These Fragments I Have Shored.

I have a few envelopes stuffed with the “pocket papers” I used to carry around to jot down phone numbers, book titles, and other bits of information I didn’t want to lose, and every once in a while, in a fit of nostalgia, I go through them. The one I have before me is a call slip from Yale University Library (“Books must not be marked, annotated, or defaced in any way”), so it’s presumably from the 1970s, and on its back are scribbled a few items. The first is self-explanatory:

WWI: “If a sgt said, ‘Get your f-ng rifles,’ it was understood as a matter of routine. But if he said, ‘Get your rifles,’ there was an immed. implic. of urgency & danger.”
–Partridge

The second is more cryptic:

kwoy inam (ma) — mild piece of chaffing
kwoy lumata (sis) — very serious
kwoy um’ kwava (wife) — Mal only heard twice; learned of its exist. only after had been long in Trob’s

This turns out to be from Ashley Montagu’s The Anatomy of Swearing (as you can see, I’ve been interested in the topic for a long time); you can read the very instructive passage at Google Books (page 323). And the third is the amusing sentence “If I had a son who was an idiot I would make him a parson”; this turns out to be an anecdote about “that witty clergyman, Sydney Smith,” whose “quick rejoinder” was “Your father was of a different opinion.” Once again, I say thank heavens for the internet!

Comments

  1. “If I had a son who was an idiot I would make him a parson.” “Your father was of a different opinion.”

    This reminds me of Churchill’s famous:

    “If I were your wife I would put poison in your coffee.” “Nancy, if I were your husband I would drink it.”

    Except that Churchill apparently didn’t say that.

  2. Geoffrey Hill discusses the Partridge quot. in his Wolfson lecture, “Poetry and War”. Podcast here: https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/war-and-civilization-series-lecture-2-war-and-poetry
    The first mention starts around 14:25 and it comes back later.

  3. David Marjanović says:

    Except that Churchill apparently didn’t say that.

    But then, the Torygraph would say that he didn’t say that, wouldn’t they.

  4. Tallulah Bankhead to George Bernard Shaw: “You and I ought to get married, Mr. Shaw! Just imagine, a child with your brains and my beauty!”

    Shaw: “But, my dear, what if the child should have your brains and my beauty?”

  5. I heard it about someone else, not Bankhead. Bankhead was the man-eater stereotype, not the ditz stereotype. The story is probably a legend anyway.

  6. Agree it’s pretty implausible with Bankhead, who was famous for her intelligence and wit (and instability, not that that’s relevant). I’ve heard it featuring Isadora Duncan, which is almost as unbelievable.

    The definitive collection of authentic Churchill witticisms, from the National Lampoon in its great years, is here.

  7. Correction: Shaw later claimed the quote, after all. But the woman wasn’t Duncan.

  8. The Partridge quote also appears in Mencken’s _American Language_.

  9. I’ve seen the “brains and beauty” quote being attributed to Einstein and Marilyn Monroe (or Einstein and some unnamed socialite). Probably every generation picks examples who are iconic to that generation. It would be nice to know how many sayings of wise men and religious figures (Confucius, Jesus, the Buddha) quoted in the holy books are actually misapproriated quotes from other persons…

  10. I was misremembering in any case. It’s definitely Duncan who it definitely wasn’t, not Tallulah.

  11. David Marjanović says:

    It would be nice to know how many sayings of wise men and religious figures (Confucius, Jesus, the Buddha) quoted in the holy books are actually misapproriated quotes from other persons…

    Some Jesus quotes are straight from the Old Testament.

  12. Well yes, of course. And I wouldn’t be astonished to find that Buddha quoted (or is reported as quoting) some stuff from the Vedas vel sim. But these quotes are there for legitimization, and are expected to be recognized, while I’m thinking of stuff that was actually said by (making the name up) Rabbi Elias from Askalon, whose existence people simply forgot. 😉

  13. Hans, I see what you did there with “vel sim.”, which I didn’t know. I have a sense that I have often written etc when I meant that.

  14. Oh, I thought you of all Hatters would have come across that abbreviation before, as you seem to read a lot of German academic output. The German Geisteswissenschaftler still love to flaunt their Latinisms, after all… 😉

  15. It’s not that all Hatters would have come across any given fact before, it’s that many of us feel embarrassed about not having come across it before. “Dammit, how did I not know that?” could be the site motto.

  16. Which is silly. “The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.”

  17. J. W. Brewer says:

    I think occasions where the distinction between “vel sim.” and “et al.” and/or “etc.” is sufficiently important that it needs to be precisely drawn are rare. If *I* were going to be pretentious in this area I would use non-Latinate Teutonic abbreviations, although the only two I can recall offhand are “usw.” (= “etc.”) and “z.B.” (= “e.g.”). There must be others.

  18. Don’t forget the ubiquitous, and irritating, bzw (= beziehungsweise)!

  19. “Bzw.” isn’t a problem in itself, it’s when germanophones use “resp.” as if it were an exact English equivalent, whereas in fact we don’t abbreviate “respectively” and it appears after both alternatives rather than between them.

  20. David Marjanović says:

    Oh, I thought you of all Hatters would have come across that abbreviation before, as you seem to read a lot of German academic output. The German Geisteswissenschaftler still love to flaunt their Latinisms, after all… 😉

    I can’t remember having encountered vel sim. in German. It’s always o. ä..

    whereas in fact we don’t abbreviate “respectively” and it appears after both alternatives rather than between them

    And it hardly ever appears at all, while the German version is used at every opportunity! It’s sort of the reverse situation of whatever.

  21. Well, there really is no alternative when you need it: “Bob and Dave kissed Alice and Eve respectively”, where omitting it would (at least when out of context) suggest four kisses rather than two. There is also, however, a pointless use: “Alice and Bob went to their respective seats”, where the fact that Alice goes to Alice’s seat and Bob to Bob’s is hardly worth mentioning. If they swapped seats, one might say so, but the writer can take for granted what any reader would take for granted.

  22. I use vel sim. in English. Or, at least, I’d like to; mostly I refrain from using it because I don’t think it would be understood. So I was quite happy to encounter it in Hans’s post above.

  23. I can’t remember having encountered vel sim. in German. It’s always o. ä..
    Obviously, we’re reading different kinds of academic output. I guess it’s used more frequently in the philiological literature from the 19th to mid 20th century that I’ve been reading for my Indo-European studies (I don’t know, are there many other fields besides IEan studies where monographs and articles from the 19th century are still quoted on a a regular basis?) than in the natural sciences.

  24. “Have you never considered divorce?”
    “Divorce? Never. But murder, often.”

    Lady Maclean, reporting in her memoirs a remark by her husband, diplomat and author Fitzroy Maclean, with whom she had regular and public arguments.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3577302/I-wish-you-could-think-of-grown-up-sins.html

  25. David Marjanović says:

    I don’t know, are there many other fields besides IEan studies where monographs and articles from the 19th century are still quoted on a a regular basis?

    It occurs that the only description of the anatomy of some animal (extant or extinct) is in a German work from the late 19th or early 20th century. For my latest paper I had to make intensive use of a monograph from 1928 and less intensive use of a monograph from 1877, because almost all neontologists only ever describe newts from the outside and ignore the skeleton.

    But it’s not like in IEistics where most of the seminal and/or largest works are neither in English nor, in their bulk, outdated. In my next manuscript I’ve had to use several German papers from the 1970s and 80s, but the number of English references is probably over 100. There are two Russian ones (four if you count official English translations) and something like two French ones. All the really old ones (1867 – 1920s or so) are in English, IIRC.

    In short, I’ve read rather little German academic output. And I’m not surprised that philologists would use more Latinisms than everyone else.

  26. Thank heavens for the Internet, indeed. Sorry to wander further away from the topic, but in googling the Maclean book noted above, I was served a charming thumbnail description:

    https://books.google.com/books/about/Past_Forgetting.html?id=jvOHHAAACAAJ&hl=en

    When I googled the first line of that description, I got a few more:

    https://www.google.com/#q=%22This+work+is+aimed+at+professional+Project+Managers%2C+Engineers+and+Planners+who+require+a+text+which+is+short%2C+concise+and+easy+to+follow.%22

    Is there a name of this phenomenon?

  27. I discovered vel sim. perhaps a year ago after feeling the need for it, quite likely on this very blog, which is one of the few places I don’t think it necessary to restrict my vocabulary. I had written etc., and I thought, That’s not right, I need the or-based equivalent. So I googled a bit, landed on vel sim., and used it on the spot.

  28. Sorry to wander further away from the topic, but in googling the Maclean book noted above, I was served a charming thumbnail description

    No need to apologize, and that is indeed an odd phenomenon!

  29. Fitzroy Maclean! Now there’s a name I haven’t seen in oh-so-many years! I first learned of him as the author of “Back to Bokhara,” a paperback published in the 1950s.

  30. I have Eastern Approaches, A Person From England, and Portrait of the Soviet Union.

Speak Your Mind

*