Monday, February 1, 2010

Parvum Opus 357: Crash Blossoms

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere



The simplest of word puzzles must be the Word Seek, where you find words in a square of letters; there are a few little variations on this puzzle. One from a March Penny Press magazine is a list of archaic adjectives. Some you can figure out, like otherguess and museful. Some are familiar, such as enow [enough] which I remembered in this verse from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness

Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

I recognized “acold” too, from Shakespeare: “Poor Tom’s acold.”

Some of them I can’t make a secure guess at and would have to look up, but won’t:
















You could make a new Jabberwocky from this list (though not as good as last’s week’s parody Nazi Jabberwocky from the WWII era, sent by Mike Sykes:

`Twas reechy, and the mucid toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All scrannel were the borogoves,

And the rathe raths outgrabe.

Poets at Play

Yvonne Prete wrote:

Amazon has Poets at Play: a Handbook of Humorous Recitations for $37…. You can also get it from a place in India, in a currency I didn't recognize and hadn't the time to chase down.

She also alerted me to But there’s more than one book called Poets at Play. Mike Sykes’ book was edited by Cyril Alington.

The Handbook of Humorous Recitations harks (harkens?) back to the days before TV and radio when students recited poems in school, people memorized stirring patriotic recitations for public events, and the family read or recited to each other in front of the fire.


If I wrote about this before, someone didn’t learn the lesson: I heard someone on TV say “It’s incredulous that…” Incredulous means unbelieving, so it cannot be incredulous, only people can. Incredible means unbelievable, and it can be incredible.


The acronym POTUS (President of the United States) seems to be fairly recent, at least I never noticed it before the current incarnation. Used without the article “the”, it’s a particularly effective acronym because not only is its pronunciation easy to figure out (alternating consonants with vowels) but POTUS is reminiscent of the Latin root potens meaning power or ability, which we recognize in words such as potent, potentate, potential, and so on.

SOTUS popped up when POTUS gave the State of the Union Speech, ordinarily called the State of the Union Address. SOTUS makes a nice parallel to POTUS, which SOTUA wouldn’t.

So True

Mediate on this: “English is the crème de la crème of languages.”

We could say “English is the cream of languages” but we don’t. We would not say “English is the cream of the cream of languages” because we are too modest.

Don’t Fear the Reaper

Jerome Salinger and Howard Zinn both died last Wednesday, January 27.* They were both tall, good-looking writers who fought in World War II.

Salinger was 91. I was one of those who loved The Catcher in the Rye and read a lot of his writing when I was in college. However, I haven’t continued to re-read his work as I have with a number of other writers. I can’t relate to an adorable adolescent who thinks almost everyone is phony, though I could when I was 20. More recently, I also read a couple of bios of Salinger: Dream Catcher: A Memoir by his daughter Margaret, and At Home in the World by girlfriend Joyce Maynard. A writer’s work should stand alone, but he was such a creepy guy that I don’t think I could start reading him now if I didn’t already know his work.

Howard Zinn was 88. I read none of his work on linguistics, and little on politics, but I did hear him give a talk at a university in the early ‘90s, when I was more likely to agree with his views. But I left the lecture feeling like I wanted to slash my wrists. That can’t be a testimonial to truth. His post-WWII anti-war stance is understandable, but as a Jew, why didn’t he appreciate the necessity of stopping the Nazi war machine? His Wikipedia bio says he wanted to be known as "somebody who gave people a feeling of hope and power that they didn't have before." He didn’t do it for me and it’s not because I’m one of the powerful elite.


(* As I noted in PO some years ago, oddly enough John F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley, and C. S. Lewis all died on the same day, November 22, 1963.)

Mike the Sykes

Mike wrote:

Soundex is a boon when you're not sure of the spelling, especially when transliteration is involved; but a bane when the search engine doesn't give you the option. "Did you mean ... ?" can be helpful, but I yearn for the ability to search for something exactly.

If you enter your search term surrounded by quotation marks, in the Google search box, for instance, you will turn up the exact term.

As recently as 3 December 2009, I said:


OED says it comes from "Gk apokalupsis, f. apokaluptein uncover, f. APO- + kaluptein cover", hence "reveal".

So "apocalyptic" means the sort of event that was revealed in the Apocalypse (aka the Book of Revelations), viz Armageddon, four horsemen &c.

Sorry I overlooked that. I didn’t use it in PO so I forgot you sent it, but then I ran into the words someplace else. Could it be a sign?

Regarding the story of the Norwegian priest:

Perhaps your tease was a bit unfair, not to the priest so much as to the people who live in the north. If I cared enough I'd look for figures on energy use/carbon footprint of them vs Hawaians — after all, the latter probably use quite a bit on aircon.

But, as you point out, the crucial question is: Who or what are we trying to ensure survival of?

Earth will survive, whatever happens to us, as it has for the past 4.6 billion years.

All the human race can do is try to ensure its own survival as long as possible. And biological diversity has considerable value to the human race.

But life of some sort been around for a billion years or so, and has survived even mass extinctions, even when most species were extinguished. If the dinosaurs thought at all, they must have thought that, after dominating the earth for tens of millions of years, they would last for ever. In comparison, humanity has only just got started.

So we might start by understanding what we mean by 'ecological', given that 'ecology' means the study of something. How can one behave ecologically? Any more than one can behave geographically. Remember 'winsomely' (to find the context, see Act II)?

Reminds me of the way some people (mis-)use the word 'organic'. Still, mustn't get started — life's too short ;-)

Act II of …? Anyway, you are right about the misuse of those words, and you can add “environmentally” to the list.

Crash Blossoms

“Crash Blossoms” is a term proposed for the funny headlines that result when functional words are omitted, as in “Gator Attacks Puzzle Experts”. Is “attacks” a noun or verb here? It makes a difference to the puzzle experts. Ben Zimmer explains:

Since English is weakly inflected (meaning that words are seldom explicitly modified to indicate their grammatical roles), many words can easily function as either noun or verb.

“Inflected” doesn’t precisely mean “modified” since a noun can be modified with an adjective and a verb with an adverb. Inflection is an alteration in the word itself to change its grammatical role, such as be-am-is-are-was or I-me-myself.

The Weekly Gizzard: Moi on

Obama Everywhere!

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Pamela Geller reports in her Atlas Shrugged blog that high school students in Massillon, Ohio (no doubt elsewhere...
Tim Tebow is offensive, insulting, and revolting to women, says NOW

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

College football star Tim Tebow wants to run a spot during the Superbowl telling the story of his mother, Pam...



I’m publishing for the Kindle digital reader with Amazon and now also on for download to computer and for printing. Most of these titles are available in both locations. Search for Rhonda Keith on Kindle store and

* The Man from Scratch is about cloning, escort services, murder, and restaurants in Akron, Ohio, featuring Roxy Barbarino, writer for Adventuress Magazine. Novel.

* A Walk Around Stonehaven is a travel article on my trip to Scotland. Short article with photos. ( 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.

10% discount on my Lulu publications:

Browse to:

Click "Buy" and enter 'BESTSELLER10' at checkout.

Save 10% on your order.


Scot Tartans: T-shirts and more (custom orders available).

T-Shirts & mug: FRESH PICT, with two ancient Pictish designs

BUMPER STICKER: FRESH PICT, white on blue, with 10th Century Pict-Scot Merman Cross (blue on white also available)

SIGG WATER BOTTLE, ORGANIC T-SHIRTS IN GREAT COLORS, MINI-CAMERAS, DENIM SHIRTS, MUGS, TOTE BAGS, MOUSE PAD, TEDDY BEAR, AND MUCH MORE AT Parvum Opus CafePress shop: (NOTE: There are problems viewing this site with Firefox but Earthlink seems OK.)

NEW: Click to Embiggen boxer shorts

Eschew Obfuscation bumper sticker


Graphic covers of my books

Dulce, Utile, et Decorum (Sweet, Useful, and Proper), title of new collection of Parvum Opus, Volume I

BUMPER STICKER: Dulce, Utile, et Decorum

No Pain, No Pain

Star o’ the Bar

Veritas Vincit (Truth Conquers) with Keith clan Catti insignia

Flash in the Pants

If you're so smart why aren't you me?

PWE (Protestant Work Ethic)

I am here maternity tops

I eat dead things (doggy shirt, pet dishes, and BBQ apron)

If you don’t see exactly what you want — a particular design or text on a particular item — let me know and I’ll customize products for you.


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 2010. 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.

Translate into 12 languages, including two forms of Chinese, using Babelfish.

No comments: