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OK, so, background: Latin words with initial [f], such as "facere", "to do", get an initial [h] in medieval Castillian (that is, Spanish), which is later dropped in the pronunciation (but not the spelling) of modern Castillian, such as "hacer", "to do". Some people claim the Basque are involved. These theories are not so good. But...

"All such theories are at least preferable to that proposed by Salvador to the effect that this change ([f] > [h]) was due to the absence of fluoride in the water of the Basque provinces, which caused all their teeth to fall out, so that they could not pronounce labiodentals at all. Since modern Basques can indeed pronounce initial [f-], and almost all areas of the Peninsula have negligible amounts of fluoride in the water, this theory is no less unconvincing than Salvador's more recent theory that people in Spain could hardly talk at all between the sixth and the tenth centuries."

--Roger Wright, A Sociophilological Study of Late Latin, 24.
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Did I really not know before that black coffee has, basically, no calories?
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Invitas nullum nisi cum quo, Cotta, lavaris
et dant convivam balnea sola tibi.
mirabar quare numquam me, Cotta, vocasses:
iam scio me nudum displicuisse tibi.

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Your party invitation
only goes to guys you bathe with.
But not to me? A revelation:
You hate to see me naked.

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On my jar of peach jam:


sugar, peaches, pectin, concentrated lemon juice


sucre, pêche, jus de citron concentré

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When I was a teenager I went through a period where I read a lot of Kurt Vonnegut novels. This is not terribly surprising. It wasn't until the very end of my Vonnegut phase, or just after it, that I found out that most people seem to think he is a "funny" author. This was a surprise, because I found him to be a "suicidally depressing" author, the sort of author you'd read to wallow in your "better to have never been born" feelings.

Tonight I read Samuel Beckett's Murphy, which I had tried to read a while back, but only got a few pages into. It is a funny book, his first published novel, before he caught on to his more familiar style, back when he still labored under the shadow of Joyce. There are all these great set scenes -- a terrific moment when all the characters come up with a different way to avert their eyes, for instance. The plot seems to largely exist to give Beckett a chance to think up clever writerly things to do. We like novels like this, although we often wish they'd get rid of the novel part and just do the clever writerly things. But the novel is a good excuse to be inspired to do such things, I suppose.

But of course it's also Beckett, and while it's hard to really care about any of these characters or their intricate machinations (it's almost a Wodehouse novel, if Wodehouse had been a depressive ex-pat who killed someone off every few chapters to keep the plot chugging along), nevertheless Beckett's bleak outlook and his characters' drives to escape themselves and their "human condition" are, well, depressing. But then again, I was never very good at separating comedy from tragedy, whether it's finding comedy painfully tragic, or finding comedic gallows humor in painful situations. I am either broken or agile that way.

(Also, yay for the term being basically over and having enough energy to read a short novel in one night!)

In the book, one of the characters keeps a copy of Bishop Jean-Baptiste Bouvier's "Supplementum ad Tractatum de Matrimonio" under his pillow for naughty reading. It appears to be a 19th c. treatise on sex, or something like that, and it's quoted in some histories of contraception. But my school's library doesn't have it, and Google Books only has it in snippet view. Grr!
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'They [ = “men of rare sensibility”] do not fear boredom as much as work without pleasure; they actually require a lot of boredom if their work is to succeed. For thinkers and all sensitive spirits, boredom is that disagreeable “windless calm” of the soul that precedes a happy voyage and cheerful winds. They have to bear it an dmust wait for its effect on them. Precisely this is what lesser natures cannot achieve by any means.'

[Nietzsche, The Gay Science.]

I don't like his rhetoric of "rare sensibility" but this is basically how I use boredom.

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This is probably the wrong blog for this post.

So, I caught a performance of Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610 tonight. Fellow student K. was singing in it, and zomg she has a magnificent voice, supple and friendly and all that. But yes: It's a very, very strange piece. Or maybe it isn't, maybe I'm just unfamiliar with music from that period. It's hard not to listen to it teleologically: It sounds like it is knee-deep in late Renaissance music, but it's striving to become Bach. There are the melismas of baroque music, but they overlap each other in these odd Renaissance polyphonic ways, rather than the more typically baroque intermeshed gearworks.

But then! So this made me think about paleography. Because the prof really likes showing us all the various stages between what we might call one script and the next. He is trying to make a point, that the scrips don't spring out fully formed from the head of Zeus, but rather develop over time. But this slow morphing actually makes it kind of impossible to distinguish the A script from the B script -- even though, if you took away all the intermediary steps, they'd look utterly distinct. It's a little frustrating, pedagogically.

But then again! Is it not sort of arbitrary that we pick A and B to be the defining positions, and think of the in-between stuff as being in-between? Couldn't we also think of Bach as this awkward stage between Monteverdi and Beethoven, rather than thinking of Monteverdi as this awkward stage between Desprez and Bach? Well, ok, that's not quite a fair comparison. But it was very difficult for me to stop thinking of the piece as being a curious mashup of two more familiar styles.

Anyway I work on the middle ages, which I assure you is not a mashup of Classical and Renaissance modes, nor is Monteverdi just a weird mashup. There was some pretty excellent music even within the frameworks established by the piece, as far as I could make it out. Or, I liked it, anyways. Plus there was a whole section that involved echo puns. Who doesn't like echo puns? ("...solamen (Amen!)" or "...vita (Ita!)").
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I had a weird frustration today that discombobulated me much more that it should have (for it is nothing that requires your concern, so no worries), and I got a bit sad, so I purchased some books from Amazon, because it was too late to go to a proper bookstore. They are mostly comics, though one is a book I've wanted for a skajillion years, the Annotated Flatland. These seem like books I might actually be able to read before term is over, maybe. But I don't have the books now! And I can't tell if my satisfaction is being delayed or not!
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In this article I'm reading, "What is an author?", Foucault uses (in translation) the term "family resemblances" and the term "game" to describe writing... but then he goes and whines about "the problematic nature of the word 'work' and the unity it designates." Apparently he hasn't read Wittgenstein after all! Well, it's 1969... No, surely he'd have heard about it by then, even if PI somehow hadn't been translated yet. Amazing that he still thinks that a word implies a unity.

This has been yet another in a series of posts which you probably don't give a flop about.

EDIT: And later in the article, "mode of existence", which is surely a rewrite of "form of life". What the hells, Michels?

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Here beginneth a series on Latin words which, for whatever reason, don't seem to stick well to my brain, in hopes that by ratting them out, they will finally choose to linger.

QUIN. Quin is just from "qui ne", which are both common enough words, except that it is apparently from some weird ablative form of "quī". So it's a question word followed by "lest". Anyway it is basically something you stick in the beginning of a phrase to show that you're asking a rhetorical question, along the lines of "why not". "Quin conscendimus equos?" Why not mount our horses? Why not indeed. It's just that the meaning apparently expanded from there, so it takes in senses like "without [doing something]": "Curiosus nemo est quin sit malevolus" -- No one is inquisitive without being eeeeeeevil. Or it can mean something like "but that not", or perhaps just "verily". Or "nay!" Though Latin already has a perfectly fine word for that kind of "nay!" -- "immo".

So, yes, a rhetorical gesture that kind of gets translated into a dozen different and obscure things in English. Meh.
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