August 22, 2004
U Too Can Make A Difference

On Friday, Hugh Hewitt wrote of John Kerry:

Americans don't tolerate posers, especially posers who keep changing the pose.

Of course, if there's one thing Americans find more intolerable than a poser, it's a poseur.

It's odd that the French spelling is so common even in English, despite the fact that we have a perfectly adequate English form. So much more common that the American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition) actually defines 'poser' as meaning 'poseur', with no further explanation. Apparently there's something peculiarly French about the whole idea of being "One who affects a particular attribute, attitude, or identity to impress or influence others", which is what we find when we go to 'poseur'.

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*Most French words and phrases commonly used in English -- camembert, ratatouille, bouillabaise (I had to look up the spelling of that one), je ne sais quoi, ménage à trois -- have no vernacular equivalent. Those that do are usually shorter and more convenient and often provide usefully differentiated shades of meaning, e.g. café vs. coffeeshop or resumé vs. curriculum vitae. In the last example the French form is actually less pretentious. Of course, the non-French form is polysyllabic Latin rather than simple Anglo-Saxon. I don't suppose Angles and Saxons put much stock in paper credentials when hiring.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:43 AM
August 18, 2004
Quotation Of The Day

Francesco Petrarca (1346):

Divine favour has freed me from most human passions, but one insatiable lust remains which hitherto I have been neither able nor willing to master. I cannot get enough books. Perhaps I already have more than I need; but it is with books as it is with other things: success in acquisition spurs the desire to find still more. Books, indeed, have a special charm. Gold, silver, gems, purple raiment, a house of marble, a well-tilled field, paintings, a steed with splendid trappings: things such as these give us only a silent and superficial pleasure. Books delight us profoundly, they speak to us, they give us good counsel, they enter into an intimate companionship with us.

This is from a letter written in 1346. If anyone has the original text, presumably either Latin or Italian, I would appreciate a copy. An exact date would be almost as good. I only know this from an advertisement of The Petrarch Press, xeroxed by a friend many years ago. A friend, I should say, who has gone even further down the road from bibliophilia to biblioholism.

The list of desirable things needs only a little revision for contemporaries: most of us would rather have a Porsche or a Rolls Royce than even the finest steed, and most of us wouldn't be caught dead wearing purple clothes, which are no more expensive than other colors today if we do want them.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:22 PM
August 17, 2004
Saying More Than They Know?

In a recent 'Best of PL', Power Line noted the 'visceral hatred' of many on the Left for George W. Bush. The word 'viscera' comes from the Latin word for 'guts': viscera, plural like 'guts', pronounced 'whisker-uh'. I wonder if in some cases this 'visceral' hatred is like penis envy: do some opponents hate Bush because he has viscera, and they don't?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:09 PM
Lileks Eats Dirt!

In today's Bleat, James Lileks wrote:

Buying things makes me happy. I go to the store, I buy humus, I come home, eat the humus: I am happy. You could say itís the eating, not the buying, that makes me happy; perhaps. But the fact that I can buy the humus instead of make My Woman spend all day slaving over . . . over . . . a hot humus maker, whatever, makes me happy. And itís not just plain humus the store sells Ė they have ten varieties from two different companies, each chasing that narrow slice of discriminating humus-client who is willing to take a chance on the new humus with lime and basil. I have more humus options than a 19th century Turkish sultan.

Someone must have tipped him off, or perhaps he reread the piece after a good night's sleep, but he has now corrected the paragraph to read 'hummus' instead of 'humus' throughout.

Quite rightly, too. Although Dictionary.com gives 'humus' as one possible spelling for the tasty chickpea dip, the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary lists only 'hummus', 'hoummos', 'houmous', and 'humous'. Since 'humus' (pronounced HYOO-mus) is the only possible spelling -- it comes straight from Latin -- for "The organic constituent of soil, formed by the decomposition of plant materials" (SOED), it seems best not to spell 'hummus' that way, whatever Dictionary.com may say. Especially not for those of us who read Lileks over breakfast.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:57 AM
A Worthy Cause

The motto on INDC Journal's donation button is:

Support Moonbat Research

Before I contribute to such a worthy cause, I need to know one thing: This research doesn't involve vivisection, does it? My moral principles will not allow me to contribute unless it does.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:38 AM
Brilliant Pun or Typographical Error?

Both, actually.

Irving Kristol once remarked (Commentary 54.5, November 1972): "The decline of belief in personal immortality has been the most important political fact of the last one hundred years."

Some years later, The New Republic misquoted this as referring to "The decline of belief in personal immorality" (emphasis added, of course). I can't prove it, since I have no idea of the author or date (1980s or early '90s?) and the article doesn't seem to be on the web, but I remember thinking at the time "Yeah, that too -- they would tend to go together". Pedant that I am, I even used the phrase pari passu. Was I right? Are believers in personal immortality more likely to think they need to work on improving their general moral behavior, while non-believers work on their abs or their sex lives or their bank accounts or just sit around feeling they're plenty good enough as is?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:35 AM
August 14, 2004
Quotation Of The Day

Ludwig von Mises:

Wes Brot ich ess, das Lied ich sing.

Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.

I don't know where I read this, just that I jotted it down on a scrap of paper years ago.

In preparing to move, I'm going through boxes of extremely miscellaneous papers throwing out whatever needs to be thrown out: roughly 100 pounds so far. I've never had time to do that in my previous 15 or so moves, though I did last time pack seven large boxes labeled 'Crap I' through 'Crap VII', which actually contained unstable and fine-grained mixtures of crap, non-crap, and hard-to-say-whether-it's-crap-or-not. Some of the discards are easy, for instance tax instruction booklets (sometimes with duplicates!) going back to 1977. I'm keeping the actual tax forms, partly to track the interesting fluctuations in my income, but a half-hour's work slimmed down my tax file from more than a foot thick to less than three inches. Telephone bills from 1982 were only interesting in reminding me that I routinely spent over $100 a month back then on long-distance telephone calls. Thank you, deregulation and the Internet! I even found a page of code I wrote to insert into a Basic program at a company I worked for from 1978 to 1982, but that only survived because I wrote something more important on the back 5 or 10 or 15 (who knows?) years later. Should I scan it and post it? Probably not.

So what does all this have to do with von Mises? It's simple: I finally know what to do with interesting quotations jotted down on scraps of paper, when the quotations don't fall into an easily fileable category: put them on the web and throw the hard-copy away.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 02:09 PM
Just A Coincidence, I Hope

InstaPundit points us to this note in The American Thinker:

The current issue of the Hoover Institution's Policy Review has the first English translation of a remarkable document ("Outline of a Doctrine of French Policy") written in 1945 by French philosopher Alexander Kojève, and given to Charles de Gaulle. This appears to have become a guiding light to French diplomats and politicians over the last 60 years.

'Ed' continues with a brief summary of the document, which is on-line here. (Thanks, Policy Review!) Elsewhere in the same issue, Robert Howse provides a longer analysis, "Kojèveís Latin Empire".

What neither InstaPundit, nor Ed, nor Robert Howse mentions is that Kojève was apparently a Soviet agent for 30 years, including when he wrote the article. At least so says The New Criterion (18.3, November 1999, 2-3), and they don't seem to be in the habit of making stuff up. They attribute the discovery to "Daniel Johnson . . . in the London Daily Telegraph", but I have been unable to find the original article on the Telegraph's website with their irritatingly unhelpful search function. The New Criterion's site seems to be down for maintenance today, so I don't know whether their story is on-line either. In any case, it does not give the evidence for Kojève's career as an agent of Stalin and his successors.

I've only read bits of Kojève's "Outline" so far, but did run across one amusing and (I'm sure) unintentional pun. He refers to the Soviet Union more than once as the "Slavo-Soviet Empire". Is that "Slavo-" with a short A, referring to Slavs, or with a long A, referring to slaves? Surely the former, and the pun must not be there at all in the French, where Slavs are 'Slaves' but slaves are 'esclaves'. However, it sounds right to me both ways.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 01:53 PM
August 13, 2004
John Alden Kerry?

The Man Without Qualities notes that Kerry is hiding behind his biographer:

It's interesting that Senator Kerry is not reported to be planning to personally refute his Christmas-in-Cambodia critics with this revised story, but is running it through Mr. Brinkley. All the better if the story requires further supplementing!

It looks like the Bush campaign can quote another great Bay Stater: "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?"

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:33 PM
An Odd Coincidence

I always thought that the members of the U.S. military sent to fight in Viet Nam were required to serve a full twelve months, and that they could not expect to come home even one day earlier than the 365th day unless they did so in a coffin, on a stretcher, or (for those caught fragging their officers or slaughtering civilians) in handcuffs and leg-irons. No doubt there are exceptions to every rule, but it's odd that the last two Democratic nominees for president have both been exceptions to this one: in fact, they served less than the standard full year between them.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:22 PM
August 08, 2004
An Amusing Coinage

The specific link doesn't seem to work, but in her last post on August 6th, Judith Weiss of Kesher Talk refers to "misogynistic and zenophobic hatred and violence". Fear of foreigners is 'xenophobia', with an X. Zenophobia would be 'fear of Zeno', very rare outside philosophy departments. Even inside them, it could mean fear of Zeno of Elea, who proved (or 'proved') that motion is impossible using the parable of Achilles and the Tortoise, or Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism. Personally, I can see being a little queasy about either or both, but a full-blown phobia is overdoing it.

Zeno is one of the few ancient author names that always has a qualifier attached, since the two Zenos are equally famous, or close enough to cause confusion. The only similar name I can think of offhand is Apollonius: to distinguish them, the Hellenistic epic poet is generally called Apollonius of Rhodes (or Apollonius Rhodius), the mathematician who wrote on conic sections Apollonius of Perga (or Perge). There are actually quite a few other Zenos and Apollonii, but two of each are distinctly more famous than the rest.

Nomenclatural ambiguity affects Roman authors in a different way. Most Romans had three names, which should have reduced the possibilities for confusion. The first (praenomen) was the personal name, like a modern first name, the second (nomen) the family or clan name, and the third (cognomen) was used to distinguish branches of the same family. Thus Marcus Tullius Cicero and Quintus Tullius Cicero were brothers, members of the Cicero branch of the Tullius family, while Titus Livius (the historian Livy) only had two names, since he came from a small town where there were only a few other Livii. The same cognomen was routinely used in more than one family, so both nomen and cognomen might be needed to avoid confusion. When the number of people with the same nomen and cognomen grew too large, a father could give his sons new cognomina, thus starting new subfamilies of the greater clan.

This brings us back to the famous names. Scholars refer to eminent Romans by nomen or cognomen, whichever is more distinctive. Some have two uncommon names, so Publius Vergilius Maro could be either Vergil or Maro, Publius Ovidius Naso either Ovid or Naso, and Marcus Tullius Cicero either Tully or Cicero. For the last few centuries, they have been Vergil (or Virgil), Ovid, and Cicero, respectively, but older books often called them by the other names, especially Tully.

Some authors had less distinctive names. The two Varros are usually called by their hometowns, like the Greeks already mentioned. Marcus Terentius Varro ('Varro of Reate') was an antiquarian polymath and satirist, Publius Terentius Varro Atacinus ('Varro of Atax') an epic poet, who, as it happens, did a Latin version of Apollonius of Rhodes' epic on Jason, Medea, and the Golden Fleece, the Argonautica. Too bad very little of either's works survives. On the other hand, Catullus (Gaius Valerius Catullus) and Martial (Gaius Valerius Martialis) are always called by their cognomina, since they have the same nomen (and were therefore distant cousins), while Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) and the satirist Persius (Aules Persius Flaccus) are called by their nomina, since they have the same cognomen. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to tell them apart. Poor Gaius Valerius Flaccus, who wrote yet another Argonautica, is always called Valerius Flaccus, because it's the only way to tell the difference between him and the various other Valerii and Flacci.

Perhaps I'd better stop here: I think I've gone over my pedantry quota for the day.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 06:34 PM
Cheesy Behavior

A few days ago, Power Line reported on a potential First Lady's unusual taste in sandwiches:

On their way to a late appearance in Dubuque, Iowa, Kerry and his wife stopped at Baumgartner's tavern in Monroe, Wis., where Teresa Heinz Kerry ordered a Limburger cheese sandwich with raw onions and mustard on rye bread.

Limburger is well-known to cartoon-watchers as the foulest-smelling cheese know to man, which makes it an unusually pungent choice for someone in the middle of a political campaign. Raw onions don't exactly help when you're meeting new people by the hundreds and trying to get them to like you and your husband. There seem to be only three possibilities to explain THK's choice of sandwiches:

  1. Billionaires have access to unusually effective brands of toothpaste and mouthwash, and perhaps to other oral hygiene technology unknown to ordinary mortals.
  2. She wasn't planning on getting close to -- much less kissing, on the cheeks or elsewhere -- any other human being that day.
  3. She just didn't care who might be offended, as long as she could eat what she wanted. Who would dare criticize the breath of a billionaire and potential First Lady? (Other than pseudonymous bloggers, I mean.)

I once bought a hunk of Limburger in Bowling Green, Ohio, where the cheese selection was severely limited. It was the only kind the grocery store had that I hadn't already tried. Knowing that Gorgonzola is like Blue cheese squared, I foolishly imagined that Limburger would be something like Gorgonzola squared or even cubed, that is, an extremely concentrated version of an otherwise acceptable flavor, and was looking forward to trying it. When I got home and opened the package I learned that the problem with Limburger is not the quantity of the flavor so much as its quality. It smelled like something you might find between your toes after you had been bathless for a week and dead for three days after that, "truly, absolutely and irrevocably foul", as a this amusing page puts it. I will gladly eat almost any kind of cheese, including St. Felicien, whose bright orange mold looks exactly the same as the stuff growing in the corners of the bathtub in my 4th-to-last apartment, but I had to throw the Limburger away -- wrapping it in several resealable baggies first. My kitchen still stank for days afterwards. And I didn't even have onions with mine.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 05:19 PM
August 06, 2004
The Two-Color Rainbow

Thanks to a post by Tacitus on Red State, I've finally seen the picture of Glenn Reynolds in his Celebrate-Diversity-by-Buying-All-Kinds-of-Guns T-shirt -- the one that has Dumb and Dumber (Atrios and Steve Gilliard) all riled up. Here is a copy:

(Blogspot links often don't work and I prefer not to link to Atrios or Gilliard, but their posts are dated 8/3 at 7:22 PM and 8/4 at 12:00:12 AM, respectively.)

Gilliard quotes Atrios with approval:

The colors of the caption are commonly used pan-African colors: red, yellow, and greeen.

Both claim that the supposed color scheme represents a symbolic urge to kill black people. Of course, neither of these bozos seems to have noticed that the picture, which Gilliard posts on his blog, does not in fact have a red, yellow, and green (or 'greeen') caption. The colors are white ('celebrate') and yellow ('diversity'), and the combination of white and yellow has nothing to do with Africa.

Press 'More' to see the sinister secret meaning of these two colors.

White and yellow are the colors of the Vatican flag:

So, is Glenn Reynolds working for the Pope? His positive views on pornography would argue against, but perhaps he's under very deep cover as an agent of Popish plots.

Of course, Atrios and Gilliard are probably dumb enough, or dishonest enough, to switch gears and claim that white letters over yellow represent European oppression of Asians from the Opium Wars right up to the present day. The rest of us will think that they're the two colors that show up best on a black background, and that using both together is more eye-catching than either one by itself.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:51 AM
August 02, 2004
Brainstorm

Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine notes that one of the proposed new internet domain names is .blogs. He's against, as am I, but it did make me think. Consider these three facts:

  1. The internet is looking to add more domains to relieve nomenclatural congestion.
  2. One reason for the congestion is the huge percentage of crap on the internet.
  3. European soccer leagues ('football', if you prefer) periodically promote the best minor-league teams to the majors, and demote or 'relegate' the worst major-league teams to the minors.

Putting these three facts together, I wonder whether we need a new .crap domain, with some method of relegating the worst websites to it, so they won't keep cluttering up .com, .net, .org, .edu, and the various national domains. I don't imagine many site-owners would move voluntarily.

Note: I'm kidding, though it is fun to think of candidates for relegation.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:29 PM