Thursday, June 30, 2016


Dreary Hours

E.E. Bowen (1836-1901), "On Teaching by Means of Grammar," in F.W. Farrar, ed., Essays on a Liberal Education (London: Macmillan and Co., 1867), pp. 179-204 (at 188-189):
Lexicons, by what we have said, are to beginners almost as noxious as grammars. Every one who knows Greek in the end, must remember well how dreary have been the hours which he has spent upon the simply mechanical exercise of turning over leaves, with his eye fixed upon the heading of the page. It is monotonous, it is unintellectual, it is distasteful in the highest degree; and there is not a public schoolmaster in the kingdom who has the courage and the benevolence to dispense with it. Lexicons must no doubt exist, for they are needed in many ways; but there is no worse way of discovering the English equivalent of a simple word than looking it out in a dictionary. It is better to have a glossary; it is better to ask a teacher; it is better even to have a literal translation: better, simply because these methods do not waste the time of the learner, and do not spoil his temper. In his first book of Homer, an average boy will look out somewhere between two and three thousand words in his lexicon, and spend, on a moderate computation, from forty to fifty hours in the search. Grievous, however, as his waste of time in this direction is, it is work of the fingers alone; the lessons of Grammar that he learns will torture his brains as much, and will not even give him the satisfaction of feeling in the end that he has gained his grain of knowledge. He will have done something, it is true; he will not have been idle; he will have done as hard work as people do who turn a treadmill.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Rage Against the Hyphen

Woodrow Wilson, Address at Pueblo, Colorado (September 25, 1919), in Addresses of President Wilson (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919), pp. 359-370 (at 359):
I want to say — and I cannot say too often — any man who carries a hyphen about with him, carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready. If I can catch any man with a hyphen in this great contest I will know that I have got an enemy of the Republic.
Id., Address at St. Paul, Minnesota (September 9, 1919), pp. 107-116 (at 108-109):
For my part, I think the most un-American thing in the world is a hyphen. I do not care what it is that comes before the word "American." It may be a German-American, or an Italian-American, a Swedish-American, or an Anglo-American, or an Irish-American. It does not make any difference what comes before the "American," it ought not to be there, and every man who comes to take counsel with me with a hyphen in his conversation I take no interest in whatever. The entrance examination, to use my own parlance, into my confidence is, "Where do you put America in your thoughts? Do you put it first, always first, unquestionably first?" Then we can sit down together and talk, but not otherwise.
Id., Address at San Francisco (September 17, 1919), pp. 219-229 (at 228):
That settles that matter, and even some of my fellow countrymen who insist upon keeping a hyphen in the middle of their names ought to be satisfied with that. Though I must admit that I do not care to argue anything with a hyphen. A man that puts anything else before the word "American" is no comrade of mine, and yet I am willing even to discomfit him with a statement of fact.
Update from Dave Berg:
You might be interested to know that Roosevelt, who greatly disliked Wilson, held the same opinions on hyphenation.

We welcome the German or the Irishman who becomes an American. We have no use for the German or Irishman who remains such. We do not wish German-Americans and Irish-Americans who figure as such in our social and political life; we want only Americans, and, provided they are such, we do not care whether they are of native or of Irish or of German ancestry. We have no room in any healthy American community for a German-American vote or an Irish-American vote, and it is contemptible demagogy to put planks into any party platform with the purpose of catching such a vote. We have no room for any people who do not act and vote simply as Americans and nothing else. Forum, April 1894, found in Theodore Roosevelt Cyclopedia, CD edition, pp. 15-16.

I do not believe in hyphenated Americans. I do not believe in German-Americans or Irish-Americans; and I believe just as little in English-Americans. Metropolitan, October 1915, TR Cyclopedia, p. 16.


Learning Latin

Joshua Whatmough (1897-1964) "'Quid Expedivit Psittaco?' or The Soul of Grammar," Classical Journal 39.2 (November, 1943) 105-113 (at 111):
If you want to learn some Latin, you will have to read Latin authors, not little bits of Latin in some textbook.



Jerome, Letters 107.1.4 (to Laeta; tr. W.H. Fremantle et al.):
Every temple in Rome is covered with soot and cobwebs.

fuligine et aranearum telis omnia Romae templa cooperta sunt.
Id., 107.2.2:
Even in Rome itself paganism is left in solitude. They who once were the gods of the nations remain under their lonely roofs with horned-owls and birds of night.

solitudinem patitur et in urbe gentilitas, dii quondam nationum cum bubonibus et noctuis in solis culminibus remanserunt.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


The Working Collection of a Scholar

John Buchan (1875-1940), The Three Hostages, chapter V:
He opened a door and ushered me into an enormous room, which must have occupied the whole space on that floor. It was oblong, with deep bays at each end, and it was lined from floor to ceiling with books. Books, too, were piled on the tables, and sprawled on a big flat couch which was drawn up before the fire. It wasn't an ordinary gentleman's library, provided by the bookseller at so much a yard. It was the working collection of a scholar, and the books had that used look which makes them the finest tapestry for a room. The place was lit with lights on small tables, and on a big desk under a reading lamp were masses of papers and various volumes with paper slips in them. It was workshop as well as library.


Two Goropisms

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. dory, n.3, gives no etymology (at least in the online edition) and borrows its definition from the Century Dictionary:
'A small boat; esp. a small flat-bottomed boat used in sea-fisheries, in which to go out from a larger vessel to catch fish' (Cent. Dict.).
The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, Vol. II (New York: The Century Co., 1897), p. 1738, says "Origin uncertain" for dory with this meaning.

A goropist might suggest an etymological connection with Greek δόρυ, whose primary meaning is tree, but which can also mean ship: see Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v., sense I.2, and R.A.S. Seaford, ed., Cyclops of Euripides (1984; rpt. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2009), p. 98.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines no-see-um as
Any of several minute, bloodsucking flies, esp. biting midges (family Ceratopogonidae)
and provides the following etymology:
NO adv.1 + SEE v. + 'EM, variant of 'EM pron., with allusion to the diminutive size of the insects.
A goropist might instead derive noo-see-um from the insect species Simulium nocivum, although Thoreau rejected this etymology in his Maine Woods:
Here first I was molested by the little midge called the No-see-em (Simulium nocivum, the latter word is not the Latin for no-see-em), especially over the sand at the water's edge, for it is a kind of sand-fly.

On goropism and goropist (neither in the Oxford English Dictionary) see D.P. Walker, "Leibniz on Language," in R.S. Woolhouse, ed., G.W. Leibniz: Critical Assessments (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 436-451 (at 443, footnote omitted):
He was by no means alone in his patriotic claim that the Germanic family of languages had most faithfully of all preserved the good qualities of the lingua adamica. He mentions one of his predecessors when suggesting that use could be made of etymological investigations to reconstruct the early history of the origins and relationships of various peoples; great caution, however, is needed here, he says, and no etymology should be accepted without a great deal of corroborative evidence — 'autrement c'est Goropizer'. This verb means to make up 'Etymologies étranges et souvent ridicules', like those of Goropius Becanus, a sixteenth-century writer on language.
See also Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, tr. James Fentress (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1995; rpt. 1997), p. 96:
Goropius Becanus (Jan van Gorp) in his Origines Antwerpianae of 1569 agreed with all claims made about the divine inspiration of the original language, and about its motivated and non-arbitrary relation between words and things. According to him there was only a single living language in which this motivated concordance existed to an exemplary degree; that language was Dutch, particularly the dialect of Antwerp. The ancestors of the burghers of Antwerp were the Cimbri, the direct descendants of the sons of Japheth. These had not been present under the Tower of Babel, and, consequently, they had been spared the confusio linguarum. Thus they had preserved the language of Adam in all its perfection. Such an assertion, Becanus claimed, could be proved by etymological demonstrations. He produced a string of arguments whose level of etymological wishful thinking matched those of Isidore and Guichard; they later became known as 'becanisms' or 'goropisms'.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Religion and Magic

Knut Kleve, "Samson Eitrem (1872-1966)," in Hermae: Scholars and Scholarship in Papyrology, ed. Mario Capasso (Pisa: Giardini Editori e Stampatori, 2007), pp. 187-191 (at 188):
Eitrem also paid at least lip-service to the view that religion and magic differ fundamentally. Eiliv Skard,9 a former pupil of Eitrem and my teacher of Greek philosophy, showed enthusiastically how the great Festugière,10 invited to Oslo by Eitrem, had demonstrated the difference by just two gestures — folded hands for religion: «Thy will be done»; grasping hands for magic: «Let me have it!»

9 Eiliv Skard, 1889-1978, Professor of Ancient History of Ideas, Oslo.
10 A.J. Festugière, O.P., 1898-1982, Directeur d'études at the École pratique des hautes études, Paris.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


The Sinister Sound of Ecclesiastical Language

John Buchan (1875-1940), The Three Hostages, chapter IV (Sandy Arbuthnot speaking to Richard Hannay):
"I might be bored in Parliament," he reflected, "but I should love the rough‐and‐tumble of an election. I only once took part in one, and I discovered surprising gifts as a demagogue and made a speech in our little town which is still talked about. The chief row was about Irish Home Rule, and I thought I'd better have a whack at the Pope. Has it ever struck you, Dick, that ecclesiastical language has a most sinister sound? I knew some of the words, though not their meaning, but I knew that my audience would be just as ignorant. So I had a magnificent peroration. 'Will you men of Kilclavers,' I asked, 'endure to see a chasuble set up in your market‐place? Will you have your daughters sold into simony? Will you have celibacy practised in the public streets?' Gad, I had them all on their feet bellowing 'Never!'"

Sunday, June 26, 2016



W.H. Hudson (1841-1922), Hampshire Days (London: Longmans, Green,and Co., 1906), pp. 51-52:
The blue sky, the brown soil beneath, the grass, the trees, the animals, the wind, and rain, and sun, and stars are never strange to me; for I am in and of and am one with them; and my flesh and the soil are one, and the heat in my blood and in the sunshine are one, and the winds and tempests and my passions are one. I feel the "strangeness" only with regard to my fellow men, especially in towns, where they exist in conditions unnatural to me, but congenial to them; where they are seen in numbers and in crowds, in streets and houses, and in all places where they gather together; when I look at them, their pale civilised faces, their clothes, and hear them eagerly talking about things that do not concern me. They are out of my world—the real world. All that they value, and seek and strain after all their lives long, their works and sports and pleasures, are the merest baubles and childish things; and their ideals are all false, and nothing but by-products, or growths, of the artificial life—little funguses cultivated in heated cellars.

In such moments we sometimes feel a kinship with, and are strangely drawn to, the dead, who were not as these; the long, long dead, the men who knew not life in towns, and felt no strangeness in sun and wind and rain.


The Immense Labors of Men

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Appendix (tr. Donald A. Cress):
When, on the one hand, one considers the immense labors of men, so many sciences searched into, so many arts invented, and so many forces employed, abysses filled up, mountains razed, rocks broken, rivers made navigable, lands cleared, lakes dug, marshes drained, enormous buildings raised upon the earth, the sea covered with ships and sailors; and when, on the other hand, one searches with a little meditation for the true advantages that have resulted from all this for the happiness of the human species, one cannot help being struck by the astonishing disproportion that obtains between these things, and to deplore man's blindness, which, to feed his foolish pride and who knows what vain sense of self-importance, makes him run ardently after all the miseries to which he is susceptible, and which beneficent nature has taken pains to keep from him.

Quand, d'un côté, l'on considère les immenses travaux des hommes, tant de sciences approfondies, tant d'arts inventés, tant de forces employées, des abîmes comblés, des montagnes rasées, des rochers brisés, des fleuves rendus navigables, des terres défrichées, des lacs creusés, des marais desséchée, des bâtiments énormes élevés sur la terre, la mer couverte de vaisseaux et de matelots; et que, de l'autre, on recherche avec un peu de méditation les vrais avantages qui ont résulté de tout cela pour le bonheur de l'espèce humaine; ou ne peut qu'être frappé de l'étonnante disproportion qui règne entre ces choses, et déplorer l'aveuglement de l'homme, qui, pour nourrir son fol orgueil et je ne sais quelle vaine admiration de lui-même, le fait courir avec ardeur après toutes les misères dont il est susceptible, et que la bienfaisante nature avait pris soin d'écarter de lui.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Real Men versus Sissies

Vergil, Aeneid 9.603-620 (Numanus Remulus speaking; tr. Frederick Ahl):
We are a species tough from the roots. We carry our new-borns
Straight to the rivers to toughen them up in the cold and the water.
Boyhood means staying awake to go hunting, exhausting the forests.        605
Playtime is breaking in horses and firing off shafts with a horn bow.
Youth means dealing with work, getting used to a bare-bones existence,
Taming the earth with a rake or shaking up towns in a battle.
Steel grinds our life's every stage; our prod for the ox's
Back when it's tired is our spear-shaft reversed. Old age, as it slows us,        610
Can't either lessen our strength or diminish our vigour of spirit.
We hide our grey hairs with our helmets, delight in importing,
Even then, fresh fruits of our hunts, and in living on plunder.
You, with your needleworked saffron and gleamingly purpled apparel,
You take delight in inertia, indulging yourselves in your dances.        615
Tunics for you come with sleeves, and your bonnets have nice little ribbons.
Phrygian women, not Phrygian men, go to Dindyma's highlands,
Skip to where your double woodwinds please local ears. Up on Ida,
Mother is calling you now with her soft Berecyntian boxwood
Pipes and her timbrels. Stop playing with steel. Leave arms to the real men.        620

durum a stirpe genus natos ad flumina primum
deferimus saevoque gelu duramus et undis;
venatu invigilant pueri silvasque fatigant,        605
flectere ludus equos et spicula tendere cornu.
at patiens operum parvoque adsueta iuventus
aut rastris terram domat aut quatit oppida bello.
omne aevum ferro teritur, versaque iuvencum
terga fatigamus hasta, nec tarda senectus        610
debilitat viris animi mutatque vigorem:
canitiem galea premimus, semperque recentis
comportare iuvat praedas et vivere rapto.
vobis picta croco et fulgenti murice vestis,
desidiae cordi, iuvat indulgere choreis,        615
et tunicae manicas et habent redimicula mitrae.
o vere Phrygiae, neque enim Phryges, ite per alta
Dindyma, ubi adsuetis biforem dat tibia cantum.
tympana vos buxusque vocat Berecyntia Matris
Idaeae; sinite arma viris et cedite ferro.        620
See Nicholas Horsfall, "Numanus Remulus: Ethnography and Propaganda in Aen., ix, 598 f.," Latomus 30.4 (Oct.-Dec. 1971) 1108-1116.

Friday, June 24, 2016


Modern Medicine

Maynard Mack (1909-2001), Alexander Pope: A Life (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1986), p. 333:
The sense of relative security that modern medicine has induced is best appreciated by reading a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century correspondence, where the minor or chronic discomfort of one letter may be succeeded in the next, as if magically, by what we now know must have been some version of coronary or pulmonary failure, an internal hemorrhage, a burst appendix, septicemia, acute uremia, or any of the thousand and one viral and bacterial killers for which today we always have names, frequently have lenitives, and sometimes have cures.


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