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October 26, 2004

Bierce Of The Day

I found today’s entry from Ambrose Bierce’s Write It Right particularly amusing:

Moneyed for Wealthy. “The moneyed men of New York.” One might as sensibly say, “The cattled men of Texas,” or, “The lobstered men of the fish market.”

I have now posted more than half of the book on my Bierce page. Three more days will finish the Ms, and by the end of the year there will be only a few Ps to go, plus Q through W. The last word is ‘would-be’: were there really no solecisms in Bierce’s time that began with X, Y, or Z, or did he lose interest near the end?

Posted by Michael Hendry at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2004

Orchids And Orchides

Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine provides a handy guide (taken from this site) for decoding the meanings of lapel ribbons of various colors. There are so many more causes than colors that most of the commoner shades have multiple meanings. A dark blue ribbon, for instance, means that the wearer is against child abuse or arthritis or in favor of water quality or crime victim rights. The only common color with a univocal meaning is, not surprisingly, brown, which represents only colorectal cancer. I suppose there is such a thing as excessively appropriate symbolism.

The other color that particularly caught my eye was 'orchid'. I gather that that is a shade lighter than purple but darker than lavender. The orchid ribbon represents testicular cancer, which is entirely appropriate, though the appropriateness has nothing to do with the color. Orchís (plural orchídes, three syllables) is the ancient Greek word for 'testicle'. The name of the flower comes from the obscene shape of the bulb. (Hope I haven't offended any orchid-fanciers!)

A few English words are compounded from Greek orchís. Hitler was reputedly 'monorchid', at least according to the wartime ditty (sung to the tune of the Colonel Bogey March) "Hitler has only got one ball". A 'cryptorchid' has testicles that are hidden, usually because they are undescended. Finally, 'orchidectomy' is the scientific term for castration: a bilateral orchidectomy would be needed for any man who was not already monorchid.

Whoever picked 'orchid' to represent testicular cancer was indulging in a kind of pun.

Posted by Michael Hendry at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)

Disambiguation Brings Relief

I also visited the library at Johns Hopkins University yesterday. Looking over the current periodicals, I finally laid eyes on a journal I first heard of (in bibliographies of Propertius) twenty years ago, but had never actually seen: Vichiana. I was relieved to see that it is an Italian journal, published in Naples, and therefore presumably pronounced 'Vée-kee-áh-nuh' and named after the great Neapolitan polymath Giambattista Vico. When I first ran across the name, I thought it was pronounced 'Vée-shee-áh-nuh' and was French, and hoped that it was named after Vichy water or the mineral springs that produce it rather than the collaborationist régime of Marshal Pétain.

Posted by Michael Hendry at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

For The Happy Few

Anyone who is (a) reading this, (b) an opera fan, and (c) not too far from Baltimore -- that's about two of you, I imagine -- should know that the Vivente Opera's production of Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri is very competently done: certainly well worth the modest price. Tickets are $20 to $36, and even the $20 seats are not that far from the stage, since the church hall only fits about 200 chairs. It's sung in English, which doesn't help the intelligibility as much as it ought, but the plot is obvious enough. The orchestra is just a string quintet and a wind quintet, with the conductor playing the harpsichord only for the recitatives. The staging is simple and generally non-Eurotrashy, though the chorus does put on pirate hats to capture Isabella and Taddeo, and one of them has a stuffed parrot attached to his wrist for that scene only. The Isabella (Ann Marie Wilcox, not to be confused with Ana Marie Cox, aka Wonkette) was particularly striking, and looked very Italian, appropriately enough.

All in all, it was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and there are two more performances, on Thursday and Saturday nights.

Posted by Michael Hendry at 04:59 PM | Comments (1)