The Botereid

Friday, December 17, 2004

Fair and Balanced

How do I honor the Confederacy without doing one better (or much better) for the Union?

Word

When I start typing "dictionary.com" into my address bar, a box of URLs beginning with "dic..." that I've searched recently drops down. I'm sure, somewhat, that my browser's not the only one to do this. So I decided to flip through today, and I found the list pretty interesting. A few years ago, I would've researched a word only if I hadn't the slightest idea what it could mean. But beginning with my English composition class a few years ago, I've looked up words with increasing frequency and for a swelling list of reasons. Examples follow of recent words I've researched and why. This is obviously not a full list. Maybe I'll work through more of these days on another day.

age. Beats me.

beck. Someone was trying to say the other day that "beck and call" was actually "beckon call." Clearly not the case. I was halfway through an email correcting the wayward individual, but no matter how I composed the dern thing it came out supercilious. He wrote two days later to everyone who had been involved in the conversation to admit that he had been mistaken. A gentleman's gesture. I'm glad I didn't send that email.

bounder. A lovely insult. A tap. Just wanted to make sure the British do use it that way.

craw. I wasn't absolutely sure of the phrase "stick in one's craw." The actual meaning of the word is interesting too. When I reflected upon it, I realized that I'd had no idea what it meant -- perhaps that's why I was confused about the phrase. I've begun to dissect words and idioms more and more often of late, and completely without meaning to. For instance, I just can't say "diSintegrate" anymore without forcing myself; it keeps coming out as "disIntegrate." Strange.

hirsute. I saw someone use it, maybe Mencken, and I just wanted to make sure that it had the oddball meaning I thought it did. Damn -- this reminds me: there's a Greek-rooted word that means "hairy-backed"...What could it possibly be?

pyrrhic. Just wanted to know how to say it.

Update: dasypygal - to have hairy buttocks.

the not-so-daily poem

A little something different. More on Timrod.


Ode to the Confederate Dead at Magnolia Cemetery
by Henry Timrod

I.

Sleep sweetly in your humble graves,
Sleep, martyrs of a fallen cause;
Though yet no marble column craves
The pilgrim here to pause.

II.

In seeds of laurel in the earth
The blossom of your fame is blown,
And somewhere, waiting for its birth,
The shaft is in the stone!

III.

Meanwhile, behalf the tardy years
Which keep in trust your storied tombs,
Behold! your sisters bring their tears,
And these memorial blooms.

IV.

Small tributes! but your shades will smile
More proudly on these wreaths to-day,
Than when some cannon-moulded pile
Shall overlook this bay.

V.

Stoop, angels, hither from the skies!
There is no holier spot of ground
Than where defeated valor lies,
By mourning beauty crowned!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Self-Portrait

Well, we got a digital camera. Now I can finally post a picture of myself so you all can see what I look like.  Posted by Hello

"He who knows a Why of living surmounts every How."

I'm going through a 200-sheet (the word used on the cover -- what happened to "leaf"?) notebook I've had for three years and tearing out the five leaves that I've written on so that I can actually use the notebook. I meant it as a notebook for high-minded, "philosophical" jottings (opening page: "I only know one thing, my mystical soul is burning to give itself with enthusiasm, faith, and fervor." -Albert Camus, age 20). In the back I found this doozy of an essay from when I first decided to go to college:

The degeneration of man concerns me. As I dwell -- as perhaps one never should for sanity's sake -- on it, imbued with its opposites; that is what I desire more and more.

What the hell does that mean?
We are a society of small and little things. Through innovations of mind and technology, we are turning our rotting society into a world society of small and little things. What ill will we must hold for the rest of the world! Our thoughts are so small, our wills, so small. Greatness...it may be a thing of the past. What has happened to the philosophers? Have they truly returned into solitude, extinguishing the race one by one, leaving the masses to our bickering and worship of falsities?

Well now. Besides being gramatically unfortunate, it's quite bathetic, ain't it?
I believe I see the window closing. Whatever great leaps and thoughts were made by men in the past have disintegrated before the onslaught of popular culture. Oedipus who? Is that the new videogame? The Odyssey what? Is that the new boy band? How can you mention Homer, without mentioning Bart?

Ok, buddy. Lay off the Simpsons. And the cliches. Also, if you're going to use a list for emphasis, don't break up the list...
It is important here not to become confused. Greek tragedies do not concern me, but their being left behind is a sign of greater disease within us. It seems that except for a select few, we have abandoned the search for truth. We are so content piddling about our lives, reaching for stupidity, yearning for unimportance. We seek contentment in shallow masks with no depth. Let us fish for our prizes! We must learn to love knowledge for its emancipatory virtues, that is, emancipation from our man-made world.

Something "shallow" with "no depth"? You don't say!
I'm not advocating a "return to nature". We have a chance to eclipse nature's greatest creation: ourselves! Let's overcome id AND ego. Destroy both I say. Develop a new construct of mind, one which has never existed. Let's rip down the PC-laissez fairse institutions of life, and build new ones of truth!

What is the truth? No one knows. How can we build from it then? By building with it in mind. With enlightenment as our goal. Let's teach children to think for themselves, then they will yearn for truth. Let us truly embrace autonomy in action. We need great men to perpetuate these great ideas.

Where can we find them? In every one of us. Will we accept these ideas and the tasks they present? I don't know. That is what more than concerns me, it frightens as well.

Enough of the self-fisk. It was excess, attempted verbosity. (Attempted -- yikes!) But I do agree with some of it still, where I can think of specifics to fill the abstraction. The beginning is bosh at best. "Where have the philosophers gone"? What are they, some druid race? Silly, silly. The "so content piddling about our lives, reaching for stupidity" etc still strikes me as right, even if harsh. I still think that we need to teach children to think for themselves rather than to think they're always winners. I was trying so hard to be Thoreau, though I'm not sure I had read him at the time. What's sad is that I remember the passion that could drive this writing and I wonder where it went.

Now I remember what it was for. It was my first essay for applying to school, before I settled on community college. They were asking what about the world "concerned" me. Wow. I really was trying to incite something there. Now that I think even more about it, I remember my uncle responding to my call for criticism. He, who's always charitable about interpretations, said, "Do you really believe all that?"

I can only hope I think the same of this blog ten years from now. That was the passion.

Speaking of "leaf" as the word for "sheet of paper," how many people know "grass" as printer's slang for the scraps left over from trimming sheets? Now, if you recall that Walt Whitman worked in a print shop, perhaps Leaves of Grass takes on another life.

(Spiriting. That it's the fifth result for such a frequent word.)

it's over

My first semester at Yale. I'm in convalescence.