Wednesday, January 07, 2004

nebula zeugma firebird

Mark Askwith sent me the following e-mail:

You may be too humble to post this, but congrats!

and he's right, I am. Much, much too humble.

(And congratulations to all the nominees.)


Hi Neil,

In your laundry list of fancy poetry words the "other one" of the metres would be a dactyl. Like "Arms and the man, I sing", you know, from the Aeneid?

I can say without a doubt that that's the first time I've had that bit of ready knowledge come in handy. Thanks for making me remember my high school latin, you monster.

Coincidentally I'm in the middle of some Hunter S. Thompson essays and your railing against Bush's poetry reads quite well in his voice ("Mother of twelve bastards, imagine it, the president and the poet laureate all in one man. Washington wouldn't know whether to shit or go blind. This is a country incapable of acknowledging a leader with the ability to blow up the world and beautifully describe it. We demand specialization and strong drink." you get the idea)


Daktyls. Right. I knew I'd forgotten one.

I also couldn't remember the word zeugma , so I left it off. And on waking this morning I thought "Zeugma!" but it was too late.

Zeugma is a word for when you make a verb do several functions at the same time (eg. "I left in a foul mood and a black taxi"). Flanders and Swann's song "Have Some Madeira M'Dear" employes quadruple zeugma in each verse, which is dead impressive; the relevant lines are:

And he said as he hastened to put out the cat,
The wine, his cigar and the lamps

She lowered her standards by raising her glass,
Her courage, her eyes and his hopes.

When he asked, "What in Heaven?" She made no reply,
Up her mind, and a dash for the door.

(Pop-ups open at the Flanders and Swann in Explorer, despite blocks, but not in Firebird, which I find I like more and more.)