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Sunday: February 17, 2008

Choice of Synonyms

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:41 PM GMT-0500

Ann Althouse writes of Sen. Charles Schumer:

He would not commit to any principle other than avoiding an “internecine” battle. Clearly, he came to Tim Russert’s table ready to use the word “internecine” to fend off efforts to get him to debate what the right rule is about the superdelegates and the Florida and Michigan delegates. I’m suspicious of people who suddenly start using and reusing a word that people don’t normally say. Schumer didn’t even know how to pronounce it.

Too bad he didn’t use the word ‘intestine’ instead — the rare adjective, I mean, not the common noun. It would have reminded us all of what he’s full of.

Saturday: February 16, 2008

Psychological Warfare

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:35 PM GMT-0500

Barack Obama’s weirdly Messianic campaign could conceivably turn out to be useful in the War on Terror. Why not start a rumor that he’s the Twelfth Imam? That should freak out Ahmadinejad and his millennarian terrorist buddies. How better to be a ‘Hidden’ Imam than to arrange to be born in Hawaii, insist that you are not a Muslim, and run for presidency of the Great Satan? An imam can’t get much more hidden than that.

Comic Hyperbaton

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:26 PM GMT-0500

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen this in manuals of rhetoric or lists of figures of speech, but these three sentences all use the same rhetorical trick:

  1. Nice we’re having weather, isn’t it?
  2. What’s a girl like you doing in a nice place like this?
  3. I’ve got high friends in places all over time.

The last is the title of one of the three good songs on what is apparently the only album by Scott McQuaig. Can anyone quote more examples? I have a feeling I’ve forgotten one or two.

How Not To Write Persuasive Penis Enlargement Spam

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:19 PM GMT-0500

The spam that fills my in-box is not only unwanted but remarkably inept. Here are a couple of things to avoid:

  1. Describing the results of using your product as “incredible” or “unbelievable”. Or is this a clever legal defense against disappointed and litigious customers? “We specifically said that our claims were ‘incredible’, your honor.”
  2. Promising “no more paid sex”. Some men like to be paid for sex. How do they expect us to pay our rent?

Of course, if they had either the brains or the diligence required for success in a more respectable line of work, they wouldn’t be spamming, would they?

A Favorite Passage

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:56 PM GMT-0500

Randall Jarrell describes a student art exhibit at a fictional women’s college (“Benson”):

The students had learned all the new ways to paint something (an old way, to them, was a way not to paint something) but thye had not had anything to paint. The paintings were paintings of nothing at all. It did not seem possible to you that so many things could have happened to a piece of canvas in vain. You looked at a painting and thought, “It’s an imitation Arshile Gorky; it’s casein and aluminum paint on canvasboard, has been scratched all over with a razor blade, and then was glazed–or scumbled, perhaps–with several transparent oil washes.” And when you had said this there was no more for you to say. If you had given a Benton student a pencil and a piece of paper, and asked her to draw something, she would have looked at you in helpless astonishment: it would have been plain to her that you knew nothing about art. By the time a Benton artist got through exploiting the possibilities of her medium, it was too dark to do anything else that day; and most of the students never learned that there was anything else to do.

(Pictures from an Institution, Chapter 6, “Art Night”, section 2)

I was reminded of this by A. C. Douglas’ comments (here and here) on a contemporary composer’s desciption of how he composes his works. He may be a bit unfair to the composer, who does imply that he has to have an idea before he can tinker with it.

Monday: February 11, 2008

Two Truths in One

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:55 PM GMT-0500

Today’s Yahoo news story titled “Record cold for northern Minn.: 40 below” begins with this paragraph:

It lived up to its name: The temperature in International Falls fell to 40 below zero Monday, just a few days after the northern Minnesota town won a federal trademark making it officially the “Icebox of the Nation.”

Of course, that’s not living up to its name, its living up to its nickname or subtitle or trademark. But International Falls did live up to its actual name, even if Yahoo didn’t notice. As the name implies, the town is right on the Canadian border, and -40o is the only temperature that is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius, so for one day Americans in International Falls and Canadians across the river in Fort Frances could agree on the temperature. If only Global Warming could somehow stretch out those cheap foreign miles (so-called ‘kilometers’) and make them as long as American miles . . . .

Saturday: February 9, 2008

We’ll Probably Never Know

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:58 AM GMT-0500

If such a wager were feasible, I would be willing to bet that somewhere in the world is a set of parents who think themselves very clever for naming their twin children Aaron and Erin.

Friday: February 8, 2008

Comprehension Dawns

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:11 PM GMT-0500

I moved from Baltimore to Raleigh 2 1/2 years ago, and ever since the local road system has seemed off somehow. I finally figured out why: the main east-west routes in Baltimore are U.S. 40 and I-70, while in Raleigh they are I-40 and U.S. 70. I wonder how many other pairs of cities have a similar reciprocal correspondence.

Won’t Someone Think of the Children?

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:08 PM GMT-0500

Roger L. Simon has a suggestion: “why don’t we just take Ann Coulter and Howard Dean and lock them up in a room together until this election is over?” Surely the answer is obvious: because they might reproduce.