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May 21st, 2007

Happy Birthday, ralph_lycanth!

For your present, here's today's Forgotten English (© Jeffrey Kacirk)!

interlard
To put lard or fat between layers of meat. Metaphorically, to mix what is the solid part of a discourse with fulsome and irrelevant matter. Thus we say, "to interlard with oaths, compliments," etc.
--Ebenezer Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1898


Victoria Day (Canada)

Mayoral "Weigh-in"

On the first Monday after mid-month, mayors of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, have been "weighed in" and "weighed out" of their positions in a changing-of-the-guard ceremony. Those who shed poundage during their tenure are honored, while obese "bloaters" are subject to good-natured ridicule. An anonymously written self-help manual, The Cottage Physician (1899), offered readers some questionable advice on the subject of weight loss: "Take less nutritious substances for food; drink sparingly, especially malt liquors. ... The body should be rubbed with a pomatum made of lard, 3/4 ounces, and camphor, one ounce. By a rigid pursuance of these means ... the most corpulant and unwieldy man or woman will be reduced within moderate bounds, with an acquisition of health, strength, and vigor."

Right, I'll get back to you on that.

-The Gneech

Yes, Exactly

Zed: What's so funny, Edwards?

James Edwards: Boy, Captain America over here! "Best of the best of the best, sir!" [salutes] "With honors!" He's really excited, and he just has no clue why we're here. That's very funny to me. ... [sheepish] Y'all aren't laughing, tho.

-The Gneech

English Wonkery

Julian Gough: Divine Comedy
The Greeks understood that comedy (the gods' view of life) is superior to tragedy (the merely human). But since the middle ages, western culture has overvalued the tragic and undervalued the comic. This is why fiction today is so full of anxiety and suffering. It's time writers got back to the serious business of making us laugh.

Erik Campbell: The Accidental Plagiarist
"There are, however, always a few students who ask about the nature of ideas and their origins and argue in an inchoate but sincere fashion that knowledge is inherently derivative and communal, and consequently they would have to cite every statement made in their composition—nay, would have to cite every thought they have ever had—to avoid SP, and would therefore be subject to an infinite regression. In higher academic circles we would call such students promising “epistemologists” (i.e., those who study how one knows), but we are more likely to think of such students as “pains in the ass” (i.e., annoying people who cause emotional stress). Teachers, realizing the daunting significance of these impossible, or, at least, exhausting questions, end up supplying rather insufficient answers to these pains in the ass, such as that of the aforementioned middle-school teacher. We teachers know that we’ve never had a truly original idea—and most of us are fearful that we have heretofore even plagiarized our emotions."

The second one suffers a bit from liking too much to hear himself speak (or to read himself write?), but I found both quite interesting. Yoinked from Arts & Letters Daily.

-The Gneech
Yet in those days all the enemies of the Enemy revered what was ancient, in language no less than in other matters, and they took pleasure in it according to their knowledge. The Eldar, being above all skilled in words, had the command of many styles, though they spoke most naturally in a manner nearest to their own speech, one even more antique than that of Gondor. The Dwarves, too, spoke with skill, readily adapting themselves to their company, though their utterance seemed to some rather harsh and guttural. But Orcs and Trolls spoke as they would, without love of words or things; and their language was actually more degraded and filthy than I have shown it. I do not suppose that any will wish for a closer rendering, though models are easy to find. Much the same sort of talk can still be heard among the orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigour, save in the ears of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong.
-J.R.R. Tolkien, Return of the King, Appendix F

Come on, Professor, don't hold back; tell us how you really feel!

Actually, I know exactly what he's getting at here. I've sat through enough conversations that ran along the lines of "Well shit! What the fuck does that motherfucker mean by posting this goddamn crap?" that I find them very dull these days. I have a few writer friends in particular who have a tendency to think that emotional outbursts (regardless of whether they're joy, despair, or anger) somehow seem more "real" when liberally laced with swear words, no matter what the context or who's making the outburst.

Anyway, I finally finished rereading Lord of the Rings from stem to stern, including every passage of elvish poetry and all the appendices (both of which I skipped for the most part when first reading it). Return of the King is actually the fastest read of the bunch, it seems, although I really, really got tired of the "They looked to him And Lo! he was as if a man transformed. For behold! the glory of the Eldar was upon him. And Lo! the writer cannot finish a paragraph without inserting fifteen archaic interjections. But behold! They really get on the reader's nerves after a while!" I think the point at which I got closest to throwing the book across the room was when the people of Gondor started spontaneously shouting "Praise them with great praise!" all over the place.

What it boils down to, I have come to the conclusion, is that I derive much more enjoyment out of the study of "Middle Earth lore" than I do from actually reading Tolkien's writing. I love the setting and the history of Middle Earth, and I enjoy the plot of Lord of the Rings even when the book drives me up the wall. If LotR had been written by Robert E. Howard, the fantasy genre would be dead to me 'cause it would be impossible to improve upon it.

Lucky for me then, I guess, that it wasn't. ;) If and when I start doing my novel-writing with serious intent, that may be one of the ways I approach my work -- to see if I can produce "Lord of the Rings as written by Robert E. Howard". That won't be my end-point, of course, but it's not a bad launching platform.

-The Gneech

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