Posts Tagged ‘English’

Moby Dick–still the Great American Novel

February 26, 2013 3 comments

File:1840 Escudos.jpg

It’s hard to hide a passionately held opinion. RT wrote this review of what is in his estimation still the best novel ever written in the United States while he was surfing around GoodReads–and thinks it’s worth sharing (and by all means, set aside some time to tackle the masterpiece again):

this is the deal with melville: he was a poet, in love with language, archetypal characters, and whaling. sorry, women need not apply. moby dick is like the america of its author’s time: unbelievably tough, unforgiving, and rich in experience. this is life lived flat out in the face of heaven and hell. don’t whine; eat your chowder and get ready to spend the next several years on a boat travelling the world (before the panama and suez canals). don’t expect to make any money off the trip. do expect to encounter quakers “with a vengeance.”

if you love intensity and drama, if you want to get a better idea of what exactly it is that makes men so crazy, if you love the absolute gorgeousness of american 19th century prose, if you are willing to put up with digressions on the hval, buy this edition and read it (if for no other reason than the Rockwell Kent illustrations). there are still plenty of people out there hunting the white whale.


(& women should note that if they essay this wild fruit (and yes, women in MD are purely incidental), they will get the toughness part as well as any man and the poetry better.)

(&& this is the second post on Moby Dick in these pages.)

Photo: 1840 Gold Escudo, Ecuador; mentioned in the novel. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


What To Make Of This?

February 17, 2013 Leave a comment


the cat sees fuschia tulips…and i see…?  RT

(reposted from Counting Fence Posts)


What To Make Of This?.

Tablet 4 of Gilgamesh–Finished at Last!!!

February 9, 2013 Leave a comment

File:"Clouds - White Pass, Kings River Canyon (Proposed as a national park)," California, 1936., ca. 1936 - NARA - 519930.jpg

It’s been quite a week, what with RT’s net connection conking out (now restored), the locating of someone to clean mom’s apartment on a monthly basis (keeping fingers crossed that this person will work out), and mom’s moving from using a walker to using a cane (she fell and broke her hip last summer). And to top it all off: Yes, at last it’s done: RT’s version of Gilgamesh, tablet 4.

Wow, kazow!!! Now onto uploading the file for the completed book, Gilgamesh, tablets 1-4 onto the net, where it will available for purchase as a paperback (probably from Lulu) and as an e-book (probably on Amazon)…details will be worked out in the next few days.

And to celebrate, here is an excerpt from the finished manuscript, day 2 of tablet 4:

iii. Second DayBeyond the Fields


They marched past the temples, stopped for bread;

they marched past the fields, made their camp—

the heroes crossed the splendid lands in a day!

Yet every step brought troubling premonitions.

Enkidu chafed at the odd and hostile silence.

Heaven does not bless our path,” he whispered.


As he spoke, the friends reached a ruin mound.

The sun went down; they stopped, dug a well,

spilled out cold water to ease heaven’s thirst.

The king offered finest flour to quiet the ghosts:

Draw down a dream, true sign of Utu’s favor.”

The wind blew hard, brought swollen clouds.


They climbed the mound and ate their meal.

Enkidu put up a shelter of the dreaming god;

he guided Gilgamesh in, fastened the door sheet.

Inside, he traced a circle with consecrated flour,

helped the king find room in its sheltering arc.

He sat down in front of the door, fell asleep.


iv. Earth

Gilgamesh lay chin on knee, closed his eyes;

confusion rolled over his senses, mastered him,

misled his steps, tricked and twisted his thoughts.

He steadied himself among the rushing images,

pushed forward, strong, but discovered nothing.

In the hours of reckoning, his search was ended.


He sat up, dazed, shared his sleep-voyage:

I’m weak, almost faint—my head is spinning.

Was it a demon passing through our spells?

Wait—I’m better now; my thought is clear.

I remember trailing mist, a rubble-strewn field.

Ah—my second dream—worse than before!


In a deep valley we hurried towards a house.

The ground rumbled, shook, knocked us down.

Boulders, debris—a wall of earth!—rushed by,

swept us away, dirt in our mouth and throat.

I struggled to hold onto your arm, your hand,

but the avalanche carried me far from you.”


Enkidu, unsettled by these words, interpreted:

Take courage! We will overthrow Huwawa.

He is the mountain, trying to escape his death;

he has fallen down in terror at your strength.

We will rout the monster, cut down the trees!

The morning sun will send a lucky sign.”



(from Gilgamesh: The Ancient Epic, Tablets 1-4)

copyright © 2013, Eric Quinn


Photo“Clouds – White Pass, Kings River Canyon (Proposed as a national park),” California, 1936Ansel Adams. National Archives and Records Administration. WikiCmns. Public Domain.


Aspect: A Dragon’s Nest of Possibilities

November 26, 2012 3 comments

You never know. RT had just about given up on finding any new Dragons of Grammar when out of the blue he found a trove of dragon eggs!

Now any dragon egg would give a Faberge egg a run for its money; these eggs are so rare and come in such a wide range of sizes and shapes (but the form is always beautiful), that any human artifact would come in a shabby second at a respectable auction.

But these eggs are fragile indeed. They require much time and patience on the part of mama dragon (who incubates the eggs) while papa dragon goes off in search of the rarest of rare Etruscan salamis, which he painstakingly cuts into slivers for his brood.

And so it is with any visitors to the happy nest; all must wait up to 3 months for the tiny fry to emerge; it may take another 3 months before the dragonlets begin revealing their grammatical secrets to strangers. One must be patient, and so RT has chosen a relatively talkative dragonlet to start off the latest DoG post: the dragonlet of Aspect.

At first glance, English speakers may think that aspect is relatively straightforward. The basic distinction drawn by aspect is between a completed or an ongoing action. For instance: “I ate all my Etruscan salami, papa,” or “I was eating my Etruscan salami when you asked, papa.” Technically, our dragonlet will inform you, a completed action is said to be in the perfective aspect, an ongoing action, in the imperfect aspect.

There are two further common distinctions: aspect can indicate a repeated or habitual action: “I’ve always eaten the salami you give me, papa.” And aspect can indicate an action taking place in the past from the point of view of a past action–this is the past perfective aspect.

But things are seldom that easy. Aspect is often confused with tense. Both grammatical categories indicate the passage of time, the difference being that tense places an act in time as related to the subject or speaker; aspect describes the flow of time within the action.

Whoa, that dragonlet is subtle! Let’s look at some examples of aspect in English:


A. Past Tense

I went (perfective aspect)

I used to go (habitual aspect)

I was going (imperfective aspect)

I had gone (past perfective aspect)

B. Present Tense

I lose (perfective aspect)

I am losing (imperfective aspect)

I have lost (past perfective aspect)

I have been losing (habitual aspect)

C. Future Tense

I will see (perfective aspect)

I will be seeing (habitual aspect)

I will have seen (consequential aspect)

I am going to see (planned aspect)


Whew! And that’s right, RT added a couple of new aspect distinctions in his future tense examples. Because there’s a dragon’s nest of possibilities for making distinctions of aspect: prospective (an action occurring after an event that has been referred to); inceptive (the beginning stage of an action or event); inchoative (an event that changes something); progressive; pausitive; regressive…wow, thank you, Mr. Einstein dragonlet!

But fortunately our dragonlet is getting hungry. He wants to know when his next feast of Etruscan salami will happen. Gold stars for knowing what aspect that’s in.      RT

Illustration: Bird’s Eggs, Joseph Meyer, 1885-1890; WikiCmns; Public Domain.


October 18, 2012 Leave a comment


the Bull of Heaven (with a nod to Gilgamesh!)  RT

(reposted from Neoalchemist)



Quikscript–An English Alphabet for Everyone

September 29, 2012 3 comments

Proposing a new alphabet for the English-speaking world seems silly, if not outright foolish, these days. Just imagine the cost of changing all those keyboards, and why do we need a new alphabet, even if it is easier to use than the Roman letters? Computers are available to anyone with access to a public library, and of course people type faster than they could ever write by hand.

And then there is the most difficult problem–the way an alphabet forms connections between visual letters, sound, and thought in the developing brain. Our brains really seem capable of accommodating only one alphabet; teaching “learning” alphabets only confuses the student and makes it harder to learn the “adult” form of an alphabet.

This looks suspiciously like an argument against teaching handwriting at all, except in the most basic form; that is, for use  in notes and the composition of draft materials. This is not so much writing for communication as a private form of stenography. No one but the author need decipher the script, leading to an idiosyncratic style, of use to the author only. This is often what is meant by the term “shorthand.”

Quikscript is a dedicated calligrapher’s answer to all these problems and objections. To recapitulate: Kingsley Read won a competition to design an alphabet for English–the competition stipulated in Bernard Shaw’s will. The result, Shavian, represented an improvement over the Roman alphabet in many respects, but still had its problems. To further refine the script, Read circulated it to correspondents around the globe for their evaluation and feedback. Using their responses, he redesigned Shavian, calling  the new alphabet Quikscript.

Here are the reasons why Quikscript is a superior alphabet:

1) QS is specifically designed for the English language. This helps greatly in making QS more phonetic and easier to learn than our current alphabet. For instance, the English language has twenty-seven vowel sounds; the Roman alphabet has just five vowels. Quikscript has 15 vowels.

2) QS comes in Junior and Senior forms. The learning alphabet, Junior Quikscript, is conceived as part of the entire alphabet system, making the transition to adult writing easy; there are no contradictions/different letter forms for the same phonemes. And the Junior script (given in the chart at the left) is very easy to learn.

3) QS is an alphabet, not a shorthand. As with the roman letters, QS’s letterforms are fixed and can be learned by everyone. This is an alphabet that is easier to write and read than the Latin script–thus going far to solve the  problem of fluency and legibility.

4) The most common sounds have been given the easiest letterforms to write.

5) Similar sounds are represented by similar letterforms. That is, this is a featural script.

6) QS follows the one sound-one letter principal.

7) Senior QS features a plethora of shortcuts, such as half-letters, that make writing much easier.

8) Best of all, QS has a free online manual, available on the Quikscript page on Omniglot.

If we take a look at the history of writing, we can see a gradual movement from logographic systems that are difficult to learn and write to semi-phonetic alphabets, often reliant on the memorization of a word’s spelling. Quikscript represents a further step in simplification, efficiency, and beauty.     RT


Top: Quikscript Manual Cover. At Omniglot page. Public Domain. Bottom: Quikscript Alphabet; Wikipedia; Paul Tremblay; CC 3.0 Attribution, Share-Alike.


The Daisy Follows Soft the Sun … Emily Dickinson

September 6, 2012 5 comments

Caving in to his perennial urge to read Emily Dickinson, RT has picked one of her more botanical offerings to mark the change from summer to fall. It’s still hot here in Martinsburg, but everyone is beginning to feel the oncoming of cooler weather.  Who better to celebrate the moment than Ms. Dickinson? Enjoy!




THE DAISY follows soft the sun,

And when his golden walk is done,

  Sits shyly at his feet.

He, waking, finds the flower near.

Wherefore, marauder, art thou here?”

Because, sir, love is sweet!”


We are the flower, Thou the sun!

Forgive us, if as days decline,

  We nearer steal to Thee,—

Enamoured of the parting west,

The peace, the flight, the amethyst,

  Night’s possibility!


–Emily Dickinson

Image: Canti del Friuli, 1912; Udine, printers ornament; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Gilgamesh, Tablets 1-3—The Book!

August 14, 2012 3 comments

Can this be real? Twelve years into the enterprise, and I’m finally ready to start releasing *the* project, or at least its first three tablets (out of 11). Wow! It is true.

I will be publishing these three tablets as an e-book available on Amazon (& maybe elsewhere) as soon as I get the logistics taken care of. I’m a bit in shock–things have been shaping up quicker than I expected.

& a quick look at the status of the other tablets reveals the following: everything else is in 2nd draft or farther along. Tablet 7 is finished, tablet 8, nearly so. Tablets 4-6 are in more than decent shape; tablet 11 (the Flood) is finally shaping up. I have a hunch that in the next few months, you will be seeing a companion volume, tablets 4-7. Could this be the light at the end of the tunnel? At the moment, I’m pretty optimistic.

stay tuned for more updates…   RT


Neologisms–The Red Dragon!

One should never underestimate a dragon, and especially a Dragon of Grammar. Now RT must confess that when he listed out the original Dragons of Grammar, he made a serious oversight and failed to mention the Red Dragon, the Dragon of Neologisms. Personal Circumstances Be Damned! External Reality Be Burned to a Crisp! As the Red Dragon has been reminding me, the oversight really ought to be corrected.

& RT can see that he needs a break from the sturm und drang of his recent existence; so, without further ado…

A neologism is a new word, a word that has been recently coined. Neologisms, like dandelion seeds, happen more often than one might think. Here are some examples:

* radar (1941); warp speed (1966); meme (1976); alien space bats (1998); political correctness (1970); prequel (1958); and–last but not least–Brangelina (2005).

How are often are neologisms generated? Without getting too scientific, RT would venture that new words (and new phrases and grammatical structures) are created all the time in the spontaneous working of the mind to convey itself to others. It may even be that this spontaneous creation is a sign of mental health and energy.

So when is a neologism accepted as a word and included in (at at least some) dictionaries? The short answer is: it is accepted when it is frequently and widely used. Some words, for instance, warp-speed, doubtless found themselves almost immediately recognized–such is the power of the TV. Others quickly come into use in a certain community–as Brangelina doubtless did in the entertainment industry–but never gain usage in the broader community of speakers. Many people simply never run across the word. Others will be accepted for a time and then fade away–anyone remember guesstimate?

It may be that some neologisms are better at conveying meaning than others. How do we distinguish the pick of the litter(s)? Some suggestions follow:

1) A neologism should fill a need or gap in communication. Radar is a good example–it names a new technology that previously was labeled with a string of words: Radio Detection and Ranging (acronym: RADAR).

2) A neologism should express the speaker’s emotional frame of mind: “Hey, he ripped me off!” You can feel just how angry the victim of robbery is…and it just plain sounds better than “he robbed me!”

3) A neologism should be easier to pronounce than the word(s) currently used to convey a thought: for instance, zeitgeist for spirit of the times or Xerox for photocopy.

4) A neologism should be eloquent: it should enrich the sound of the language. For instance, ansible.

So there it is, folks: our lastest (and did i mention that neologisms sometimes originate as mistakes, in this case for latest) addition to the Dragons of Grammar. A final note: Wikipedia has more information about word formation.    RT


Image: Dragon Rouge; WikiCmns; Public Domain.


Romeo & Juliet, Act II, Scene II

February 9, 2012 1 comment

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, RT thinks it might be time to turn the blog towards matters of the heart. And what could be more appropriate than the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, surely the most passionate exchange of lovers’ vows ever penned in English. Perhaps what makes this scene so heartbreaking is its freshness and innocence–two qualities not always appreciated in contemporary romance. Enjoy!!

The Same. CAPULET’S Orchard.



Enter ROMEO.


  Rom.  He jests at scars, that never felt a wound.  [JULIET appears above at a window.

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?


It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief,

That thou her maid art far more fair than she:


Be not her maid, since she is envious; 

Her vestal livery is but sick and green,

And none but fools do wear it; cast it off. 

It is my lady; O! it is my love:


O! that she knew she were.

She speaks, yet she says nothing: what of that?

Her eye discourses; I will answer it.

I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks:


Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,

Having some business, do entreat her eyes

To twinkle in their spheres till they return.

What if her eyes were there, they in her head?


The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars

As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven

Would through the airy region stream so bright

That birds would sing and think it were not night.


See! how she leans her cheek upon her hand:

O! that I were a glove upon that hand,

That I might touch that cheek.


  Jul.        Ay me!


  Rom.        She speaks:

O! speak again, bright angel; for thou art

As glorious to this night, being o’er my head,

As is a winged messenger of heaven


Unto the white-upturned wond’ring eyes

Of mortals, that fall back to gaze on him

When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds,

And sails upon the bosom of the air.


  Jul.  O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?

Deny thy father, and refuse thy name;

Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,

And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.


  Rom.  [Aside.] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?


  Jul.  ’Tis but thy name that is my enemy;

Thou art thyself though, not a Montague.

What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,


Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part

Belonging to a man. O! be some other name:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;


So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;

And for that name, which is no part of thee,


Take all myself.

Painting: The Balcony Scene; F.B. Dickersee, 1884; WikiCmns; Public Domain.