Wearenotamused

I woke up this morning to find one of Carolyn's random text-message queries awaiting me:

C: What is the plural of Hippopotamus?
R: Hippopotwomuses.
C: With a w?
R: It was a joke… Plural: HippopoTWOmuses!
C: That's a very early in the morning joke!

The art of analogy

I'm a firm believer that use of good analogies is a reliable indicator of intelligence. The ability to convey a complex concept by comparing it to one easier to understand is the mark of a gifted communicator.

So, how would you go about describing the dangers of self-reflection when vexed?

When one is vexed, one must avoid meditating about oneself. One is like a man with jaundice: he must not study the map of the countries he is about to traverse—he would see everything in yellow. Yellow is the colour of Sweden, so he would believe that every country was Sweden, and if by chance the King of Sweden had set a price upon his head, he would be in despair: this despair would be the effect of his jaundice. And such is the effect from which I suffer every time I go to Grenoble; so much so that, on the last occasion, I almost entirely avoided thinking about my future.
Stendhal to his sister Pauline, 17-Sep-1805
To the Happy Few: selected letters of Stendhal (trans. Norman Cameron) (1952)

…I'm reluctantly beginning to accept I'll never be recognised as a literary genius on a par with Stendhal.

Pontificating

BBC News: Pope Francis tries to build bridges in sceptical Turkey
A pontiff yesterday

Do you see what they did, there?...

Pontiff, from pontifex, from pons facere, the Latin for to make a bridge.

[My old Latin teacher, Spiny Norman, would be so proud of me.]

The boy who decried Woolf

From Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf:

Then, while a seedy-looking nondescript man carrying a leather bag stood on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and hesitated, for within was what balm, how great a welcome, how many tombs with banners waving over them, tokens of victories not over armies, but over, he thought, that plaguy spirit of truth seeking which leaves me at present without a situation, and more than that, the cathedral offers company, he thought, invites you to membership of a society; great men belong to it; martyrs have died for it; why not enter in, he thought, put this leather bag stuffed with pamphlets before an altar, a cross, the symbol of something which has soared beyond seeking and questing and knocking of words together and has become all spirit, disembodied, ghostly—why not enter in? he thought and while he hesitated out flew the aeroplane over Ludgate Circus.

Far be it from me to find fault with the late, great Virginia Woolf—the woman whose writing inspired my own mini-masterpiece, The Aftermath—but read those words again very carefully:

Then, while a seedy-looking nondescript man carrying a leather bag stood on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and hesitated, for within was what balm, how great a welcome, how many tombs with banners waving over them, tokens of victories not over armies, but over, he thought, that plaguy spirit of truth seeking which leaves me at present without a situation, and more than that, the cathedral offers company, he thought, invites you to membership of a society; great men belong to it; martyrs have died for it; why not enter in, he thought, put this leather bag stuffed with pamphlets before an altar, a cross, the symbol of something which has soared beyond seeking and questing and knocking of words together and has become all spirit, disembodied, ghostly—why not enter in? he thought and while he hesitated out flew the aeroplane over Ludgate Circus.

Do you see Mrs Woolf's utter howler, there? Her schoolgirl error, so to speak? The sort of mistake that, when realised, would almost compel any writer worth their salt to fill their pockets with stones and take a long walk into the nearest convenient river?

What do you mean, ‘No’?! IT'S STARING YOU IN THE FACE!

How can a ‘seedy-looking’ man possibly be ‘nondescript’? Nondescript means not distinctive enough to be described. But she's just described him: she said he was ‘seedy-looking’! Anyone who can be described as ‘seedy-looking’—or, indeed, as anything else—is, ipso facto, most definitely descript.

If I might make so bold, I think what Mrs Woolf meant to write was something along the lines of:

Then, while a seedy-looking, otherwise nondescript man carrying a leather bag stood on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and hesitated, for within was what balm, how great a welcome, how many tombs with banners waving over them, tokens of victories not over armies, but over, he thought, that plaguy spirit of truth seeking which leaves me at present without a situation, and more than that, the cathedral offers company, he thought, invites you to membership of a society; great men belong to it; martyrs have died for it; why not enter in, he thought, put this leather bag stuffed with pamphlets before an altar, a cross, the symbol of something which has soared beyond seeking and questing and knocking of words together and has become all spirit, disembodied, ghostly—why not enter in? he thought and while he hesitated out flew the aeroplane over Ludgate Circus.

(My emphasis added.)

Sloppy, Ginny! Sloppy!

 

Rrrrrrrreet Petite!

BBC: Jocky Wilson: Remembering the 'Braveheart of darts'

… That 1989 [World Darts Championship] final victory was the culmination of a rivalry that spanned a decade, as Bristow and Wilson chalked up seven world titles between them.

For sports fans of the era, the two men are synonymous with one another.

No, Eric Bristow and Jocky Wilson were not synonymous with one another. Ignoring the tautology—actually, no, let's not: the word synonymous implies with each other—if Eric Bristow really were synonymous with Jocky Wilson, it would mean that they were the same person. One man playing against himself in a World Darts final might make a good Monty Python sketch, but I can't help feeling that the regular punters would be a tad frustrated. What the BBC commentator is trying to say is that the names of Eric Bristow and Jocky Wilson will forever be associated with each other.

All of which pedantry is simply a pathetic excuse for me to show off my own darts trophy. Me and my partner, Bull-Buggering Dave Beaumont, were Grey College (Durham) Doubles Winners, 1984–85, don't you know?

Trophy

So, finally my nickname is out.

And to think you lot didn't think I looked particularly athletic.

Going native

Yesterday, talking with Jen, and without a hint of irony, I referred to two young women we had seen the previous evening as lasses. I didn't even notice I had done it. It was Jen who pointed it out. She was highly amused.

Over ten years, I've lived in Yorkshire, and it's finally starting to rub off. I'll be rubbing cold lard on tut whippet next, mark my words.

'appen.

Some Yorkshire folk yesterday

Some Yorkshire folk yesterday.

Can't be done

Poor young Lana Del Rey! Everything was going so well, and then David Cameron had to come along and blurt out that he is a fan. Definitely not cool.

What? You don't have a clue who I'm talking about? He's the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, for Pete's sake! Oh, right, you mean Lana Del Ray. She's an up-and-coming pop chanteuse who made a song last year called Video Games, which was a big hit. It was pretty OK, if you like that sort of thing. Here's the video. No need to watch it if you're not that way inclined.

Like I say, it's a pretty OK song. But what worries me about Video Games is the opening verse:

Swinging in the backyard
Pull up in your fast car
Whistling my name

Have you ever tried to whistle someone's name? It can't be done. Not unless the ‘person’ in question is a budgerigar, a Star Wars™ droid™, or a clanger. Go on, have a go: try to whistle the name Lana Del Ray. I guarantee it won't sound anything like the name Lana Del Ray; it will sound much more like the opening four notes of Scott Joplin's The Entertainer.

Tell you what, I'll make it easier: try just to whistle the name Lana. Go on, I can wait…

It came out sounding like the first two notes of Colonel Bogey, didn't it? It could have represented any two-syllable word, couldn't it? Richard, for example, or onion.

Like I said, you simply can't whistle someone's name. Whistles come in notes; names come in vowels and consonants. They don't map.

Why don't people think about what they're saying when they write these lyrics? Is it any bloody wonder the Prime Mister speaks in meaningless platitudes when this is the sort of nonsense he likes to listen to?