Sometimes I despair when I surf through the social media. Technology has empowered everyone to be able to comment, to post their stories, to share their opinion. Yet it has not enabled their ability to compose a sentence, or to spell the words correctly. It has not made us better grammarians, better spellers. And in my despair, I’m not alone. Others take exception to the general dumbing down and its accelerating spread online. It’s not just the easily-confused homophones like … click below for more!
When I was a young lad, all I ever wanted to be was a paleontologist. Dinosaurs were the most important thing in my life until around age 14 or 15. That’s when I barely scraped through my high-school Latin course. After that, my interests shifted to other, more attainable career goals. Basic Latin was, at least back then, required for a career in paleontology. Greek, too*. My ability to learn languages was, as a young teenager, not up to the … click below for more!
I can’t recall exactly how old I was when I first cracked open Don Marquis’s book, archy and mehitabel, sitting there among the other books in the basement, black spined, stiff, yellowing pages. That old book smell. Perhaps I was 11 or 12, but not much older, because we moved from that house in the summer after my 12th birthday. But I still remember it well.* The book was one of those oddities on our basement family bookshelf. I ignored … click below for more!
I had no idea it was this sexy. The Thousand Nights and One Nights, aka The Arabian Nights, aka The Thousand and One Nights – it’s really wonderful, steamy stuff. Every tale is a cliffhanger and you keep wanting to read just one more to see how it turns out. Of course, that was the point of the collection.* The backstory is rather complicated, but to simplify it: the Sultan beds a virgin one night, then kills her the next … click below for more!
A site has popped up with one of the stupidest ideas about English I’ve read in the past decade or two. It’s called Kill the Apostrophe. Subtle. At first, I thought it was a joke, a spoof. After all, how can one realistically get rid of perhaps the most significant element of punctuation based on the rantings of a website lunatic? And some of the counterpoint sites like Humbleapostrophe seemed created in a sense of camaraderie humour. But no, on … click below for more!
A recent article in The Independent said that J.K. Rowling’s new book and the abysmally-written 50 Shades of Grey were among the books most put down by readers as unfinishable. Putdownable. A description no author or publisher relishes. They joined titles like Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Ulysses, Lord of the Rings, Moby Dick, Atlas Shrugged and Catch 22 as books readers gave up the struggle to finish. Personally, I hesitate to put 50 Shades in the same category as … click below for more!
After reading the play by Shakespeare last week, I decided to tackle Chaucer’s epic 8,000-line poem about the Trojan lovers, Troilus and Cressida (or Criseyde as Chaucer writes it). It’s a long, somewhat meandering piece that begins, in the Online Medieval Classical Library version: The double sorwe of Troilus to tellen, That was the king Priamus sone of Troye, In lovinge, how his aventures fellen Fro wo to wele, and after out of Ioye, My purpos is, er that I parte … click below for more!
There’s an economic principle known as the rule of fungibility that states a commodity is equivalent to other units of the same commodity. For example, a litre of gasoline is the same commodity regardless of the brand or source. A bushel of wheat is the same regardless of the country. Ten dollars is ten dollars whether presented as a single bill or in smaller denominations. These are fungible items. But fungibility doesn’t apply to language. Words do not have an … click below for more!
I like Chinese films, particularly the epic wuxia films. They are often a refreshing change from the effects-driven/CGI monstrosities pumped out by Hollywood. They remind me of the westerns of the 1950s, usually with good and bad sides in stark relief. Subtitles don’t bother me (better them than dubbed). I’ve watched the Chinese film industry mature over the past three decades and the quality has become remarkable. Cinematography is sometimes breathtaking. One of the most appealing aspects is that they tend … click below for more!
What is propaganda? The word gets thrown around easily by people who obviously mean “anything we dislike or don’t agree with.” It’s a pejorative often used by a small group to describe anything official that any level of government puts out, no matter how benign or factual. Libertarians, for example, often grouse that government information about, say the efficacy of flu shots or the safety of fluoridated water, is “propaganda.”* Ironically, many of these individuals and groups then turn around … click below for more!
Foolosopher. What a wonderful word. Not much in use these days, but it ought to be. It is a portmanteau word, first used in English way back in 1549*, according to my copy of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. It defines foolosopher as, “A foolish pretender to philosophy.” So foolosophy is therefore the “foolish pretence of philosophy.” Philosophy comes from the Greek (philo and sophia), meaning, literally, “love of knowledge,” but more generally the word means just knowledge or reasoning … click below for more!
Published in 1647, The Art of Worldly Wisdom is a collection of 300 aphorisms about life, behaviour, politics, morality, faith, philosophy and society. One comment, on Amazon.ca called it, somewhat unfairly to Machiavelli, “Machiavelli with a soul.” I have been reading it of late as part of my ongoing study of Machiavelli. It was written by Balthasar Gracian (1601-1658), a Spanish-born Jesuit priest, and titled in its original Spanish, “Oraculo manual y arte de prudencia” which translates to “The Oracle, … click below for more!
Machiavelli today is known to many by sayings that aren’t actually his; pseudo-quotations or mis-attributed sayings that appear on slovenly, un-moderated, un-verified websites that do an enormous disservice to everyone by their very existence. These sites seem to feed one another, because find one misquote on one of them and you’re sure to find it parroted without even the slightest effort to verify it, on all the rest. Since these sites are predominantly about ad revenue, it’;s little wonder they … click below for more!
There are many books weighing down my bookshelves into soft, drooping curves, but not many of them have the privilege of tenure. Only a handful have travelled with me for more than a couple of decades; a small selection of tomes that are read, perhaps infrequently, but more than once, and still manage to speak to me every time. Most of my books have, over the years, been donated to libraries or sold to bookstores, to make room for the … click below for more!