Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde

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 … (more–>)

Not All Words Are Equal, or Used Equally

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 … (more–>)

Shaolin: the film

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. … (more–>)

Propaganda, PR and Spin

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 … (more–>)

Foolish words that still resonate

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, … (more–>)

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

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 … (more–>)

More Machiavellian Misquotes

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 … (more–>)

Rereading the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

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 … (more–>)

Is Tar Baby the new N-Word?

As far back as I can recall, the term “tar baby” was a metaphor in common political parlance for a “sticky situation.” It has no racial meaning in that context, any more than saying “honey trap” or “sticky wicket.” Both have similar, but not synonymous meanings. But in the last decade, “tar-baby” has become the new N-word on the political stage.* The tar-baby theme is common … (more–>)

Lost Worlds, Lost Words

Moidered. It sounds like something from the Three Stooges. Or maybe something Tony Soprano would say.”I moidered him.”  But it actually means “crazed,” according to Samuel Johnson in his famous dictionary of 1755. It’s long since left  the stage of English usage. Scan down another few inches and you’ll find “mome.” No, not “mome, mome on the range” or a reference to Mitt Romney’s bizarre religion. Mome means, “a dull, … (more–>)

Taking words out of context

Council, along with the media, the auditor general, the CBC, our MP and MPP,and a few others, were recently sent a letter complaining about council’s decision to build new, year-round recreational facilities without raising taxes. Fair enough. Everyone has the right to write letters. We’re open to public criticism, even after the issue has been decided, contracts signed, and council (and most of the town) has moved on. You can … (more–>)

The lingering wisps of memory, the subtle newness of a moment…

“Can the simple act of recognizing a face as you walk down the street change the way we think?” Thus opens a story posted on Science Daily. “Or can taking the time to notice something new on our way to work change what we remember about that walk?” Intriguing questions. The act of recognition, the act of discovery; both can change how we both process information … (more–>)

Yet More Quotes with False Attributions

It seems a good week for mis-attributed Francis of Assisi quotes. Someone on Facebook posted an image with the following quote: “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist. St. Francis of Assisi” That’s simply “Francis of “Assisi” … (more–>)

Verify Source Before You Post

I recently joined a small but dedicated group on Facebook. It’s called “Verify Source Before You Post.” Every reader of this blog and my older Mumpsimus Blog will recognize this as a favorite topic of mine. I’ve written perhaps a dozen posts over the last five years trying to correct numerous bad quotes or mis-attributions. It’s a losing battle, it seems. When I say small, it … (more–>)

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