WHATMOUGH AND THE VALUE OF PHILOLOGY.

A visit to Language Log (where there is a lively discussion going on about the bad metadata at Google Books, in which an actual Google honcho has joined) landed me at Mark Liberman’s Joshua Whatmough and the donkey, which sent me to Steve Cotler’s Prof. Joshua Whatmough — Linguistics 120, a lively reminiscence of a hapless Harvard chemistry major in 1962 plunged into the dark and turbulent waters of Whatmough’s course on Comparative and Historical Indo-European Languages, where he found himself sadly out of his depth (“I could not even read question 1, which included words written in a character set that I had never seen before”), and Cotler in turn directed me to William Harris’s A Requiem for Philology, which is primarily what the title suggests, giving a history of the specialty that “reigned unchallenged for a hundred years as Comparative Philology, or under a more modern name as Historical Linguistics,” but which uses as its primary exemplum the selfsame Whatmough, citing an examination paper from 1947-8 that presents a barrage of detailed questions about Osco-Umbrian (“Translate the following passages, assign each to its locality and dialect, give its approximate date, indicate the character of the object, and write brief notes on matters of linguistic interest. 1) puponehe.x.orakoh.e. kupethari.s; 2) metelui maesilaui uenia metelikna asmina krasikna…”) that would have made me quail back when I was most immersed in such things; Harris asks “what kind of a teacher, working with students in what kind of a class, would be writing such an examination?” and goes on to describe the value of what the Germans used to call statarische Lektüre, in which a small quantity of text is read thoroughly (opposed to kursorische Lektüre, which scanted the details to emphasize historical context and aesthetic impact). I particularly like this eloquent paragraph:

First, the careful reading of obscure and at times inscrutable texts, done word by word and hour by hour, gives the kind of close-reading technique which is absolutely needed if one is going to read an ancient Classical author. We have learned to skim-read the vast and exponentially expanding written materials which our society has collected, especially now in the days of the Internet. We are expert at getting the ideas out of written texts while we discard the actual words, their forms, sounds and arrangements as the disposable chaff. But it is in this chaff that the art and artistry of the writing lies, that is the matrix for support of the meaning, and meaning is not complete or significant without the matrix. The slow reading craft of linguistic philology gives us the capacity to pore deeply on a text. Unless you have pored with care you are not authentic, you are not reading in the tradition in which Plato or Vergil wrote. Philology, without saying so, confers on modern readers that requisite degree of intense concentration.

Unfortunately, he rather spoils the effect by going on to say “Reaching a focused state of ‘close reading’ takes time, effort and imagination, but that is the way you have to read a classical author. If not thus, don’t read it at all.” But elitism is always a danger for those who take the difficult path, and better there should be a few elitists seeking for hard-won truths in a world of happy skimmers.
Incidentally, in an Addendum at the very end of the (long) page, Harris writes:

It was in 1955 when Whatmough was at Berkeley under the Sather Fellowship, that I came over from my office at Stanford to see him and hear his Sather Lecture on Latin Poetry. After the lecture we walked around a bit, until he inquired where the Mens Ro[o]m was, adding as he read the letters MEN over the door “unde omnes cogimur”. You would have to know your Horace well to get the full sense of this capped quotation.

I assume he’s referring to Odes II.iii, the last stanza of which begins “omnes eodem cogimur” ‘we shall all be herded/driven there [to Orcus, i.e., death],’ Whatmough’s variant with “unde” meaning ‘whence we are all herded/driven,’ but I suspect I am missing “the full sense of this capped quotation,” since all I get is a banal image of a crowd of people leaving a men’s room. And I don’t even know what a “capped quotation” is. Eheu!

Comments

  1. “Philology is about reconstructing what’s been lost through time: bringing dead languages back to life, figuring out the secrets of old manuscripts, and piecing together the legends and myths of our ancestors. Philologists are archeologists of the word, excavating layer after layer of culture beneath the phonetic and graphic forms of a text. Never satisfied with the text as it is, philologists long to figure out what the text might have said, or must have said, before it somehow got changed. Before a monk nodded off in the scriptorium and lost a sentence or two from the text he was copying by dictation. Before a Christian scribe took a pagan poem and reworked it to reflect the Church’s values. Before a page of vellum parchment was scraped clean and written over with a completely different text. What got scraped away interests the philologists more than what remains.”
    Michael Babcock, “The Night Attila Died”, p. 2.

  2. to cap a quotation: to follow with another that is equivalent or better than; match

  3. to cap a quotation: to follow with another that is equivalent or better than; match

  4. J.W. Brewer says:

    I would say that an unexamined axiom of the post-philological linguistics business for the last, say, five decades and perhaps longer, is that the interestingness of a particular language for purposes of historical/comparative/typological scholarship has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the interestingness (from a cultural/literary/historical) standpoint of the extant texts composed in that language. One expression of this axiom, or at least a closely related one, is something like “there’s no such thing as a primitive language”: leaving aside questions about pidgins/creoles, it is certainly noteworthy that indigenous languges in Australia or New Guinea spoken by effectively stone-age societies may draw subtle conceptual distinctions in their nominal or verbal morphology that make Attic Greek look “primitive” in that dimension. But the question “ok, interesting stuff about ergativity but what’s the Dyirbal equivalent to the Rig Veda” then becomes either rude and un-PC or simply irrelevant to the perceived purposes of linguistics scholarship.
    But this was already happening in the old-style philological work on IE languages by the time one got to the point of doing an entire course on Oscan-Umbrian and trying to figure out whether there was an Illyrian/Albanian connection. Maybe there there’s a shadow of an argument that understanding O-U will help illuminate various otherwise undetectable nuances of a culturally/aesthetically significant Latin text. But how about Tokharian? Or even Hittite? Is there anything in the extant corpus of Hittite texts that a well-educated modern person ought to be encouraged to read in English translation because of its cultural/aesthetic/historical significance, the way one might read in translation the Vedas or the Zend-Avesta or various works composed in Old Norse or Old Irish?

  5. Vance Maverick says:

    The sense of capping I know, for a quotation, is to complete it — one speaker offers a fragment, the other adds another part, and both bask in the satisfaction. Characters in Barbara Pym seem to do this a lot. A quotation by itself can’t really be capped in this sense.

  6. J.W. Brewer: I’m not clear on your point. The question “ok, interesting stuff about ergativity but what’s the Dyirbal equivalent to the Rig Veda” is simply irrelevant to the purposes (not “perceived”) of linguistic scholarship. That’s like asking a chemist investigating alcohol “but will your test tube ever taste like a ’47 Margaux?” You are getting tangled up in irrelevant comparisons. If you want to read the Rig Veda, by all means read the Rig Veda, and study Sanskrit so you can read it in the original, but what does that have to do with Dyirbal? Color me confused.

  7. AJP: Yes, I’m familiar with that sense, but as Vance points out, there has to be a contest in which one quotation caps another. Alluding to a verse of Horace does not cap anything that I can see.

  8. I’m familiar with that sense,
    More than I was.

  9. I’m familiar with that sense,
    More than I was.

  10. J.W. Brewer says:

    Hat, the point was that the older sense of philology as illustrated by the “eloquent paragraph” you block-quoted seems to have included the notion that one of the express purposes of the scholarship being done by the philologists was to assist in the close reading of texts and authors thought to be inherently worth reading based on aesthetic/cultural/historical criteria. That we are in agreement that that is *not* a goal of modern linguistic scholarship helps illustrate the way in which that is a different enterprise (without necessarily saying better or worse) from its distinguished predecessor.

  11. Vance Maverick says:

    Capping that quotation, we might extend it to Omnes eodem cogimur, omnium uersata urna serius ocius sors exitura, glossed as “We’re all driven to the same end, sooner or later our ticket will come out of the upturned jar”. Perhaps not a ticket, but otherwise possibly appropriate.

  12. A jokey word for toilet in German is Orkus. Another one is Lokus

  13. J.W.: OK, I think I see what you’re saying, but your initial comment still seems to imply that there’s something wrong with the current approach; how else can I parse “But the question ‘ok, interesting stuff about ergativity but what’s the Dyirbal equivalent to the Rig Veda’ then becomes either rude and un-PC or simply irrelevant to the perceived purposes of linguistics scholarship”? That seems to me like complaining that the chemist won’t deal with your concern about the ’47 Margaux.

  14. “Capping quotations” is a game: the two players utter famous quotations in alternation, under the constraint that the last word of each quotation is the first word of the next. It has been played in different languages, including the classical languages, all through Europe. That said, I don’t get Whatmough’s reference either.
    Then there was the clothing-store owner with a little learning who wrote “Mens sana in corpore sano” over his storefront. His competitor down the street, a man of small Latine, capped this (as it were) with “Mens womens and childrens sana in corpore sano”.
    Close reading may be dead as a post in academe, but it lives on in the posts of the blogosphere, where the tradition is undergoing a lively revival (usually, but not always, for political purposes).

  15. Vance Maverick says:

    John, the definition you link to disagrees with your gloss on it. (Word vs. letter.) More generally, I think we can say that “capping quotations” can mean several things, all of which leave us scratching our heads in this case. (Though I think my suggestion has a certain possibility.)

  16. That’s a very New York joke, John.

  17. That’s a very New York joke, John.

  18. Trond Engen says:

    Maybe the author simply misremembered his Horace.
    (And maybe you simply didn’t want to suggest it so bluntly.)

  19. “Hat, the point was that the older sense of philology as illustrated by the “eloquent paragraph” you block-quoted seems to have included the notion that one of the express purposes of the scholarship being done by the philologists was to assist in the close reading of texts and authors thought to be inherently worth reading based on aesthetic/cultural/historical criteria.”
    And here I always thought the point of philogy was to geta complete picture of the state of a particular language, or to pin-point the exact menaing of a word in that language, and the cultural or aesthetic merit of the text had nothing to do with it. People spent as much time on inscriptions on Zhou bronzes, if not more, or on those god-damned bones, than on anything in the Shi Jing or Gu Shi Shi Jiu Shou.

  20. Hmm, I keep casting about for a lectio dificilior for “capped.” It seems almost certainly a misprint or a misprision. The quotation hasn’t been capped, not in any sense I know of. Its dignity has been offended, by being applied to needing to pee, and you could sort of see that as “capping” it — getting the better of it — but I still think it’s just a typo of some kind.

  21. J.W. Brewer says:

    Hat, my phrasing was probably suboptimal. But to play out your analogy, there ought to be someone out there whose research involves figuring out how any cutting-edge insights being made by chemists might be used to improve the human condition by improving the quality of wine. Whether that someone is located in the Chemistry department, a department of Oenology over at the Ag School, or some other place on the organizational chart is of secondary importance. So a potential concern (which may be misplaced – it’s an empirical question) is that if people in the linguistics business proper don’t think its their place to provide insights that may improve the close reading of significant texts there may not be anyone (or at least sufficient someones) out there elsewhere in the academy with appropriate competence or interest in bringing linguistics/philology-type scholarship to bear for that purpose.
    Of course over in the English departments there was a style of “close reading” which was in vogue several generations ago back in the days of Empson across the water and the “New Critics” here in the States. I think it’s since declined, but perhaps for reasons separate from the roughly contemporaneous decline of “philology” (in the sense described above) as such. (I guess they’re still the “New” Critics lo these many decades later? — the one time I met and tried to make small talk with Cleanth Brooks he was around 80 years old and that was more than 20 years ago.)

  22. He explains what he means here:
    http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris/harvard.html
    It’s hard to believe that he thought unde means “where to”.

  23. What is the significance of Mens Ro[o]m?

  24. From Gary’s link:
    Some classical jokester had persuaded the owner to put up over the door to the toilet a quote from Horace: UNDE OMNES COGIMUR meaning “where we all have to go”, in this case to the toilet, not the post mortem realms of the underworld.
    If that’s what Whatmough was doing, I’m gravely disappointed in both his wit and his Latinity. On the other hand, it’s possible Harris changed the source from the “classical jokester” to Whatmough to liven up his reminiscence.
    What is the significance of Mens Ro[o]m?
    Harris has “Mens Rom” on his page and I pedantically added the missing vowel. I didn’t go so far as to make it “Men[']s Ro[o]m,” though.

  25. We all have go to the toilet, AND we all have to go to Orcus. As I pointed out above, Orkus is a German joke-word for toilet. I can easily imagine that originating as a German Verbindung student’s take on unde omnes cogimur. Teutonic frat boys were learned chaps.

  26. I think the likeliest hypothesis is that Harris messed up/misremembered the quotation. Unde omnes cogimur means ‘the place we are all forced to leave.” and makes no sense in the Men’s room context. It also doesn’t occur anywhere in Horace.
    The correct quotation, which LH posted earlier, omnes eoodem cogimur means the “the place we are forced to go to” and makes sense in Horace, where it refers to death as LH says, and in the Men’s Room.
    I’m sure Harris remembered the joke from his days at Harvard and inserted it into a suitable context whenever the chance arose. Whatmough is just as much his victim as Horace.
    Stu: It’s perfect possible that the same very obvious joke went the rounds of German universities. But I betcha the Burschen would have quoted it correctly, or been corrected by their fellows.
    Harris’ tragedy is that he outlived the people who would have helped him fix his quote.

  27. Gary: my mistake, my small Latin.

  28. Bill Walderman says:

    Whatmough must have said “quo omnes cogimur,” paraphrasing Horace.

  29. Yes, I think Gary and Bill have it: that’s the only explanation that makes sense. I thank you both on behalf of Whatmough for removing the onus of the botched joke/quotation from him and placing it squarely on Harris where it belongs.

  30. I must admit I’m pleased to see the pompous perpetrator of “that is the way you have to read a classical author. If not thus, don’t read it at all” come a cropper in that particular fashion.

  31. I developed a whole theory of western civilization based on philology an rhetoric. At my URL.

  32. “unde” isn’t that difficult.
    I thought Whatmough was capping Horace himself, “Orcus” having become ‘the bowel’ (not the bathroom) and “we” being ‘food’ (not people).
    Or, of course, he could have been punning on different meanings of the English word “go”.

  33. I’d like to point out something about Prof. Harris’s interesting ‘Requiem for Philology?’.
    Harris worries today that:
    “If an eminent scholar demonstrates to a college class a series of [cognate words in Indo-European languages] and derives subtle distinctions and shadings from their comparison, a class of modern students will have no idea what he is talking about.”
    A common enough lament, but listen to Harris talking about his own undergraduate exposure to Whatmough decades ago:
    “There was little explanation of what [the linguistic data rapidly being written on the blackboard] all meant and how it was to be understood[,] as in an introductory course. Some of his students started and ended in confusion[;] those who survived ended with monumental piles of notes with no evident organizational scheme.”
    The interaction during one lesson between Prof. Nagy and Prof. Harris’s students doesn’t sound like it generated “confusion” much different from that generated over a term between Prof. Whatmough and Undergrad. Harris himself!
    What might have changed is that college kids of today are more likely- a LOT more- to complain about a professionalism opaque to them- and they should indeed be brought up sharply on this limitation to their perspectives. But I think Harris doesn’t remember clearly how much like the shoes on their feet pinch pinched those on his own in his salad days.

  34. Good point, but:
    college kids of today are more likely- a LOT more- to complain about a professionalism opaque to them- and they should indeed be brought up sharply on this limitation to their perspectives
    My understanding (and this is entirely thirdhand, so I welcome correction from those more closely in touch with the situation) is that college kids of today are obsessed with the idea that they are paying for their professors to provide a service and have a tremendous sense of entitlement, so that it would be a difficult matter for them to be “brought up sharply” about anything.

  35. I didn’t go so far as to make it “Men[']s Ro[o]m,” though.
    But I thought that the Women’s Room had only [o] while the Men’s Room had ['] as well …

  36. Well, language hat, college students ARE spoiled and feel entitled and bogart grievance like a nipple.
    But I’ve seen professors, confronted not by 400 owls in an auditorium, but rather with one grumble at a time, clarify gently-but-firmly (emphasis on the latter) that both the scope of the difficulty of some particular field (Indo-European philology, say) and the eventuality of that material becoming familiar to patient, clever students might be, temporarily, beyond the perspective of panicky, grade-grubbing careerists.
    Sharp, but fair, and effective.
    (People who don’t have power always turn to complaint to get some, if that rhetoric is available, and intellectual maturity is tied to the process of social maturation, even though alerting the mind seems like much more of a throw-the-switch event.
    But don’t worry!– the kids are still alright.)

  37. bogart grievance like a nipple
    What’s that? I thought nipples welcomed abuse. Even their pouting is a come-on. Is it that they don’t like being intellectually challenged?

  38. college students ARE spoiled and feel entitled
    American college students.

  39. college students ARE spoiled and feel entitled
    American college students.

  40. I feel underspoiled, and yet entitled to things I can’t get my hands on. Would this qualify me for a late American education?

  41. Thanks, deadgod, that’s a reassuring perspective.
    American college students.
    Yeah, sorry, I should have qualified that.

  42. Some nipples do ‘welcome abuse’, though “abuse” isn’t what ‘bogarting’- which indicates greed, not violence- would do. And most bratty students I’ve known (and been) desired ‘intellectual challenge’.
    As I suggest, learning how to be a student- that is, intellectual maturation- is a process, with befores and durings (not, that I’ve seen, afters). I think that, from the example of himself that Prof. Harris tells and shows, the key to not screwing up young people would be, on their parts and their elders, well-directed patience.
    I, too, feel underspoiled, which, I’m guessing, is often enough a characteristic OF being actually spoiled to be a condition or sufficient enabler FOR it.

    I noticed, over ten years of residence there, that European teenagers and university students take for granted the comforts and luxuries they enjoy every bit as gracelessly as American students do, with the added self-congratulatory pleasure of license to blame robotically everything in the world they smugly condemn on something they unintelligently call “America”.

    language hat, a hundred years ago, what percent of the people on either side of the North Atlantic (briefly to be ethnocentric) knew much about, say, the genus of Indo-European languages, or the physics of Maxwell or the biology of Darwin?
    Sure, with mass literacy, technologically marvelous information portability, and so much leisure, one might have expected more progress (towards . . .?) and less antic and dunderheaded conservatism of superstition and careless destructiveness. But, excepting irreversible and irreparable environmental catastrophe, I don’t see a uniquely Dark age ahead– in, for example, only borderline-literate high school “graduates”.
    Of course, I could be anaesthetized by proximity (or just dumb) and not realize how abysmally precipitous we are -

  43. with the added self-congratulatory pleasure of license to blame robotically everything in the world they smugly condemn on something they unintelligently call “America”
    Not only is the student world bigger than America, it’s bigger than America AND Europe. Really. There are students in, well, you name it: China, Iran, India, Cuba, Brazil, Sri Lanka… Amazingly, they aren’t all spoiled and they don’t necessarily feel entitled to anything. And if you don’t accept The United States of America being called “America” then you’re even more naive than you already appear. Oh, and do everyone a favor: don’t be a chauvinist, it’s really, really boring to have to argue with someone on that level.

  44. with the added self-congratulatory pleasure of license to blame robotically everything in the world they smugly condemn on something they unintelligently call “America”
    Not only is the student world bigger than America, it’s bigger than America AND Europe. Really. There are students in, well, you name it: China, Iran, India, Cuba, Brazil, Sri Lanka… Amazingly, they aren’t all spoiled and they don’t necessarily feel entitled to anything. And if you don’t accept The United States of America being called “America” then you’re even more naive than you already appear. Oh, and do everyone a favor: don’t be a chauvinist, it’s really, really boring to have to argue with someone on that level.

  45. Come, come, I think deadgod is being quite civil, and it can also be boring to argue with people who play “gotcha” every time you thoughtlessly forget to include Sri Lanka in whatever statement you’re making.

  46. Deaddog’s not civil, she called me unintelligent.

  47. Deaddog’s not civil, she called me unintelligent.

  48. Crown: I myself found that particular sentence with “… unintelligently call America” so pouchy-eyed as rather to discourage umbrage than excite it. One has one’s standards. Think “My Last Duchess”. Anyway, I don’t believe anyone special was meant.

  49. My comments about “teenagers and university students” were expressly limited to the two continents on which I’ve had professional contact with such people, and I trusted that such signposting would be taken in the spirit of limiting oneself to direct, ‘personal’ experience, without excluding OR including a long list of other places where other people enjoy the privilege of education with or without confusing that privilege with virtue. (I’ve lived on two other continents.) I DID call the US “America” without complaint!, and I said “briefly” so as NOT to be a “chauvinist”!. Low marks, Miss Crown, for reading comprehension.
    But I don’t mind being uncivil!

    Miss Crown (excellent blogonym for pageant work), it was YOU who limited ‘spoiled college students’ to those in America, which I call “not civil”. The universities of “China, Iran, India, Cuba, Brazil, Sri Lanka” are reputed to tutor only parts of their (in four cases, quite large) populations; what evidence do you have– I mean, first-hand evidence– that the secondary and tertiary students of those nations are less inclined to mistake their advantages in life for just desserts than are American and European students?
    Do you have anything to say, other than hipoisie cant, about Prof. Harris’s dismay at (I think) American students’ lack of preparation, and poor perspective of that lack, to study classical languages / philology?
    Do you have anything to say, other than a definition of ‘capping’, about Prof. Whatmough’s Horatianism? Here, I’ll repeat my idea, and you can have at it:
    “unde omnes cogimur”: ‘from where we are all crowded/forced’.
    To credit Whatmough with having used “from where” accurately and Harris with knowing what he heard: “We” meaning, not ‘dead people’, but rather the contents of his colon/bladder; Orcus being, not Hades (more or less), but rather the pockets and tubes of digestion. (He’s quoting his ‘guts’.) Whatmough, in this reading, isn’t topping Horace with contradiction or mockery; he’s ‘capping’ in the sense of extension along a humorously bent seam.
    ‘dead dog’, ‘dead wrong’, ‘dead in the water’- come on, now, Miss Crown– you can do your swimsuit proudly and fail better than that! I mean, “really, really” better.

    language hat (and Grumpy Stu, if your “standards”- nowhere on this thread yet in evidence- can survive chatting with a botched facelift), what do you think of the possibility that Whatmough’s remark is intelligible- even witty- as reported?

  50. Sorry, dead. You’re not worth bothering with.

  51. Sorry, dead. You’re not worth bothering with.

  52. Gary, I’d like to look again at that site you send us to (‘Going to Harvard: Class of ’46′) without causing offense– when I wrote “something they unintelligently call ‘America’”, “they” referring to “European teenagers and university students”, “they” didn’t include “Gary”, any more than was the reference itself of “‘America’” being criticized.
    -
    That ‘chapter’ at Prof. Harris’s site is fiction, right? That is, it’s an account of “William Miller”‘s first year at Harvard.
    You suggest that:
    “Harris remembered the joke from his days at Harvard and inserted in into a suitable context whenever the chance arose.”
    Perhaps the reminiscence appended to ‘Requiem for Philology?’, a memory from ’55, was an actual memory, and it was Whatmough’s (real) joke that Harris backdated (a bit illiterately?) into his sepia ice-cream-parlor-in-freshman-year evocation.

    language hat, the reason I’m struggling so deaddoggedly simultaneously to bail out Harris’s memory and Whatmough’s Latin is that my experience with such people is that they’re pretty good at meaning what they say.
    Gary’s surmise- that “Whatmough is just as much [Harris's] victim as Horace”, and as Harris himself!- IS a fair and usefully straightforward way to attach clay feet to an absent mind.
    Anyway, thanks for the space quo to lucubrate on such vital textual matters.

  53. “Sorry[.]”
    –Top marks for personality, Miss Crown!
    [cf. "To cap verses: to reply to one previously quoted with another, that begins with the final or initial letter of the first, or that rimes or otherwise corresponds with it."]

  54. But I don’t mind being uncivil!
    That is remarkably similar to the oft-repeated signature tune of a turbulent occasional contributor to this site: “If anyone chooses to be offended, it’s fine with me.” I wonder now …

  55. No, Grumbly Clouseau; first-time commenter.
    “[R]emarkably similar”? That would be down to small Englishe.
    Your first, least wild, guess was correct; the “pouchy-eyed” comment was directed at spoiled European students who blame everything on a notional ‘America’- indeed, not at “anyone special”.
    The Germanized teen-classicist humor of “Orkus” and “Lokus” (Lat. ‘hearth’) is good; is ‘der Orkan’ also punned in? (Or are you here for ‘turbulence’ and NOT conversation?)

  56. We are at peace then, O first-time commenter!
    <* proffers FDA-approved pipe *>
    Orkan is not in the punning with Orkus, I think. But it just occurs to me that the nether world, high winds and flatulence suggest each other, is it not?
    “Pouchy-eyed”, by the way, was intended only to suggest lack of sleep, and a concomitant bad mood.

  57. Morgenkåpe says:

    Wow. All this time I thought AJP Crown was a man! :S

  58. what do you think of the possibility that Whatmough’s remark is intelligible- even witty- as reported?
    I like it. I’m not jumping ship and embracing it, since there’s no way of knowing the truth of the matter, but I like the fact that there’s such an interpretation out there, providing some pleasing ambiguity.
    And thanks, everyone, for getting past the squall and passing the peace pipe! Yours truly has been known to be prickly, so he has no problem with prickliness in others, but he likes to see it melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew.

  59. My favorite motel in El Paso – seen when the family drove past, even before I knew what such motels were used for – was the Dew Drop Inn.

  60. DG: All this time I thought AJP Crown was a man!
    This is just sooo typical.

  61. DG: All this time I thought AJP Crown was a man!
    This is just sooo typical.

  62. Crown, it was bathrobe who wrote that, in their (sic) incarnation-of-the-moment as Morgenkåpe.

  63. Too many masks, too little schnapps.

  64. Or is it the other way round?

  65. DG = Dressing Gown = Bathrobe = Morgenkåpe
    My point is that if one is a woman, typically everyone assumes than one hasn’t been.

  66. DG = Dressing Gown = Bathrobe = Morgenkåpe
    My point is that if one is a woman, typically everyone assumes than one hasn’t been.

  67. Well, language hat, that “from where we are ‘squeezed’ [out]” is quoted from excreta crowded around the ‘out’ valve(s) is a reach maybe beyond the grasp of likelihood. Gary’s thought- that Harris’s reported “unde” is simply an error of hearing or of tired Latin- is probably the more rigorous solution. As you say, “no way of knowing”– unless the Perfessers left “the truth” scribbled and stuffed into a crocodile.

    “the nether world, high winds and flatulence suggest each other” was the idear of “der Orkan”: “Whoa, category 5, guys- I better catch you later–”. And not only in “the nether world”, but hot ‘air’ also condenses atmospherically in the Aristophanic sub-empyrean.
    As far as the Dew Drop Inn: did you never watch The Waltons?? Dew Drop Inn used to be a common tavern name, though now it sounds a bit corny. Are you sure that wasn’t a bar out in front of the No-tell Motel?
    Night, night, Uncle Grumpy.

  68. OK, plain old Bathrobe then says:

    No offence meant, old chap, I mean, Mrs Crown. I just thought I’d seen a photo of you at your blog in your male avatar. But then, maybe I didn’t…. :S

  69. Morgenkåpe says:

    Aha! Caught you signing as “A. J. P. Crown, (Mr)” at another thread! I don’t mind alternating between Bathrobe, Bademantel, Morgenkåpe, and 浴衣, but I draw the line at sexual ambiguity. What is the world coming to? Next we will have someone declaring that God is dead….

  70. I draw the line at sexual ambiguity
    It’s true that a taste for cricket and beer isn’t necessarily ruled out when one wears rubber and a pink nightie.

  71. I draw the line at sexual ambiguity
    It’s true that a taste for cricket and beer isn’t necessarily ruled out when one wears rubber and a pink nightie.

  72. did you never watch The Waltons??
    I did, and I hated it, because certain elements in my family used to call me “John Boy” due to a fancied resemblance.

  73. certain elements in my family used to call me “John Boy” due to a fancied resemblance
    That is a charming biographical tidbit. I wonder if you already regret mentioning it.

  74. No one here would ever call him John Boy just to tease him when we know he hates it.

  75. Don’t worry, any hypothetical resemblance vanished decades ago when I grew my luxuriant facial hair. Since then, it’s Lenin I’ve been compared to.

  76. Language Hat is not a very visual blog, John Boy.

  77. Language Hat is not a very visual blog, John Boy.

  78. But don’t worry!– the kids are still alright.
    That impression was confirmed for me last week when I met the six entering students to whom I had been assigned as freshman advisor. In every case I came away from our first conversation feeling that this kid is eager to learn, and without any sense that they think they already know everything they need to know about what there is to learn or how to go about it. (I won’t deny that some of them may also have an exaggerated sense of the world as one’s own oyster.)
    Admittedly this is a tiny sample and these were fairly superficial encounters, but it was a nice way to start the year.

  79. I’m glad to hear it.

  80. Epilogue to Gerard Clauson’s “Studies in Turkic and Mongolic Linguistics” (published 1962).
    AN OLD-FASHIONED LOOK AT LINGUISTS
    ….
    “When I was an undergraduate at Oxford before the First War, the science concerned with language was called “philology” and its practitioners “philologists.” “Linguists” were chaps who were rather good at talking two or three foreign languages, often because they were of mixed racial origin, useful to have about the place on a continental tour, but somehow faintly non-U. I think that this mild disdain for the linguists was largely due to the fact that they were so insensitive to the finer points of etymology as to describe themselves by a Latin word with a Greek suffix. We used to be rather particular about such things.
    “We were of course intolerant and a little unfair; however dubious its etymological ancestry, la linguistiqe was a recognized word on the Continent, even if the word “linguistics” had not established itself in this country, and some of the finest work ever done in that field was being done here, though under another name. Anyhow, time has now brought its revenges. Those halcyon days came to an abrupt stop; the First War and the need to earn a living diverted my interest into other channels, and it was only recently that I was able to return to my old love, only to find during my prolonged bathe in worldly affairs the linguists had succeeded in stealing nearly all the philologists’ clothes, and were busy occupied in getting the rest.

    “My own, perhaps unduly old-fashioned, view is that in recent years linguists have been getting altogether too uppity. It is bad enough in this country, but in the United States, that home of brinkmanship, they have recently been on, or even over, the brink of declaring that the philologists are a bunch of out-of-date, no-good old fogies struggling in vain against the healthy gusts of fresh air that are blowing the cobwebs out of the halls of learning.”
    Clauson suggests that philology and linguistics really are different, though closely related sciences. “The proper study of the philologist is the written word, and his particular concern the structure and history of languages, while the proper study of the linguist is speech and his particular concern the use of sound to convey meaning”.

  81. A reasonable distinction, but the retired-colonel air of the passage sets my teeth on edge, even though it’s obviously meant as self-parody. Anyway, an excellent find, and thanks for sharing it!

  82. marie-lucie says:

    philology versus linguistics:
    When I was a student of English at the Sorbonne (then the only university in Paris), there were three lecturers on the history of the language, for Old, Middle and Renaissance English respectively. Those for Old and Renaissance English were philologists, the one for Middle English was a linguist. The Old English specialist (the very old-fashioned-looking Mademoiselle Dubois) would spoon-feed us the Old English declensions, etc. I found this extremely boring, especially as the information was in the textbook, but many students loved it (it occurs to me that most of them probably had not bought the textbook). I have very little recollection of the colourless Renaissance man: I think he talked about the literature, with just a little bit of attention to the details of the language. The Middle English lectures were by far the best: the prof (who thoroughly despised Mademoiselle Dubois) would make us notice patterns and structure in the language. Most of the students were dissatisfied with his course, but a small minority of us were enthusiastic about the approach. That’s when I decided that I was at heart a linguist, not a literary person.
    For short: linguists study a language for its own sake and for its contribution to the overall study of the language faculty, philologists study it in order to understand the literature and culture revealed through that language. Of course, the two approaches are not incompatible in the same person, and it is possible to be interested in both aspects.

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