In Chapter 4 ('The Zinc-Lined Trunk') of his delightful novel, Antigua, Penny, Puce (1936), Robert Graves puts the following words in the mouth of an anonymous form-master:
"What I like about Lucretius is that the substance of his writing is, to all intents and purposes, negligible. Read him in search of knowledge or good sense and you are misinformed and misdirected at every turn. But ah, what noble nonsense! Concentrate on the manner, gentlemen, and forget the matter."
I do not know to what extent Graves endorsed the opinion of his character.
Since I wrote about the etymology of 'Schwarzenegger' three weeks ago, perhaps it's time to look at some of the other candidates:
That last proviso reminds me of an amusing translation error from twenty years ago. One battle in the war over the Falkland Islands was fought at a place called Goose Green. As I recall, the much-lamented magazine Encounter reported that every Spanish-language newspaper in the world except one mistranslated this as 'Ganso Verde', which actually means 'Green Goose': not the same thing at all. The one exception was a newspaper in Spain (La Nación, I think) that gave the correct rendition 'Prado de los Gansos', literally 'Meadow of the Geese'.
It's not surprising that the others got it wrong, since it's a particularly tricky phrase for Spanish speakers, for three reasons:
Of course, a green goose is a rather bizarre concept, so perhaps the various editors should have known to ask a native speaker.
Update: (9/9/03, 11:45 PM)
I'm sure Hoodie Craw and Mary Maloof (1st and 3rd comments) are right and Bustamante means 'sexton, gravedigger'. My own etymology was at least partly tongue-in-cheek, though I did want to believe that it could mean 'Hooterman'. 'Gravedigger' makes sense, since bustum (plural busta) is Latin for "tomb, grave" (originally the place where a body was burned and then buried) and Spanish is of course a direct descendant of Latin. But where does the second half (presumably either 'mante' or 'amante') come from? That still puzzles me.
Having some time to kill in my 14-hour school day (Parents' Night was 7:00 to 9:00), I took my classroom computer for a spin around some of the more respectable weblogs. Of course, in a secondary school, particularly a Catholic one, there will necessarily be some kind of 'net nanny' software enabled, so I did not even try to look at blogs known to show tasteless pictures, like The Gweilo Diaries or Curmudgeonly & Skeptical. I was still quite surprised to see which sites gave me the message beginning "[Site x] has been classified as pornography". That seems a bit of an exaggeration for Colby Cosh, though perhaps not entirely surprising, since his language is often obscene or profane.
Click on 'more' to see four more alleged purveyors of porn, each more surprising than the one before. I actually got the message five more times, but Marduk's Babylonian Musings hardly counts, since it's foul-mouthed (foul-keyboarded?) enough that I assumed it would be banned, and only checked because I was wondering whether the software was as incompetent in letting offensive sites through as it is in banning inoffensive sites. Apparently not.
The other four were:
There's nothing like a collection of epigrams, aphorisms, or apophthegms when you don't have time to read a real book. Lately I've been browsing in the Penguin translation of the Aphorisms of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799). Here are some samples from the first four of his twelve notebooks ('A' to 'D'), jotted down in 1765-1775:
Whenever he was required to use his reason he felt like someone who had always used his right hand but was now required to do something with his left. (B 1)
It requires no especially great talent to write in such a way that another will be very hard put to it to understand what you have written. (D 59)
That there are a hundred with wit for one with understanding is a true proposition with which many a witless Dummkopf consoles himself, when he should reflect -- if that is not too much to ask of a Dummkopf -- that there are also a hundred people possessing neither wit nor understanding for every one possessing wit. (C 12)
It is easy to construct a landscape out of a mass of disorderly lines, but disorderly sounds cannot be made into music. (A 40)
Anyone who had from childhood on known the masterpieces of the human mind would make an incredulous face if he read some of our moderns. It would seem to him like music played on an out-of-tune piano or on pots, pans and plates. (D 7)
Little did Lichtenberg know that musicians would one day write music for "prepared", i.e. intentionally out-of-tune, piano -- not to mention pots, pans and plates.
His most famous aphorism is probably this one:
The ass seems to me like the horse translated into Dutch. (H 37)
The Penguin translation, by R. J. Hollingdale, is readable and seems accurate, so far as I can judge, but has one huge flaw: instead of giving the numbers of the German editions, he has renumbered his selection sequentially. Only Notebook A is on the web (here), but anyone who wants to look up the German text of a particular aphorism there or in a book will have trouble finding it. For instance, A 40, quoted above, is A 141 in the German, and only easy to find because it is the last one in both text and translation. This is too bad, because aphorisms and epigrams are particularly useful in improving one's knowledge of a language.
An interesting side note is that Lichtenberg was one of a surprising number of eminent hunchbacks in western literature. One of my college teachers once observed that it was a remarkable coincidence that two of the greatest writers of the early 19th century were both hunchbacks. (Click on 'More' to see which two.) If I had any artistic talent, I would have made him a set of 'Great Hunchbacks of the Western World' trading cards, featuring those two, plus Quasimodo (of course) and Alexander Pope. Only later did I realize that Aesop and Lichtenberg (whom I never heard of until much later) could be added to make a set of six. There may be others.
(Mr. B. was referring to Kierkegaard and Leopardi.)
The new version of Dragnet seems a pretty typical cop show in most respects. So why does Sgt. Joe Friday keep quoting ancient authors? In a rerun I saw a few weeks ago it was Marcus Aurelius -- not the Greek, just an English translation. I was so flabbergasted I neglected to write it down. Last night (another rerun, but new to me) it was Tertullian, and in Latin: Veritas non erubescit, "the truth does not blush". He pronounced it Italian-style, with a hard V and an SH sound for the SC, but that's not too inappropriate for a Church Father. It wouldn't have been quite so disconcerting if Ed O'Neill, who plays the part of Joe Friday, were not irretrievably identified with his previous role as Al Bundy on Married With Children. Al Bundy as an L.A. police detective, maybe. But Al Bundy quoting Marcus Aurelius and Tertullian? Surely one of the signs of the Apocalypse.
If you're reading this, thank you for not losing faith after ten days without a post or a comment. After the blackout, Earthlink changed all their pathnames and that somehow locked me out of this site entirely. (My other site allowed me in, but refused to rebuild: all I had to do -- once I figured out the problem -- was change the pathnames in the configuration screen.) I will post something of substance later today for those few dozen readers who haven't already given up on me.
I probably would have gotten it fixed sooner if I hadn't moved to Baltimore on Monday and started my new job on Tuesday. Now I need to find an apartment.
Rochester is one of the many cities affected by what I suppose should be called 'The Great Blackout of 2003'. The local paper's website says 90% of the area has been affected, with the main exception the downtown area. In fact, my little corner of the suburbs (six or eight miles north of the city, a mile south of Lake Ontario and a mile west of the Genesee River) is unaffected. My power didn't even hiccup -- the computer's been on all day and hasn't rebooted. Maybe there's something to be said for living half a mile from a very large coal-powered powerplant.
I did have to drive 40 miles today, far to the west and then to the south of downtown and then back home, and saw only two functioning traffic lights out of twenty or more along the way. At one of them, a middle-aged man and his daughter (or perhaps trophy wife) were doing an excellent job of directing traffic, without any apparent qualifications. Staying on the interstate as much as possible helped a lot. Traffic was light, even at 6:00: apparently lots of people listened to the governor's exhortation to stay home. I didn't have much choice about going out, since I had rented a truck to put the second half of my stuff in my rented storeroom. I packed and loaded all day, then headed for the storeroom around 4:30. Since my power was on, I didn't know there was a problem until I started hitting the dead traffic lights on the way. For me, the most inconvenient thing (so far) about the power failure was waiting for the storage facility employee to manually open the electric gate. He used a forklift to get over the fence. It wasn't until I finished unloading and headed for the Penske compound to turn in my truck that I thought to turn on the radio: until then I had assumed the blackout was a local thing. DJs on several stations were blaming Canadian incompetence. The only gas station I saw open had huge lines, so I turned in the truck without gassing it up. The gauge read more than 'Full', but I left a note asking them not to charge me more than $2.00 per gallon for the shortfall, since the usual punitive charge would be unfair in the circumstances. I'll find out tomorrow whether they agree. If not, I'll never rent a Penske truck again. The Penske maintenance guys -- still there after the rental clerks go home -- had hooked up a generator on one truck to run their power tools while they fixed another.
The local paper's website worries that the PGA tournament that started today may be affected. I would have thought that a freaking golf game in which carts are forbidden would be less affected by power failure than just about any other human endeavor, but what do I know? I've never played the game.
I suppose my last-trip-to-Toronto-before-I-leave-the-area, scheduled for tomorrow, will have to be canceled or put off to Saturday: it sounds as if power is off for the entire city, maybe even the whole province. Speaking of leaving the area:
I have a job!
I had already planned to relocate to Baltimore this weekend and stay with relatives while I continued my job search, but have now found a job in Baltimore, which is convenient, since there's no hurry finding an apartment. It's also kind of annoying. After dozens of resumes, written applications, and telephone calls, and thousands of miles put on the car for in-person interviews in New Jersey, Long Island, and Delaware, I got a job with two ten-minute telephone interviews, because (a) the man doing the hiring knows my brother 'steevil' and his wife and kids (the nephews are all alumni), and (b) apparently no one else, or no one else qualified, had applied. So, starting the day after Labor Day I'll be teaching Latin at a Catholic high school in the Baltimore area. Thanks for the tip, 'steevil'! I go in Monday to sign a contract and Tuesday for orientation.
The mysterious and splenetic proprietor of Marduk's Babylonian Musings chastises the equally mysterious 'Hesiod', who tries to blame Arnold Schwarzenegger for his father's Nazism, and asks: "No skeletons in your family's closet, eh Hesiod?"
I think it's far more likely that 'Hesiod' is the skeleton in his family's closet, the black sheep of the entire 'Hesiod' clan. In fact, I wonder if his well-guarded anonymity has more to do with keeping his family happy than any fear of political repercussions. Years ago, someone told me that Douglas Macarthur had a son who (a) looked exactly like him and (b) was flamingly gay, and that the family paid him a large sum of money to change his name and forever conceal his connection with them. I have no reason to believe there is any truth to that story, but something similar (though non-sexual) may be going on with 'Hesiod'. I can just see poor old Mr. and Mrs. Smith, or Jones, or Van Houten, or Beavis, or Keinwitz, or Proktopoulos, or whatever Pseudo-Hesiod's real name is, comforting each other by saying "at least no one knows he has anything to do with us".
In one of his reviews (Classical Papers, 2.517), A. E. Housman quotes two famously bad literal translations of passages of ancient literature:
Some bald renderings there are which even scholars will pardon: when Mr Paley sings 'It is present to me to feel the chill, the very severe chill, of a hostile public executioner', or Mr Buckley 'They cut off his ears and nostrils with the sharp brass; but he, injured in his feelings, went about, enduring that calamity with a frantic mind', scholars are as grateful as other folk; . . . .
I've run across the originals of both passages, but can no longer remember where, though I think the first is from Aeschylus, either Libation-Bearers or Eumenides.
Curmudgeonly & Skeptical reports:
. . . the La Crosse, WI, City Council will appeal a ruling in which a federal judge ordered the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from a city park. In ordering the city to remove the monument, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said "it made some community members feel they did not belong in La Crosse unless they followed Judeo-Christian traditions," and "The First Amendment guarantees persons of all faiths that the government will treat them with equal concern and respect . . . ."
You'd think that someone so hostile to Christianity that he or she can't stand to even see the Ten Commandments on public display is unlikely to spend much time in a town called 'La Crosse'. The word doesn't actually mean 'cross' in French -- that would be 'La Croix' -- but (a) it almost inevitably brings thoughts of crosses to mind for any English speaker, and (b) it means crozier, which is of course a cross on a stick carried by (or before) Christian (ick!) bishops (eek!). It also means rifle-butt (oh no!) or hockey-stick (eeew!), which are almost as shamelessly phallogocentric.
Back before she was murdered, I used to joke about how Madeleine Murray O'Hair would one day sue to change the names of St. Louis, St. Paul, and St. Augustine, and (if she took up the study of Spanish late in life), San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Las Cruces, Sacramento, and dozens of smaller cities. Now I'm not so sure someone won't do that in my lifetime. Once they take care of the New Testament, they can start on the Old Testament: Salem, Boaz, Bethesda, and so on.
Random Jottings and others have made fun of the latest Paul Krugman column, in which the random jotter (John Weidner) points to "a couple of howlers":
In one he claims that our soldiers are swapping food packs or M.R.E.'s (meals ready to eat) with Italian troops. Being an economist you would think he would do some research and find out the U.S./Italian food ration "exchange rate."
I think Weidner's point can be sharpened: unless Italian soldiers are remarkably stupid, either MREs aren't all that bad, or Italian rations aren't all that good: in any case, they can't be much better than MREs, or no one would trade them at any exchange rate. After all, if Italian troops were lunching on lobster and champagne, snacking on truffles, and dining on filet mignon while American troops subsisted on the proverbial "greasy grimy gopher guts", "mutilated monkey meat", and "disconnected birdy feet", how would any American soldier ever have been able to convince any single Italian soldier to trade food even once? Did Krugman even think about what he wrote, or does he not care how implausible it is as long as he can bash Bush? In short, is he dumb enough to believe this, or does he think we're dumb enough to believe it? (He probably thinks our soldiers don't have spoons, either.)
Correction: (8/14, 11:50 PM)
As Dwight Meredith points out in the first comment, Krugman does not actually say that American troops were trading MREs for Italian food. If the New York Times hadn't rejected my last attempt to register for access, I would have been able to check for myself.
Of course, my gross factual error does not excuse Krugman's errors, though my particular line of argument is vitiated. I am curious as to what Krugman thinks our soldiers are trading away: surely not their weapons or vehicles or anything else essential. And if they have things to trade that the well-fed Italians want enough to give up some of their scrumptious food, they can't be all that ill-supplied, can they? Unless they're trading away the home-baked cookies their moms send them.
It's worth noting that Chief Wiggles, who is on the scene, has traded MREs for empanadas and other delicacies with the crew of a Spanish ship. He was surprised that they would want his "dogfood": perhaps the Spaniards don't want to eat the MREs, just display them back home as samples of horrible American cuisine. Phil Carter of Intel Dump gives a much better-informed review of Krugman's claim: scroll down to "Prof. Krugman: 'Critics, do your homework!'" if the direct link doesn't work.
The 4-CD album 50 Years of Bluegrass Hits (copyright 1992) contains 100 tracks, and, if I'm not mistaken, a total of one (1) datable political event. What is it? Not very helpful clues: the song is 'White House Blues' and has nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln.
Note: I almost wrote "one datable historical event", but the Wreck of the Old 97 certainly happened -- I've seen a photo of the wreckage -- and there is likely to be some truth behind the stories of John Henry's contest with the steamhammer, the murder of poor Ellen Smith, and the horserace between Tenbrooks and Molly.
The assassination of President McKinley in 1901, 41 years before the beginning of the "50 years" in the album title. Apparently no political event since then made enough of an impression to have a hit song written about it. McKinley lingered on for eight days after he was shot, and in some versions (not the one on this album) the song advises Mrs. McKinley to hurry up and cash his paycheck while it's still valid.
I mean moving without any help, not boreblogging: I'll never be too old for that.
I copied that last post from my other site, the one with my real name on it. Apologies to the three or four people who read both.
Friday brought my first Lileks link, which doubled my visitors and pageviews for the day and tripled my hits and bytes. I should have welcomed the new readers with new material, and I've got plenty to say, but posting has been sparse since I'm still packing up to move. I've extended my lease from tonight to Wednesday night, and will extend it again to Friday when the office opens tomorrow. Fortunately, the landlord hasn't rented it out yet, so he's glad to get the extra bits of money. I moved half my stuff to a rented storeroom on Friday: 101 bankers' boxes and one larger box, all full of books, eight boxes of CDs, three four-drawer file cabinets (full, though I had to half-empty them to move them, and then fill them up again), eight bookshelves, three CD shelves, one armchair and matching footstool -- just the right ratio of books and music to basic furniture. I was hoping to get the rest sorted and packed yesterday and today, but have been too wiped out to get much done. No aching muscles or bruises, just complete blahs: perhaps I've come down with something. The hour I wasted waiting for Rent a Wreck to come fix their damned truck didn't help: it would have been nice if they'd told me up front not to use the emergency brake, since it can only be released by crawling underneath. Did I mention it was 82 degrees and sunny, and I am bald and was hatless?
Assuming I get everything moved out Thursday, I'll be relocating to Baltimore Friday, though probably not for long. Anyone there up for a blogbash? My hemi-semi-demi-blogbash with the Cranky Professor on Monday was a lot of fun.
Footnote to Housman
To reach the top flight as a poet
you must write an unreadable work,
so obscure that your friends will forgo it
and all but the bravest will shirk.
Then the few who have read it, begrudging
the waste of exertion entailed,
will claim it's essential for judging
how far you've succeeded or failed.
From admiring their own persistence
they'll come to admiring the screed
and claim that it stands at a distance
from works that are easy to read;
while the reader who skipped it is able
to pretend he enjoyed it himself,
and leave it about on his table,
and show it with pride on his shelf.
It was Housman who worst neglected
the force of this critical rule,
with result that his faults are detected
by infants who read him at school,
while we who admire him, defenceless,
lack some pompier twaddle to quote
and can find nothing prolix or senseless
to claim as the best thing he wrote.
To learn from the fault he committed
is the first of poetical cares.
Lucid intervals may be admitted,
but be lucid the whole time who dares.
This is from Charles Johnston, Selected Poems, London, 1985. I suspect that Johnston chose the limerickacious meter to reflect his anti-pretentious meaning. I had to look up pompier, which is (appropriately enough) a pompous, and French, word for 'pompous'. I'm still not sure how to read the word 'read' in the last line of the fifth stanza: is it present tense (rhymes with 'reed') or past (rhymes with 'red')? Do infants detect Housman's poetic faults while they are reading him in school, or only later, looking back?
Lynn S. of Reflections in d minor objects to people who say 'concertos' and 'cellos' instead of 'concerti' and 'celli' (scroll down to the second-to-last paragraph). If she wants to tease such people in person, she can always serve them a nice meal of veal scallopinos, with broccolos and zucchinos on the side and maybe some pennas or rotinos for the pasta.
In one of a series of fascinating posts (scroll down to 'More on Baader-Meinhof'), Oliver Kamm mentions that one of the terrorists who hijacked a planeload of hostages in Entebbe in 1976 turned out to be a "well-known and much-admired" German leftist named Wilfried Boese. That's the perfect name for a terrorist, since 'Boese' means 'evil' or 'wicked' in German -- more than just 'bad' --, as in Nietzsche's Jenseits von Gut und Böse or Beyond Good and Evil. At least, I think we can assume that's what it means: 'oe' and 'ö' are pretty much interchangeable in German names, as are 'ae' and 'ä' and 'ue' and 'ü': the umlaut (double dot) was originally a tiny e written above the other vowel. Müller and Mueller are certainly different forms of the same name, as are Fraenkel and Fränkel, and the same is likely to be true of 'Boese' and 'Böse'. If I'm right, Herr Boese's name makes him sound like a less educated German equivalent of Dr. Evil. Can any native speaker confirm whether his name would sound significant to a German?
It's far from the most important question to ask a likely governor of California, but some of us language scholars want to know where Arnold Schwarzenegger got his name. 'Schwarz' or 'schwarze' is German for 'black' (the adjective), and 'Neger' is German for 'Negro' (the noun), that is, black African. 'Negger' with two Gs doesn't seem to have any meaning in standard German, so it seems extremely likely to be a dialect form of 'Neger', especially with 'Schwarze' before it. In sum, it looks as if 'Schwarzenegger' is redundantly emphatic and means 'black Negro'. (Perhaps not absolutely redundant: I was about to write "as if there were any other kind", but I suppose the name would exclude albinos of sub-Saharan African ancestry.)
So how did the visibly white Mr. Schwarzenegger get such an inappropriate surname? From his father, presumably, who got it from his father, who got it from his father, and so on. But somewhere along the line, it must have been new. Just as a Müller is likely to have had a small-m miller of grain somewhere in his ancestry, and a Klein (= 'Little') is likely to have had a very short ancestor at the time when surnames first became fashionable, it looks as if the future governor of California ought to have at least one African ancestor, in the male line. Such a forebear would have to be fairly far back to leave him so pale, though such racial mixing was surely extremely rare in Austria up to the last few decades -- not to mention quite dangerous in the Nazi period. Long before that, it may well have been socially acceptable, but Africans in Austria must have been few and far between until recently, especially since Austria never had a colonial empire. On the other hand, the Russian poet Pushkin (1799-1837) was one-eighth Ethiopian, so such marriages are occasionally heard of as far back as the early 17th century. Then again, perhaps the name is some kind of joke, as Katzenellenbogen (which means "Cats' Elbows") is reputed to be. If not, would Schwarzenegger (assuming he is elected) be the first African-(Austrian)-American governor of California?
Update: (8/7, 11:55 AM)
For those too lazy to read the comments:
It appears I have fallen into an error common among medieval scribes: misdivision. Terry Oglesby of Possumblog gives a link showing that the name is not Schwarze-Negger, with a mysterious extra G, but Schwarzen-Egger, "black plowman". That makes a lot of sense, and in that case 'black' presumably means either dark-haired or relatively dark-complected, with no reference to African ancestry.
Just to salvage something from this post: when I worked in a record store years ago, one of the employees liked to refer to Elisabeth Schwartzkopf as 'Betty Blackhead'. Of course the name has nothing to do with pimples, just dark hair.
Mysterious St. Louis blogger 'marc', who used to call his site Juan Gato's Bucket of Rants (subtitle: 'Bunch of Crap from a Moron'), then The Shallow End, has changed it again to Stuff I Posted, but is looking for a better title. A post on Electric Venom includes the perfect name. Too bad it's already taken and (I assume) a registered trademark: it's the name of a Scottish beer recently named 'Best Beer in Britain': Bitter and Twisted. Note to 'marc': the beer is described as "refreshingly hoppy", not refreshingly happy, so there's no problem there.
Christopher Hitchens has amused some and offended others with his vicious obituary of Bob Hope. (Can we say he put the 'bit(u)' in 'obituary'? The joke doesn't work very well in print.)
I found this challenge interesting:
Quick, then—what is your favorite Bob Hope gag? It wouldn't take you long if I challenged you on Milton Berle, or Woody Allen, or John Cleese, or even (for the older customers) Lenny Bruce or Mort Sahl. By this time tomorrow, I bet you haven't come up with a real joke for which Hope could take credit.
I don't watch a lot of standup and never have, but as a matter of fact I couldn't recall a single joke by any of these if you put a gun to my head, with two exceptions: if you gave me an hour, I could come up with two or three by Woody Allen, and right off the top of my head I recall one and only one by Bob Hope. That may not be much, but the only time I can recall watching him at all was fifteen minutes of a USO show in what must have been Gulf War I. So what was the joke? A one-liner about a man who "majored in Animal Husbandry in college -- until they caught him at it and expelled him".
It's the kind of obvious joke that has no doubt occurred to many independently, and I can't honestly call it a great one, but I still remember it twelve years after I heard him tell it, and that ought to be worth something.
I found this on Not a Fish.
Now back to packing and throwing stuff out: I have to be out of my apartment by midnight a week from today.