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Scripturient: Another Archy Poem

Most of Don Marquis’ Archy pieces were written in lowercase. The literate cockroach, we learned, would stand on the typewriter and dive, head first, onto the keys. But this way, he couldn’t use the shift key to get capital letters or punctuation (he did get capital letters, once, when Marquis left the shift-lock on the […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Prenzie Scamels

Four hundred years after he wrote them, we still use in everyday speech the many words and phrases Shakespeare coined. He gave us so many, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to list them all here. But two words he wrote have stopped us dead: prenzie and scamels. What do they mean? Were they more […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Bad Designs

I’m not a graphic designer. I was not formally educated in that art. However, over the years, my jobs in editing and writing for books, newspapers, magazines and publishers have required me to learn the rudiments of layout, typography and design. I am the first to admit my design talent is merely adequate. Despite that, […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Me, Myself and I Redux

At Collingwood Council meetings, you will always hear someone say “Moved by myself…” when presenting a motion at the table.* Argh! Where did these people go to school? Clearly our education system has failed us if people were raised to say that. And this is in the public record, too. To me it’s like nails on […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Defining Classical Music

I listen to classical music a lot, even more than before since the arrival of the new classical FM station in Collingwood. But while my listening at home is through a selected collection of CDs, the content played on radio – internet radio included – is more eclectic. Airplay often includes soundtracks, music from musicals, even […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Responsibility of Free Speech

In January, 2015, Marie Snyder, on her blog, A Puff of Absurdity, raised the question of how free should speech be. I share her concerns about the apparent limitlessness of our rights: our right to free speech is not matched to any inherent responsibilities, civic or moral, to behave in a mature manner, nor does […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Happy Talk

A recent study proved an old notion – the Pollyanna Hypothesis – that there is a “universal human tendency to ‘look on and talk about the bright side of life’” according to a team of scientists at the University of Vermont. The story was reported on Science Daily recently. Reading through newspapers, magazines, websites, music lyrics and […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Words, Your Brain and Sex

One of the reasons I’m a dedicated librocubularist* can be found in a story on IFL Science that is headlined, “Learning New Words Activates The Same Brain Regions As Sex And Drugs.” It opens: While it doesn’t get much better than sex and drugs for many out there, new research has found that simply learning […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Some Latin Quotes to Ponder

Here are some translations from Latin quotations I took from a few books of mine, notably The Anchor Book of Latin Quotations, compiled by Norbert Guterman (Anchor-Doubleday, New York, 1966 and reprinted 1990) and Cave Canem: A Miscellany of Latin Words & Phrases, by Lorna Robinson (Walker & Co., New York, 2008). Some of these […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Abusing quotation marks

What goes through your mind when you see words in a paragraph or a sentence surrounded by quotation marks? Like that sign in the image on your left? That they are words excerpted from conversations or written content? Or that they are special; peculiar words, or perhaps used ironically, sarcastically or in jest? Take these examples […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Ruthful, funct and doleless

Why can’t someone be clueful, only clueless? Hapful, not simply hapless? Aweless instead of just awful? Ruthful not merely ruthless? Doleless, not just doleful? Gormful, not just gormless? We can be thoughtful or thoughtless, careful or careless, mindful and mindless. Why not ruthful and gormful? Why not the qualities of ruthiness, gormliness and doleliness? Can […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Me, Myself and I

At council meetings across the province, you will hear someone say “Moved by myself…” when presenting a motion at the table. To me it’s like nails on a blackboard. The grammatically correct way to present a motion is, of course, to say, “Moved by me…” So why the mistake? Common misunderstanding and discomfort, it appears, according […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: How to Spot a Communist

As I just learned from a recent piece on Open Culture, I must be a Communist. Based on my preference for writing (and reading), that is. (This would definitely surprise my left-wing friends who often think I’m right of Stephen Harper… himself being so far right of the iconic Genghis Khan that it defines a […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Feetish or Fettish?

I was surprised to recently read in David Crystal’s book, The Story of English in 100 Words, that fetish – which I pronounce “feh-tesh” – was once pronounced “feetish.” In fact, in the 1920s, Crystal writes, the BBC had that pronunciation in its guide for radio broadcasters.* It makes sense, of course, when you think […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: What’s in a missing word?

There’s a line in one of Horace’s epistles that really caught my eye. In Latin it reads: Utque sacerdotis fugitiuus liba recuso, pane egeo iam mellitis potiore placentis Horace: Epistles, Book I, X No, I can’t translate it.* However, I was reading David Ferry’s 2001 translation and he renders it like this: I’m like that […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Amo, Amas, Amat…. and what?

My well-thumbed copy of Eugene Ehrlich’s book, Amo, Amas, Amat and More, is dated 1985. It’s amusingly subtitled “How to Use Latin to Your Own Advantage and to the Astonishment of Others.” It’s still in print, it seems, or was as recently as 2006. I’ve read my copy on and off for the past 25-plus […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Saving Fubsy from Lexicographical Caliginosity

Cousin Stephen, you will never be a saint. Isle of saints. You were awfully holy, weren’t you? You prayed to the Blessed Virgin that you might not have a red nose. You prayed to the devil in Serpentine avenue that the fubsy widow in front might lift her clothes still more from the wet street. […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Dictionaries: Concise, Compact, and dacoit

Dacoit: noun; one of a class of criminals in India and Burma who rob and murder in roving gangs. A member of a band of armed robbers in India or Burma. A bandit. Origin: Hindi and Urdu. I love dictionaries. I like opening them up to a random page and just reading, discovering words and […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Weird World of Plotto

I came across Plotto a few years back – references to it in other works, rather than the actual book. it sounded strange, complex and wildly over-reaching. I couldn’t find one – it was long out of print. It wasn’t until I got my own copy that I realized how really odd, clumsy – and […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: These Poolish Things…

Poolish. Levain. Banneton. Biga. Autolyse. Retardation. Lactobaccilli. Bassinage. Windowpane test. Crumb. Batard. Barm. A new vocabulary is building in me, one that brings the lore of breadmaking, the etymology of the loaf to my conversation.* It’s a necessary vocabulary, if one wants to fully understand the techniques and technology of baking bread. Knowing the names of things gives […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Fretful Porpentine

Like quills upon the fretful porpentine. That phrase just makes the modern reader stop and wonder. What, you ask yourself, is a porpentine? And why is it fretful? We never learn, although later interpreters would knowingly tell us a porpentine is a porcupine in today’s argot. Porcupine itself dervices from the Old or Middle French […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Circuitous Path from Bulge to Budget

If tinkers may have leave to live, And bear the sow-skin budget, Then my account I well may, give, And in the stocks avouch it. Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale, Act IV, Sc. III, Shakespeare These lines got me thinking about the town’s finances. Sow-skin budget? What does that mean? And how does that relate to […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Words, words, words

Writing before the arrival of the internet*, Bob Blackburn commented on the nature of exchange on then-prevalent BBS (Bulletin Board Systems), words that could as easily be written today about the internet: “…the BBS medium reveals not only a widespread inability to use English as a means of communication but also a widespread ignorance of […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Why Spelling Matters

Sometimes I despair when I surf through the social media. Technology has empowered everyone to be able to comment, to post their stories, to share their opinion. Yet it has not enabled their ability to compose a sentence, or to spell the words correctly. It has not made us better grammarians, better spellers. And in […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Should Latin Return to Ontario Schools?

When I was a young lad, all I ever wanted to be was a paleontologist. Dinosaurs were the most important thing in my life until around age 14 or 15. That’s when I barely scraped through my high-school Latin course. After that, my interests shifted to other, more attainable career goals. Basic Latin was, at […]