Thursday, July 15, 2010

Parvum Opus 373: Writage

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere


Laugh, Sing, and Eat Like a Pig

First, let me be clear that Dave DaBee is really Dave deBronkart (not De Bronkart) and he has refused to change his name legally to DaBee for my convenience.

Second, he has published a book about his experience in surviving cancer, called Laugh, Sing, and Eat Like a Pig, now available on Amazon by “e-Patient Dave deBronkart” which is his patient advocate moniker. He not only has a new life but a new career speaking to medical professionals as well as patients about a new era of medical communication and information access that can save lives, maybe even yours.

Third, note also that his book title uses the serial comma before “and” as it should, for which we can thank his scrupulous mother, Anne DaBee.

Buy the book.

The –age of Slangage

Not really new we already have personage, for instance but more frequently in my line of hearage now is the suffix –age attached to verbs and nouns (and maybe other parts of speech) to produce a cuter noun: hearage instead of hearing, tubage instead of television, and so on. Why do we have wordage but not writage?

I Like New York in June and Bloody Murder, How About You?

I have been listening to Shakespeare: The Biography on CDs in my car literally for weeks. It’s huge and not always interesting, partly because author Peter Ackroyd fills it in with interpretations of the plays and poems rather than history, which was what I wanted. There’s a certain amount of “Shakespeare must have thought” and “Shakespeare may have felt” and at one point he said that Shakespeare, or rather his plays, have no morality because morality is determined by likes and dislikes, implying that Shakespeare liked lots of things and made no judgments. This may be true of Peter Ackroyd but I’m not convinced that Shakespeare had no moral judgment of Lady MacBeth, for instance, whether or not he enjoyed treachery and bloody murder.

Morality is not determined by likes and dislikes. It is determined by ideas, based on which one makes choices. Likes and dislikes are changeable. Ackroyd is like so many biographers who slip in interpolations asserting their own beliefs as if they were Shakespeare’s.

Ackroyd also says that the fact that Shakespeare spelled his name in various ways, as well as other words, showed that he wanted to keep his meanings indeterminate. If so, that would apply to every English writer up to the point that English spelling was standardized, which was after Shakespeare’s time. I think not.

Perhaps Ackroyd does a better job of arguing his point further down the road, but so far I’m only about 12 hours into the recording.

This and That

· Discovered in A Garland for Girls by Louisa May Alcott: bowlder for boulder. Also, you may know that in the language of flowers, pansies are for thoughts, but this book shows that the flower’s name comes from the French word for thought, pensee.

· A moot point is a debatable point. There used to be moot courts in England where issues were debated (not the same as an actual trial). The word is related to might, and has an old form used in Masonry, So mote it be, meaning amen.

· Saw roses for sale in wooden trugs (troughs), so said the label. They were cute little wooden pots or cache-pots.

· Don’t know where I read this: “Now with Lebron sidling up with fellow Miami Heatians Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, a super trio has been formed which will triple our pleasure.” Miami Heatians? Would that be pronounced Heat-ee-anz or Hee-shanz? Is that really what the team is called? Would Miami Heaters work? Also, one sidles up to and sides with, not sidles up with.

· I seem to have run across this usage a couple of times recently but did not note the sources: Go right away from here. Usually we would say Go away from here; right away generally refers to time (“Go away right now”). Go right away from here seems closer to expressions like the emphatic “Walk right in” or “Wait right here” which emphasize the action, not time. It has an odd sound but I wouldn’t say it’s wrong. Maybe it’s not American.

· TV ad for school: “A rewarding career in the business profession.” This isn’t even redundant because business is not what we call a profession. We never say, “He is a professional businessman,” although I expect to hear it any day now.

· In my current favorite game show, Cash Cab, one giddy couple didn’t know the answer to this question and had to ask a man on the street, who did: Name one of the four New Testament Gospels. However, they could name all four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Even if you’re not Christian, or not of any religion, how can you grow up in the West so ignorant of this basic cultural monument? Sadly, we know how.

Extra Dutch

Bill Roberts added to the list of bad Dutch behavior Dutch courage, meaning “brave when inebriated”.

Dave DaBee wrote:

btw, my ex is from Germanic rural Penna, and I recall hearing that Pennsylvania Dutch is actually Deutsch. Maybe you told me that. In that area they have an expression "You're Dutch," meaning "You're not making any sense," which she believes arose from being unable to understand the Deutsche immigrants.

Word maven Rich Lederer sent a big batch, including Dutch courage:

More than sixty disparaging Dutch compounds and expressions repose in the English language, including:

double Dutch: gibberish; the kind of talk deliberately intended to confuse the listener.

Dutch act (also to do the Dutch): suicide.

Dutch auction: one that reverses the order of an ordinary auction; it starts with high figures and regresses to lower ones.

Dutch bargain: a one-sided deal, not a bargain at all.

Dutch comfort: small comfort, if any; typified by the line "Well, it could have been worse."

Dutch courage: the kind of bravery that comes out of a bottle. As far back as 1625, the British poet Edmund Waller wrote, "The Dutch their wine and all their brandy lose,/Disarmed of that from which their courage grows."

Dutch defense: retreat or surrender.

Dutch leave: to be AWOL.

Dutch reckoning: guesswork; a disputed bill.

Dutch treat (or going Dutch): not a treat at all because each guest pays his or her own way.

Dutch uncle: not an uncle at all but an old busybody who reprimands or lectures a young person.

Why have the good people of the Netherlands been made to suffer so in English parlance? Why are the Dutch so in Dutch (meaning "in trouble") in our idioms? Until well after Shakespeare's time, the Dutch were highly regarded in most literary references by British authors. But during the seventeenth century, the two nations became rivals in international commerce, fighting for control of the sea and parts of the New World. For a number of years the Dutch colonial empire loomed as the chief threat to the British, so the disrespectful references began. Even when the British and Dutch empires ceased their conflicts, the slurs on the Dutch crossed the ocean from the British Isles to the United States.

When the English were at odds with the French, we got French leave for AWOL and French letter for condom; the French disease was syphilis, which was also variously called Polish, Italian, British, Spanish, or Christian in different places. When we were fighting the Indians, we got Indian giver, meaning someone who takes back what they’ve given. Someone should compile a dictionary of this type of national insult.


Mike Sykes wrote about Scott’s “Breathes there a man with soul so dead”:

That's actually the first verse of Canto Sixth of The Lay of the Last Minstrel, which is, according to the preface, "intended to illustrate the customs and manners which anciently prevailed on the Borders of England and Scotland".

The unsentimental Dave DaBee sent this:

As a lad I was a voracious reader, with a taste for baseball books. In one I saw this, which had no context for me at age 8:

Breathes there a fan with soul so dead

who never to the ump hath said,

"Yer blind, ya bum"?


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Buy Sonny Robertson’s biography on CD, When Sonny Gets Blue, at CafePress.


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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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