Thursday, September 16, 2010

Parvum Opus 376: Brief Solo


Number 376

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere


Minty Fresh

I must have heard this on the radio somewhere since I made a note of it on my phone recorder:

“A group of freshly minted widows” [in World War II].

One of the worst tropes ever. Most people who are newly widowed don’t feel as bright and shiny as a new minted coin.


You probably have the free Acrobat Reader to open PDF files, but the Adobe software for creating PDF files is expensive. A friend just turned me on to a free program called CutePDF which she says works well (and downloads safely) to convert files to PDF. She uses it to send lengthy Word documents because there are so many versions of Word floating around that her friends may not always be able to read hers, or at least won’t get all the formatting. I might try it myself. I’m always afraid that even an em dash won’t transmit correctly in e-mail, so I avoid them. I will test drive it with this PO.

When it downloads, you won’t find an icon for the program. You convert your file by going to Print and selecting CutePDF as another printer, and then saving the file as PDF.

Rathole Books

PO reader Tim Bazzett has a new book available at Rathole Books, called Booklover: A One-Year Journal of Reading, Reflecting and Remembering. Sounds interesting. If you’re in the area, go to his talk/reading/book signing at Great Lakes Book & Supply at 840 Clark Street in Big Rapids, Michigan, this Sunday, September 19, between 3:00 and 4:30 PM.

Refudiating Wee-Wee

Sarah Palin made up a word, perhaps accidentally, what Lewis Carroll might have called a portmanteau word: refudiation, a combination of refute and repudiate. It calls to mind various Bushisms, such as misunderestimate. Compare to a coinage of Obama’s, to get wee-weed up, that is, to get worked up over controversy.


In a article by Claudia Rosett:

Not that I learned this from Rauf, whose Malaysian office staff told me by phone on Tuesday that "All media requests have to go through his office in New York." Nor did his New York colleagues simply volunteer information about his imminent trip to the Middle East. It took a series of phone calls and questions to eke it out of them.

You cannot use “eke” this way. We’ve heard about “eking out a living” which means to supplement a scanty income in some way. It means augmenting something, and has even at times meant “plow” or something to do with beekeeping. While its use has gotten sloppy over the centuries (“He ekes out a living as a five million dollar a year quarterback”), it cannot mean to pry something out.

Date of Expiry

I always regret not subscribing to every time I get an e-mail with tantalizing opening paragraphs from their current articles. In this clip from Perspiring over Expiry by Sarabjeet Garcha we find a kindred soul who pays attention to quirks of language even at memorial services:

In November 2007, I was in my hometown, Nasik, Maharashtra, to attend a gathering commemorating my grandfather's first death anniversary. We assembled in a local gurdwara, which I noticed had been recently renovated. Now, I love everything about a place of worship even if at times I am convinced that the world is losing its share of selfless worshippers. ... What was thought to be my undying love for unsung godmen was in reality my irrepressible zeal to photograph a grammatical error: on the bottom left of the frame was written "Date of Birth," while on the bottom right was a phrase that's very familiar to not only pharmacists but also laypersons: "Date of Expiry." Perhaps they forgot to include a "best before" date, I wondered….

The King’s English

I’m re-reading The King’s English by Kingsley Amis, not the book of the same name by the great Fowler nor even by Betsy Burton, who runs a bookstore by that name. Amis’s book repays careful reading. A few samples:

Amn’t I: We’ve discussed “amn’t I” as a variant of the unacceptable “ain’t I” but I never believed in it. However, I ran across it in a novel by M. C. Beaton, Death of a Gentle Lady. The story is set in Scotland but I think the usage was placed in the mouth of the nasty Englishwoman who got murdered. Anyway it exists, somewhere, and Amis discusses it under the heading “Aren’t I”. After a detailed analysis, he writes:

One attraction of my theory is the ill-natured glee it brings to believers in it when they hear some unreconstructed pedant struggling to say amn’t I. I remember that the late A.J. Ayer* was one of these.

*Writer, philosopher; not clear if he’s the pedant or the gleeful believer, but probably the former.

Happening: Remember the hippy happenings, supposedly spontaneous free-form assemblies? (The only one I ever went to was as organized as a six-year-old’s birthday party with similar planned activities, in a reserved section of a city park.) Amis says the word has had at least two previous historical incarnations: “in the 1950s [it] referred to some event like the planned break-up of some impossibly vulgar art exhibition or somebody undressing at somebody’s else’s boring party”; and it was “a descriptive term of the Edwardian era.” The current spiritual heir of the happening is the flash mob, though it’s not the same thing.

Feed a cold and starve a fever. Amis says people misunderstand this as two separate imperatives, but his interpretation is also incorrect. He says it’s a conditional, meaning if you feed somebody with a cold, then he will develop a fever and then you will have to starve him (as if that’s a common remedy for a fever). But I read another explanation that makes more sense to me. It comes from an ancient German or Saxon saying, that if you feed a person who has a cold, you will kill (or prevent) a fever. Starve comes from an old Saxon word meaning to kill (sterb).

Me and Them

You can have a chunk of your writing analyzed in a little online program that tells you what famous writer you most resemble. I pasted in something or other, probably from PO, and came up with James Joyce and Ian Fleming. It’s been a while since I’ve read either of these but I don’t think I write much like either one, especially in PO, and they seem different from each other, as I recall. But you might like to try it, at

The Lessons of Literature

This is from Moby Dick, 1851:

And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:

Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States

Whaling Voyage by one Ishmael


The Comma Question Deferred

I got more feedback about the question of the serial comma, but it will have to wait till next edition, which I hope will appear in a more timely manner. I don’t know why after more than seven years of almost automatic weekly production, this summer PO slipped out of gear.

For one thing, it could be that I’ve done so much typing this summer that my brain confuses it with writing. I have been transcribing hundreds of letters given to me by my late high school Spanish teacher; there will be a book. Over the years several people’s lives have fallen into my hands unexpectedly, starting with the trove of abandoned photographs I found in an empty house in Florida when I was 15. Decades later, I located a family member whose uncle had lived in that house, and mailed the photos off to England. Some years ago a friend who was dying sent me his poems, which I published in a little book. I have produced the beginnings of an audio autobiography (which I hope will morph into a full book), listed below, by Sonny Robertson.

The Weekly Gizzard: Moi on

Use symbolic threats to Koran to curb real violence

September 14, 2010

Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who threatened to burn a copy of the Koran, lit a conflagration fueled mostly by dry b.s. on all sides. …



Buy Sonny Robertson’s intro biography on CD, When Sonny Gets Blue, at CafePress. (Note that if the text on the spine is misaligned, it’s the fault of CafePress, not me.) Also, four of his early pre-blues R&B dance songs are now on YouTube. Search for Sonny Robertson + The Tabs.


I’m publishing for the Kindle digital reader with Amazon and on for download to computer and for printing. Amazon now has a downloadable Kindle reader so you don’t have to spend hundreds on the little handheld device. 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.

NEW PRODUCTS in CafePress:

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.

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Parvum Opus now appears at It is also carried by the Hur Herald, a web newspaper from Calhoun County, West Virginia. See Editor Bob Weaver's interview with me (February 10, 2007 entry), and the PO every week in Columns.

WHEN SONNY GETS BLUE! At last, the first installment of Sonny’s biography is out on CD, When Sonny Gets Blue at Check out the video and music clips of great blues man Sonny Robertson and the Howard Street Blues Band at and, with his new original song, "A Different Shade of Blue". Listen to Judy Joy Jones’s interview with Sonny.

PEACE MISSION INDIA blogs the progress of Pastor Roy Jacob’s mission to build churches in India. Now 79, Pastor Roy (who is an Indian) has built 10 churches, and has a girls’ school to rescue girls from the mountains and jungles who otherwise might be married off as children or perhaps sold.

SEARCH IT OUT ON AMAZON : "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter." Proverbs 25:2;

"Get wisdom! Even if it costs you everything, get understanding!" Proverbs 4:7:

The poet Muriel Rukeyser said the universe is not composed of atoms, but stories. The physicist Werner Heisenberg said the universe is not made of matter, but music.