January 25, 2006

Happy Robbie Burns Day!

For your reading pleasure, here’s a Robbie Burns poem for you. I think I’m going to go and have a single malt myself.

Address To A Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o’need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin’, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ hands will sned,
Like taps o’ trissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!
Posted by Mark at 08:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 13, 2006

Truthiness is the best

As someone who works with language and as a fan of The Colbert Report, I’ve been highly amused by the recent mock-battle going on between Stephen Colbert and the ‘wordanistas’ over the word truthiness. The whole thing is well summarised over at Language Log (read the following links in this order to get the whole story):

Truthiness or trustiness?
Colbert fights for truthiness
The truthiness wars rage on
Colbert immortalized again

As an interesting side note, the scholar in question has also written a dictionary of Buffy slang. Who said linguistics was a boring subject?

Posted by Mark at 12:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 08, 2006

Geoles bec

Unsurprisingly, I was given several books for Christmas. I love receiving books, as I’m often given books that I probably wouldn’t buy myself, but which I quite enjoy. And now I know what I’ll be reading over the next little while.

Among the books I got are Murder’s Out of Tune by Jeffrey Miller, a mystery involving a crime-solving cat. As is clear from the sidebar list of readings, I’ve read a number of books like this featuring cat protagonists, so this looks like just the book for me. Thanks go to my parents-in-law for this one. I’ll post some comments on it once I’ve read it.

My wife gave me a number of books, including Cassell’s Dictionary of Norse Myth & Legend, by one of my doctoral committee members, Andy Orchard. This is an excellent reference book, and it will be useful to have a copy of this close at hand. She also gave me a copy of Chickering’s edition of Beowulf, which contains a useful commentary, and Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, a book often recommended to me. And finally, she gave me two books by James Burke, The Knowledge Web and Twin Tracks, about which/whom I will post more later.

So quite the bonanza of books. I wish I could spend all my time reading…

Posted by Mark at 05:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 07, 2006

Doceo linguam Latinam

Way back I posted that Aven and I were about to move to Sackville, New Brunswick to teach at Mount Allison University. Well here we are already one term in, and I haven’t posted at all about my teaching here. I’m teaching in both the Classics department and the English department, so this entry will focus on my Latin teaching, and later I’ll post about the English course I taught.

For the Classics department I’m teaching first-year Latin. Anyone who knows me will know that I’m not actually a classicist, but in fact a medievalist. However, the rigorous Latin training one receives at the Centre for Medieval Studies is well known, and so here I am teaching first-year Latin. Besides, I’m a philologist, and so language is a particular interest of mine, and much of my work, including some more recent avenues of investigation, focus on Latin translation (that is, translation of Latin into medieval vernaculars), so I’m quite enjoying the opportunity to teach Latin.

The departmental choice of textbooks, Ecce Romani, would not have been my first choice — personally I prefer a more rigorously grammar-based approach rather than the reading-based approach. Of course the other popular choice for an undergraduate Latin textbook is Wheelock, which it must be said has its own drawbacks. Nevertheless, I think it’s a better textbook. But I haven’t had a look at the latest edition of Wheelock, so I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who had seen it, or even taught from it. The CMS favours Moreland and Fleischer, Latin: An Intensive Course for the baby Latin course. This works very well for graduate students who are highly motivated to learn Latin grammar as quickly as possible so as to be able to move on through the programme, but it might be too intensive for undergraduates. Any other options?

In the first semester, the final enrollment was 50 students—quite large for a language class, but consistent with the class sizes I had with Old English. This term I have about 12 at the moment, which is a definite luxury. These students will get quite a good class with all the individual attention I’ll be able to give them. We had a good time last class, talking about the Roman delicacy of stuffed mice.

We also discussed the concept of relative clauses, not in itself the most difficult topic—I described relative clauses as giant mutant adjectives of course—but what is initially difficult is the fact that relative pronouns agree with their antecedent in gender and number but not in case. I’ll start the next class with a continuation of this topic, and I think I’ve come up with a better way of explaining it. Rather than starting with a sentence with a relative clause in it and taking it apart, bracketing off the clause, I’ll start with two separate sentences and show how subordination can combine them. This way I can show how a relative pronoun functions like any other pronoun. Hopefully this will make it all clear. I do find relative clauses to be a tricky concept for many students. Still, it’s much more straightforward in Latin than in Old English, which uses an indeclinable relative pronoun, sometimes in combination with other pronouns. Old English was just not made to subordinate that much. In any case, it’s interesting to compare teaching the two languages.

Posted by Mark at 04:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 06, 2006

Sublimis, pulcher, amoenus

This is currently the strangely foggy view out of my back window:

fog.jpg

Is this view sublime, beautiful, or picturesque?

Posted by Mark at 04:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack