4.0098 Words: Wordolitarianism; Pronounciation & Syntax (79)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 22 May 90 17:29:25 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0098. Tuesday, 22 May 1990.

(1) Date: Tue, 22 May 90 19:19:58-020 (52 lines)
From: onomata@bengus (nissan ephraim)
Subject: wordolitarianism; gender

(2) Date: Mon, 21 May 90 16:41:26 -0500 (27 lines)
From: Alan D Corre <corre@csd4.csd.uwm.edu>
Subject: Queries about English

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Tue, 22 May 90 19:19:58-020
From: onomata@bengus (nissan ephraim)
Subject: wordolitarianism; gender

Amsler's message was right to point out that the morphological gender
has nothing to do with sex or psychological sexual characterization
IN GENERAL: this is why I emphasized that "automobile" as masculine
presupposes "veicolo", whereas as feminine it presupposes "macchina"
or "vettura", as then the neologism just inherited their gender.

The myth of virility invaded terminology, after D'Annunzio, with
Mussolini: he claimed that "I fatti sono maschi, e le parole sono
femmine" ("Facts are male, and words are female", as "fatto" is masculine
whereas "parola" is feminine).

The grotesque is evident to everybody, once somebody points it out.
Totalitarianisms are very serious about themselves. When turning to
terminology, they sometimes apply "wordolitarianism": repressive
measures concerning terminology. (Such was the Fascist ban on
loanwords. See Monelli's book republished by Hoepli of Milan in 1942.)

In a liberal society, D'Annunzio had reason to fear his vulnerability to
irony. Here is an anecdote. One play of his is titled "Isaotta
Guttadauro". Literally translated, this proper name means: "Iseult
Gold-Drop". Standard Italian has "Isotta" and "goccia d'oro".
D'Annunzio selected Latinate forms ("gutta", "auro" from "aurum"), and
the arbitrary "Isaotta" (perhaps as evocative of Isabella, Isaura, or
Liselotte). One critic titled his review of the play, splendidly and
caustically: "Risaotto al pomidauro". In standard Italian, "risotto al
pomodoro" means "pilaf with tomato": a prosaic concept, as contrasted
with D'Annunzio's aulicity. "Pomodoro" for tomato is "pomodori" or
"pomidoro" in the plural, and, `wrongly', "pomidori". By calque on
"Isaotta", the critic derived "Risaotto" from "risotto". "Risa otto"
means "eight bursts of laughter". Indeed, "risa" is the collective
plural for "riso" ("laughter"), whereas "risate" is the singulative
plural: countable bursts of laughter. "Facciamoci quattro risate" means
"Let's have four bursts of laughter", that is, "Let's have some fun
[at X's expenses]". Here, the bursts of laughter are eight, the double
of the four in the idiom. The message of "Risaotto al pomidauro" was:
D'Annunzio's play is matter for laughter and deserves tomatos.

Of course, D'Annunzio did not forgive this.

More in general, the sublime and the ridiculous are very close neighbors.

Best regards,
Ephraim Nissan

BITNET address: onomata@bengus.bitnet
Department of Mathematics & Computer Science,
Ben Gurion University of the Negev,
P.O. Box 653, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------37----
Date: Mon, 21 May 90 16:41:26 -0500
From: Alan D Corre <corre@csd4.csd.uwm.edu>
Subject: Queries about English

I have two queries about the pronunciation of English words, and one
about syntax.

I usually hear the plural of the word "process" pronounced as if it were
a Greek word, that is to say the end sounds like the end of "hypotheses"
(-EEZ). It is easy to see why this might occur; the word is often used
in learned contexts, and has a sibilant at the end. I don't think "axes"
(plural of "ax") and "axes" (plural of "axis") will ever merge because
"ax" is so rarely used in a learned context. Is this "error" common
outside the American midwest? Does it occur in UK?

I know two words in English that have four acceptable pronunciations.
"vase" may be pronounced vayz, vays, vahz or vawz. The herb "basil" may
be bassil, bazil, bayssil or bayzil. Are there any words that have more
than four? I realise that broad pronunciation differences from one area
to another may complicate this question--and please excuse my
unscientific transcriptions.

Sentences of the type: "The problem is that he has no money" invariably
come out in speech here with the word "is" repeated: "The problem is is
that he has no money." I think this must be due to contamination by
sentences like "What his opinion is, is nobody's business." Is this
also midwestern usage, or does it have wider currency?