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Old August 18th, 2014, 11:47 AM   #501

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From the previous page:

gormless adjective \ˈgȯrm-ləs\ (alteration of English dialect gaumless, from gaum attention, understanding [from Middle English gome, from Old Norse gaum, gaumr] + -less)

: lacking intelligence : stupid or foolish

gorm·less·ness noun

* * *

Though this excerpt is taken from a book in the gangster pop history genre, it does have some information about the Thompson submachine gun that may prove of at least mild interest to some.

Quote:
In 1916, Brigadier General John Taliaferro Thompson, invented what he called a 'submachine gun,' a weapon to be named after himself and which was capable of firing more than eight-hundred rounds a minute. In doing so, he unwittingly changed the way in which future gangland wars would be fought. The good Brigadier General had, of course, not intended for his baby to be used within the realms of gang warfare, despite the fact that war had been the instigating factor behind the design. The outbreak of The Great War engendered something of a revolution in terms of weaponry and the Thompson submachine gun or Tommy Gun' as it became known, was part of that revolution. Initially described by its inventor as a broom which could be used to 'sweep the trenches and kill as many men as the technology of our day allows,' the Tommy Gun—in addition to its immense firing capabilities—held many advantages over other short range weapons of the day. Before The Great War, all long barrelled weapons emitted a brief flash of flame when fired, meaning that if fired in darkness, the enemy would still be able to identify where the gunfire was emanating from at any one time. The Tommy Guns, however, were laden with Roburite, a smokeless, flameless derivative of nitro-benzyl which prevented the weapon from emitting flame, thus affording the allies an immense advantage over the enemy. Nevertheless, a lengthy development program meant that the Tommy Gun would not be ready for use before the conclusion of the war.

During the halcyon days of peacetime, the Tommy Gun rapidly fell into disuse and in 1922, the Auto Ordinance Corporation began to look for ways in which to offload its stockpile of fifteen-thousand weapons. As has been previously stated, before 1923, American gun laws were, amazingly, even more lax than today, a factor which resulted in advertisements for these destructive weapons being placed in almost every daily newspaper. Thus, via such advertisements, or a sporting goods store, a gun enthusiast could purchase a Tommy Gun for around $175, or $225 if the one-hundred round drum-like magazine was also required. Despite all their best efforts, however, the Corporation found that demand for the guns was in extremely short supply, due in most part to the fact that in 1922, few people could afford such a huge sum. Another contributing factor to the weapons' redundancy was that it had never actually been used in combat. Had they been employed for the purpose for which they had been developed, they could have undoubtedly been advertised as 'the gun that won the war.' As it stood, it had not been used in a single battle, though it would be used extensively during America's participation of WWII, with the US Army ordering ninety-thousand pieces a month.

Inevitably, a number of Tommy Guns found their way into the Black Market, where, of course, the price skyrocketed. In this illegal marketplace, a new gun complete with a one-hundred round drum and with the serial number filed away (few people knew that all Tommy Guns also contained a 'secret' identification number, which could only be read upon dismantlement of the gun) sold for around $2,000 and in 1922, only one sector of the community could afford to part with that kind of money. Gangsters considered a couple of grand as small change, so it was not too long before these disseminates of death landed in the wrong hands.

A dangerous pair of these wrong hands belonged to Earl J. Wajciechowski, a Polish immigrant who, at some indeterminate point in time, decided to change his surname to 'Weiss' and to adopt the nickname of 'Hymie.' Quite why a devout Catholic would wish to take on the incredibly Jewish sounding name of Hymie Weiss is a mystery, though one theory suggests that the reason could lie within the xenophobia of society. Just as anyone with a surname ending in a vowel was immediately segregated into a lower social class, anyone with a surname ending in 'sky' or 'ski', was unfailingly classed as Jewish and as a Jew, one could expect to encounter a great prejudice, more so even than the Italians and Sicilians. Therefore, society's racial intolerance and stereotypical ideals came together to ensure that Hymie Weiss' sounded somewhat less Jewish than Earl Wajciechowshi.'

Hymie Wiess was the best friend of the now dearly departed Dion O'Banion, and with his passing, now reigned as the self-appointed leader of the North Side. As captain, Weiss subsequently named his principle lieutenants as Vincent 'Schemer' Drucci and George 'Bugs' Moran. Together the three of them certainly made a motley crew; Weiss with his unkempt appearance and wildly staring eyes, Moran with a smooth shaven, dimple-chinned face which belied a hair trigger temper and Drucci looking at best vacant and gormless, it was difficult to take them seriously. Whilst Drucci and Moran possessed little felonious acumen, Wiess was an unmanageable, kaleidoscopic individual, mercurial to the point of insanity. Separately, the three were truly impotent, yet together they were an extremely volatile combination, far too dangerous not to be taken seriously. Weiss believed himself to be on a mission whose goals were threefold. The first was to avenge the death of his best friend, whilst the second was to overhaul and completely dominate the North Side territory. The third, and most outlandish goal, was to annihilate Capone, take over the Outfit and emerge as supreme ruler of Chicago.

— Amanda Jayne Parr, The True and Complete Story of 'Machine Gun' Jack McGurn (2005)
Bonus words:

halcyon adjective \ˈhal-sē-ən\ (Middle English alceon, from Latin halcyon, from Greek alkyōn, halkyōn kingfisher, from hals sea, salt + kyon conceiving, present participle of kyein to conceive, literally "to swell." Identified in mythology with Halcyone, daughter of Aeolus, who when widowed threw herself into the sea and became a kingfisher.)

1 : of or relating to the halcyon or its nesting period

2 a : calm, peaceful

. b : happy, golden

. c : prosperous, affluent

* * *

mercurial adjective \(ˌ)mər-ˈkyu̇r-ē-əl\ (from Latin Mercurius, Roman god and the planet)

1 : of, relating to, or born under the planet Mercury

2 : having qualities of eloquence, ingenuity, or thievishness attributed to the god Mercury or to the influence of the planet Mercury

3 : characterized by rapid and unpredictable changeableness of mood

4 : of, relating to, containing, or caused by mercury

mer·cu·ri·al·ly adverb

mer·cu·ri·al·ness noun



Click the image to open in full size.

Vincent "Schemer" Drucci

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froward adjective \ˈfrō-(w)ərd\ (Middle English, turned away, froward, from fro from + -ward -ward)

1 : habitually disposed to disobedience and opposition

2 archaic : adverse

fro·ward·ly adverb

fro·ward·ness noun
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Old August 19th, 2014, 04:15 AM   #502

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Quote:
That's an intriguing one, Linschoten. It isn't recognised by the Oxford English Dictionary, though maybe it's in a supplement somewhere. I briefly tried to look into the etymology of "copoclephilist," and am a little puzzled. Maybe I'll see what the good folks at Wordorgins.org have to say, but my best effort produces "copa" from Latin, one meaning of which includes "sheaves," giving the sense of groups of things gathered together. That would produce "copaclephilist" though. The English words I found which included "copo," on the other hand, were derived from "κόπος," Greek for weariness (or toil). Still, since "clef" comes from Latin and "phil" is Greek in origin, it seems the the inventor of this word was happy to use hybrid etymology, and apparently not particularly fastidious in constructing the term.
It is evidently of very recent invention, and is too hideous to be encouraged. I found this on the internet:

Etymology: Greek kope, 'handle' + kleis, 'key' + -phile, 'fondness for'.

kope (with a long o) can be used for the handle of a key, it's a general word for a handle or hilt. It doesn't make much sense in relation to a key ring, except in a very loose senses in so far as a key-ring 'holds' keys.

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Old August 22nd, 2014, 09:13 AM   #503

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Linschoten View Post
It is evidently of very recent invention, and is too hideous to be encouraged. I found this on the internet:

Etymology: Greek kope, 'handle' + kleis, 'key' + -phile, 'fondness for'.

kope (with a long o) can be used for the handle of a key, it's a general word for a handle or hilt. It doesn't make much sense in relation to a key ring, except in a very loose senses in so far as a key-ring 'holds' keys.
I don't think anybody will be encouraging its use. As someone on Wordorigins.org noted: "Nobody ever says 'I’m a copoclephilist' (and if they did, it would be an attempt to mystify, not communicate)."

I had searched for Greek κοπή (kope), and found the definition of "cutting, carnage." Also, I found "handle" usually translated in Greek as λαβή, which I assume is given in the Latin alphabet as lave. However, this particular kope ("handle") is actually spelled with an omega rather than an omicron (κώπη), something I'll have to keep in mind in future explorations of etymology. Even so, the more usual sense of "κώπη" seems to be "oar" or "paddle," which indicated to me that the person who concocted the word was either being deliberately obscure, or thought that the alliteration was aesthetically pleasing. I didn't know that Greeks called the bow of a key a "kope."

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Old August 22nd, 2014, 12:24 PM   #504

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From the previous page:

coffle noun \ˈkȯ-fəl, ˈkä-\ (Arabic qafila caravan)

: a train of slaves or animals fastened together

* * *

Mungo Park, the intrepid Scots explorer, describes his escape from captivity in Ludamar.

Quote:
On the afternoon of the 1st of July [1796], as I was tending my horse in the fields, Ali's chief slave and four Moors arrived at Queira, and took up their lodging in the dooty's [chief magistrate's] house. My interpreter, Johnson, who suspected the nature of this visit, sent two boys to overhear their conversation, from which he learnt that they were sent to convey me back to Bubaker. The same evening two of the Moors came privately to look at my horse, and one of them proposed taking it to the dooty's hut, but the other observed that such a precaution was unnecessary, as I could never escape upon such an animal. They then inquired where I slept, and returned to their companions.

All this was like a stroke of thunder to me, for I dreaded nothing so much as confinement again among the Moors, from whose barbarity I had nothing but death to expect. I therefore determined to set off immediately for Bambarra—a measure which I thought offered almost the only chance of saving my life and gaining the object of my mission. I communicated the design to Johnson, who, although he applauded my resolution, was so far from showing any inclination to accompany me, that he solemnly protested he would rather forfeit his wages than go any farther. He told me that Daman had agreed to give him half the price of a slave for his service to assist in conducting a coffle of slaves to Gambia, and that he was determined to embrace the opportunity of returning to his wife and family.

Having no hopes, therefore, of persuading him to accompany me, I resolved to proceed by myself. About midnight I got my clothes in readiness, which consisted of two shirts, two pair of trousers, two pocket-handkerchiefs, an upper and under waistcoat, a hat, and a pair of half-boots; these, with a cloak, constituted my whole wardrobe. And I had not one single bead, nor any other article of value in my possession, to purchase victuals for myself or corn for my horse.

About daybreak, Johnson, who had been listening to the Moors all night, came and whispered to me that they were asleep. The awful crisis was now arrived when I was again either to taste the blessing of freedom, or languish out my days in captivity. A cold sweat moistened my forehead as I thought on the dreadful alternative, and reflected that, one way or another, my fate must be decided in the course of the ensuing day. But to deliberate was to lose the only chance of escaping, So, taking up my bundle, I stepped gently over the negroes, who were sleeping in the open air, and having mounted my horse, I bade Johnson farewell, desiring him to take particular care of the papers I had entrusted him with, and inform my friends in Gambia that he had left me in good health, on my way to Bambarra.

I proceeded with great caution, surveying each bush, and frequently listening and looking behind me for the Moorish horsemen, until I was about a mile from the town, when I was surprised to find myself in the neighbourhood of a korree [watering place] belonging to the Moors. The shepherds followed me for about a mile, hooting and throwing stones after me; and when I was out of their reach, and had begun to indulge the pleasing hopes of escaping, I ws again greatly alarmed to hear somebody holloa behind me, and, looking back, I saw three Moors on horseback, coming after me at full speed, whooping and brandishing their double-barrelled guns. I knew it was in vain to think of escaping, and therefore turned back and met them, when two of them caught hold of my bridle, one on each side, and the third, presenting his musket, told me I must go back to Ali. When the human mind has for some time been fluctuating between hope and despair, tortured with anxiety, and hurried from one extreme to another, it affords a sort of gloomy relief to know the worst that can possibly happen. Such was my situation. An indifference about life and all its enjoyments had completely benumbed my faculties, and I rode back with the Moors with apparent unconcern. But a change took place much sooner than I had any reason to expect. In passing through some thick bushes, one of the Moors ordered me to untie my bundle and show them the contents. Having examined the different articles, they found nothing worth taking except my cloak, which they considered a very valuable acquisition, and one of them pulled it from me, wrapped it about himself, and, with one of his companions, rode off with their prize. When I attempted to follow them, the third, who had remained with me, struck my horse over the head, and, presenting his musket, told me I should proceed no farther. I now perceived that these men had not been sent by any authority to apprehend me, but had pursued me solely with the view to rob and plunder me. Turning my horse's head, therefore, once more towards the east, and observing the Moor follow the track of his confederates, I congratulated myself on having escaped with my life, though in great distress, from such a horde of barbarians.

— Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa (1799)

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Mungo Park

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eristic adjective \i-ˈris-tik, e-\ (Greek eristikos fond of wrangling, from erizein to wrangle, from eris strife)

1 a : Of or characterized by debate or argument.

. b : (Of an argument or arguer) aiming at winning rather than at reaching the truth.

also

eristic noun

1 a : A person given to debate or argument.

. b : The art or practice or debate or argument.

— eris·ti·cal·ly adverb
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Old August 26th, 2014, 12:23 PM   #505

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I've come across quotations from Lord Chesterfield's letters to his son every once in a while, including while doing research for this thread. I haven't read the book yet, but it does seem to be an excellent source for insight into British society during the second half of the 18th century. Here he is writing about the trouble brewing in the American colonies.

Quote:
London, December the 27th, 1765

MY DEAR FRIEND,

I arrived here from Bath last Monday, rather, but not much, better than when I went there. My rheumatic pains, in my legs and hips, plague me still; and I must never expect to be quite free from them.

You have, to be sure, had from the office an account of what the Parliament did, or rather did not do, the day of their meeting: and the same point will be the object of their next meeting; I mean, the affair of our American Colonies, relatively to the late imposed Stamp-duty; which our colonists absolutely refuse to pay. The Administration are for some indulgence and forbearance to those froward children of their mother country: the Opposition are for taking vigorous, as they call them, but I call them violent measures, not less than les dragonades; and to have the tax collected by the troops we have there. For my part, I never saw a froward child mended by whipping; and I would not have the mother country become a step-mother. Our trade to America brings in communibus annis [on the annual average], two millions a year; and the Stamp-duty is estimated at but one hundred thousand pounds a year; which I would, by no means, bring into the stock of the Exchequer, at the loss, or even the risk, of a million a year to the national stock.

— Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, Letters Written by the Late Right Honourable Phillip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to His Son Philip Stanhope, Esq., Volume IV (1793)

Click the image to open in full size.

Portrait of Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773)
by Allan Ramsay

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manqué \mäŋ-ˈkā\ (French, from past participle of manquer to lack, fail, from Italian mancare, from manco lacking, left-handed, from Latin, having a crippled hand, probably from manus)

: short of or frustrated in the fulfillment of one's aspirations or talents —used postpositively <a poet manqué>

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Old August 27th, 2014, 03:42 AM   #506

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The letters indeed interesting from a historical point of view. Dr Johnson remarked of them that 'they teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing master'!

At which point, I can't resist the temptation to add Johnson's famous letter to him (the penultimate paragraph so perfectly expressed):


My Lord,
I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of The World, that two papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your lordship. To be so distinguished is an honour which, being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.

When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre;—that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your Lordship in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.

Seven years, my lord, have now passed, since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.

The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks.

Is not a patron my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it: till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron, which providence has enabled me to do for myself.

Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation,

My Lord,
Your lordship's most humble,
most obedient servant,
SAM. JOHNSON
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Old September 1st, 2014, 12:16 AM   #507

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Thanks for presenting that letter, Linschoten, which, in addition to your comment, gives us some insight into Johnson's attitude toward Lord Chesterfield. I had considered mentioning Johnson's description of Chesterfield's letters—one often sees it included in discussions of them, but I didn't want to prejudice those who may have never heard of Chesterfield, let alone the letters. Click the image to open in full size.

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Old September 1st, 2014, 12:25 AM   #508

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A very interesting period in the history of Iran is described in the chapter from which the following quote is taken. Given the current political climate of that nation, it is good to remember that it has not always been so closed to modern ideas, and in fact has a respectable history of attempts to shed outdated policies.

Quote:
The Constitutional Revolution represents the first direct encounter in modern Iran between traditional Islamic culture and the West. All the earlier attempts at modernization, although involving important changes in the legal, governmental and administrative systems, were conducted in areas tangential to underlying traditional values. None of them openly and radically challenged any of these values. The great modernizing minister, Mirza Taqi Khan, known as Amir Kabir, certainly took vital measures for centralizing the judicial system, such as his curbs on the powers of the Imam Jummah (leader of the Friday Prayer), or abolition of the bast (sanctuary from secular oppression offered by mosques, residences of the ulama, etc), in the teeth of the 'clerical' prerogatives, but they did not aim at undermining any specific Islamic institution and principle. Such measures, just as the modernizing campaign of men such as Mirza Malkam Khan, the advocate of the 'total Westernization of Iran', were individual enterprises whose repercussions never went beyond a small elite. By contrast, Constitutional Revolution was a movement of unprecedented dimension in Iran's modern history which embraced vast groups of people from every social quarter, thus generating a heated debate between diverse ideologies, old and new. The implication of many a constitutionalist idea challenged the very foundation of the religio-political consensus as well as the relative cultural harmony of the tradtional order, thereby causing a deep rift among the elites. Perhaps the significance of this rift can be better understood if a comparison is drawn with the constitutional history of Ottoman Turkey. When similar controversies broke out in Turkey during the famous Mesrutiet period from 1908 to 1918, that country had long passed through the travails of the Tanzimat period (a half-century of reforms from 1826 onwards), and the Young Ottoman movement (formed in the mid-1860s). By that time both sides in the debate had accumulated considerable eristic ability and sharpened their polemic tools, particularly over the thorny issues of the legal codification and judicial reforms, and modernization of the educational system.

Neither side in the constitutional debate in Iran had such precedents to fall back on. Even the duality of the judicial system (between the religious and non-religious courts) had lasted so long (since the Safavid times) that it had become part of the traditional structure, and lost its potential for initiating ideas of change. So discussions on the uses and abuses of man-made laws inevitably provoked in its train dessensions over the virtues and vices of modernization. The novelty of the controversy and the complexity of the issues involved could hardly be helpful to mutual understanding between the two sides of the debate.

— Hamid Enayat, "The Debates Over the Constitutional Revolution" in Expectation of the Millenium: Shi'ism in History. Seyad Hossein Nasr, Hamid Dabashi, Seyyad Vali Resa Nasr, editors (1989)

Click the image to open in full size.

Mirza Malkam Khan

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nimiety noun \ni-ˈmī-ə-tē\ (Late Latin nimietas, from Latin nimius too much, adjective, from nimis, adverb)

: excess, redundancy; overabundance

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Old September 4th, 2014, 09:23 AM   #509

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The following quote is from a piece about a historian who was very influential in her time, but is now all but forgotten.

Quote:
When Hugh Lloyd-Jones wrote his essay on Jane Ellen Harrison, the Cambridge classicist, he raised a question well worth considering. To what extent should a biographical tribute to a scholar concern itself with her personal life? Do we need to know that Nellie Neilson could cut a perfect figure eight with her skates on an ice-covered Lower lake at the Mount Holyoke campus, or that she loved hiking in the Adirondack Mountains so much that she once described her cabin there as "the only place that seems like home to me"? Does it help our understanding to realize that Neilson's strong blue eyes and prematurely white hair attracted the notice of students as well as colleagues? Or that her exaggerated fondness for small pet dogs also inspired affection as well as ridicule?

In the end I have found that my attempts to breathe life into a tribute to this hardworking medieval historian have inevitably evoked an intriguing personality as well as an industrious scholar and enthusiastic teacher who became the first woman to be president of the American Historical Association (AHA). My colleagues who have joined the subsequent generations of scholars interested in unearthing—Neilson called it spade work, in fact—details of the day-to-day life of the medieval villager will, I believe, also want to learn about her personality as well as about her professional achievements and accompanying struggles.

. . .

Neilson's career at Mount Holyoke College began in 1902 shortly after the president, Mary Woolley, had written a letter to the president of the American Historical Association seeking a woman "of scholarship, of teaching power, of attractive personality and of Christian character!" In October 2001 Norma Adams, a former student of Nellie Neilson, and her successor as head of the history department, was still living across the street from the Mount Holyoke campus. Adams remembers Neilson primarily for her love of research and her personal charm. There is no doubt that Dr. Neilson's long tenure as professor and history department head made a lasting impression on Mount Holyoke College.

Among the documents in the college archives, the rave reviews of her teaching abilities so outnumbered the criticisms that one former colleague expected a shocked reaction when she mockingly depicted Neilson as an "actress manqué." Students' letters reflect the power of Neilson's personality and the impact of her whimsical sense of humor. Very early in Neilson's Mount Holyoke career one student wrote about an incident with a "weegee" board when students conspired to tease Neilson by shaking the dinner table while presumably consulting spirits: "We wouldn't dare do such things if Miss Neilson didn't seem more like a girl than a Ph.D." Norma Adams also remembered Neilson's "power to make the thing concrete . . . the manor as the vill of South Hadley or the manor of Lord Skinner. Prospect [a hill on campus, now the site of a residence hall] was always the wooded hill where the pigs fed on acorns and the faculty house was 'the barn where the better cows were kept.'"

. . .

Perhaps the most memorable tribute, however, comes from Margaret Hastings, a student of Neilson who also became an important medieval scholar. Hastings described Neilson's lectures as lucid "works of art based on sound scholarship and full of wit, whimsy and sheer poetry. Students found themselves compelled to become scholars whether they would or no."

— Anne Reiber DeWindt, "Nellie Neilson (1873—1947)" in Woman Medievalists and the Academy, Jane Chance, editor (2005)
Bonus word:

vill noun \ˈvil\ (Anglo-French vil, ville farmstead, township, from Latin villa country house)

1 : a division of a hundred : township : (In medieval England) the smallest administrative unit under the feudal system, consisting of a number of houses and their adjacent lands, roughly corresponding to the modern parish.

2 : village


Click the image to open in full size.

Nellie Neilson

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plastron noun \ˈplas-trən\ (Middle French plastron, breastplate, from Old Italian piastrone, augmentative of piastra thin metal plate)

1 a : a metal breastplate formerly worn under the hauberk

. b : a quilted pad worn in fencing to protect the chest, waist, and the side on which the weapon is held

2 : the ventral part of the shell of a tortoise or turtle consisting typically of nine symmetrically placed bones overlaid by horny plates

3 a : a trimming like a bib for a woman's dress

. b : DICKEY 1a

4 : a thin film of air held by water-repellent hairs of some aquatic insects

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Old September 8th, 2014, 09:22 AM   #510

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It's been too long since the last post referencing art history in this thread. Here's a quote from a book about a great landscape painter. Unfortunately, the largest image size I was able to find of the subject work comes nowhere near doing it justice.

Quote:
On May 2, 1872, Thomas Moran's Grand Cañon of the Yellowstone drew a curious throng to Leavitt's auction rooms in Clinton Hall on Astor Place in New York City. The directors of the Northern Pacific Railroad, then under construction, were present at the single-painting exhibition, underwritten by Scribner's Monthly. So, too, was Pitt Cooke, brother and business associate of Jay Cooke, the Philadelphia banker who, having sold a phenomenal number of Union bonds, was famous as "the financier of the Civil War." Now the chief underwriter of the Northern Pacific, Cooke himself had planned to attend the reception, only to be detained at the last moment. "The press—the literati—the artists [including Gilbert Munger, former guest painter with Clarence King's Fortieth Parallel Exploration]—and the rich [were] all out in full force," wrote Richard Watson Gilder, associate editor of Scribner's. Indeed, it seemed to the dazzled young Moran that "all New York," and then some, had come to see his 7-by-12-foot Great Picture before he shipped it to Washington—two months after President Ulysses Grant had made the Upper Yellowstone region the nation's first national park. Even by gaslight, the effect of Moran's panorama was brilliantly convincing.

Visitor after visitor paused, as if by the painter's side at Artist's Point, the principal vantage point in the combined perspective that Moran had worked out on the canyon brink, about two miles below the Lower Yellowstone Falls. The flashing cataract seized attention, and farther to the right glowed a phalanx of Gothic cliffs. Shadows cast by the gnarled pines in the foreground gave the gorge its proper scale; there a small exploring party tarried, dwarfed by their awesome surroundings, horses tethered among the rocks nearby. Deeper in the shadows lurked a grizzly bear, no doubt as surprised by the human strangers as they were by the yawning gorge. Shimmers of steam jetted from geysers on the distant plateau, high above and beyond the chasm; far along the horizon gleamed those silvery peaks that voyageurs had named the Tetons.

It was a scene of wild grandeur, of inspiring sublimity—perhaps too grand, too sublime to make a really successful picture, or so certain friends had warned the artist. It was an old objection, now still current. Shortly before his death, Aldous Huxley wrote, "Mountains exist, and we have learned to love them. Then why are there so few good mountains in art? Why so few adequate pictorial renderings of the most rewarding religious experiences still accessible to the modern mind—the Wordsworthian mysticism of heights and mists and distances, of storms and sunrise, of chasms apocalyptically illumined and lights abruptly quenched by the shadows of passing clouds?" Huxley's answer came quickly and perhaps too easily: "If mountains are so seldom painted, it is because, except for a few unusually gifted artists, they are just too much of a good thing." Attempts to paint the sublime in nature have all too often been brought to the edge of disaster by "what Coleridge called 'nimiety,' or too muchness."

No such doubts or hesitations troubled Thomas Moran. "I have always held," he insisted to the explorer F. V. Hayden, "that the grandest, most beautiful, or wonderful in nature, would, in capable hands, make the grandest, most beautiful pictures, and the business of the great painter should be the representation of great scenes in nature. All the above characteristics attach to the Yellowstone region and if I fail to prove this, I fail to prove myself worthy of the name of painter. I cast all claims to being an artist into this one picture of the Great Canyon [of the Yellowstone] and am willing to abide by the judgment on it."

— Thurman Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains (1966)

Click the image to open in full size.

Grand Cañon of the Yellowstone
Thomas Moran

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Though the following word might properly be considered French, it is an entry in both the Merriam-Webster, as seen below, and in the Oxford English Dictionary, as well as The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and many other dictionaries of the English language.

clochard noun \klō-ˈshär\ (French, from clocher to limp, from Vulgar Latin *cloppicare, from Late Latin cloppus lame)

: vagrant, tramp
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