Language

Theme and Variations

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_nascita_di_Venere_(Botticelli).jpg

After reading David Shulman’s anagrammed tribute to Washington crossing the Delaware, Janet Hodge composed this sonnet:

Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus

Love is born. A thin cloud bestirs theft —
such a festive birth not to be droll sin.
No strict habits should live on bereft
of love. Blind, it throbs; truth ceases in
antic trust. Oh, love is blest, for behind
its first bother, viols enchant. Double
fret (blush) scares the volition to bind.
It finds both chaste lovers in trouble.
Loves throes ache, but sit blind in frost.
The love born of bliss dictates in hurt
a nibbled truth, sloven heir of its cost.
Noble itch is hovel burn, tastes of dirt.
The bit done, not favors rise, but chills;
Best avoid, not note, such brief thrills.

Each line is a perfect anagram of the title.

Misc

  • Mississippi didn’t ratify the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, until 2013.
  • To protect its ecosystem, the location of Hyperion, the world’s tallest living tree, is kept secret.
  • 34425 = 34 × 425
  • CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE = ACTUAL CRIME ISN’T EVINCED
  • “Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?” — James Thurber

In a Word

cicisbeo
n. the escort or lover of a married woman

bedswerver
n. one who breaks one’s marriage vows

deuterogamist
n. one who marries a second time

Payback

In October 2009, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger attended a local Democratic Party fundraiser at the invitation of former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown. His speech was heckled by San Francisco assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who took the stage afterward to criticize the governor.

Three weeks later, Schwarzenegger vetoed a measure sponsored by Ammiano. He attached this message:

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 1176 without my signature.

For some time now I have lamented the fact that major issues are overlooked while many
unnecessary bills come to me for consideration. Water reform, prison reform, and health
care are major issues my Administration has brought to the table, but the Legislature just
kicks the can down the alley.

Yet another legislative year has come and gone without the major reforms Californians
overwhelmingly deserve. In light of this, and after careful consideration, I believe it is
unnecessary to sign this measure at this time.

Sincerely,

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Read the first letter of each printed line. “My goodness, what a coincidence,” said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear when confronted with the acrostic. “I suppose when you do so many vetoes, something like this is bound to happen.”

See Between the Lines, Poetic License, and In Memoriam.

In a Word

philologaster
n. an incompetent philologist

nitigram
n. a second-rate epigram

cacography
n. poor spelling

“Adverbities of Eros”

Yesterday too little nevertheless
Thereupon notwithstanding everywhere
At that point next together the way that
Such as at length thus at the time as much as
Formerly less thither of yore
Here always in enough already near
Quite so sometimes almost a lot all right
Evermore such still within hard never
When hither wrongly once again
Forthwith gladly late in the day henceforth
Maybe drop by drop indeed all the way
Why face to face fast to be sure quasi
Immediately unhesitatingly
Thoughtlessly frontwards backwards squattingly
Non-stop post-haste suddenly from now on
In succession torrentially finally
Incessantly tomorrow emulously
Whereas along in turn now over there
Elsewhere today of course so there pell-mell
Outside there all of a sudden round about
No way in brief no better than so-so
Worse rather than better out worse and worse.

— Noël Arnaud

In a Word

macroscian
adj. casting a long shadow

umbratile
adj. pertaining to the shade

obtenebrate
v. to cast a shadow over

lucifugous
adj. shunning light

In a Word

vecke
n. an old woman

graocracy
n. government by old women

Put Upon

Letter to the Times, Oct. 14, 1939:

Sir,

If ordinary English usage counts for anything, an evacuee is a person who has been evacued, whatever that may be, as a trustee is one who has been trusted; for ‘evacuee’ cannot be thought of as a feminine French form, as ‘employee’ is by some.

Where are we going to stop if ‘evacuee’ is accepted as good English? Is a terrible time coming in which a woman, much dominated by her husband, will be called a dominee? Will she often be made a humiliee by his rough behavior and sometimes prostree with grief after an unsought quarrel?

Must sensitive people suffer the mutilation of their language until they die and are ready to become cremees?

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

F.H.J. Newton

Over and Out

If it’s a sin to end a sentence with one preposition, then presumably it’s even worse to end it with two. How far can we take this? For the August 1968 issue of Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics, Darryl Francis devised one sentence that ends with nine prepositions. If the Yardbirds’ 1966 single “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” were exported to Australia and then retrieved by a traveler, the question might be asked:

“What did he bring ‘Over, Under, Sideways, Down’ up from Down Under for?”

Inspired, Ralph Beaman pointed out that if this issue of the journal were now brought to a boy who slept on the upper floor of a lighthouse, he might ask:

“What did you bring me the magazine I didn’t want to be read to out of about ‘”Over Under, Sideways, Down” up from Down Under’ up around for?”

“This has a total of fifteen terminal prepositions,” writes Ross Eckler, “but the end is not in sight; for now the little boy can complain in similar vein about the reading material provided in this issue of Word Ways, adding a second ‘to out of about’ at the beginning and ‘up around for’ at the end of the preposition string. The mind boggles at the infinite regress which has now been established.”

In a Word

feriation
n. the act of observing a holiday

Ozymandias Without Es

I know a pilgrim from a distant land
Who said: Two vast and sawn-off limbs of quartz
Stand on an arid plain. Not far, in sand
Half sunk, I found a facial stump, drawn warts
And all; its curling lips of cold command
Show that its sculptor passions could portray
Which still outlast, stamp’d on unliving things,
A mocking hand that no constraint would sway:
And on its plinth this lordly boast is shown:
“Lo, I am Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, O Mighty, and bow down!”
‘Tis all that is intact. Around that crust
Of a colossal ruin, now windblown,
A sandstorm swirls and grinds it into dust.

(By Georges Perec, translated from the French by Gilbert Adair.)

In a Word

merry-go-sorry
n. a tale that evokes joy and sadness simultaneously

chantpleure
v. to sing and weep at the same time

Resemblance

Harry Mathews composed this limerick:

Young Dick, always eager to eat,
Denied stealing the fish eggs, whereat,
Caning him for a liar,
His pa ate the caviar
And left Dicky digesting the caveat.

Shouldn’t it rhyme?

Adam’s Wish

REVEL EVER, EVE! O EVE, REVEL EVER!

That sentence, composed by J.A. Lindon, can reproduce itself in two ways — it’s a conventional palindrome, and it produces a natural word square:

lindon word square

Green Party

Letter to the Times, Aug. 19, 1930:

Sir, In one of the loveliest gardens in the West of Scotland, opened freely on certain days to a vast public from Glasgow and that neighbourhood, courteous notices everywhere intimated that ‘Visitors are requested not to pick the flowers without leave.’ A waggish tourist went round with a paint brush, adding an ‘s’ to the word ‘leave,’ with the deplorable result that not only were flowers plucked, but whole plants — flowers, leaves, and roots — were excavated and carried off.

Yours, &c.

David Hunter-Blair

Topsy Turvy

http://books.google.com/books?id=iUoXAAAAYAAJ

This reversible magic square comes from Henry Dudeney’s Canterbury Puzzles.

Each row, column, and diagonal in the square totals 179.

Thanks to some clever calligraphy, this remains true when the square is turned upside down.

In a Word

lubberwort
n. food that makes one idle and stupid, food of no nutritive value, junk food

Misc

  • A pound of dimes has the same value as a pound of quarters.
  • The French word hétérogénéité has five accents.
  • 32768 = (3 – 2 + 7)6 / 8
  • Can you deceive yourself deliberately?
  • “My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” — Thomas Paine

In 2000, Guatemalan police asked Christmas revelers not to fire pistols into the air. “Lots of people die when bullets fall on their heads,” National Civilian Police spokesman Faustino Sanchez told Reuters. He said that five to ten Guatemalans are killed or injured each Christmas by falling bullets.

Signs and Portents

Writing in a prison diary in 1943, Ho Chi Minh discovered a lesson in Chinese ideographs:

Take away the sign (man) from the sign for prison,
Add to it (probability), that makes the word (nation).
Take the head-particle from the sign for misfortune:
That gives the word (fidelity).
Add the sign for man (standing) to the sign for worry,
That gives the word (quality).
Take away the bamboo top from the sign for prison,
That gives you dragon.

People who come out of prison can build up the country,
Misfortune is a test of people’s fidelity.
Those who protest at injustice are people of true merit.
When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.

On his release, he started the August Revolution.

In a Word

epigamic
adj. attracting the opposite sex

altrigenderism
n. the state of development in which one becomes attracted to members of the opposite sex

Allergic?

mayonnaise circle

Write the word MAYONNAISE in a circle and read it backward and you get I ANNOY AMES.

Make of that what you will.

(From Word Ways, February 1968.)

Symmetry

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illu_adrenal_gland-es.png

Reversing the Dutch word for kidney, NIER, gives the French word for kidney, REIN.

Slenderizing

What’s unusual about this sentence by Harry Mathews?

Once brought into this country, partly imprudent gray barbers marry expatriate, parrying the frictions of tried friends such as Mary, the sorry crook with no work at hand, who is now without a murmur getting pastry.

It remains a sentence when you remove the Rs:

Once bought into this county, patly impudent gay babes may expatiate, paying the fictions of tied fiends such as May, the soy cook with no wok at hand, who is now without a mumu getting pasty.