September 9th, 2004

Fred/George

Today's Forgotten English

hunt two hares
To hunt two hares, to undertake too many projects. From the proverb, "He who hunts two hares leaves one and loses the other."
--Albert Hyamson's Dictionary of English Phrases, 1922


Birthday of Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642), the French prelate and statesman who, as Louis XIII's minister of state, was known for ruthlessly crushing all opposition to the monarchy. English writer, translator, and politician James Howell, a contemporary of Richelieu, ridiculed one of the cardinal's many pet undertakings in Familiar Letters (1645-1655): "The new academy of wits, called l'Academie de Beaux Espirits, which the late Cardinal de Richelieu founded in Paris, is now in hand to reform the French language ... and to weed it of all superfluous letters, which makes the tongue differ so much from the pen that they have expos'd themselves to this contumelious proverb: The Frenchman doth neither pronounce as he writes, nor speaks as he thinks, nor sings as he pricks."

That's all well and good, but I can't figure out the usage of "pricks" here ... if it means "to poke with a pointed object" or "to perk up" (as in "pricking one's ears"), what the heck does that have to do with singing?

-The Gneech

PS: Speaking of English, Stephen Fry reviews a new Wodehouse biography. Snagged from stephenfry.
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