Friday, February 11, 2011

Parvum Opus 383: So Let It Be Noted

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere
The Few, The Proud
There aren’t many grammar jokes. In fact there aren’t enough. Here’s one that may be old but is new to me, from Overheard in the Newsroom.
Copy Editor: “Knock knock.”
Photo Editor: “Who’s there?”
Copy Editor: “To.”
Photo Editor: “To who?”
Copy Editor: “To WHOM!”
Hoib Speaks
Herb Hickman wrote:
This matter of "Park Your Car in the Harvard Yard," is heaping cognitive dissonance like coals of fire upon my brow.
I'm suspecting that there are two uses for that phrase, with close to opposite intents. I know not much about representing various pronunciations with variant spellings. But I note that you say "pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd," and I can only hear that rendition with broad "A" pronunciation, possibly giving slight to the adjacent "R"s. Possibly what one might call affecting proper British or Londoner speech. Since the phrase is undeniably linked with Boston speech, thinking of it that way it only makes sense if it is a phrase used in a (futile?) attempt to teach Bostonians how to talk.
On the far far other hand, I learned the phrase from Vinnie Marston Boston born and bred pronounced the way Bostonians and New Englanders of that neighborhood speak. I would write Vinnie's version, "Pack ye caa in the haavad yaad." And the "a"s are all flat as pancakes. As opposite as possible from Obama's pronunciation of POCK-ee-stahn. Vinnie's coaching failed me, however, when I went to Duxbury (next to Plymouth where the Mayflower landed) and visited the laboratories of the renowned marine biologist William F Clapp. Standing in the Main Lab building, one of the longest-term employees of the lab told me, "This building was originally a ban." I was truly dumfounded as she repeated, "A BAN, a BAN, a BAN! Then she said, "Where cattle were kept!" That brought some light. But everyone there agreed with her, it was a ban.
Did these Saxons you're talking about form unions and go out on feck?
Herb is right, "Pack ye caa in the haavad yaad" sounds more like the Boston sound. It's hard to spell a vowel sound without a following consonant, but imagine the A in “cat” rather than the A in “what”. However, there are individual variants on the Boston/New England accent (“Hoib” is probably a more New Jersey). Someone once wrote that the Kennedy accent was specific to their family.
Of Note
Someone on radio quoted Yul Brynner in The Ten Commandments, “So let it be written, so let it be done.” Then I think it was my own brain that suggested “So let it be noted, so let it be done.”
What a world of difference. Ramses wouldn’t write a note or a memo. He’d have his scribes chisel something into a rock, or possibly paint something on a piece of papyrus if he was in a hurry. And for Post-Its he would stick pieces of papyrus together with pitch like that used to seal Moses’ basket made of bulrushes.
The End of an Era
Newspapers have been shrinking year after year. First the regular dailies got narrower, then the number of pages decreased. Even the Sunday paper is so small you can’t use it as a weapon anymore. This week a new indignity appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer: a random half page in the back. You may have seen pages sliced in half vertically as part of a sort of sleeve of advertising wrapping a section. But this is a half page sliced off vertically in the midst of classified pages following the comics. And it’s not one of those mistakes that sometimes happen in the machinery, a wrinkled or chopped page, because the page number appears neatly in the corner of the half page. Tragic.
Another casualty of the new technology may be clocks. So many people look at their phones for the time, or use digital watches and clocks, that a whole generation may be the first not to learn how to tell time on an analog clock. Ask a kid you know, or even someone in his twenties, if he can read a round-faced clock or understand what “half-past” or “quarter till” means. Those phrases only make sense if you can visualize a real clock with a face. Does a digital clock even have a face? And maybe someday instead of pointing to their wrists to ask for the time, people will point to their pockets, where their phones live. Though that could be ambiguous: Do you have the time, or are you just happy to see me?
You may have read about the New Jersey Planned Parenthood counselor who was so helpful to the people posing as pimps for underage, illegal immigrant prostitutes. Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council said, “Incredulously Planned Parenthood’s own defense is that the one worker, who told the undercover ‘pimp’ how his underage prostitute could still earn money after an abortion, was doing the writething.” He meant “right”, of course, and he also meant “incredibly”. Incredulous applies to a person who can’t believe something; incredibleapplies to the unbelievable thing. In fact you can remember it that way: incrediBLE, unbelievaBLE. (Unfortunately it won’t work withincredulous, unbelivabilous.)
You Think English Is Hard
What I’ve learned from my students:
The Polish language only has three tenses, past, present, and future, and a formal rule that my Polish student learned in school is to arrange the various clauses in a complicated sentence chronologically, but I’m not sure if that means going forward or backward. If going forward, that last sentence I wrote would start with the middle clause (“My student learned…”), if I understood the rule correctly. Polish verbs are varied by verb endings that indicate person (who did it), not time.
Chinese has no tenses at all, so meaning is indicated through words such as “yesterday” and so on. Chinese also has no articles (the, a, an) and no gender in pronouns.
My Polish student asked how he could make himself clear if he made a mistake in tense (using simple past instead of past perfect, for instance), and I assured him that using qualifiers such as “yesterday” or “tomorrow” would generally make his meaning clear.
Rathole Update
Tim Bazzett sent an update on his publishing empire, Rathole Books.
For customers past and potential, the big news is that all five of my books have been drastically reduced in price to just $12 each (plus s&h, still only $3). And all books ordered direct from the site will be signed and inscribed, of course — something you won't get if you order them from Amazon, where they are still available at full price. And speaking of Amazon, we are currently working at making the books available in Kindle version. Soon, I hope. I'm not a big fan of e-books, but I am trying to accommodate those who are.
I always like to promote writers, including myself: search for my stuff for Amazon’s Kindle Reader.
By the way, I ran across an article about Lehman’s store in Kidron, Ohio, in Amish country, “A Starring Role in the Past”, in the Farm Bureau insurance company magazine for Ohio. I’ve been to Lehman’s, it’s a great store that carries all sorts of products that our grandparents used and that the Amish still use, like wood-burning stoves and kerosene lamps, all new. I did not know that it supplies props for movies. My novel The Wish Book, available in Kindle format, is a fantasy about a store filled with new items from all the old Sears catalogues and also supplies props for movies.
Copyright 2011 Rhonda Keith Stephens