Stern Nincompoops.

Cyril Connolly is pretty much forgotten now, which is not a terrible injustice, but this is a nice pungent passage from his 1938 essay “Illusions of Likeness” (courtesy of Michael Gilleland at Laudator Temporis Acti):

The last ten years have witnessed a welcome decay in pedantic snobbery about dead languages. A knowledge of Greek is no longer the hallmark of a powerful intellectual caste, who visit with Housmanly scorn any solecism from the climbers outside it. The dons who jeer at men of letters for getting their accents wrong command no more sympathy than doctors who make fun of psychiatrists or osteopaths; the vast vindictive rages which scholars used to vent on those who knew rather less than themselves seem no longer so admirable, like the contempt which those people who at some time learned how to pronounce Buccleuch and Harewood have for those who are still learning. The don-in-the-manger is no longer formidable. There was a time when most people were ashamed to say that The Oxford Book of Greek Verse required a translation. That time is over. We shall not refer to it again except to say that if people as teachable as ourselves couldn’t be taught enough Greek in ten years to construe any piece unseen, as we can with French, or with any other modern language, then that system by which we were taught should be scrapped, and those stern nincompoops by whom we were instructed should come before us, like the burghers of Calais, in sackcloth and ashes with halters round their necks.

Gilleland quotes it from Connolly’s collection The Condemned Playground. Essays: 1927-1944 (London: Routledge, 1945), which is available online if you want to investigate further. Also, Buccleuch is pronounced /bəˈkluː/ (bə-KLOO) and Harewood /ˈhɑːrwʊd/ (HAR-wood) — at least in Harewood House, which presumably retains the traditional pronunciation; the village it is in, sadly, has succumbed to the obvious /ˈhɛərwʊd/ (HAIR-wood). O tempora, sic transit!

Comments

  1. Bloody nightmare. The kind of place German spies were told to avoid.

    There is debate as to the exact pronunciation of the word ‘Harewood’. In the 18th century, the customary pronunciation (and spelling) was Harwood and this pronunciation for both house and title is used by Harewood House and the Earl of Harewood. The pronunciation “hairwood” is generally used for the village. The Harewood Arms public house and hotel (pronounced HAIR-wuud is opposite the entrance to the Harewood Estate (pronounced HAR-wuud). It is the location of the UK’s longest motorsport hillclimb, Harewood speed Hillclimb (pronounced HAIR-wuud). The exterior set for the soap opera Emmerdale is located in the Harewood estate (pronounced EMMA-dail).

    The most remarkable thing to me about Cyril Connolly is his repulsive appearance. Otherwise it’s all about who he went to school with so references to him in magazines and biographies, in the days before the google, entailed hours of not very fruitful research . In both aspects he’s the most enormous red herring.

  2. Electric Dragon says:

    Cyril Connolly?
    No, *semi-carnally*!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlrsqGal64w

  3. I may have mentioned this before, but J.J. Thomson, who won a Nobel prize for discovering the electron, complained in his autobiography about the “utterly wasted” hours he had put in as an undergraduate to pass the ‘little-go,’ a sort of watered-down classics exam for the non-classics students. The textbook of Greek written specifically for this exam “contained a long list of words which were irregular to the point of impropriety, not one half of which my classical friends had ever come across.”

    This would have been in the mid-1870s.

  4. David Marjanović says:

    command no more sympathy than doctors who make fun of psychiatrists or osteopaths

    Ooh, this has not aged well. Osteopathy, the claim that all ills are caused by bone problems as if pathogens didn’t exist and the microscope had never been invented, is immediately obvious pseudoscience; and psychiatry in 1938 was certainly no better.

  5. Well, Connolly has not aged well in general. That’s certainly a striking example.

  6. John Cowan says:

    The funny thing is that in the U.S. nowadays DOs are exactly equivalent to MDs in training and licensing; I’ve been seen by one on several occasions. They just attend different schools and get slightly more emphasis on whole-patient treatment. Allopathy, the direct ancestor of scientific medicine, was just as pseudo-scientific for a long time.

    If things had gone just slightly differently, the guy on TV who tells you what the weather will be might have been called an astrologer rather than a meteorologist, or you might well take your kid to the doctor to get a shot for a childhood dwarf.

  7. David Marjanović says:

    Allopathy, the direct ancestor of scientific medicine, was just as pseudo-scientific for a long time.

    Oh yes, though it wasn’t that bad in 1938 anymore.

    a childhood dwarf

    I don’t get that one.

  8. John Cowan says:

    Buccleuch is pronounced /bəˈkluː/ (bə-KLOO)

    By the Duke, yes. But I bet in Scots it’s still [bʌkl(j)ux]. A cleuch (Eng. clough) is either a narrow ravine or a tall cliff, depending on whether you’re at the top or the bottom, I suppose.

    Talking of dukes, TIL that the present (13th) Duke of Argyll (in the peerage of Scotland) is also the present 6th Duke of Argyll (in the peerage of the UK). The Government of the day wanted the Duke to have a seat in the House (Scottish peers only sat if elected by other Scottish peers), so gave him a second dukedom, there being no available higher rank. Among his other titles are Chief of Clan Campbell and Admiral of the Western Coasts and Isles. He is also captain of Scotland’s elephant polo team (which is exactly what you think it is).

    As for the dwarf, one of the twelve surviving Old English metrical charms begins: Wið dweorh man sceal niman VII lytle oflætan, swylce man mid ofrað, and writan þas naman on ælcre oflætan ‘Against a dwarf, you should take seven little wafers such as you would offer [in the Mass] and write these names …”, namely the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, and then sing the following verse three times.

  9. David Marjanović says:

    Oh yeah. Plausible. But what is the illness? Why are you supposed to tell the patient you’re his stallion? It’s a bit like Yiddish – the vocabulary is such that I understand everything except the topic…

    hæfde him his haman on handa is a masterpiece of alliteration, though.

  10. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Buccleuch Place at least is pronounced buKLOO*, although I suppose it must be named after the duke. I think it just is irregular, though – I’ve never heard of any other pronunciation (although this doesn’t mean that none exists).
    Cleuch has the ch at the end, as someone said.

    *Except when it’s just called BP, to the mild bafflement of newcomers

  11. January First-of-May says:

    oflætan

    This word (meaning “wafers”) immediately reminded me of modern Czech oplatky (most famously of Karlovy Vary); apparently the two words are indeed cognate, both ultimately originating from Latin oblāta.

  12. John Cowan says:

    Nobody knows exactly what the illness is. The charm to be recited begins with the words “Her com in gangan inspidenwiht” and runs to the end. So the beast (whatever it is) is the one who’s saying that the patient is his horse, i.e. the patient is being ridden, as by a nightmare. It’s plausible that the disease involves fever, though, because the patient starts to turn cold before the beast’s sister swears that nobody will be harmed by all this.

  13. Jen in Edinburgh: I’ve never heard of any other pronunciation
    Nor have I. It’s Bu-CLUE.

    The duchess of Argyll & the headless man (and how appropriate that they should appear here, in a Cyril Connolly article). I think that a duke of Argyll was somehow connected to the Nazis in the 1930s but I can’t find a Wiki reference to it.

  14. John Cowan says:

    I can’t trace any connection between the D of B and BP or B Street, but it must indeed exist somehow.

    It occurs to me that a Scot would only be surnamed “Scott” (as the Duke is) if the ancestor was a remigrant who had spent time in England and acquired the surname there before returning home.

  15. John Cowan says:
  16. Since its presence in The Mayor of Casterbridge was pointed out, I have started using the word hagrid for cases of fitful sleep.

  17. Richard Hershberger says:

    Osteopathy, et al.: All forms of medicine started out as a combination of old wives’ tales which might or might not be helpful, backed by theory that, upon sober reflection, was complete woo. This was true of the most respectable physicians. If you doctor today diagnosed you have having humors out of balance, you would run screaming out of the office, and quite rightly so.

    By chance, the mainstream respectable tradition of medicine also was the first to hit on the germ theory of disease. This was initially dismissed as woo: invisible bugs get into your blood and make you sick. Yeah, right. Now pull my other one. Some, though not all, of the other traditions gradually merged with it. Modern osteopathy is the biggest example. The vast majority of chiropractors, at least in the US, are perfectly respectable specialized therapists. Some woo chiropractors are still around, but they are curiosities.

    Respectable medicine hitting on the germ theory first also had the effect of giving a retrospective scientific cast to the profession’s earlier history. This is quite unearned. Galan was utter woo, no matter traditionally respectable he was thought to be.

  18. Oh, and I had no idea who Cyril Connolly was, apart from the Monty Python reference. Back when this might have motivated me to find out more about him, this was difficult enough that I never bothered. I suspect that any decent public library would have had the resources necessary, but any motivation I felt was quite limited. I hadn’t thought of him in years.

  19. Osteopaths vs. psychiatrists vs. MDs comparison might not have aged well, but “burghers of Calais” turned out to be better (IMHO) than Connolly probably intended.

  20. Medicine is not a science at all, since it lacks an underlying theory that can generate testable propositions that can be verified experimentally; it’s really more akin to a skilled trade.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    Medicine is an application of science, like engineering.

    (And science is an application of science theory.)

  22. Medicine is not a science at all, since it lacks an underlying theory that can generate testable propositions that can be verified experimentally

    This is a truly extraordinary statement and I can only think that it’s using “theory” and “verified” in some obscure sense derived from critical theory, rather than in any sense I would recognise.

  23. By the Duke, yes. But I bet in Scots it’s still [bʌkl(j)ux].

    Not in my experience. Though I admit it’s an obscure place name – I had to look it up (it’s near Hawick) and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it spoken referring to the tiny place in the Borders, rather than to the Duke and things named after him like streets, etc. Originally it was Buck Cleugh.

    It occurs to me that a Scot would only be surnamed “Scott” (as the Duke is) if the ancestor was a remigrant who had spent time in England and acquired the surname there before returning home.

    Not necessarily. The Scotts in question trace their name back to various Scots landowners in the 11th and 12th centuries called either “le Scot” or “Fitz Scott”. At a guess, the point of the name was to make it clear to actual Normans that this landowner was actually a Scot rather than a Norman like them.

  24. PlasticPaddy says:

    The Scott name was then given by Norman authorities (or due to the presence of such authorities). Compare Fingal and Dougal (resp. light and dark foreigner) presumably given in places where the authority was Gaelic-speaking.

  25. Hawick is pronounced Hoyk.

  26. Stu Clayton says:

    As in “oik” ? Or rather “ho-ik” ?

  27. Daniel Jones says HAW-ik (two syllables).

  28. I only know it as one syllable, as in ‘oik’.

  29. Daniel Jones, the NY Giants’ quarterback?

    It’s Hoik, as in ‘oik’.

    I can’t believe anyone’s discussing with Americans the possibility that Buccleuch might be pronounced any other way than the way we all know it’s pronounced.

  30. I only know it as one syllable, as in ‘oik’.

    And thus the language continues to degenerate. Soon we’ll all be grunting in sludgy monosyllables, like Danes.

  31. Stu Clayton says:

    I can’t believe anyone’s discussing with Americans the possibility that Buccleuch might be pronounced any other way than the way we all know it’s pronounced.

    I blame participatory democracy and empowerment. Of course it all boils down to impertinence.

    Edit: on the part of Americans, natch.

  32. Oik has been a monosyllable since the dawn of time. Great danes have a huge vocabulary (some can recognise more than seven words).

  33. There are good bits in Connolly. I particularly remember a line from his (pre-Orwell) vision of justice in a totalitarian state: “How do you plead? Guilty, or very guilty?”

  34. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    It occurs to me that a Scot would only be surnamed “Scott” (as the Duke is) if the ancestor was a remigrant who had spent time in England and acquired the surname there before returning home.

    That’s exactly how it is with “Cornish” — it’s not unknown as a surname in Cornwall, but it’s not nearly as common as it is in Devon, and it’s a fair bet that most Cornish Cornishes are descended from remigrants. (“Devenish” is far more common in Somerset than in Devon.) My own ancestors appear to have migrated from Cornwall to Devon in the 15th century.

    I twice met the historian A. L. Rowse, and on both occasions (separated by about 20 years) he asked me the same question: was I Cornish? I found it little short of amazing that a historian, even one obsessed with his Cornish background, as Rowse was, had never made the simple analysis that John did.

  35. That is strange, but what comment are you talking about? You’ve only made one in this thread, the one in which you talk about trying to edit a comment.

  36. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Now my whole comment has vanished into the aether.

  37. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    That is strange, but what comment are you talking about? You’ve only made one in this thread, the one in which you talk about trying to edit a comment.

    No, this is the 4th. The only substantive one was the first, a response to one of John Cowan’s.

    I’ll see if it’s still in my clipboard, and if it is I’ll post it again. No, it isn’t. When I feel confident that the server is working correctly I’ll try to post it again (after making sure I have a copy saved).

  38. I just checked and found one in the spam folder; I’ve released it. Sorry about that!

  39. John Cowan says:

    “How do you plead? Guilty, or very guilty?”

    Then there is Gowachin Law, which is based on the principle that everyone is guilty: the froglike Gowachin are r-selectors, and the ones who become adults are the ones who during their tadpole phase have most successfully eaten their relatives and peers. In the Gowachin Courtarena, if you are found Gowachin-guilty, you go free (but can’t leave the Gowachin planet); the Gowachin-innocent and their lawyers are torn to pieces by the judge, the opponents, and the spectators. The parties decide which role, plaintiff or defendant, they will take, and the decision can go for or against either party or indeed anyone else present.

  40. pedantic snobbery about dead languages

    I’m know no Greek whatsoever but it seems to me that a little historical perspective is needed. ‘Dead languages’ is a modern obsession, like ‘We’re modern people; we don’t need all that fuddy-duddy old stuff. It’s just dead’.

    But it wasn’t always so. As my potted understanding of history goes, until the fall of Constantinople, people in the West weren’t very familiar with Greek. Sudden access to writings in Greek were one of the stimuli for the Renaissance. In other words, Greek was a breath of fresh air, the discovery of a whole new world.

    The rejection of Latin and Greek as ‘dead languages’ in the 20th century gives me mixed feelings. That something that gave rise to so much of our modern thought should be rejected as old and fuddy-duddy is sobering. It’s also ironic because people in the West instinctively and unquestioningly trace their intellectual tradition back to the Romans and ancient Greeks, whose writings they mostly (and I include myself here) can’t read.

  41. @John Cowan: Only the actual defendant found “innocent” would be torn apart by the crowds upon leaving the court-arena; otherwise the protagonist of The Dosadi Experiment (as well as his girlfriend, with whom he is sharing a body) would have been killed after he “successfully” defended the magister of the Running Phylum. However, while the court-arena is actually in session, everyone who has a part in the proceedings (including attorneys, judges, witnesses, and jurors) is supposedly at risk of their life, although it is not even slightly clear how this could actually work in practice (even without the potential bizarre kinship vendettas that become possible in the novel with the certification of a Ferret Wreave alien as a servant of the box). I remember all this despite having a pretty poor opinion of the novel.

    In college (having access at MIT to a collection of practically all modern science fiction and fantasy written in English), I read a fair number of science fiction books based on references to them I found elsewhere. The Gowachin were featured in Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials.* Barlowe’s illustrations and descriptions were the primary reasons that I read Fire Time, Masters of the Maze, Ensign Flandry, The Legion of Space, The Word for World is Forest, Midnight at the Well of Souls, and The Voyage of the Space Beagle, and influenced my choices to read many other books. For The Dosadi Experiment, I was also fascinated by the cover blurb when I picked it up:

    Generations of a tormented human-alien people, caged on a toxic planet, conditioned by constant hunger and war—this is the Dosadi Experiment, and it has succeeded too well. For the Dosadi have bred for Vengeance as well as cunning, and they have learned how to pass through the shimmering God Wall to exact their dreadful revenge on the Universe that created them.

    … which turned out to describe a much more interesting novel than the one I actually read. (It is not a good sign when a book leaves a reader with the impression that they could have written better story, based just on the cover blurb.) Among other problems, the Gowachin, with their systematic infanticide and murderously nonsensical “respectful disrespect” for the law, were unconvincing in the extreme, and Herbert’s inability to show what makes an effective character effective is on glaring display.

    * I tried to find other, similar sources that might guide me to further interesting fiction. Barlowe’s later Guide to Fantasy was, in comparison to the Guide to Extraterrestrials, a disappointment, and it took me a little while to figure out why. The reason I found it, on the whole, less compelling, was that so many of the illustrations were of human characters; there just wasn’t the breadth of weird beings that Barlowe had depicted in the earlier work. I flipped through The Dictionary of Science Fiction Places when it came out and was even more disappointed. The author, Brian Stableford, had clearly never read the original descriptions of many of the locations he was writing about (such as Shayol) and profoundly misunderstood some other settings (even the iconic Airstrip One).

  42. I blame participatory democracy and empowerment. Of course it all boils down to impertinence.

    Participatory democracy, empowerment, impertinence and Brexit. Four. Four reasons…and Trump. Five.

  43. I’m know no Greek whatsoever but it seems to me that a little historical perspective is needed. ‘Dead languages’ is a modern obsession, like ‘We’re modern people; we don’t need all that fuddy-duddy old stuff. It’s just dead’.

    You’re reacting to something nobody said. The quote was “pedantic snobbery about dead languages,” not “we don’t need all that fuddy-duddy old stuff,” and Connolly’s point is not that dead languages are dumb and nobody should bother with them but that it is not a good thing to use superior knowledge of them as a mark of general intelligence, capability, and human worth.

  44. John Cowan says:

    otherwise the protagonist […] would have been killed after he “successfully” defended the magister of the Running Phylum.

    That’s assuming more consistency between theory and practice than is at all likely either in a Frank Herbert novel or in real life. It is not unheard-of, for example, for someone to be found American-guilty of three serious crimes, each punishable by two years’ imprisonment or more, and end up serving only three months for them.

  45. Connolly’s point is that it is not a good thing to use superior knowledge of dead languages as a mark of general intelligence, capability, and human worth.
    Now that we have Jacob Rees-Mogg as a living example this is quite clear to most people, at least in Europe.

  46. I’m inclined to like Jacob Rees-Mogg purely for his wife’s name: Helena Anne Beatrix Wentworth Fitzwilliam de Chair (the only child of Somerset de Chair and his fourth wife Lady Juliet Tadgell).

  47. January First-of-May says:

    Wow! I thought that the name of his daughter, Annunziata Rees-Mogg, was unusual enough, but apparently it runs in the family.

  48. squiffy-marie von bladet says:

    Barbara Skelton, to whom he was briefly married, left an unforgettable portrait of the middle-aged critic muttering “Poor Cyril, poor Cyril” to himself as he wallowed in the bath.

    It is a forlorn fate to be bequeathed to posterity as the Arbiter Of Taste of an era whose tastes we largely do not share.

  49. Annunziata is JRM’s sister. His children are:
    Peter Theodore Alphege,
    Mary Anne Charlotte Emma,
    Thomas Wentworth Somerset Dunstan,
    Anselm Charles Fitzwilliam,
    Alfred Wulfric Leyson Pius
    Sixtus Dominic Boniface Christopher.

  50. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Somerset Lloyd-James, possibly the nastiest character in Simon Raven’s nasty-character-packed novels, was said to be based on the author’s personal acquaintance with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s father. Like father, like son, apparently.

  51. Annunziata is JRM’s sister.

    Known to her acquaintances as Opinionata, I understand. She’s also in politics – she’s running for parliament for the far-right Brexit Party.

  52. The list of JRM’s children’s names looks like something Monty Python came up with…

  53. David Marjanović says:

    I’m inclined to like Jacob Rees-Mogg

    That’s an accomplishment, because I think he goes out of his way to be disliked – he’s a meatspace troll. Yesterday I got to hear him (livestreamed on YouTube). His voice is mocking and over-the-top condescending before he even says any content words, and once he reaches that part, it’s just as bad – nothing but bad jokes that punch down, and insultingly bad reasoning or simply none at all. I think all of that is deliberate.

    looks like something Monty Python came up with…

    That, too, may be part of the trolling.

  54. Thanks for the epigram and for the DJ Taylor link, Squiff. Cyril Connolly is an example of someone in contact with midcentury upper-class life (see also the Farm Street* crew of Oxbridge Catholic converts: Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh & co). It’s so provincial, as it was with Bloomsbury’s Omega Workshop compared to the Cubists, a generation earlier. Meanwhile the real action was going on in Paddington. See The Lives of Lucian Freud, by William Feaver, reviewed today by Alexandra Harris. It makes a remarkable contrast.

    *MP Jacob Reese Moggs, parishioner at Farm Street, was given a longer time to speak as he was the only person arguing in favour of leaving the EU. He began by saying that he supported Brexit, because as a Christian, he believes in the defence of individual rights – which he feels are being lost in ‘an unaccountable superstate.” He said that the EU Commission was imposing decisions on other countries which they were powerless to reject. He listed a series of rulings which he said had failed. ‘The EU is a failed superstate” he said. While the EU may have started out with high Christian ideals, those have collapsed now and he said the UK would do much better on its own.

    In the discussion afterward Jimmy Burns pointed out that 100 top economists have warned of the dire consequences of leaving the EU. Mr Rees Moggs dismissed this, saying economists “often get things wrong.” Fr Frank Turner said economic policy should be a means to a further end and the purpose of economics was not just growth. ‘The deeper debate is about identity,” he said. Fr Frank went on to describe how he had recently returned from the US “where 90% of the wealth is owned by the top 2 per cent” – the result of unbridled growth.

    Fr Frank also said there were some inaccuracies in Rees Mogg’s description of the EU. The EU Commission is similar to our civil service he explained – it researches and draws up document but decides nothing. “So the notion that the EU Commission is imposing legislation on us is bogus”.. No decision is made without the consent of all member states. “The biggest cause of war is separatism not unity,” Fr Frank said.

    In his presentation, Mr Rees Mogg had objected to the fact that the EU does not mention God in its constitution. Fr Frank said this was true. Pope John Paul II had pushed for the mention of God in the constitution but this did not get through. “The EU is not a Christian state. It respects all faiths, he said. “I would hate it if God was mentioned in the constitution. Its for theologians, not politicians to define God.”

  55. John Cowan says:

    However obnoxious he may or may not have been face-to-face, Willliam R-M’s public statements make it clear that he was no such extreme social conservative as his son.

  56. The list of JRM’s children’s names looks like something Monty Python came up with…
    Evelyn Waugh’s children have names like Septimus and Auberon, Mogg just made an exaggerated imitation. Smoggy is a compulsive copier of the men he admires.

    the nastiest character in Simon Raven’s nasty-character-packed novels, was said to be based on the author’s personal acquaintance with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s father
    William Rees-Mogg, editor of the pre-Murdoch Times is nowadays only famous for quoting Pope, ‘Who breaks a butterfly (up)on a wheel?’ in an editorial protesting Mick & Keith’s prison sentences (the 1967 Redlands’ drugs trial). He came to speak at my school during the Vietnam war. I’m pretty sure he was in favour, but it was SO dull I wasn’t paying much attention.

  57. David Marjanović says:

    Pope John Paul II had pushed for the mention of God in the constitution but this did not get through.

    Indeed, the entire constitution did not get through. Instead of an EU-wide referendum on a single day, which would have been the logical course of action, the constitution was ratified by the parliaments of different countries on different days, until two countries held referenda (again on different days), voted against it basically out of protest against this undemocratic procedure without even reading what was in the proposal, and the whole thing blew up and had to be abandoned. No second attempt has been made in the years since then.

  58. squiffy-marie von bladet says:

    The only British novel of “midcentury upper-class life” posterity needs is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which is, as I have described at length elsewhere essentially a novel about the steamed puddings in gentlemen’s clubs where forlorn middle-aged public schoolboys go to regret their failing marriages and conduct a little desultory spycraft as Britain shabbily declines in the background

    (Bonus: You can also amuse yourself trying to figure out whodunnit, if you manage to bring yourself to care)

  59. Where is this “elsewhere”, Squiff? Elsewhere at Language Hat?

    John le Square isn’t exactly dead yet but it’s probably too late for him to document the end of his era (ie now) as a novel. I think he got a bit sidetracked when the Soviet Union packed up.

  60. The names of JRM’s children get more Pythonesque going from oldest to youngest. Mary Anne Charlotte Emma is positively plebeian, except that she has enough names for two or three ordinary people. But poor old Alfred Wulfric and Sixtus Dominic. Their only plausible professions are headmaster of a public school or avant-garde jazz musician.

  61. J.W. Brewer says:

    Having multiple middle names (from birth) is extremely rare in the U.S. but apparently notably less rare in the UK although I expect there are some social-class angles to who does and doesn’t do it.* It strikes me as an outsider that if you’re going to have more than one middle name you ought to be striving for something more exotic/unusual with each name added at the margin. I will admit I have no feel for who goes beyond two middle names (and thus four names total including first and sur-) to 3 (=5 total), as is the case with some-but-not-all of the Rees-Mogg brood.

    *OTOH two out of four of the original members of the Kinks had an “extra” middle name. David Russell Gordon Davies is definitely from a working-class background (he was the youngest child of eight; his older brother and bandmate Raymond Douglas has had to get through life with but one middle name) and I don’t have the impression that the late Peter Alexander Greenlaw Quaife was from that much posher a background although I’m less certain of that. (Wiki suggests he was born out of wedlock and subsequently took his stepfather’s surname but had started off with the P.A.G. part from birth.)

  62. I never know whether to pronounce Davies as Davis à l’anglaise or whether that’s too pretentious for a Yank.

  63. J.W. Brewer says:

    I have always pronounced the surname of Ray and Dave to rhyme with “navies.” Maybe that’s not how they say it in Muswell Hill, but I’ve never actually been prescriptively corrected by an obsessive-compulsive Kinks enthusiast and that seems like the sort of thing that cultish American fans would latch onto as a shibboleth. So if my own anecdotal experience means they haven’t made that a shibboleth, that ought to mean something. I suppose one could try to find recorded evidence on youtube of them saying their own names, but you’d have to filter out bootlegs from the period in the Seventies where Ray frequently introduced himself on stage by saying “I’m Johnny Cash.” (He might have done this to culminate a let’s-introduce-everyone-in-the-band sequence where he might have pronounced his brother’s surname, but I’m too lazy to go looking right now.)

  64. I suppose one could try to find recorded evidence on youtube of them saying their own names

    Oh, I’ve heard them say it, and they say it like Davis, which is the normal UK pronunciation. And normally I try to pronounce names the way their bearers pronounce them. But, as I say, it feels a bit pretentious because to an American Davis is Davis and Davies rhymes with “navies.” But on the other hand I have no problem pronouncing other English names in ways unintuitive for Americans. I’m a land of contrasts.

  65. If Tim Rice’s third daughter married the son of the synthesiser inventor Robert Moog, she’d become Charlotte Cordelia Violet Christina Rice-Moog and would fit right in down in Somerset.*

    *(where the Mogg family lurks)

  66. Trond Engen says:

    David M.: Indeed, the entire constitution did not get through.

    And what didn’t get through wasn’t even close to the original proposal from the constitutional workgroup. It was turned into something much less democratically ambitious when it reached the national governments in the Council — who admittedly had to deal with stern British opposition to anything beyond a free market.

  67. squiffy-marie von bladet says:

    Where is this “elsewhere”, Squiff? Elsewhere at Language Hat?

    Maybe twitter? (I may also have slightly lied about the length of my ruminations. It felt like a long rant about a very long book at the time, given as how I carelessly read it in the original Dutch.)

  68. And are you twittering as Squiffy, Squiffy?

  69. Trond Engen says:

    You can also amuse yourself trying to figure out whodunnit, if you manage to bring yourself to care

    I never care. It’s one of the great misunderstandings of our time that guessing the solution to the mystery is important in detective fiction. I care for the descriptions, be it of the underbellys of glimmering cities or of the Last Good Etonians. The only thing I demand from the solution is that it won’t make me grind my teeth.

  70. David Marjanović: re the abortive European Constitution, you said “No second attempt has been made in the years since then”. Didn’t you notice? The European Constitution, rejected in free and well-informed referenda by the voters of France and the Netherlands (fairly important EU countries) was then repackaged as the Treaty of Lisbon, which could be imposed without the inconvenience of consulting such subject peoples.

    That was when I started having serious doubts about the EU.

  71. J.W. Brewer says:

    Re pronouncing names the way their bearers pronounce them, does anyone really try to do that consistently? In particular, lots of common Anglo-American surnames (not to mention some common given names) are pronounced differently by different bearers depending on whether the particular bearer’s native variety of English is rhotic or non-rhotic, but does anyone consistently use both a rhotic and non-rhotic pronunciation of such names as needed to match up with the accent of the particular bearer being referred to? I rather suspect it’s some smaller subset of pronunciation variations that at least some people feel some sort of politeness-based obligation to try to adopt, and it might be interesting to try to identify and describe the boundaries of that subset to assess what’s in it and what’s not in it.

    But hat, leaving your own land-of-contrasts-ness out of it, do you agree with me both that: a) obsessive-compulsive American Kinks fans have *not* made an insider shibboleth out of the pronunciation of Davies; and b) it’s kind of interesting in a dog-that-didn’t-bark way that they haven’t?

  72. Re pronouncing names the way their bearers pronounce them, does anyone really try to do that consistently? In particular, lots of common Anglo-American surnames (not to mention some common given names) are pronounced differently by different bearers depending on whether the particular bearer’s native variety of English is rhotic or non-rhotic

    I certainly wouldn’t go that far, any more than I’d pronounce Spanish names with proper Spanish phonetics when speaking English.

    do you agree with me both that: a) obsessive-compulsive American Kinks fans have *not* made an insider shibboleth out of the pronunciation of Davies; and b) it’s kind of interesting in a dog-that-didn’t-bark way that they haven’t?

    No idea, since I know no obsessive-compulsive American Kinks fans (and in fact haven’t moved in rock-adjacent circles for several decades now).

  73. If an L1 anglophone with an accent different from mine tells me their name, I will attempt to discern the sequence of phonemes and stress, and map that to my accent. Mimicking their accent might well be seen as mockery.

    OTOH the aforementioned mapping may not be one-to-one. Even within Ireland, I recall a letter in the Irish Times complaining about people mispronouncing then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s name as “Burtie”.

  74. John Cowan says:

    /insert joke about Wanda Landowska, Howard Hughes, Henry Kissinger, and serial monogamy here

  75. David Marjanović says:

    Didn’t you notice? The European Constitution, rejected in free and well-informed referenda by the voters of France and the Netherlands (fairly important EU countries) was then repackaged as the Treaty of Lisbon, which could be imposed without the inconvenience of consulting such subject peoples.

    “Well-informed” my ass, this was a protest vote much like the Brexit referendum. The important points, which amount to it being a constitution, were not repackaged, and a constitution is something the EU still needs.

    But the democracy deficit is real, and that’s what the protest vote was about. Funnily enough, it goes in the opposite direction from what the Brexiteers in the House of Commons have been claiming the last two days (and no doubt before): instead of an authoritarian central government dropping from the heavens, landing in Brussels and lording it over “subject peoples”, the national governments – each of them two or three steps away from a democratic election – negotiate things with each other and impose them, then go home and brag to their voters about how much of the supposed national interests they protected against the other member countries. The EU parliament has way too little power; it is not even allowed to propose legislation, only to vote on what the commission feeds it. And while it is the result of a direct election, the election is still held separately in each country, with the national parties running instead of any EU-wide ones; sometimes, national parties cut across fractions of the EU parliament, and if, for example, you lived in the UK and wanted to vote for the largest and most moderate conservative fraction, for a long time you simply couldn’t, because no party in the UK happened to be a member until Change UK was formed and joined that one. (Cameron had taken the Tories out and moved them into the next more conservative fraction. Before he did that, of course, you couldn’t vote for that fraction if you lived in the UK because no UK party was a member of that fraction.)

    Even within Ireland, I recall a letter in the Irish Times complaining about people mispronouncing then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s name as “Burtie”.

    Phonemic mergers do that. I’ve read about an American being amazed that another American named his son Don and his daughter Dawn – the first had the LOT-THOUGHT merger, the second didn’t. In Ireland, the various mergers between er, ir and ur have some complex distribution that I don’t know anything further about.

  76. John Cowan says:

    WP s.v. “Hiberno-English” defines the tern-turn non-merger as follows: “In the local [most traditional] Dublin and West/South-West accents, /ɜr/ when after a labial consonant (e.g. fern), when spelled as “ur” or “or” (e.g. word), or when spelled as “ir” after an alveolar stop (e.g. dirt) are pronounced as [ʊːɹ]; in all other situations, /ɜr/ is pronounced as [ɛːɹ].”

    Of course in Scotland NURSE, TERM, and DIRT are all distinct and all pronounced as spelled.

  77. Stu Clayton says:

    “All pronounced as spelled”. That’s a good one, following on your example showing that spelling alone tells one nothing about pronunciations !

    It appears one knows how a word is pronounced only by knowing how it is pronounced, by various people in various places. This is definitely going to make the six o’clock news.

  78. PlasticPaddy says:

    Ir is complicated in Irish English. Firm and dirt are (mostly) pronounced differently to mirror, squirrel, whirlpool, and the names Cyril and Birrell. I do not know how the name Irma is pronounced, probably with I by analogy with Iarla.

  79. David Marjanović says:

    In RP at least, the assimilation that produced [ɜ] generally does not operate across what seem to be syllable boundaries, so mirror, squirrel, Cyril and presumably Birrell retain [ɪɹ]. I’m not sure why whirl is an exception, but would guess it has merged with whorl.

    (Americans of course turn squirrel into a vowelless monosyllable: [skwɹ̩l].)

  80. people mispronouncing then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s name as “Burtie”.

    An east coast Scottish accent would definitely make that distinction: it’s the difference between “bear” and “burr”.

  81. Carl Lewis and his sister Carol competed in men’s and women’s long jump at the 1984 Olympics, causing problems for some Irish commentators.

  82. The EU parliament has way too little power

    As an American living in Europe, I agree with David 100%. The idea that the EU has too much power is laughable. A true centralized EU would have slapped down Orban years ago, and maybe forced the Polish government to recognize the rule of law. If anything the EU is far too weak, which allows larger states like Germany, France (and formerly the UK) to manipulate fiscal policy and trade to their benefit, and permits (even encourages) rampant corruption in smaller states. Brexiteers probably have a point that the current situation is untenable but being unconstructive and simply leaving strikes me as incredibly irresponsible.

  83. Here’s Sir Ray Davies himself on the pronunciation of his name: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121833760

  84. Vindicated!

  85. Trond Engen says:

    Too little power in the Parliament and too much still in the Council, where any question is a possibility for grandstanding on national interests. When the history of the rise and fall of Europe is written, Wolfgang Schäuble will be given a harsh judgment for his theatrical role in the handling of the 2008 crisis.

    When the European Convention was still working on the draft fot a constitution, I remember wishing they would come up with something bold, both clearly democratic on a European level and clearly respecting the national electorates. What I most believed in was a sort of three-chamber system:

    The European Parliament, with members elected on party lists from multi-seat constituencies, having full powers of budget and law (in the areas covered by the treaty) and making decisions by simple majority. It would be permanently assembled.

    The European Constitutional Assembly, with the same number of members as the Parliament, but made up of members of the national parliaments (and each national group would form a committee in the parliament back home). The assembly would have the power to amend treaties or reject a budget or a law (by deeming it unconstitutional) according to rules of qualified majority. It would be assembled once or twice a year.

    The European Council, consisting of heads of government, also assembled once or twice a year, would have the right to make propositions for the two other chambers, but only making decisions when an unanimous decision is needed. Declarations of war. Dissolution of the union. Overturning decisions in the two other chambers.

  86. David Eddyshaw says:

    A knowledge of Greek is no longer the hallmark of a powerful intellectual caste

    It’s hard to be a powerful intellectual caste when all of you can fit in a telephone box …
    (It demands a lot of multitasking.)

  87. Trond Engen says:

    Eat, for god’s sake, eat!

  88. David Eddyshaw says:

    No time … must … lead … public … opinion …

  89. During the mid-60s, Raid Avis’s name came up twice a week (once on TV and once on BBC radio). There was never any question of Dayveez. Isn’t that pronunciation for the -ies spelling Welsh? Day-viz is good for a norf-London pronunciation, like he said. The opposite of night-viz.

  90. David Marjanović says:

    In German we’re pretty merciless with spelling-pronunciations of last names. Strasser is obviously from Straße (“street”), which has a long vowel, but ss imposes a short one, end of discussion. Kümmell is obviously Kümmel (“caraway”), but double consonant letters mark preceding vowels as short, which is only necessary if they’re stressed, so the name gets a fake-French pronunciation with final stress precisely because the ll is counterintuitive.

    Only phonological necessities override this. Baur simply cannot be differentiated from Bauer in a non-rhotic accent, so it isn’t – in my experience; I wonder what happens in rhotic Switzerland.

  91. David Eddyshaw says:

    Isn’t that pronunciation for the -ies spelling Welsh?

    No.

  92. Baur
    Although my pronunciation is normally non-rhotic, I go rhotic in such cases, as a pronunciation [baua] would imply a spelling “Bauer” for me (and, in case anyone wants to know, I do the same to distinguish e.g “Mayr” from “Mayer”).

  93. David Marjanović says:

    Wow, I’ve never encountered that.

    Are you partially rhotic to begin with, i.e. preservation of a consonant (somewhere around [χ]) when r follows a short vowel? Do zart and hart rhyme for you?

  94. They do. It’s more that I can switch between a rhotic and a non-rhotic mode, with non-rhotic as default, but rhotic whenever I want to sound literary or make clear distinctions that exist in spelling, like in this case.

  95. John le Carré isn’t exactly dead yet but it’s probably too late for him to document the end of his era (ie now) as a novel.

    Nope, his latest retelling of the story includes Brexit. Here is a bit.

  96. (Americans of course turn squirrel into a vowelless monosyllable: [skwɹ̩l].)

    I don’t. For me it’s [ˈskwɹ̩l̩], two syllables, vowelless, [w], consonant cluster, [ɹ] or rather [ʑ̞] (it’s usually an alveolo-palatal approximant for me, not an alveolar one), Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. No wonder non-anglophones almost always stumble over the word.

    And similarly with earl: [ˈɹ̩l̩].

  97. For me it’s [ˈskwɹ̩l̩], two syllables […] And similarly with earl: [ˈɹ̩l̩].

    Same here (minus the alveolo-palatal approximant).

  98. David Marjanović says:

    Ah. How many syllables do you give to prayer?

    earl: [ˈɹ̩l̩]

    I was almost surprised. But then I remembered flying to Dallas-Fort Worth, the latter being repeatedly pronounced [fɻ̩ˈʔɻ̩θ] (or maybe I should transcribe retroflex vowels: [o˞]).

  99. How many syllables do you give to prayer?

    One; it’s exactly like the first part of prairie.

  100. Prayer for me, like flower, power is a hypermonosyllable (this word has a different meaning in Greek prosody, apparently): it can be one syllable or two depending on context. Poets used to write flow’r, pow’r, pray’r to indicate what scansion they wanted you to hear or say, but that’s gone out now.

  101. This is the Londonderry pronunciation of flour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZygIEzHqtjQ

    I wonder if it’s homophonous with flower in that dialect.

  102. PlasticPaddy says:

    I am sure derry people know when they are saying “flyers” and when they are saying “flowers”. It is really our problem ☺

  103. David Marjanović says:

    I wonder if it’s homophonous with flower in that dialect.

    I bet it is, because flour is just a different spelling for the flower of meal.

    Edit: so YIVO-Standard Yiddish isn’t the only one to turn [au] into [oj]!

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