Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Parvum Opus 354: Almost Like Living in Lowell

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere


Bumper Sticker of the Week

“That was Zen, this is Tao”

Hoodie of the Week

Read “Friends don't let friends use Comic Sans” and then go to Amazon to buy the hoodie. But if you don’t mind the Comic Sans type font, I can make you custom hoodies, T-shirts, etc., featuring your own pet peeve in fonts, or beverages or whatever.

Hating the Comic Sans font shows an ultra-refined sense of both culture and graphic design. It’s really just a simple sans serif font designed to resemble fonts used in cartoon captions, but we have evolved so highly that even a type font can suggest a world of meaning and can evoke an idea or an emotion; a meme. You wouldn’t use Comic Sans on a funeral program, for instance, or a wedding. But designers are sensitive creatures and overuse of anything can set their teeth on edge. (There’s probably a type font that suggests teeth being on edge.)

The Bustard and the Pelican

Rich Lederer wrote:

The author of the exquisite bustard limerick is George Vaill. … Here's another avian limerick of the highest order:

A wonderful bird is the pelican

His bill will hold more than his belican.

He can take in his beak

Enough food for a week,

But I'm damned if I see how the helican

By Dixon Lanier Merritt

Agnes Explains Spelling

Little Agnes explains why they go on about spelling at school.


Fred noted that the humble bellhop has been promoted to bell captain, after being a bellboy and bellman. I can see why a grownup doesn’t want to be called a boy, but captain is just silly unless you have a lot of bellprivates or bellsergeants working under you. What was wrong with bellhop? I suppose people thought it was demeaning to be expected to hop to it when the desk clerk rings the bell. But nobody wants a bellsloth.

I suppose somewhere they’re called bellpersons or bellpeople or bellstaff, but how about “belpers”, combining bell and helper with a hint of person? True, it’s also a bit reminiscent of belchers, but I like it. Tell all your friends, start using it when you go to hotels. Let’s see if we can start a belper wave across the country.

Almost Like Living in Lowell

A Massachusetts teacher with tenure lost her job because a judge determined her speech to be “utterly incomprehensible”. Is that any reason she shouldn’t be teaching? Phanna Rem Robishaw (she’s not from around there) is suing. She may not have learned to speak clearly since she emigrated and married an American many years ago, but she learned the legal culture. One legal argument for her is that native American* teachers aren’t required to take a fluency test. Robishaw got complaints, though. Another legal argument is that Robishaw is a victim of anti-Cambodian bias, which as we know is rampant in Lowell, Massachusetts.

One of my sons had an Asian instructor of English composition in college who was hard to understand, but who insisted he knew English better than his American students. He may indeed have known the grammar better and even had a bigger vocabulary than the American freshmen, but as an ESL teacher, I have to say that pronunciation is a specialized aspect of ESL education and people who intend to teach in this country should have to work at it. I have students who write pretty well but whose speech is halting and hard to understand, which usually means their listening comprehension isn’t very good either.

Now for an appropriate song that I heard on the radio when I moved to Massachusetts:

Living in Braintree

With you in Methuen

Is almost like living in Lowell.

For those of you who don’t live in Massachusetts, this song is about the difficulties of having a lover at commuting distance. In the Midwest, it wouldn’t be much more than zip zip down the highway, but it’s not that easy around there. Using public transportation, it could take an hour just to go five miles cross-town in Boston.

*Not to be confused with Native American. The other day I heard on TV, forget what program, that “Native American” is now “American Indian” again but I have no other source or explanation.

Couth Mike

Mike Sykes wrote:

RE: In Malaysia “Muslims [are] outraged

You could well say that there a people who seek out opportunities to be outraged. Could it be that they (subconsciously?) realise they are vulnerable to rational argument?

I could very well say that, and I doubt if any sort of realization figures into it.

RE: Pre-9/11, if I ever thought about Islam, which I didn’t, I would have assumed that Allah is simply the Arabic word for God, like Dios (Spanish), Dieu (French), Gott (German), Dio (Italian), Deus (Portuguese), God (Dutch), and other words in alphabets I can’t read. …

Don't the Jews have some similar attitude to 'Jehovah' (or Yahweh, or whatever)?

Not to the point of burning churches and murder, they don’t. They do omit the vowels in the name, called the Tetragrammaton. There are theological reasons for not speaking the name that we call Jehovah. However, you’re allowed to say “Allah” but it doesn’t translate and it’s apparently not supposed to be used by non-Muslims, at least in Malaysia.

RE: The theology is not clear to me, but it reminds me of the old joke that God is, of course, an Englishman, and not only that, an English gentleman.

Whaddayamean 'joke'?

OK. Don’t hurt me.

RE: Choate

Interesting article in the NY Times language column on why we have inchoate but not choat, insult but not sult, and so on.

And I'm couth! (in some sense)

In the old, old days, that would mean you are known. You are from around here.

The Anthologist

John McCarthy, who is a songwriter, recommended a book by Nicholson Baker called The Anthologist. The plot, which so far is rather thin, is about a writer whose girlfriend left him because he got into a funk and couldn’t complete a job to write an introduction to an anthology, but mostly it’s about poetry, detailed observations about rhyme and meter, which you might think would be even thinner stuff but is actually engrossing. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Once I had to write a paper in graduate school about a book, a physical book, and I chose an anthology of poetry much used in college, An Introduction to Poetry by X. J. Kennedy. I liked his taste in poems, but the book was bound with cheap glue and the pages came apart.

The PC

We’ve had partial success in restoring our computer files.

  • The evil computer repairman (or his little techie) restored a lot of files but in no order, and some, maybe a lot, I hope not all, are blank, garbled, useless.
  • Mozy said I canceled my backup account, which I didn’t.
  • I had to talk to a nice lady in India to restore Norton 360 software, download the files, and cancel the automatic subscription renewal. Looks like only photos and music files were restored.
  • The best source of old files was our two old hard drives, which we have carried from computer to computer for years, thanks to Fred’s foresight. The physical ones are in a plastic bag somewhere but the content continues in directories in all our new computers. All of that is good but only until our last upgrade, thus I’ve mostly lost everything from 2009 (except what I posted online).

Several people wrote with suggestions about backup, for which I thank you. One woman told me she has two external hard drives. For starters, I bought a flash drive to back up the laptop files, and we will be getting an external hard drive for backup.*

*Let me call your notice to the difference between “back up” (the verb) and “backup” (the noun and sometimes adjective).

The Weekly Gizzard: Moi on

Harry Reid is a (white) politician

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Harry Reid is guilty of having been a bit stupid, but not mean or dishonest, at least in his remarks about Obama...
Waste not want not

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Jeffrey Folks writing for American Thinker reports that some radical environmentalists are proposing that people...
England is a source of terrorists

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to destroy a plane and hundreds of passengers, and potentially thousands of...



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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. 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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