Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The spirit of the place / as dogma, the heart / I cannot cite

I first learned the word orthoepy when Keith Waldrop, at the San Francisco Poetry Center in 2003, held up a placard, in lieu of reading the word aloud, when his poem contained it, on which the word was spelled:

Jacob Delafon locates the word orthoepy, meaning the “correct pronunciation of words.” The Word seems to him unpronounceable.


Two years later, at a library sale, Tyler Carter came across a copy of that grand old book: The Orthoepist: A Pronouncing Manual, containing about three thousand five hundred words, including a considerable number of the names of foreign authors, artists, etc., that are often mispronounced, by Alfred Ayres. Some months afterward, forgetful that we already had a copy in our household, I checked another copy of the same book out of the same library. We stayed up late that evening, drinking ouzo and discussing pronunciatory varietals until our own slurred speech rendered all one. “Dude,” I said, “The more things change.”

I am sometimes fond of a radio show on which the host likes to say

These are troubled times we live in. There are some strange things happening out there.


in response to almost anything. I once grew accustomed to arguing with Jenn Guitart about the need to distinguish between Dawn and Don, or lack thereof. When I recorded her own pronunciations and played them back to her, she could not say which were which. But later I found this map:




Whereas today I found, on my desk, a copy of Alfred Ayres’ later (1883) book, The Verbalist: A Manual, devoted to brief discussions of the right and the wrong use of words, and to some other matters of interest to those who would speak and write with propriety, which states quite clearly on page 109:

“However, my dear James, let this strong and striking instance of the misuse of the word it serve you in the way of caution. Never put an it on paper without thinking well of what you are about. When I see many its in a page, I always tremble for the writer.”
Jeopardize. This is a modern word which we could easily do without, as it means neither more nor less than its venerable progenitor to jeopard, which is greatly preferred by all careful writers.
Just going to. Instead of “I am just going to go,” it is better to say, “ I am just about to go.”
Kids. “This is another vile contraction. Habit blinds people to the unseemliness of a term like this. How would it sound if one should speak of silk gloves as silks?”
Kind. See POLITE.
Knights Templars.


Mencius, whose philosophical attitude is not entirely unlike that of Alfred Ayres, says this:

If prevented by statutory regulations from making their coffins in this way, men cannot have the feeling of pleasure.


Erle Stanley Gardner, who likewise enjoys rationalizing death, presents the following image in The Case of the Screaming Woman:
“A ray of black light,” Mason said. “It’s fixed so that, when they swing one of their cars in the driveway, the garage doors all open....”
“But, Chief,” Della Street said, “doesn’t that make the garage vulnerable to any prowler or--?”
“They can undoubtedly turn a switch on the inside of the house and shut this mechanism off,” Mason told her. “The fact that it’s been left on indicates they intend to be back within a short time.”


Embleme XXXIIII of The Theater of Fine Devices, containing an hundred MORALL EMBLEMES, a facsimile of the unique copy of the book of emblems published by Richard Field in London 1614 and now in the collections of the Huntington Library starts with the motto
Some that in knowledge diue most deepe
know least from hurt themselues to keep

, continues with a crude etching of a bird falling, belly up, from a tree, and concludes with the following verse:

The Nightingale hath such a daintie note,
No other bird the harmonie can mend;
Sometimes to sing she straineth so her throte,
That therewithall her song and life doth end.
Eu’n so likewise some students do so dote,
When others do their prose and verse commend,
      That to attaine vnto more perfect skill,
      With studying too hard themselues they kill.

1 comment:

the plot said...

Aha!

I may have been jeparding my ability to know from hurt myself to keep...

tremble for me...