Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Parvum Opus 359: The World in a Grain of Silicon

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere


Funny Valentines

It’s a little late for Valentine’s Day, but if you forgot the day, like some persons who could be named, celebrate by reading what Mark Steyn, the sharpest and funniest political writer around, wrote about the inadequacy of the word “love” for rhyming, as compared to “amour”. Rhymes are somewhat limited: "above," "dove," "glove," "shove," and "of” (which for some reason he calls a half-rhyme). What can we do with that?

Critters and Vittles

Tom Simon wrote about mispronunciations:

most likely it has to do with the phonetic method of teaching reading.....many children today have been taught by that method (me too).....fine example is the word victuals* which I knew the meaning of but did not learn the correct pronunciation of until many years later. Found out that Gabby Hayes had been using that word all along and not another, when he would ask the cowboys to come for dinner at the chuck wagon. Lots of French words are easily mispronounced and some French phrases are still used now from earlier times, including one heard at every square dance....do-se-do....literally back to back...

Some French words have been Anglicized and some haven’t, at least not entirely, depending usually on how long they’ve been part of the English language.

Tom is also looking for a book, so I pass this along in case anyone has a copy:

…anyone who might have a Missale Romanum, the one published by Benzinger, something I could get fairly inexpensively or free? I am looking for a small hand sized one, not the large version. thanks....

* For those of you who weren’t cowboy fans, “victuals” (food) was always pronounced “vittles” in cowboy movies. Sort of like “critters” for “creatures”.

Bye Bo

When its last speaker died in India, the Bo dialect died. The news report did not say whether or not the language has been preserved in writing or recorded, or how it differed from dialects in the same tribe, though the writer gave a passing slap to Europeans whose diseases decimated tribes. Since the speakers of Bo did not pass it on to their descendants, only linguists (probably mostly Europeans) care that Bo’s time has come and gone.

How many other languages have come and gone in the history of human beings? Any language whose speakers did not create a written language has an expiration date stamped on it.

So much has lived and died that we’ll never know about, languages, cultures, animal species. We would like to know them. We would like to keep them. But all may be considered ephemera.

I’ve been watching the reality series Hoarders, a fascinating intrusion into the lives and homes of compulsive hoarders whose extreme OCD has led them to the brink of losing their houses, mates, and children. It’s not that every scrap in their house hasn’t had some meaning or usefulness at some time, or at least they imagined it did, but no one life can maintain everything that’s ever touched it. Likewise, the earth cannot sustain every bit of creation that sprang out of it, every sparrow’s bones.

Bad Words

Here’s a tolerant take on the word “retarded” as an insult, which came into public earshot recently when Rahm Emmanuel used it. The word simply means slow and also replaced old words such as feeble-minded and simple to describe the mentally handicapped, but because children will use anything as an insult, it was replaced by mentally challenged, developmentally disabled, and other clumsy, pseudo-scientific terms. Emmanuel probably should have just said “stupid” since he was talking about politics.

Apparently he used the F word too, which Paul Schlichta says is going the way of the British “bloody”, so common it’s no longer offensive. There’s a difference, however, because “bloody” simultaneously had a literal and inoffensive meaning (lots of blood) while the F word has for a long time been offensive.

Targets and Albatrosses, No Problem

  • Found in an article about layoffs: “Recent hires will be targeted first.” Targeted as a verb always bothers me, although it is a respectable usage. People being targets when they’re not in a shooting war and are unarmed, for instance on the job, is worrisome. Logically, you could say, “Recent hires will be targets first.”
  • An even more annoying instance of an annoying substitute for “You’re welcome”: Clerk: Have a nice night. Me: Thank you. Clerk: No problem. It wasn’t a problem for him to wish me a nice night?
  • Overheard but I can’t remember where or why: “I’ve got my scarlet letter on. Or is it an albatross?”

The World in a Grain of Silicon

Bill Gunlocke wrote a Luddite rant against Kindle and other such e-book readers (Rage Against the Machine) in his blog A City Reader. I left this comment (I edited slightly here):

I love physical paper books too and I don't think they're going away. But the sheer physical mass is overwhelming sometimes. Paper is heavy. I live in a small place amidst several thousand books. I always wanted to live in a library, but even organizing them is a problem since I arrived after my husband had been accumulating this, his third library, for years.

One good thing about the fact that more people bought Kindle books on Christmas Day than real books is that the last-minute shopper can deliver a gift immediately and not wait for the book to be mailed. And it is a book.

Full disclosure: I'm biased since I have published for Kindle (search Rhonda Keith), and also for Lulu.com, which allows downloads to a computer rather than a special e-book device. The technology allows a writer to bypass the slow publishing process that can eliminate a lot of good writers while a lot of more commercially promising writers get ink. (Not that I'm against the commercial aspects of publishing.)

We should look at e-books as an addition to print, not as a substitute. It's true that the printing press almost completely did away with handwritten manuscripts, but the benefits were worth it. Instead of having to travel across the continent to lay eyes on one of maybe three copies of a manuscript, hundreds or thousands of people had access to any given book. Now the Web makes even rare out-of-print books accessible to almost everyone. Printed paper books are also getting cheaper because of new technology. I don't think we'll be running out of them any time soon.

I think the e-book readers will become more popular as the technology improves and the cost goes down. There’s a great advantage to having lots of books, papers, and magazines at your fingertips in a small package. If you think of it, you can download it. Something like an iPod, but for books. This doesn’t mean the iPod is superior to an LP with great cover art, or to a live musician. Paper books are esthetically more pleasing to the hand and eye than a piece of plastic-encased electronics. But the scope is incredible.

Cellar Door

“Cellar door” has been judged the most euphonious word(s) in the English language, obviously on sound alone, not on the basis of its meaning, though I have some pleasant memories of cellar doors in my grandmothers’ houses, and also of a brand of cookies called Stella Doro which don’t seem to be available in my neighborhood. Grant Barrett wrote about this and other words in The New York Times, some of which have to qualify as onomatopoeic, like hush and lullaby. We have to listen to speech or song in a foreign language to fully appreciate words without meaning, but you can drive the meaning out of any word if you repeat it enough.

The Weekly Gizzard: Moi on Examiner.com

Obama's dark vision

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Jonathan F. Keiler writes about Obama's decision to cut funding for NASA in "The Last Shuttle and the Rise...
Commander in Chief of the Corpses

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Why the media flap about Sarah Palin’s writing speech notes on her palm? Because she had referred to Obama as...



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.

* 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. (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.

10% discount on my Lulu publications:

Browse to: http://www.lulu.com/landing/lulu_coupon_10?a=4001629

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: