Towse: views from the hill

April 24, 2008

Chapter 1. Specimens of the American Vulgate

Filed under: politics,wordstuff — Towse @ 4:56 pm

Chapter 1. Specimens of the American Vulgate. 1. The Declaration of Independence in American.
Mencken, H.L. 1921.

[The following is my own translation, but I have had the aid of suggestions from various other scholars. It must be obvious that more than one section of the original is now quite unintelligible to the average American of the sort using the Common Speech. What would he make, for example, of such a sentence as this one: "He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures"? Or of this: "He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise." Such Johnsonian periods are quite beyond his comprehension, and no doubt the fact is at least partly to blame for the neglect upon which the Declaration has fallen in recent years. When, during the Wilson-Palmer saturnalia of oppressions, specialists in liberty began protesting that the Declaration plainly gave the people the right to alter the goverment under which they lived and even to abolish it altogether, they encountered the utmost incredulity. On more than one occasion, in fact, such an exegete was tarred and feathered by the shocked members of the American Legion, even after the Declaration had been read to them. What ailed them was that they could not understand its eighteenth century English. I make the suggestion that its circulation among such patriotic men, translated into the language they use every day, would serve to prevent, or, at all events, to diminish that sort of terrorism.]

When things get so balled up that the people of a country have to cut loose from some other country, and go it on their own hook, without asking no permission from nobody, excepting maybe God Almighty, then they ought to let everybody know why they done it, so that everybody can see they are on the level, and not trying to put nothing over on nobody.

All we got to say on this proposition is this: first, you and me is as good as anybody else, and maybe a damn sight better; second, nobody ain’t got no right to take away none of our rights; third, every man has got a right to live, to come and go as he pleases, and to have a good time however he likes, so long as he don’t interfere with nobody else. That any government that don’t give a man these rights ain’t worth a damn; also, people ought to choose the kind of goverment they want themselves, and nobody else ought to have no say in the matter.

[… Chapter 1. Specimens of the American Vulgate. 1. The Declaration of Independence in American. Mencken, H.L. 1921. ]

[via Archer]

September 27, 2007

A plea to anyone linking to

Filed under: URL,webstuff,wordstuff,writing,writing-market — Towse @ 5:42 am

A request from DebbieRO, my former boss lady, on her Inkygirl blog.

If you have a link to, PLEASE DELETE IT.
Pass the word.

A plea to anyone linking to

September 20, 2007

Let us now consider the aubergine

Filed under: food,wordstuff — Towse @ 5:41 pm

But for the most extraordinary example of shifting names we must go to the aubergine, once known also as the brinjal in India. The story starts with Sanskrit vatin-gana “the plant that cures the wind”, which became the Arabic al-badinjan. This moved into Europe, again via Moorish Spain: one offshoot — keeping the Arabic article prefixed — became alberengena in Spanish and on to aubergine in French; another transformation became the botanical Latin melongena through losing the article and changing the “b” to an “m”; this then turned into the Italian melanzana and then to mela insana (the “mad apple”). Another branch, again without the “al”, became bringella in Portugal, whose traders took the plant, and their version of the name, full circle back to India, where it became brinjal in Anglo-Indian circles (the usual term among English speakers in India today is the Hindi baingan, or aubergine). In another branch of its history, the Portuguese word turned up in the West Indies, where it was again, but differently, corrupted to brown-jolly. All names for the same plant.

[ref: Michael Quinion at World Wide Words]

Question, though. Why is the same beast called an eggplant in the USofA?

Ah, okay. [ref: Wikipedia] “The name eggplant developed in the United States, Australia, and Canada because the fruits of some 18th century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen’s eggs.”

That makes a ton of sense.

And so ends the etymology detour for the morning.

July 31, 2007

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2007 Results

Filed under: contest,wordstuff,writing — Towse @ 6:02 pm

2007 is the silver anniversary of the contest.

Jim Gleeson, Madison, WI, is the grand prize winner this year with

Gerald began–but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them “permanently” meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash–to pee.

Additional prize winners here: 2007 Results

re the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest


Conscripted numerous times to be a judge in writing contests that were, in effect, bad writing contests but with prolix, overlong, and generally lengthy submissions, he [Professor Scott Rice] struck upon the idea of holding a competition that would be honest and — best of all — invite brief entries. Furthermore, it had the ancillary advantage of one day allowing him to write about himself in the third person.

By campus standards, the first year of the BLFC was a resounding success, attracting three entries. The following year, giddy with the prospect of even further acclaim, Rice went public with the contest and, with the boost of a sterling press release by Public Information Officer Richard Staley, attracted national and international attention. Staley’s press release drew immediate front-page coverage in cultural centers like Boston, Houston, and Miami. By the time the BLFC concluded with live announcement of the winner, Gail Cane, on CBS Morning News (since defunct through no fault of the BLFC), it had drawn coverage from Time, Smithsonian, People Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Manchester Guardian, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Radio, and the BBC. Most important, over 10,000 wretched writers had tried their hands at outdoing Bulwer’s immortal opener, with the best entries soon appearing in the first of a series published by Penguin Books, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night (1984).

Since 1983 the BLFC has continued to draw acclaim and opprobrium. Thousands continue to enter yearly …

[via Bob Sloan at misc.writing]

July 19, 2007

Visuwords™ online graphical dictionary

Filed under: URL,wordstuff — Towse @ 9:51 pm

Visuwords™ online graphical dictionary

Visuwords™ online graphical dictionary — Look up words to find their meanings and associations with other words and concepts. Produce diagrams reminiscent of a neural net. Learn how words associate.

Enter words into the search box to look them up or double-click a node to expand the tree. Click and drag the background to pan around and use the mouse wheel to zoom. Hover over nodes to see the definition and click and drag individual nodes to move them around to help clarify connections.

* It’s a dictionary! It’s a thesaurus!
* Great for writers, journalists, students, teachers, and artists.
* The online dictionary is available wherever there’s an internet connection.
* No membership required.

Visuwords™ uses Princeton University’s WordNet, an opensource database built by University students and language researchers. Combined with a visualization tool and user interface built from a combination of modern web technologies, Visuwords™ is available as a free resource to all patrons of the web.

I popped in “errata” and … nada. “brigadoon” … nada.

I popped in “graffiti” and made two connections.

… then I popped in “giant”

How fun is this?


And “encomium” begets “panegyrist” and “prosody” begets “hypercatalectic.”


May 25, 2007

The Cupertino effect

Filed under: wordstuff — Towse @ 8:21 pm

Came across an interesting reference today on Language Log to “the Cupertino effect.”

What is the Cupertino effect? You’ve seen it in action. I know you have.

The Cupertino effect is when your spellchecker fixes the spelling of a word and gives the wrong word.

Why Cupertino? (a town, btw, that I lived next door to for almost thirty years)

Seems the EU folks named the error/effect because cooperation is frequently mistyped cooperatino and some spellcheckers offer up Cupertino as a substitute.

Language Log finds that tale of origin suspect because I find it difficult to believe that many custom dictionaries out there include Cupertino but not unhyphenated cooperation.

Turns out that error can be found in an old version of Outlook Express (custom dictionary copyrighted as “Houghton Mifflin Company © 1996 Inso Corporation”)

[reached the Language Log post that mentioned “the Cupertino effect” which led me to the post mentioned above from a click on Sour Grapes’ tumblr page]

May 18, 2007 Blog

Filed under: blog,URL,wordstuff — Towse @ 6:55 pm Blog: the companion blog to the Take Our Word For It webzine and site.

Melanie and Mike are back in action. Check out the blog. Check out the site. Word-huggers and amateur etymologists rejoice.

May 14, 2007

Butt naked

Filed under: blog,URL,wordstuff — Towse @ 8:06 pm

Jan Freeman’s 13 May 2007 column on eggcorns

[via Benjamin Zimmer’s Language Log ]

January 26, 2007

[URL] An elementary dictionary of the English language. By Joseph E. Worcester, LL. D.

Filed under: books,history,information,URL,wordstuff — Towse @ 10:20 pm

From the Making of America collection comes a link to An elementary dictionary of the English language. By Joseph E. Worcester, LL. D. (1865).

I love old dictionaries. The actual wordstuff for this one begins at page 31, after all the frontal matter regarding pronunciation and all that.

Seeing how a word was used in 1865 gives one a glimpse at how the current day definition evolved. Some words in Worcester’s dictionary have evolved beyond recognition. Some no longer exist.

e.g. p 168 (lacerable – lapful)

laconism – pithy phrase or expression
Lady-Day – 25th March. The Annunciation.
laic- a layman; — opposed to clergyman.
lamantine – an animal; manatee or sea-cow.
lambative – a medicine taken by licking
laniate – to tear in pieces; to lacerate
lanuginous – downy; covered with soft thin hair

Some of those words are still in use today, although perhaps not in as common use as they were 142 years ago. “lanuginous” was used in the 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee finals.

Fun stuff, words.

January 14, 2007

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog

Filed under: blog,wordstuff — Towse @ 8:46 am

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog

[via tnh at Making Light]

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress