Friday, April 2, 2010

Parvum Opus 365: Viewed Through the Teeth of My Very Own Comb

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere


Subjunctive Meaning

Cartoon diva Agnes said to her friend Trout:

“I think it’s very important that everyone likes me.”

Notice that she did not use the subjunctive voice, which was probably intended. It changes the meaning. In this sentence, she’s saying that everyone does like her, and that’s important. The subjunctive would be:

“I think it’s very important that everyone like me.”

This means that it’s important to her that people like her, but they don’t necessarily, and this is most likely true with Agnes.

People often misuse the subjunctive or don’t use it when they should. I don’t know if they’ve stopped teaching it in school or it doesn’t matter that much to people because usually the meaning is clear enough. We often say, “If I was rich…” instead of “If I were rich…” and the “if” signifies that this is a conditional statement. But sometimes the use of the subjunctive can change meaning, which is why it exists.

Vigilant Mike

Mike Sykes followed up about “vigil”:

“The eve of a festival or holy day, as an occasion of religious observance. A devotional watch, esp. the watch kept on the eve of a festival or holy day; a nocturnal service or devotional exercise."
I have a photo print of Edward VII [d. 1910], autographed (in pencil) by George V "in remembrance of your vigil". It was presented to my grandfather who was a Yeoman of the Guard.
In days of old, it was customary for a squire to keep a vigil on the night before he became a knight.

Coincidentally, I had just read about the 1936 death of King George V in Thrones and Dominations, a book outlined by Dorothy Sayers and completed after her death by someone not as good. I assume the historical description is fairly accurate, though. After the King’s death was announced, many people dressed in black for mourning as they would for a family member.

About “working poor” Mike commented:

The article could be retitled as "How to win an argument when you don't have a case"….It assumes that some poor don't work. Like the idle rich.

Some poor work and some don’t. Likewise, probably most rich people work, while not so many inherit wealth.

Viewed Between the Teeth of Her Very Own Comb

Found on Facebook:

those scientific professor types dont understand a lot of stuff about life.. even if it's right in front of them .. I married an engineer and I just have to love him as he is without taking the worlds ideas of what is right or wrong and just love him like he's normal. It works pretty well as he's a babe in the woods at life too..~! It's hard to find a truely innocent man.. What a joy he is when viewed between the teeth of his very own comb..

We've had twenty good years and his silvery hair is growing so thin that soon he won't need that comb! :-}

I just had to ask this person if “viewed between the teeth of his very own comb” is an old expression or if it was personal. She said,

Rhonda as to the teeth of his own comb, i made it up right then. I was thinking of an old timey semi clear clearcomb right then and it just sort of came out.. it happens sometimes when we write, doesnt it ?! :-)

Oddly enough, this person belongs to a Facebook page for Correct Spelling, Punctuation and Apostrophe Use. But she’s a good writer despite her own punctuation etc. I’m trying to get a fix on the comb phrase so I can apply it with some general meaning. It’s too good to forget.


Daily Writing Tips said the English Language Central Commission has decided to remove the letter Z from the English language. It took me a while to remember that it was April First. Meanwhile, I was searching for the ELCC, but thankfully there is no such thing. Not that there couldn’t be. The French have their Académie française and once we’ve been thoroughly Europeanized, who knows?

Unsuccessful Treatment of Writer's Block

Improbable Research has recognized the research on writer’s block. It won’t take long to read the report.

China Smack

A web site called China Smack lists various acronyms, slang, and other expressions commonly used on the Web by Chinese speakers/writers (some obscene). I don’t know how useful this could be to most of us, and I have no way of knowing how to pronounce anything, but here’s one interesting entry:

[rénròusōusuǒ / ren2 rou4 sou1 suo3]
“Human flesh search” or “human flesh search engine” is the Chinese name for when people work together on the internet to find information for a common goal. To “ren rou”
is a verb

China Smack also has reader comments on Google’s decision to leave the China market.

The Naming of Flowers

The 2010 Old Farmer’s Almanac has an article about plants that were named for people, along with a sidebar about Carl Linnaeus, who said, “If you do not know the names of things, the knowledge of them is lost, too”:

Nicotiana: Jean Nicot

Begonia: Michel Begon

Magnolia: Pierre Magnol

Plumeria: Charles Plumier

Camellia: Georg Joseph Kamel

Kalmia: Pehr Kalm

Gardenia: Alexander Garden

Wisteria: Caspar Wistar

Forsythia: William Forsyth

Kerria: William Kerr

Poinsettia: Joel Roberts Poinsett

There should still be time to pick up your copy of the Almanac.


In an old copy of Mental Floss (Sept.-Oct. 2007), an article about Gypsies in Romania illustrates the great difficulty journalists have in expressing anything with accuracy or truth.

The Gypsies, or Roma, have a long history in Europe. The article sub-head reads, “From Self-Segregation to Institutionalized Racism, Why Bulgaria’s ‘Gypsies’ Have Struggled to Integrate.”

The article elaborates on how the Roma don’t try to assimilate into the cultures of the countries they live in, don’t speak the languages of their host countries fluently, and this is by choice, and the values of the Roma are not always the values of Western countries, but somehow that’s translates into “institutionalized racism”, on the part of everyone but the Gypsies, of course.

Along the same lines, this week I happened to be talking to someone who has a friend who’s taught in Hawaii for many years. Back in the ‘80s she taught native children who were always placed in “special needs” classes even though they were as intelligent as the other children in public schools, but they couldn’t pass the IQ tests. As it turns out, the native children grow up speaking their native Hawaiian tongue and really don’t learn English until they enter school, so of course they have “special needs”. But this phrase is a euphemism for retarded. Yet it sounds as though the children are victims of “institutionalized racism”. I can hardly bear the word “special” in almost any context, it’s become so weasely.

Anyway, the Mental Floss writer admitted that “to be fair, not all of the blame for Bulgaria’s ‘Roma problem’ should fall on racism or discrimination”. The Roma “protect their culture” which means not learning the other language, so they can’t get many jobs, etc. But if they really wanted jobs, they’re bright enough to figure out what’s required. Journalists are often so intent on twisting any story to fit the standard ideology that they can’t see what’s in front of their faces.

NOW: Kindle for PC, Mac, BlackBerry, iPhone, Tablet Computers

Although I’ve published half a dozen books, stories, and articles for Amazon’s Kindle reader under the name Rhonda Keith, I haven’t yet bought a Kindle myself. I’m waiting for the price to drop, and I’m not sure how I’d like reading an entire book on a small device. However, it has great advantages, mostly that of being easily portable. So is a book, but the Kindle can carry a library of books. Usually the cost of a download is under $10. Someday I’ll get one.

Meanwhile, Kindle publications can now be downloaded for other devices, including your basic computer:

  • Kindle for Tablet Computers
  • Kindle for iPhone
  • Kindle for PC
  • Kindle for Mac
  • Kindle for BlackBerry

I downloaded Kindle for PC but haven’t yet ordered a book. I’ll report when I do.

The Weekly Gizzard: Moi on

Put parents on their children's health insurance

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Obama care will allow parents to keep their children -- that is, their adult offspring -- on their insurance up to...



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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 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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