Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Bumf Again

The erudite E.J. Moncada writes:
Re: your BUMF, 6/11/06, I was not able to recall anything in Swift dealing with the subject matter, but perhaps something from his friend Pope can make up for it:
Verses to be prefixed before B. Linton's New Miscellany

...Their books are useful to a few,
A scholar or a wit or two;
Lintot's for general use are fit,
For some folks read, but all folks sh___.
And Robert Burton in his Democritus to the Reader (Anat. Mel.) writes about the profusion of printed matter: non tam refertae bibliothecae quam cloacae and also adds Martial's (XII, lxi, seemingly a recollection of Catullus 36. 1, but used differently) Scribunt carmina quae legunt cacantes.

And to continue this specialized attack on "carmina," Magister Bernhard Federleser says in his letter to Magister Ortwin Gratius, "ego bene merdarem in vestram poetriam" (Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum, Pt. I, iii.)

To return to the Catullan expression/idea, we find no less a one than John Milton in his Second Defense addressing his adversary More (Alexander): "tuam ergo tam bellam pro nostro populo oratiunculam, ne charta omnino pereat, in Annales Volusi suadeo inseres."

Later, S.T. Coleridge, in speaking of Warton’s edition of Milton's Minor Poems, says "The paper seems too bad for such respectable publishers as the Robinsons who did not deal in this charta cacatilis (sic)."

Not directly associated with topic, I thought this might be of interest to you, a remark by Norman Shapiro (Verbatim 18 (2) 1991) about how the French demonstrate a readiness to create words from letter abbreviations, "...the word pécu 'toilet paper' (from PQ, itself a punnish abbreviation of papier cul which has also come to mean a pompous piece of writing, with the corresponding verb, pécufier)."

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