This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,234) on Friday, April 8, 2022.
Part of the power of the English language lies in its ability to reform, revise, and regenerate itself on almost a daily basis. English is not a static entity, as some people might wish. It is vibrant and dynamic. New words enter the language, and old words are discarded.
One of the most common ways we have of making “new” words is by taking nouns and making them and two verbs. Sometimes this works quite well. Think of book as a noun and then book as a verb. Time and usage are generally the ultimate jurors. The word quote gifted” has entered the language as a verb made from the word “gift.” Since we already had the word give, which is fairly easy to say, I question the value gifted as a verb since it is more difficult. But, as I said, I am not the ultimate judge.
Recently, another noun-turned-verb has come to my attention in no less a place than The Guardian newspaper.
From The Guardian daily news briefing (March 31, 2022):
The sourdough obsession has reached its final frontier: McDonald’s is trialling a chicken fillet served on the type of bread usually associated with artisan bakeries (and perhaps the first coronavirus lockdown). That’s not all – dubbed the “McPosh”, the mayo comes with “just a hint of truffle”.
My limited imagination cannot get get to the point that trialling is a better word than trying or trying out, but that’s just me. (And how do they know it’s a double-l and not a single-l?) There is much to ponder and trial here.
Have a great weekend.
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From the archives: Handel was washed up; then came the Messiah
For the past few years, sometime during Lent, I have posted this article on George Frederick Handel. It’s one of my favorites, and I continue with the tradition this year.
He was finished, they said. Washed up. He’s had his day, and he’s done.
The year was 1740, and the man they were talking about was George Frederick Handel.
Everybody in London knew who he was — and was was the operative word. Handel had once been the toast of the town, a composer without peer. His operas had thrilled and astonished audiences in a town that was tough to astonish.
Handel, who had lived in England for more than a quarter of a century, had never really ruled the operatic circles of London. It is too tough of a town for that. But the German-born musical genius had led his faction, and they loved him for it. By the mid-1730s, however, Handel had begun to lose his grip.
The public’s appetite for Italian opera, Handel’s specialty, was waning, and his last few productions had not gone well. Handel had made plenty of money during his career, but the operas were expensive to produce. Handel was facing bankruptcy.
There was also the issue of Handel’s health. In 1737, at the age of 52, he suffered what was like a stroke and lost the use of his hands and arms for playing and conducting. His doctor predicted that his career was over. But Handel fought his way back from that and by 1740 was ready to compose again. By April 1741, Handel conducted what he — and just about everyone else — thought might be his last performance.
Four months later, Charles Jennens, a poet and former collaborator, handed Handel the libretto for an oratorio about the life of Christ. Handel had composed oratorios earlier in his career, and he realized they coming back into fashion,
Handel set to work on composing the music for the oratorio and kept at it night and day. He hardly ate, and he slept very little, if at all. Those who looked after him became concerned, even though he would often work in this furious, non-stop style.
Handel himself reported being overcome with emotion and joy at what he was creating.
Three weeks after he began, in September 1741, Messiah was a completed work. Handel premiered the work in Dublin the next April, and the audience response was enthusiastic. The Dublin Journal wrote:
Words are wanting to express the exquisite Delight it afforded to the admiring crouded Audience. The Sublime, the Grand, and the Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestick and moving Words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished Heart and Ear.’
The London audience was cooler to the work when it was played there, but eventually Messiah found adherents and was recognized as a great piece of music. Today Messiah, especially its Hallelujah chorus, is one of the most popular and recognizable works in the history of music.
Handel composed other oratorios that were brilliant and well-received. One was Solomon, produced in 1749, which contains a sinfonia, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, at the beginning of the third act that is still a favorite today.
Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
By the mid-1750s, Handel had gone blind and was generally in ill health. He died in London in 1759.
His music, however, continues to live even 250 years after his death.
The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce: Sarcophagus, Satan, Satiety, Satire
SARCOPHAGUS, n. Among the Greeks a coffin which being made of a certain kind of carnivorous stone, had the peculiar property of devouring the body placed in it. The sarcophagus known to modern obsequiographers is commonly a product of the carpenter’s art.
SATAN, n. One of the Creator’s lamentable mistakes, repented in sashcloth and axes. Being instated as an archangel, Satan made himself multifariously objectionable and was finally expelled from Heaven. Halfway in his descent he paused, bent his head in thought a moment and at last went back. “There is one favor that I should like to ask,” said he.
“Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws.”
“What, wretch! you his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn of eternity with hatred of his soul—you ask for the right to make his laws?”
“Pardon; what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them himself.”
It was so ordered.
SATIETY, n. The feeling that one has for the plate after he has eaten its contents, madam.
SATIRE, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the vices and follies of the author’s enemies were expounded with imperfect tenderness. In this country satire never had more than a sickly and uncertain existence, for the soul of it is wit, wherein we are dolefully deficient, the humor that we mistake for it, like all humor, being tolerant and sympathetic. Moreover, although Americans are “endowed by their Creator” with abundant vice and folly, it is not generally known that these are reprehensible qualities, wherefore the satirist is popularly regarded as a sour-spirited knave, and his ever victim’s outcry for codefendants evokes a national assent.
Hail Satire! be thy praises ever sung In the dead language of a mummy's tongue, For thou thyself art dead, and damned as well— Thy spirit (usefully employed) in Hell. Had it been such as consecrates the Bible Thou hadst not perished by the law of libel.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
From the archives: The purpose of the honeybee
Bees give us honey. It’s a wonderful food, and many people make a living by harvesting and selling honey.
Bees also pollinate many of our crops. Some estimate that up to 30 percent of what we eat is on our tables because of honeybees.
Important as these activities are to humans, neither is central to the purpose of honeybees — if you look at it from the bee’s perspective.
So what is? The central purpose of honeybees is the same as it is for all life on earth: to procreate.
To understand this requires an understanding of a fundamental fact about honeybees. Honeybees do not live alone; they live in colonies or hives. Consequently, for honeybees to survive, they need to create new hives, not just new bees. A hive of bees will create a new hive by first producing a new queen.
What provokes a hive to do this is not well understood by apiarists. What we do know is that this is most likely to happen in the spring as the blooming season begins.
When a new queen is created, the old queen leaves the hive and takes some percentage of the bees with her. It could be as little as 25 percent or as much as 75 percent. Those bees fly out of the hive creating a swarm (see photo). Some apiarists term this process as “casting a swarm.”
That swarm alights in a tree limb or some other place and begins a search for a new home. If a beekeeper is lucky — that is, if the beekeeper can find the swarm and if it accessible (not too high in the tree) — the beekeeper can capture the swarm and provide a place for it, thus creating a new hive for the apiary. If the beekeeper can’t get to the swarm, it will find its own home, usually in the cavity of a hollow tree.
Once the swarm has settled into its new home, it will begin the process that will eventually lead it to casting another swarm. Meanwhile, the bees that were left in the original hive have a new queen. They, too, will begin the process of casting another swarm.
So where do beekeepers go wrong?
Most beekeeping books — and the beekeeping culture in general — counsel beekeepers on how to prevent swarms. The reason: when a hive casts a swarm, its ability to produce honey for that season is greatly reduced. Since many beekeepers sell their honey — and some make quite a good income from it — losing part of a hive to a swarm is not viewed as a positive thing.
In truth, however, the techniques that beekeepers have for preventing swarms are probably only marginally effective, if at all. Bees will swarm if the colony decides that what it should do. That’s what bees do. That’s how they stay alive.
For more information about swarms, take a look at Thomas Seeley‘s wonderful book, Honeybee Democracy. You will be mesmerized by the way that a swarm of bees decides on where its new home should be.
Murder Most Criminous (Volume 1): resurrecting the father of true crime writing
William Roughead, the Scottish barrister who attended and reported on every major British murder trial for nearly six decades and wrote about each of them in detailed and yet interesting accounts, is returning from obscurity. Roughead died in 1952 but not before he built a huge following for his work both in America and Great Britain.
His name and work, unfortunately, have fallen into obscurity. First Inning Press is bringing him back to life.
Murder Most Criminous: The Cases of William Roughead, Father of Modern True Crime Literature (Volume 1) has just been published. It is the first of several anticipated volumes of Roughead’s work. The editors, Jim Stovall and Ed Caudill, have worked not only to reproduce this great writer’s work but also to give it new life for modern audiences.
The first volume of this series includes four of Roughead’s cases, all from a time before he was able to attend their trials. They include
- Mackcoull and the Begbie Mystery
- The Secret of Ireland’s Eye: A Detective Story
- The Ghost of Sergeant Davies
- The Parson of Spott
Each case has unique features that Roughead interprets with his unique and fascinating writing style. The links above will take you to a JPROF page that contain
We have done a lot of work with editing these cases and trying to make them presentable to modern readers.
We have introduced some typographical innovations that include footnotes, more readable paragraphing, and subheads—all of which we believe will aid the reader. The essential Roughead is still there, and we believe the reader will be captured by his exquisite phrasing and point of view.
During March and April, the first volume of this series is being offered to readers at a special ebook price of $1.99. It can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other ebook platforms. Paperback and hardback editions of this work are also available.
Volume 2 in this series, which will include the Oscar Slater case, is due out later this spring.
Kill the Quarterback is part of ar group giveaway, April Crime Thriller Giveaway, a BookFunnel giveaway that runs through the month of April. This giveaway is exclusively for all sorts of crime-related books and novels.
The giveaway includes more than 30 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors. The link for this giveaway is https://books.bookfunnel.com/pka-crime-thriller-giveaways/glkpa6m4vw.
It helps me if you use this link to take a look at the offerings even if your don’t select any of these books.
Finally . . .
This week’s watercolor: Opening Day
Best quote of the week:
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. Maya Angelou, poet (1928-2014)
If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try pray-as-you-go.org. The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.
Helping those in need
Fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: Edna St. Vincent Millay and the voice of feminism, more about William Roughead, and lots of reader reaction: newsletter, April 1, 2022
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