The conscious mind of Emily Dickinson

… Babbles the Bee in a stolid Ear,

Pipe the Sweet Birds in ignorant cadence — …

(Emily Dickinson, Safe in their alabaster chambers, Wikipedia)


When we look at poetry by Emily Dickinson today, we get strange big letters and a multitude of dashes which yet cannot give the special Bees, Birds, or Ears any real sense. To blame the reader

— “you know, the author was a mystic, metaphysical, only high minds get it” —

a Mystical Bee remains unappealing on a High Mind as well.


We can read commentary online.


… Dickinson’s idiosyncratic poetic practice—her pervasive use, for example, of dashes, and of unexpectedly capitalized words …


Students may have problems with the appearance of the poems–with the fact that they are without titles; that they are often short and compact, compressed; that the dash is so often used in the place of traditional punctuation.



Emily Dickinson’s poetry was a success with the people of her times. The people did not have problems, and they knew proper spelling. Emily Dickinson also was aware of orthography as in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights, and she certainly did not mean her poetry for just a joke, though she had a sense of humor and I hope to prove it.


Let us have a close look at a manuscript for the poem we began with, Safe in their alabaster chambers. The color red is not to correct. I like Emily Dickinson’s poetry really much and I would not alter it. The color is to emphasize dash height relative to letter.

Safe in their alabaster chambers, click to enlarge

I do believe this is an autograph.


The manuscript has “low dashes”. The markings belong well with the habit of the hand. This habit also has an open e that closes for sibilant clusters, for example. We can compare diadems, Doges, and soundless. Spoken language mattered in Emily Dickinson’s notation.


The habit of the hand was strong. We can see the “low dash” around the name of the addressee, Suz.


Why make such marks, when writing a poem? Let us think about language and inspiration. There is an occurrence in Emily Dickinson’s verse to correspond with Latin and Greek. The occurrence is beyond mere coincidence or unaware habit.


(Time and Eternity, XVIII, Playmates) Latin: collusor, companion at play; condiscipulus, school-mate; angelus, a messenger, an angel; lapillus, small stone, pebble (marble?); lusus, a game;  Greek: ὁμηλυσία, omelusia, companionship.


God permits industrious angels

Afternoons to play.

I met one, — forgot my school-mates,

All, for him, straightway.


God calls home the angels promptly

At the setting sun;

I missed mine. How dreary marbles,

After playing Crown!


The inspiration is morpho-phonemic and humorous. Let us try a few more pieces. (Life, XXIII, Unreturning) ἀνάπλυσις, anaplusis, washing or rinsing out; ἀνήλυσις, anelusis, going up, return; ἤλυσις, elusis, step, gait; lenunculus, a small sailing-vessel, bark, skiff (the toddling little boat).


‘T was such a little, little boat

That toddled down the bay!

‘T was such a gallant, gallant sea

That beckoned it away!


‘T was such a greedy, greedy wave

That licked it from the coast;

Nor ever guessed the stately sails

My little craft was lost!


We can compare the Greek -upo/ypo- for I asked no other thing (Life, XII, p. 213): ἰσότυπος, isotypos, shaped alike, συνυπόπτωσις, synypoptosis, simultaneous presentation to the senses; Latin cauponarius, a male shopkeeper, tradesman, ποπτερνίς, upopternis, a knob (a kind of a button that can twirl, in the modern use), and πo, below, looking a picture up and down (as Brazil on a map).


I asked no other thing,

No other was denied.

I offered Being for it;

The mighty merchant smiled.


Brazil? He twirled a button,

Without a glance my way:

“But, madam, is there nothing else

That we can show to-day?”


Emily Dickinson marked her poetry for prosody as well as language morphology. The markings and big letters belong with drafts of her pieces, not the final forms. Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd knew the draft features and ignored them with print. We do not follow Thomas Jefferson’s “rough draught” for the Declaration of Independence, either.


Why I stay by Emily Dickinson’s first print

I like Emily Dickinson’s poetry very much, but this does not extend to many interpretations. I think they exaggerate on the influence by the poet’s recluse lifestyle. To compare comprehension, or just out of curiosity, would you try to find the pieces by Emily Dickinson to tell about book dusting, or the ex libris? You may be interested in the Uncouth love theme (the “suspicious” love of language) in her poetry. You may like the thematic stanza, too.


I had no time to hate




I died for beauty




The wind


In a library


First series afterword

No men, women, children, or houses with the pie


William Jones was a reported hyperpolyglot. He learned Greek, Latin, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, and basic Chinese, says Wikipedia to add he knew thirteen languages thoroughly, and another twenty-eight reasonably well.

William Jones

Mr. Jones wrote The Sanscrit Language to tell that Greek and Latin had a common root, Sanskrit. This Proto-Indo-European “language”, PIE in short, was to originate contemporary European tongues.

Altogether, Mr. Jones remains described as having had at least reasonably good knowledge of 41 tongues. Such a reasonably good acquaintance should have encompassed the words woman, man, child, and house. Let us compare these words in Latin, Greek, English, Russian, Polish, German, French, and Sanskrit.

Is there a root PIE vocabulary?



Woman silhouette

Latin: femina; Greek: gyne; English: woman; Russian: zenshchina; Polish: kobieta; German: Weib; French: femme; Sanskrit: nari.


Man silhouette

Latin: vir; Greek: andros; English: man; Russian: muzshtschina; Polish: mężczyzna; German: Mann; French: homme; Sanskrit: naro.

I do not know Sanskrit. I can only compare resources. The morpheme man, as quoted by supporters of the PIE, yet seems to refer to thinking, not sex, whereas it is common lore that masculinity is not strictly synonymous with pensiveness.😉



Child silhouette

Latin: putillus; Greek: pais; English: child; Russian: rebionok; Polish: dziecko; German: Kind; French: enfant; Sanskrit: sutah.

Words for children would have varied in Sanskrit. The culture has been publicized as rigidly stratified, in status and ancestry. “Children of men” made another name, napraja. The notion is unlikely to have regarded speciate or sexual differentiation.


House silhouette

Latin: domus; Greek: do; English: house; Russian: dom; Polish: dom; German: Haus; French: maison; Sanskrit: vasati.

Vir or andros, child or rebionok, woman or kobieta ― the words do not resemble one another, and they are the basic vocabulary. In all languages, these are the words hardly ever to change. Polish and Russian could make a group. We may compare the words muzshtschina and mężczyzna. There is not much point deriving Polish from Russian or Russian from Polish, however. We can compare rebionok and dziecko.

Domus, do, and dom, or house and Haus, show geographic affinity. The similarities in form are characteristic of urban or other developments and do not decide on language grouping.

Language groups or families

Language groups work better than language families. “Families” derive languages, one from another. This might not work, as in the Polish and Russian examples above. Proto-languages are mostly constructs: there is no written evidence for them.

Why derive European vocabularies from Sanskrit, while Sanskrit might have absorbed loan words?

There is no evidence for the Proto-Indo-European. The Rosetta Stone was absolutely unique for Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Demotic, and Ancient Greek. It yet allowed translation, not an etymological study. There never was anything even like the Rosetta Stone, for Indo-European languages, and Marco Polo was probably not the first visitor to the Far East. 


Carbon dating

Whenever possible, written resources should be carbon-dated. There is no philological method to affirm the original beyond evidence. Writings were copied in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and later, hand style and pen craft.

Radiocarbon results happen to be misunderstood. A website shares a story about a find from 9.5 thousands of years ago. It is … a piece of wood from an underwater site, without written matter. However, palynology is less likely to work for written resources.

Oldest does not mean wisest


People speak languages mostly as they are, without looking up to “parent languages”. Within evolutionary approaches, languages may have emerged independently, owing to human cognitive advancement. Much language knowledge has become shared by and among humans. However, supporters of the Proto-Indo-European “family” have gone into making out religion, too.



I do not share in the enthusiasm about deriving language roots. People were not more sophisticated in ancient times. And there is not a PIE root for the name “Earth”.


Earth silhouette

Latin: terra or tellus; Greek: Gaia or Aia; English: Earth; Russian: Ziemlia; Polish: Ziemia; German: Erde; French: Terre; Sanskrit: vasudha.

It seems there was a pie more than the PIE, Mr. Jones time, and that pie was India. The colonial era began about 1500, and there was much competition.

It would be Space 1999 to show

reading Proto-Sanskrit accurately …😉


My YouTube: Sanskrit Readout

The holocaust in the clip is not the Holocaust.

British grammar nazis

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 down here, also with a click.

British grammar nazis headerNow, let me lay out on the fundamentals of orthography. I do not spell the nazis with a big letter. Big letters, though they do not always import reverence, are reserved for proper nouns everywhere except a beginning.


The proper noun Nazis were German nationalists. Their having bombed London during WWII might belong with the semantic field too, and further reasonably connote displeasure on the part of the British people. I mean, I do not have other people’s feelings, but thus I do reckon.


Much has been written about the second world war, including Hitler’s evident lack of linguistic finesse. Therefore, I will do some wondering only, on the British who want to be grammar nazis.


The Daily Mash offers observations.


The way they selflessly dedicate themselves to correct punctuation, for example by pointing out to the staff of a chip shop why the term “chip’s” is a sloppy obfuscation, confirms they are bold and righteous individuals.


Grammar nazis share the article and comment.

This pleases me. A lot!

We are doing a service to the world in helping people be rid of their ignorance!

We knew it all the time!


It is only after a few lines or whiles that thought emerges.

I suspect someone is taking the p*ss.


Grammar nazis do not get irony. Let me think about statistics and implications. Should there be visiting nazis, I promise a brief primer on irony after this indispensable piece of advice about living on the same planet.



The site has about 50 thousand “likes”. Taking the British population alone, that would make about 50 thousand oddly deficient, among about 63 million people.


Some might say it is not so bad. It is not even one percent. Still, it could be better to think literacy, going to England: the guys are permitted to have the UK flag for their capriccio. Such odd types might favor big towns, as London.



Try for a plain passport photo, that is, without brooches, scarves, ties, anything you do not always carry. The piffle shows the guys’ attention to picture specifics.😉


Wave your hand, getting a taxi. It is a simple, therefore legible gesture. 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 small print.😉


In hotels, always tick the boxes. Ask for those straight, should you be provided with a form without boxes to tick.😉


Mailing letters, get the recorded. They have ID strips. Seeking directions, approach people with newspapers. They could be literate. However, never ever leave your books or papers open and unattended. They might be taken for other utilities.😉


Now, the primer on irony. The basics are in the affirmative and the negative. You do not take them for a yes or no merely. Let me quote the Mash:


In no way are any of these people vain, arsey pedants.


This does not have to mean a refutation, Wikipedia explains.


Life cannot be about affirming or denying only. Let me return to the Mash.


The way they selflessly dedicate themselves to correct punctuation, for example by pointing out to the staff of a chip shop why the term “chip’s” is a sloppy obfuscation, confirms they are bold and righteous individuals.


Antonyms and synonyms are the answer. Mind to stay in context.


Laying all that out in detail to a grammar nazi looks discouragingly big a task, hence the handful of thoughts and the primary color, yellow (adjective, reference 3).


Grammar nazis look unable to admit that picking on people’s works has no chance to bring anything creative, sophisticated. They do not offer own blogs or websites, especially with serious language work, for evaluation.