Friday, May 30, 2014

"Strong" Verbs

I seldom see this used here in the USA, so perhaps I should explain its usage in English. An example may help: the past tense of "sit" is "sat". I really don't understand why Americans who would readily agree that a machine gun "spat" it's bullets would report that someone "spit" out something from their mouth. Why not "spat"? I would say the same thing about another word which rhymes with that example, but delicacy and the reader's imagination make this unnecessary. There is another form of the past tense in English in which American usage and that of the British differ: Brits would say, for example, that a new coat "fitted" them very well: American usage would be that it "fit" the wearer. Of course, this is just one of many linguistic differences. When I arrived in the USA with my late first wife, she really did crack up our hosts on our travels across the country when she asked the man of the house to "knock her up" in the morning, using a common British expression that simply meant to awaken her.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Death Penalty

Although I am personally opposed to the Death Penalty, which seems barbaric to me, I do believe that the people of a state should have the right to retain it by popular vote. It does bother me that most of the states that do retain such a punishment probably tend to have voters who see it as a means of protection against persons of color. But I am totally opposed to the system which allows many years between a guilty verdict and closure of the case (either by proceeding with the death penalty or commuting the penalty, or perhaps exonerating the accused). I recently read of a case in California finally closed after more than twenty years. Justice delayed is justice denied. Unfortunately, well-meant attempts to limit the time for appeal require action by legislatures. The beneficiaries of such delays are lawyers, who make up a large proportion of the elected legislators. One can detect a distinct reluctance to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs that enrich the members of their profession.

Monday, May 12, 2014


This has become something of a buzz word, primarily because of its use in describing the administration's reduced emphasis on Europe, and an increase of concerns about Asia. It is also a trademark or a brand of instant messaging. It is a common term in sport, particularly in basketball. One sense is for turning with one foot moving, with the other staying in the same place. Another but somewhat less common word, meaning much the same thing, is "swivel". For a ballet dancer, I suppose that "pirouette" means much the same thing.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Political Labels

I saw recently that the term "liberal" has become associated with the far left. It is suggested that we call ourselves "progressives" instead. Many years ago, when I saw myself as a liberal, an Episcopal church curate, in response to something I had said, remarked (with a laugh) "Nigel, no one would ever accuse you of being a radical". I accept the truth in that, but it seemed to paint me as being far more conservative than I felt, or even acted. This was at about the time that I drove down to the United Farm Workers headquarters in Delano, to hand Cesar Chavez a check from my parish. I also spent one day marching with the farm workers on their way to Sacramento. On another occasion, about a dozen years ago in Colorado, a friend described me to someone else (in my hearing) as being a "Progressive". That is not a label I would choose for myself, although I support progressive taxation, as is our present system in the USA. From time to time I respond to a survey, which asks which political party I support. When I respond accurately "Democratic", the next question is often "Are you a strong or not so strong Democrat?" I choose the latter option. I am by nature something of a centrist, a suppoeter of the Establishment in a democratic society. I am certainly somewhat left of center, but not as far left as is Barbara. When I grew up in England, my family was a supporter of the Conservative party, often called the "Tories". When I was at Oxford, I was a member of the Bow Group, still a Tory, but very much on the left of that party's attitudes. At that time, the Tories published a pamphlet: Change is Our Ally. When I showed this to an older, more truly conservative, friend, he expressed some difference from the whole idea. I guess "Moderate Liberal" is abut as accurate a label as possible for me. In truth, it depends on the issue. I have some stocks in oil companies, but I strongly support issues of women's health and the Environment , for example

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Universal Adjective

You know the word of which I am thinking, but I'm somewhat old-fashioned, so I will not show it here. Instead, I will use the asterisk symbol. When I was sixteen, I wrote a story in English class, in which one of the characters would certainly have used *. Knowing that this would not be appreciated by the English Master, I substituted the word "copulating". The English Master was not amused. Until recent years * was used mainly in speech. There were some folk who could hardly complete a sentence without at least one *. It did not appear in newspapers or books: such usage was taboo. Times have changed. Two of my favorite writers of fiction, both of whom have been published for at least twenty years, have recently decided to print * in their works of fiction. Patricia Cornwell uses it judiciously. The last book by John le Carré that I read- I think it was A Delicate Truth- the text is peppered with *. My biggest shock was reading Pastrix, by a Lutheran woman pastor. So far, all I have read is the introduction, where I found two *. O tempora! O mores!