Monday, March 21, 2011

Parvum Opus 386: The PO Delivery System

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere

Somewhere in the News Cloud

As newspaper pro Mark Twain said, choosing the right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

·         Is it news or is it commentary?

Gov. rejects streetcar benefits

The Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper article actually said that the governor of Ohio does not think the purported benefits of a streetcar in Cincinnati are real; it won’t create many jobs and it will cost a bundle. The headline presumes there are real benefits. Whether or not the benefits are there, the headline is inaccurate. The governor may deny that there are benefits; any number of synonymous verbs could be substituted. The governor may also reject the proposed streetcar plan. It’s hard to tell whether the headline writer was careless or convinced that the projected benefits are real, in which the story becomes an editorial, not a report.

·         A species of festivity (to quote Kingley Amis in Lucky Jim) featuring Bootsy Collins was announced in the paper:

Funk is not an option.

The writer meant, “Funk is not optional.” Big difference.

An option is a choice; not an option means it’s not on the menu. “Funk is not an option” means you could not choose to be funky.

Optional means you can choose it; not optional means you have no choice. “Funk is not optional” means you have to be funky.

 “Funk is not an option” could possibly carry the second meaning, but because “Funk is optional” would be the more common expression, it’s best to use it and avoid any momentary blip of confusion.

·         David Forsmark in a blog-on-blog wrote:

“the estimable Megyn Kelly”.

Usually we’d read “the inestimable Megyn Kelly”, meaning that her worth is so high it cannot be estimated (like invaluable). To say someone can be estimated, that her worth is measurable, may or may not be more accurate, but if this isn’t just a typo, I wonder what Forsmark might have meant. Was he being sarcastic or sloppy? When you turn accepted word formulas upside down, you ought to be sure your intention is clear.

TV Tropes

The web site TV Tropes covers themes or perhaps memes or just stuff that you’re likely to encounter in the media. A casual perusal suggests that the site isn’t so much about accepted views of stuff, but is tantamount to a mini-encyclopedia. Is this trip necessary, as they used to say in the days of WWII gas rationing?

Mystifying Spam

No, I didn’t click on any links, but this spam item was tempting:

Portugal regrets not bringing herbal supplements

That’s what happens when you pack light.

The President’s English

So we don’t have the, or a, president’s English. But there is the King’s English or Queen’s English in England. Of course, correct pronunciation of words exists, but that’s not the same as having a particular accent. “Harvard” and “Hahvahd” are both correct, and we could even accept “’Arvard” and “Hoivud”. But “Haravada”, for instance, could not fit on the continuum of comprehensible pronunciations. It looks like a Japanese version of the name.
If we had a “president’s English” which president would it be? Clinton, from Arkansas? Bush, from Texas? Truman, from Missouri? Kennedy, from Boston? Obama, by nowhere in particular, out of Harvard?
An early-nineteenth-century writer found American accents to be somewhat standardized:

"[Americans] at large speak English with a nearer accordance to your standard of pronunciation, than the inhabitants of England. . . . Of this the proof is complete. I have seen a dramatic performance, written in the West Country dialect: the words being spelt according to the local pronunciation; of which I was scarcely able to understand a sentence. . . . [But] from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, every American, descended from English ancestors, understands every other, as readily as if he had been bred in the same neighbourhood." Timothy Dwight, Travels in New-England and New-York, Vol. 4, pp. 276-77 (1822).

Of course, he does specify only descendants of the English, but presumably the English ancestors hadn’t all emigrated from the same spot in England, so what’s to account for greater standardization in 1822 in this large country compared to England?

Out of Service

No thanks to Parvum Opus, probably, but someone changed the sign on the racquetball court from “Out of Order” to “Out of Service”. Still a little awkward but better. “Out of Order” suggests to me moving parts. “Out of Service” just suggests not available for use. But I still don’t know what’s wrong with the racquetball court.

Grape Delivery System

Dave DaBee sent a link to “I, Grape” by Brock Clarke from the Boston Globe, on teaching his small child grammar. The boy has no verbs. If he wants a grape, he says, “I grape.” The mother is more tolerant than Mr. Clarke, but she has her own problems. Mr. Clarke wrote:

When I talk about teaching I tend to use words like “teaching.” Whereas my wife, in talking about her day, referred to her “delivery system.”

You see the problem. The boy will eventually learn to use verbs, but will his mother ever learn to avoid buzz words?

Occasional Verse

William Topaz McGonagall has been considered the worst of British poets (Scottish, from Irish parents), combining a tin ear with a burning desire to write. His most famous poem was about the collapse of the Tay Bridge near Dundee. When it was rebuilt, he wrote another poem to the new bridge. Billy Connolly, Scottish comedian, recited the original poem in a blizzard. Recitation improves it, and probably the blizzard does too.

The custom of writing public verse on the occasion of public disasters has declined, with exceptions, perhaps, for political verse on slavery and the depredations of white people, such as Maya Angelou’s poemon the occasion of the inauguration of President Clinton. (Her poem begs the questions, should African slaves have been glad to arrive in America, all things considered? Her poem didn’t sound too despondent. And, if the white Europeans hadn’t come, would there have been a United States at all?)


Mike Sykes said, regarding my comments on Impressionist gardens and Stieg Larsson’s books, I share your sentiment. But isn't that a sort of deconstruction, suggesting a meaning that the artist never intended?” Mike also sent a link to a comment on rape statistics in Sweden by sealgoesarfLet me elaborate.

First, I neglected to include a link to the painting with a woman in a green dress. It was not the Dorchester yard, it was “In the Luxembourg Garden” by  Charles Courtney Curran. If you look closely at the actual painting (which I did) you can see that the dress is dark green, in contrast to the cuffs, which are black. But the online reproduction isn't very good.
Second, Impressionist paintings of gardens ask you to contemplate beauty, not social and economic problems. Larsson’s three books, which amount to about 1,800 pages, or six or more average book lengths, cover Swedish politics, government, law, police, secret service, spies, motorcycle gangs, corporate shenanigans, psychiatry, journalism, erratic sexual relations, computer hacking, abuse of women and children, problematic immigration from the former Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe, and corruption in general, over quite a few years. In this case, it’s fair to ask why he would omit a major cultural change in Sweden, the large-scale immigration of people from a very different culture. Sealgoesarf suggests that immigrants who feel “isolated” are more prone to commit rape, though the natives do it more, but wouldn’t that suggest that people who are on the receiving end of immigration feel isolated too, and thus their rapes are equally justified?

You’ve Got to See the Movie

Bookstore conversation reported on (that is, the customer is not):

 (A young woman, about 20 years old, comes up to the counter holding a copy of The Bible.)
Clerk: “Hi, did you find everything you needed today?”
Customer: “Yeah, hey, can you tell me what this is about?”
Clerk: “The Bible?”
Customer: “Yeah, what’s it about?”
Clerk: “The Bible has two parts, the Old Testament which is scriptures and the New Testament, which contains the story of Jesus’ life and works as told through the gospels, written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”
Customer: “Huh. Is it any good?”
Clerk: “It’s pretty popular.”
Customer: “Nah, I’ll just get this one instead.” *puts a copy of Twilight on the counter*

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