“De Nyew Testament”

We Fada wa dey een heaben,
leh ebreybody hona ya name.
We pray dat soon ya gwine
rule oba de wol.
Wasoneba ting ya wahn,
leh um be so een dis wol
same like dey een heaben.
Gii we de food wa we need
dis day yah en ebry day.
Fagib we fa we sin,
same like we da fagib
dem people wa do bad ta we.
Leh we dohn hab haad test
wen Satan try we.
Keep we fom ebil.

From the New Testament in Gullah. The whole book is here.

Twice-Told Tale

In 1986 the Los Angeles Times received a peculiar 167-page novel from Lawrence Levine of St. Augustine, Fla. Titled Dr. Awkward & Olson in Oslo, it began “Tacit, I hate gas (aroma of evil), masonry …” It ended “No, Sam — live foam or a sage Tahiti CAT!” And the very middle read “I deplore media, rats, gals, a tar bag and a maniac Dr. Awkward ‘Cain,’ a mad nag, a brat, a slag star. Ai! Demerol, pedicular addenda, Edgar!”

Working four hours a day for five months, Levine had composed a novel that was one long palindrome, 31,594 words.

“There were lessons in trial and error, in logic, in vocabulary, in syntactics, and a wide-ranging lexical development that I never thought possible,” Levine revealed elsewhere. “I wrote the novel because to my knowledge no other person had ever composed an equal nonesuch. I decided, as it were, to be the first.”

The Times responded, “The world needs more Levines — playful eccentrics determined to scale the heights where no one has gone before, even if getting there isn’t much of an accomplishment. Or, as the metaphysicians say, ‘No lemons, no melon.'”

A Nursery Sonnet

In 2000, mathematician Mike Keith rearranged the letters in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 143 to tell a familiar story:

Lo, as a careful huswife runs to catch
One of her feathered creatures broke away,
Sets down her babe and makes all swift dispatch
In pursuit of the thing she would have stay,
Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase,
Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent
To follow that which flies before her face,
Not prizing her poor infant’s discontent:
So run’st thou after that which flies from thee,
Whilst I, thy babe, chase thee afar behind;
But if thou catch thy hope turn back to me,
And play the mother’s part: kiss me, be kind.
So will I pray that thou mayst have thy Will,
If thou turn back and my loud crying still.

The gal named Mary shuffles through the house —
But view her as she strokes her frisky lamb,
Whose brow is whiter than a snowy mouse,
Fleece chalky as French cliffs of epigram
Each place she’d bathe, attain or hie without
(To parish church or at the stuffy crypt),
The lamb’s instinct did follow her about
(So close around that twice she nearly tripped).
Back to her class that zany lamb would fly
And cause a hubbub (then they fetched it in);
It whacked the inkwell, overturn’d the pie,
Though this was chief and total public sin.
“Anoint this lofty one,” the brats then cried,
“For now it’s certain: school is rather fried!”

(Michael Keith, “Another Mary Sonnet,” Word Ways 33:3 [August 2000], 233.)

A Little Latin

mcbryde whistle illustration

In M.R. James’s superbly creepy 1904 short story “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You My Lad,” a Cambridge professor investigating a Templar ruin finds a whistle bearing the inscription “Quis est iste, qui venit?”

“I suppose I am a little rusty in my Latin,” he thinks. “It ought to mean, ‘Who is this who is coming?’ Well, the best way to find out is evidently to whistle for him.” And he does, and everything follows from there.

“It’s a rare use by M.R. James of Latin as a pivotal plot point, and a wonderful pedagogic caution to study hard in your lessons or else be grabbed by a ghoul,” writes Roger Clarke in A Natural History of Ghosts.

James says no more about it, but “a Latin scholar would know that iste was a pejorative term, that whoever was coming is unpleasant or, indeed, not exactly human. It should be translated as ‘What is this revolting thing coming towards me?'”

Grammatical Illusions

More people have been to Russia than I have.

Most listeners find this sentence acceptable when they first hear it, but it’s meaningless: The phrase “more people” seems to set up a comparison between two sets of individuals, but there’s no second set.

“In light of the fact that the sentence lacks this basic property, it is remarkable that speakers so commonly fail to notice the error,” write linguists Colin Phillips, Matthew W. Wagers, and Ellen F. Lau.

No head injury is too trivial to be ignored.

At first this seems to mean “No head injury should be ignored — even if it’s trivial,” but reflection shows that it really means “All head injuries should be ignored — even trivial ones.”

“This difficulty has certain interesting properties,” write psychologists Peter Wason and Shuli Reich. “When the correct interpretation was explained it was often adamantly rejected in our informal studies, as if the informants literally could not see an alternative view.”

(Colin Phillips, M. Wagers, and E. Lau, “Grammatical Illusions and Selective Fallibility in Real-Time Language Comprehension,” in Jeffrey T. Runner, ed., Syntax and Semantics 37: Experiments at the Interfaces, 2011; Peter C. Wason and Shuli S. Reich, “A Verbal Illusion,” Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 31:4 [1979], 591-597.)

Misc

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pete_Conrad_on_LM_ladder,_Apollo_12.jpg

  • Peter Davison, who played the fifth Doctor in Doctor Who, is the father-in-law of David Tennant, who played the 10th.
  • Sharks are older than trees.
  • ABHORS, ALMOST, BEGINS, BIOPSY, and CHINTZ are alphabetical.
  • \displaystyle \sqrt{7! + 1} = 71
  • “The punishment can be remitted; the crime is everlasting.” — Ovid

“Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me!” — Pete Conrad, after becoming the third human to set foot on the moon

In a Word

unyore
adv. not long ago, recently, lately

obliviality
n. liability to be forgotten

nutual
adj. expressed merely by a gesture

illation
n. an inference; conclusion

Norbert Wiener of MIT was well known as an extreme example of someone who could get lost in thought. Once while walking on campus, Wiener met an acquaintance, and after a while he asked his companion: ‘Which way was I walking when we met?’ The man pointed, and Wiener said, ‘Good. Then I’ve had my lunch.’

— Reuben Hersh and Vera John-Steiner, Loving and Hating Mathematics: Challenging the Myths of Mathematical Life, 2010

Fair Exchange

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Hogarth_016.jpg

The Beggar’s Opera, by John Gay, premiered in 1728 at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre, managed by John Rich.

It was an enormous success, becoming one of the most popular plays of the 18th century.

This “had the effect, as was ludicrously said, of making Gay rich and Rich gay.”

(From Johnson’s Lives of the Poets.)