The Schoolmaster.

Another wonderful quote courtesy of the indispensable Michael Gilleland:

        A vagabond, whose trade was living upon other people, once had the idea, although he could not read or write, of becoming a schoolmaster, since that was the only profession in which he could make money by doing nothing. For it is notorious that anyone can be a schoolmaster, although he be completely ignorant of the rules and elementary principles of language. It is only necessary to be cunning enough to make others believe that one is a great grammarian; and that is not difficult, since really great grammarians are usually poor men with narrow, mean and disparaging intellects, impotent and incomplete.

The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, tr. Powys Mathers from the French of J.C. Mardrus, Vol. II (1986; rpt. London: Routledge, 1995), p. 390 (Night 382)

Comments

  1. J.W. Brewer says:

    Perhaps not all translations have exactly the same 1001 nights, due to variations in Arabic source texts or what not? I went to the 1904 Payne translation on wikisource and couldn’t immediately find this, as night 382 or otherwise, although there’s a different tale of an illiterate purported schoolmaster not too many nights removed from 382:

    https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Book_of_the_Thousand_Nights_and_One_Night/The_Ignorant_Man_Who_Set_Up_for_a_Schoolmaster

  2. Perhaps not all translations have exactly the same 1001 nights

    There’s tremendous variation; the “1001 nights” is more of a brand name than a title. (I don’t think any versions actually have 1001 nights.)

    Edit: Well, obviously I’m wrong, because the one you link does, but that’s artificial, to make the book live up to the title. The number was originally conventional, equivalent to “a whole lot.”

  3. really great grammarians are usually poor men with narrow, mean and disparaging intellects, impotent and incomplete

    Well, at least half of us aren’t being condemned.

  4. AJP Crown says:

    a schoolmaster, the only profession in which he could make money by doing nothing.
    – From the French of J.C. Mardrus.

    Unless it’s from Marx, the French invented the profession of rentier to describe someone who lives off their income from renting out property (or nowadays income from investments), thereby contributing absolutely nothing to society. I want to be a rentier. It wasn’t presented as a career choice when I left school.

  5. Stu Clayton says:

    I think it was here a few years back that people were advised to check whether it’s der Rentier or das Rentier they wish to be.

  6. David Eddyshaw says:

    Hilaire Belloc’s verses on the Llama come to mind. Sadly they are far too scandalous to reproduce here, and moreover betray some misconceptions regarding the Mahāyāna on the author’s part which captious critics might feel undermine the artistic impact of the poem.

  7. David Marjanović says:

    The number was originally conventional, equivalent to “a whole lot.”

    Rather "a whole lot and then some"; compare "everyone and their brother". Or in German ewig und drei Tage “eternally plus three days”.

  8. To infinity and beyond!

  9. David Marjanović says:

    Where noone has gone before (in a galaxy where earthlings are far from the only ones to count as “one”).

  10. That’s classically “Where no man has gone before,” and it’s trivially easy to restrict man to Homo sap.

  11. David Marjanović says:

    It’s “no man” in the original series and “noone” in The Next Generation – clearly overcompensating for the meaning shift of man that was completed between the two.

  12. Yes, and although I can appreciate TNG it never seemed fully canonical to me. (Sorry, Picard fans.) I’m all about Deep Space Nine.

  13. In Russian it’s a “carriage and a little cart”

  14. David Marjanović says:

    DS9 – no talking, but ruining it all by overheating its interstellar comet.

    Voyager! No talking either, but was the literal cloud really necessary?

    Too much shouting in the Enterprise intro.

  15. really great grammarians are usually poor men with narrow, mean and disparaging intellects, impotent and incomplete.

    Could we have some examples?

  16. @AJP Crown: In a number of his songs, Woody Guthrie uses the word landlord derisively. I assume that this was a characteristic usage of the American left in the 1930s and 1940s—the way rentier is today.

    Of course, there are probably plenty of English speakers who are unfamiliar with rentier in English, but it is a term of art in economics, and it does not mean someone who is a landlord by profession. Rather, a rentier is someone who engages in rent-seeking—which is defined by the OED as:

    Economics. The fact or process of seeking to gain larger profits by manipulating public policy or economic conditions, esp. by means of securing beneficial subsidies or tariffs, making a product artificially scarce, etc.

    The OED links rent-seeking to this specific definition of rent:

    Economics. The surplus payment to a factor of production (e.g. land, labour, etc.) over and above what is necessary to keep it in its present use.
    David Ricardo is generally considered the first rigorous user of the concept, but he does not appear to use a concise and unambiguous definition of it in his works (cf. Princ. Polit. Econ. (1817) ii. 49 for a loosely worded definition).

    This definition is certainly relevant, but it does not seem like it tells the whole story. The name rent-seeking was almost certainly influenced by rentier, as that word made the transition from French to English.

  17. David: Err, on what grounds do you claim that the comet in the DS9 Intro is “interstellar”? Deep Space 9, AKA Terok Nor, was originally (SPOILER WARNING), during the pilot episode, a station in orbit around the planet Bajor, which (during the pilot, again) was moved from the orbit of Bajor to the vicinity of the wormhole, which is located within the same solar system Bajor is part of. So this comet seen in the intro, just by the station, is definitely not in interstellar space.

    Hat: I’m not surprised you’re a DS9 fan: of all the incarnations of STAR TREK it struck me as the one with the most consistently serious storytelling, with genuine tragic echoes (“The ship”, “In the pale moonlight”, for instance, are both far more darkly realistic than anything found, or indeed anything even possible, in any other trek series), often reminiscent of good literature.

  18. If we are talking about the intro sequence from Deep Space Nine, I have a question: Why the hell does the wormhole—complete with an accretion disk around it—appear out of nowhere when a ship gets near it, then disappear again when the ship has passed through?!?

  19. John Cowan says:

    ewig und drei Tage

    Eng. forever and a day, as in “Those Were the Days”. Only a third as long.

    Woody Guthrie uses the word landlord derisively

    Very much still true of New York speech today (unless you are one, I suppose).

    For political reasons, economists generally exclude collecting the actual rent of land from the term rent-seeking. Neo-classical economists talk as if land is capital, whereas Marxists talk as if capital is land. They’re both wrong.

  20. It’s called cartoon physics

  21. But about grammarians . . .

    There’s the guest of honor at Browning’s “A Grammarian’s Funeral,” who has died in the happy faith that in Heaven God will make the entire corpus clear. There’s the protagonist of John Barth’s The End of the Road, hammering his students about the difference between “They thought I was he” and “They thought me to be him.” And for all who wear hats there’s the ultimate consolation from Hazlitt’s “On Pedantry”:

    “He who is not in some measure a pedant, though he may be a wise, cannot be a very happy man.”

  22. In Russia, not just in Moscow, but in many provincial cities, it became possible since mid 2000s for many people to rent out their apartments for a thousand or more dollars per month and then live on this income in warmer countries – Goa or Thailand. You could rent a villa on the beach in Thailand for five hundred dollars per month (with a maid) and live quite comfortably on remaining 500 dollars of your Moscow rent.

    But then came rouble devaluation in late 2014, rents crashed in dollar terms and rentier Russians ended their long tropical vacation returning home to work.

  23. This was made possible by the blatantly unfair Russian privatization of 1990s when all Russians received the state-owned apartments they lived in as a gift – basically free of charge, without any mortgage to pay.

    The value of this gift raised considerably when oil hit 100 dollars per barrel. Tens of millions of absolutely ordinary, often blue-collar worker Russians discovered suddenly that they own apartments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    On criteria of household net worth, Russia would probably rank somewhere at the top, well above some rich European countries (if there were any honest country rankings free of ideology).

    After devaluation, the household net worth in Russia dropped, but still remains quite high compared with average income in dollar terms.

  24. Regarding expressions like “forever and a day”: In the statistical mechanics of systems with discrete energy states, it is possible to have a temperature T that is formally a negative number. However, this negative indicates that the temperature is not “less than zero,” but rather “higher than infinity.”* (If you put two systems, one with positive T, one with negative T, in contact, heat will flow from the negative temperature to the positive, indicating that the negative one is hotter.) This phenomenon occurs when there are more atoms in the higher-energy state than the lower (a “population inversion”). Norman Ramsey’s** conceptual explanation in [section II of Physical Review 103, 20 (1956)] of how a negative-temperature system behaves is very clear and should be accessible to readers without a professional-level understanding of thermodynamics.

    * I remember Kerson Huang (who I previously mentioned here) had a more expressive way of stating this, but I do not remember what he actually said. I looked in his graduate Statistical Mechanics textbook, but the nature of negative temperatures is addressed in a homework problem rather than explained in the running text.

    ** Ramsey was one of the leading American atomic physicists of his generation (along with Charles Townes, the inventor of the laser)***. However, he comments in that 1956 Physical Review paper that, “It should be noted, however, that no means has yet been devised by which a Carnot cycle can be operated between positive and negative temperatures”—apparently missing the fact that this is what the first maser systems that were being built at the time effectively managed to do. The “amplification” in “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation” refers to the fact that, for the main wave modes involved, the population inversion in the laser medium allows to you get out more energy than you put in. (Energy conservation is not violated, of course, but they energy is injected into a laser system elsewhere—not via the main mode.)

    *** I just looked, and they were born just thirty days apart back in 1915, and they both lived on until the current decade. There is an exhibit about Townes at the South Carolina State Museum, since he was born in Greenville, but I did not realize when I first visited the museum that Townes was still alive even then. Thanks to the greater public visibility of Townes’s work on lasers, he got his Nobel prize much faster than Ramsey; Townes got the prize about ten years after the first radio-frequency maser, but Ramsey had to wait forty years from his invention of the method of separated oscillatory fields to get the Nobel.

  25. Brett, one more reason (as if it were indeed needed) to ditch temperature and use 1/T instead.

  26. Stu Clayton says:

    Ramsey had to wait forty years

    29 years rather, according to this:

    # Der Wasserstoff-Maser wurde im Jahr 1960 von dem amerikanischen Physiker Norman Ramsey und seinen Mitarbeitern entwickelt; im Jahr 1989 erhielt Ramsey für seine Arbeiten den Nobelpreis für Physik. #

  27. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    This was made possible by the blatantly unfair Russian privatization of 1990s when all Russians received the state-owned apartments they lived in as a gift – basically free of charge, without any mortgage to pay.

    Why is this unfair?
    Or are you saying the privatization was unfair in general, and this was one part of it.

  28. Stu Clayton says:

    Maybe “unfair” in that the state thereby wriggles out of the costs of upkeep (had there been any expenditures in this direction…) But still “fair” in that the tenants got ownership, after all.

    A clear case of the state cutting its losses, I would say. This is a traditional practice even without capitalism. Farmers do it, and sometimes even gamblers.

    Did the state retain ownership of the buildings containing these apartments ?

  29. @Stu Clayton: Ramsey’s prize citation says: “for the invention of the separated oscillatory fields method and its use in the hydrogen maser and other atomic clocks,” but it was really the separated oscillatory field technique that got him the prize; and that he invented back in 1949, when he was doing magnetic resonance experiments with I. I. Rabi. By 1960, everybody and his uncle (cf. brother, supra) was building high-precision radio-frequency clocks. Moreover, if der Wasserstoffmaser had really been what Ramsey got the Nobel for, rather than it being a corollary project, the award would have been shared with Daniel Kleppner, the post-doc who actually built and ran the device.

  30. It is very politically incorrect in Russia to say anything good about privatization of 1990s.

    You are only supposed to say that it was all about grand theft of people’s property by the Yeltsin regime and criminal oligarchs, but you can’t mention that tens of millions of common people also benefited from it.

    Doesn’t fit the narrative.

    And also all Russian governments starting from Stalin contributed. First Stalin, Khruschev and Brezhnev gave tens of millions of Soviet peasants urban apartments to live (without charging rent), then Yeltsin gave people property title to apartments they lived in and under Putin this property grew in price tenfold and more reaching in some cases into hundreds of thousands dollars.

    To admit that the government did something for the good of the people runs against Russian national character, so nobody says anything as if this was something normal and commonplace.

  31. Did the state retain ownership of the buildings containing these apartments ?

    No, the buildings became joint property of the apartment owners. They manage it together and share the costs of upkeep.

    It’s real wonder how every reform in Russia, even housing privatization, always turns into another kolkhoz.

  32. PlasticPaddy says:

    @Brett
    Nobel is not always shared with key contributors:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalind_Franklin
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jocelyn_Bell_Burnell
    (I don’t know what Franklin’s title was at King’s, Bell was a postgraduate student)

  33. Stu Clayton says:

    @Brett:

    Dunno that “really” adds much to general appreciation of Ramsey’s work. That word is not used in the Nobel press release. It’s an internecine trigger, of course.

    The release lists the separated oscillatory fields technique and hydrogen maser of Ramsey, along with the ion trap techniques of Paul and Dehmelt, and then goes into detail for the work of all three and of other researchers by name (Rabi, Toschek).

  34. AJP Crown says:

    Thanks, Brett! It’s obviously more complicated than I thought though I still maintain there’s a middle-class group of French people who were looked down on as leeches by late 19C French writers. Perhaps ‘landlord’ is the best US equivalent.

    Stu, I think it was here a few years back that people were advised to check whether it’s der Rentier or das Rentier they wish to be.

    Because das is Rudolph, the red-nosed rentier. That’s a good one, Stu. I was ready to investigate and then duh, I looked it up in the Duden.

    George Monbiot gives academic publishing as a good example of rentier capitalism (it was Robert Maxwell’s big cash cow, years ago).

    As for the Russian post-Soviet apartments, it sounds like what Margaret Thatcher did in the 1980s (all part of privatisation): selling off local-council owned flats & houses very cheaply to the tenants. The advantages included a) putting more people on the property ladder, the new owners subsequently made huge profits reselling and b) Mrs T. thought the whole country might become more neat & tidy, since house owners show pride of ownership whereas renters have no investment and just let their places grow tattier. The disadvantage is that the poorest families now had nowhere to live because the council had sold off its housing stock. This completed a philanthropic circle started during and because of the Industrial Revolution, c.1800 with almshouses and the workhouse (and with later contributions by Quaker philanthropy (eg. Bournville), Fourier’s phalanstère, the Peabody Trust, Ginzburg’s Narkomfin Building (for the section) and le Corbusier’s Marseille block).

  35. Stu Clayton says:

    It’s real wonder how every reform in Russia, even housing privatization, always turns into another kolkhoz.

    Communism !

  36. AJP Crown says:

    SF: the buildings became joint property of the apartment owners. They manage it together and share the costs of upkeep. It’s real wonder how every reform in Russia, even housing privatization, always turns into another kolkhoz.

    But that’s no different from housing coops in New York: say, The Dakota or any of the really expensive apartment buildings on Park Avenue. Perhaps with the difference that they usually employ managing agents to do the busywork.

  37. Stu Clayton says:

    Park Avenue Communism.

  38. housing coops in New York

    I imagine in San Francisco they call them communes

  39. AJP Crown says:

    Yes, I found it a confusing name when I moved there. Though not as peculiar as condominium, or condom for short.

  40. David Marjanović says:

    Nobel is not always shared with key contributors:

    In Franklin’s case, there’s the complicating factor that she was dead.

    or condom for short

    Alas, the term is condo.

  41. AJP Crown says:

    You can ask you friends if they’re wearing a condo, if you like. I shall stick with condom.

  42. PlasticPaddy says:

    @dm
    Only 2 “posthumous” Nobel prizes have been awarded (Literature and Peace). So there was a vague precedent, but not for Science. I do not believe anyone tried in Franklin’s case.

  43. @PlasticPaddy, Stu Clayton: My opinion about what Ramsey’s Nobel was “really” for is based on the collective understanding of the people around the Harvard-MIT atomic physics community, which was basically all made up of Ramsey’s intellectual descendants.

    Sometimes people unfairly get screwed out of Nobel Prizes. Historically, that had especially been a problem for women. Lise Meitner did not share the prize for codiscovering nuclear fission, for essentially no reason except that she was female. (She was not recruited for the Manhattan Project either.) Jocelyn Bell Burnell was actively badmouthed by her thesis advisor, Anthony Hewish (who usurped credit for the discovery of the first pulsar, after having refused to believe in it initially), and the extent of her contribution to the discovery was not so widely known when the prize was awarded only seven years later. Now, however, she is one of the world’s most respected radio astronomers, while Hewish is broadly reviled by much of the scientific community.

    Rosalind Franklin’s accomplishments were also underappreciated since she was a woman, and she certainly deserved a Nobel Prize more than Maurice Wilkins for the crystallography of DNA. Perhaps, had it come to it, she would have been rooked out of a share of the 1962 Nobel Prize anyway, but the question never arose. Sadly, she had died of cancer in 1958, only thirty-seven years old. (There has been one posthumous Nobel Prize in the sciences, given to the immunologist Ralph Steinmann, who had died, unknown to the Nobel committee, a few days before the 2011 prize was announced.)

    Kleppner would not have suffered from sexism or youthful obscurity. By 1989, he was a major figure in atomic physics himself. Had the hydrogen maser work been important enough on its own, he would have shared the prize (although that would have meant not awarding it to Ramsey and Kleppner the same year that Dehmelt and Paul got it for ion trapping, since the number of recipients is limited to three).

  44. PlasticPaddy says:

    @brett
    Thank you for the informative answer. I did not mean to imply you were accepting a “line”, only that without the extra information, the argument was less convincing.

  45. Stu Clayton says:

    @Brett: My opinion about what Ramsey’s Nobel was “really” for is based on the collective understanding of the people around the Harvard-MIT atomic physics community, which was basically all made up of Ramsey’s intellectual descendants.

    Collective understanding was also responsible for the exclusion of women from science, business etc. Collective understandings shift around over time, and are very slow-moving. Witness the badmouthing by Hewish, which the CU sucked up for years until it didn’t any more.

    It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that even the members of the Harvard-MIT atomic physics community may be only human.

    It was not the case of Ramsey especially that prompted my animadversions on “really”. I could add “truly”, “essentially” and “actually”, for reasons that should be obvious. They used to call this kind of thing Whig history.

    When one is not accustomed to doing the best one can, it is a bit difficult to set out arguments without CAPS and other more sneaky kinds of insistence, such as appeals to common sense and progress. I remember at one point being struck by the realization that Sloterdijk (not a giant of thought) never uses standard dichotomies like “objective/subjective”. Luhmann (a g. of t.) never once uses “wirklich”, over ten thousands of pages.

  46. John Cowan says:

    But that’s no different from housing coops in New York: say, The Dakota or any of the really expensive apartment buildings on Park Avenue.

    I live in a coop myself, and I laugh to scorn the Dakotans, who own shares in one measly building, for I own shares in twenty-four buildings. This is not mere swank, but has a practical use: when negotiating with oil-delivery companies, for example, it is much better to say you represent 400 units (an overestimate; some of our buildings are heated with gas) than a mere 94 like the Dakota. Granted, granted, our buildings are five- and six-story brick old-law tenements (mine was originally commercial) rather than Renaissance Gothic Victorian Nightmare, and our celebs are more like Bill Rice (he lived downstairs from us) than like John Lennon.

  47. Hm, how does 1/T represent the ‘negative temperature’ situation more nicely?

  48. @eub: The inverse temperature 1/T (unlike T) is a monotonic function of hotness, even when the negative-temperature/population-inverted states are included. That means the Clausius formulation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, You can’t build a perfect refrigerator (more precisely, There is no thermodynamics process whose sole outcome is a transfer of heat from a system at greater 1/T to smaller 1/T) requires no special caveats.

  49. David Marjanović says:

    the wormhole, which is located within the same solar system Bajor is part of

    It did not occur to me that a wormhole would be in a solar system.

    We see a comet, evaporating wildly like it’s in an inner solar system, before we get to see any star; then the stars we do get to see are all in the background; then we’re shown the station, rather brightly lit from the side as usual in Star Trek, but still no evidence of a star; and then the wormhole right next to the station.

    (Also, the accretion disk is clearly located in air. Like that cloud the Voyager flies through.)

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