October 11, 2013
Good example of muddled thinking...
...I suggested in a column nearly a year ago, right before election day, that whomever was elected president needed to establish a Domestic Peace Accord and initiate a Camp David summit (as we have done in the past related to the Middle East) of leaders from all walks of life to bridge the divides that exist in this country, and create a new vision for our country.
If we talked to each other more, let go of the old mantras and institutions, we could create a more peaceful and compassionate society. President Obama is a good man, but he along with Republican and Democratic leaders seem trapped in an old language and a desire to make decrepit and broken institutions respond inefficiently to new problems....
This could be described as: "We've lost our way so we should all get together and talk and decide what to do." But in fact we've "lost our way" in the sense that we no longer agree on what the "way" is. There is zero possibility any of us could "create a new vision for our country." A "vision" is something you "see." You see the thing you are trying to get to. It's a picture of a goal.
But you can't just invent such a thing. Or rather, you can invent them easily, but other people can invent their own, and there is no objective way to choose. It's precisely the same problem we see when liberals (and libertarians) claim they can "create" a system of morality. So can I, so can any man. Such a thing might be useful if everyone agreed upon it, but that never happens. There is no objective criteria to decide on such a thing.
The quote is liberalism in a nutshell. The deep idea of everything that gets labeled "Liberal" is that we humans can just guide ourselves. "Let go of the old mantras and institutions." So which ones? How does one decide? One can guess that the author means conservative ones, but even if he was advocating getting rid of liberal "mantras," the problem would be the same. There is no objective standard to go by.
This is a quote I saved from some discussions in my parish:
"...a one-day visioning retreat, led by an outside facilitator (crucial!), that included 50 members of the parish community from a wide-swath of ministries, leadership roles, Mass congregations, and generations. Our parish would probably need 100. Then, we spent the day briefly identifying our respective talent areas (leadership domains), thought-clouding our words and phrases for what sets our parish apart, further though-clouding what our future goals were (such as our current goals of Welcoming, Broadening AFF, Encouraging contemplative prayer, Sharing Our Stories) and then doing some initial word-smithing to articulate the mission statement and and vision statement.This is guaranteed to produce a new vision just like the old vision. You are selecting your "visioneers" from among people who are already deeply involved in the old system. So of course their vision will be "more of same, but done better."
Then, a pastor-picked committee met one week later to finish the word-smithing in adherence to the fruit and spirit of the larger group. Then, the results were shared in the bulletin, on prominent posters/banners, in ALL the homilies for two Sundays, and eventually in brief post-communion announcements for three more weeks. 5 weeks total. DONE. A new momentum in the parish had been set...
A real new vision" can only come from a visionary. And it can't be decided-upon by a committee. It's a "vision!" Something you "see," and suddenly "get." Usually a new vision can only happen if the old vision fails catastrophically. Only then are minds open to new possibilities.
WORD NOTE: The Camp David Summit, by the way, did not get Israel and Egypt together to "decide what to do." Both sides had already decided what they wanted, and the summit just finished the job. They call them "summits" because they are the top of a mountain of diplomacy.
June 16, 2013
Everything is divisible...
Taylor Marshall, Should you say "Individual" or "Person"?:
...What does that word "individual" mean? It means "undivided one." Stop for a moment and consider this, you "undivided one." Isn't "undivided one" a strange way to refer to people?
Referring to people as "individuals" became common in European languages after 1600, especially in English. It's a feature of the so-called Enlightenment.
Recall that the Enlightenment was that so-called Era of Light after the so-called Dark Ages of Christendom. For historical reference, the Enlightenment began after the state establishment of the Protestant Reformation and ended with the bloody guillotines of the French Revolution...
The Enlightenment posited that the nation is divisible. The Church is divisible. The city is divisible. The town is divisible. The family unit is divisible. Even marriages were divisible. However, the person is not. He or she is triumphantly individual.
The problem, you see, is that viewpoint becomes a very individualistic way of looking at reality. Now all major intellectual shifts succeed after linguistic shifts have become previously established. The debate over the definition of "marriage" is a contemporary example. The move away from person to individual signified the enshrinement and idolization of the human individual. Man truly became the measure of all things.
You can see how the Reformation paved the way for this kind of language. To be an Enlightenment Christian all you need is yourself and the Bible. That's it.
We traded in the old communion of the saints and the universal fellowship of Christendom of previous centuries for that new shiny title of individual. Denominations will divide, but the believer never will. And so the individual believer trumped everything. ...
February 3, 2013
Sunday thought, a day late...
Father Dwight, Materialism, Manicheanism and the Matrix:
(This IS Sunday, to be sure, but I was writing this a day late a few weeks ago. That's my life lately. Running to catch up, never succeeding.)
...The paradox is that as our popular culture has become increasingly sensual, opulent and materialistic, our religion has become more barren, dumbed down and bland. This tendency for everything in church to be big and bland is not just that we’re trying to do religion on the cheap. We’re doing it on the cheap because there is a creeping Manicheanism in the church.
Manicheanism is the belief that the physical world is sinful. Our bodies are dirty and sinful. Sex is always dirty and sinful. Wealth is dirty and sinful. The material world is dirty and sinful. Manichee taught that we must rise above the physical and become spiritual. Underlying much of American Catholicism is this same belief–a kind of strange, below the radar Puritanism. We’re guilty of a subtle and weird form of hypocrisy. We load up our lives with as many rich and lush experiences as possible. Our homes are palaces. Our vacations are luxurious outlays of self indulgence. We spoil our kids, we spoil ourselves. The average suburban American middle class person eats and lives at a level of luxury and opulence a Roman emperor would be impressed with, but when it comes to religion we do it on the cheap.
I don’t think this is simply because we are ungenerous, but because we really do think that somehow our religion is the place where we “do austerity” for an hour every week because we have this idea that we should all be poor Franciscans, and that the Catholic religion is otherworldly and poor and that being Catholic means we should be against all that expensive stuff and against pleasure and so the church should be like a bare auditorium–just a place to meet in before we go out into the world.
So, on the one hand, we live like princes, but expect the Prince of Peace to live like a pauper. We distrust the physical aspect of our religion, and this is evidenced not just by the cheap, barren architecture, but also by the sentimental, tacky music, the polyester vestments, the fake electric candles and the felt banners with cliched slogans....
The Church should be sexy. Not in the sense of illicit pleasures, but in the way strong, handsome and lively people spread an aura of warmth and charm and delight. We are exceedingly lucky that our parish has none of those tacky things listed in the last paragraph. Still, there is a sense that life's really exciting and fizzy moments will happen elsewhere.
(Here's a shot of our church, St Dominic's, San Francisco. The Prince of Peace is not treated like a pauper here, but nothing like this could be built today. This is the main entrance, with the choir loft above.)
WORD NOTE: I think it should be Manichæism, not Manicheanism...
December 30, 2012
Althouse: Finally, after all these years, not since the 90s, we will have a name for our decade!
I just realized that with the arrival of 2013, a great void will be filled. There will be an end to the lack of a name for the decade. With '13, will be in The Teens!
Don't tell me we had a name for the first decade of the new millennium. We talked a lot about what it would be called, and then it came and instead of calling it something, we just worked around the lack of a name. Don't tell me we called it the "ohs" or the "aughts." We did not. And we entered the second decade of the new millennium with the same problem. 2010, 2011, 2012... Don't tell me we called that the "tens." Obviously, we didn't.
Relief from the torment of namelessness arrives on Tuesday. Don't worry about 13 being unlucky. That's superstition. I am talking about real life. We need a name for a decade. I have fond memories tied with the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, and the 90s. There's pizzazz and warmth and eclat and resonance in those terms. We've been empty and hungry for 13 years. The gnawing craving for meaning is over.
It's the Teens!.
This is written in a tongue-in-cheek style, but the problem is a real one. It is hard to think about things, and communicate them, if they don't have clear and simple names.
November 22, 2012
My Thanksgiving thought...
I wrote earlier about how archeologist's views of ancient Israel and the Exodus have changed. It looks as if most "proto-Israelites" escaped "bondage in Egypt," but did it by escaping the oppressive Canaanite kingdoms (which were Egyptian vassal states) and founding a new civilization high up in the hills of Palestine, hills which had mostly been un-settled until then.
The Exodus narrative in the Bible is, I think, true, but as truth expressed in a story, not in a history. Probably there was a real exodus from Egypt, but not of 600,000 people. (If that many people, with herds and flocks, set out on the narrow trails of the region, they would I think literally stretch all the way across the Sinai Peninsula.)
So I'm thinking about the Pilgrims, and how we celebrate their story every year. The story is factual, but so are a hundred thousand other stories. Why this one? We keep repeating it because it embodies profound truths about America. About us.
Many religious and ethnic strains went into the genesis of our country. Probably the most important element in the mix are the English Puritans who Settled in New England. The Pilgrims were just a few hundred people, but they were the first group in that great migration. And they happened to tell their story in a clear and attractive way, in governor William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation. Which includes that story f that first "Thanksgiving." The Pilgrim story has come to represent all of them. And it is truthfully so--that story will give you a very good picture of what the Settlers in New England were like.
So they lefte that goodly & pleasante citie, which had been ther resting place, nere 12 years; but they knew they were pilgrimes, & looked not much on these things; but lift up their eyes to ye heavens, their dearest cuntrie, and quieted their spirits.
Besides the English Puritans, we received perhaps half a million radical Protestants from continental Europe, displaced by the vast calamity that was the Thirty Years War. Anabaptists, Mennonites, including the Amish, Hussites, Palatines. The Pilgrims also were emblematic of them.
So, as a thought experiment, imagine that our early settlers were illiterate. Were an oral culture. And that the story of the Pilgrims was passed down orally for many generations among the Puritan settlers. It would not be surprising if the story grew to be the story of all of them. And it would still be truth!
I suspect that that's what happened with the Exodus story. Some Israelites literally escaped from Egypt, and met God on Sinai, and passed through many trials to the Promised Land. Their more numerous relatives in Palestine were also finding their way with heroic efforts to the Promised Land. But their story was less dramatic, and the more cinematic story came to be the story of all. But it was still truth.WORD NOTE: When you see "ye" in older English writings, such as "but lift up their eyes to ye heavens" in the above quote, the word is in fact "the," and should be so pronounced. It is not pronounced "yee." Why so? English used to have a letter, called "Thorn," that made initial "th" sound. It looked like: Þ. When printing presses came to England from the continent, they had no letter Thorn, so "Y" was used in its place, and came to be the normal way to write.
October 6, 2012
Them little critters will just jump up and bite you...
This has got to be the kookiest of warning labels. The protractor in this package is about 5" long. But you should wear eye protection! Lordy, what a flabby age we live in.
WORD NOTE: My Army Reserve son has brought home Army slang: "Eye-pro" and "ear-pro." I've started to say the same. Short punchy terms are good things. And as a cabinetmaker, I say: "Wear your ear-pro and eye-pro. (For power tools I mean. Not protractors.) Nobody has tough eyeballs or ear nerves!"
December 11, 2011
In a nutshell...
Tim Blair describes wind turbines concisely and accurately...
...useless bird blenders...
December 10, 2011
Bible facts you may not know, #3
1. No nuclear families. Usually where the Bible shows an individual doing something, it would have been assumed by all early readers that the person was accompanied by an entourage. I recently read Anne Rice's novel about Jesus' childhood, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. I think the whole idea of Jesus novels, including those of Ms. Rice, to be preposterous folly. But the book is good as historical fiction. Especially in the way it shows the household of Joseph and Mary as a crowd of uncles and cousins and children, working and living together. And traveling together, to Bethlehem, and to Egypt. All those pictures of Joseph and Mary meandering by themselves with a donkey are nonsense.
The picture is by a favorite artist, Jules Guerin. But Joseph and Mary would likely have headed for Alexandria, and never come near the pyramids.
2. The Gospels were not written for specific communities. It is a commonplace among biblical scholars that each of the Gospels was written for an isolated community. (i.e.: the Gospel of Matthew was written for the "Matthean Community.") And that scholars can discern the nature of that group by what was being written for them, and then write papers about their pecularities. This might be called the "Scholars Full-Employment Act," since there is no end to the blarney one can come up with when writing about imaginary things. There is in fact no independent evidence for the theory. And the First Century world simply didn't work like that. People and ideas and manuscripts circulated rapidly, much like today, and no one writing a book on some important topic would have imagined that it would only be read by his local group.
This is what the world of Jesus was really like: (From Paul's second letter to Timothy, chap. 4)
...Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessaloni'ca; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me. Tych'icus I have sent to Ephesus... Greet Prisca and Aq'uila, and the household of Onesiph'orus. Eras'tus remained at Corinth; Troph'imus I left ill at Mile'tus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubu'lus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.
3. The Diaspora. By the time of Jesus there were probably more Jews living outside Palestine then within. All the major cities of the empire had Jewish communities. Christianity first spread to these groups, as the early Christians were mostly Jewish, and were addressing questions that Jews were very aware of, such as the coming of the Messiah. I used to imagine that when the family of Jesus fled to Egypt, they would have been penniless refugees in a strange land, and unable to speak the language. In fact there were lots of Jews in Egypt, and it would have been like the way now that someone from China can go to any large city in the world, find the Chinatown, and be right at home. And a bit of Greek could make you understood anywhere, even in Rome.
4. WORD NOTE: "The gates of hell." People commonly take the phrase: "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18) as a sort of poetic way of saying that the power of Hell will not defeat the Church. (Example.) But Jesus spoke in the days when siege warfare against walled cities was a major component of war. There's nothing cutsey or poetic about it; he meant something tough. It's the Church which is attacking Hell, not the other way around. And the Gates of Hell will be battered down, be they never so strong! We are not on the defensive!
5. St Ignatius of Antioch. You will recall that when Ignatius, the third Bishop of Antioch, was being transported to Rome to be thrown to the lions, he wrote a series of letters to Christian communities that we still read today, with great profit. (Well, actually, when I was growing up an Evangelical Protestant I never even heard of him. I wonder why.) Antioch in Syria was then the third largest city of the Empire, and Ignatius, who was its Christian bishop for about 40 years, would have been a high-value target. High value if one assumes, like the Roman authorities did, that a cult would melt away if its leaders were killed. Ha!
One should also realize that the bureaucratic efficiency with which we deal with prisoners did not exist before the Industrial Age. Prisoners in the past were almost always accessible; a small payment to the guards would get your friends in to bring you comforts and have a nice visit. It is not at all surprising that John the Baptist, while in Herod's dungeon, was able to send his disciples to question Jesus. Likewise Ignatius, though traveling under a military guard, received many Christian visitors.
6. The real name of Easter. Chaps like Christopher Hitchins scoff because the chief Christian holy day is named after an Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess, Eostre. But Easter isn't the name of Easter. The real name of what we call Easter is Pascha, and has been since long before the Anglo-Saxons even came into existence. (The h is silent, it's pronounced Pahss-kuh.) Pascha is the Greek form of the Hebrew word Pesch, which is the Passover. Actually Eostre also meant "Spring," so the whole question may be moot. BUT, Christ is Lord of all, and He is not in the least bit diminished by pagan names. Or any other pagan things we absorb and put to good use. We devour them, we crunch them up like peanut brittle. (By the way, does anyone still eat peanut brittle? I haven't encountered it in years. Does that date me?)
7. Fishing rights belonged to the state. Peter and Andrew, or James and John and their father Zebedee, were fishermen because they bought a contract to do so. Possibly through Matthew the tax collector. You didn't just fish on a whim. Presumably the cost of a contract was high enough that you couldn't get rich, but low enough that fishermen could afford boats and nets, etc.
November 23, 2011
Mike Plaiss sent me a link to a great essay by Matt Ridley, Scientific Heresy. I've seen it mentioned in the past, but somehow never got around to reading it...
...I was not always such a 'lukewarmer'. In the mid 2000s one image in particular played a big role in making me abandon my doubts about dangerous man-made climate change: the hockey stick. It clearly showed that something unprecedented was happening. I can remember where I first saw it at a conference and how I thought: aha, now there at last is some really clear data showing that today's temperatures are unprecedented in both magnitude and rate of change — and it has been published in Nature magazine.
Yet it has been utterly debunked by the work of Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick. I urge you to read Andrew Montford's careful and highly readable book The Hockey Stick Illusion. Here is not the place to go into detail, but briefly the problem is both mathematical and empirical. The graph relies heavily on some flawed data — strip-bark tree rings from bristlecone pines — and on a particular method of principal component analysis, called short centering, that heavily weights any hockey-stick shaped sample at the expense of any other sample. When I say heavily — I mean 390 times.
This had a big impact on me. This was the moment somebody told me they had made the crop circle the night before. For, apart from the hockey stick, there is no evidence that climate is changing dangerously or faster than in the past, when it changed naturally. It was warmer in the Middle Ages and medieval climate change in Greenland was much faster...
I would make a couple of very minor quibbles. I don't think the theory that Edmund DeVere, 15th Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare's plays is pseudo-science. I thought so for most of my life, since there are abundant documentary references to William Shakespeare. But I was jolted when it was pointed out to me that none of them refer to him as a playwright! I haven't pursued the matter, but a hasty scan showed me that there are some good arguments for that theory.
And alchemy was not pseudo-science when Newton studied it. To a considerable extant it was the stunning success of Newton's other work that established what we now call "science" as... science. And thus showed alchemy up as an effort that was going nowhere.
WORD NOTE: I would argue that our use of the word "science" to refer to the natural sciences is a misnomer that has poisoned our thinking. A science is, to quote my American Heritage Dictionary: 3. A systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject: the science of criminology. That's the original meaning of the word, which has been almost driven out of discourse. To the great impoverishment of thought. [A bit more here.]
October 6, 2011
The self stuffed with the self..
Quote du zhoor...
"The word boredom did not enter the language until the eighteenth century. No one knows its etymology. One guess is that bore may derive from the French verb bourrer, to stuff [...] Boredom is the self being stuffed with itself."
-- Walker Percy
Found at an interesting blog, Bad Catholic
Posted by John Weidner at 9:00 PM | Comments (2)
August 22, 2011
I'd say this is a positive for Perry...
America's trial lawyers are getting ready to make the case against one of their biggest targets in years: Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Among litigators, there is no presidential candidate who inspires the same level of hatred — and fear — as Perry, an avowed opponent of the plaintiffs' bar who has presided over several rounds of tort reform as governor.
And if Perry ends up as the Republican nominee for president, deep-pocketed trial lawyers intend to play a central role in the campaign to defeat him.
That's a potential financial boon to a president who has unsettled trial lawyers with his own rhetorical gestures in the direction of tort reform. A general election pitting Barack Obama and Perry could turn otherwise apathetic trial lawyers into a phalanx of pro-Obama bundlers and super PAC donors.
"If this guy emerges, if he's a serious candidate, if he doesn't blow up in the next couple weeks, it's going to motivate many in the plaintiffs' bar to dig deeper to support President Obama," said Sean Coffey, a former securities litigator who ran for attorney general of New York last year. "That will end up driving a lot of money to the Democratic side."...
Bloodsuckers. I know a lot about those creeps, because Charlene's on the other side, and does battle with them daily, and often fills me in on her current adventure. Or asks me to think as if I'm on a jury, and see how her arguments strike me.
WORD NOTE: You can't think about things unless they have names. And often in life an inaccurate name is used, and becomes part of the language, and we are stuck with it. Like calling the indigenous American peoples 'Indians."
The term "trial lawyers" is often used, as it is in this piece, as a name for the plaintiff's bar, that is, for the lawyers who specialize in the lawsuits of "victims." But the term really should be used for any lawyer who is equipped to take cases to trial. My wife is a trial lawyer; she tries cases... and usually wins them. The Brits make "trial lawyer" a separate group, called Barristers. They are the only ones who can actually try cases in court.
August 13, 2011
"...under the mask of a riotous life there would be death at the heart."
John Buchan, A Vista from Before:
...In my nightmare I would picture such a world. I assumed – no doubt an impossible assumption – that mankind was amply provided for as the inmates of a well-managed orphanage. New inventions and a perfecting of transport had caused the whole earth to huddle together. There was no corner of the globe left unexplored and unexploited, no geographical mysteries to fire the imagination. Broad highways crowded with automobiles threaded the remotest lands, and overhead great air-liners carried week-end tourists to the wilds of Africa and Asia. Everywhere there were guest-houses and luxury hotels and wayside camps and filling-stations. What once were the savage tribes of Equatoria and Polynesia were now in reserves as an attraction to trippers, who bought from them curios and holiday momentoes. The globe, too, was full of pleasure-cities where people could escape the rigour of their own climate and enjoy perpetual holiday.
In such a world everyone would have leisure. But everyone would be restless, for there would be no spiritual discipline in life. Some kind of mechanical philosophy of politics would have triumphed, and everybody would have this neat little part in the state machine. Everybody would be comfortable, but since there could be no great demand for intellectual exertion everybody would be also slightly idiotic. Their shallow minds would be easily bored, and therefore unstable. Their life would be largely a quest for amusement. The raffish existence led today by certain groups would have become the normal existence of large sections of society.
Some kind of intellectual life no doubt would remain, though the old political disputes would have cancelled each other out, and the world would not have the stimulus of a contest of ideals, which is, after all, a spiritual thing. Scientists and philosophers would still spin theories about the universe. Art would be in the hands of coteries, and literature dominated by petite chapelles. There would be religion, too, of a kind, in glossy upholstered churches with elaborate music. It would be a feverish, bustling world, self-satisfied and yet malcontent, and under the mask of a riotous life there would be death at the heart.
The soil of human nature, which in the Dark Ages lay fallow, would now be worked out. Men would go everywhere and live nowhere; know everything and understand nothing. In the perpetual hurry of life there would be no chance of quiet for the soul. In the tumult of a jazz existence what hope would there be for the small voices of the prophets and philosophers and poets? A world which claimed to be a triumph of the human personality would in truth have killed that personality. In such a bagman's paradise, where life would be rationalised and padded with every material comfort, there would be little satisfaction for the immortal part of man. It would be a new Vanity Fair with Mr. Talkative as the chief figure on the town council. The essence of civilisation lies in man's defiance of an impersonal universe. It makes no difference that a mechanised universe may be his own creation if he allows his handiwork to enslave him. Not for the first time in history have the idols that humanity has shaped for its own ends become its master."
By John Buchan from "Memory Hold-the-Door" (1940)...
"in glossy upholstered churches with elaborate music. " Gag me with a spoon, as the saints of old would say. That's where we are. I hate it utterly. Well, I hate glossy upholstered anything. It's all the same sickness.
WORD NOTE: In old English slang a bagman was a traveling salesman. That's probably the reference of "bagman's paradise," rather than the American meaning.
August 2, 2011
They always let us know who they are afraid of...
Ms. Jedediah Bila, Manhattan Lefties Talk Palin:
Last week I attended a cocktail party on Manhattan's Upper East Side. It's an unfortunate part of life every now and then for this prefer-a-basketball-game-and-soft-pretzel New Yorker. With that being said, any opportunity to mingle with members of New York City's left-wing elite serves to provide both a wealth of amusement and—quite often—column-worthy entertainment.
This particular party happened to occur the same day it was revealed that Sarah Palin will be keynoting a tea party rally in Iowa on September 3. So, Palin came up quite a bit. What did some of Manhattan's finest lefties have to say about her?
Here are the top five sentiments that were expressed throughout the two hours I lasted (special thanks to the veggies and dip for keeping me there long enough to overhear this fun):...
Heh. Read on. Short version: they be afraid of Sarah. They know she's the real deal.
WORD NOTE: The name Jedediah, (or Jedidiah), was the name given to Solomon and means 'beloved by God.'
Then David comforted his wife, Bathshe'ba, and went in to her, and lay with her; and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the LORD loved him, and sent a message by Nathan the prophet; so he called his name Jedidi'ah, because of the LORD. -- 2Sam.12: 24 to 25
July 23, 2011
Git me back to Mt Pisgah!
Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Truth in Advertising:
I notice as I toot around Greenville how the local Protestant churches are shifting away from honest self description. It used to be that they put out a sign stating just exactly who they were so you knew what you were getting when you went church shopping.
The old way was often friendly and inviting so churches were called: Friendship Baptist Church, Fellowship Baptist Church, Welcome to All Bible Church. Other church names were linked with a locality making it homey and easy: Pebble Creek Baptist or Pumpkintown Presbyterian or Silver Falls Church of God or Reedy Fork Methodist or Hudson Road Bible Church. Even the old names of First Baptist, Second Presbyterian or Hortonville United Methodist had clarity, integrity and honesty in advertising. Furthermore the churches looked like churches. They had a porch with pillars and a steeple on top. Even if they were inexpensive warehouse type buildings they plopped a steeple on top and put a cross on the front and made it look like a church.
You also had the churches named with quaint, but obscure Biblical references. These made you feel a little bit confused or perhaps a bit happy because you recognized the Biblical reference and felt you might be privileged enough to be on the inside. Thus, Beulah Baptist Church or Mount Pisgah Church of God or Bethany Baptist or Church of the Nazarene or Zion United Church or Mount Moriah Church of God Prophecy....
....Not anymore. Now the church buildings are indistinguishable from a retail shopping strip or a warehouse or a movie theater. The names are totally misleading. What if you went looking for a church with one of these 'creative' names? It could be a church. It could be something else. Furthermore, they not only don't call themselves a 'church' (that would be so alienating to the unchurched you know) they also don't tell you what denomination they are. The local community church named 'Heartrock' or some such might be Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist or most anything. This is because most Evangelical Protestant theology is now post-modern eclectic (which is another words for relativistic cafeterianism) But that's the stuff of another post. Instead I'm observing the confusion that arises in their current penchant for creative groovy but goofy Protestant church names. Here's a list of 'community church' names which could lead the consumer to something totally different....
I recently learned that the church of my childhood, Temple Baptist, of La Habra, Californina.... is now "Crossroads Community Church." "Crossroads Community Church is a faith community where the doors are open wide to people from all backgrounds regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey. We have exciting things going on for people at every stage of life. Come enjoy great music with our live band and practical, life-changing messages."
Sorry, not buying it. Sounds like floofy BS to me. "Crossroads." What does that mean? Nothing. Mush.
The cool thing about being Catholic is not that we don't have problems--we have a list of problems as long as my arm. But our problems are not the permanent type. Christ founded his Church upon a rock, and promised that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against it. and so it has worked out, for 2k years, and counting. Nothing else, nothing human, has lasted so long. (That doesn't mean that my particular little corner of the Church can't perish, though I wish it did. But I'm not an island, I'm part of the maine.
...It is the peculiarity of the warfare between the Church and the world, that the world seems ever gaining on the Church, yet the Church is really ever gaining on the world. Its enemies are ever triumphing over it as vanquished, and its members ever despairing; yet it abides. It abides and it sees the ruins of its oppressors and enemies. "O how suddenly do they consume, perish, and come to a fearful end."
Kingdoms rise and fall; nations expand and contract; dynasties begin and end; princes are born and die; confederacies are made and unmade, and parties, and companies, and crafts, and guilds, and establishments, and philosophies, and sects, and heresies. They have their day, but the Church is eternal; yet in their day they seem of much account...
--John Henry Newman
WORD NOTE: People commonly take the phrase: "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" as a sort of poetic way of saying that the power of Hell will not defeat the Church. (Example.) But Jesus said that in the days of siege warfare against walled cities. There's nothing cutsey or poetic about it; he meant something tough. It's the Church which is attacking Hell, not the other way around. And the Gates of Hell will be battered down, be they never so strong!
July 10, 2011
Catholic Word Note...
From Fr. Z's Blog, Card. Levada opines about the upcoming Assisi meeting. (Cardinal Levada is attempting to defuse some of the worries that the upcoming "inter-faith gathering for peace" will give off the same mushy symbolism as the last two.)
...The meeting, to be held in October, follows upon two similar events hosted by Blessed John Paul II. All three of the meetings have caused a stir among certain ecclesial circles, with some people accusing the Popes of syncretism, or giving the impression that all religions are equal....
The word Syncretism actually means the blending of religions. That was the way things were in the Classical World, where you could offer incense at various temples, and join a mystery cult, and maybe attend a Jewish synagogue now and then. The same blending is also seen in today's "New Age" concoctions, in which Jesus is but one of many religious sages. Syncretism was not what the Assisi meetings were criticized for. What is the word for the idea that all or various religions are equal?
Cardinal Newman wrote:
Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither. They may fraternise together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrine in common, or seeing the need of them. Since, then, religion is so personal a peculiarity and so private a possession, we must of necessity ignore it in the intercourse of man with man. If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you?...
The word Cardinal Levada should probably have used was "liberalism," but I'm sure he would have found that word to be more of a hot potato than the issue he is dealing with.
February 16, 2011
Why can't foreigners speak in a simple straightforward way, like we do?
'AND SHE IS SPOKE'
I'VE heard a half a dozen times
Folks call it Reims.
That isn't right, though, so it seems,
Perhaps it's Reims.
Poor city ruined now by flames--
Can it be Reims?--
That once was one of France's gems-
More likely Reims.
I'll get it right sometime, perchance
I'm told it's Reims.
-- Winifred Letts
December 25, 2010
The Battle of Pittsburg Landing...
This is something I wrote long ago. Someone had expressed disappointment upon discovering that the Wright Brothers had in fact flown not at Kitty Hawk, but at nearby Kill Devil Hill...
Names are part of the poetry of history. It's worth a bit of historical inaccuracy to get a name that rings in the mind.
What if the Battle of Waterloo had been called the Battle of Hougemont? Or Shiloh called The Battle of Pittsburg Landing? Ugh. Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed's Hill, but which is the better name?
Kitty Hawk is a splendid name, so it was the correct one to use. Nothing's really lost, because anyone who is interested in the subject soon learns about Kill Devil Hill.
And since I'm on the subject of battle-names, the American defeat at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia should really have been called Sidi Bou Zid. Thank goodness somebody wasn't pedantic!
And I didn't mean that the names Waterloo or Shiloh were inaccurate. But the names were chosen from several possibilities, and probably because they were noble-sounding. For the happy few who still love history, hearing the word Shiloh immediately fills the mind with profound reflections; of bloodshed on a scale until then unknown, of courage and sacrifice, of the greatness of Ulysses Grant, and of a frontier faith that named a log-cabin church in the woods after a village in Palestine. And to think that it could just as easily been called The Battle of Owl Creek.
December 11, 2010
Is the Church just one voluntary organization among many?
The always-worth-listening-to Fr. Robert Barron on the muddled thinking behind Catholics leaving the Church...
It's funny how the usual suspects consider any problem in the Church to be solvable by gay marriage/contraception/married priests/woman priests... always the same list. Probably if giant spiders from Venus were turning the earth to smoking rubble with death rays they would opine that it is time the Bishops reconsidered married priests!
One of our commenters here, Suek, wrote something interesting here...
...Years and years ago, our principal (a nun) told us that the Communists would attempt to destroy us from within, and their tool would be sex, because that was the strongest drive mankind had, and by encouraging sexual freedom, rebellion against the restrictions by family and church would result. I thought she was a bit "teched in the head" as they say....but all these years later, she was right.
Well, that's pretty much what has happened. Is happening.
Word Note for the pedantic. The principal was not a nun, she was a religious sister. A nun is a cloistered religious. The male equivalent is a monk.
In the Thirteenth Century men began to live the disciplined prayerful lives of monks while working out among the people, instead of staying in monasteries. Especially in the growing cities. The members of the new orders were called friars, which means brothers. The two great leaders of this movement were St Francis and St Dominic. Women quickly joined the movement, and were called... sisters.
Charlene and I belong to a Dominican parish, and our friars still wear much the same white habit they did in the Thirteenth Century. Our sisters modernized, and are now virtually extinct. However, the church always renews herself, and there are new movements of Dominican sisters which are fast-growing and youthful. Here's one. Started in 1997 with 4 women. Now over 100, and still growing. (I saw a few of them once, and they were very impressive gals!)
November 17, 2010
Is "Moderate" the new "Progressive?"
Diogenes is rightly sarcastic over this line, in an article about the election of Archbishop Dolan to the presidency of the US Conference of Bishops...
Washington Post: ...Victim advocates spoke out against Kicanas, but the more significant opposition came from conservatives, who considered him too moderate in tone....
Don't "conservatives" usually oppose those who are too **ahem** "liberal?"
This interests me especially in the way Leftizoids are slippery about defining themselves. The word "liberal" is itself a deception. As I wrote here, about Hillary Clinton referring to herself as a "progressive"...
...That's the problem when you start to tell lies. You get all tangled up. The lie started, as you probably already know, when various New Dealers were asked if they were Socialists. They didn't want to admit that (though it was true, and a bunch of them were Communists, foul secret agents of Stalin) so they dubbed themselves "Liberals." Thereby giving the word a new meaning that was very different from the classical meaning of Liberal.
Of course the word Liberal soon came to mean "Quasi-socialist." So now our current crop of quasi-socialists label themselves "Progressive." So cute. And now, now we see Hillary squirming away from that word!! If you tell one lie, you have to tell more lies to cover up the first one...
To me the deep problem with lying is that once you start, you begin to live in fear. If you mis-represent yourself, then you can never be sure what people think about you. And if you lie very much, then you will start to lose track of what's true in general, and you will really be afraid. Including afraid to admit to yourself that you have a problem, so more palaces of lies are built to cover that up.
If you've read me on the subject of Nihilism, you know that I think that many "liberals" (and some conservatives too) are living in very elaborate lie-palaces indeed.
October 24, 2010
"If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you?"
With the Holy Father just now naming new cardinals, it is fitting to quote from the Biglietto speech of John Henry Newman. (A Biglietto is the letter appointing a Cardinal of the Church.)
...This is what he had the kindness to say to me, and what could I want more? In a long course of years I have made many mistakes. I have nothing of that high perfection which belongs to the writings of Saints, viz., that error cannot be found in them; but what I trust that I may claim all through what I have written, is this,—an honest intention, an absence of private ends, a temper of obedience, a willingness to be corrected, a dread of error, a desire to serve Holy Church, and, through Divine mercy, a fair measure of success. And, I rejoice to say, to one great mischief I have from the first opposed myself. For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; and on this great occasion, when it is natural for one who is in my place to look out upon the world, and upon Holy Church as in it, and upon her future, it will not, I hope, be considered out of place, if I renew the protest against it which I have made so often.
Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither. They may fraternise together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrine in common, or seeing the need of them. Since, then, religion is so personal a peculiarity and so private a possession, we must of necessity ignore it in the intercourse of man with man. If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you? It is as impertinent to think about a man's religion as about his sources of income or his management of his family. Religion is in no sense the bond of society...
Word Note. Like most Catholic terms, biglietto sounds mysterious to English speakers, but is actually very informal and slangy. It just means "ticket." And "cardinal" comes from the Latin cardo, "hinge," meaning "principal" or "chief".
October 20, 2010
Good question, on why few Anglophones enjoy language...
Thanks to my logophilic daughter for this...
June 13, 2010
From Pope Benedict's Encyclical Deus Caritas Est:
...Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable. The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern.
We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live "by bread alone" (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human....
I could write a long screed about how subsidiarity should be our organizing principle in public life, but what's the use. The people who would "get it" will tend towards that sort of thing anyway. And anyone else who reads... their minds will just glaze over.
Word Note: Many Catholic terms that seem portentous and alien are just nicknames retained when other groups have moved with the times. "Encyclical" just means circular letter. In olden times there were no bulk-mailings. A letter from a leader to the people would be passed from one person to the next. In this case from one bishop to the next.More Important Word Note: (Wikipedia)
Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. The concept is applicable in the fields of government, political science, cybernetics, management, military (Mission Command) and, metaphorically, in the distribution of software module responsibilities in object-oriented programming (according to the Information expert design guideline). Subsidiarity is, ideally or in principle, one of the features of federalism, where it asserts the rights of the parts over the whole.
The word subsidiarity is derived from the Latin word subsidiarius and was first described formally in Catholic social teaching (see Subsidiarity (Catholicism)). The concept or principle is found in several constitutions around the world (for example, the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which asserts States rights)...
January 28, 2010
Interesting word mistake...
...In a display of contempt unfathomable in the feel-good days after Obama's Inauguration, freshman Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) stood up at a meeting with Pelosi last week to declare: "Reid is done; he's going to lose" in November, according to three people who were in the room....
I'll bet that authors started with "unthinkable" and decided to find something more jazzy in the Thesaurus. But unfathomable has meanings like mysterious, mystifying, deep, profound. Its origin in the nautical measurement of depth, "fathoms," calls to mind the mysterious depths of the sea. There is nothing "unfathomable" about mentioning the political troubles that Dems are in right now, it's an obvious point.
...O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.
January 1, 2010
Let us never forget... Sidi Bou Zid
(This is an old post I stumbled upon from 2002, inspired by someone who had expressed disappointment upon discovering that the Wright Brothers had in fact flown not at Kitty Hawk, but at nearby Kill Devil Hill)
I wrote (and still think):
Names are part of the poetry of history. It's worth a bit of historical inaccuracy to get a name that rings in the mind.
What if the Battle of Waterloo had been called the Battle of Hougemont? Or Shiloh called The Battle of Pittsburg Landing? Ugh. Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed's Hill, but which is the better name?
Kitty Hawk is a splendid name, so it was the correct one to use. Nothing's really lost, because anyone who is interested in the subject soon learns about Kill Devil Hill.
And since I'm on the subject of battle-names, the American defeat at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia should really have been called Sidi Bou Zid, which is where the real defeat happened. Thank goodness somebody wasn't pedantic.
And I didn't mean that the names Waterloo or Shiloh were inaccurate. But the names were chosen from several possibilities, and probably because they were noble-sounding. For the happy few who still love history, hearing the word Shiloh immediately fills the mind with profound reflections; of bloodshed on a scale until then unknown, of courage and sacrifice, of the greatness of Ulysses Grant, and of a frontier faith that named a log-cabin church in the woods after a village in Palestine. And to think that it could just as easily been called The Battle of Owl Creek!
Thinking of names of battles, the North called it The Battle of Antietam; the South The Battle of Sharpsburg. Which is better? And would perhaps a certain battle be better remembered if it had a better name than The Meuse-Argonne Offensive?
August 29, 2009
9/11 was a "tragedy"
...and Chappaquiddick was an "accident."
...An interesting essay might be written on the possession of an atheistic literary style. There is such a thing. The mark of it is that wherever anything is named or described, such words are chosen as suggest that a thing has not got a soul in it. Thus they will not talk of love or passion, which imply a purpose or desire. They talk of the "relations" of the sexes, as if they were simply related to each other in a certain way, like a chair and a table. Thus they will not talk of the waging of war (which implies a will), but of the outbreak of war — as if it were a sort of boil.
Thus they will not talk of masters paying more or less wages, which faintly suggests some moral responsibility in the masters: they will talk of the rise and fall of wages, as if the thing were automatic, like the tides of the sea. Thus they will not call progress an attempt to improve, but a tendency to improve. And thus, above all, they will not call the sympathy between oppressed nations sympathy; they will call it solidarity. For that suggests brick and coke, and clay and mud, and all the things they are fond of...
— GK Chesterton, in the The Illustrated London News, 7 December 1912.
(Thanks to The Hebdomadal Chesterton)
"An atheistic literary style." Boy, does that ever describe a lot of what we read and hear today! We should try to puncture such balloons whenever possible. Sarah's term "Death Panels" was a perfect puncturing, especially because of the way in large medical bureaucracies things just happen, with no clear responsibility. "Resources are allocated." "Costs are contained."
Of course there's always a certain double standard. "Bombs explode" in Jerusalem, as if they were as impersonal as volcanos. "Rockets fall" on Ashkelon. BUT, "Israeli troops open fire on Palestinians." That's never soul-less.
Same with America. If Americans do something that can be construed as bad, then suddenly the language gets intensely alive and pejorative. I remember a particularly muddle-headed person being filled with passionate indignation because some Americans in Iraq were apparently referring to Iraqis using "Hajis" as a nickname. Crocodile tears poured forth. Our nation had forfeited all honor and moral credibility, wahr wahr wahr! However, if al-Qaeda blows up a pet market in Baghdad, shredding children and little animals....that just... happens. Impersonally. "A bomb exploded." "Violence erupted."
June 27, 2009
"The young heart rejoices when it hears the news"
This is from a good book on Christian apologetics I'm reading, Fundamentals of the Faith, by Peter Kreeft.
...Many have never heard the good news that there is such a thing as objective truth and an absolute right and wrong. If only they catch something of the joy and love in us when we tell them this good news, they will see that it is good news indeed. They usually see it as neither good nor as news.
The saints attracted young people. Jesus attracted young people. The pope attracts young people. Mother Teresa attracts young people. The growing movements in the Church today are attracting young people. Biblical orthodoxy is attracting young people. Orthodox Judaism is attracting young people. Even Islamic fundamentalism is attracting young people. the reason is plain: the young heart rejoices when it hears the news that, beyond modern hope, Truth exists. The thing a thousand bland and joyless voices from every corner of our dying culture have abandoned as mere myth, the beloved of the human spirit, Truth with a capital T, really exists!
This brings me to my fourth point: you must be passionately in love with Truth yourself and therefore totally honest. You can't give what you don't have; therefore the love of Truth can never be taught except by a lover of Truth...
WORD NOTE: The word apologetics has nothing to do with apologizing. It means a defense. It comes from the Greek apologeisthei, "to speak in one's own defense." The title of Newman's famous book, Apologia pro Vita Sua, means "a defense of my life."
May 31, 2009
From the Book of Joel, Chapter 2.
...Thus says the LORD:
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
your young men shall see visions;
even upon the servants and the handmaids,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
And I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth,
blood, fire, and columns of smoke;
the sun will be turned to darkness,
and the moon to blood,
at the coming of the day of the LORD,
the great and terrible day.
Then everyone shall be rescued
who calls on the name of the LORD;
for on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant,
as the LORD has said,
and in Jerusalem survivors
whom the LORD shall call...
Just as a point of information (sort of like one of my word notes), the old timers didn't really expect the moon to turn to blood, or the sun to go out. When you read things like that, they are not about *gasp* the End of the Earth. Rather apocalyptic, which is what that kind of writing is called, is and was a literary genre. God acts in history, acts in the world we live in. And saying that the "stars were going to fall" and similar things was understood by everyone to mean that God was going to be making big changes. Not that he was striking the circus tent, and ending the show.
The great irony is that when certain Protestant sects have calculated, from apocalyptic Bible passages, that the world is going to end on a certain day, their thinking is very much a product of the Enlightenment. They are taking, in fact, a rationalistic or "scientific" approach to scripture. They have lost the ability to "see" what Joel was saying. Even if they are Six-Day Creationists, and think dinosaur bones were planted by the Devil, they are as much chained to the narrow room of natural science as Richard Dawkins or poor Christopher Hitchins.
That's why we have the Church. The Church does not forget.
The Catholic Church is the only thing
which saves a man from the degrading
slavery of being a child of his age.
-- GK Chesterton
March 22, 2009
To repeat, it's a really good book...
I'm starting to re-read Feser's The Last Superstition. (I mentioned it last week.) By the time I got to the end I'd become fuzzy about some of the arguments from the beginning of the book, and the structure rests on them. So I'm starting over.
Here's a little more, from the first chapter, just in case some strange soul out there in the "audient void" still actually reads books to try to understand things...
...Nothing that follows will require of the reader any prior aquaintance with philosophy or its history, but the discussion will in some places get a little abstract and technical—though never dull, I think, and the dramatic relevance of the occasional abstraction or technicality to issues in religion, morality and science will amply reward the patient reader. Some abstraction and technicality is, in any case, unavoidable. The basic philosophical case for the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the natural law conception of morality is at one level fairly straightforward. But the issues have become ever more greatly obscured in the centuries since so-called "Enlightenment" thinkers and their predecessors first started darkening the understanding of Western man, and a nearly impenetrable philosophical smokescreen of unexamined assumptions, falsehoods, clichés, caricatures, prejudices, propaganda and general muddle-headedness now surrounds the average person's (including the average intellectual's) thinking about religion. It takes considerable intellectual effort to dissipate this kultursmog (to borrow R. Emmett Tyrrell's apt coinage).
The task is not unlike that which faces debunkers of popular but intellectually unsupportable conspiracy theories...
...Similarly, everyone "knows" that the cosmological argument for God's existence says "Everything has a cause, so the universe has a cause, namely God" and that this argument is easily refuted by asking "Well, if everything has a cause, what caused God then?"— except that that that is not what the cosmological argument says, and none of the philosophers who have famously defended the argument — not Aristotle, not Aquinas, not Leibniz, not anyone else — ever committed such a stupid and obvious fallacy. Everyone "knows" that to say that morality depends on religion means that God arbitrarily decides to command something or other ("just 'cause He feels like it," apparently) and the only reason to obey is fear of hellfire — except that that is not what it means to say that morality depends on religion, certainly not in the thinking of the many serious philosophers who have defended that claim. And so on and on...
...As we heard Quentin Smith and Jeremy Waldron complain above, apart from the few who make a professional specialty of arguing about religion, secularist thinkers are generally unacquainted with anything but absurd caricatures of traditional religious idea and arguments, are utterly unaware that anything other than these caricatures exist, and thus don't bother to look for anything but straw men to attack. They simply don't know what they are talking about, and they don't know that they don't know it...
Kultursmog! Great word. This kind of thing is worth studying just because kultursmog describes our world so very well. To think clearly about anything is an accomplishment. (One needn't, by the way, be interested in religion to appreciate Feser. His skewering of the muddled philosophy that underlies natural science is very good.)
February 25, 2009
Somehow I feel better about the War on Terror, long term...
From a note from my son the linguist. (He's the one who used to be my son the pilot, until he changed his field.)
Here's a little tid-bit of Arabic grammar for you guys to read over and thank the high heavens you never decided to take this language yourself.
Arabic has some peculiarities when it comes to its nouns.
You have the singular form, the dual form, and the plural form.
If you have 1 of something, use the singular form.
If you have 2 of something, use the dual form.
If you have 3-10 of something, use the plural form.
If you have 11-100 of something, use the *SINGULAR* form.
If you have 101 or more of something, then go back to the plural form.
In Arabic, to say "I have 15 books," you would literally say: "I have 15 book."
Yes, little intricacies like that make Arabic fun and interesting, but at the same makes one want to bang their head through the wall, thankfully for some reason my brain has decided to just stop asking "Why?" which most people would do when faced something strange like that, which eventually leads them to give up the language.
It is best, I've found, in cases like these to just not ask why the language has this little peculiarity or another, and just trust native speakers when they tell you that the way you are saying it is correct. There are plenty of things in English that really don't make sense when you stop to think about them.
December 10, 2008
Why I love Camille....
Camille Paglia, on, among many other things, Dick Cavett's absurd slam at Sarah Palin's English...
...Yes, that is the lordly Yale that formed Dick Cavett's linguistic and cultural assumptions and that has alarmingly resurfaced in the contempt that he showed for the self-made Sarah Palin in "The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla." I am very sorry that he, and so many other members of the educational elite, cannot take pleasure as I do in the quick, sometimes jagged, but always exuberant way that Palin speaks -- which is closer to street rapping than to the smug bourgeois cadences of the affluent professional class.
English has evolved, and the world has moved on. There is no necessary connection between bourgeois syntax and practical achievement. I have never had the slightest problem with understanding Sarah Palin's meaning at any time. Since when do free Americans subscribe to a stuffy British code of veddy, veddy proper English? We don't live in a stultified class system. In the U.K., in fact, many literary leftists make a big, obnoxious point about retaining their working-class accents. Too many American liberals claim to be defenders of the working class and then run like squealing mice from working-class manners and mores (including moose hunting and wolf control). What smirky, sheltered hypocrites. Get the broom!...
"Get the broom!" Ha ha. "Street rapping." Well, it's true. Sometimes her cackle just makes my head spin, it comes so fast...but it always makes good sense.
Life is frustrating in many ways, but I take comfort in thinking that Sarah will be making effete liberal frauds squirm and suffer for years to come...
November 4, 2008
I just discovered a most useful locution!
It's hard to talk about something if it doesn't have a name. And that's been the case with the curious men's fashion of intentionally looking like one has not shaved for several days.
I've been re-reading my old Anthony Price books. Just to get me in the mood for the brave new Obama Administration, y'know, should that come to pass. And I came across the term: "designer-stubble!" Perfect.
Now my next question is, do they have special electric shavers that leave stubble of a certain desired length? So you can shave every day and always look unshaven in the same fashionable way??
March 27, 2008
I'm posting this excerpt, not because of the issues (interesting though they are) but as an interesting example of word use. In fact, as a deliberate assault on our language.
....But while the Democratic campaigns and women's organizations quibbled over which 100 percent pro-choice Senator, Obama or Hillary Clinton, would be the better president for reproductive health, many choice advocates missed what was percolating under the radar: The beginnings of a conservative smear campaign against Obama's very real history of support for reproductive freedom....
It's not a "smear campaign" if you are just telling the simple truth. If conservatives were exaggerating Obama's Pro-death record, if they were taking a few things out-of-context to make him look worse than he is, that would be a "smear campaign."
I recently wrote about Mr Obama's rather curious "spiritual advisor, and had a liberal complain that I was "demonizing" him, and why didn't I write about "substantive issues." I should have replied with Obama's voting record on the "Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act," (BAIPA), and seen how much he liked them substantive puppies. (I bet he would have called it a "smear campaign!" And then run away.)
March 22, 2008
In multiculturalist eyes, "understand" means "no criticism."....
When Urgent Agenda began - and that was only two and a half months ago - I promised to defend the English language. I've done too little in that regard, for which I offer apologies. However, let me now try a bit of redemption and discuss briefly the misuse of a word. The word is "understanding."
We're hearing that word every day. Barack Obama's campaign, we're told, is an attempt at "understanding" across racial lines. The intellectual elites tell us we must do more to foster international "understanding." The multicultural industry informs us that "understanding" other cultures is the key to going to Heaven.
But what do they actually mean when they say "understanding"?
What they often mean, without telling us, is "approval." The word "understanding" has been so abused and degraded that it often is a code word for appeasement. "Understanding" across ethnic lines is noble, but the word is often employed to shut down discussion. If we "understand," after all, we must not be "judgmental." Only those who don't "understand" are judgmental.
A true, honest multiculturalist will say that "we must understand other cultures, and they must understand us." But when have you ever heard the second part of that expression? In multiculturalist eyes, "understand" means "no criticism."
So be on guard when you hear the word. The definition of "understanding" may not be the one you would use. A message is often being sent. It is sometimes a dishonest message.
It's almost always a dishonest message. And it's extra-likely to be dishonest when the subject is race in America. The Civil Rights Movement was, like so many other revolutions and noble causes, two-faced. There were crowds of idealists moved by a noble cause, but the inner core was power-hungry leftists, who use movements and causes cynically.
And the Civil Rights Movement was always as much about destroying blacks as it was about freeing them. It is not surprising that we discover black leaders peddling racism and anti-Americanism. That was part of the "movement" from the very beginning.
If you teach someone—anyone—that they should have a sense of grievance and resentment and entitlement...you are trying to destroy them. You are destroying their character. You are killing their spirit. When Jeremiah Wright, and many other black leaders, tell their people that they are "owed," that they are "oppressed" and are entitled to feel resentment and sullenness, they are destroying souls.
Suppose I teach my children that the world is against them, that the world owes them a living, and that they are entitled to special favors to make up for all the blows that life offers to everyone......what would I be doing to them? Would I be helping them or hurting them? You know the answer. What if I taught them that they should not accept criticism?
The Civil Rights Movement (and many other movements) was always two-faced. And this can be seen from the beginning, in the implicit "bargain" offered whites (and blacks too), that we can be on the "right side," that we can be the good guys, as long as we don't criticize blacks.
This was, and is, a pernicious and destructive idea. We all need criticism. It is painful, but it is good for us. We need to get it, and to respond thoughtfully. (And that includes thoughtful rejection of criticism, if it is unwarranted.) The wise person says, "Hit me with your hardest shot. If my beliefs and actions are valid, then they will withstand the test. And if they are not, I should change." And we even need unfair criticism. It's good for us; teaches us to discriminate between valid and invalid.
But the subtext of the Civil Rights Movement was always that any criticism of black Americans was racist. That it was equivalent to those racist claims that "all blacks are shiftless and lazy." That was an evil idea. The leaders of the movement should have been requesting fair criticism.
Black (and other minority) Americans were hurt by this, but they were in fact just collateral damage. The real goal was to protect leftists from criticism, especially leaders.. To protect them from having to defend various quasi-socialist policies on the merits. They have been hiding behind this ever since. The subtext is always "Don't you dare criticize me, because I'm helping [fill in the grievance-group]. If you scrutinize me you are a [fill in the blank: racist/sexist/homophobe, etc.].
The prohibition on criticism of "oppressed" groups creates a penumbra that shields leftists in general. That's why two ludicrously under-qualified candidates are vying for the Democrat nomination right now. Neither of them would even be in the running if they were white males. But each offers the possibility of giving blanket protection to their supporters. Any criticism will be called sexism or racism. No defeat will have to be acknowledged on its merits; it was just evil white/male America destroying the good minority group, as usual. (The same thing would work for Al Gore, but the grievance-group would be Polar Bears.)
Guys like Obama are in the habit, when things get sticky, of trotting out the line about how America needs to have a "conversation about race." This is always a lie; what's envisioned is a monologue, where whites are supposed to shut up and be told how horrid they are, and how minorities need more loot to make up for racism. But If Obama is the nominee, then I can imagine a more honest conversation happening!
The odds are against it, to be sure. Americans have been subjected to decades of relentless propaganda to teach them that this is taboo. McCain won't do it; it would not be smart politics, and he's too moderate. But, the folly called "Campaign Finance Reform" has, thanks to Mr McCain, taken much of election campaigning out of the hands of parties and candidates!
In 2004, the obvious fact that John Kerry's "war hero" status was a sham was taboo to mention, by press, parties and candidates. But the Swift Boat Veterans were not part of that apparatus. (Dems like to claim that they were a plot by Rove, but if they had been they would have been much better-funded!) The Swifties didn't care that they were going to be slammed for daring to break a taboo.
We could see some new variants on the Swifties this year. None of the elites really want to turn over rocks and shine harsh lights on the Jeremiah Wrights. But there are lots of ordinary Americans who might scratch their heads and think, "America has fixed at least 95% of what was wrong before the Civil Rights era, and yet the bellyaching never stops. Something is fishy here. In fact, I think this is a pile of BS."
Same thing about feminism, if Hillary wins the nomination. There's more than a few Americans who would like to turn that rock over and see the ugly bugs squirm in the sunshine. Probably won't happen, but the potential is there. Politics tends to unleash forces like nothing else. The elites are compromised, and won't go against the taboos, but elites matter less in the Information Age. They have less control of the agenda. Information routes around them.
December 31, 2007
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A "surge" of overused words and phrases formed a "perfect storm" of "post-9/11" cliches in 2007, according to a U.S. university's annual list of words and phrases that deserve to be banned.
Choosing from among 2,000 submissions, the public relations department at Michigan's Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie targeted 19 affronts to the English language in its well-known jab at the worlds of media, sports, advertising and politics.
The contributors gave first prize to the phrase "a perfect storm," saying it was numbingly applied to virtually any notable coincidence.
"Webinar" made the list as a tiresome non-word combining Web and seminar that a contributor said "belongs in the same school of non-thought that brought us e-anything and i-anything."
Similarly, the list-makers complained about the absurd comparisons commonly phrased "x is the new y," as in "(age) 70 is the new 50" or "chocolate is the new sex." "Fallacy is the new truth," commented one contributor.
Some words and phrases sagged under the weight of overuse, contributors said, citing the application of "organic" to everything from computer software to dog food.
In the same vein, decorators offering to add "pop" with a touch of color need new words, the list-makers said.
Such phrases as "post 9/11" and "surge" have also outlived their usefulness, they said. Surge emerged in reference to adding U.S. troops in Iraq but has come to explain the expansion of anything.
Other contributors took umbrage at the phrase to "give back" as applied to charitable gestures, usually by celebrities.
"The notion has arisen that as one's life progresses, one accumulates a sort of deficit balance with society which must be neutralized by charitable works or financial outlays," one said....
Any other suggestions?
November 20, 2007
Bad language fosters bad thinking...
From a post by Maclin Horton, on the misuse of the word "Inappropriate"....
...This is one of those small but significant ways in which bad language both reflects and fosters bad thinking. It's been some years now since I began to notice myself reacting to it with what first seemed to be an unreasonable irritation. I finally realized that it annoyed me because people were using it as a substitute for "wrong." In a time when the existence of objective moral standards is doubted and denied, and when no one wants to be accused of being judgmental, it's very bad form to say that anything short of mass murder is just plain wrong; mass murder, and perhaps racism.
But yet: order must be maintained. People in authority (or those who just wish they were) still need and desire to tell other people what to do. How can they justify it, if they can't appeal to some standard which is eventually rooted in the concept of right and wrong? "Inappropriate" became the solution...
It is very interesting to think of the very small number of things it is still "politically correct" to say are wrong. Slavery is wrong, as long as it was done by Dead White Men. The fact that Muslims are enslaving black Africans right now is never called "wrong."
Sexual harassment is wrong unless it was done by Bill Clinton.
It is wrong to be a fascist dictator in the 1940's, and it was right for democracies to overthrow them with massive military force and at a cost of millions of deaths. It is not wrong to be a fascist dictator in the 2000's, and overthrowing one at a cost of thousands of deaths is.....wrong.
November 17, 2007
Words mean something...
From City Journal, on the term "neocon."
...The term "neoconservatism" has undergone a number of shifts in meaning. It was coined in 1973 by the socialist intellectual Michael Harrington to deride liberal thinkers such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Nathan Glazer, who had begun to criticize the welfare state's excesses. By the 1980s, its meaning expanded to include a small group of former liberal intellectuals who hewed to a strong anti-Soviet line and had defected from the Democratic Party to support Ronald Reagan. They were motivated in part by an increased awareness of, and distinctive moral clarity about, human rights in international affairs, a worthy tradition whose liberal incarnation found embodiment in figures such as Senator Scoop Jackson, labor leaders George Meaney, Lane Kirkland, and Al Shanker, and intellectuals Bayard Rustin and Michael Walzer. None of these people held traditionally "movement conservative" views on economics or social issues�far from it; some of them were outright socialists. Neoconservatives had not been content with the detente policies of Richard Nixon, because they wanted not to coexist with communism, but to end it�a more ambitious goal that Reagan shared.
After September 11, the "neocon" label, which had fallen into disuse, came back into vogue as a way to categorize the intellectual godfathers behind the Bush Doctrine, which of course has advocated both military responses to terrorist threats and promoting liberty around the world via "regime change" (not all necessarily through military means). According to the leftist narrative, the neocons got us into the Iraq war�never mind the widespread assumption among intelligence services around the world that Saddam Hussein did have WMDs, or that large segments of the Democratic Party and liberal opinion leaders supported the invasion of Iraq, etc., etc.
By now, "neocon" has mutated into a political curse word to discredit not just those who happily accept their status as neoconservatives, but also anyone who merely believes that the West should respond in muscular fashion to national security threats, such as those posed by the cooperation of Iran, Syria, and North Korea on nuclear weapons technology and the equipping of terrorist groups around the world....
I'm not a neocon, but if people want to call me one I'll not get angry.
November 13, 2007
This sort of weasellyness just fascinates me...
Politico, on the way Dem candidates would rather use the "N-word" than the "L-word."
Hillary Rodham Clinton was asked this summer if she would describe herself as a "liberal."
The Democratic front-runner shied away, saying the "word" � noticeably not using the word � has taken on a connotation that "describes big government.
"I prefer the word 'progressive,'" she said. It has a "real American meaning."
Then she expanded the term to "modern progressive," and, finally, clarified that she was a "modern American progressive."
These are heady days for Democrats. The party is favored by almost all measures in the coming presidential contest.
But while Democrats are emboldened, they remain wary of the term "liberal."
Republicans, by contrast, are as unpopular in the polls as they have been for at least 15 years.
Nonetheless, the label "conservative" remains in vogue...
I just bet you that pretty soon "modern American progressive" will seem too too......too, umm, something or other, and will be modified. Hillary will start to call herself a "Patriotic God-Respecting Crime-opposing Modern American Progressive." Or maybe a whole new word will be discovered.
That's the problem when you start to tell lies. You get all tangled up. The lie started, as you probably already know, when various New Dealers were asked if they were Socialists. They didn't want to admit that (though it was true, and a bunch of them were Communists, foul secret agents of Stalin) so they dubbed themselves "Liberals." Thereby giving the word a new meaning that was very different from the classical meaning of Liberal.
Of course the word Liberal soon came to mean "Quasi-socialist." So now our current crop of quasi-socialists label themselves "Progressive." So cute. And now, now we see Hillary squirming away from that word!! If you tell one lie, you have to tell more lies to cover up the first one.
How I hate liars!
September 17, 2007
England is dying, but the Anglosphere is now "England"
It has taken decades of struggle, but more than half a century after the British departed from India, standard English has finally followed.
Young and educated Indians regard the desire to speak English as it is spoken in England as a silly hang-up from a bygone era. Homegrown idiosyncrasies have worked their way into the mainstream to such an extent that only fanatical purists question their usage.
Now Penguin, the quintessentially British publishing house, has put the nearest thing to an official imprimatur on the result by producing a collection of some of the most colourful phrases in use - in effect a dictionary of what might be called "Indlish".
Its title, Entry From Backside Only, refers to a phrase commonly used on signposts to indicate the rear entrance of a building. Binoo John, the author, said young Indians had embraced the variant of the language as a charming offspring of the mingling of English and Hindi, rather than an embarrassing mongrel.
"Economic prosperity has changed attitudes towards Indian English," said Mr John. "Having jobs and incomes, and being noticed by the rest of the world, have made Indians confident - and the same confidence has attached itself to their English."...
Well, for sure. [I've had people hear me say "for sure" and say, "you must come from Southern California!"] Or maybe speaking English changes the brain and leads to attitudes of moderation and good sense, leading thence to prosperity.
December 23, 2006
"from those who had laid the foundation for all things to come"
We often refer to Orwell's Newspeak, which is the concept of destroying words or their meanings so that people will not be able to form certain concepts. He pictured it, in the book 1984, as the open policy of a tyranny, and we tend to imagine that it doesn't happen here and now. But in fact the destruction of language is commonly seen, and I just stumbled on an example in a very good book Charlene and I are reading.
The author is writing about the difference between authority and power. And I realized when I read it that the word authority, in its real meaning, has almost been obliterated from common discourse. (I myself, as a Catholic with a love of history, have something of a feel for the word, but would have been hard-pressed to use it as a sharp weapon. And if I do so now I will have to define it, or risk being misunderstood)
...St. Augustine long ago remarked, "If you ask me what time is, I can't tell you; if you don't ask me, then I know." Much the same thing turned out to be true regarding my own knowledge of authority. When I first took up this subject, I knew what authority was. Once, however, I started really working on it, I discovered I did not know. Furthermore, few who write on the subject bother to define the word. And, to make matters worse, many writers use "power" and "authority" interchangeably, as though they were synonymous or as though authority were a variant of power, i.e., legitimate power as opposed to illegitimate power.
Hannah Arendt is one of the few writers to raise and answer the question of what authority means. As she points out, while the Greeks had no specific word for or concept of authority, the Romans had a well-developed notion of it which was closely linked to their understanding of religion and tradition. In fact, religion, tradition and authority formed what Arendt calls the "Roman trinity".
The religious element in this trinity was the founding of Rome itself, understood not simply as a political but even more as a primordial religious event for which the gods were responsible. Authority, which is rooted in the Latin words auctoritas and augere meaning authorship and augmentation, was directly connected to and dependent upon this founding event. Since the gods had authored or instigated the creation of Rome, it was imperative that their wishes regarding its well-being be consulted at all times. Those invested with authority were thought to have the ability to augment or interpret the will of the Roman gods regarding all decisions having a bearing on the life of the city.
This authority was derivative or representational, since those in authority did not have that authority in their own right but only insofar as they represented the founding fathers who, because they had established the city in accordance with the will of the gods, were both eyewitnesses to and participants in that event and the first, therefore, to be invested by the gods with the authority to carry out their will. In the words of Arendt,Those endowed with authority were the elders, the Senate or the patres, who had obtained it by descent and by transmission (tradition) from those who had laid the foundation for all things to come, the ancestors, whom the Romans therefore called the maiores. The authority of the living was always a derivative, depending upon the auctores imperii Romani conditoresque, as Pliny puts it, upon the authority of the founders who no longer were among the living.
The book is The Church and the Culture War, by Joyce A. Little. It is not about the actual battles of our current culture war, but about the theological and philosophical issues beneath it. (I'll have to add it to my list of great books I initially avoided because their titles mislead me. Such as Death Comes for the Archbishop or Bleak House!) I give the book five stars. Alas, it is out-of-print. It is Catholic, but would it be of interest to anyone who is trying to think clearly about the ongoing attacks on our civilization.
By the way, the word Newspeak itself is under attack by our contemporary creators of Newspeak. I once read an egregious left-wing propagandist who wrote that Newspeak is a characteristic of fascism, and gave as an example a Bush Administration statement something like, "the goal of the war is peace." This was supposedly like the Newspeak definition "war is peace." But of course it is not like that at all. The Bush statement is logically clear, and so if you don't like it you can argue against it. You can criticize it. It does not blur or confuse concepts.
Whereas using the term Newspeak in this way does blur the concept of Newspeak. In fact it tends to blur it towards meaning "any statement leftists don't like." This is similar to the way the word "hate-mongering" is used to mean "criticizing leftists." Rush Limbaugh is accused of hate-mongering not because he demands anyone be lynched or tarred-and-feathered, but because he uses argument and ridicule against his opponents....
September 14, 2006
Word Note: Proof o' the pudding
I think I blogged this once before, but it bears repeating.
The verb "to prove" used to mean "to test." (Actually, it still does, but people have become confused.) Hence, the famous Aberdeen Proving Grounds," a weapons-testing facility opened in WWI. (Where Charlene spent her early years. Her surgeon father was an Army colonel, and the book M.A.S.H. is about just what he did, in both WWII and Korea.)
The phrase "The exception that proves the rule" doesn't make any sense if you don't know this! Nor do statements like "science has proved such and such."
Update: On the question if finding Saddam's WMD's, it's interesting to note that thousands of chemical shells were buried at the Proving Grounds after WWI, and nobody's been able to find them since...
June 26, 2006
Pervert the language, then pervert the perverted language...
Our left-drooling press is always ready to twist English into pretzel-English, in order to minimize the faults of any enemy of The Great Satan. But the problem is, people get used to the neologisms, and they come to mean the thing you were trying to hide. An example is referring to terrorist monsters as "militants." After a while, people see "militant" and think "terrorist monster."
So if you are a shill for terrorist monsters, you have to pick a newer and blander term for terrorist monsters. Matthew Hoy found this, from the Agence France Presse:
Three Palestinian activists were killed early Sunday in an attack on an Israeli military post on the border between Israel and the south of the Gaza Strip, the group Committees of Popular Resistance announced.
Military sources in Jerusalem said several Israeli soldiers were also killed or wounded in the attack near the Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossing points.
Palestinian activists fired anti-tank rockets at an Israeli unit protecting the Kerem Shalom crossing point. An armoured vehicle was hit full-on, the military sources said without giving details. [emphasis added]
You watch. When "activist" comes to mean "terrorist monster," then they will switch to "dissident," or "protester," or some-such, to conceal their sympathy for terrorist monsters. When you are living a lie, you have to keep the little shells moving, so no one guesses which one has the pea under it.
The classic example is all those New Deal era socialists who labeled themselves "liberals." Result: "liberal" has come to mean socialist. So they've plundered our history for another word to spoil: "Progressive." Which is rapidly coming to mean.... "socialist." (More accurately, "fake socialist." Lenin or Marx would have spit on today's chip-on-the-shoulder crybabies.)
It's such a pleasure being among those who politically (and in other realms) don't have to hide who we are, and where we came from.
April 25, 2006
Argumentum ad Ruinam
I put a bit of dog Latin in this post, suggesting we should add to the list of logical fallacies "argumentum ad collapsium," to counter those people who claim that whatever we happen to be doing is fatally wrong, because all empires or great powers of the past have fallen.
I asked Dr Weevil to supply the right phrase, and he was kind enough to respond...
'Collapsium' is not good Latin. You want 'Argumentum ad Ruinam'. Latin 'ruina' is more specific than English 'ruin' and means basically 'collapse, falling down'. Hope this helps.
January 29, 2006
It is poignant...
Richard John Neuhaus must be a truly saintly guy, to be so forbearing in the face of this sort of ignorance...
...With notable exceptions, reporters are people of good will working hard to write a story that will please their editors. It is true that they are not always the sharpest knives in the drawer. These days most of them have gone to journalism school, or j-school, as it is called. In intellectual rankings at universities, journalism is just a notch above education, which is, unfortunately, at the bottom.
An eager young thing with a national paper was interviewing me about yet another instance of political corruption. “Is this something new?” she asked. “No,” I said, “it’s been around ever since that unfortunate afternoon in the garden.” There was a long pause and then she asked, “What garden was that?” It was touching.
What prompts me to mention this today is that I’m just off the phone with a reporter from the same national paper. He’s doing a story on Pope Benedict’s new encyclical. In the course of discussing the pontificate, I referred to the pope as the bishop of Rome. “That raises an interesting point,” he said. “Is it unusual that this pope is also the bishop of Rome?” He obviously thought he was on to a new angle. Once again, I tried to be gentle. Toward the end of our talk, he said with manifest sincerity, “My job is not only to get the story right but to explain what it means.” Ah yes, he is just the fellow to explain what this pontificate and the encyclical really mean. It is poignant...
Reminds me of an employee I had, back when I owned a bookstore. A customer asked if we had a copy of Moby Dick, and he said, "who wrote it?"
As a Word Note, it used to be common among Protestants to refer to the Pope merely as "the Bishop of Rome," implying that the papacy was just a "popish" fraud. The Book of Common Prayer once included the charming prayer: From the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities, good Lord deliver us. (Cranmer's Liturgy 1544, removed from BCP 1599)
December 1, 2005
Important Word Note for the Christmas season...
Charlene has a book of Advent meditations, and she read me this:
The English word "merry" did not originally convey "jolly, mirthful." It was more along the lines of "blessed, peaceful"—a deep down inner joy rather than revelry.Update: This post seems to be in error. The definition does not appear in the OED. See comments.
One gets a sense of its original meaning in the well-known carol "God rest ye merry, gentlemen." As can be seen from the comma, the word is not used to describe jolly gentlemen, but rather it is a blessing from God invoked upon them—"God rest ye peacefully, gentlemen."
Thus, Merry Christmas," when spoken to one another, is a blessing...
November 30, 2005
appalling but true...
...Thy neighbor's ass. Regardless of what you think of religion in general, or Christianity in particular, all those past centuries of widespread Bible reading were wonderfully enriching to our language. Now that is all slipping away, and our language is correspondingly poorer. I noticed this a few years ago, when I complained to my Wall Street boss, a lady with a degree from a good university and a six-digit salary, that in giving me a project to complete without the proper means to complete it, she was asking me to make bricks without straw. She stared at me uncomprehendingly. "Bricks? Straw? What on earth are you talking about, John?"
It happened again the other day. In conversation with some intelligent and well-educated Americans, I used the word "covet." Blank looks. Then, nervously (I am not a stranger to these people): "Er, John, do you mean... cover?" No, I said, I meant "covet," as in the Tenth Commandment. You know: Thou shalt not covet they neighbor's ox, nor his ass... Now they were looking at each other as if I had lapsed into Klingon. Where is Roy Moore when you need him?...
It's also a matter of just not reading the good stuff. Good books are enriched with biblical terminology, and anyone well-read would probably "get" bricks without straw, even if they had never touched the Bible. (Mud bricks, what we call here "adobe," include straw with the mud, so the bricks will dry evenly, instead of just on the outside first. The Israelites, when they were held captive in Egypt, were once forced to make bricks without straw, that is, to undertake a task doomed to failure for lack of a critical material.)
And it's also a matter of lack of curiosity, something which just bewilders me. Why wasn't the "Wall Street Boss" interested? Why are most people not interested in an odd new metaphor? I guess they get rich in money, and I get rich in words...
October 18, 2005
Catchphrase du Jour...I sure get bored with the way journalists have to reduce every "type" of story to a formula.
At the moment I'm peeved at the many Avian Flu stories that use the "is it time to panic?" phrase. Like this one: As the deadly bird flu makes its appearance in Europe, should we stay calm or start panicking?
I suppose they are just being cute, but obviously panicking is stupid, whatever the danger...
October 14, 2005
...If four years observing the woman is any guide, the answer is she was probably doing something useful...
...First of all, there's something odd and disrespectful about Scully's references to Miers, who is a serious professional even if she doesn't belong on the Supreme Court, as "the woman." It's not quite as bad as "that woman," but it rankles nonetheless...
I think it's crazy. If I wrote something like: "If four years observing the man is any guide, he's honest," would that be disrespectful? I don't see how. So why can't one mention a woman that way?
I think Taranto's also wrong in his cronyism point; it looks to me like Scully is not saying that Bolton's nomination was cronyism, but that Bill Kristol was exhibiting a kind of "cronyism" when he wanted his personal friend Bolton defended to the utmost, but now sneers at the President for nominating a friend.
October 3, 2005
WORD NOTE: "arhabi"
There's been some confusion (by people who seem to want to be confused) about the designation 'fully capable" as applied to Iraqi units. "Fully capable" is in fact a very rigorous US standard. Major K explains more in this post...[Thanks to Greyhawk)
...As I write this, two sectors of Baghdad are controlled by Iraqi Army Brigades (4000-5000) assisted by a platoon-sized (30-40) MiTT [US Military Transition Team]. The number of Iraqi Battalions operating with only a small MiTT adviser group as I described is in the dozens, and that is only here in the Baghdad area. I assume it is the same or better in other, quieter areas of the country.
Are they fully capable by US standards? Perhaps not. The military forces of most of the rest of the world do not meet that standard. Are they operational and hunting down arhabi every day? - You Betcha!
My question was, what are "arhabi??" A quick Google found that Major K had already provided a definition:
It is pronounced: ahr-HAH-bee. It is the Iraqi arabic word for terrorist. 2LT C. does not like it because "it just doesn't sing. I learned this word from our interpreters and use it often. I never use mujahedin or jihadi, because they imply a measure of respect due an actual warrior. After all, both of those terms mean "holy warrior." This distinction is also very important to the Iraqis. They have told me repeatedly that these guys are cowards who will not even stand and fight. They kill innocent people, and bomb indiscriminately. They have been their own worst enemy in the public relations department. Even though 2LT C. likes to refer to them using the A-word, (describing a posterior extremity) he would like to find something more catchy. I am content to use arhabi. It lets the locals know exactly who we are after, and what this really is about - not oil, not religion, but security and the hope for a better future.
Sounds like a good word to add to our vocabulary...
July 22, 2005
Enough of politics, let's get to what's important...
Charlene and I had a good invigorating tussle last night with Dave, Andrew, Scott and Allison, about grammar. (A subject about which we all care, except Scotty probably thought we were crazy) In particular, the question of whether, when you put a quote at the end of a sentence, the final punctuation goes inside or outside of the last quote marks.
Andrew, postmodernist-destroyer-of-all-things-ancient-and-beautiful, argued for outside. Allie, Charlene and I clearly are hard-wired as insiders, and were deaf to his notions. Sensible Dave pointed out the logical awkwardness you have where the quote and the sentence have different punctuation. Quote: "Victory or death!" Sentence: Why did he say "Victory or death?"
Thinking about it, I agree with Allie; you have to re-write the sentence...
July 14, 2005
I was writing recently about the importance of names, (here, and here) and how Verizon ought to lock-in a cool name for EV-DO before some competitor does it. (How awkward it would be if the name were "Sprinter!") John Gruber has a detailed post on how Apple has moved very nimbly to add podcasting capabilities to their iPod/iTunes/ITMS constellation. They did not invent the name "podcasting," but it's perfect for them, and they've moved with surprising speed to lock-in the advantage...
...But names do matter. And what makes this so delicious for Apple is that the more popular “podcasting” becomes as the name for publishing audio via RSS, the less likely it will be that a new name will ever take hold. Which leaves Apple’s competitors — including Microsoft, Sony, and the various other gadget-makers producing Windows Media-based players — in the extremely uncomfortable position of choosing from the following courses of action:
1. Embracing the word “podcasting”, even though it contains the name of the competitor they’re chasing, and which name subtly implies that podcasting is meant for use with iPods, which implication sort of further implies that every other digital music player is just an iPod knock-off. I mean, can you imagine Apple using a term like “walkmancasting”, “dellcasting”, or “wincasting”? It’s embarrassing.
2. Devising and using a new term for “podcasting” that doesn’t use “pod”. Good luck with that, considering that everyone — everyone — who is publishing podcasts is already calling them “podcasts”.
[Update: According to this story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Microsoft employees are pushing “blogcasting” as a “pod”-free alternative.]
3. Ignoring the whole podcasting phenomenon.
There are no other options. The best-case scenario for Apple’s competitors is for this whole podcasting thing to turn out to be nothing more than a fad. That makes #3 a reasonable course of action. But if it isn’t a fad, they’ve got to choose between #1 and #2, both of which are marketing nightmares. And these guys are all already in a deep hole, marketing-wise, versus Apple and iPod...
"implies that every other digital music player is just an iPod knock-off..." Exactly. And once a name "sticks," you pretty much can't change it.
February 15, 2005
Lee Harris has a good article in TechCentralStation on the word "hegemony," and how its meaning has been deliberately distorted for political purposes...
...For Grote, the fact that the Delian League worked, and worked so well for so long, was a point that needed to be brought emphatically to his reader's attention. Hence, his insistence on reviving the concept of hegemony. There had to be some simple way of referring to mutually beneficial confederacies led by strong, but not overbearing leaders -- leaders who, while leading, continue to respect the autonomy of their partners -- and what better word to serve this purpose than the Greek word that had originally been intended to refer to precisely such a confederacy?
By a sublime irony, this once useful linguistic distinction has been completely lost in the intellectual discourse of contemporary politics, and lost due to the fact that the world's greatest living linguist, Noam Chomsky, has perversely chosen to conflate the two words as if they were merely synonyms for the same underlying concept. Thus, Grote's precise and accurate revival of the original Greek concept has been skunked forever by Chomsky's substitution of the word hegemony for the word empire, so that nowadays the two are used interchangeably, except for the fact, already noticed, that hegemony sounds so much more sophisticated than empire. Why use a word that ordinary people can understand, when there is a word, meaning exactly the same thing, that only the initiated can comprehend?...
Chomsky's being an America-hating, dictator-loving socialist slimeball is very very bad. But his deliberately degrading the English language is pure evil.
January 10, 2005
Sign of the times...
Reader Denis Hiller sent a link to a horrifying story of a young Christian girl driven to suicide by harassment on campus...
...Instead of being nurtured, this young Christian was savagely attacked, instead of being educated, she was harassed and ridiculed and made to feel less than human because she dared to identify against the evils she saw in the society in which she lived. She spoke out against abortion, declaring it murder; she was asked if she ate meat, when she replied yes, she was verbally assaulted and called a murderer. When she returned to her dorm, she found a dead mouse, a string around its neck, pinned to her door.
She was sexually harassed as well. When she declared that she was a virgin and was proud of it, she found used condoms had been thrown all over her dorm room, the dried semen sticking to her clothing in her closet, all over her dresser and mirror. Someone had written a message across her mirror in red paint that she needed to get her “cherry popped.” She called home; her parents called the school and they were assured the matter would be looked into and the students that were responsible would be punished. Not only was no one held accountable, but her academic advisor told her she needed to “grow up.” Several of her professors openly mocked her in class for her pro-life, pro-Christian stance...
When you hear about the "culture of death," here it is. That girl was hated. Because she was Christian. And we see this every day; right now there is a lawsuit to try to forbid a prayer at the Inauguration. It's hated of Christianity, though the usual lying formula is that one is worried about America "becoming a theocracy." Which is rubbish; even when 95% of Americans were Christian we never became anything like a theocracy. Or one is protecting the sacred "separation of church and state." But that's more lying rubbish, what the Constitution forbade is a state church; it didn't call for an atheist government. The very Congress that wrote the Bill of Rights began by hiring a chaplain to open its sessions with prayer.
My theory is that the roots of this hatred lie in the fact that God loves the plumber just as much as He loves the professor or the politician; and He loves the burglar just as much as he loves the bishop. And this grates agonizingly on "leftish" or "progressive" or "reality-based" types, whose schemes invariably include superior people telling the inferior people what to do (for their own good, of course.)
WORD NOTE: The phrase "establishment of religion," by the way, meant very precisely a state church, it is still used in Britain, where people discuss "disestablishing" the Church of England. The C of E is what our founders didn't want, and many of them, such as the Virginians, had painful memories of being forced to pay tithes to support it, even if they belonged to another denomination which they supported with voluntary offerings.
UPDATE: Andrea is sceptical. (See comment.) Her points are pretty powerful, perhaps we should put this in the "unproved" file. Though the inaction of the administration would not be at all unusual. I remember what happened a couple of years ago at nearby SFSU—when some Palestinian students attacked some Jewish students, they were "punished" by having an Islamic Studies Department created...
September 18, 2004
Word Note: "MSM"
The swollen corpse of the ProNewsMedia (just for contrarian purposes I refuse to use the cute term “MSM,” for “Mainstream Media,” that everyone else has been using) is still twitching as its proteins break down and its nerves fire off random electrical charges – or whatever it is that makes corpses twitch....She's right, MSM has become a cliché, and at Internet speed.
I've long tried to avoid all the cutesy abbreviations, like IMHO and BTW and SWMBO...MSM now goes on the list.
September 4, 2004
Word Note: Democrat talking points...
When you criticize Kerry's war service, (or Max Cleland's vote against Homeland Security) that's "attacking his patriotism."
Now there's a new trope. If you criticize Kerry's senate record, that's "Hatred."
Here's an example in an editorial in the Manchester Union Leader:
...After Cheney and Miller criticized Sen. Kerry’s voting record, which the Massachusetts senator found so embarrassing that he barely referenced it during his own convention speech, his running-mate, Sen. John Edwards, said in response: “There was a lot of hate coming from that podium tonight.”...What there actually was was scorn and harsh criticism. You might even go so far as to say the critics "hated" Kerry's mushy record on defense and anti-communism. But Edwards is trying to leave the impression that this is personal hatred of the sort which should lead us to ignore the criticisms, to dismiss them as the products of blind enmity, not logic.
What's missing is any Dem saying: "The critics are wrong, because of reasons A, B, and C." All they can do is claim "hatred." This is particularly noticeable in the case of Zell Miller, because when Miller gave Clinton's keynote , the same sort of people thought he was their fair-haired boy! A "Southern statesman!" Amazin' how much a guy's personality can change in four years.
Now Ken Layne writes:
I grew up in the South, surrounded by sons of bitches like Zell Miller -- bitter old nigger-haters who couldn't possibly understand why they weren't right about anything -- and this dixiecrat piece of shit is probably the best advertisement for the Bush Administration's Compassionate Conservatism we've ever seen...I predict this will be useful as a perfect example of a circular argument. Miller helps those racist Republicans, so he's obviously a "nigger-hater." And how do we know the Republicans are racists? It's obvious--they are embracing "nigger-haters" like Miller.
But seriously folks, what Ken is saying is hate speech. (And I'm not endorsing the idea that there should be special laws against hate speech.) But that's what it is. Miller's the guy who removed the Confederate Battle Flag from the Georgia State flag! Until this week nobody seriously considered him to be a racist. He is known for one racist-sounding remark, but that was in a bitter political contest, 40 years ago. For which he has expressed his regret.
For the Dems to use this tactic is a sign of their bankruptacy...in about five different ways.
September 3, 2004
good take on the speech...
I recommend this post, by Alan Sullivan. The full text of Bush's speech, with Alan's interlinear comments. As often, his ideas are similar to mine, but different enough to be very stimulating.
WORD NOTES: I think "fisking" is the wrong word. A fisking is an utter trampling and destruction, not mild disagreement.
"Moms" should not be used in formal speech. YES! Nor "kids." Bush should have said mothers.
"Smarmy." Some writers I've liked have used it to mean an extreme oily over-friendliness, truly sick-making. Lately I've seen it used to just mean something a bit tacky or flowery. It doesn't seem to be in my dictionary. I'm not sure.
August 8, 2004
Word Note, (Leftlunacy Dept.)
Kathy Kinsley writes:
I don’t usually comment much on moonbats (from the right or the left). But Atrios’ latest bout of insanity (scroll down to ‘Celebrate Diversity’) is just plain weird. He seems to have decided that a t-shirt, which is endorsed by Instapundit, Frank J, and John Hawkins, with pictures of a bunch of guns on the front and the text ‘Celebrate Diversity’ is racist. I suppose because ‘diversity’ is shorthand, in his world, for ‘blacks’ or something? And Instapundit’s wearing of the t-shirt indicates he’s a racist. Right. Check the comments to Atrios’ post as well.The reason that this particular phrase is a tender spot for leftizoids dates back to the famous, and muddled, Bakke decision. Mr Bakke was denied entrance to a University of California Medical School, despite having higher grades and scores than minority students who were admitted. He sued. The Supreme Court ruled that numerical quotas for affirmative action were not permissable. But it did not ban affirmative action altogether, and in particular, Justice Powell's decision opined that it might be permissible to consider a need for diversity, along with merit.
SO, GUESS WHAT! The entire left side of the universe instantly discovered that they had always known that "diversity" was almost more important than breathing. And that schools and universities (which had just dropped those banned racial quotas) would be consumed by the flesh-eating virus unless they ramped-up diversity to the maximum.
And what kind of diversity did they need? Religious diversity? Political diversity? Philosophical diversity? No no no no.....they needed racial diversity! and how did they get it? With diversity quotas.
So "diversity" is a code-word for affirmative action. Therefore laughing at it is "racist." But it's more than that. It's become a code word for the whole kit 'n kaboodle, for everything "progressive," especially for every attempt to eliminate some horrid piece of stuffy capitalist slave-owning dead-white-guy Western Civilization, and replace it with multicultural brain-leeches.
And since, in common parlance, a "racist" is anyone who's winning an argument with a liberal, even with this larger definition of "diversity," it's still racist to laugh at "diversity." Atrios is right.
July 30, 2004
Judge him by his record...
Tom Bowler comments on Kerry's speech...
..."I ask you to judge me by my record", he said, but any mention of the Senator's record brings howls that his patriotism is being questioned. He made almost no mention of his Senate record, but he mentioned his patriotism being questioned.Terminology Update: "You're questioning my patriotism" and "You're wrapping yourself in the flag" are the automatic Democrat responses to substantive criticism. (Any criticisms Democrats make are "the heart and soul of patriotism.") These phrases have corollaries in the automatic Dem responses to Republicans saying anything positive:And tonight, we have an important message for those who question the patriotism of Americans who offer a better direction for our country. Before wrapping themselves in the flag and shutting their eyes and ears to the truth, they should remember what America is really all about. They should remember the great idea of freedom for which so many have given their lives. Our purpose now is to reclaim democracy itself. We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism.This is a stunning accusation in its dishonesty. I feel he is speaking to me, and accusing me of questioning his patriotism. I don't think he has a direction for our country but for me to say that is to question his patriotism. His purpose he says is to "reclaim democracy itself". Is there anyone but the angry left who feel that democracy has been lost? He is recycling the propaganda of the left and I hope he will be called on it as the campaign progresses...
For instance, if we point to our accomplishments, that's triumphalism, a horrid thing. If we win elections, then "democracy needs to be reclaimed," and "the voters are morons." And if we are so lost to normal decency as to suggest that our country should try to DO anything, that's hubris!
May 17, 2004
I've probably mentioned this before, but I hate it when people use the phrase "grew like Topsy" to mean "grew very fast." It doesn't.
Topsy was the little girl in Uncle Tom's Cabin, who, when asked when she was born, said, "I wasn't born. I just growed." (So the phrase might be applicable to "emergent phenomena.")
Equally annoying are facile explanations for the decline of the Roman Empire. I wrote this because I just heard some guy on the radio saying that "the welfare rolls of Rome grew like Topsy after the time of Julius Caesar."
April 12, 2004
Word Note from the Dog Pack
David Schuler, an interesting blogger with a lot of critters, writes:
Starting a little after 10:00am until around 3:00pm is quiet time in the dog pack. Everyone sleeps.Crepuscular is a word I've encountered many times, but I never knew what it meant. I just inferred a meaning from the context!
Human beings are diurnal. We feel most energetic during the day. Cats are nocturnal. They are most active at night. Dogs along with deer and rabbits are crepuscular (from Latin creper, dark). They are most active at dawn and dusk....
January 5, 2004
Brian Tiemann points out a common error:
The word crescendo does not mean "climax". ..
...Crescendo means, literally, growing. (I discovered this in 2nd-year Spanish class, where we learned the verb crecer, to grow, and its progressive form creciendo. Spanish and Italian follow many of the same rules.) It is used in music to signify a gradual increase in volume. It does not mean the fever pitch to which the volume finally grows. You don't "reach" a crescendo; you undergo a crescendo....
August 27, 2003
A rose by any other name would be an AROmaZaPo960-D ...
For my my birthday Charlene bought me a Canon CanoScan LiDE 30 scanner. So far I'm quite pleased�it seems to pack a lot of value for a trifling price. Also, it's very slim and the only cord is the USB cable, which also powers it. So you can easily stash it away, and just grab it and plug it in when needed.
But I have to say that it's incredibly stupid marketing to give a product a name that people won't know how to pronounce! There goes the word-of-mouth advertising. And what kind of word is "LiDE" anyway? Something that made sense in Japanese, but didn't translate? Something that made sense to the engineers? Words are important, and products need good names. A null-word like LiDE makes it hard to think about the product, hard to talk about it, hard to remember it, hard to spell it if you are trying to Google...
The worst name-morass is with digital cameras. If you read a favorable review of something called an SBZ-601-Zoom, how likely is it that you will remember that name? And how likely is it that you can keep from confusing it with the SBZ-401-Zoom or the SBZ-901-Zoom? Blehhh. It probably means that the engineers are running the company. And while I yield to no one in my admiration for engineers, there are certain teeensy-weensy little slivers of life where their skill-sets are not optimal, and where they would be advised to hire someone who loves words...(My consultant fees are very
reasonable high�that proves that I'm valuable.)
August 23, 2003
Thinking about the previous post, I remember that there was a lot of carping about the word Homeland. It was alien to our usage, and brought to mind Continental locutions like Das Vaterland. But I think the complainers missed the real story. If the 800-lb gorilla calls his turf the Homeland, then "Homeland" becomes gorilla-talk, and all the smaller critters just have to lump it. The word is ours now, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear "Homeland" turn up in a Country Music song or a Wal-Mart ad.
For the best quote ever on the way English plunders other languages, go here.
August 20, 2003
...However, Dr Adam Fox, who works at St Mary's Hospital in London as a specialist registrar in its child allergy unit, says that far fewer doctors now annotate notes with acronyms designed to spell out the unsayable truth about their patients.I think if you are in medicine you have to laugh or go crazy. Charlene's from a medical family, so this sort of grim humor is not unfamiliar to me. Her dad was an Army surgeon in WWII and ran a MASH in Korea.
The increasing rate of litigation means that there is a far higher chance that doctors will be asked in court to explain the exact meaning of NFN (Normal for Norfolk), FLK (Funny looking kid) or GROLIES (Guardian Reader Of Low Intelligence in Ethnic Skirt).
Dr Fox recounts the tale of one doctor who had scribbled TTFO - an expletive expression roughly translated as "Told To Go Away" - on a patient's notes.
He told BBC News Online: "This guy was asked by the judge what the acronym meant, and luckily for him he had the presence of mind to say: 'To take fluids orally'."...
Top medical acronyms
CTD - Circling the Drain (A patient expected to die soon)
GLM - Good looking Mum
GPO - Good for Parts Only
TEETH - Tried Everything Else, Try Homeopathy
UBI - Unexplained Beer Injury
Also, should you wish to immerse yourself in this subject, I highly recommend the extremely (and painfully) funny book House of God: The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital , by Samuel Shem, MD.
August 14, 2003
No reparations due ...
Dr Weevil discusses Arnold's name...
Update: (8/7, 11:55 AM)I know that in English usage, if you go back to, say, the Diary of Samuel Pepys, a "black man" or "black woman" normally means black-haired...confusing if you don't know what's going on.
For those too lazy to read the comments:
It appears I have fallen into an error common among medieval scribes: misdivision. Terry Oglesby of Possumblog gives a link showing that the name is not Schwarze-Negger, with a mysterious extra G, but Schwarzen-Egger, "black plowman". That makes a lot of sense, and in that case 'black' presumably means either dark-haired or relatively dark-complected, with no reference to African ancestry.