language and mind

June 28, 2012

Magic mirror on the wall, which is the fairest of them Englishes all?

Snow White in her glass coffin

‘Magic mirror on the wall,

who is the fairest of them all?’

Picture: Snow White in her glass coffin



William Butler Yeats remains consistently rumored to have had    a weakness about Eva Gore Booth and Constance Markievicz.

Looking to the contour of the ‘politics’, ‘seek’, ‘speak’, and ‘mix’, one might think that things were so, indeed: ;)

['pä-lə-ˌtiks], ['sēk], ['spēk], ['miks]

Well, overcoming is part human life.

It happens that students need to overcome, so to speak, especially initial encounters with poetry.

I know not what the younger dreams -

Some vague Utopia – and she seems,

When withered old and skeleton-gaunt,

An image of such politics.

Many a time I think to seek

One or the other out and speak

Of that old Georgian mansion, mix

pictures of the mind, recall

That table and the talk of youth,

Two girls in silk kimonos, both

Beautiful, one a gazelle.

Honestly, the regular classroom practice is to tell the young people — gathered for reasons other than free will at times — that the matter is going to be about a great poet:

Synonyms and related words:
Brobdingnagian, Cyclopean, Establishment, OK, VIP, able, absolute, abundant, accomplished, ace, ace-high, active, acute, adept, adroit, aggrandized, anticipating, apotheosized, arch, ardent, arrant, artistic, ascendant, authoritarian, authoritative, authorized, autocratic, awesome, awful, bad, bang-up, banner, baron, basic, beatified, best, big, big gun, big man, big name, big with child, big-laden, big-league, big-name, big-time, bighearted, bigwig, bigwigged, bonzer, boss, brass, brass hat, breeding, brilliant, bull, bully, bumper, but good, canonized, capacious, capital, cardinal, carrying, carrying a fetus, celebrated, celebrity, central, champion, chief, chivalrous, choir, claviature, clever, close, clothed with authority, colossal, commanding, competent, comprehensive, consequential, considerable, console, consummate, controlling, cool, corking, countless, crackerjack, critical, crowning, crucial, cutting, dandy, dedicated, deep, deified, delicious, devoted, dignitary, dignity, distinguished, dominant, double-barreled, drastic, ducky, duly constituted, eager, earthshaking, echo, egregious, eighty-eight, elder, elevated, eminent, empowered, ennobled, enormous, enshrined, enthroned, enthusiastic, ex officio, exalted, excellent, exceptional, excess, excessive, exhaustive, exorbitant, expecting, expert, extensive, extraordinary, extravagant, extreme, fab, faithful, famed, famous, fast, fat, father, fierce, figure, fine and dandy, fingerboard, first, first-rate, first-rater, flagrant, focal, foremost, full, furious, gargantuan, gear, generous, genius, gestating, giant, gifted, gigantic, glaring, glorified, good hand, goodly, governing, grand, grave, gravid, great man, great of heart, greathearted, grievous, groovy, handsome, headmost, healthy, hear, heavy, heavy with child, heavyweight, hegemonic, hegemonistic, heinous, held in awe, heroic, high, high and mighty, high-minded, high-powered, horrendous, horrible, horrific, hot, huge, hunky-dory, husky, idealistic, illustrious, immense, immoderate, immortal, immortalized, imperative, important, important person, incomparable, influential, inordinate, intemperate, intense, interests, intimate, irresistible, ivories, jam-up, just dandy, keen, keyboard, keys, knightly, knocked up, large, large-scale, largehearted, leading, liberal, lion, lofty, lords of creation, loving, loyal, magician, magisterial, magnanimous, magnate, magnified, mahatma, main, major, mammoth, man of genius, man of mark, man-sized, manual, marked, marvy, massive, master, master hand, mastermind, matchless, material, maximum, mean, mighty, mogul, momentous, monocratic, monstrous, nabob, name, neat, nifty, nobby, noble, noble-minded, notability, notable, noteworthy, numerous, official, okay, openhanded, organ manual, out of sight, out-and-out, outrageous, outstanding, overruling, panjandrum, paramount, parturient, passionate, past master, peachy, peachy-keen, pedals, peerless, person of renown, personage, personality, piano keys, piercing, pillar of society, plenary, potent, power, power elite, powerful, practiced hand, predominant, preeminent, preggers, pregnant, preponderant, prestigious, prevailing, primal, primary, prime, princely, principal, prodigious, prodigy, proficient, profound, prominent, pronounced, puissant, ranking, remarkable, renowned, rigorous, ripping, rough, ruling, ruling circle, rum, sachem, sage, sainted, sanctified, scrumptious, self-important, senior, serious, severe, sharp, shrined, significant, sizable, skilled, skilled hand, slap-up, smashing, solid, solo, somebody, something, something else, sovereign, spacious, spectacular, spiffing, spiffy, splitting, star, stellar, strong, stunning, stupendous, sublime, substantial, superb, supereminent, superfetate, superimpregnated, superior, superlative, superstar, supreme, surpassing, swell, talented, tall, teeming, terrible, terrific, the great, the top, throned, tidy, titanic, top, top brass, top people, topflight, topnotcher, total, totalitarian, tough, transcendent, tremendous, TRUE, tycoon, unconscionable, unforgivable, vast, vehement, venomous, very important person, violent, virtuoso, virulent, weighty, well-known, whiz, with child, wizard, wonderful, world-shaking, worthy, zealous

Source: Moby Thesaurus, which is part of the Moby Project created by Grady Ward. In 1996 Grady Ward placed this thesaurus in the public domain.

Moby Project is in the public domain, everybody is therefore welcome to look up good poets, famous poets, and eminent poets, too. ;)

Let me think about language matter and Dante.


A faithful witness. Thou shalt leave each thing

Beloved most dearly: this is the first shaft

Shot from the bow of exile. Thou shalt prove

How salt the savor is of other’s bread;

How hard the passage, to descend and climb

By other’s stairs.

(Paradiso, XVII; The Harvard Classics series edited by Charles W. Eliot, translation by Henry F. Cary, Grolier Enterprises, Danbury, Connecticut, 1980.)

Naturally, talking metaphors, many students become “emotionally and intellectually exiled”, having to repeat pret-a-porter opinions and analyses. Returning to Yeats, I would not duel with a lover of his poetry. It is yet fair to say he was tone deaf and … well, a narcissist.


My arms are like the twisted thorn
 And yet there beauty lay;
 The first of all the tribe lay there
 And did such pleasure take;
 She who had brought great Hector down
 And put all Troy to wreck.

The piece indicates Maud Gonne, who wrote him, … I have prayed and I am praying still that the bodily desire for me may be taken from you too.

I am not going to quote Moby for narcissism, as the set is strictly non-complimentary, let us delicately say. I believe the author of the thesaurus may not be blamed. Yeats may be blamed for his unfavorable picture of female aging: Some vague Utopia – and she seems, When withered old and skeleton-gaunt

In 1923, the Nobel Committee awarded Yeats the Nobel Prize in Literature as the first Irishman. The Committee described his work as “inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.” Well, later in life, Yeats wrote three songs for Eoin O’Duffy‘s Blueshirts.

Poetry or verse does not have to bring grandeur. It does its job excellently, encouraging language skill, I say.


part my poetry project, ‘Letters From Over the Fall’, about the letters of the alphabet; this one is about the letter H

the Englishes of the world have differed interpreting the sound; some would have a history, some an history…

ha’p’orth is a short form for ‘half a penny’s worth’, meaning a trivial amount; colloquial American English has the American one cent piece for a ‘penny’, a name to derive from the British coin; the American plural ‘pennies’ corresponds with the British form ‘pence’

search engines for ancient languages would have results according to word frequency statistics

Explaining all verse could only kill it, hence the hints only I enclosed with my book of verse, Marvels for a Wednesday Dawn.

I was born on a Wednesday, which remains the only inexplicable matter here to need no rationale, however. :)

The statistic Helen, though intent,

wasn’t born Hippolyta to befriend:

in common such a little bit

ha’p’orth so petite

an illiberal, bigoted detail

provincial, greatness to belittle

often just a voiceless glottal

and not a stop –

shouldn’t we just have it chopped?


Hidebound like a numerical fact

hesitation to occasion vowel double act

put to note time and again post-haste

would it have vexed also Theseus’ taste?


Arisen of mid-vanity

bore yet to eternity

should this simple letter humane

make one siege Troy, or hold the mane?

If Yeats expressed the spirit of the nation, did he render the spirit of the Irish English language? Or, could we say there is one English language, THE English language? If not, would there be the better and prettier, or the uglier and worse — varieties of English

The inferiority complex contradicts the nature of language. The same applies to the superiority complex, as well as narcissismImplying a superior or inferior status about any of the Englishes is like putting the Snow White in her glass coffin. ;)

A language variety can be an independent language within a group of languages of the same kind. American English is a variety of English coequal with British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealander, Scottish, Irish, and other recognized Englishes of the world; none is superior or inferior (Travelers in Grammar 2).

Not only does the beauty I beheld

Transcend our lives, but truly I believe

Its Maker only may enjoy it all.

(Paradiso XXX, Project Gutenberg, translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, e-text prepared by Dennis McCarthy, Atlanta, GA). :)

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