A YEAR IN READING 2009.

C. Max Magee of The Millions has an annual tradition of asking people to talk about books they’ve read and enjoyed during the previous year, and in previous years he had gotten into the flattering habit of beginning the series with my contribution; this year, alas, my habitual feckless procrastination combined with limited computer time (most of which had to be spent editing) meant that my contribution was both late and unwontedly rambling. At any rate, here it is; LH aficionados will have read longer discussions of most of the books here, but I would direct their attention to the last review, of The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America by Gary B. Nash. I haven’t posted about it here because there isn’t even a tenuous LH connection (though I did find an amusing misprint on page 380: “a Russian nobleman, Count Rosenberg, who had fled his country after a dual”), but it’s the best history book I’ve read in a long time, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the Revolution in anything other than the usual triumphalist terms.

Comments

  1. Perhaps he was just a very passionate mathematician?

  2. The following is not really off-topic, since I am following Sili’s lead and the “dual” misprint reproduced by Hat …
    I don’t know how old the word “duel” is, but I succeeded in a remarkably short time in discovering when the mathematical notion of dualité was introduced. The answer is 1631, by Desargues.
    I first recalled the kinds of duality I know about. In high school, I was fascinated by the book College Geometry, by Nathan Altshiller-Court, on “the modern geometry of the triangle and the circle”. I found the paperback on a random bookstand in El Paso. I still remember the very first thing I discovered in it while browsing at the stand – the Simson line.
    I read the book through, solving many of the construction exercises, learning all kinds of mind-blowing stuff about the nine-point circle, the circles of Apollonius … – and a duality theorem involving two triangles. It was about how their extended sides intersect when the triangles are “in perspective” with each other.
    I thought it was called something like “Descartes theorem”, something with “D” anyway, then remembered that it’s Desargues’ Theorem. Here is an animated presentation. Among other things, Desargues had been investigating rules governing the shadows projected by a triangle on differently inclined surfaces.
    And now back to our editor …

  3. I will resist the temptation to prolong the projective geometry, and instead I will share this:
    The car that I drive has two options for specifying the temperature inside: (1) separate controls for driver’s and passenger’s side, (2) driver’s knob controls both. Guess which one is called the “dual” mode. (I can never remember, myself.)

  4. See, a dual is when the two parties fight it out among themselves. A trial is when there’s a third party deciding the case. A quarr[t]al is when there’s still onother person involved.
    Glad to be able to help.

  5. Thank you, John, but you have misspelled both “duel” and “quarrel”. I don’t know how they order these things in Triel.

  6. Those with a knowledge of southern English towns might read ‘A year in Reading’ as a cruel and unusual exile (or ‘might have read’, to hint at pronunciation.

  7. quartal is financial quarter in Russian
    just saying

  8. empty: in claiming that John has misspelled a word, you claim to know that
    1) he meant a certain word
    2) he spelled a certain word wrong
    3) the certain words mentioned in 1) and 2) are the same word
    But how can you know what word he meant? He wrote “dual”, for instance, which is the correct spelling of the word “dual”. Nothing wrong there.
    You may claim that it’s obvious he means duel, when he writes See, a dual is when the two parties fight it out among themselves. But what’s obvious about that claim? You can only assume to know what he meant. He may in fact mean what he in fact wrote: “dual”. In that case, your claim that he misspelled “duel” falls to the ground. All that you might claim in justice is that he has misused the word “dual”.
    Suppose he meant “parenthesis”, but wrote “dual”. Can you be certain that is not the case? Would you say here that “dual” is a misspelling of “parenthesis”?
    This can get rather complicated. A person might mean A, but think of the wrong word B instead of A, and yet write a third word C, thereby misspelling a fourth word D. This may occur when you’re trying to write a language which is not your native one. Example: suppose I want to say “gift” in French. Let this be word A. What I then think of, the wrong word B, is dont. Because I don’t know how it’s spelled, I write dôn, the word C. This is a misspelling of a fourth word D, namely don – which happens to be what I actually meant in the first place.
    I submit that John was making a little joke with “dual” and “quarr[t]al”. So what we would have then is not misspelling on John’s part, but misprision on yours.

  9. Another example of A-D, this time in English:
    Suppose I mean “purl”, which I have heard ladies say when knitting. Let this be word A. What I then think of in writing it down, the wrong word B, is “pearl”. Because I don’t know how it’s spelled, I write “purle”, the word C. This is a misspelling of a fourth word D, namely “purl” – which happens to be what I actually meant in the first place.

  10. A quintal is 100 lb. or 100 kg. of something, or maybe 110 or 120 lb. or kg. It seems to be one of those rural measures used for cheating peasants with.
    In Taiwan there were three kinds of jin (country jin, lb., and kg., I think) plus a three price system (for Chinese, Americans, and Japanese) plus haggling. Sort of like Alice in Wonderland croquet, though the real rules were easy enough to figure out.

  11. In the last example, word D should be “pure”.

  12. Stu, how do you I wasn’t joking? How do I know you’re not joking? How do we know who we are casting our purls before? Is purl-picking the opposite of knit-picking, or a special case? Both, I think.

  13. you _know_ I

  14. Gift is the Norwegian word for “poison”. just saying. Has read been to Reading?

  15. knit-picking
    Cute! And you also noticed that I was doing my pedantic jokeroo number.
    But while writing the A-D stuff, I saw just how many assumptions and conventions are at work when, as only one example, we appraise something as a misspelling.
    Nothin’ wrong with many assumptions and conventions, of course. But there are not a few people who work on the assumption that they do not work on assumptions. Makes life hard, sometimes, to deal with such folks.

  16. Very helpful, JE. May I add that a (gene) siskel can be used to resolve disputes over movies.

  17. jin, jinluur is weight in my language, must be came from Chinese
    if AJP asked about me, i’ve never been to Reading

  18. i forgot to add poison is khor

  19. Gift is the Norwegian word for “poison”
    In German as well, das Gift. But die Mitgift is the dowry. Ein Geschenk is a gift. Der Ausschank is the tap-room. Der Giftschrank is the cabinet containing toxic substances. Usw.

  20. No, wait, that would be the siskal. The sisal of course can be used to sidestep the many political disputes that may arise over hemp production.

  21. Usw.
    Es gibt z.b. a different Geschenk in one of Schubert’s Lieder:
    O unbarmherz’ge Schenke,
    Doch weisest du mich ab?
    This is in a figurative Wirtshaus which is a literal Totenacker and may or may not have an Ausschank.

  22. The dual, trial, quarral, quintal, siskal/sisal, system of classifying arguments seems to break down at seven though. Eight is easy, octal is an October argument, often preliminary to November elections, but septal looks like an adjective in both the sewage and ventricular meanings. I am nonplussed.

  23. septal
    ten ten ten

  24. AJP Something-or-other says:

    Oh no! I’ve done it again. Of course Gift is the GERMAN word for poison. Gift is the Norwegian word for marriage, z.B. “hun er gift med meg” = “she’s married to me”. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
    Yes, I meant you, read.

  25. ten, ten, ten
    That is an example of Japanese humor? If they tried that here, they would go to jail. The psychological effects of witnessing violence and abuse are well documented.
    The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority.

  26. AJP Something says:

    It was lucky I saw that before Trond showed up. I’m very tired (as in “tired”, not “tired and emotional”).

  27. If they tried that here, they would go to jail.
    really? but that’s not real punishment, just the requirement is to not laugh or one will get spanked, and it’s impossible to not laugh, the guy is not that stupid so that he can’t read or maybe genuinely didn’t know English words for twenty ..hundred, he just tries to make the participants laugh and succeeds
    here that cops show hunting down the people-drug addicts looks horrible

  28. dual, trial, quarral, quintal,…
    Why start at two? Me, I can have perfectly good arguments all by myself. What is the word for one guy fighting?
    I won’t insist on starting on zero in this case, although that might an even better koan.

  29. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
    OK, so German Mitgift has to do with marriage but is I suppose unrelated to Norse gift meaning marriage. Is it related to geben and English gift, then? And/or, is Norse gift related to the latter, too? And if so, why? And is Gift (poison) related to anything else worth mentioning?

  30. And is Gift (poison) related to anything else worth mentioning?

    Boringly enough, it’s a specialisation of “gift, something which is given”; it used to have same meaning as in English.

  31. Still knit-picking: I knew that “to knit” is “stricken”. Is there strick-nine in the Giftschrank? It appears that “to purl” is “säumen”, which seams odd.
    Stu, are you sure it wasn’t Defarge’s Theorem you were thinking of? The ladies are doing marvelous things with yarn these days.

  32. Beware of Germans bearing gifts, or of gifts bearing Greeks.

  33. not real punishment
    Whether it is real or staged, they are inviting people to laugh at cruelty. How did they come up with that idea in the first place? The sad thing is, corporal punishment is very real in some places. I haven’t heard if Japan is one of them, but now I worry for a family member in school there.

  34. marie-lucie says:

    marvelous things with yarn
    Indeed! But the ladies are not knitting, they are using a crochet hook (meaning “hook hook”) which allows more creativity than knitting, which is suitable for a flat or cylindrical surface as in making garments.
    “to purl” is “säumen”
    Really? According to The Complete Book of Knitting, which gives equivalents of technical terms in English (American and British), French, German, Spanish and Swedish, the German for a “knit stitch” is glatte (Masche) and for a “purl stitch” Krause (Masche) (both “sic”). Both terms refer to stitches made with a pair of knitting needles in order to produce a smooth, even surface.
    The “knit” stitch produces the smooth (or right) side of a knit fabric, and when you come to the end of a row you switch to the “purl” stitch, which produces the other (or wrong) side (if you didn’t switch, both sides would look identical, but they would also look like the wrong side alone). Sewing together the pieces of a handknit garment is done with a large sewing needle, by a special sewing technique which does not require knitting needles.

  35. Why start at two?
    How about a singal for the nonce fight and a nuncal for naught? For stopping a fight in two languages with the use of vocalized pauses, there’s always the umbilical. And now we’re full circle back at the oomphalos of Buck Mulligan’s Martello tower. Which reminds me, I have a book overdue.

  36. inviting people to laugh at cruelty
    people are laughing there not at punishment
    or cruelty, they are laughing how the participants can’t suppress their laughter provoked by a funny video even though they would get spanked
    it’s not a real life punishment and has nothing to do with real life situations you are rightfully concerned about
    and don’t worry, your family member will be okay there, a very safe and peaceful country

  37. the German for a “knit stitch” is glatte (Masche) and for a “purl stitch” Krause (Masche)
    I’m glad to hear it. I got säumen=purl from an online German-English dictionary, but I didn’t like it.
    No, knitting would not be a very promising way of creating surfaces having a great deal of negative curvature.
    I did some rudimentary knitting many years ago. My son learned to knit in school. He knitted hats for everyone in the immediate family. My hat has a Red Sox logo. His sister’s hat accidentally has a Möbius strip embedded in it.

  38. marie-lucie says:

    Ø: My father learned to knit while recovering from diphtheria as a boy. Some old photographs show men knitting, especially while watching sheep, and even while perched on stilts. Women watching sheep were more likely to be spinning (wool).
    Some time ago (at least a year, I think) there was a discussion here of Möbius scarves and hats, the latter definitely unusual.

  39. a tale of duelism: ‘William Wilson’

  40. He knitted hats
    At last, someone is back on topic.

  41. I learned a bit of crocheting from the Mexican maids at our house in El Paso, who crocheted a lot. (“crocheted”: There’s a ball-breaker to spell/pronounce for a non-English speaker! I had to look it up myself, because I kept wanting to write “crotcheted”, with an extra t up front). I spent hours making circular doilies that would never lie flat. They wanted to be soup dishes, no matter what I wanted.
    the German for a “knit stitch” is glatte (Masche) and for a “purl stitch” Krause (Masche) (both “sic”)
    What is “sic” supposed to mean here? As you guys have already found out, “purl” is not säumen, one of whose meanings is to make a border – using a border (knit) stitch, for instance, or in sewing (“to hem”). Another meaning is “neglect [to do something]“.
    In the Rheinland (I’ve learned to be more careful about territorial claims) there are other terms for these stitches. A knit stitch is a rechte Masche, a purl stitch is a linke Masche. They illustrate an important German idiomatic pattern with links/rechts to distinguish between “outside / front side” and “inside / back side”, in certain contexts anyway, for instance with regard to knitting, washing or ironing items of clothing. It took me a while to get used to this expression pattern. Depending on what you do in everyday life, you may never need it.
    In this idiom, “rechts” refers to the outside or front side, and “links” refers to the inside or back side, in the following expressions:
    auf links wenden/drehen (turn inside out)
    auf rechts wenden/drehen (turn right-side out)
    Note the auf in auf links/rechts wenden. Think of this as “turn it so that its inside/outside is the one you see”. In other words, links/rechts does not describe the direction in which you turn it, not “to the right/left”. links/rechts are not adverbs here, and I would even say that auf links/rechts is not an adverbial phrase. You’re not describing “the direction in which you turn” it, but the final state in which you want it to be, as a result of turning. For an item of clothing whose surface finish could be damaged in the washing machine, auf links waschen means “wash turned inside out”.
    In contrast, nach links/rechts means “towards the left/right”. The nach stresses that you’re talking about direction. You don’t alway need the nach: links abbiegen (turn left, i.e. when driving a car “turn off to the left”).
    Taxi passenger: An der nächsten Straße bitte links abbiegen (turn left at the next street please)
    Taxi driver: Ist gut (will do)
    [taxi driver then doesn't slow down on the approach to the intersection. The passenger thinks the driver has forgotten that he is supposed to turn off]
    Passenger: Hier links! Wir müssen hier nach links! (To the left here! We need to turn left here!)
    There you see a kind of dialog in which I have become an expert. Far, far too often have I had to engage in it, exclamation marks and all.
    Here are pictures showing how to do a rechte Masche with border stitch, and a linke Masche with border stitch. At the bottom of this picture you see front and back of a knitted piece. The text explains, as marie-lucie already pointed out, why you have to alternate between knit and purl at each new row if you want the result to be smooth. On another page, you see how to get a pattern by alternating knit and purl within rows. I didn’t know it was that easy, in principle.
    Here are nice youtube videos for the basic knit stitches.
    Knit stich
    Purl stitch
    Changing between knit and purl

  42. War and Peace sure is full of vital characters. For me, an even more pleasurable aspect of Tolstoy’s narrative alchemy is the near-absence of digression or filler. People who’ve been put off by the length- and the reputation for length- of the novel often don’t ‘believe’ that each little chapter, each side character and vignette and brief movement (apparently) away from Pierre, Natasha, and Prince Andrei, is part of and in dialectical turn makes ‘more’ sense of the story’s patterns of imagery, feeling, and thought.

  43. (better would have been:)
    a tale of duelity: ‘William Wilson’

  44. ball-breaker
    I used this word above, despite feeling it might seem inappropriate to lady readers. Because it refers to a fact of life for a man. It would be silly for ladies to feel they’re being left out here, as if I had written “he” instead of “she” for the anonymous pronoun of traditional prose. Old-style, aggressive feminists from the 70s-80s even might have savored the word “ball-breaker”.
    An attempt to find an equivalent expression for the ladies resulted only in the unpropitious word “tit-wringer”. A favorite expression of my father’s was “to get your tits caught in the wringer”, to express that some person (male, primarily) had got himself into difficulties. So, against this semantic background, “tit-wringer” might not be understood in the same sense as “ball-breaker”.
    Folks, I did my best.

  45. Bill Walderman says:

    Count R. was actually a native speaker of Upper Sorbian. His family was originally from Bautzen. But duals had been strictly prohibited in Russia since about the 14th or 15th century. So he had to make a hasty departure.

  46. There you see a kind of dialog in which I have become an expert. Far, far too often have I had to engage in it, exclamation marks and all.
    The Germans are charming but inefficient.

  47. marie-lucie says:

    the German for a “knit stitch” is glatte (Masche) and for a “purl stitch” Krause (Masche) (both “sic”)
    I wrote “sic” because, not having a German dictionary to check the words, I was not sure if the capitalization or lack thereof was right. At least with rechte and linke I know that these are adjectives.
    Grumbly, if your doilies turned out to be the shape of soup bowls, you either were making the stitches too tight, or you did not increase them enough, or both. If you had done the opposite, they would not have been lying flat either, they would have had ripples. Perhaps the ladies who taught you had a standard method which worked for them, and did not adjust it for your own beginner’s technique.
    crocheted: like debuted I think these spellings are an aberration. I don’t often write those words, but when I see them I want to say crochetted (like crotchety) and debutted. Centuries ago they would have spelled the words as they sounded to an English speaker. In French the final t is silent if the word ends with it, but as soon as you add a vowel the [t] reappears.

  48. they would have had ripples
    marie-lucie: now that you mention it, I remember that also happened sometimes.

  49. Double letters before -ed are an issue between MS Word and me. I use them much more often than MS wants me to. (MS also hates the passive voice. The dead hand of Strunk).
    A Polish-American neighbor lady crocheted constantly and I bought her collection of 50 or so crochet magazines when she moved into a smaller place. She sold very nice doilies for $3 each.

  50. marie-lucie: I need a hobby, as a respite from grumbling and reading. I’m thinking of knitting or crocheting, or both. What has been your experience with these?
    Unfortunately, the only practical things I can think of to make are doilies, sweaters, tea-cozies and altar-coverings. Yet none of those interest me. I might go for dramatic wall hangings, complicated things of uncertain import, with large negative curvature. Then people won’t think I’m a pussy for spending my time knitting.

  51. When my father was young his Aunt Nett knitted him a pair of socks. When he wore them, someone asked “Is them the socks Nett knut ‘ee?”

  52. Knit, knut, knotted. Cool!

  53. ignoramus says:

    GS: nit [sic] away, doilies with words of choice in them. You have a way with letters.

  54. Another solution, with problems of its own, to the t vs. tt issue – how to harmonize the sight and sound of written-for-the-ear words – might be crochet’d and debut’d.

  55. crochet’d and debut’d
    Not bad. But doesn’t a non-possessive apostrophe usually indicate a letter left out when two words are run together? This would not be the case with “crochet’d” from “crotched”, because on the present proposal “crotched” would not exist. It would help with the pronunciation, but would be a great departure from the traditional, simple rule of adding “-ed” to spell the participle of non-irregular verbs.
    Yet another solution strikes at the root of the problem: the original words. Eliminating the t, they might be altered to “crochay” and “debew”. Ugh. Then the participles would be “crochayed” and “debewed”. Yech.

  56. Correction in my last comment:
    This would not be the case with “crochet’d” from “crocheted”, because on the present proposal “crocheted” would not exist
    See how “crotchety” keeps intruding?!

  57. marie-lucie says:

    I like crochet’d and debut’d which would retain the French spelling of the bare words but avoid the misleading implications of the t between vowels. This spelling would be revitalizing a 17-18th century orthographic convention, not inventing a new one.
    Grumbly’s hobby: you don’t have to choose between knitting and crochet, you could use both in a dramatic-looking work such as a wall hanging, perhaps with a knit background with designs or accents adding curvature or other unusual details in crochet. For smaller projects I won’t suggests socks (but Argyle socks would be a knitting challenge), but a Möbius hat would also be fun to knit, i think.
    The basics of knitting and crochet are not difficult, I learned both at the age of five, from my grandmother who at the age of four had to do 10 cm of crochet lace every day before being allowed to play. I taught both to my daughter, who preferred crochet because of the creative possibilities (such as grafting long curved strips on a plain background).

  58. the near-absence of digression or filler
    Did you by any chance read an abridged edition, with the long digressions on the motive forces of history deleted? If so, I assure you you didn’t miss anything.

  59. long digressions on the motive forces of history
    I can’t remember War and Peace, but Les Misérables contains enormously long sections that could be regarded as digressions from today’s mass-consumption point of view. But I felt I could afford to be patient, because it was written in the heyday of the baggy novel. That was just a phase in literature. One must rise above mere considerations of immediate gratification. Excelsior!
    Anyway, I liked Hugo enough to go on to read Notre-Dame de Paris, where the “digressions” on the history of Paris, the churches etc. are very much to the point.

  60. This spelling would be revitalizing a 17-18th century orthographic convention, not inventing a new one
    I hadn’t thought of that! I withdraw my reservations. Hat, will you please see to this matter?

  61. Trond Engen says:

    Crown: Of course Gift is the GERMAN word for poison. Gift is the Norwegian word for marriage, z.B. “hun er gift med meg” = “she’s married to me”. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
    And the pun is appreciated: “Forelska, forlova, forgifta.”
    As Aidan points out, all senses of gift are derived from the same verbal noun.
    Yes, I meant you, read.
    Congratulations.
    Ø: My hat has a Red Sox logo
    What we want to see are red socks with a Hat logo.
    marie-lucie: Some old photographs show men knitting, especially while watching sheep, and even while perched on stilts.
    The founder of the 19th century Lutheran Pietist movement in Norway, the lay preacher Hans Nielsen Hauge, was also a tireless entrepreneur who saw lazyness as a sin and knitted while walking.
    Grumbly Stu: Knit, knut, knotted. Cool!
    Modern Eastern Norwegian:
    knyte, knøyt, har knytt/knyti

  62. Victor Hugo was an astonishing figure. He was one of the earliest French romantic poets and remained productive into his 80s, outliving most of the Parnassians, decadents, symbolists, and whatnot of the next generation. That’s what healthy romantic revolutionary living does for you.
    They say that his poetry is more famous than his novels in France. Altogether he was productive enough for 2 or 3 novelists and 3 to 5 poets.
    An important family in Minnesota radical history, the LeSueurs, was descended from a friend of Victor Hugo’s from his exile period on the Channel Islands.
    I wish I liked Romantic poetry.

  63. The Haugeans also played some role in Minnesota politics, as did the Gruntvigeans. Kierkegaard apparently had little or no influence.

  64. Wiki:

  65. Many are not aware that Hugo was almost as prolific in the visual arts as he was in literature, producing more than 4,000 drawings in his lifetime.

  66. No, language hat, the version I finished isn’t abridged. You’re right, in that the departures from characters altogether are digressive (for example, Vol. IV, Pt. Two, in the first couple of sections, before the details of the Russian retreat from Moscow re-enter and the historical figures can return to fictivity).
    I didn’t mind the engine-and-meaning-of-history blah blah that much, and didn’t find it to be “filler”, exactly, but it’s a fair point to wonder whether those discussions couldn’t have been either intricated into the story of the story more elegantly (as in Forster) or just put physically outside of it (as with the Epilogue, Pt. Two).
    What I’d meant was that the mass of narrative incident pretty much all contributes to the whole, making it ‘greater’ than the sum of its disarticulatable parts. I think people who don’t start reading War and Peace might be under the assumption that the story must wander, because so much not-getting-to-the-point must be evidence of distraction and a bore. In my view, the narrative detail pretty much all amounts to ‘the point’, cumulatively- the detail is how you feel Pierre and Natasha as meaningful grit in the threatening-to-be-impersonal machine of history. (Which, of course, one would say about any novel that one enjoyed and deny about many that one did not.)

  67. What I’d meant was that the mass of narrative incident pretty much all contributes to the whole, making it ‘greater’ than the sum of its disarticulatable parts. I think people who don’t start reading War and Peace might be under the assumption that the story must wander
    Well, I certainly agree with you about the narrative all contributing to the whole, but I’m pretty sure people who don’t start reading the book are simply afraid of length and reputation and not assumptions about wandering.

  68. simply afraid of length
    Afraid of what about “length”? A person who won’t hesitate to read five 250-page novels over several weeks might not even begin a 1200-page book; I was guessing what (if anything) it is in the doorstopper that they understand themselves to be rationally anticipating and avoiding. Other than diminished portability.

  69. marie-lucie says:

    digressions:
    When I started reading English literature in the original, I came across one of Walter Scott’s novels, which had chapters of very uneven length. One chapter consisted entirely of this sentence (I forgot the exact names): “The next day, John declared his love to Lorna”. I suppose that the edition I read was aimed at pre-teen boys, for whom the details of the scene would be utterly boring.

  70. afraid of length
    They say when Oprah chose Tolstoy’s 800-page Anna Karenina for her book club, people would walk into bookstores to get it and when they saw how thick it was, walk out without buying it.

  71. David Marjanović says:

    crochet hook (meaning “hook hook”)

    German: Häkelnadel, from the verb häkeln, which must come from Haken “hook” and a suffix that looks like a diminutive today but once was a frequentative (“again and again”).

    the German for a “knit stitch” is glatte (Masche) and for a “purl stitch” Krause (Masche) (both “sic”).

    The adjective kraus being limited to Germany, the purl stitch is called verkehrt (“inverse”, “reverse”, “the wrong way around”) in Austria.

    I’ve learned to be more careful about territorial claims [...] an important German idiomatic pattern with links/rechts to distinguish between “outside / front side” and “inside / back side”, in certain contexts anyway

    What you just said: I’ve never encountered this pattern before. Must be limited geographically, too.
    With pluricentric languages like that, it can be pretty maddening what native speakers believe is standard and universal when in fact it’s strictly regional and not understood anywhere else.

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