John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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Some Forgotten English

Yesterday's and today's, lj-cut for your protection. I figure word wonks will be interested enough to click, and everybody else would just skim over the entry anyway. ;)

One who understands prosody, that part of grammar which treats the quantity of syllables, of accent, and of the laws of versification. Prosidian, one skilled in prosody.
--Rev. John Boag's Imperial Lexicon, c. 1850

[March 3] Birthday of Henry Watson Fowler (1858-1933), Oxford-educated grammarian and lexicographer, who collaborated with his younger brother Frank, a tomato-grower, on The King's English (1906) and A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926). The latter book had an influence on the modern copy editor's bible, The Chicago Manual of Style. In Modern English Usage, Fowler declared: "The English-speaking world may be divided into those who neither know nor care what a 'split infinitive' is, those who do not know but care very much, those who know and condemn, [and] those who know and distinguish. Those who neither know nor care are the vast majority, and are a happy folk, to be envied by most of the minority classes."

Actually, I remember that Fowler quote from an essay by James Thurber; that particular essay convinced me that all the nonsense about split infinitives was indeed something I ought to resolutely ignore. ;)

One who undertakes to improve the form of the body.
--Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, 1755

On this date [March 4] in 1741, the English anecdotist Joseph Spence wrote to his mother about an incident involving Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, wife of England's ambassador to Turkey. She had recently visited a Turkish bath, and according to Spence, "never saw finer shap'd women than the Turkish ladies, tho' they never wear stays. Their make is more natural, and really more beautiful than that of the ladies with us. The first time she was at one of those baths the ladies invited her to undress, and to bathe with them; and on her not making any haste one of the prettiest ran to undress her. You can't imagine her surprise upon lifting the lady's gown and seeing [corset] stays all around her. She ran back quite frighten'd and told her companions that the husbands in England were much worse than in the East, for they ty'd up their wives in little boxes of the shape of their bodies. ... They all agree that 'twas one of the greatest barbarities and pitied the poor women for being such slaves in Europe."

Sounds like an episode of Love Hina. 0.o

-The Gneech
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