May 23, 2013
May 3, 2013
The “government of the tongue” has had two most prominent treatments: religious and poetic. The two may have stood at even dramatic odds, some preachers seeking consistency with early Christianity, poets cherishing the beauty of language itself. A linguist and a poet a bit, I will try to put consistency and beauty in the focus together.
James 3, Taming the Tongue
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
James chapter 3 might be the sternest condemnation of a body part seen and heard of ever. Still, one may compare a sermon by Thomas Boston,
The keeping of the tongue is one of those duties that entitles a man to safety from evil times, and therefore must now be urged as a seasonable duty. The wisest monarch could hardly govern a great part of the world; how difficult then must it be to govern a world, and that a world of iniquity. The tongue is a world of iniquity, a heap of evils; as in the world many things are contained, so in the tongue. This world of iniquity is divided into two parts, undue silence, and sinful speaking. These are the higher and lower parts of this world, yet quickly may men travel from the one to the other.
James’s words are fierce. The apostle yet is determined to appeal to the early Christian, a human being likely to face persecution to involve bodily damage. James’s allusion to fire is strictly metaphorical, and the apostle does not condemn language. He advises considerateness in language use.
The context is not the same with Thomas Boston. The intimation of physical peril is gone; the metaphor of a sear on the conscience is used in the negative. The preacher refers to hierarchical verticality ― the upside of godness and the downside of evil ― again, to counsel on reasonableness in language use. The present day perspective on freedom of speech would not support many of the guidelines.
Both texts may be appreciated for their use of metaphor. Naturally, there would not be any original Christian matter advocating fire to introduce or instill belief. The fact was recognized by John Paul II apologizing for the Inquisition.
We can find the original Christian matter in the Bible. The matter does not imply any necessity of physical restraint on speech; the metaphor shows in the variety of translations:
26 And if any man guesseth himself to be religious, and refraineth not his tongue, but deceiveth his heart, the religion of him is vain.
26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
26 If anyone deludes himself by thinking he is serving God, when he has not learned to control his tongue, the service he gives is vain.
26 If a person thinks he is religious, but does not keep his tongue from speaking bad things, he is fooling himself. His religion is worth nothing.
26 Wer sich für fromm hält, aber seine Zunge nicht zügeln kann, der macht sich selbst etwas vor. Seine Frömmigkeit ist nichts wert.
26 So sich jemand unter euch läßt dünken, er diene Gott, und hält seine Zunge nicht im Zaum, sondern täuscht sein Herz, des Gottesdienst ist eitel.
Joseph Butler came closer to the literary and linguistic sense of government,
Grammar The influence of a word over the morphological inflection of another word in a phrase or sentence.
Joseph Butler says,
The translation of this text would be more determinate by being more literal, thus: “If any man among you seemeth to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” This determines that the words, “but deceiveth his own heart,” are not put in opposition to, “seemeth to be religious,” but to, “bridleth not his tongue.”
Frugality would be less desirable in literature and poetry, fineness not to denote prolixity.
The thought of the government also happens to bring on awkward re-phrasings,
In the process of doing justice to the events of political violence―and in particular death―poetry could not help but forge a higher consciousness of these events that was political in its ironic detachment from claims as to the necessity of such violence. The achievement of this alternative form of politics, this government in exile, was to establish that identity and belonging are aspects of consciousness and imagination, rather than of territory and power.
I cannot help but disagree on inevitableness of ironic detachment, as well as identity belonging with imagination.
April 21, 2013
My dear head does not give me headaches and this is one of the reasons I literally love it. Should I write, ‘my dear Head…’ ?
Some guys will tell you to spell words with capital letters for respect. You say ‘the Queen’s English’, and you say ‘the Chairman’, the guys would argue. Well, but then you’d have to look respectful about the Nazis and the Jihad …
Human thought has had the human body in view. We humans have heads of sentences and clauses; we have heads of states. And we humans could not live without own heads cozy with own necks. This might be the reason for some singularity in the use of capital letters.
The capital, that is, big letters work along with the way we orient in the reality. There are no proper nouns objectively, proper nouns are nouns as perceived by humans. I do not and would not advocate misspelling family or second names. This is, however, a human idea to spell them with big letters, and not any supernatural endowment.
With heads of states, relevance would matter most. The President would be the relevant president in office. The Queen would be the relevant ruler. Therefore, I would not have it for a mistake, if an American or person of a nationality other than British would write, ‘the queen’ about Elizabeth II. Ms. Windsor is not the head of the U.S.A. or all countries, she is the head of the UK and the Commonwealth. It might be actually un-diplomatic towards other rulers, if to try to nominate the one and only crowned head.
Well, plurality could come naturally cumbersome: one head not giving you headache, no one can tell what would be, should you have two … ;)
What if you’d have two heads of states to write about in one essay, for example? The language matter happens to pool information also on reference. Just as one can write the Flag for the American (or another, relevant) flag, one can write the American president and the English queen, not capitalizing either — again, for diplomacy’s sake. Naturally, the phrases ‘Mr. Obama’ or ‘Ms. Windsor’ could not be taken for terms of offense.
The Queen’s (or King’s) English is a phrase not to refer to any particular person. England has had quite a few queens and kings so far. The phrase denotes the Standard English or Received Pronunciation. Viewing the phrase as belonging with one person only and making a proper noun reference could compare with coining ‘standard terms’ such as ‘Stalin’s Russian’ or ‘Hitler’s German’. The English themselves might go unhappy, however they are experts at splendid isolation. ;)
Feel welcome to see the Word Reference forum,
April 13, 2013
Martin Buber would envision the human being in a bit of an embryonic role. I can agree that human cognition has its limitations, yet an embryonic status about human minds looks exaggerated. The matter evidently evolves round personal pronouns.
The philosopher, whose earnestness of study I do not mean to question, would yet see humans as entities in incessant ties; he would only differentiate this persistent condition into the I-You and I-It relationship. Simply speaking, every human would be an “I”. And every human would be always in a relationship, to a “You” or to an “It” — like an embryo, incapable of independent living.
Buber’s famous essay on existence, Ich und Du, has been about as famously translated into I and Thou. Arguments on philosophical intricacies have not convinced me on the alleged non-existence of an English word for the German ‘du’. It would not be just me, looking to the translation for Bist du bei mir — If you are with me.
There a few more unconvincing “details” about Buber philosophy and its followers. Let us think about the word “being”. It is construed with the third person singular, “it”. However, if we modify this word with the adjective “human”, we refer to the “human being” as “him” or “her”.
According to Buber, the world would be an It. We yet may think about a world as by a man or by a woman, in which case the semantics would play its good trick and add male or female attributes to the notion of the world. Naturally, everyone may try own perception on The World According to Garp. ;)
Semantics is the language matter about meaning. This meaning may be not bound by singular, isolated lexical items. A “human being” may be a male or a female. A “world” can be a male or female world.
Languages also happen to have arbitrary, grammatical gender. In French or Spanish, a “book” is going to be a “him”. In Russian, a book is going to be a “her”. Ancient Romans had a day-book or diary for an “ephemeris”, a “her”. This arbitrary gender has had nothing to do with recognizing sex, since the beginning of time: mostly males were literate in ancient Rome.
Let us think about reference to countries: English would speak about a country as an “it”. French or Spanish would have their “pays” or “pais” for “males”. As regards home countries, the legitimate Italian “she”, “patria”, would keep company to the legal French “patrie”, Germans remaining unpersuadable on their “Vaterland” : there would be “Muttersprache”, but “Mutterland” would mean the country of origin, not the home country. American English would allow both fatherland and motherland, the home country or homeland prevailing.
Importantly, whether fatherland or motherland, when we go back in our thoughts, we use the third person singular again, “it”. We would say, “My fatherland, it …” We would not say, “My fatherland, he …” We also can say, and the vast majority would say, “America in its time …”
Well, America is a name of a country, same as Germany, France, Italy, or any other name of a country, fair and square. Concluding, human thought is not reducible to three pronouns, “I”, “you”, and “it”. Already the pronouns may have and often do have connotations to other pronouns, which — though potentially arbitrary — is a real factor to influence the way we formulate our thoughts.
March 28, 2013
Disclaimer: the adjacent — and colored meaningfully yellow — graphic piffle is not intended to mean the Union Jack proper. It is the British grammar nazis logo on Facebook.
The logo dubious pulchritude may be seen in its full form on the right. Now, without going into matters of the meaning of life or the spoken lore on WWII and British losses — invaluable for those hard of reading — let me focus on the statistics and implications.
The site has about 50 K ‘likes’. Taking the British population alone, that would make the maximum of 50 thousand functionally illiterate among about 63 million people. I mean, much has been written about WWII; evidently, mere gathering orthography and other detail does not make you capable of text interpretation.
Some might say it is not so bad, it is not even one percent. Still, you’d better ‘think literacy’, going to the UK.
Keep your profile according to your passport photo; the guys demonstrate attention to picture specifics. ;)
Remember to wave your hand, getting a taxi; try to get a map with statues and other tourist attractions in large icons. It is better to take a walk from the National Museum than end up the Piccadilly owing to a visiting card small print. ;)
In hotels, always tick the boxes; at best, you ask for those straight, should you be provided with a form without boxes to tick. ;)
When it comes to mailing letters, get the recorded: they have ID strips. Seeking directions, approach people with newspapers: there are odds they can read them. Never ever leave your books or papers, especially open: they might be taken for other utilities. ;)
March 27, 2013
June 28, 2012
‘Magic mirror on the wall,
who is the fairest of them all?’
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:
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
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 narcissism. Implying 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). :)