Monday, August 31, 2009

Fancying Footnotes

I love footnotes. I know they drive some people crazy; some people want them banished to the end of the book, or at least to the end of the chapter. Some people even want to scrub them out of books all together.

Me, I like footnotes in my fiction. Eaters of the Dead was good for that, though not as good as Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I never finished Infinite Jest, but if I remember correctly, it had endnotes. An unfortunate decision, I fear. It's hard enough to read a thousand-page novel without having to flip back and forth between parts of the book. Actually, with that many pages, you're not flipping back and forth. I think flipping has a three-hundred-page maximum. At a thousand pages, you're flopping. Or maybe floupping.

Another of my favorite footnoted figures of fiction is The Annotated Alice. I was rereading it today, enjoying the lengthy notes on "Jabberwocky," when I stumbled on this tidbit:

"A magnificent German translation [of "Jabberwocky"] was made by Robert Scott, an eminent Greek scholar who had collaborated with Dean Liddell (Alice's father) on a Greek lexicon."

Both the book and my jaw dropped into my lap. Alice Liddell's father was that Liddell? Liddell & Scott Liddell?* I guess I should have expected the Dean of an Oxford college to have accomplished something other than making friends with fairytale writers, but I didn't expect Alice's dad to have edited one of the Greek lexica. Talk about being overshadowed.

*Incidently, I don't know why the Wikipedia page about Liddell & Scott claims that Liddell accented the second syllable of his name. Carroll repeatedly puns on Liddell as "little." Gardiner claims the name "rhymes with fiddle" (p. xviii in my edition) and argues, "We know how "Liddell" was pronounced because in Carroll's day the students at Oxford composed the following couplet: I am the Dean and this is Mrs. Liddell. / She plays the first, and I the second fiddle" (p. 75).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Delhi 2 Dublin

Heard about these guys on NPR's The World last night. Good stuff. Some people might think that Celtic fiddle and Indian music are a strange combination, but linguists know that it's just a reunion of distant cousins: the westernmost and the easternmost branches of those prolific proto-Indo-Europeans (see chart). I wonder if they could record a song that consisted of a call and response of Sanskrit and Gaelic cognates (I stole the following from Metro Gael; more of the same to be found in published books as well):

Raja - Ri
Arya - Aire
Badhira - Bodar
Pibati - Ibid
Minda - Mend

You could do a song about a deaf king who gets drunk with a freeman and ends up disabled or stammering.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Smells Like Money

I first ran across the proverb Pecunia non olet (Money doesn't stink) in a book about Aldi.
What I didn't realize until today was that the proverb is also a pun. Pecunia means both "money" and "cattle," and of course, cattle do in fact stink (HT: Liberman).

If you've ever been on a farm with livestock, you may have seen this scene played out:

City Slicker: This farm smells.
Farmer: {Inhale}: Smells like money.

It's nice to know that my Uncle Mike has the same sense of humor as the ancient Romans.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"While shooting yourself in the leg is by no means the most glamorous thing a man can do . . ."

". . . if you must do it, it seems best to do it while shark hunting."

From AoM's recap of Hemingway's life. I've always assumed that Dos Equis's "Most Interesting Man in the World" is a rip-off of Ernest.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Up My Alley

Read this news with interest: Lewis on Language (Unpublished).

I'm about a quarter of the way through Planet Narnia, incidentally. (I decided that having accepted its thesis on the basis of an article each in Touchstone and Books & Culture, and having enthusiastically passed it on to others, I ought to read the bookitself.) It's living up to my expectations.

It's also reminding me of works that I need to read (or read again): The Divine Comedy, Shakespeare's works, Canterbury Tales . . .