[elky] Re: Words (Non) (long, but full of content)

  • From: "Rick Draganowski" <dragan@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <elky@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 7 Feb 2010 11:29:59 -0800


We have far less to disagree about than you may think. My thesis was this. Ray 
is writing up the technical problems and solutions involved in building an 
extraordinary computer. A word that seemed out of place in this delicately 
communication based dialog popped up. I took exception to it based on my 
knowlege. No poetry, no music, and no words for emotional effects. Technical 
explanations. Precision in thought and language. If you have to search for 
meanings then communication levels drop, perhaps to zero.

Then it got out of hand. Sigh.

I must include a poem that means something, without interpretation and feelings 
and fuzzy logic. Also no psychoactive substances were consumed during the 

by: Robert Southey (1774-1843)

T was a summer evening, 

Old Kaspar's work was done, 

And he before his cottage door 

Was sitting in the sun, 

And by him sported on the green 

His little grandchild Wilhelmine. 


She saw her brother Peterkin 

Roll something large and round 

Which he beside the rivulet 

In playing there had found; 

He came to ask what he had found, 

That was so large, and smooth, and round. 


Old Kaspar took it from the boy, 

Who stood expectant by; 

And then the old man shook his head, 

And with a natural sigh, 

"'Tis some poor fellow's skull," said he, 

"Who fell in the great victory. 


"I find them in the garden, 

For there's many here about; 

And often when I go to plough, 

The ploughshare turns them out! 

For many thousand men," said he, 

"Were slain in that great victory." 


"Now tell us what 'twas all about," 

Young Peterkin, he cries; 

And little Wilhelmine looks up 

With wonder-waiting eyes; 

"Now tell us all about the war, 

And what they fought each other for." 


"It was the English," Kaspar cried, 

"Who put the French to rout; 

But what they fought each other for 

I could not well make out; 

But everybody said," quoth he, 

"That 'twas a famous victory. 


"My father lived at Blenheim then, 

Yon little stream hard by; 

They burnt his dwelling to the ground, 

And he was forced to fly; 

So with his wife and child he fled, 

Nor had he where to rest his head. 


"With fire and sword the country round 

Was wasted far and wide, 

And many a childing mother then, 

And new-born baby died; 

But things like that, you know, must be 

At every famous victory. 


"They said it was a shocking sight 

After the field was won; 

For many thousand bodies here 

Lay rotting in the sun; 

But things like that, you know, must be 

After a famous victory. 


"Great praise the Duke of Marlbro' won, 

And our good Prince Eugene." 

"Why, 'twas a very wicked thing!" 

Said little Wilhelmine. 

"Nay ... nay ... my little girl," quoth he, 

"It was a famous victory." 


"And everybody praised the Duke 

Who this great fight did win." 

"But what good came of it at last?" 

Quoth little Peterkin. 

"Why, that I cannot tell," said he, 

"But 'twas a famous victory." 


Enough of Southey, back to the subject.


( You left out the first line. One of my favorite songs.

Johnny's in the basement
Mixing up the medicine)

I speak of words as communication, not art. But do as you will as I have only 
the power to explain.

Rick Draganowski
(Soli Deo Gloria)

p.s. The vandals took the handles
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Ray Buck 
  To: elky@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Sunday, February 07, 2010 8:16 AM
  Subject: [elky] Re: Words (Non) (long, but full of content)

  At 07:21 AM 2/7/2010, you wrote:

    I doubt there was much computer games being played in 1350. I rest my case.

    Gaming is gambling.

    Rick Draganowski
    (Soli Deo Gloria)

               Yes but it isn't 1350 and the meanings of words change to adapt
    to the current spoken and written language. The dictionary is not set in
    stone it's constantly being updated by having words removed and added. Not
    enough are removed though.

                Robert Adams

  I was gonna send an off list reply, but these two posts have led me to put 
the whole thing here.  It's long, it's pedantic and it's tedious.  Just the 
kinda stuff I tend to write.  Continue at your own peril.

  At 08:38 PM 2/6/2010, you wrote:

    Just my point Ray. One word cannot have two totally valid meanings and 
still be understandable in a reasonably literate sentence. That way lies 
madness. As Humpty Dumpty said.  "Words mean what I say they do." Humpty Dumpty 
declared. 'No more, and no less.'

  I have to disagree.  That way lies color and imagination.  Look at homonyms.  
"Won word cannot have too valid meanings and still bee understandable inn..." 
and so on.  These are fairly obvious when written but can lead to 
misunderstandings when spoken.  How about this one?

  "Van Morrison and Jim Morrison were on their way to Jim Morrison's gym in Van 
Morrison's van." or was it the other way around? "Jim Morrison and Van Morrison 
were on their way to Van Morrison's gym in Jim Morrison's van."  That one is 
pretty old and I can't find the rest of it, but it makes light of homonyms, as 
does the writing of Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein ( 
http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/shel_silverstein ) whose writings and 
poems I shared with my sons when they were young.  

  Then there's Bob Dylan's "Subterrainean Homesick Blues":

  Mixing up the medicine
  I'm on the pavement
  Thinking about the government
  The man in the trench coat
  Badge out, laid off
  Says he's got a bad cough
  Wants to get it paid off
  Look out kid
  It's somethin' you did
  God knows when
  But you're doin' it again
  You better duck down the alley way
  Lookin' for a new friend
  The man in the coon-skin cap
  In the big pen
  Wants eleven dollar bills
  You only got ten

  Maggie comes fleet foot
  Face full of black soot
  Talkin' that the heat put
  Plants in the bed but
  The phone's tapped anyway
  Maggie says that many say
  They must bust in early may
  Orders from the d. a.
  Look out kid
  Don't matter what you did
  Walk on your tip toes
  Don't try no doz
  Better stay away from those
  That carry around a fire hose
  Keep a clean nose
  Watch the plain clothes
  You don't need a weather man
  To know which way the wind blows

  Get sick, get well
  Hang around a ink well
  Ring bell, hard to tell
  If anything is goin' to sell
  Try hard, get barred
  Get back, write braille
  Get jailed, jump bail
  Join the army, if you fail
  Look out kid
  You're gonna get hit
  But losers, cheaters
  Six-time users
  Hang around the theaters
  Girl by the whirlpool
  Lookin' for a new fool
  Don't follow leaders
  Watch the parkin' meters

  Ah get born, keep warm
  Short pants, romance, learn to dance
  Get dressed, get blessed
  Try to be a success
  Please her, please him, buy gifts
  Don't steal, don't lift
  Twenty years of schoolin'
  And they put you on the day shift
  Look out kid
  They keep it all hid
  Better jump down a manhole
  Light yourself a candle
  Don't wear sandals
  Try to avoid the scandals
  Don't wanna be a bum
  You better chew gum
  The pump don't work
  'cause the vandals took the handles

  Rational discourse?  What means that in light of those lyrics?  But there was 
a definite message in it and it was only apparent to those who were willing to 
look for it.  More on that subject in my reference to Shakespeare.

    Thus ends rational discourse.
    BTW I think more computers are used in "gaming" (Gambling) than in playing 
video games style "gaming". I am sure more money is involved.

  Absolutely.  Burroughs had several Medium Systems in big casinos in Las Vegas 
in the 70s.  The stories I heard were...well, let's just say that the security 
measures were on a par with Ft. Knox.  That was only to handle the money.  With 
what's available now, everything has to be wired.  I'm not sure what the 
casinos are doing now, but at one time, people were walking out of them because 
playing for "play money" wasn't attractive.
  http://www.zytec.biz/casino.htm  Check this out for information about 
computer controlled (or at least connected) gambling devices.

    Another neat concept is the one where Gambling Casinos use the term 
"Gaming" to eliminate the negative connotations of "Gambling" so once again we 
slide down the slippery slope. I wonder if you play video games at Casinos? 
Perhaps for money?

  Yes.  Video poker is a good example.  It's a representation of 5-card stud 
poker and the video game version and the casino version are almost identical 
with the exception of the actual money being involved.  Another aspect is that 
on-line casinos and gambling is big business:

    So just the small word "gaming" is filled with cognative dissonance and 
means simultaneously a child hunched over an X-Box and killing something in a 
video game and a drunken person at a roulette wheel throwing away his mortgage 
money. Hmm.. Perhaps both. It could be that one leads to the other. Or am I 
losing it?

  It's one of the aspects of language.  You may be losing it, but language is 
so filled with nuances that in most spoken (and in some cases written) language 
is inherently ambiguous.  English is filled with multiple entendres, homonyms, 
and other pitfalls of multiple usage.  One just hit me and it's almost 
identical in its dissonance: "boxing."  A mental picture of someone happily 
putting a Christmas gift into a cardboard container or two pugilists trying to 
beat one another's brains out.  What's the difference?  

    Words mean something, and alternate (and temporary) meanings are just sops 
for the ignorant in my perhaps less than humble opinion. 

  English is a polyglot derivative language.  It's impossible to be absolutely 
precise in such a tongue.  There's a good example right there.  "Tongue" can 
mean a  language, a variant of a language or a part of the body or a part of a 
piece of wood or a part of a trailer, ad naseum.   www.dictionary.com  shows 22 
different uses for the word.  Now, use it as a verb and it further complicates 
the issue.  There are an additional 5 meanings there.  Add different 
conjugations of the verb and declensions of the noun and the ambiguity 
increases almost exponentially.

    So I stick firmly to my guns. And if communication means nothing to my 
gentle readers perhaps the imprecise direction we seem to be going into 21st 
Century "Newspeak" is the most comforting recourse. 

  Well, Rick, go back your Shakespeare and you'll see that he used words in 
much the same way.  Here's just one example: 
http://www.compleatheretic.com/pubs/literary/eng211no2.html  In this case, much 
cloaked reference is made to the characters and in a beautiful part at the end, 
"morning becomes mourning."  

  Another that I doubt you have much familiarity with is the lyric of the song, 
"The Battle of Evermore" by Led Zeppelin.  Before you dismiss it out of hand as 
you're wont to do (there's another homonym) read the words, read the analysis 
(here's a good one: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=332 ) and listen to 
the song.  It's anything but a headbashing heavy metal song.  It's also the 
only song in which an additional singer is used, in this case, Sandy Denny of 
Fairport Convention.  

  Here are the lyrics.  I find them beautiful:

  Led Zeppelin - The Battle of Evermore

  With Sandy Denny from Fairport Convention

  Robert Plant wrote the lyrics after reading a book on Scottish history. The 
lyrics are about the everlasting battle between night and day, which can also 
be interpreted as the battle between good and evil.
  Plant felt he needed another voice to tell the story. He was the narrator and 
Sandy Denny represented the people as the town crier.

  Queen of light took her bow
  And then she turned to go,
  The prince of peace embraced the gloom
  And walked the night alone.
  Oh, dance in the dark of night,
  Sing to the morning light.
  The dark lord rides in force tonight
  And time will tell us all.
  Oh, throw down your plow and hoe,
  Rest not to lock your homes.
  Side by side we wait the might
  Of the darkest of them all.

  I hear the horses thunder
  Down in the valley below,
  I'm waiting for the angels of Avalon,
  Waiting for the eastern glow.
  The apples of the valley hold,
  The seas of happiness,
  The ground is rich from tender care,
  Repay, do not forget, no, no.
  Oh,-------dance in the dark of night,
  Sing to the morning light.
  The apples turn to brown and black, the tyrants face is red.
  Oh the war is common cry, pick up your swords and fly.
  The sky is filled with good and bad
  That mortals never know.

  Oh, well, the night is long, the beads of time pass slow,
  Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow.
  The pain of war cannot exceed
  The woe of aftermath,
  The drums will shake the castle wall,
  The ring wraiths ride in black, ride on.
  Sing as you raise your bow,
  Shoot straighter than before.
  No comfort has the fire at night
  That lights the face so cold.
  Oh dance in the dark of night,
  Sing to the morning light.
  The magic runes are writ in gold
  To bring the balance back, bring it back.
  At last the sun is shining, the clouds of blue roll by,
  With flames from the dragon of darkness
  The sunlight blinds his eyes.

  There are several recorded versions of this song.  I just listened to one 
that I'd never paid a lot of attention to before.  It's done by Jimmy Page and 
Robert Plant in a live performance with Najma Akhtar singing the part Denny 
sang in one performance and in the studio recording.   

  As I listened to it, the hair on my arms stood up and tears came to my eyes.  
It's a very powerful song when viewed as discourse between the town crier and 
the narrator as the battle between light and dark is described at two levels: 
1) light of day and dark of night and 2) Light of good and dark of evil.  

  If you choose to listen to the studio recording (which is closer to the above 
lyric than the live Page and Plant version) it's here: 
www.chevyasylum.com\music\LedZeppelin .  It's 8mb, but I strongly suggest 
giving it a listen.  

  Taking this one step further, blues music is filled with metaphor, simile and 
allegory.  One could make a case for that genre to be the pinnacle of hidden 
meanings.  This was done for several reasons.  First, the blues roots of field 
hollers and moans dates from the time where slaves (and later, prisoners) 
couldn't explicitly refer to the masters for whom they worked, so misdirection 
and hidden meaning was used.  Later, it became a bit of a game or I suppose one 
could call it a valid musical form to avoid explicit lyrics.  In Robert 
Johnson's song, "Traveling Riverside Blues," one can hear Johnson saying, "You 
know what I'm talkin about?"  In the Eric Clapton version, he says (not sings), 
"That's what I'm talkin about."  In these lyrics, they're referring to "squeeze 
my lemon til the juice runs down my leg."  Pretty obvious, but a metaphor 

  Referring back to your initial example, "Humpty Dumpty," that's nothing BUT 
  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humpty_Dumpty including the part that you quote 
from "Through the looking Glass."  I was surprised to read that what I'd read 
years ago about it referring to the English civil war was, in fact, based on a 
spoof written in 1956.  Circles within circles and mysteries wrapped in 
conundrums.  (Should that be "conundra?"...never mind, it was a rhetorical 
question.)  In any case, in the phrase, "Words mean what I say they do." Humpty 
Dumpty declared. 'No more, and no less.' (punctuation error excused), you make 
my case for me in that words are defined by their user, not always by a 
commonly accepted definition or one that resides in a dictionary.

  Speaking of dictionaries, look at the archaic meanings of words and you'll 
see how language evolves.  By strictly clinging to a definition of only one 
period, one severely limits oneself in comprehension.  And even if one chooses 
to accept only one period's usage of a word, then he cannot accurately use 
definitions of other words from other periods.  That is to say, that when using 
the word, "gaming" exclusively in its 16th century form would then put the 
author/speaker/reader/listener into the 16th century and thereby lose meaning 
of just about every other word in a given sentence or entire lexicon.  

    Thanks for your patience

  What patience?  Here's the way I see it.  You call yourself a writer and a 
poet.  I can call myself a writer and an editor, because I do those things, 
too.  If you consider online content to be "published" I have far more 
published work than you.  In my writings (and I believe in yours, too) 
ambiguity is sometimes used on purpose and sometimes used inadvertently.  Tead 
what I've written so far in my Early Daze re-write: 

  I wish I could give you examples of your usage in this manner, but I've 
wasted WAY too much time on this discourse and have to get on with today's 
project which is to install online forum software ( 
http://www.simplemachines.org/ ) on my web server for www.saveourshipofstate.us 
, a project I'm working on with a friend from the salt flats racing community.

  No rest for the weary.



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