Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere
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:
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:
* For those of you who weren’t cowboy fans, “victuals” (food) was always pronounced “vittles” in cowboy movies. Sort of like “critters” for “creatures”.
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.
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 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” 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
Monday, February 15th, 2010
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Commander in Chief of the Corpses
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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.
10% discount on my Lulu publications:
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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. 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.
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