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Tuesday: June 30, 2009

It’s On The Tip Of My Cerebrum

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:45 PM GMT-0500

One of the recurring minor characters in Brave New World is Benito Hoover. Somehow that name reminds me of a prominent contemporary politician. If I could only think who . . . .

Sunday: June 21, 2009

One in Sixty Million or So

Filed under: — site admin @ 9:31 PM GMT-0500

The Perseus Collection of Greek and Roman Materials provides a convenient list of Word Counts by Language. As of half an hour ago, the totals were:

(42,956,587 words)
(2,001 words)
(426,929 words)
(8,263,757 words)
(178 words)
(9,244,457 words)
Old English
(1 word)
(3,318 words)

I want to know how a single word of Old English slipped in among the tens of millions in other languages, why it isn’t listed among the ‘Other’ languages, and — most important — what word is it?

Friday: June 19, 2009

Are My Tastes Hopelessly Proletarian?

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:03 PM GMT-0500

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell twice quotes a song popular among the proles of his imagined future, “composed without any human intervention whatever on an instrument known as a versificator”. He calls it “dreadful rubbish” and a “driveling song”, but it seems to me that it would fit right in to the Great American Songbook. Of course, we cannot judge the music, but I have certainly heard worse words. Here are the lyrics, with the proletarian (Cockney) mispronunciations edited out:

It was only a hopeless fancy,
It passed like an April day,
But a look and a word and the dreams they stirred
They have stolen my heart away!

They say that time heals all things,
They say you can always forget;
But the smiles and the tears across the years
They twist my heartstrings yet!

(George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, II.iv and II.x)

It is not deep, but other than the awkward rhythm of the fifth line, I don’t see anything embarrassingly wrong with it. Do I need a taste-bud transplant?


Filed under: — site admin @ 9:11 PM GMT-0500

I have gotten comments working for the first time in months. That should make blogging more fun, and therefore more frequent. Watch this space. (Comments are moderated, so don’t expect them to appear instantly.)

Sunday: June 14, 2009

So Far, So . . . So-So?

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:50 PM GMT-0500

As of 6:00 pm Eastern time yesterday, we are one-tenth of the way through the Obama administration — one-twentieth if he manages to get himself reelected, though that seems less likely with every passing day.

Saturday: June 6, 2009

Quotation of the Day

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:34 PM GMT-0500

An English English professor — I mean an Englishman who is also a professor of English — mocks the hard sciences to a mathematician:

A great poet is always timely. A great philosopher is an urgent need. There’s no rush for Isaac Newton. We were quite happy with Aristotle’s cosmos. Personally, I preferred it. Fifty-five crystal spheres geared to God’s crankshaft is my idea of a satisfying universe. I can’t think of anything more trivial than the speed of light. Quarks, quasars — big bangs, black holes — who gives a shit? How did you people con us out of all that status? All that money? And why are you so pleased with yourselves?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I’d push the lot of you over a cliff myself. Except the one in the wheelchair, I think I’d lose the sympathy vote before people had time to think it through.

(Tom Stoppard, Arcadia, Scene 5)