorseful in Cleveland.
2. John McC, a mathematician, wrote vis a vis my question about the necessity of the ebola virus:
I guess this means we need to define “living”. You go first. Anyway, does the Ebola become human-like when it eats us or do we become Ebolic? Do we become like cows when we eat a steak?
On my speculating on the necessity of good, bad, and ugly viruses in general, Mike Sykes wrote:
3. On the windmills, Dave DaBee wrote:
I’d always thought it was the NIMBY factor (not in my backyard). Fred works in a huge glass building that kills birds. They think they’re flying into more sky, then they smack against the glass. Should we accept windmills as we do glass buildings and roadkill? Maybe, if windmills were more efficient.
4. Herb H. isn’t giving up on “necker knob”:
Of course we have or used to have “blue laws” such as those that prohibited the sale of alcohol on Sundays. “Bluestockings” were educated women who accused of wearing ugly blue wool stockings instead of black silk. Risque comedians use “blue material”.
Anyway, even though I knew not of necker knobs, I did know of necking, which wasn’t bizarre where I lived. It meant making out above the neck, the carnal Mason-Dixon line. As Jesse Winchester wrote, “Me, I want to live with my feet in Dixie / And my head in the cool blue North.” (Does “making out” need to be explained?) Fred noted that alliteration was part of the charm of “necker knob” even though “spinner” is one syllable shorter.
5. On NPR, someone said that people on the right have been trying to present the recently late Ted Kennedy as “unappealing”. “Unappealing” is someone who doesn’t trim his nose hair. Leaving a woman to die demands a stronger word. Or have I misunderstood something again?
David Rogerson wrote from England that “trews is very much a Scottish word and means trouser (pants to you) made in Tartan” thus answering Anne DaBee’s query. She wrote, “After all, one MUST have an answer to the perennial question "What do they wear under the kilts?"
And Dave DaBee wrote, “My impression is that ‘pants’ in England (to this day) refers to undies. The Brits I know talk about trousers.”
Mike Sykes from England once more helpfully sent these two Oxford English Dictionary entries and confirmed Dave on pants/trousers:
Mike then remarked:
Jeans are pants but pants aren’t always jeans. Jeans are denim pants. Blue jeans. And when I wrote “Once more into the breach” about britches, Mike said “Surely you jest!” Well, yeah. But don’t call me Shirley.
Rich Lederer sent “A Man of New-Fire Words” from his book The Miracle of Language, about Shakespeare’s words. (It’s too long to include here but you should be able to find it in Google Books. Better yet, buy the entire book.) Lederer wrote, “Of the 20,138 basewords that Shakespeare employs in his plays, sonnets, and other poems, his is the first known use of over 1,700 of them.” Lederer also said that in some cases these words were first seen in print in Shakespeare’s work, but he did use an enormous vocabulary and was endlessly inventive.
In class today I explained to a student that although he constructed a word correctly — “I was cutting the bread uncarefully” — for whatever reason, the word we actually have is “carelessly”. So many possible English constructions haven’t stuck for some reason. But Shakespeare’s coinages often so precisely express an idea that they’ve lasted for centuries. However, what is brilliant in Shakespeare can become trite in the wrong hands.
“That love affair was the be-all and end-all for the once stony-hearted girl who was no longer fancy-free; though her towering passion made her a laughing-stock, she was tongue-tied yet hot-blooded and green-eyed with jealousy. It was a foregone conclusion that she would go off half-cocked someday.” — If you’ve read this more in sorrow than in anger, you know Shakespeare.
That stack of familiar phrases assembled from Rich Lederer’s article looks like a writing handbook for a bad romance novel.
My Examiner.com This Week
Clarification: I’ve been writing for Examiner.com for a few weeks. This is where I’m putting most of my political commentary, which should reduce the PO irritation factor.
Thursday, September 24th, 2009
The health care bill and protests thereto have pushed off the front pages the nationalization of large auto...
Sunday, September 20th, 2009
Sister Louise Akers and volunteer religion teacher Carol Egner have been prohibited from teaching in Cincinnati...
I’m publishing for the Kindle digital reader with Amazon and now also on Lulu.com for download to computer and for printing. Most of these titles are available in both locations. Search for Rhonda Keith on Amazon.com Kindle store and Lulu.com.
A Walk Around Stonehaven is a travel article on my trip to Scotland. Short article with photos. (Lulu.com 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.
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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 http://www.geocities.com/