Saturday, November 5, 2011

Parvum Opus 392: Real-Word Experience

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere


Rich Lederer agrees about short- and long-lived:

In brief, all major dictionaries cleave to your argument for sounding the i in short-lived and long-lived as a long i. These compounds mean "short/long of life." It should be noted, though, that the Brits prefer the short i in these words.

We both beg to differ with the Brits.

He also wrote:

Most folks who have seen The Help agree that the film is destined to be nominated for multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture. But with all the care lavished upon the writing and filming of The Help, in slithers the following prepostrophe: 
            Skeeter Phelan, the film's protagonist and writer of the book The Help, is typing up a notice for the Junior League's newsletter. The camera homes in on the text, which includes: "Come to the Holbrook's to drop off old coats," which she changes to "old commodes" in order to befoul Hilly's front yard.
             You'd think that Skeeter — or at least the writers of the screenplay — would know that Holbrook's should be Holbrooks'. 

(By the way, I know someone who did put an old commode in her yard, in hopes of lowering the sale price of the house she lived in when it went up for sheriff’s auction, because she wanted to buy it cheap. It’s a long story.)


Dave DaBee posted this reference to a newly invented type font called Dyslexie, designed by Christian Boer of the Netherlands, that is supposed to be easier for dislexics to read. Boer, himself dyslexic, designed the letter shapes to be less confusing.

One of Dave’s Facebook friends, Victoria Haliburton, disagrees. She works with dislexics. I include most of her comments — unedited (she probably wrote in a hurry) — because she is as amusing as she is opinionated (but presumably not dyslexic herself).

Sorry to disappoint you and everyone who wants a miracle cure, but this guyis wrong in so many directions that it is hard to know where to start. First, as the article mentions -- and then ignores -- dyslexia is NOT a vision problem. Every few years somebody comes up with a new snake oil guaranteed to cure botts, glanders, and the hives, shows positive results from their own testing -- and then disappears as mysteriously as they appeared. …. since it is NOT a vision problem, playing around with visual efforts is on the level of curing a cold by sacrificing a chicken -- irrelevant, but the cold gets better in seen days anyway so you can prve the cure . . .. In fact dyslexia can be treated and in many cases "cured" (ie the student looks and acts and tests well within the normal range, although perhaps with a few quirks). The statement in the article "there is no cure" is dead wrong. The treatment has been well-known and used for over a century -- my grandmother could have told you -- and has passed every *scientific* test thrown at it over the last sixty years. read the NIH study on Teaching Children to Read, 1999 (not the hysterical attacks on it since, but the actual study). Be forewarned: you are used to reading medical studie where there is a standard of proof; education so-called "studies" have no such standard and are 90 percent laughable. Anyway, the treatment that works, and works with a ery high success rate, is traing not in vision but in hearing - phonetic discrimination etc. The reason for the high rate of dyslexia and "dyslexia" (much higher) in English is twofold -- the problem of partially inconsistent (only 15 percent by the way) sound-symbol correspondence, and the much uch worse probelm of poorly-prepared teachers who are taught things that just ain't so and who try to teach their students by guess, hope, and pray rather than actual reading instruction.

As far as fonts, by the way, it has been found that one of the *easiest* to read is a serif font, Century Schoolbook -- which was designed as an easy-reading font for children's texts by peple without scientific credentials but wth a lot of real-word experience. The basic rules for font design and calligraphy, which include consistent slant (unlike this new font) and a minimum of additional frills (he's good here) and a balance of open white space and dark letter (he's right here about openness) are designed to maximize readability. Uneven slopes give the reader a headache; I know, I read juior-high kids' papers. They slow you down, quite badly if you are a fast reader.


Dave also sent an article from the Boston Globe by Christopher Muther, “Literally the most misused word”. Is it literally a hopeless case?

Literally is used, incorrectly, as an intensifier, in the grand tradition of exaggeration that is so American. How many things are really awesome, after all? Is your yes always absolutely a yes?

Proposing substitutes for literally may be useless. For instance, the article quotes Ben Zimmer of the Visual Thesaurus and, on Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas saying, “This is literally a dream come true” when they won the Stanley Cup. Zimmer suggests substituting something like “unquestionably a dream come true”, but is that really any better? It depends on what you mean by “dream”. Possibly Thomas didn’t actually (really truly) dream in the night about the Stanley Cup, though it wouldn’t be surprising if he did, but he could have literally had a dream in the sense of a strong imaginative desire for a future outcome.

Another Bruin, Andrew Ference, said, “I can’t wrap my mind around how many people were there. I literally can’t wrap my head around it.” Well, that’s half true. He couldn’t wrap his head (a physical object) around a concept. But maybe he could wrap his mind (a more abstract sort of thing, really a though) around an idea.

In any case, if literally is used incorrectly more than not, what will take its place?


Another intrusion of political correctness into art commentary distorts the intention of a 19th-century painting by George Inness, March of the Crusaders, which depicts knights traveling through the Italian countryside. On the linked page here, the comment points out the reference to death in the picture of the noble procession, but in a local Inness exhibition, a curator was compelled to write apologetically that “At this time, many saw the Crusaders as heroes.” This disparagement of the Crusaders has developed largely since the recent unpleasantness, of course, and makes sense if you’d prefer to be living under sharia law.

Lest we forget, the phrase “political correctness” came from Trotsky, and was adopted by the American Communist Party, which would announce that its members had to back certain policies because they were politically correct (i.e. practical) even if they were wrong, or statements even if they were false; the party line shifted often. Unlike the Bolsheviks, we probably won’t be imprisoned or killed for being un-PC, though that could change, but how comfortable would you be in speaking positively about the intrepid knights of the Crusades at your next social get-together?


I am now republishing my e-books in paperback under my new publishing label, Who Art. The first of these is now available on Amazon, The Wish Book, an amusing light read about the old Sears catalogs, a clandestine midnight burial, and a bit of romance. Paper is so much more satisfying than pixels.

The first volume of Sonny Robertson’s audio autobiography, When Sonny Gets Blue, is also on Amazon now.