CONJURING MAGIC WORDS – TURNING LATIN TO SORT OF ENGLISH

I WOULD CONJURE MAGIC, BUT …
NO LATIN ALLOWED


I hadn’t thought about it. To be honest, my eyes have seen it. My brain has skimmed over it. Whoosh. Away it went with no thought given to its meaning. I do know what a couple of “Latin as part of English” shortcuts supposedly mean.

“Illegitimi non carborumdum” — which I believed (and lots of other people also believe) translates to: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” from the mock-Latin word, illegitimatus, or bastard, and carborundum, an ancient brand of abrasive stone. But apparently, it’s not “real” Latin. Who speaks “real Latin” anyway? Whatever Latin you speak, it ain’t the real deal. Whoever speaks Latin speaks a reconstruction of it based on what we know from old writings. No native speakers hanging around in this century.

But QED? From this morning’s Boston Globe’s Theresa Hanafin, comes this bright light for the day:


The Question of the Day from The Old Farmer’s Almanac is: What does the abbreviation “QED” stand for? It’s Latin — quod erat demonstrandum — and means “that which was to be demonstrated.” It’s often used at the end of math proofs or philosophical treatises where the writer reaches a conclusion. Sort of a “ta-da!” I always thought it stood for “Quick, eat the doughnuts,” which has been very helpful over the years.”


What does this have to do with anything?

Well, since I cannot find any conjurable magic (is that a word?), the closest I’ve got are those little Latin sayings we drop into our English language. When I was first working as a tech writer in the U.S., having been working in Israel as a tech writer for five or six years, I encountered an actual English-language editor. My editors in Israel had been a lovely French woman who had excellent English, but sometimes her editorial decisions were a bit … continental. I had a great Russian guy and some of his editorial decisions were … unique.

This was the first time I got to fight over my words in my native tongue with another New York native.

ARTWORK: Evil Squirrel’s Nest

She was fixated on never using a Latin expression if there was an equivalent English word for the same thing. Should she come upon “etcetera” she would always change it to “and so on.”

“We do not speak Latin in this department,” she would announce. To this day, when I’m editing anyone else’s work — Garry or one of the other writers on our “team” and I see an etcetera looming, I can hear her voice carrying over the television or audiobook:


WE DO NOT SPEAK LATIN IN THIS DEPARTMENT.


I am forced to change it to “and so on” and occasionally, to something more obscure like “moreover.” Can’t use “ad infinitum” either … a sad waste of clever language skills.


Ad infinitum is a Latin phrase meaning “to infinity” or “forevermore”. Description: In context, it usually means “continue forever, without limit” and this can be used to describe a non-terminating process, a non-terminating repeating process, or a set of instructions to be repeated “forever,” among other uses.


It’s amazing how a single determined editor can fix something in your brain forever, even when you have long since passed a point where you need instructions.

Thus if you are doing any conjuring today, please do it without Latin. We don’t speak Latin here.

QUALMS, CONSPIRACY, AND STUPIDITY

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I’m not much of a conspiracy person. I have doubts about them. Qualms. Because conspiracy involves intentions, which in turn, requires thoughts. Sometimes, even an idea. Like, you know, a bunch of people work together towards a nefarious goal … as opposed to a lot of dummies voting for a moron as president. The first might be a conspiracy. The next is stupidity. Of which there is not now, nor ever has been, a shortage.

We are living in a stupid world and a stupid era. Where people think that education is worthless, which actually doesn’t explain how stupid they are. If the power of stupidity was fuel, we’d never need another power source. The world could run entirely on stupid. If it doesn’t already.

I have seen a great deal of mass stupidity. Political stupidity, fiscal stupidity, and just regular old daily standard dumbness. Not to mention stupidity based on sheer meanness. Conspiracy? To repeat my oft-repeated signature quote:

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It’s worth remembering that most of the horrible things we see are predominantly stupid. Because malice requires planning, thought, and concepts. Maybe even brains. Whereas stupidity seems to be the clay of life.

So, as for qualms? I don’t believe in anything except for the small, mean-spirited, nasty little people who have infected my world. They are stupid. Ugly and possibly even cruel. And some other morons — whoever you are, hang your heads in shame — elected them.

If you don’t have qualms about this, I’d like to know why NOT? 

ISN’T IT TOO EARLY TO BE DRINKING? QUOTES V 2.0 – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I heard these lines recently in a movie. I laughed.


“Isn’t it too early to be drinking?” he said.
“No,” she said. ” I’m awake.”

The line stayed with me after the laughter faded, replaced by work memories.

As a reporter, I covered Presidential politics from 1962 to 2001. From JFK to Bush, Jr. As a newbie reporter, I saw veteran correspondents fueling up with multiple Bloody Marys as we began our day on the political or campaign trail. I was impressed.

During my rookie year, I summoned up enough courage to question one famous reporter who began his career working with Edward R. Murrow. He was on his third Bloody Mary in one 10-minute period.

“Isn’t it too early to be drinking?” I asked, slowly and politely. The veteran reporter who’d covered FDR,  World War Two in the trenches and the McCarthy Hearings, among other assignments. He looked at me for a long moment, then finished his drink.

“Is it too early to be drinking?” he repeated my question and ordered another Bloody. “No, I’m awake!”

I shook my head in amazement and admiration. He was clearly fortifying himself for the day to come. It would be another long day on the road. Cold, dreary, and filled by interviews with people from pompous to angry to clueless when asked about election issues and the candidates.

I remember one fellow decked out in a hunting outfit, cradling a shotgun. He sneered when answering my questions. When finished, he said “Figures the media is not tellin’ the truth. A Negro askin’ me stuff about that Catholic in the White House. That’s what’s wrong with our country.”

The veteran reporter overheard the conversation and gave me a wry smile.

Garry-With-TipONeill

Years later, I shared the story with “Tip” O’Neill, Speaker of the House and a personal friend. He laughed so hard the bar seemed to shake. Then he looked angry for a moment, patting me on the shoulder with a huge sigh.

“Garry, here’s looking at you, kid!” The Political Legend smiled as we clinked glasses. “Some days, it’s never too early to start drinking,” O’Neill concluded. And ordered one more round.

I wonder about “eye-openers” for those covering this year’s Presidential race. In 2016, it’s never too early.


I want to thank Sue Vincent at Daily Echo. She got Marilyn into this challenge, and by default, me too. It’s a good one and fun. Thanks Sue! I’m not going to nominate anyone because I’m not comfortable doing it. But please, if you like words and quotes, jump right in. You can hook to Sue Vincent or me — or one of Marilyn’s posts. Welcome one and all!

IF THERE’S SMOKE …

“A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”
Terry Pratchett, The Truth

“When you are rich and powerful, no one will challenge you to your face or give you a chance to explain yourself. All the whispers are behind your back. You are left with no means of clearing your own name. And after a while you realize there is no point in even attempting to do so. No one wants the truth. All anyone wants is the chance to add more fuel to the fires of gossip. The whispers become so loud that sometimes you think you will drown in them.”
Amanda Quick, Ravished

“Don’t forget this, too: Rumors aren’t interested in the unsensational story; rumors don’t care what’s true.”
John Irving, In One Person

“Always remember… Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools, and accepted by idiots.”
Ziad K. Abdelnour, Economic Warfare: Secrets of Wealth Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics


Among the many things we say when we don’t have something witty of our own to offer, there are a few genuinely evil ones.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

This has become everyone’s justification for deciding guilt based on rumor, hearsay, and malice. I’ve heard people say this so many times, in a wide variety of situations, but it always means the same thing:

“I haven’t a shred of evidence, but I’ve heard stuff about you-know-who. He/she/they must be guilty of something, right? Because where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Being unpopular — or accused of wrongdoing — is not proof . Neither is attending a different church, or no church. Or dressing funny, having a bad attitude, failing to mow the lawn, keeping to ones self, being anti-social, holding unpopular opinions, or having bad manners. It is legal to be different.

Shadow of the gallows
Shadow of the gallows

And hey, how about gossip, eh? People say all kinds of shit. It can ruin reputations and careers. Destroy families. All because a guy said something to someone who repeated it to someone else.

Then a couple of other guys in a bar repeated what they thought they’d heard, plus a few embellishments. Their girlfriends passed it to their best friends who tweeted it. Rumor morphed into fact … because where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Everyone knows that.

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Now, you’ve got everything you need for a quick conviction. Without benefit of judge, jury, or trial. The next thing you know, a lynch mob is forming.

If ever you hear yourself saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” or words to that effect, stop. Think.

Who gave you the right to judge?

MAGIC IS EVERYWHERE – THREE QUOTES, DAY THREE

Nothing is certain anymore. Nothing. Chaos is king and magic is loose in the world. – Robert Heinlein, “Waldo”

I’m astonished how many people have either never read these two novellas, or read them and manged to miss the point.

If you haven’t read them, you really should, if you are any kind of science fiction fan. They are fundamental to the mythology of science fiction. The concepts Heinlein posits have become axiomatic to later writers.

"Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942." Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942
“Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942.” Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942

Many readers — I take this from the reviews I’ve read by people who say they have indeed read the two novellas — apparently don’t see a connection between the stories. They think they are in one volume “to fill up space.” Either they didn’t really read them or they are conceptually challenged, unable to connect two related ideas.

The point is that technology is a based on our belief it will work (see Clarke’s Three Laws). As long as we believe in it, it works, whatever “it” may be. If or when we stop believing, it won’t work. It is all magic. Science is incantation. Witchcraft codified.

When we lose faith in technology, magic becomes the new technology. The difference between one and the other is style, not substance. The stories’ plots are irrelevant. It is all concept.

The best science fiction is concept-driven. Characters and plot usually take a back seat. These two stories have stuck with me for a lifetime. Both are based on a single concept.

We believe in what works — and what works is what we believe.

CONSIDER STUPIDITY – THREE QUOTES, DAY TWO

For the second of my three quotes in three days, I present to you my all-time favorite quote. I use it as a signature line on my email. I try to remember it whenever I think someone is out to get me.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. – Robert Hanlon

This quote has a long, rich history. Despite the attribution, no one can say exactly when or where it originated. Called Hanlon’s razor, it is an aphorism. It suggests a way to eliminate complicated explanations for a phenomenon when a simpler one is available. It suggests before looking for ill-intent, consider the possibility of stupidity.

Stupidity is common. It requires neither forethought nor planning. Anyone can be stupid. No special effort is needed. It is, therefore, the most likely explanation for actions. Why look for other motives? Go with simplicity.

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Although the saying is officially named after Robert J. Hanlon, there are a variety of earlier sayings that convey the same idea dating back at least as far as Goethe in 1774.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Three Laws are considered closely related:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The third law, my other favorite, has been incorrectly attributed to many different writers, but it really does belong to Clarke. Really. No matter what else you may have heard. If I ever change my signature line, Clarke’s third law is a strong contender for the position.

BEYOND COMPARE – 3 QUOTES DAY 1

I decided to take up the challenge of three quotes in three days. This post has more than one quote, but all attribute to a single source — Eleanor Roosevelt. That’s almost like one quote, right?

I couldn't find Eleanor, but I realized I have her figure in my
I couldn’t find Eleanor, but I have her in my “historical dolls” collection. From Effanbee, 1985

No one nominated me because the bloggers I hang with don’t nominate. Neither do I, so if you find this challenge interesting, consider yourself invited to give it a whirl.


“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m reading — okay, listening (with Garry) — to the David McCullough biography of Harry Truman. Concurrently (and not coincidentally), we watched (again) Ken Burns’ “The Roosevelts.”

This heavy dose of over-achievers brought me face-to-face with how little I’ve achieved in life. One can only imagine how difficult it was for Eleanor, Franklin, or Teddy’s kids. Their parents were hard acts to follow.

I encountered Eleanor Roosevelt in person in October 1962. In the elevator of Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.

“ Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

We were both in wheel chairs. I was there to have a tumor removed from my right leg. She was there because she was dying and would be buried less than a month later. I don’t know if I said anything to her.

Eleanor with Franklin D. Roosevelt. By Effanbee, 1985
Eleanor with Franklin D. Roosevelt. By Effanbee, 1985

Probably not. I was suffering from terminally struck dumb. She was the woman in whose footsteps I would have most wanted to follow, if I had unlimited options and an inclination to dedicate my life to public service. Which, even then, I knew I didn’t.

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

There was never a question in my mind of being her. I loved that she was always on the side of right and justice — and willing to fight for it. And remarkably effective, too. She was the woman who could and did.

Having had this chance encounter, I did not immediately dedicate my life to battling evil on behalf of the greater good. That wasn’t my thing. I thought I could, at the least, do my best to choose rightly if I came to a crossroads and was obliged to make a decision.

Winston Churchill, FDR, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Great moments in history from Effanbee, 1985.
Winston Churchill, FDR, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Great moments in history from Effanbee, 1985.

So I have. Not always as successfully as I would have liked, but not bad — for a non-Roosevelt.

“Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

There are people who are larger than life. Not that we think they are. They really are. We can admire them, enjoy them. Be glad they are in our world to fight for us.

Eleanor with Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. World War II historical dolls from Effanbee.
Eleanor with Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. World War II historical dolls from Effanbee.

I never thought I’d be one of those people, nor did I expect to personally know such a person. They are rare enough in the annals of human civilization. My chance and oh-so-brief encounter with Mrs. Roosevelt in the elevator was probably the closest I would ever be to greatness in the largest sense. But it was enough. I am enough.

“ One thing life has taught me: if you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. When you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else.” — Eleanor Roosevelt