Archive for the ‘Words’ Category

Daily Office:

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009


Matins: China’s purchase of American debt has slowed down, according to a recent report. As long as it doesn’t simply stop altogether (gulp)….

Lauds: Green Porno, with Isabella Rosselini. These birds-‘n’-bees audio-visuals are almost okay for kids. Except of course for Ms Rosselini’s delicious naughtiness.

Prime: Geoffrey Pullum, a professor of English and linguistics at Edinburgh, doesn’t think much of The Elements of Style, and will not be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. (via Arts Journal)

Tierce: The Ford Foundation, our second largest, has streamlined its operations. This is not a cutback so much as a reconception of “lines of work” — an intellectual advance.

Sext: Culinary professional Peter Hertzmann may convince you that you need an iPod Touch more than a new KitchenAid stand mixer. Wholly Apps!

Nones: Jonathan Head’s BBC report, appraising the latest, and inevitable, wave of unrest in Thailand highlights the core problem for most sovereignties since 1789: nurturing an élite that has the common sense to avoid disenfranchising the lower strata of society.

Vespers: What, exactly, is a novella? A short novel, or a long story? At hitheringandthithering waters, John Madera collects a number of reasonably learned opinions — or, at least (and what is better), reading lists. (via The Second Pass)

Compline: Simon Blackburn argues (at some length, alas) that David Hume is very much the man for our times.

I suspect that many professional philosophers, including ones such as myself who have no religious beliefs at all, are slightly embarrassed, or even annoyed, by the voluble disputes between militant atheists and religious apologists. As Michael Frayn points out in his delightful book The Human Touch, the polite English are embarrassed when the subject of religion crops up at all. But we have more cause to be uncomfortable.

The annoyance comes partly because of the strong sense of deja vu. But it is not just that old tunes are being replayed, but that they are being replayed badly. The classic performance was given by David Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, written in the middle of the 18th century. Hume himself said that nothing could be more artful than the Dialogues, and it is the failure to appreciate that art that is annoying.


Daily Office:

Thursday, May 29th, 2008



Che bella giornata!: Another fine day. Good weather really gets better with age.

Gérance dissausive: If you can’t read French, tant pis pour vous. JR’s crime analysis of the massacre of his sister’s chickens by a fox (or some other prédateur forestier),* would make a sort of sense in English, but the loss of  je ne sais quoi would be fatal.

Except that I know perfectly well what the quoi is: the French willingness to call a spatula a spatula. Just because a spatula is more or less a spade is no reason to be imprecise.

Wings: When I grow up, I want to write just like Gail Collins.


Art: My neighbor, Stash, went to an art show in the quartier. On the basis of his photos, better him than me is all I can say.


Cinderella: Far and away the most exciting object on exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt’s “Rococo” Show is Jeroen Verhoeven’s Cinderella Table.

Daily Office

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008


Matins: Kathleen’s off to Flah-dah in the morning. She’s staying at 100 Chopin Plaza.

Prime: I was so busy over the weekend that I still haven’t read the paper. I had to come across a link to this at In the Times, the article is entitled “A Guide to the French. Handle With Care.” My own title: When Seven out of Eight of the Following Propositions Hold True Here, New York Will Finally Be More Civilized Than Anglophone.”

Tierce: Didn’t you love The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini? No? Meg Wolitzer may be able to tell you why.

Sext: Father Tony agonizes over apostrophes. Is the plural of “CD” CD’s or CDs? I’m resolutely for the latter, but it makes my friend uncomfortable. He has found a link to “the rule,” which is correct so far as it goes.

Nones: The Hong Kong of the Hudson? You’re joking! This is Gotham City, surely! Be sure to click through Gothamist to the Big Apple list of no fewer than ninety-eight nicknames for Old Nieuw Amsterdam. What’s this? “The Frog and Toe“?

Vespers: The reviews appeared side-by-side in the Arts section of yesterday’s Times; how curious it was to have been to both evenings of chamber music. To give some idea of how different they were, in their wonderful ways, I’ve written them up together.  



Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

At the Oyster Bar: Kate, Headwaiter, Kathleen, Tank. Guastavino ceilings, natch.

English really is the most amazingly flexible language. You can take a word and, if you will only think hard enough, come up with an entirely new meaning for it that also makes sense! The Washington Post runs a contest, or at least so says this Web page. I’d be more scrupulous about getting to the bottom of it, but I am simply blown away by the perfection of:

Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish expressions.

That, mes amis, is a keeper. (Thanks, LXIV!)