Thursday, August 30, 2007

coinkydinkies tween the blogosphere and meatspace

A while back, via the intertwingularity that is the very webbic essence of the blogosphere (probably, no doubt, via my good blogging buddy, Mr BaliHai of Eye of the Goof) I discovered Karl Esklund’s late-WW2 mémoir, My Chinese Wife. I saw a scan of the dust jacket, vide infra, which grabbed me by the lapels and said: go thou to Abebooks and buy this book, wait, and read it. Which I did. Had been waiting. After which I have done.

My Chinese Wife (partial)

Karl Esklund [1918–1972] leaves Denmark as a young man and travels to Shanghai where his dad is working as a dentist. He decides to make a living as a journalist, and soon falls for a Chinese woman, Fei Chi-yun [1918–2002], and woos and weds her, much to the chagrin of his father and hers. Adventures include getting out of war-torn Europe, trying to live in Chongqing [then known as Chungking], Chiang Kai-shek’s wartime capital of China. The story ends with Karl and Chi-yun going to Mexico via San Francisco with their newborn girl Mei-mei. The latter seems to have been a model for a Playboy newstand special The Girls of Playboy 2 (1974).


Monday, August 20, 2007

mind you, literally literal-minded

The blogoshphere just got a little smaller. Today I was going through my blogroll and—long story short—I noticed that there are two language blogs out there with the same name (Literal-Minded) and the same sub-title (linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally). One is hosted on Blogger and run by a guy name Mack is a spam blog and that ripped off the IP of the other one which is hosted on WordPress and run by a guy named Neal Whitman. Neal also has another website called Literal-Minded Linguistics. The former has been online since June 14, 2007, and the latter since January 18, 2004.

[Addendum: Neal noticed this entry and was kind enough to explain in the commentary what’s up.]

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

what are you packing trickster?

I was googling around, looking for information on Hermann Güntert’s 1916 monograph, Indogermanische Ablautprobleme, Untersuchungen über Schwa secundum, einen zweiten indogermanischen Murmelvokal, when I ran across this folktale, called Trickster Loses Most of His Penis, in the Ho-Chunk (aka Hotcâk, Hotcąk, or less politely Winnebago) language. The tale was written down by Sam Blownose in 1912 transcribing an older tribe member’s telling of the tale. Mr Blownose used the Hotcąk alphabet which in turn derives from the Fox (aka Mesquakie) syllabary. The tale was subsequently translated by Oliver LaMère.

There as he was going about, there, unexpectedly, as he was going, something right by his side sang, saying,

What are you packing Trickster?
It’s your penis that you’re packing!

“Howá!” he said. “What a bad one he is. Furthermore, what does this one mean to say? He himself has full knowledge of what I am carrying,” he said.

The story is a little hard to follow, but it seems that Trickster is walking around with his genitalia in his pack. (I am reminded of the song Detachable Penis by King Missile.) I suppose this tale would be classified as coming under motif number S176 mutilation; sex organs cut off.

Another link turned up was Bruce Lincoln’s “Hermann Güntert in the 1930s: Heidelberg, Politics, and the Study of Germanic/Indogermanic Religion,” in Horst Jünginger, ed., The Study of Religion under the impact of National Socialist and Fascist Ideologies in Europe (forthcoming). Güntert was also one of Georges Dumézil’s influences.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

linguistic ignorance and real pedantic bliss

Mark Liberman, the proprietor of the wonderful Language Log (the group linguistics blog), has a great post on dropping gs which I somehow missed back in May when he wrote it. (It was pointed at hyperlinkishly in one of today’s entries.) It sums up an argument I’ve had countless times with self-appointed, and so-called, grammar mavens, both colleagues and strangers alike. There’s no g there to be dropped!

What is “g-dropping”? The term comes from the conventional orthography: -ing is written as -in’, as in she’s openin’ the door.

In fact, there is no “g” involved at all, except in the spelling. Final -ng (in English spelling) stands for a velar nasal, which is written in the International Phonetic Alphabet as an “n” with a hook on its right leg: [ŋ], a symbol called “eng”. The final -n’ in spellings like openin’ stands for a coronal nasal, which is written in IPA with an ordinary “n”: [n]. In IPA, opening is written as [ˈopənɪŋ], while openin’ is written as [ˈopənɪn]. The only difference in pronunciation is whether the final nasal consonant is velar (made with the body of the tongue pressed against the soft palate) or coronal (made with the blade of the tongue pressed against the ridge behind the front teeth).

Thus is “g-dropping” nothing is ever really dropped—it’s just a question of where you put your tongue at the end of the word.

If grammar mavens were actually such sticklers for and about language (code for The King’s English and not language in general), they’d learn a bit about linguistics so they at least could discuss the matter at hand intelligently, with a minimum of ambiguity, and unnecessary digressions, instead of resorting to such horrors as add-hoc phonological transcription schemes, misused Græco-Latinate grammatical terms, and the proud and willful ignorance of the processes of language change that have been studied for the past couple of centuries by historical linguists. Feh! At times, I feel I should develop a sort of motif-index of grammatical prescriptions à la Stith Thompson.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

mishka na severe

Moving the scanner over from Ms Viki’s desk to mine has lead me to digitizing all kinds of stuff: viz. an old candy wrapper I’d pinned to my bulletin board some time back. Mishka na severe, i.e., polar bear, from the Babaevskij Confectionary Concern.



Saturday, August 11, 2007

gripholdus knickknackius ex floilandia

All thanks be to Languagehat. Because of him, I have discovered a new (to me) blog: Varieties of Unreligious Experience. This is my kind of blog: well-written, quirky mini-essays on little known bits of letters and languages. For example, this entry about some strange varieties of Latin. Not your Cicerone’s classical Latin, not your Scaliger’s deracinated, humanist Latin, and not your father’s bog or kitchen Latin, but the over-the-top, outré Latin of the Hisperica Famina, of Vergilius Maro Grammaticus [fl. 658 CE], or of (my personal fave) Merlinus Coccajus ( Teofilo Folengo [1491–1544]). That’s the latter’s portrait, scanned from the frontispiece of Theophili Folengi vulgo Merlini Coccaii opus macaronicum notus illustratum. Cui accessit vocabularium vernaculum, Etruscum, et Latinum. Editio omnium locupletissima. Pars prima. Amstelodami. MDCCLXVIII.


I’ve been a big fan of Macaronic poetry ever since running across a reference to it in Ernst Robert Curtius’ Europäische Literatur und lateinisches Mittelalter (1948). Inaugurated by Typhis Odaxius (or, Tifi Odasi) in his Macaronea and perfected by Folengo [1496–1544] in his sublime mock-heroic Baldus. Written in Latin hexameters, with überlatinifized vulgar-language words. Although, the term macaronic stems from the early 16th century, the tendency to mix languages in poetry has been around at least as early as Ausonius. Here’s a late 16th century German example:

Angla floosque canam, qui Wassunt pulvere svvarto,
Ex watroque simul stoitenti et blaside dicko,
Multipedes deiri qui possunt huppere longe,
Non aliter quam si flöglos natura dedisset.
Illis sunt equidem, sunt inquam corpora kleina,
Sed mille erregunt menschis matrasque plagasque,
Cum steckunt snaflum in livum blautumque rubentem
Exsugant; homines sic, sic vexeirere possunt!
Ex quæ tandem illis pro tantalonia restant
Vexeritate, et quem nemant pro vulnera lodum!
[Flöia, cortum versicale, de flôis schwartibus, illis deiriculis, quæ omnes ferè Minschos, Mannos, Vveibras, Iungfras, &c., behùppere, et spitzibus suis schnaflis steckere et bitere solunt, authore. Gripholdo Knickknackio ex Floilandia. Anno 1593. Via Carl Blümlein Die Floia und andere maccaronische Gedichte, 1900]


This succulent post on palæological grammar has reminded me that I am still searching for a copy of Non olet; oder, Die heiteren Tischgespräche des Collofino über den orbis cacatus, nebst den neuesten erkenntnistheoretischen Betrachtungen über das Leben in seiner phantastischen Wirklichkeit erzählt von ihm selbst (1939) by Collofino [1867–1947].

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

next year in marienbad

There’s a certain L’Année dernière à Marienbad feeling to a traditional Hindu wedding. This picture pretty much captures that. Up on the stage, the bride and groom are deep into the ritual, the videographer is illuminating things, people are sitting and watching, walking around, and having conversations. The band doesn’t seem to be playing. My memory has been jogged by the little dixie cups on the floor that we had just had a nice fruit juice shortly before I snapped this.

Trichy wedding hall

[Addendum: another shot from earlier in the wedding from the stage, behind the bride and her father, looking out into the wedding hall seating area.]

Trichy wedding hall 2

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Friday, August 3, 2007

corey dry

The last installment. Professor Corey’s Honor Society (Part 3).

  1. Favorite Nicholas Ray Movie.

    Rebel Without a Cause (1955). For Dennis, Sal, and Jim.

  2. Inaugural entry into the Academy of the Underrated.

    The first Casino Royale (1966) if only for its inappropriate and confused gender in Fleming’s bad French. It is the first movie I can remember going to that I knew something about prior to seeing it. It’s also a huge, cheesy, self-indulgent mess.

  3. Your favorite movie dealing with the subject of television.

    Hands and guns down, Videodrome (1983). Brian O’Blivion: The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena: the Videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.

  4. Bruno Ganz or Patrick Bauchau?

    Another tough choice. Ganz is great in Wenders, especially in der Amerikanische Freund (1977), but my favorite role of his is as Jakob Nüssli in Der Erfinder (1981, The Inventor), where he is haunted by a monstrous vision that turns out to be a tank. On the other hand, Patrick Bauchau is fantastic in der Stand der Dinge (1982, The State of Things).

  5. Your favorite documentary, or non-fiction, film.

    Ross McElwee’s Sherman’s March: A Mediation to the Possibility of Romantic Love in the South During an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation (1986). It even has a linguist named Winnie in it.

  6. According to Orson Welles, the director’s job is to “preside over accidents.” Name a favorite moment from a movie that seems like an accident, or a unintended, privileged moment. How did it enhance or distract from the total experience of the movie?

    The helicopter that crashes in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978). It actually was an accident. Then, of course, there is the final, un-Wellesian scene in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) where Orson comes unstuck in time and shuttles back and forth between Paul Mason wine commercials and the upside-down, dying Cardinal Wolsey scene in A Man For All Seasons (1966).

  7. Favorite Wim Wenders Movie.

    I would have to say der Amerikanische Freund (1977), but I’ve already played that card. Second up is a tie between Im Lauf der Zeit (1976, Kings of the Road) and Paris, Texas (1984). They’re both road movies. Somehow the zone along the former border between East and West Germany and the US Southwest work well as third characters in both films.

  8. Elizabeth Pena or Penelope Cruz?

    Both equally.

  9. Your favorite movie tag line (Thanks, Jim!)

    The movies: now more than ever.

  10. As a reader, filmgoer, or film critic, what do you want from a film critic, or from film criticism? And where do you see film criticism in general headed?

    Consistency and audacity and passion.


winfred p lehmann 1916-2007

I just learned that Professor W P Lehmannn passed away on August first. He will be missed. I never met him, but I’ve read quite a few of his books, and I studied with one of his students. He founded the Linguistic Research Center at UT Austin. [Via Mr Verb.]

[Addendum: I just learned, after looking at this posting to the Linguist List, that Carol Justus, whom I just sent email to and alluded to above, has passed away also. Sigh.]


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

and then antonioni

My favorite after all these years is still Professione: reporter [aka The Passenger] (1975) with Jack and Maria, screenplay by Mark. After his stroke, he did a few movies with co-directors: e.g., Al di là delle nuvole [aka Beyond the Clouds] (1995) with Wim. I have not seen it, but read the book about its making, and now I will have to put it in the queue.