My mind recently tossed up the phrase “immanentize the eschaton” and I thought I’d see if the OED had it; it does indeed, and the whole entry (first published 2014) is quite interesting:

Originally Philosophy.

transitive. To make (something which is transcendent) immanent; to render (something abstract) real, actual, or capable of being experienced. Cf. immanent adj. 3.

1926 Gentile has merely immanentised the old transcendent Absolute by identifying it with each moment and act and, at the same time, with the whole process of experience, and has merely transferred to experience the mystery of the origin.
A. Crespi, Contemporary Thought of Italy iv. 185

1952 The problem of an eidos in history, hence, arises only when a Christian transcendental fulfillment becomes immanentized.
E. Voegelin, New Sci. of Politics iv. 120

1992 There we shared an experience the intensity of which immanentizes a certain quality of life aboard the vessel.
W. F. Buckley, WindFall v. 74

2005 The ideal of moral perfection, which in Christianity was rooted in the transcendent, was immanentized due to the parameters established by modern epistemology.
Journal Relig. Ethics vol. 33 71

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Maize, or Polyglot Redux.

Longtime readers will be aware that frequent commenter MMcM used to have a blog called
Polyglot Vegetarian that featured long and learned articles on a variety of foodstuffs as represented in as many languages as he could get his hands on. Its first post was dated January 1, 2007 (I welcomed it a few days later), and there were 23 posts that year — a heroic level of productivity which he was, quite naturally, unable to maintain; there were nine posts in 2008 and just a few more over the years until 2012, when a post on truffle seemed to be The End. But now, over a decade later, we have been graced with not one but two posts on maize! This is an occasion for celebration; I’ll provide a few snippets here and send you over there for lots more good chewy reading.

From Maize 1:

The first written use of maize in English appears to be Roger Barlow’s 1544 A Brief Summe of Geographie, translating Martín Fernández de Enciso’s Suma de Geographia. (original translation)

comen los indios pã de grano de maiz molido:& hazẽ dello buen pã que ed de mucho mãtenimiẽto. de eſta miſma harina de maiz cozida en calderas & tinajas grandes en mucha aqua hazen vino para beuer:
The indies of this contreie do ete of brede made with mais wᶜʰ maketh good brede and is of moche sustenaunce, and of the said corne thei make ther drynke

Note how the second maiz occurrence was translated corn.

A few English dialects have their own words for maize. South African mealie(s), from Afrikaans mielie, from Dutch milie, ultimately from Latin milium ‘millet’. New Zealand kānga from Maori, itself just English corn adapted to its phonology. In the same way as Hawaiian has kūlina. Or Tok Pisin kon or Nigerian Pidgin kᴐ̃n. Analogously, Haitian Creole has mayi.

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Lithuanian, the Archaic Tongue.

Cynthia Haven had a TLS review of a book of conversations with Tomas Venclova back in 2018; it’s available only to subscribers, but fortunately she did a blog post in which she provided a few excerpts, and this one amused me enough to post:

Lithuanian, the native tongue of 3 million people, continues to fascinate and sustain him, as it is “not only archaic, but rich and sonorous, virtually on a par with the Greek of Homer and Aeschylus. To me, as a poet, this has been rewarding”. He likens its rough phonetics to feldspar, adding that it has retained an archaic vocabulary and grammatical structure akin to preclassical Latin of the third century BC. And, Venclova points out, while it is one of the classical Indo-European languages, like Latin, Ancient Greek, Gothic, or Old Slavonic, it is the only one of them that is still alive. It nearly was not so. In the nineteenth century, it was in serious decline, like Gaelic or Welsh. Venclova compares it to the former, another archaic language that embodies an ancient past. Neighbouring Poland views Lithuania the way the English view Scotland, as wild and untamed, with “more primeval forests and a valiant but not-too-civilized people”.

I have no problem with his loving his native tongue — that’s what poets do, after all — but the idea that “it is the only one of [the classical Indo-European languages] that is still alive” is so ludicrous I don’t know how even a poet could entertain it for a second. Leaving aside the fact that Latin is alive all across Europe, under names like French, Italian, and Romanian, Greek is still alive under its good old name! Of course, Venclova would respond that Lithuanian has hardly changed at all, but any Greek would say the same about Greek. As I wrote here, “I once thought only uneducated people believed this, but then I read an essay by Seferis, one of the most cultured men of the twentieth century, in which he furiously attacked foreigners who pretended that the ancient Greeks used some sort of strange pronunciation, made up out of whole cloth, rather than the authentic speech of the Greeks!” Anyway, the myth of Lithuanian as a uniquely archaic language is remarkably persistent, but at least it doesn’t seem to have done much real-world damage, so I won’t worry about it. (Thanks, Peter!)

A Junk of Bread.

A correspondent writes:

In his book, An Inland Voyage, Robert Louis Stevenson writes the following:

“Half-way between Willebroek and Villevorde, in a beautiful reach of canal like a squire’s avenue, we went ashore to lunch. There were two eggs, a junk of bread, and a bottle of wine on board the Arethusa…” (From the chapter “On the Willebroek Canal”, 7th paragraph.)

I thought that “junk” was a typo for “chunk”. I checked it against a second copy (different publisher) and it was indeed “junk”. (Unless the later copy merely reproduced the earlier, without so much as a by your leave.) Have you ever come across “junk” used this way?

As for “squire’s avenue”, well, it seems to me simply a description of the road or path to a squire’s estate.

I was unfamiliar with this usage and also would have thought of a typo, but the OED (entry revised 2019) reveals that this is an older usage (sense 2) than the familiar one (sense 5), and not yet quite obsolete:
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Southeast and London English.

Amanda Cole writes for The Conversation about new study of English accents:

Cockney and received pronunciation (Queen’s English) were once spoken by people of all ages, but they are no longer commonly spoken among young people in the south-east of England. In new research, colleagues and I recorded the voices of 193 people between the ages of 18 and 33 from across south-east England and London. We then built a computer algorithm which “listened” to how they spoke and grouped them by how similarly they pronounced vowels in different words. We identified three main accents:standard southern British English, multicultural London English and estuary English.

Around 26% of our participants spoke estuary English, which has similarities with Cockney but is more muted and closer to received pronunciation. The people in our sample who spoke estuary English would pronounce words like “house” a bit like “hahs”, but not as extreme as you would find in Cockney. Estuary English is spoken across the south-east, particularly in parts of Essex, and is similar to how Stacey Dooley, Olly Murs, Adele or Jay Blades speak.

Standard southern British English—which many perceive as a prestigious, “standard” or “neutral” sounding accent—is a modern, updated version of received pronunciation. SSBE speakers, who made up 49% of our sample, tended to say words like “goose” with the tongue further forward in the mouth (sounding a bit more like “geese”) than what we would expect in received pronunciation. […]

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Neighborhood Names.

The NY Times has a splendidly detailed map of NYC neighborhoods (archived) that’s accompanied by Larry Buchanan’s explanatory article (archived), which is required reading for anyone interested in the topic and from which I extract this bit, which resonates strongly with me:

Neighborhoods are not forever. Some stay, some change and some disappear. The borders you see on Google are not “official,” and neither are the ones used by real estate companies like StreetEasy. Even the city itself purposefully does not have an official city map of neighborhood borders.

“It’s not our place to define them,” said Casey Berkovitz, a spokesman for the city’s Planning Department. “We leave that up to New Yorkers themselves.”

That’s the spirit! (Compare my 2007 rant about the horrors of official nomenclature.) And this too resonated:

Other readers told us something else: They said, very forcefully, that East Williamsburg doesn’t exist. (To many New Yorkers, new neighborhoods are to be met with skepticism and, at times, contempt.)

Here’s a partial list of other neighborhoods that readers said were “made up” or “don’t exist”: NoMad, NoLIta, NoHo, BoCoCa, Hamilton Heights, Greenwood Heights, Hudson Heights, Hudson Square, Lincoln Square, Two Bridges, Carnegie Hill, Manhattan Valley, SpaHa.

How many times have I myself made similar grumbling remarks! BoCoCa indeed [Тоже мне БоКоКа]. (Thanks, Bonnie!)

An Indological Transcription of Middle Chinese.

I don’t usually repost material from the Log, but Victor Mair’s post about Nathan Hill’s paper “An Indological transcription of Middle Chinese” (Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale 52 [2023]: 40-50) sounded interesting, and a woman I was close to half a century ago spent time immersed in this stuff, so I acquired by osmosis an enthusiasm for it:

The great majority of Sino-Tibetan languages with a literary tradition employ scripts that ultimately derive from a Brahmi model. Examples include Pyu (c. 5th–13th cent. ce), Tibetan (from 650 CE), Burmese (from 1113 CE), Newar (from 1114 CE), Lepcha (17th cent. CE), and Limbu (18th cent. CE). In addition, living Sino-Tibetan languages of Nepal are typically written in Devanagari. The ubiquity of the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) within Indology and related disciplines makes obvious the choice of an Indological transcription for these various scripts. Those Sino-Tibetan languages that use non-Indic derived scripts include Chinese (from 1250 BCE), Tangut (1038–1502 CE), Yi (from 1485 CE), Naxi (19th cent. CE?), and possibly Meitei (16th. cent. CE?). The scripts of this latter group are not obviously related to each other; to adapt a transcription from one to another would not be easy. As a discipline we thus face the choice of either (a) using Indological principles to construct fundamentally mutually compatible transcription practices across all literary Sino-Tibetan languages or (b) embracing outright eclecticism. […]

In particular, Baxter (1992) proposed a transcription system that exactly encodes the categories of the rhyme books and rhyme tables in a straightforward way. The purpose of this essay is to bring Baxter’s transcription system into line with Indological principles, and to rectify those few places where his choices are misleading.

Mair quotes a couple of examples, e.g.:
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The Economist on Language-learning.

The Economist this weekend has a special edition on language-learning; Lane Greene (Language columnist and Spain correspondent) writes:

Language-learning has a bit of a mystique about it. It is one of many people’s regrets never to have done. Some people conclude that they simply don’t have the brain for it, like chess or jazz improvisation.

I’m a language-learner myself—it gives me a kind of pleasure that I assume other people get from chess. And so over the years I have written about various elements of language-learning. Are some brains just too old to master another language? What technological tools are the most helpful? Why does it seem so hard to acquire another accent? Does linguistic talent overlap with the musical kind?

And, most recently, what’s the hardest language to learn? This depends on what language you already speak.[…]

Mapache gave me the heads-up, and I pass it on to you, for those who might be interested.

Green Cheese.

I saw this comment at Language Log:

CuConnacht said,
October 27, 2023 @ 2:18 pm

The idea that even a simpleton could think that the moon was made of green cheese puzzled me in my childhood, since it obviously was not green at all. It turns out that “green cheese” = fresh cheese, curds newly placed in a hoop for pressing and aging, to which the full moon does indeed bear a resemblance.

I checked the OED, and sure enough (entry revised 2011):

green cheese

(a) New or fresh cheese; cheese which has not been ripened or matured. (b) Soft cheese made from skim milk or whey. (c) Cheese coloured green, frequently in a variegated pattern, with sage (cf. sage-cheese n.) or another ingredient.

In the saying to believe that the moon is made of green cheese (see moon n.¹ Phrases P.2) it is not clear which sense of green cheese is intended; the likely reference is to the mottled surface of the moon, which might be likened to any of the senses.

I thought that was interesting enough to share, and posting it may help me to remember it.

Isou and Lettrism.

Rye Dag Holmboe’s LRB review (archived) of Andrew Hussey’s Speaking East: The Strange and Enchanted Life of Isidore Isou summarizes the amazing career of a man who, like Kurt Schwitters, “bridged the gap between Dada and the Situationist International”:

In​ 1942, walking the streets of wartime Bucharest, 17-year-old Isidore Isou posed himself the same question then being asked of the founding of Israel: how to build a better world than the one around him? The answer came to him as an illumination – or perhaps as mania. ‘All must be revealed in letters.’ Words had, he thought, done great damage throughout history. By breaking them down and exposing them as a collection of arbitrary symbols, Isou hoped to make space for a new language to emerge. This was the inspiration for the movement known as lettrisme. Isou saw himself not only as the founder of the movement, but its messiah.

Like Futurism and Dada before it, lettrisme held that meaning was secondary to everything else that makes up a word: sound, appearance, texture, the way it is articulated or intoned. Take ‘Larmes de jeune fille’ (1947), which Isou wrote after his move to Paris :

  M dngoun, m diahl Θ¹hna îou
  hsn îoun înhlianhl M²pna iou
  vgaîn set i ouf! saî iaf
  fln plt i clouf! mglaî vaf
  Λ³o là îhî cnn vîi
  snoubidi î pnn mîi
  A⁴gohà îhîhî gnn gî

The Greek characters here, footnoted below the poem, encode dramatically contorted modes of speech: the theta is explained as a ‘soupir’, or sigh; the mu as a ‘gémissement’, a moan or groan; the lambda as a ‘gargarisme’, a gargling; the alpha as an ‘aspiration’, a mere breath. Isou’s own background is registered in the much repeated letter ‘î’, pronounced in Romanian as more of a long ‘uh’ than a French or English ‘i’, sounded with the tongue close to the roof of the mouth.

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