Archive for September, 2008

Would a Nym by Any Other Nym Smell as Sweet

September 24, 2008

       A few of us have established a kind of “Breakfast Club.”  We try to meet at different establishments about once a month.  Sometimes we may walk around the area to get better acquainted, both with our friends and the immediate environment.

     So far we’ve tried out the Massey Hill Grill, Zorba’s on Raeford Road, the New York Restaurant, and , most recently, the Haymount Grill.  Our next venture will likely be “Becky’s” in Hope Mills and within walking distance of the new dam and (soon, it appears, lake). We may wait to have that get-together until after the lake is “filled.”

       Besides me,  those who have met for breakfast include Humans Relations Commissioner Frank Maness, CPA and County Commissioner candidate Marshall Faircloth, Ralph Schonert, Cypress Lakes golf buddies Jennings Smith and Don Lafferty, and Ron Gardner. Some of these were accidental encounters but certainly not incidental.

     At the Haymount Grill last Friday, Marshall and I had a quite interesting conversation about William Faulkner’s great novel,  “The Sound and the Fury.”  Part of that discussion (and I commend CPA Faircloth highly for his wanting to educate himself in the humanities, and perhaps especially in literature) had to do with the source of Faulkner’s title from “Macbeth” and how it related to the novel’s theme and plot.

        This got me thinking of a different kind of connection: between a suffix that originates in Greek  that provides the basis for a good many useful  words and a character in Shakespeare’s great history play “Henry the Fifth.”

        In that play there is a minor character, a foot soldier and a sort of typical “rustic” of the kind that are found in a great many of Shakespeare’s plays.  This character is a comrade of two other soldiers, Bardolph and Pistol, and his name is “Nym.”  Now Shakespeare was said by Ben Johnson to “have small Latin and less Greek.”  But doubtless the playwright did know that “Nym” was a suffix meaning “name.”  Therefore Nym’s name is really “Name.”

        How many of these English words do you recognize, each of them ending in “-nym”?  Can you give an example of the application of each?













Nym would be proud, I am sure, if you show you know at least three of these.




The Trouble with “Sarah” and Other “Terms of Endearment”

September 14, 2008

     Yup, knew it would happen.   Saw it happen too, in a pretty big, but not a very pretty, headline in an “Observer”/AP story a few days ago.

     Can’t do much about it, though, except to utter another squawk.

      The headline was about Charles Gibson of ABC’s interview with Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, now the running mate with Republican Presidential Candidate,  Arizona Senator John McCain.

       The headline? Something on the order of “First Interview with Sarah.”

       Knew it would happen but didn’t think it would be this soon.

About twenty-five years ago, if memory serves (and sometimes it double faults) the Fayetteville daily (which provides me and others a blog site to utter our frequent squawks) established, or probably only firmed up, guidelines for referring to the people in its news stories. 

        The guidelines went something like this:  (1) when a person is being referred to in a news story, his or her full name (preceded by title or other designation, if relevant) will be fully given in the first reference,  such as “Chairman John David Doe.”   Thereafter the last name of the person will, as is appropriate, be referred to only by a last name and the indication “Mr., Miss, Mrs.” or by a title, if the person’s professional standing is relevant to the story,  such as the “Reverend Doe” or “Dr. Doe” or “Senator Doe,” and so on.

       That policy did not stay in effect very long, given the manner and the extent to which our American media have come to feast upon the “celebrity.”

     How do we know when a person has reached the august level of celebrityhood?  When the media refers to the person by only his or her first name, such as Madonna, Cher,  Prince, Kobe, Britney, Paris, Bill and Hil,  O.J., and so on.  Even more endearing it is when a nickname alone is used.  “Dubya” suggests, for instance, an intimate (though hardly friendly) relationship.

        So,  when Governor Palin began to be referred to as “Sarah” by itself, she began to be brought down to our common state rather than continuing to be dignified by at least her title or perhaps “Ms. Palin” or “Mrs. Palin” (depending upon what your position is on the delicate topic of “political correctness”). 

     Doesn’t it seem a bit odd, though, that the “drive-by media” (as a certain radio talk show host works to endear our news outlets to us) have not yet begun to refer to the other three major party candidates as respectively (though not respectfully) “John,”  “Joe,” or even “Barack,”  the most media-attentive of the four candidates?

Why just “Sarah”?

Tell me about it.

Something More About “New Journalism, Tom Wolfe, etc.

September 12, 2008

I’ve been hung up in cyberspace traffic for about three weeks now.

Son Ron, contracted with Microsoft as a Web producer and designer, tells me that WordPress is a good (what is the term? “Engine”?) for doing some blogging.  So, convince me.

Now that I’ve gotten to the end goal of being able to “post” once again  I want to continue a bit more about what I said a while back about the writing coda that is called “New Journalism.”

I want to remind us that when Truman Capote maintained that his story about the Clutter murders and the two murderers was a “nonfiction novel,” he really did perhaps not invent the form, but he certainly did provide a gunny sack into which one could stuff all manner of long narratives.  “In Cold Blood” (1966) would be the first in a long line of greatly varied contemporary works, such as “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,”  “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” “Chang and Eng,” “Libra,” and so on, that can readily be also called “nonfiction novels.” 

In an interview in the “10 Questions” feature of “Time” last week, Tom Wolfe has a couple of answers to relevant questions that we have touched on in passing: (1) Andrew Herald of Johannesburg asked Wolfe,  “What are your feelings on the current state of fiction?”  [Keep in mind here that Wolfe in his and Johnson’s “New Journalism” had referred to the novel as a “depleted” genre.]  Wolfe answers:  “There’s so little of it now that it’s pathetic, and it’s pathetic all over.  Writers come from master-of-fine-arts programs now.  If you add up the college education of Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Faulkner, you get to spring break of freshman year.”         (2) Thabo Jijana of Port Elizabeth,l South Africa asks Wolfe, “Is New Journalism still alive?  If so, is it any better than in the pioneering ’60s, or has it just become old journalism?”  Wolfe answers with a laugh:  “Well, the problem is, when you call any kind of movement new, you’ve already doomed it to an early death.  There is some of it now, and it usually comes out in books.  Mark Bowden’s “Black Hawk Down” is an example of it and a very good one.  I don’t see it that much in magazines.”

Food for thought.

Here is more of what I wrote in an E-mail to the Raleigh lawyer turned writer who wanted a critique of his writing (I was not kind, I regret to say, in my earlier remarks which you may remember):

     “As regards my own writing,  I have not consciously sought to deploy any of these [characteristics of the ‘fictional realism’  that the “New Journalists” Johnson and Wolfe asserted could be or should be part of “New Journalism”]–save to an extent in the Op-Ed essays I have written for the local newspaper,  What has affected my writing in recent years more than anything else has been my reading and rereading and in some cases reading yet again the work of Joseph Mitchell.  It was no happenstance that that teacher at CCNY(I suspect it was Alice Trillin [Calvin Trillin’s wife]) described him as ‘the greatest living master of the English declarative sentence.’  Thus I find myself at times using a series of parallel, concrete adjectives (at least three, maybe as many as five), using the techniques of ‘catalogue’ at times rhetorically, and always seeking to be aware of the broad types of sentence structures in the rhetorical sense: periodic or balanced or antithetical and so on.  I always find truth in what Sam Ragan once said in a visit with aspiring students on our campus many years ago: “I have found good readers who were not good writers, but I have never found a good writer who was not a good reader.’  How do you like that for an antithetical sentence?”

I must needs close down this workshop for the nonce.


Back in the Saddle Again

September 10, 2008

It has been, as the Kansans in my neighborhood sometimes observed,  a mell of a hess trying to get established via the new program and its protocol.

 If you’ve missed my blather,  apologies.  If you hadnt’ noticed until now that there was a “Community Blog” and the Fayetteville Observer Website about “Getting a Grip on Reading and Writing,”  well, let me just paraphrase a TV icon,  Mr. Fred Rogers:  “Welcome to this neighborhood. 

 I especially hope you will raise queries or present commentary on any uses, misuses, or abuses of the English language that either warms the cockles of your heart or, on the other hand, hardens your arteries.

I will be posting a couple of comments/laments in a short while.