1. AOTW: A close call this week ...
- RUNNER-UP: The guy at the health club counter who knew I was there first, but when the attendant came to the counter, the AOTW-RU went ahead of me anyway. Nice.
- WINNER: Driving north. Four-lane road. I'm in the left lane because, a frequent traveler here, I know the lane on my right merges/closes soon. A guy on my right, leaning far back in his driver's seat, cellphone affixed to his ear (I won't say "smartphone" because, well, look who was using it?), absolutely oblivious to the traffic situation. I slow, let him merge though he does not have the right-of-way and remains, the entire time, absolutely unaware of what else is going on around him. The world is his oyster, and I was ready to rip him out of his shell and feed him to a feral cat. (I know: The metaphor doesn't quite work, but I like the violent part.)
2. I forgot to mention this last week. I was on my bike, riding down to Starbucks, cutting through a parking lot. There, some folks were unloading their bikes. One little boy (7? 8?) saw me go by and said to his dad (while pointing at me): "I don't like that old guy's helmet."
3. I finished two books this week ...
- The first, Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America (2015) by T. J. Stiles, won the recent Pulitzer Prize (History)--and deserved it. I have read a lot of Custer books--fueled by a boyhood biography I read (Quentin Reynolds' Custer's Last Stand, 1951), by a trip to see the battlefield in youth (and some later visits as well), by one of my favorite novels of all time Little Big Man, 1964, by Thomas Berger. Wisely, Stiles does not expend much energy on the Last Stand (ground so well covered by so many others) but on other aspects of Custer's life: his wife, his, uh, infidelities, his ambitions (political, financial), his racism, his strengths (a truly fearless leader on the battlefield--no sitting on a horse on a distant hill and watching; he was leading charges!), his relationships with his fellow officers and his subordinates, etc. And, to Stiles' great credit, a man emerges from the mists of myth.
- The second was the antepenultimate (love that word!) novel of John A. Williams, 1925-2015, whose complete novels I began reading when--to my chagrin--I read his obituary about a year ago and realized I'd never even heard of him. I've enjoyed my journey through his works, though this one I just finished, The Berhama Account (1985), is not among my favorites. It takes place on a fictional Caribbean island, Berhama, where race remains an issue, where the current prime minister (a fool's fool) has employed a U.S. PR firm to help him in the current election, an election that doesn't look good for him. The book does have its moments ...
- A hyper-sexed woman journalist falls off a fifth-story balcony of a hotel, survives, keeps covering the election.
- Some apparent evil brewing throughout proves to be a dud.
- And just about everyone involved in the political process--candidates, journalists, PR people, the electorate--all emerge from the story covered in the slime they deserve (figuratively, of course).
- I just felt the novel wasn't as entertaining as it could be--his sense of humor seemed unequal to the task--and there were so many characters (he shifts focus throughout) that I sometimes had to refresh my memory about who this person was and why I should care about him/her.
- Still ... Williams was a talent. And reading just about anything by him is educative.
5. Some Final Words ...
- Wordsmith.org had a cool series of words-of-the-day this week: "reduplicatives"--words such as these: hugger-mugger, argle-bargle, hoity-toity, tussie-mussie, hurly-burly.
- From the OED: prosily, adv. Origin:Formed within English, by derivation. Etymons: prosy adj., -ly suffix2. Etymology: < prosy adj. + -ly suffix2.
In a prosy, dull, or commonplace manner; tediously; prosaically.1836 Dickens Pickwick Papers(1837) xiv. 134 The Peacock presented attractions which enabled the two friends to resist, even the invitations of the talented, though prosily inclined, Mr. Pott.1849 D. M. Mulock Ogilvies xxiii, This speech, delivered rather prosily and oracularly.1874 T. Hardy Far from Madding Crowd I. ii. 23 Oak knew her..as the heroine of the yellow waggon..: prosily, as the woman who owed him twopence.1937 J. P. Marquand Late George Apley xxxi. 353, I am speaking very prosily, out of sheer joy at having you come back.1993 Chicago Sun-Times 21 Feb. (Travel Section) 8/3 ‘Time's masterpiece’ the village likes to call itself, a bit prosily, but there is a timelessness about those cobbled streets..that seems to pass by the 20th century in favor of the 16th.
- And this one--not a word-of-the-day--but just something I read, didn't know, and looked up in the OED. aphesis, n.
Etymology: < Greek ἄϕεσις a letting go, < ἀϕιέναι, < ἀϕ' off, away + ἱέναι to send, let go.The gradual and unintentional loss of a short unaccented vowel at the beginning of a word; as in squire for esquire, down for adown, St. Loy for St. Eloy, limbeck for alimbeck, 'tention! for attention! It is a special form of the phonetic process called Aphæresis, for which, from its frequency in the history of the English language, a distinctive name is useful. Now also used in the sense of aphaeresis n.1880 J. A. H. Murray in Trans. Philol. Soc. 175 The Editor can think of nothing better than to call the phenomenon Aphesis..and the resulting forms Aphetic forms.1930 A. Western in Gram. Misc. Jespersen 135, I do not quite see the difference between aphesis and aphæresis, but use the former term as the shorter and therefore more convenient of the two.1932 W. L. Graff Lang. vi. 234 A loss at the beginning is called aphaeresis or aphesis ..bishop < Lat. episcopus, knife and write in which k and w were formerly sounded.