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The Curate's Egg

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Messages: 21 - 20 of 56
  • Message 21. 

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by Preacher (U2899850) on Sunday, 16th May 2010

    Brian Duncan

    Originally, it [a sea-change] was little more than a pretty poetic fancy. 

    A little more than that, surely? A sea-change is a big change occasioned over time, as Ariel's song in The Tempest demonstrates:

    Full fathom five thy father lies,
    Of his bones are coral made,
    Those are pearls that were his eyes:
    Nothing of him that doth fade,
    But doth suffer a sea-change
    Into something rich and strange.

    In other words: look how he has been transformed into something you've never seen before.

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  • Message 22

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    Posted by aquaticNickster (U6781871) on Sunday, 16th May 2010

    We aim in ordinary conversation or discussion to be reasonably straightforward. So if we use literary or historical or artistic allusions to enliven what we say, we have to use them simplistically, otherwise we may not be understood; or, just as important, may not know whether or not we've been understood.

    No use using the Canute or Curate's Egg allusions for their original 'meaning'; no use referring to Falstaff or Pickwick or Rubens to suggest anything more complex than fatness. Anything requiring the listener to have some knowledge of the back-story usually leads to confusion.

    The meanings of both the Canute and Curate's Egg 'originals' rely on irony. The substitute Canute story ditches most of the irony, but still works in its own terms. However, I must say I wonder why the ecclesiastical egg allusion caught on, and I try not to cringe when I hear the words 'Like the curate's ...'

    'Beg the question' stopped meaning primarily what it originally did because latterly most people, I think, had to do extra mental work to judge whether they were using it appropriately; and even if they were sure they were, how could they be sure their interlocutor understood it so?

    (Anyone for Decimate?)

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  • Message 23

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    Posted by Douglas (U1916617) on Sunday, 16th May 2010

    Sun, 16 May 2010 17:40 GMT, in reply to aquaticNickster in message 22
    Rubens to suggest anything more complex than fatness  His subjects were built for comfort rather than speed. smiley - winkeye

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  • Message 24

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    Posted by Brian Duncan (U14268215) on Sunday, 16th May 2010

    Preacher 21

    The guy's been ashore for five minutes! How can the change have taken place "over time"? "These are pearls that were his eyes" - well, no they aren't, and never could be. "Of his bones are coral made" - no, they're not, nor ever could be, and even the number of the verb is wrong. Of course it's a poetic fancy. That it adds colour to the plethora of transformations whereby Prospero contrives to make prosperous everyone capable of being made so is harmonious with the drama, but surely we need not read into Ariel's song more significance or profundity than need be?

    After all, Shakespeare never tried to turn a urinal into an artwork - though he did turn a Jakes into a character.

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  • Message 25

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    Posted by Brian Duncan (U14268215) on Sunday, 16th May 2010

    Aqua 22

    yeah! I'm for "decimate". It's exactly the kind of word I'm talking about, and a fine example of improvement by popular usage. "Decimate", in its original sense, is an utterly useless word: we're not allowed to use it as a punishment any more, and the cuts in the military budget that lurk just over the horizon are likely, in their effects, to be rather more swigeing than decimation.

    But in its popular acceptation it's a useful word: it sounds nasty, like "devastation", only worse, and this is valuable - especially since devastation has become what happens to you if your football team loses a match!

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  • Message 26

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    Posted by Brian Duncan (U14268215) on Sunday, 16th May 2010

    That'll be "swingeing"!

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  • Message 27

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    Posted by aquaticNickster (U6781871) on Sunday, 16th May 2010

    The first (and last) time I heard myself defending 'decimate' as still meaning reduce BY a tenth, I said to myself: Hang on, Why Shouldn't it (in English) Mean Reduce TO a Tenth?

    After all, the Romans were rubbish with the decimal system. Centurions were in charge of only about 80 soldiers. And as for naming the twelfth month the tenth ... !

    (In imagery, I associate 'decimate' not only with ‘devastate’ but also with 'dessicate' - a scorched-earth policy.)

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  • Message 28

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    Posted by aquaticNickster (U6781871) on Sunday, 16th May 2010



    Full fathom five thy father lies,
    Message posted by Brian Duncan

    < "Of his bones are coral made" - no, they're not, nor ever could be, and even the number of the verb is wrong. >

    Well, is it? Poetic inversions work mysteriously. Here are the words in a different order, but without any other change:

    'His bones are made of coral.'

    cf:
    'Made of coral are his bones.'

    I grant you, you could argue it in the alternative. But mysterious nevertheless.

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  • Message 29

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    Posted by aquaticNickster (U6781871) on Sunday, 16th May 2010

    (Scrub msg 28. All evening the MB has been playing up for me, either rejecting my posts or posting them prematurely! And delaying my making this correction by an hour or so.) So...

    In Reply to Message 24 posted by Brian Duncan

    < "Of his bones are coral made" - no, they're not, nor ever could be, and even the number of the verb is wrong. >

    Well, is it? Poetic inversions work mysteriously. Here are the exact same words in two different orders, with, I suggest, the same meaning:

    'Made of coral are his bones.'
    'His bones are made of coral.'

    Your preference for "Of his bones is coral made" – well, I don’t like it, as poetry. Not sure why. Mysterious.

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  • Message 30

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    Posted by aquaticNickster (U6781871) on Sunday, 16th May 2010

    PS

    'Coral is made of his bones' is certainly not right!

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  • Message 31

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    Posted by Hugh Mosby-Joaquin (U14258131) on Monday, 17th May 2010

    I assumed until recently that a 'no brainer' was an idea formulated by a brainless idiot, and thus not worth wasting time upon.
    I cannot quite appreciate its meaning as 'you don't need a brain to accept it'.
    I don't think I'm going to set a trend here, but is this the way that idioms (like the curate's egg) can have their implications skewed over the years?

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  • Message 32

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    Posted by Douglas (U1916617) on Monday, 17th May 2010

    Mon, 17 May 2010 09:40 GMT, in reply to Hugh Mosby-Joaquin in message 31
    I assumed until recently that a 'no brainer' was an idea formulated by a brainless idiot, and thus not worth wasting time upon. 
    I may have got hold of the wrong end of the stick but I had thought that it was a question or problem so simple that one did not need a brain to reach the right answer.

    That is the problem we face when trying to divine the meaning of a neologism from context alone.

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  • Message 33

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    Posted by sciolist (U7547242) on Monday, 17th May 2010

    Nobody's mentioned "more honoured in the breach than the observance" yet. I claim my prize.

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  • Message 34

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    Posted by Douglas (U1916617) on Monday, 17th May 2010

    Mon, 17 May 2010 10:46 GMT, in reply to sciolist in message 33
    Nobody's mentioned "more honoured in the breach ...  Nor even 'More honoured in the breeches ...'.

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  • Message 35

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    Posted by Hugh Mosby-Joaquin (U14258131) on Monday, 17th May 2010

    I may have got hold of the wrong end of the stick 
    It could be a three-ended stick!
    However, I think your diagnosis of the expression 'no-brainer' is probably right. But it proves my point; I simply misunderstood it when I first heard it, and my definition stuck.

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  • Message 36

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    Posted by David Crosbie (U2338765) on Monday, 17th May 2010

    Reply to Message 27 by aquaticNickster
    www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mb...

    And as for naming the twelfth month the tenth ... !
     

    More a matter of not renaming the month when they moved the start from March to January.

    Does anybody know who did that, by the way? Romans? Celtic pagans? Renaissance astronomers? Some Pope or other?

    Belatedly thanks to one Pope, the Russian October Revolution was always celebrated in November.

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  • Message 37

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    Posted by Douglas (U1916617) on Monday, 17th May 2010

    Mon, 17 May 2010 13:23 GMT, in reply to David Crosbie in message 36
    More a matter of not renaming the month when they moved the start from March to January.  The Roman year began with January named after the god Janus who looked forward to the new year and back to the old. Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar messed things up by inserting, in turn, summer months named after themselves. Months seven,eight, nine and ten had to move up and, it seems, eleven and twelve must have dropped off the end.
    At some time the Church decided that the year began on Lady Day. The Gregorian calendar moved the New Year to 1st January but Britain took some time to adopt it. To come into line we had to cut some days from the calendar when we changed but the Treasury were having none of it. All tax years must have 365 days, 366 in Leap Years, so with that adjustment of days, the Fiscal Year which had begun on Lady Day now begins on 6th April.

    the Russian October Revolution was always celebrated in November.  And my Ukrainian workmen had two Christmases.

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  • Message 38

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    Posted by aquaticNickster (U6781871) on Monday, 17th May 2010

    smiley - winkeye

    I was happy to overlook David’s apparent missing of my leetle joke, but now you, Douglas, come and rewrite history!

    Actually, I don’t think anyone really knows. My version is that Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome around 700 BCE, added the two months Jan and Feb and also moved the beginning of the year from March to Jan and changed the number of days in several months to odd numbers, considered to be luckier than even.

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  • Message 39

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    Posted by aquaticNickster (U6781871) on Monday, 17th May 2010

    < Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar messed things up by inserting, in turn, summer months named after themselves. Months seven,eight, nine and ten had to move up and, it seems, eleven and twelve must have dropped off the end. >

    Ah, you too, Douglas, are having a leetle joke!

    Inserting, my foot! Julius and Augustus REnamed Quintilis and Sextilis after themselves.

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  • Message 40

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    Posted by Rumbaba (U13744896) on Monday, 17th May 2010

    'you don't need a brain to accept it'.
     


    It always amuses me when someone on a messageboard says, 'Anyone with half a brain cell agrees with this... (whatever line of bigotry they are promoting)'. Sometimes I reply that those of us with a full complement of brain cells take the opposite view, but it is usually not understood.

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