Aug 22 2017

Politics and the Language of Soccer/Football

Texas wildflowers

Politics and the Language of Soccer/Football

From “What sets Germany’s ‘liberal’ FDP apart” at Deutsche Welle news on August 11, 2017:

While both German liberals and US libertarians want a smaller state, most FDP members reject the notion they are libertarians because the term is often associated with radically anti-government views. “I don’t bend down to American terminology, it is not historically adequate,” Paque said. “Just like I don’t call football ‘soccer’ just because Americans call it that.”

Compare George Orwell (1903-1950):

Did I understand the political situation in England? Oh, of course, of course. I mentioned the names of various Ministers, and made some contemptuous remarks about the Labour Party. And what about Le Sport? Could I do articles on Le Sport? (Football and Socialism have some mysterious connexion on the Continent.)

Down and Out in Paris and London. 1930. Berkeley Medallion Edition. September 1967. Ch. VIII, p. 37.

 


Aug 18 2017

Custom or Culture: a Modest Distinction

mortadella in Bologna, Italia

Custom or Culture: a Modest Distinction

I was fortunate enough to have something published this week by Real Clear News, of Chicago, under their subdivision of Real Clear Religion.

My piece responds to Rémi Brague’s essay “From What is Left Over” (First Things, August 2017) and its 67 instances of using the word culture.

I point out the modern substitution of the word culture for what used to be called custom to ask: if it is true that the medium is the message, what has been lost by replacing the word custom with culture? Was anything gained by substituting one word for the other?

Read the whole thing here.


Jul 25 2017

How Much was a Plum Worth in the Middle Ages? Reading Richard Rolle

Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

How Much was a Plum Worth in the Middle Ages? Reading Richard Rolle

So a while back I was reading The Continuity of English Prose from Alfred to More and his School (1932) by Raymond Wilson Chambers (1874–1942), a friend of Tolkien’s, and came across this intriguing passage concerning someone I’d never hear of before, the medieval mystic Richard Rolle (1290/1300–1349):

Rolle’s date, his style and his popularity give him a supreme place in the history of English prose. In English or in Latin he was, during the latter half of the Fourteenth Century and the whole of the Fifteenth, probably the most widely read in England of all English writers. Investigation of English wills and of documents bearing on the ownership of books seems to show a dozen owners of manuscripts of Rolle for one or two of the Canterbury Tales. Such devotional books were likely to be worn to bits, and not to come down to posterity at all: yet Miss Allen has examined between four and five hundred of them, in Latin or in English, scattered through the libraries of Europe and America. [1]

And later I learned from an article by Margaret Deanesly (1885–1977):

Among English books, those of Richard Rolle seem to have been most frequent—partly because his glossed English psalter was the only biblical book which the laity might use without license.[2]

So in light of the life-long quest to understand the Middle Ages I undertook several years ago, I recently decided to read some Richard Rolle. Hence I found Richard Rolle: Prose and Verse (1988) edited by S. J. Ogilvie-Thomson for the Early English Text Society.

I must say I found very little “mysticism” in Rolle. His religion seems pretty plain, ordinary, and orthodox, even when compared to a non-radical like Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758),[3] but maybe that’s what made Rolle so popular.

Now it’s been a while since I dove into Middle English, and it took some slow adjusting (is his surname pronounced like rôle, or does it rhyme with Raleigh?), but I found a few gems by Rolle such as:

þe fyre of his loue lyght oure hert, and þe swetnesse of his grace be our comfort and our solace in wel and in woo. [4]

[the fire of His love light our hearts, and the sweetness of His grace be our comfort and our solace in well and in woe.]

Elsewhere Rolle writes that “loue is hard as helle.” [5]

But I was especially struck by his strange comparison of apples to castles:

Bot sum men þat loueth nat wisely, like to children þat loueth more an appille þan a castelle. So doth many; þay gvf þe ioy of heuyn for a litel delite of har fleisshe, þat is noght worth a ploumbe. [6]

[But some men that loveth not wisely, like to children that loveth more an apple than a castle. So doth many; they give the joy of heaven for a little delight of her flesh, that is not worth a plum.]

Just how old is the metaphor and phrase “not worth a plum?” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, both “plum” and “worth” are very old words, even within Old English. Google Book’s Ngram viewer finds the phrase extremely rare before 1800, [7] peaking at about 1837 and slowly decreasing since then.

And are (or were) plumbs worth less than apples? Were they worth less because they bruise more easily?

Plums and pennies #books

A post shared by Christopher Landrum (@bookbread2) on

NOTES

wood

[1] Chambers, R. W. The Continuity of English Prose from Alfred to More and his School. An extract from the introduction to Nicholas Harpsfield’s Life of Thomas More edited by E. V. Hitchcock and R. W. Chambers. EETS: Oxford UP. 1932. 1957. p. ci.

[2] Deanesly, Margaret. “Vernacular Books in England in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries.” Modern Language Review. Vol. 15. No. 4. (October 1920.) 349–58 at 352.

[3] Rolle doesn’t dig too deep into epistemology and ontology as Edwards occasionally does:

BEING. It seems strange sometimes to me, that there should be Being from all Eternity; and I am ready to say, What need was there than anything should be? I should then ask myself, Whether it seems strange that there should be either Something, or Nothing? If so, it is not strange that there BE; for that necessity of there being Something, or Nothing, implies it. (Jonathan Edwards: Basic Writings. Edited by Ola Elizabeth Winslow. NY: Signet Classic. 1966. pp. 45–46)

[4] Rolle, Richard. Richard Rolle: Prose and Verse. Edited by S. J. Ogilvie-Thomson. Oxford UP. EETS. No. 293. 1988. “The Form of Living” 5.

[5] Rolle, “Lyrics” i, 43.

[6] Rolle, “The Form of Living” 22.

[7] Under its entry for “nose” the Oxford English Dictionary quotes from Frances Burney’s (1752–1840) novel Ceclilia, or, Memoirs of an Heiress (1782): “Bad way too,” cried Briggs, “never get on with it, never see beyond your nose; won’t be worth a plum while your head wags!” (V, ix, 67).


Mar 2 2017

I Act to Be Passive: an Introduction to Introspection

Piazza Navona, Roma

I Act to Be Passive: an Introduction to Introspection

Why an introduction to introspection? Why should we inspect ourselves? Because:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Matthew 07:03 (King James translation)

If you wish to understand others you must intensify your own individualism.

–Oscar Wilde “The Critic as Artist – Part II” (1891)

There’s an old cliche I used to hear often at church, although, it could be applied to most secular settings: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” This cliche is not quite a tautology, not quite Russell’s paradox, but what is the formula behind it and similar phrases? It seems strange but feels true to say:

I love to be loved,
I hate to be hated,
I want to be wanted,
I need to be needed,
I desire to be desired,
I smile to be smiled at.

All of the above seem to say: “I purpose to be purposed.”

In a grammatical sense, I act to be passive–yet I don’t pacify to be active–I don’t pacify to be acted upon–and I don’t pacify to be activated.

But there is another arrhythmia in this logarithm. For it does not make sense to ask:

Do I really:

–play to be played?
–pay to be paid?
–drive to be driven?
–grow to be grown? (Maybe)
–sleep to be slept? or wake to be awakened?
–write to be written?
–read to be read?
–live to be lived?
–eat to be eaten? (Like cattle)
–keep to be kept? (Like The Birdman of Alcatraz?)
–clean to be cleaned?
–search to be searched? (Is that not an introduction to introspection?)
–touch to be touched? or feel to be felt?
–see to be seen? or hear to be heard?
–create to be created? or dream to be dreamed?
–destroy to be destroyed? or take to be taken?
–call to be called?
–judge to be judged? (which is the utter opposite of Matthew 07:01)
–ask to be asked?

Certainly I do not lie to be lied to.


Feb 7 2017

There is No Emoji for the Word “Emoji”

Palazzo Re Enzo, Bologna, Italia

There is No Emoji for the Word “Emoji”

Vico writes:

In this study, we shall greatly profit from the antiquity of the Egyptians. For they have preserved two fragments of their history which are no less amazing than the pyramids and which contain two great historical truths. The first is recorded by Herodotus, who says that the Egyptians divided all of the world’s history into three ages: (1) the age of the gods, (2) the age of heroes, and (3) the age of men. The second fragment is reported by Johannes Scheffer in his Pythagorean Philosophy. He says that in these three ages the Egyptians spoke three languages, corresponding to them in number and order: (1) a hieroglyphic language, using sacred characters; (2) a symbolic language, using heroic characters; and (3) an epistolary language, using characters agreed on by the people.

The Third New Science. Penguin: NY. 2000. I, § 1, i, [¶ 52], p. 44. See also I, § 2, xxviii, [¶ 173], p. 86.

Are we not returning to an age of hieroglyphic language?

There is no emoji for the word “emoji.”

There is only the word.

And the word is only a representation of the idea of “emoji,” while emoji are representations of words that are themselves representations of ideas.

An idea represented by a word is once-removed. An emoji is an idea twice-removed.


Apr 4 2016

Interesting Reads Over the Weekend

bookbread athens

  • “If American Jews and Israel Are Drifting Apart, What’s the Reason?” by Elliot Abrams. Mosaic Magazine.

 

  • “Language Leakage: An Interview with Sarah Thomason: the linguist discusses how technology shapes culture and culture shapes words.” by Ryan Bradley. The Paris Review.

 

  • “Vanishing Languages, Reincarnated as Music.” by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim.  New York Times.

 

  • “Nights of Terror, Days of Weird: [Review of Yours in Haste and Adoration: Selected Letters of Terry Southern.” by Will Stephenson. Oxford American.

Oct 12 2010

VIDEO – Which kinds of German works make it into English? (Deutche Welle)

Multimedia – DW-WORLD.DE.


Aug 20 2010

New Zealand Lecturer identifies “new” Chaucer works (Sydney Morning Herald)

New Zealand lecturer identifies new Chaucer works.


Aug 7 2010

Words rejected by the Oxford English Dictionary (Hindustan Times)

Words rejected by the Oxford English Dictionary uncovered – Hindustan Times.


Mar 5 2010

Readers re-Joyce: Finnegan brought right back to life (Irish Independent)

Readers re-Joyce: Finnegan brought right back to life – Books, Entertainment – Independent.ie.