CANNOT (HELP) BUT.

Andrej Bjelakovic asked (in this thread) “what’s the deal with the ‘I can’t help but’ + bare infinitive? Is it frowned upon only by some fuddy-duddy prescriptivist or is it generally considered non-standard?” The short answer is that it’s fine but it has been frowned upon. The long answer follows.
As always in such matters, I turn to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage (or its equally reliable, cheaper, and more available twin, Merriam-Webster’s Concise Dictionary of English Usage; in this case, the former was closer to hand). The entry begins as follows:

cannot help, cannot but, cannot help but A lot has been written about these phrases. To put as charitable a light on the matter as possible, most of what you may read is out of date. We have hundreds of citations for these phrases, and we can tell you two things for certain: these phrases all mean the same thing — “to be unable to do otherwise than” — and they are all standard. To the usual three we can add can but and cannot choose but, which also have the same meaning but are less frequently met with. We will take up each of the five in turn.

They say can but was called “pompous” by Bernstein but give examples where it sounds “natural enough”; they point out that cannot choose but is often used with a conscious echo of Coleridge’s “The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:/ He cannot choose but hear.” Cannot help “is grammatically the odd one of the five. It is followed by a present participle, whereas the others are followed by the bare infinitive.” Their first citation is from Swift (1712): “yet I cannot help thinking, that . . . our Conversation hath very much degenerated.” Cannot but “is an old established idiom. It has even been a favorite of some of our old warhorses of usage — Henry Alford, Richard Grant White, Fitzedward Hall…” They give citations starting with George Farquhar‘s 1698 Love and a Bottle: “I can’t but laugh to think how they’ll spunge the sheet before the errata be blotted out.” Finally we come to the usage Andrej asked about:

Cannot help but, which may have been formed as a syntactic blend of cannot but and cannot help, is the most recent of the phrases. It appears to have arisen just before the turn of the 20th century. Three sources — the OED, Curme 1931, and Poutsma 1904-26— all give the English novelist Hall Caine as the earliest source. Two of his novels, The Manxman (1894) and The Christian (1897) are cited. We began to acquire citations in the 1920s, and a great many from 1940 on. [They give a dozen citations.]
Only cannot but and cannot help but have been the subject of much criticism. Vizetelly 1906 warned readers to distinguish between can but and cannot but — as if they meant something different; Bierce 1909 condemned cannot help but; Utter 1916 — the only one with foresight — recommended simply accepting can but, cannot but, and cannot help but as idioms. A great many other commentators have had their say, many of them finding fault with one or the other by resorting to logic — their own brand — but of course logic cannot measure idioms. Degree of formality appears to be determined not by the phrase but by the choice of cannot or can’t in the phrase. You can use whichever one seems most natural to you; all are standard.

So there you have it. People will complain about anything, but that doesn’t mean they’re worth listening to; and logic cannot measure idioms.

Comments

  1. Bathrobe says:

    Now I understand. So “can’t help but” is a bit like “irregardless” — a telescoping of two different constructions. Definitely to be avoided by all meticulous writers!

  2. On the contrary, Bathrobe: to be meticulously used by meticulous writers who meticulously wish to produce certain effects.
    That said, I myself would edit it out, as most writers are not so meticulous as all that.

  3. The verb form called a “bare infinitive” here is called a “base verb” in the ESL world.

  4. As might be expected, it’s not hard to find uses before 1894 in Google Books. For instance, here is it in a usage manual(!) from 1892. And here is it in a sermon from 1793.
    Cannot help but + clause is even older (and now obsolete or hopelessly stilted).

  5. scarabaeus says:

    a typical phrase that be common in my neck of the woods, ” can[not] happen but for the Grace of …”

  6. But for meaning ‘except for; were it not for’ is much older. Even if John Bradford never really said, “There but for the grace of God, goes,” he would have been understood; Shakespeare uses it.

  7. Noetica says:

    LH, I have both of those M-W offerings on my shelves. I acquired the Concise when it was recommended here, and consult it more than the other. Both are wonderful.
    The entry “But” in the Concise includes 2.5 columns on “But that, but what” (see “But”, 5, pp. 152–154). I remarked here in 2005 on “no question [but] that”:

    …”there is no question that…”, which people now say instead of “there is no question but that…”. I counsel people to avoid both forms just because a meaning opposite to the one intended might be understood.

    I still counsel that way, though I note that M-W does not make exactly this point.
    I have observed a definite switch in American usage. Up till the late 1990s Whitehouse spokesfolk, and others, would say “there is no question but that A” (meaning “A is beyond question”). Now, most have migrated to “there is no question that”, with the same meaning. Hazardous.

  8. I always thought that the “I can’t help but” construction originated from the French “ne . . . que” construction. Example: “Je ne peux que vous dire que . . .” “I can only tell you that…”/ “I can [not but ] tell you that …” Does anyone else hold that view?

  9. Noetica says:

    That’s an interesting conjecture, HMM. It is not to be ruled out that these constructions owe something to the French formerly used in international diplomacy, which might be a source of their common use in political pronunciamentos.
    To expand a little on my own point (above):
    In fact I disagree with A dictionary of modern legal usage (Bryan Garner, 2nd edition 2001). The but is not a mere redundancy. After all, “there is no question that A” is very like “there is no question of A”, which makes it quite likely to be read as meaning “A is out of the question” (=”A is not even to be entertained as possible”). See also Language Log, where I made the point also, and cited the Telegraph style book.

  10. I always thought that the “I can’t help but” construction originated from the French “ne . . . que” construction.

    Which I imagine is not original to French, but calqued on the Latin non … nisi …. “N’a pas que” and “il n’y a pas que” have recently been causing me headaches. One problem seems to have been my very idea that there exist more or less “autonomous” phrases “n’a pas que” and “il n’y a pas que” which have certain meanings, the same in all contexts. Currently, my sense is that this is not true, and that only larger, encompassing phrases reveal what is being said – in particular, you need to know whether there is a “mais” in the semantic vicinity.
    Here are some examples from Morin, La nature de la nature, in the Éditions du Seuil paperback. Unfortunately the style, particularly of the first example, may raise the hackles of some readers. Morin is a biologist and mathematician who is discussing ways of thinking about complexity that were not familiar in 1977, so his writing may sound to some like that logorrhea à la Française that I myself hate so much, as in (some of) the writings of Derrida and Lacan, and as so effectively parodied by Alan Sokal. The book is merely one I’m currently reading in which I kept track of “n’a pas que” problems.

    Ainsi donc, autour de la boucle tétralogique se dispose une constellation polycentrique de notions en interdépendance. Cette constellation conceptuelle n’a pas que valeur générale. Elle marque de sa présence tout phénomène, toute réalité qui sera étudiée. [p. 87]

    The meaning is: “this conceptual constellation is useful merely in a general way”. Now we have a further example in which there is a “mais” lurking farther down the line, which reveals that what you thought might have been merely is actually not merely:

    Il y a une grande justesse, en ce qui concerne, non seulment les systèmes sociaux, mais aussi les systèmes biologiques, à les concevoir sour l’angle d’une relation couplée infra/superstructure, où la seconde ignore ou oublie l’autre. Il faut de plus remarquer que la première également ignore et oublie la seconde, et surtout concevoir que cette ignorance mutuelle se situe au sein d’une solidarité indissoluble, où la “superstructure” n’est pas que vague épiphénomène, revenant sur l’infrastructure par une faible rétroaction, mais participe récursivement à la structuration de l’infrastructure.

    I don’t think it makes any difference whether être or avoir is being used. Au secours, marie-lucie!

  11. I’m probably wrong with my idea that it makes no difference whether être or avoir is being used. I had imagined something like this (vaguely and diffidently, as always with my French):

    Il faut concevoir que cette ignorance mutuelle se situe au sein d’une solidarité indissoluble, où la “superstructure” n’a pas qu’une nature vague épiphénoménale, revenant sur l’infrastructure par une faible rétroaction, mais aussi participe récursivement à la structuration de l’infrastructure.

    But as a homework sentence this is definitely failing French, as I now see when I write it down. Maybe something like the following would be acceptable:

    Il faut concevoir que cette ignorance mutuelle se situe au sein d’une solidarité indissoluble, où la “superstructure” n’a pas [without que] une nature vague épiphénoménale, revenant sur l’infrastructure par une faible rétroaction, mais [plutôt] participe récursivement à la structuration de l’infrastructure.

    So there is no “n’a pas que … mais” which can replace “n’est pas que … mais” in sentences to give the same meaning. That’s not a useful way of stating the issue, though. I think we’re deep into style territory, far from the realm of “correct grammar”, which is visible only as a constraint on the horizon, not as a rule.

  12. Listening to Alain Badiou on Hardtalk, I find it useful that in conjunction with a thick French accent he deploys English cognates of the words he would have used in French. It’s useful in the sense that it reinforces my feeling for how I myself must formulate those things in French. For instance, he says something like “arrange things”, so I think of “arranger les choses” as well as “deal with things”. He also says “the educatif system”, so I think of “le système éducatif” as well as “the educational system”, and note that he wouldn’t have used “éducationnel”.
    This kind of mongrelized half-think imitation practice helps my fluency much more than “rules”. The “n’est pas que … [mais]” stuff just needs a little more speaking exercise, and I’m off to the Théâtre des Variétés Intellectuelles for a late prancing career (Noetica, preferring the classical dance, will never notice me, I hope).

  13. Noetica says:

    I felt a d[bruits]ance in the force, so I came here straight away to investigate. What’s this about me preferring the classical dance, StuDude?
    Ah, do you not begin to see? Similar we are, Kölnermann.
    (Ready are you yet? For your koan?)

  14. Yes, the bulb lit up some time ago, Mr. N. La danse, it’s just a running gag.

  15. Noetica says:

    Excellent! Everything is unfolding according to my plan.
    (Ah, but is he ready for his koan?)

  16. It is the very question, if the alluded film does not tromp the memory.

  17. Noetica says:

    Ha ah! Apt, and plausible. But no: “there is another”.

  18. I’m stumped, unless this has something to do with rogues and butterfly frass. Je cède.

  19. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly: faced with typical French intellectual fare, I will only pick a few tidbits:

    Cette constellation conceptuelle n’a pas que valeur générale.
    The meaning is: “this conceptual constellation is useful merely in a general way”.

    NO: “This conceptual constellation is not merely valid in a general way”. (lit. “does not have only a general value”, as you find out later). I think perhaps you are confusing n’a que “has only” with n’a pas que “does not have only”.
    Similarly later: la “superstructure” n’est pas que vague épiphénomène: “(The) superstructure is not only a vague epiphenomenon.”
    The negative interpretation hinges on the presence of pas, not on what verb is used. Without pas, ne … que is not negative in meaning (“only, merely”).

    he deploys English cognates* of the words he would have used in French.

    Yes, which means that he does not know English as well as he thinks. But many French people are doing the reverse, interpreting English words to mean the same as the French words that look similar. For instance, I recently read a piece about agriculture (in English, written by people with French names) which mentioned “laboured fields”, intending to mean des champs labourés “plowed fields”.
    For instance, he says something like “arrange things”, so I think of “arranger les choses” as well as “deal with things”.
    Without context I am not sure what he means, but arranger does not mean “to deal with” but “to set in order, to fix, to rectify”, whether concretely or abstractly. So arranger les choses could mean “to put/set things in order” as well as “to rectify the situation”.
    le système éducatif
    éducatif is a French word. Given Badiou’s age, he would perhaps not use the blatant anglicism éducationnel. But using système in this context also strikes me as an anglicism.
    Bear in mind that what I consider normal French might strike people as hopelessly old-fashioned, since there has been considerable influence from English on French vocabulary and syntax in the past few decades, during which I have not lived in France. In Canada bilingual people try to resist the influence of English, while in France people seem eager to show off their knowledge of the language. Inadequate, hurried translations from English do not help.
    *Technical linguistic note: words which are similar (even if this is due to their having a similar origin) are not necessarily “cognates” as strictly speaking this term means that the similar words are derived from a common ancestor through independent processes of change, rather than though borrowing between the two languages or by both from a common source. For example, “automobile” exists in both French and English because it was created in one of these languages and borrowed by the other, not because they both independently maintained a word inherited from Proto-Indo-European, their common ancestor, as for instance in the case of père and father, which are true cognates even though they don’t look much like each other.

  20. It might be of interest that in Irish, the only standard way to say “only” is to use negation together with ach, “but”. Of course, colloquial Irish uses just as a loanword.

  21. rootlesscosmo says:

    The mother of one of the Vassar graduates in Mary McCarthy’s 1963 (?) novel The Group is peeved by “cannot help but,” insisting that only “cannot help” or “cannot but” are correct usage. (She’s also described as so rich that she lives on “the income of her income.”)
    While we’re on ways to describe compulsion or constraint, I’ve always been perplexed by “needs must/must needs.” Anyone?

  22. Andrej Bjelakovic says:

    Just to thank languagehat for answering the question.
    Also, I really need to get my hands on MWDEU.

  23. NO: “This conceptual constellation is not merely valid in a general way”

    Thanks, marie-lucie. Well, there goes my theory about ‘”mais” in the semantic vicinity’. There is the consolation, though, that I can now understand “n’a pas que” in the way I used to, namely by “parsing locally”, until I ran into those passages in Morin.
    I see now that in my first example, I was the whole time being misled by my understanding of the word générale as Morin is using it there. Here is more of that paragraph:

    Ainsi donc, autour de la boucle tétralogique se dispose une constellation polycentrique de notions en interdépendance. Cette constellation conceptuelle n’a pas que valeur générale. Elle marque de sa présence tout phénomène, toute réalité qui sera étudiée. Elle constitue le premier fondement de complexité de la nature de la nature.

    I tend to understand “general” as a synonym for “universal”, which to me means “applies to each and every thing (of a given type)”. I have encountered philosophical writers who claim that there is a profound difference between them, but I never found the arguments convincing or even worth understanding.
    When I read “this is not merely …”, I expect something to follow along the lines of “but also / in fact … [something additional]”. So when I read “this is not merely valid in a general way” (which I originally did), I expect something like – well, what? What is additional to “general”? But the following sentences contain … tout phénomène, toute réalité .. le premier fondement …, which only reinforce the feeling of each and every thing. So I thought maybe “il n’a pas que” here must somehow mean “this is merely valid”, and the pas is just superfluous in the presence of ne, as usual (in the view of an English native speaker!).
    What Morin means by générale is “is most cases, in a general way” , i.e. not “each and every thing” but “most things”. So he’s saying that it is not just that X is valid in most cases, but in all cases – thus the “tout/toute” in the subsequent sentences.
    After checking in M-W and Petit Robert, I have decided I need to be a little more careful about “general”. In both works, the entries document the ambivalence of “general”.

    2 : involving, relating to, or applicable to every member of a class, kind, or group *the general equation of a straight line*
    5 a : applicable to or characteristic of the majority of individuals involved : PREVALENT b : concerned or dealing with universal rather than particular aspects

    2¨ Qui s’applique à l’ensemble ou à la majorité des cas ou des individus d’une classe.
    3¨ Qui intéresse, réunit sans exception tous les individus, tous les éléments d’un ensemble.

  24. marie-lucie: I accept your strictures on the use of “cognate”. So what word can I now use to characterize such phenomena as “arranger/arrange”, “automobile/automobile”? “They sound similar” is a little weak.

  25. “Which I imagine is not original to French, but calqued on the Latin non … nisi ….”
    Probably not, because as Panu observes:
    “It might be of interest that in Irish, the only standard way to say “only” is to use negation together with ach, “but”. Of course, colloquial Irish uses just as a loanword.”
    The half negative constructions is used, at elast in the US, by dmoegrphic groups likely to have had the least ocntact with Latin. I don’t know how old the usage is in English, but it is old and native.
    There is a belt of languages starting with Arabic in the south and moving all the way up the Atlantic coast that have some form of this construction, but the belt has gaps – I don’t think it’s used in Spanish, it is in French and English and Irish, don’t know about Welsh or Portuguese or Dutch…..

  26. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly: I accept your strictures on the use of “cognate”. So what word can I now use to characterize such phenomena as “arranger/arrange”, “automobile/automobile”? “They sound similar” is a little weak.
    I agree with the last statement, but I don’t know of a term that would fill the bill: in French “mots amis” can be contrasted with “faux amis”, and the “amis” in question are the words that resemble each other closely. I have never seen similar phrases in English, which is probably why the technically incorrect “cognate” is being used (notice that I prefaced my note with the words “technical linguistic” in order to indicate that my definition was perhaps too limited for general use).

  27. … I imagine is … calqued on the Latin non … nisi ….” … Probably not

    Now I’m not sure how one might rephrase “calqued on the Latin non … nisi …” to make a more precise, investigatable conjecture out of it – though I wrote those words myself. With my non-linguist back to the wall, I would just murmur bashfully “it has occurred to me that n’a pas que looks similar to non … nisi … as a rhetorical figure”.
    But even without my own axe to grind, I can’t quite make out what your argument is. You seem to be saying that the French “n’a pas que” can’t be “calqued on the Latin non … nisi …” because something similar, which you call “half negative constructions”, exists in a wide range of languages. My idea, whatever it meant, was nevertheless specific to modern French, which has strong roots in Latin, both the vulgar and literary kinds. Are you saying that a linguistic feature that occurs in many non-interrelated languages must be a kind of Deep Structure, and so cannot possibly have been reinforced by deliberate rhetorical emulation? How would you explain the absence of such a Deep Structure as the “half negative constructions” in Spanish, as you seem to remember?

  28. “In Canada bilingual people try to resist the influence of English, while in France people seem eager to show off their knowledge of the language.” – you wouldn’t be speaking for ALL Canadian bilingual people, would you?

  29. marie-lucie says:

    calqued on the Latin non … nisi ….
    Non … nisi … means literally “not … if not …” and corresponds in French to a literal translation … ne … pas …… sinon …
    Rather, ne … que… comes directly from Latin ne … quam … where quam means roughly “compared to”: it is used with words of comparison such as magis ‘more’ and forms with comparative meaning such as melior or melius ‘better’. Comparison can be between different degrees or amounts, or in an extreme case between zero and something, as in “nothing but …” which is the equivalent of Latin ne … quam … and French ne … que …. “Nothing but …” can be stated in a positive way as “only” (French seulement), which is that the formally negative French expression means, the negative meaning having been completely “bleached” away.

  30. David Marjanović says:

    There is a belt of languages starting with Arabic in the south and moving all the way up the Atlantic coast that have some form of this construction, but the belt has gaps – I don’t think it’s used in Spanish, it is in French and English and Irish, don’t know about Welsh or Portuguese or Dutch…..

    I wonder if Vennemann has already jumped on this.
    But in any case, this construction doesn’t exist in German – which tells us absolutely nothing, because it can’t. It’s completely unthinkable to use “not” together with anything it could be fused to.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    Hozo: you wouldn’t be speaking for ALL Canadian bilingual people, would you?
    Did I conduct a nationwide survey and the results were 100% positive, you mean? and you are not asking me if I am speaking for ALL French people either.
    Unfortunately I did not use a safe word like “generally” but neither did I use “universally”.
    I did not conduct a formal study according to rigorous procedures approved by the major grant-giving agencies, and no statistically significant data were collected or even sought. But to my knowledge no living beings, human or not, were harmed directly or indirectly during the process.

  32. em-el: The phrase ‘false friends’ rang a bell (in English), so I googled it. Lo and behold, they are discussed in many places on the net, and in conjuction with the word ‘cognates’ wrongly used. I think the term ‘false friends’ must have come up somewhere in my language studies. Unfortunely, it must have been only once, because I have been thinking ‘cognates’ too. Thanks for straightening us out.

  33. marie-lucie says:

    iakon, “false friends” is a translation from “faux amis” which has been used for a long time in French. There are lots of them between French and English (but also, for instance, French and Spanish or Italian), but there is no real term for the “vrais amis” although “mots amis” is also used. But for a historical linguist it is jarring to see, for instance in a Beginning French textbook, similar words divided between “false friends” and “cognates”, the latter referring to “true friends” (although that word is never used), when true cognates in the historical sense are often quite different from each other.

  34. Noetica says:

    Well, it seems to me that we can connect French ne … que with litotes, mentioned in earlier dispatches, if we understand litotes as an “attenuated” statement of a positive by negation of a negative. Consider:
    1. Il y en a deux
    [“There are two of them”]
    2. Il n’y en a pas
    [“There are none of them”]
    3. Il n’y en a que deux
    [“There are none of them but two”;
    “There are only two of them”]
    The presence of pas in 2, and the absence of pas in 3, are a matter to deal with separately – a matter of negative spread. A colloquial variant of 2, showing that pas shares in, or indeed takes over, the negativity of ne:
    2′. Il y en a pas.
    But the que in 3 is not like that. It turns against the negation, and moderates it, just as in litotes. It marks a measured negation of the primary negation.
    The parallel with litotes is not exact; but it is heuristically valuable, and probably motivated in similar ways. Its prevalence is probably the result of similar sociolinguistic pressures. (Litotes became the hallmark of a certain caution and fastidiousness in English literature sometime in the 19th century, did it not?) I would not be displeased to own a copy of Negative contexts (Ton van der Wouden, Routledge, 1997), in which such matters are picked over with no inconsiderable attention to detail. It does not exclude a liberal helping of litotes-talk. But alas, it is nothing if not expensive.
    As for general, it generally does not mean the same as universal, neither etymologically nor in careful practice. When we say that P is true generally of triangles, given the nature of mathematical truths P will probably also be true universally of triangles. (But not always. P might be, for example, “if one of the angles is a right angle, the other two must be acute”; then take the very special case of a triangle with two right angles and a third angle of 0°.) By way of contrast, when we say that Q is true generally of human beings, it is very often not true universally. Q might involve having four limbs, for example.

  35. Noetica says:

    As for the non-cognation of words like English automobile and French automobile, I suppose we could adapt a term like congeneric, congenerous, or congenerate. These are in OED, and the meanings are pretty well as you would expect: of the same kind, OR family, OR nature, OR origin. They are also different from cognate, which certainly does require common origin. OED does not apply these terms to etymology; but it might have, and we can.

  36. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica, interesting proposals. I like “congeneric” which as you say is less definite than “cognate”. The definition of “common origin” is still a problem, because it applies both to cognates and non-cognates, but the case of cognates there is a family relationship which can be traced all the way to the common ancestor, in the case of congeneric words a borrowing by one language from the other, which may itself have borrowed whole words or simply elements from a remote ancestor.

  37. Mais non, ma chere Christine, it is copy editing, not copy[ ]writing, that is at stake here.

  38. marie-lucie says:

    I was surprised the first time I met someone who was an advertising “copy writer”. What was she “copying”? I still don’t know why it is called that.

  39. scarabaeus says:

    copy writing: a guess, it was a left over from the good old days when they wanted have copies distributed quickly so they used a score of clerks copying the master advertisement to be distributed before the printer could wake up and set type, prior to the Gestetner.
    Job title stayed but the work evolved and changed, making and preparing copy for the press .
    The editor would use his copywriters write to make copy, not to have it copy righted
    not unlike;
    Carriage with ‘orses [GG’s], horseless carriage to car?? not cart, see above the correct word for this convoluted evolution.

  40. Noetica says:

    The definition of “common origin” is still a problem, …
    Yes indeed, Marie-Lucie. I did an hour of thinking and writing about this, but decided not to post the resulting analysis. I post this instead.
    The problem of apt terms here is engaging and knotty. We would need to go back to examine and regiment such primitive notions as ancestor, descendant, development within a language, and borrowing between languages. But doing this well would demand that we re-visit even terms like language, and make rigorous stipulations.
    Tell me: is your stricture concerning cognate widely shared? I find that the contrast between cognate and borrowing is not clearly drawn in these likely sources: Trask’s Historical Linguistics (many early pages on borrowing; a fleeting treatment of cognate much later); Lehmann’s Historical Linguistics (“… words or other linguistic entities that we can trace to a common source we call cognates“, which settles little); neither the Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics nor Aronoff and Rees-Miller’s Handbook of Linguistics appears to define cognate at all (it is not in the index or among the headwords, and there is the sparsest incidental use). Certainly OED seems as circumspect as you are:

    “Cognate” … 2. Of languages: Descended from the same original language; of the same linguistic family. Of words: Coming naturally from the same root, or representing the same original word, with differences due to subsequent separate phonetic development; thus, Eng. five, L. quinque, Gr. πέντε, are cognate words, representing a primitive *pénke.

    But OED’s own usage in its etymologies leaves us with questions. Take this beginning of the etymology at the entry “apricot”:

    orig. ad[apted from]. Pg. albricoque or Sp. albaricoque, but subseq. assimilated to the cognate F. abricot (t mute). …

    But the rest of the etymology reveals a complex of trajectories through Arabic, Latin, and Greek. Apricot is not cognate with albaricoque in the regimented sense that you propose, Marie-Lucie, given the many borrowings involved. It seems that OED is loose about this, but that it is not alone. It could be that context and immediate purpose determine how cognate is to be used in practice. But we would want such central terms to be better regimented and contrasted in formal and theoretical use, ugye?
     
    In fact Trask allows for some looseness, in Dictionary of Historical and Comparative Linguistics, but censures other usage among “linguistic amateurs”. I wonder whether Trask counts the OED etymologists among these!
    Worth pursuing further?

  41. Noetica says:

    But now I am less sure what Trask would (or should) say about OED usage of cognate. See also this part of a note at OED’s entry “brinjal” (some of which is also cited at the LH thread The multifarious aubergine):

    Few names even of plants exemplify so fully the changes to which a foreign and unintelligible word is liable under the influence of popular etymology and form-association. Cognate with the Sp. alberengena is the Fr. aubergine, dial. albergine, albergaine, albergame, also without the al-, belingèle, and, with m for b, merangène, melongène, botanical Lat. melongēna, It. melanzana, mela insana (= mad apple). All these go back to the Arabic bāðinjān, and ultimately to Skr. vātin-gāna, whence also Hindustāni baingan, began. …

    Given the mix of borrowings and presumed authentic cognations here, to which of Trask’s three senses should we assign this use of cognate? If we allow that English brinjal is cognate in Trask’s sense 2 with Spanish alberengena, it seems odd to insist that English brinjal is not also cognate with Arabic bāðinjān, to which it “goes back”, but with an earlier common ancestor for both. That would seem to be what Trask must insist on, since Arabic and English are, we must assume, “languages not known to be related”.
    Hmmm. I also find that Trask’s “erroneous” sense 3 is generally ill-phrased.

  42. Tell me: is your stricture concerning cognate widely shared?
    Yes, it is basic to the practice of historical linguistics. With all due respect, you are approaching this as a philosopher and looking for philosophical analysis of terms, which is perhaps not the best way to approach an empirical science like linguistics. Regardless of the messy mix of borrowing and inheritance, sometimes impossible to disentangle because of lack of surviving evidence, the distinction between the two is crucial. It would be nonsense, in linguistic terms, to say that brinjal is cognate with Arabic bāðinjān.
    In fact Trask allows for some looseness, in Dictionary of Historical and Comparative Linguistics, but censures other usage among “linguistic amateurs”. I wonder whether Trask counts the OED etymologists among these!
    Yes, of course; etymologists are not linguists. Anatoly Liberman, for instance, is a distinguished etymologist, but he was trained as a philologist, not a linguist, and I gnash my teeth when I read his amateurish comments about usage and the like. The man would flunk a Linguistics 101 class. But he’s good at winkling out possible cognates and historical developments.

  43. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica, it is good to raise the problem of “cognates”, but things can be mixed up even among professional linguists.

    Few names even of plants exemplify so fully the changes to which a foreign and unintelligible word is liable under the influence of popular etymology and form-association. Cognate with the Sp. alberengena is the Fr. aubergine, dial. albergine, albergaine, albergame, also without the al-, belingèle, and, with m for b, merangène, melongène, botanical Lat. melongēna, It. melanzana, mela insana (= mad apple).

    Strictly speaking, these are not cognate, but a series of borrowings and reformations, although one might say that all the Romance words except the Spanish one derive from the Spanish word (and it can’t be coincidence that the French words are the closest ones) and are therefore cognates (but that is already a loose interpretation of the word).

    All these go back to the Arabic bāðinjān, and ultimately to Skr. vātin-gāna, whence also Hindustāni baingan, began. …,

    “Go back” is ambiguous here: usually the term refers to “going back” to a common ancestor. But the Arabic word that most of the Romance words “go back” to is not a genetic ancestor but a Spanish borrowing from Arabic, which has been borrowed in various languages and dialects, which have in turn borrowed from each other as acquaintance with the vegetable became widespread. On the other hand, the Arabic word is “ultimately” a borrowing from Sanskrit, which is the ancestor of Hindustāni, etc. The Sanskrit language is part of the Indo-European family like the Romance languages (and English, etc), but one could not say that the Sanskrit word for “eggplant” is cognate with the Romance words, since the latter do not derive directly from a common PIE ancestor with the Sanskrit word.
    Given the mix of borrowings and presumed authentic cognations here, to which of Trask’s three senses should we assign this use of cognate?
    To his sense 3, which is “erroneous”, since the origins are mixed up.
    If we allow that English brinjal is cognate in Trask’s sense 2 with Spanish alberengena,…
    But we should not allow this, since the words are not cognate in sense 2.

    “Cognate” … 2. Of languages: Descended from the same original language; of the same linguistic family. Of words: Coming naturally from the same root, or representing the same original word, with differences due to subsequent separate phonetic development;

    … it seems odd to insist that English brinjal is not also cognate with Arabic bāðinjān, to which it “goes back”, but with an earlier common ancestor for both. That would seem to be what Trask must insist on, since Arabic and English are, we must assume, “languages not known to be related”.
    English and Arabic are not of the same linguistic family. That the words “go back” (an ambiguous term here) to a Sanskrit original does not mean that there was an original word ancestral to both the English and Arabic words (in which case they would indeed be cognates), but only a path (individual to this word), through Sanskrit, then Arabic, then Spanish, then English (and it could be even more complex, given that “brinjal” is not the most common English term).
    An entry in an etymological dictionary typically gives a list of words presumed to be cognates, often with a reconstruction of the presumed ancestor (or at least its “root”). But it does not give a rationale for considering the words cognate, and such lists may give the “linguistic amateur” the impression that cognates are just words which resemble each other (although they are sometimes quite different) and have the same or very similar meaning. But the presumed cognacy is the result of comparison between words which are not only similar but share regular sound correspondences between their various parts. A comparative linguist does not just look at a series of words through several languages (such as the eggplant words) but compares them with other words which share some sound characteristics, in order to “trace the phonetic development” of the sounds. An examples is Latin pater, English father (and similarly in other languages); Latin pisc-is, English fish (etc), and many other words where Latin has [p] and English [f]; similarly Latin pater, mater, frater, English father, mother, brother where Latin [t] corresponds to English th; and similarly with dozens of words where the same sound in one language corresponds to the same or a similar sound in another. The sounds in cognates (such as the Latin and English words above) usually correspond quite regularly, but not identically, and this is a major way that one can distinguish true cognates from borrowings.
    A widespread recent borrowing such as “coffee” will appear in very similar form in very different languages, and this is what happened with the Arabic “eggplant” (although the word, often lengthened by the prefixation of the Arabic article al which was perceived as part of the word, underwent various changes as it spread through the languages, but not always what are usually “normal” correspondences between the languages as revealed in more common words).

  44. Noetica says:

    LH and Marie-Lucie:
    Thank you for your detailed replies. Let me say first that, though I was already aware of much of that has been said, I am pleased to see it so well expressed; and since many people read these threads without weighing in with comments, an excursus such as Marie-Lucie has generously provided rarely goes unappreciated. People search the web to find such things. In my own small way I have planted small essays here and there, and I know they have been found and used. Too bad if others don’t immediately see the value of every such well-turned Kleinod! This is a blog of record, and we can write not only for those we interact with here, but for others we will never know about.
    Yes, I identify myself as a philosopher: trained and doctorated in that field (after an earlier four years of academic psychology), with much teaching and some solid research experience behind me. I still teach when I can, because I love to; and while I live I will continue to research in my core areas and beyond.
    I have studied languages for decades, but I am not trained as a linguist. I am lately doing what I can to make up for that deficiency; and of course there are many points at which philosophy and linguistics meet. Even twenty-eight years ago, enrolled in an advanced course in philosophical logic, I did some serious work on aspect-marking in Serbian and English.
    To the extent that I can be bothered with such quotidian and practical things as remunerative employment, I am now mainly an editor, a translator, and a research consultant for hire. My main clients are in academia.
    There are just a few philosophers of my kind around: one cerebral hemisphere fixed on deep metaphysics and epistemology; the other contemptuous of the predominantly sterile results of such research as it is practised these days, and preferring to revisit the foundations of other disciplines, and of our own. I do that a lot. I apply the tools at my disposal in re-analysing music theory, for example. (Yes, I have a diploma in that as well, and am an amateur composer in classical and romantic genres.) I also examine styles of thinking in the formation of social policy, where the classic fallacies (theoretical shambles though they are) are much in play. And in probabilistic reasoning in everyday life, and so on.
    Turning to linguistics, I find that much is well regimented, but much is grist for the philosopher’s analytical mill. Basic terms like cognate engage my interest for their vagueness or multivalence. I was not aware of all the details with that one, but I’m glad to have encountered them. For a moment I’ll get specific. LH, you have said: “It would be nonsense, in linguistic terms, to say that brinjal is cognate with Arabic bāðinjān.” Clearly! But to test the bounds of good sense, we sometimes have to step over provocatively into nonsense – to set up a reductio ad absurdum, for example. And after all, while that looks like nonsense, I am confident that linguists could be found who would say that “Hindustāni baingan, began” (as OED has it) are cognate with European words such as aubergine, or indeed for that matter the Arabic word bāðinjān: there is a genuine common ancestor word that is not itself implicated as cognate with either the Arabic or the English word. (That ancestor is said to be in Sanskrit, but perhaps more accurately we should suppose that there is an old Prakrit word involved: otherwise in fact the Hindi word is, to speak most strictly, borrowed from Sanskrit. No good insisting on strict accuracy for one point, but setting it aside for another!) Whether linguists who say such a thing meet Trask’s standards or not is another matter. He allows that they do speak that way; and by some ill-articulated definitions it seems they would be, if only by sheer good luck, justified.
    My estimation of Trask’s treatment of cognate? I like it, but I don’t think he expresses himself clearly enough for the third of the senses he finds for the word. Trask generally? Who the hell would I be to criticise! I read him; I have three of his books (just got his Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology from Amazon). As an editor and a serious analyst of contemporary punctuation, I think he is unjustified in some of his claims in that Penguin book of his. And of course I love his Historical Linguistics.
    There. Have I narcissistically gone on about myself for an unconscionable time? Perhaps! But I am fascinated by others here, and I must suppose that some may take a passing interest in what Noetica does, and where he “comes from”. To any who have no such curiosity, I can only say that we must certainly be very different.

  45. I’m very interested; I remember thinking, because of a comment you made a couple of weeks ago to Grumbly Stu, that you weren’t interested in philosophy; then later in the same thread you added something not unphilosophical and then Language said you are in fact a philosopher, so I was getting confused. There is someone who comments here (whose name I’ve forgotten) who’s doing a thesis about Wittgenstein & linguistics. But, anyway, from now on, all unresolved LH queries and arguments about philosophy can be settled by you. Whoopee!

  46. Noetica says:

    No, Kŕºn: I’m anagrams. Philosophical enquiries go to Emerson at Misdirection. (Still, thanks for the thought.)

  47. I shed my hat to you, Mr. N., en me découvrant:

    one cerebral hemisphere fixed on deep metaphysics and epistemology; the other contemptuous of the predominantly sterile results of such research as it is practised these days, and preferring to revisit the foundations of other disciplines, and of our own.

  48. Philosophical enquiries go to Emerson
    Not if it’s Emerson I’m having the argument with, they don’t.

  49. Anyway, how can you have an argument about anagrams?

  50. “Cannot help butt” is a pretty feeble excuse that I’ve heard and rejected a million times.

  51. Try expanding it along these lines:

    I have certain principles and hold certain beliefs which I use to help me decide what to do. I call these my maxims. One maxim is, that when I judge that my maxims are applicable to evaluate a matter in view of deciding what I should do, and I find nothing unfamiliar in the circumstances to dissuade me or induce doubt, then I decide that I must take some course of action compatible with those maxims.

    It is important to me that others understand the principles on which I act. When I refuse to do a thing that a person hopes or expects that I do, I may add “I cannot help but refuse to do this thing”, thus indicating that I have reasons for not doing it. I fully expect that the person will ask me for those reasons, upon which I will explain my maxims and attempt to justify my application of them

    That is not quite the Kantian “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”, but more along the lines of Habermas. There is no clear-cut Kantian or Habermasian philosophy among my maxims, but as with many people, what I do and think in everyday life is often describable by the above passage – although not adequately describable, not by a long shot.

  52. Oh crap, JJ, you’re such a devious s.o.b! I thought you had misspelled “but”. I just clicked on the fact that you were talking about the goats. Go feed my last post to them, they won’t laugh at me.

  53. I believe he’s tried feeding the goats philosophy, and it just gives them indigestion.

  54. Especially Kant and Habermas.

  55. mollymooly says:

    Andrej Bjelakovic, and perhaps Hat and others mourning the departure of AHD4 from Bartleby, might be cheered to learn that MWDEU is available in full view at Google books

  56. Who’s laughing? I wish I could spontaneously turn a pun into a discussion of Kant, Habermas and this Maxim you’re on first-name terms with — Gorky, is it?

  57. Grumbly, do you know anything about this drink called Muckefuck? Apparently it’s N. German, do you have it in Køln? Sounds awful. The English translation is Motherfuckmuck, according to Daffyd Marjanovi`c and Bruessel, it’s in the Malay Cooties post, at the bottom.

  58. David Marjanović says:

    But the que in 3 is not like that. It turns against the negation, and moderates it, just as in litotes. It marks a measured negation of the primary negation.

    And replaces it entirely in the colloquial version, (i[l]) y en a que.

    Cognate with the Sp. alberengena is the Fr. aubergine, dial. albergine, albergaine, albergame, also without the al-, belingèle, and, with m for b, merangène, melongène, botanical Lat. melongēna, It. melanzana

    So the two terms found in German, Aubergine and Melanzani*, are cognate? Wow. I’d never have guessed.
    * Austria only. Correctly believed to be a plural; that would expected to end in -e rather than -i, but that’s due to dialectal variation in all such word-final vowels between Vienna (-e) and elsewhere (-i).

  59. David, you should read this old post.

  60. Noetica says:

    … do you know anything about this drink called …
    Is it congeneric with the apocryphal beverage Jungfernpisse, by any chance? Do others in the world say “as weak as maiden’s piss”, or is this confined to rare occurrences in Middle Low Australian? I do not find the expression on the web, but cf. from London:

    He thought nowt of London ale, which he described as maiden’s piss, and he demonstrated his contempt by drinking eight or nine pints of Charrington’s every night.
    Let us pause to appreciate the fact that beverage and beer are cognate, if common ancestry in Latin bibere be laxly taken as sufficient.

    I shed my hat …
    And I mine to you, Sturm und Groll. (Dr N, thank you.) Tell me in brief, an thou wilt: where do you say philosophy veered off the relevancy rails? After Kant? Round the time of Empedocles? Myself, it is a matter of the linguistic turn swinging perilously close to 180°, in recent years.

  61. marie-lucie says:

    But the que in 3 is not like that. It turns against the negation, and moderates it, just as in litotes. It marks a measured negation of the primary negation.
    DM: And replaces it entirely in the colloquial version, (i[l]) y en a que.
    At first I did not recognize this as a possible sequence, but do you mean in a sentence like Y en a que pour lui? “It’s all about him” (eg someone whose main topic of conversation is himself, or who takes the credit just for himself). In more formal language this would be Il n’y en a que pour lui.
    The ne … que sequence, although not really negative in meaning, is formally a negative, so a register or dialect which omits the ne in negative sentences (typically with pas) omits it also in this case.
    I am not sure what you mean by que replacing the negation. If you mean that que replaces pas, that is not correct, since que and pas can coexist in a truly negative sentence: Y en a pas que pour toi/vous “it isn’t all about you” (others deserve the credit or limelight too).

  62. do you know anything about this drink called Muckefuck

    That is weak, bad-tasting coffee. In the cooties post, bruessel described it well:

    either coffee made from something else than coffee beans (barley, malt, chicory etc.), usually during times when real coffee wasn’t available or for health reasons (no coffeine), or very badly made real coffee.

    Particularly in the years after WW2, people tried to make coffee out of anything at hand that they could roast and steep in water. When I came to Germany in still-penurious 1971, there was a commercial product (can’t remember the name) of cheap “coffee powder”, to which one added hot water to get a disgusting drink that was generally called Muckefuck. It may even still be available. It was not the “freeze-dried” crystals of Nescafe, but had more the consistency of milk-chocolate powder for children. It’s pronounced /mookefook, by the way, not /məkəfək.
    Folk etymology still has it that this is a rendering of mocca faux, as bruessel found. To my surprise, the currently accepted derivation is different, and is found in Duden: [aus rhein. Mucken= braune Stauberde, verwestes Holz u. fuck= faul] . braune Stauberde= “brown powdery soil”, verwestes Holz = rotten wood, faul = rotten, lazy, phony (faule Ausrede = phony/bad excuse). A short Deutschlandradio article in German goes into these things. It says, regarding the mocca faux derivation, that there is no such expression in French, and if there were, it would be spelled moka faux.
    Without disagreeing with the currently accepted derivation, I regard the argument against the mocca faux derivation as two distinct argument (types) muddled together. Type (1) is concerned with the German perception/imitation of French speech, the other (2) is concerned with how a German might pronounce a written French expression. (1) has to to with illiterate practice regardless of orthography, (2) has to do with literate practice and orthography.
    (1) If there is something in spoken French that sounds to a German like /mookefook, then a German /mookefook, perhaps written Muckefuck, might be derived from that French. This would be regardless of whether the spoken French were ever written in French. Argument type (2) is inapplicable here.
    (2) If there is something in written French that reads to a German like /mookefook, then a German /mookefook, perhaps written Muckefuck, might be derived from that French. It is conceivable, as a Gedankenexperiment, that a French moka faux would be heard or read as /mookefook. If someone claims that Muckefuck is derived from mocca faux, then his *argument* is wrong because there is no mocca faux, and yet (in our Gedankenexperiment) Muckefuck is nevertheless derived from the French, namely from moka faux. This person would be arguing in favor of a French derivation, but for the wrong reason. So argument type (2) is similar to argument type (1) – given that “reads to a German as”, when he speaks it out loud, becomes “sounds to that German as”. The protases (the if-parts) of these arguments are different, but the apodosis is the same: “might be derived from French”.
    The current argument against /mookefook being derived from French is simply that the protasis holds neither of (1) nor of (2). There is nothing in either spoken or written French that a German might understand or read as /mookefook. A fortiori, /mookefook could not be derived from either mocca faux or moka faux. Of course, “nothing in either spoken or written French” is a strong, provisional claim. Given the determination of the Académie Française to Frenchify everthing, it may someday (when the global economy collapses for good) be confronted with the problem of how to name all that German Muckefuck smuggled into the country, and decide to proclaim moka faux as the mot juste.
    Notice rhein. = Rheinland, the location of gigantic coal-mining operations. Where Braunkohle (“brown coal” = lignite) is mined, a lot of fine blackish-brown dust settles on everything.

  63. Stu, Third Man of LanguageHat philosophy, do they still mine coal in the Rheinland? Surely the air is reine these days?
    In Britain there used to be a bottle of stuff made out of chicory, called Camp Coffee. It was excellent if you only used it for flavouring ice cream, as my mother did. For some reason I can’t seem to link to it, but it has /had an interesting and peculiar label of a man in a skirt. I can see I may have to blog about it.

  64. Stu, Third Man of LanguageHat philosophy, do they still mine coal in the Rheinland? Surely the air is reine these days?
    In Britain there used to be a bottle of stuff made out of chicory, called Camp Coffee. It was excellent if you only used it for flavouring ice cream, as my mother did. For some reason I can’t seem to link to it, but it has /had an interesting and peculiar label of a man in a skirt. I can see I may have to blog about it.

  65. Two men in skirts, sorry.

  66. Two men in skirts, sorry.

  67. Although I suppose they’re really frocks.

  68. Although I suppose they’re really frocks.

  69. Look at the enormous open-face mine “Tagebau Hambach” near Cologne. If you bring up Köln in Google Earth and back out, you see the pit not far to the west, about 40 klicks. There’s not as much coal mining in Germany as there used to be.

  70. Since it’s called Camp Coffee, are you sure they’re not two men in one frock?

  71. Do you mean “smock”?

  72. Smock smock smock… I just like saying “smock.”

  73. My post on Camp Coffee is now ready.

  74. marie-lucie says:

    moka faux
    I just posted a comment on Malay cooties

  75. David Marjanović says:

    David, you should read this old post.

    Thanks, I just did, very instructive.

    At first I did not recognize this as a possible sequence

    The original example was il n’y en a que deux

    so a register or dialect which omits the ne in negative sentences (typically with pas) omits it also in this case.

    That’s what I mean.

    I am not sure what you mean by que replacing the negation.

    Neither am I, actually…

    fuck= faul

    Iiiiinteresting. Now, where does that word come from?
    (Mucken reminds me of English muck. And just to confirm the specificity of the rhein. part, I didn’t know it, and if I run it through the High German sound shifts, I still don’t know it.)

  76. marie-lucie says:

    David: il n’y en a que deux: of course this is right, and Noetica used it earlier. I was just confused by the lack of anything after que in your later comment: followed by a period, it looked like it was meant as a complete sentence.

  77. David Marjanović says:

    Yeah. The period was not in italics. Too bad that’s not really visible. :-}

    a register or dialect which omits the ne in negative sentences (typically with pas)

    Or even with point. On the dig in 2004 that I mentioned on the “Greek to me” thread, there was a girl who negated with point all the time. (I had thought this had died out after the early 19th century or something… My mother, who teaches French, later told me ne … point still exists in literary style and means “not at all”.) Unsurprisingly, she dropped the ne like everyone else, so she said je sais point instead of chais pas.

  78. marie-lucie says:

    a girl who negated with point all the time.
    I find this amazing, but I don’t know all the regions: do you know where she was from? I think it would have to be somewhere very far from Paris.

  79. marie-lucie says:

    omits the ne in negative sentences (typically with pas)
    I meant that the typical negative sentence uses pas, not that omitting the ne would occur more with pas than with other negative reinforcements (eg with jamais ‘(n)ever’).

  80. David: fuck= faul … Iiiiinteresting. Now, where does that word come from?

    Grimm is no help. I found fuck in the sense of “fast”. Fuck is a “no-good, devil-may-care person” (I’m not sure what the apparently editorial insertion (: ein stuck) is supposed to mean):

    wenn dich so grosz begierd anficht,
    mich von dem brot hinweg zu thun,
    so tritt herbei, du hurenson,
    du niemand nützer loser fuck (: ein stuck)

    But couldn’t Muckefuck be influenced by mishmosh constructions such as Firlefanz, Pillepalle? Maybe fuck= faul is a bit truffle-pigoted (always burrowing around in search of roots).

  81. John Emerson says:

    From Noetica’s “Maiden’s Piss” link: To this day I cannot boil urine without thinking of him.
    In underground mines there’s a machine called a mucker, which I think rakes the ore out of the shaft which had just been dynamited. Another machine called a slusher carted the ore away. I believe that this method is obsolete, but second-hand muckers and slushers are still to be had.

  82. David Marjanović says:

    do you know where she was from? I think it would have to be somewhere very far from Paris.

    No idea, but I agree it must have been far from Paris.
    But she can’t have been local either; the dig was in Crayssac (département Lot), and the more or less local guy was the one with the southern accent.
    Most participants were students at the university of Poitiers, but that means little.

    (I’m not sure what the apparently editorial insertion (: ein stuck) is supposed to mean):

    A mystery wrapped in an enigma. ~:-|
    There is a word Stuck, but that means stucco.

  83. If it were editorial, it’d be in italics, wouldn’t it? ein stuck is the end of the next line.

  84. Ah, so it’s an error by a member of the Chinese work-gangs hired to transcribe the printed Grimm. In my CD version, and in the net version to which Hat links, (: ein stuck) appears as I reproduced it. I wrote “apparently editorial” only because it didn’t make sense as part of the original text.

  85. It is indeed printed in Grimm like that on the same line, but not in italics, meaning, I believe, it is taken from a text, which I presume is why there’s no umlaut.

  86. The italics in (: ein stuck) are merely a feature of my presentation here, in the block quote and in a later sentence, to set it off, as in this sentence.
    How would “taken from a text” be a reason for “why there’s no umlaut”?

  87. I thought Putz was stucco. Is Stuck another word for the same Baustoff?

  88. Noetica says:

    Siganus Sutor would know, *kŗʼn-, but I can’t think where he might be these days. I must email him …

  89. I have solved the mystery—”(: ein stuck)” indicates the rhyme to “fuck” in the original poem; see the bottom of page 118 of the source, H.C. Fuchs’s heroisch-komisches Gedicht der mücken Krieg: “Du niemand nuetzer loser fuck:/ Indem zuckt Muscifur ein stuck.” I must say, it’s strangely pleasing to see “loser fuck” as a term of abuse in a German poem.

  90. The italics in (: ein stuck) are merely a feature of my presentation here.
    Yes, that was perfectly clear. I meant the lack of italics in the original entry, as linked to online and in the printed version. Grimm’s editorial comments would have been in them. I am sorry this was confusing.
    How would “taken from a text” be a reason for “why there’s no umlaut”?
    It need not be mid-19th century Hochdeutsch. For example, here is another 17th century text that has umlauts and generally capitalizes nouns, but nevertheless writes ein stuck.
    I have solved the mystery—”(: ein stuck)” indicates the rhyme to “fuck” in the original poem
    With respect, that’s what I pointed out a few comments ago, though evidently not very clearly. We linked to the same page.

  91. M: here is another 17th century text that has umlauts and generally capitalizes nouns, but nevertheless writes ein stuck.
    David Crystal points out, in the book that I got from Jamessal for my birthday, that there was a fashion in English, starting roughly with Swift in 1706, to capitalize the first letter of all nouns. It lasted about 100 years. Does anyone know if it was connected in some way with the German practice?

  92. I believe there was a similar trend in various parts of Europe. As I understand it, it started with capitalization of the important nouns: you see this in Shakespeare. But then printers (well, compositors) tried to establish some order, because (1) authors were fairly inconsistent in their manuscripts (2) the handwriting of the time made it even harder to tell them apart. This varied between always caps and always lowercase. You see this with well-studied authors like Johnson, whose manuscripts were all over the place, and for whom various editions, even adjacent ones from the same publisher, can have different conventions. (E.g., The Rambler serialized with lowercase but the almost immediate bound runs had capitalized.)
    I suspect sometime similar happened in Germany, but capitalization stuck, despite periodic efforts to do away with it. So, I take Gottsched‘s account from more or less Johnson’s time there to be basically correct, if tinged by a bit of nationalistic pride.

  93. Erp, something.

  94. JJ: Stuck is stucco. Stück is piece. Stück also occurs in fixed German expressions in such a way that it ‘seems to have no counterpart’ when you translate the German into English. Wie viele Pizzas hast du mitgebracht? Drei Stück. (How many pizzas did you bring? Three.) Ich halte grosse Stücke auf ihn. (I have a high opinion of him.) [N.B.: it makes no sense to say ‘in this context, grosse means “high”, and Stücke means “opinion”‘].
    Putz is what you plaster walls with, inside or outside, and is also result of that activity. Is plaster the right word here for the Baustoff (construction material) used for this purpose? Is stucco ornamentation made from the same material as wall plaster, with perhaps different proportions of the constituents to make it robuster?

  95. that’s what I pointed out a few comments ago
    Sigh. I should have known I couldn’t beat you to a source.

  96. David Marjanović says:

    Is stucco ornamentation made from the same material as wall plaster, with perhaps different proportions of the constituents to make it robuster?

    Stucco is a special kind of very fine-grained plaster-of-Paris (as in “calcium sulfate, and not anhydride”).
    I don’t know exactly what is normally put on walls, though. (That’s Putz.)
    What might be going on here is that the “stuck” really is a Stück (in this case it would mean “a bit”, though I’ve never encountered that construction in such a context…), but in some dialectal version. There are Standard German words with Umlaut that lack it in some dialect or other, for example Kröte “toad”, Brücke “bridge”… But I’m just guessing.

    As I understand it, it started with capitalization of the important nouns:

    Yes, this is well documented in German. I once read a list of prescriptivist positions on capitalization through the ages and reads much like Gottsched’s account: it started with “names of princes and the like”.
    (Gottsched goes on to mention, on p. 105, a French edition of Don Quixote printed in 1746 where every noun is capitalized. Fascinating.)

    […] in Germany […] capitalization stuck, despite periodic efforts to do away with it.

    That’s because it distinguishes homophonous nouns, verbs and adjectives that can otherwise only be told apart by intonation, especially when there’s not enough context:
    Ausländer, die deutschen Boden verkaufen – foreigners who sell German soil.
    Ausländer, die Deutschen Boden verkaufen – foreigners who sell soil to Germans!
    Helft den armen Vögeln! – Help the poor birds!
    Helft den Armen vögeln! – Help the poor to do what the birds and the bees do, especially the birds.

    Drei Stück.

    This use as a Chinese-style classifier of countable objects verges upon bureaucratic German…

  97. David Marjanović says:

    and reads

    That reads much like Gottsched’s account.

  98. Thank you very much MMcM & David.
    Is there something robuster than plaster, Grumbly? Concrete, but it’s a great question to go around asking everyone.

  99. [Capitalization in German] stuck … That’s because it distinguishes homophonous nouns, verbs and adjectives that can otherwise only be told apart by intonation, especially when there’s not enough context:

    Just to prevent people getting any weird ideas: it is rarely the case that homophony is a problem in written German. If it were a serious practical problem, it would have been among the standard reasons given to justify capitalization, it would have been the paramount reason, and there wouldn’t have been “periodic efforts to do away with it”. In fact, such a reason is not often given, which is what gave David the opportunity to bring it up.
    Although the Grimms kept every editorial part of the entire Grimm’s Wörterbuch in lower-case, except for the entries and citations, very few people nowadays write German like that. Back in the 70’s, there seemed to be more of them. In the 80’s, I tried it out myself, but soon gave it up because I felt conspicuous for the wrong reasons, as if I were wearing Halloween Dracula teeth 24 hours a day.
    David’s first example is pretty cute, showing a rare instance of capitalization being useful to avoid parsing ambiguities:

    Ausländer, die deutschen Boden verkaufen – foreigners who sell German soil.
    Ausländer, die Deutschen Boden verkaufen – foreigners who sell soil to Germans!

    But the second one merely involves the corny, but ever-popular pun on Vögeln ([dative of] birds) and the slang vögeln (screw):

    Helft den armen Vögeln! – Help the poor birds!
    Helft den Armen vögeln! – Help the poor to do what the birds and the bees do, especially the birds.

    By the way, I find that the English word “entry” as a technical term for something in a dictionary is annoyingly ambiguous. In the OED “Help” section, it is used not just for the word or phrase to be defined, but also for the entire section of text containing that word or phrase, along with etymology, definition etc. There seems to be nothing in actual English usage that corresponds to the precise German Stichwort or Lemma.
    As for Drei Stück “verging on bureaucratic German”: apparently we are in the presence of another difference between German in the Rheinland and David’s home version. Stück is not used here in this “classifier of countable objects” way all the time and at every opportunity, but there’s nothing “bureaucratic” about the use. Note that my example was about pizzas, not case files.

  100. the precise German Stichwort or Lemma
    Isn’t that headword? The OED’s help uses it a few times, and technical lexicography pretty consistently. I think lemma is acceptable, too.

  101. Talking of nordic pizza, there is a frozen brand here, marketed under the name of Dr Oestler’s Pizza, with a little picture of a benevolent-looking, middle-aged guy with specs and a white coat. It is just SO WRONG! Who the hell wants medicinal pizza?

  102. Isn’t that headword? The OED’s help uses it a few times, and technical lexicography pretty consistently. I think lemma is acceptable, too.
    MMcM is, as usual, right.

  103. Thanks to both of you, MMcM and Hat. I hadn’t seen it in the OED V2 help, and still don’t see it. I just now, again, checked every subsection under “Viewing dictionary entries”, and various other sections – and found no “headword”.
    M-W Collegiate calls it a “main entry”, I just discovered, which is not much better than “entry” tout court, since the entire thing (headword + ?) is also called “entry”. And the “main entry” is also sometimes called just “entry”:

    Entries with asterisks
    Some homographic entries appear without superscript numbers because they are drawn from the separate Addenda Section of the print edition.

    M-W is all over the place with its terminology: sections of the “entire thing” are variously called fields, divisions or paragraphs:

    Introduction to the etymology
    The information in the etymology field provides details about the origin of a main entry word.

    [From the help index]
    Sense Division
    Synonym paragraphs

    I suppose I can conclude from this that the help sections of the OED and M-W were written neither by lexicographers, nor by people who thought to consult a lexicographer.
    The Duden on CD help is, in contrast, wonderfully clear and simple. The “entire thing” is Eintrag, the headword is Stichwort. There are also gegliederte Einträge. Und fertig!

  104. The Petit Robert on CD calls the headword entrée, the “entire thing” article, and the sections divisions. Et voilà tout! How is it that the OED and M-W help sections are such a mess by comparison?

  105. “in comparision” ??? ET nach Hause telefonieren!

  106. “Income-Parisian”, it means those who make enough to live inside the Boulevard Périphérique.

  107. <* Fumes and fidgets … *>
    Do you say (1) “in comparison” or (2) “by comparison”, or (3) either depending on the weather, or (4) neither, because you are above comparison?

  108. I would use “by” in that specific context. I think I use “in” when the comparison follows: “in comparison to X.” Interesting question.

  109. marie-lucie says:

    “word” number 1,000,000 and how it was noticed are discussed in a recent thread on Language Log.

  110. bruessel says:

    “Dr Oestler’s Pizza”: Are you sure you don’t mean Dr. Oetker? Dr. August Oetker (1862-1918) was the man who patented baking powder in Germany and thus laid the foundation for a hugely successful food empire. You can read all about it on Wiki. When I was a child, no German household was without his cookery book (of course always recommending his ingredients).
    On the other hand, Dr Oestler’s may be a local imitation, as I don’t remember ever seeing a picture of a kindly doctor on one of his pizzas.

  111. AJP, I think in this case you mean the Boulevard Pléonastique.

  112. bruessel: Are you sure you don’t mean Dr. Oetker?
    Quite right, that’s the guy; I didn’t know he was a real person. He’s the wrong person to be advertising it, although it is better pizza than the competition (that’s not saying much, actually).

  113. JC: I think in this case you mean the Boulevard Pléonastique
    I do? Something to do with Parisian incomes being high? It’s not something I know about.

  114. Actually I had a much better Zen-Dada word than Pléonastique, but I forgot it before I could post a reply.

  115. marie-lucie says:

    There are middle and poor areas within Paris too.

  116. Noetica says:

    Actually I had a much better Zen-Dada word than Pléonastique, …
    Perhaps néoplastique, which has the Dadaist advantage of anagrammaticity with pléonastique, conjoined with the play of the two meanings “new and plasticky” and “cancerous”, each of which is connected with recombination, mutability, and decline of old structural certitudes, again à la Dada?
    No, I didn’t think so. Actually, the more usual French word is néoplasique (see Petit Robert), which strikes me as less well-formed than English neoplastic. See discussion among French translators here; for neoplastic art, see Principes Fondamentaux de l’Art Neo-Plastique. For actual citations concerning Mondrian’s neoplastic art see here and here. See also “neoplasticism” in OED. Or don’t.

  117. Much as I love their work, those guys, I’m not sure about the Principes Fondamentaux of neoplasticism. Did you know that Mondrian stopped speaking to Theo van Doesburg because of his ‘introduction of an arbitrary diagonal’ (in one piece of work)? Nuts.

  118. néoplasique concerne un néoplasme
    néoplastique concernerait un nouveau plastique

    Where do you dig this stuff up? Are you a doctor of medicine too?

  119. Here’s the full story:

    he following year, personal and artistic differences led to a permanent rift between the two artists. Van Doesburg’s flamboyant and aggressive personality had proven to be a poor match for Mondrian’s own introverted character and quiet lifestyle. In a letter dated August 1924, Mondrian announced that he no longer wished to receive van Doesburg at home: “It has become clear that we are not suited to a daily contact with one another. As long as we corresponded with each other, it was all right. Let us agree to write when we feel it is necessary, or perhaps send a card in order to arrange a meeting at the [café] Dome” (quoted in ibid., p. 191). Mondrian was also dismayed by van Doesburg’s introduction of the diagonal line into his work, which he viewed as a breech of neo-plastic principles. He withdrew his support from De Stijl, explaining to van Doesburg, “After your arbitrary correction of Neo-Plasticism, any collaboration, of no matter what kind, has become impossible for me. I regret that I cannot prevent publication of my photos and articles in the current numbers of De Stijl. Beyond that, no hard feelings” (Quoted in M. Seuphor, op. cit., 1956, p. 149).

  120. I wonder what TvD had done? Smashed the toilet? Thrown up on the shag rug?

  121. marie-lucie says:

    Probably not, but he dared to use diagonals in his paintings! Even though they didn’t share a place, it sounds like they were “The Odd Couple”. TvD’s life sounds more interesting than Mondrian’s, who seems to have been not just “introverted” and “quiet” but “obsessive-compulsive” in the clinical sense.

  122. There are good reasons and there are real reasons. Diagonal lines, ha! Try sockpuppetry.

    In addition, the De Stijl group acquired many new “members.” Dadaist influences, such as I.K. Bonset’s poetry and Aldo Camini’s “antiphilosophy,” generated controversy as well. Only after van Doesburg’s death was it revealed that Bonset and Camini were two of his pseudonyms.

  123. Noetica says:

    Are you a doctor of medicine too?
    No. That I delegate.
    I hope you have not been introducing arbitrary diagonals in your architectural work, Kǿrn. The committee would take a dim view.

  124. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica: but why did you refer to “cancerous” as well as “plasticky”?

  125. Quite simply, a cancer is a neoplasm. OED, “neoplasm”: “A new growth or formation of tissue in some part of the body; a tumour.” Petit Robert, “néoplasme”: “Pathol. Prolifération pathologique de cellules, de tissus se présentant généralement sous la forme d’une tumeur. — Spécialt Prolifération de tissu cancéreux, tumeur cancéreuse. Arg. méd. NÉO. -> cancer. Un néo.”

  126. I wonder what TvD had done?
    Counter-Composition XVI. He wanted to add a dynamic human element to the horizontal nieuwe beelding scheme and took the diagonal idea from the Russian avant-garde.

  127. I know it’s a Flikr of a postcard, but this gives a better idea of what he had in mind; you see it in the Ciné-Dancing design too, with the same objective.

  128. Mondrian, who seems to have been not just “introverted” and “quiet” but “obsessive-compulsive” in the clinical sense.
    Maybe, though there is also some philosophical basis from Schoenmaekers (and other Theosophists) behind the work. And, as the only anarchist knighted by Churchill said, “one has only to compare the achievement of Mondrian with the work of the rest of the group to realize that he possessed some element of genius which they lacked.”
    We came close to buying paintings by Charmion von Wiegand, his translator and an artist in her own right, on a several occasions. And may yet manage to.

  129. marie-lucie says:

    MMcM, genius is not incompatible with obsessive-compulsiveness, or with various other disorders which can make life difficult.

  130. Well, yes, and there are all kinds of degrees of OCD from functional to not so much. There is no question but that he was excessively tidy and inflexible in managing his day-to-day life. And there is the story in that Michel Seuphor book that Christie’s cited above about how his brother Carel would tease him for always covering his eyes when there was danger.
    But sometimes people (maybe not here) combine these traits with his work and imply that he must have been completely neurotic to have produced something with such care.

  131. It was a religious schism. (No, really.) If you look at Mondrian’s wiki you will find that he was “attempting to reconcile his painting with his spiritual pursuits” and looking for Truth.

    Nature (or, that which I see) inspires me, puts me, as with any painter, in an emotional state so that an urge comes about to make something, but I want to come as close as possible to the truth and abstract everything from that, until I reach the foundation (still just an external foundation!) of things…

    He was trying to construct a sacred space.
    Too, it was his habit to tack rectangles on his studio walls before beginning to paint.

    Then again he addressed the walls, repositioning the colored cutouts, adding to their number, altering the dynamics of color and space, producing new tensions and equilibrium. Before long, he had established a creative schedule in which a period of painting took turns with a period of experimentally regrouping the smaller papers on the walls, a process that directly fed the next period of painting.

    Why? Sacred space.

    Visitors to this last studio seldom saw more than one or two new canvases, but found, often to their astonishment, that eight large compositions of colored bits of paper he had tacked and re-tacked to the walls in ever-changing relationships constituted together an environment that, paradoxically and simultaneously, was both kinetic and serene, stimulating and restful.

    As far as diagonals, what about Mondrian’s lozenges.

  132. I wonder what TvD had done?
    Counter-Composition XVI.
    No, I meant I wonder what he’d done earlier, when ‘in a letter dated August 1924, Mondrian announced that he no longer wished to receive van Doesburg at home: “It has become clear that we are not suited to a daily contact with one another”.’
    Regarding the Russians, my favourite TvD work using diagonals (very dynamic, also in the sense that you see new things as you move in the room, like the white panel floating on the major axis on the short wall) is the large dance hall at the Café Aubette, in Strasbourg, the design of which is from 1928, (making it very likely — I think, though I can’t prove it — that he would have seen Melnikov’s 1926 Soviet Pavilion at the Art Déco Exposition). I can’t find a reproduction of the long staircase wall of the large dance hall, but that’s what I’m thinking of (I can only find the Melnikov exterior).

  133. If you (anyone) think Mondrian was obsessive-compulsive (I’d say TvD was the more compulsive of the two), there was a show at MOMA in the ’80s on Mondrian’s furniture that showed he didn’t belong to the machine-manufacture aesthetic preoccupations of the later Bauhaus at Dessau (and it’s nothing like the Rietveld chair either); it was all made out of bits of old packing cases — very original and not at all neat & compulsive.
    They played the jazz at the show that he played in his studio in NY while he worked — in fact, now I remember that they set up a recreation of the studio itself and that’s what the show was. All the “Mondrian-inspired” rubbish (objects) you see all over the place have little to do with Mondrian; by “Mondrian” they usually mean “Dutch”, just as by “Venice” they usually mean “canal”.

  134. Nij: As far as diagonals, what about Mondrian’s lozenges.
    They show gridded, rectilinear ‘universal’ space (extending in all directions, see Mies van der Rohe). They are diagonally-framed samples that show only rectilinearity.
    It occurred to me that Mondrian’s attitude to diagonals could be illustrated by his approach to ‘Broadway’ in this, his best-known American work.

  135. Nij: If you look at Mondrian’s wiki you will find that he was “attempting to reconcile his painting with his spiritual pursuits” and looking for Truth.
    Sometimes wiki isn’t perfect, Nij.

  136. what about Mondrian’s lozenges.
    I believe this was the period where the two were cooperating or competing in a more friendly way.
    No, I meant I wonder what he’d done earlier, when ‘in a letter dated August 1924, Mondrian announced that he no longer wished to receive van Doesburg at home: “It has become clear that we are not suited to a daily contact with one another”.’
    My mistake. Maybe it was Nelly? The next thing he says is, “(the three of us I mean).”
    large dance hall at the Café Aubette
    Agreed. That’s what I meant by Ciné-Dancing. It looks great, but I wonder whether we really get that it was intended as a dance hall now that it’s just art tourists.
    We have an homage to PM that we got at a local university’s MFA thesis exhibition that the artist did when he learned about the “no green” thing in his art history class. It wants to go in the hall where it doesn’t quite fit.

  137. From a review of De Stijl: The Formative Years:

    For example, in his essay on van Doesburg, Carel Blotkamp demonstrates that Mondrian’s decision to break with van Doesburg in 1924 was not an abrupt response to the latter’s introduction of a diagonal to the orthogonal structure of Neo-Plasticism as Mondrian consistently defined it in his paintings; instead the break was the result of longstanding disagreements over complex theoretical issues involving space, time, and movement that had for years structured certain distinctive features of van Doesburg’s approach to Neo-Plastic painting, just as those issues had encouraged his increasing engagement with architecture—from which Mondrian always maintained a distance, despite his theoretical interest in the subject. (The break between these two artists is also discussed in detail by Els Hoek in her essay on Mondrian in this volume.)

    They have a copy at the university down the hill; maybe I’ll have a look. I only have Hans L. C. Jaffé’s earlier study.

  138. What do Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin and Henri Bergson have in common?

  139. M: maybe I’ll have a look.
    I’d be very interested in a fuller explanation of their disagreement, if you do.

  140. Maybe it was Nelly?
    It’s too bad there isn’t a Wiki entry for Nelly. I quite like this cd of piano pieces she played (if you listen, beware of the buzzing noise they’ve added every 30 secs.).

  141. Thanks for the Broadway link, Kron, I was looking for it. I thought Mondrian had some other diagonal works, but I’m right now in the middle of a move and just found out I’m supposed to have my eval this week, which means paperwork preparation, and with my computer now in a box somewhere.
    But just look at Mondrian’s work. It’s something you could live with or look at for hours. I really don’t like TvD’s work much, like the dance hall, you just say “Oh, that’s usual” and it’s all in the novelty and the marketing and not the visceral reaction between the art and the viewer.

  142. Nij: “Oh, that’s usual”
    I think all the de stijl artists have suffered from having their work reproduced, taken out of context, etc. Unlike most figurative art, geometric abstraction can be very easily used to decorate things. De Stijl’s dynamic quality was very 3-dimensional — compare the work of the abstract expressionists who were after ‘flatness’, trying to eliminate ‘tricks’ of illusion.
    and it’s all in the novelty
    I suppose one person’s ‘novelty’ is another’s ‘that was an interesting new idea’.

  143. I meant “unususal”. I’m groggy from my nap. Is something art then just because it’s novel? I don’t think so, I think it’s just a trick to sell hoola hoops. I don’t see any problem with riffing off of a style; it’s done all the time in every field there is. Some imitation even works and leads to the next thing although some just leads to undistinguished household utensils.

  144. Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin and Henri Bergson
    I’m sure each would have been pleased to have been included with the others. Van Doesburg was clearly an exhausting person to be around.

  145. Some imitation even works
    One of the best pieces of advice I got in art school was “If you’re going to copy somebody, copy somebody who’s dead”. Then it can be utilised as a quotation (although the execution can be quite fun nobody wants to just copy somebody else’s work, what’s the point?).

  146. I’d be very interested in a fuller explanation of their disagreement.
    I am afraid that the two essays offer no new gossip. They basically cover the same ground, though more cogently and with more cool illustrations.
    There was a difference of opinion over the addition of a dynamic principle. Mondrian did not see the need, or even the possibility. Furthermore, despite his Theosophical leanings, he saw Neo-Plasticism as pretty much the endpoint of artistic development and not just another way-point. Other members, like Gino Severini, their link to the rest of the Paris avant-garde, favored dynamism and change over harmony and peace.
    Mondrian also felt that it was too early for a de Stijl architecture, and that that discipline was too public and too money-oriented. But this was where van Doesburg and Oud where concentrating.
    And, once again, the diagonal thing was a consequence, not a cause, of the breakup.
    It also seems that a basic personality incompatibility was exacerbated by van Doesburg moving to Paris in 22-23 and therefore closer to Mondrian day-to-day.
    De Stijl’s dynamic quality was very 3-dimensional
    Ah, but a reasonable summary of the clash would be that van Doesberg wanted to make it 4-dimensional! In fact, that essay cites a book I keep meaning to read on this subject. It’s a bit pricey, but I guess I’ll just have to now.
    compare the work of the abstract expressionists who were after ‘flatness’, trying to eliminate ‘tricks’ of illusion.
    Ah, but there’s still the dynamic element, so maybe it’s a different choice of which three dimensions.
    We have a small collection of works by a minor branch of the New York School, known as the Indian Space Painters (minor enough that they don’t get a Wikipedia page, though I suppose I could fix that). These are still somewhat representational, but abandon the distinction between positive and negative space in the picture plane for a lack of a formal distinction between foreground and background, in addition to just being “flat” like the cubists. The name is an allusion to the somewhat similar formline of Northwest Coast art, which is actually how we got onto collecting them. In this way they sought to achieve John Graham’s vision of a true native North American (vs. European-derived) art.

  147. a book
    Oh, what a great book. I’m very tempted. Did you see her other book? It’s well-written (you can read a bit at amazon), also on an interesting subject.
    Indian Space Painters Sounds like they deserve a Wiki page. Possibly there’s a connection to Charmion von Wiegand’s work?
    van Doesburg wanted to make it 4-dimensional
    Because of their very different political and philosophical tendencies it’s hard for me to reconcile De Stijl with the Futurists, they just seem so different. I don’t think Severini was a particularly original thinker, maybe it was he who made TvD aware of the formal qualities of Futurism at that late stage, though van Doesburg may anyway have been more interested in Dada.
    Mondrian also felt that it was too early for a de Stijl architecture
    and probably thought that something like the 1924 Schröder House was too dynamic. There is some irony here, considering the kind of object that has been subsequently made in Mondrian’s name — jogging shoes. I do like the Saint Laurent frock, though.

  148. Thanks for telling us about the Carel Blotkamp book, that’s not expensive at all. It seems he’s written a lot of books about De Stijl and the artists.

  149. Did you see her other book?
    Only in passing. Another one on the list, I guess.
    it’s hard for me to reconcile De Stijl with the Futurists
    Isn’t there a common political aspect to things? Not in the light of subsequent 20th century history, but vs. the 19th century Salon painters.
    Possibly there’s a connection to Charmion von Wiegand’s work?
    Maybe. I make no claims to consistency in my taste. Our two main interior design influences are: (1) high Victorian horror vacui and (2) The Addams Family. So compositional density and some dynamic aspect are important. As LH collects old maps, he may understand why two prominent ones here are Blaeu’s and Ortelius’s Icelands.
    Her work was much more spiritual. Her mature post-Neo-Plasticist work tends even to be New Agey. But still technically sophisticated, so more toward the Tibetan sand mandala end than the plastic “stained-glass” things at the crystal shop.
    Of course, they might go in the same room in a museum. (Or here, if we had a lot more wall space.) So, for comparison, here are two works from Boston’s MFA:
    Man Menacing Woman. Sorry that the color’s so poor; the MFA’s own page won’t show it for some reason. I thought they used to have an image there.
    City Rhythm. This one isn’t the photo’s problem. The painting really is that grimy. Of course, I understand how it’s much easier to get donations for a new wing than for restoration of B-list modernists. And a woman: a small shelf would suffice for critical surveys of mid-Century female artists (or artists of a particular stripes with decent coverage of them).

  150. MFA: There Wheeler met fellow students Robert Barell and Peter Busa
    I remember Peter Busa from my summers spent in Provincetown in the ’70s and ’80s.

  151. a connection to Charmion von Wiegand’s work?
    Yes, now I see they’re quite different. The Indian Space Painters definitely need their own Wikipedia page. City Rhythm is very good.
    I love a good Victorian horror vacui (as long, as my mother would say, as I don’t have to do the dusting). Maybe it’s because I grew up in London, where it was fairly common; it makes visiting a room a similar experience to reading a good book.
    a common political aspect to things, vs. the 19th century Salon painters
    But that would have been the case in Paris ever since the Impressionists, wouldn’t it? Regarding the 20th C. I’ve always felt a bit funny about the Italian futurists: it’s so difficult to agree with their aims, despite the quality of the work. It’s the same later with Terragni, even though he’s one of my favorite architects, and even though critics usually do their best to try and distance him from fascism. With the Dutch, like their Constructivist contemporaries, it’s so much easier to understand their optimism and goals.

  152. I remember Peter Busa from my summers spent in Provincetown in the ’70s and ’80s.
    Here is a Boston gallery that represents his estate. Some of the paintings are from his Indian Space period. That one has a conspicuous formline.
    His son, Christopher, edits the Provincetown Arts magazine.

  153. That’s right, I remember the names Chris and Nicky, Nicky was the naughty one (as a child).

  154. It’s a small world. By the way, it sounds like your house needs a Wikipedia page of its own.

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