Rereading the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

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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!

Is Tar Baby the new N-Word?

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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 in mythology from many cultures (referenced, for example, in Joseph’s Campbell’s groundbreaking work, Hero … click below for more!

Lost Worlds, Lost Words

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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, stupid blockhead” according to Johnson. I can think of a use for that right … click below for more!

Taking words out of context

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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 read the letter on the EEU. The letter contains two quotes – both by dead … click below for more!

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

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“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 about an act, and how we create a memory of it. This novel finding … click below for more!

Yet More Quotes with False Attributions

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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” for the non-Catholics among us, of course. But even without the questionable transformation of … click below for more!

Verify Source Before You Post

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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 is, by FB standards, tiny: 17 members right now. But that will, I hope, … click below for more!

More Facebook Mis-quotes

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Saw three images (“posters”) on Facebook today with “quotes” I’m pretty sure are mis-attributions. As usual, I feel compelled to check out their validity. First is one allegedly by “St. Francis of Assisi.” This would be simply “Francis of Assisi” if you’re not Catholic or don’t believe in saints or canonization. One day I’ll post a blog piece about canonization and its politics, but not now. The quote is: “What we are looking for… is what is looking.” That seems … click below for more!

54,232 words… and it’s done

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I passed 54,000 words yesterday in my book on Machiavelli for municipal politicians. A little tweaking today, and an additional selection from The Discourses pushed it to 54,232 words. It prints out at 163 letter-sized pages. Even though that count includes chapter titles and subheads, as well as the opening notes and quotes, dedication, bibliography, and back page copy, it’s still about 20,000 more than my original target. I just don’t seem to be able to stop working on it. … click below for more!

This time it’s a Machiavellian mis-quote.

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Whilst perusing the Net for some material for my book on Machiavelli, I came across this maxim: “Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.” It’s attributed on many, many sites to Machiavelli in his most famous work, The Prince. Sounds pretty Machiavellian, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. Machiavelli never wrote those words. Sun Tzu wrote that, “All warfare is based on deception.” (Book 1, 18), which is close. Sun Tzu went on to add in … click below for more!

It’s not an Apache blessing, it’s just a Hollywood script

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“May the sun bring you new energy by day,” begins this saccharine saying that has enjoyed a continued life outside Facebook through the fridge magnet and huggable-puppies-and-kittens-on-posters and wedding planner industries. It gets passed off as an “Apache blessing” or “Apache wedding blessing” on Facebook, usually with some hunk-ish Indian brave pictures beside the words or some faux-Indian animal fetish images. The rest of the alleged “blessing” reads: …May the moon softy restore you by night; May the rain wash … click below for more!

So many bad quotes, so little time

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I was browsing through my blog posts today and found I have actually written about improperly attributed quotations on the Net nine times since I first started blogging back in March, 2005. On my old Mumpsimus blog, I posted two pieces about these bad memes: A quote misattributed to Henry David Thoreau, November, 2010. A quote misattributed to William Shakespeare, January, 2009. On this new blog, which I launched in mid_December, 2011, I have written seven pieces about bad Internet … click below for more!

James Miles? Goethe? Sorry: this quote is from Malcolm Forbes

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Another New Age quote showed up on Facebook today, one of those warn-n-fuzzy, touchy-feely sayings that either make you gag or go weak at the knees. This one is ascribed to James D. Miles. Miles was, according to answers.com (a site of dubious factuality and not terribly reliable at the best of timns), “…an associate professor of Psychology at Purdue University.” The author of this answer claimed Miles was “…quoting the German poet, novelist, playwright, scientist and philosopher Johann Wofgang … click below for more!

Does This Really Sound Like Sitting Bull?

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Another quote meme going around on the Internet claims to be from Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake), the famous Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux chief. A fascinating man in a difficult time, and a source of inspiration today. He was brave, intelligent and, from all accounts, wise. So when I read the quote below, I was torn. It’s a good comment, one that sounds like it should come from a wise man. But was that wise man really Sitting Bull? Or perhaps these … click below for more!

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