[lit-ideas] Re: [lit-ideas]Pomegranate

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 03 Jun 2004 18:59:38 -0700

on 6/3/04 6:24 PM, Robert Apres moi: Babel Paul at
Robert.Paul@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> David Ritchie writes:

> Ouch, David, you're hurting me. Pom poms are rapid-fire anti-aircraft guns and
> the like: remember the tracers going out from the aircraft carriers being
> attacked by kamikazes in WWII? Them.
> A pom _pon_ is 'an ornamental tuft or ball of yarn, feathers, silk, or the
> like,
> worn on a hat or dress, on shoes, or on a costume. '
> I know, I know--usage with its muddy sneakers has smudged the distinction, but
> it's one my mother fought for during her years as a high school English
> teacher,
> and I am charged with upholding it. (.)

Mother, of course, trumps the O.E.D. and Partridge *and* Robert's Rules of
Order.  But here's what the lesser sources say:

Partridge says that "pom-pom," refering to the Maxim automatic quick-firing
gun, was in use by 1905.  He says that during the Great War (1914-18) the
term was also applied to the French 75 mm cannon.  The meaning Robert refers
to--WW2 Bofors anti-aircraft gun--developed circa 1940.

Orl Korrect so far.

The SOED, however, says: pom-pom, 1748 [Fr. pompon tuft, top-knot; of unkn.
origin] 1) A jewel or ornament attached to a long pin; a tuft or bunch of
ribbon, velvet, threads of silk, etc. formerly worn in the hair, or on the
cap or dress; now worn on women's and children's hats and shoes etc. and
used to ornament the edge of curtains, etc.; also the round tuft on a
soldier's or sailor's cap, the front of a shako etc. 2) A variety of
Chrysanthemum, and of Dalia, bearing small globular flowers.

So our problem is whether to pronounce as the French and Robert's mother
did, or to follow the SOED's spelling suggestions, or try for both.  And
whatever we choose, as I said in the poem, we're stuck with an unknown
origin.  Le problem lui meme oscille comme un pompon.

David Ritchie
Portland, Oregon

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  • » [lit-ideas] Re: [lit-ideas]Pomegranate