Month: March 2014

I speak of cert…

I speak of certain afternoons in early Fall, waterfalls of immaterial gold, the transformation of this world, when everything loses its body, everything is held in suspense and the light thinks, and each one of us feels himself thought by that reflective light, and for one long moment time dissolves, we are air one more.

-Octavio Paz (I Speak of the City)

How to Address a Student

I noticed that all my old professors address students by their first names. Some would even resort to nicknames. As for my relatively young teachers, the yuppies and the fresh graduates, they address their students by their last names: Mr. So-and-so or Ms. So-and-so.

I wonder if there are sociolinguistic implications here, that my old professors call students by their first names to endear themselves to the younger generation, and that my younger teachers address students more formally with their family names, to assert their authority because the age gap is too close.

 

(?) Hmm.

A Question For Etymologists

Jak's View of Vancouver v.3

I am looking to find the ultimate origin of the English word SKULK which, in the southern England that I grew up in, means to hang around, in a semi-concealed fashion, for some underhanded purpose.  “That burglar is skulking around the neighbourhood.”

In all the etymological dictionaries that I have examined, the word origin is given as Scandinavian from the 12th or 13th century.  For example: Danish “skulke“, Swedish “skolka“, and Icelandic “skolla.”  Those derivations are from Walter Skeat’s Dictionary, and similar derivations can be found at various online dictionaries such here, here, and here.  Normally that would be that; all the sources agree.

However, today I have been reading a 1985 PhD dissertation on the settlement of 6th and 7th century northern Italy by the Langobards who came from Pannonia which is roughly Croatia, and northern parts of Serbia and…

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A Look at the Comma Poem

“I,It,Was,That,Saw”   |     Jose Garcia Villa

I,it,was,that,saw
God,dancing,on,phosphorescent,toes,
Among,the,strawberries.

It,could,have,been,moonlight,or,
Daylight-or,no,light,at,all.
His,feet,cast,light,on,all.

On,phosphorescent,feet
On,phosphorescent,feet,he,danced,
And,His,eyes,we’re,closed.

He,made,strawberries,tremble!
Yet,He,hurt,not,the,littlest,one,
But,gave,them,ripeness,all.

How do you read such a poem? How do you read it aloud, and how do you read its deep structure? Some tell me that to read a comma poem requires pausing between words. The comma represents that pause, and by that pause, each word seems disconnected, so that when we look at the poem, we jump from word to word (paying attention to each individual component). Each word thus is “framed” by the comma.

My suggestion is that the comma does not represent a pause, but rather, a connection between the words. In the traditional poem, each word is separated by an empty space. Distanced by that empty space. The comma provides substance between them, as the words are substance. Kind of like a continuing flow of  energy.

By framing each component, Villa charges each word with energy. He could have just separated the words by line; something like:

I

it

was

that

saw

God

dancing

on

phosphorescent

toes

But of course, the form is spatially inconvenient. And the reading of the poem tends to be much faster than the reading of the comma poem. Villa maintains the structure (three lines per verse) to retain poetic unity, but he also retains the charge of energy to be concentrated on each word, and not on each line. The idea is compositionality: each component has its own meaning (even articles and prepositions that do not have real world referents), and the meanings they have as well as their placement in the line influence the overall meaning of the line, the verse, the entire poem.

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The comma poem is mostly associated with the poet Jose Garcia Villa.