Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What I’m reading #101

Home Paddock reports that according to the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary “literally” literally doesn’t mean “literally” any more. It still does in my book – which is the magnificent 2011 edition of the  Chambers Dictionary (praised previously here). Chambers is austere:
Using the literal, as opposed to the figurative, of a word or a phrase; often inappropriately used for mere emphasis.
Mick Hartley on the mathematics of Paradise, or what a good Muslim man can expect in the next world according to the Saudi cleric Muhammad Ali Shanqiti (there is video). Not just 72 virgins. No way. Heaps more: “Every Muslim man gets at least two black-eyed virgins in Paradise. Each virgin comes with 70 servants girls. You are permitted [to have sex] with the virgins as well as the servant girls. For every woman from this world who enters Paradise, you get 70 black-eyed virgins.”  

Mick does the maths. Quote unquote:
Four wives, say, each with 70 black-eyed virgins. That’s... purses lips, taps figures into the calculator... 280 black-eyed virgins. And each of these brings 70 servant girls. That’s... 19,600 servant girls. Phew! And those are just the servant girls, remember. Let’s not forget those 280 virgins...and the four wives...that’s 19, 600 plus 280, plus 4, which makes.....19,884. Nineteen thousand eight hundred and eighty four women! Which is....a stunning 276-fold increase over the original 72 virgins. Now that’s progress.
Anglican sermons were never like this.
I can’t quite see what is in this for the  women. Or the men, frankly: I’m not as young as I used to be. (Also, there’s 365 days in a year, so that’s 54 women in a day for the man, and one shag a year for each woman. Sub-optimal all round, I’d say.)

Tape is back. Relax, it’s not cassettes. God, imagine. The horror, the horror.

Mary Egan, who produced Kerry Harrison’s well-received novel Wahine, blogs that “Self-publishing is not failure. It’s the new market place.” Quote unquote:
If you want a professional book, you hire professionals just as you would if you were building a house. A power tool salesman is not a builder, an art teacher is not an interior decorator and an engineering student is not an electrician. Translate this to the publishing industry: an author is not a designer, an English teacher is not an editor, a retired accountant is not a typesetter… I could go on. Just as having your house built by a registered builder protects your investment, having your book professionally produced gives you the best chance of achieving sales.
 She would say that, wouldn’t she. But then:
We understand self-publishing is unrealistic for some and it can be expensive, but you need to think of your return on investment. You may sell 50 copies of the book you produced yourself, or you may sell 500 copies of a book you had professionally done. We help you make these decisions and will prevent you from throwing away your money if the figures do not stack up.
That last sentence is why I send people to Mary: like me, she will not take a client on if the project is hopeless. There are a lot of pirates out there who will. (Long-promised blogpost on this coming soon. Promise.)

Bernadette McNulty in the Daily Telegraph traces the career of a famous band:
Fleetwood Mac were a band born out of a splintering from the Bluesbreakers, and they continued to fuse and split with a kind of nuclear energy throughout the next four decades.
I love it when arts graduates employ metaphors from science. Anyway here is Fleetwood Mac when they were good, i.e. with Peter Green in June 1969 playing his song “Man of the World” live on German TV.  It got to #2 on the hit parade that month. Yes, pop music was different then, and yes, I bought the single. Knowing what we know now about the state Green was in, and that this was reportage,  the song and performance are harrowing:
I guess I've got everything I need
I would't ask for more
And there's no one I'd rather be
But I just wish that I'd never been born.


The Dashboard Poet said...

I never comment on blogs ...which is no longer true.
You have a delightful way of combining thoughts with language. Such is increasingly rare these days. Thank you for an interesting blog. I live near Chicago, and write a blog, titled The Dashboard Poet. I get published, from time to time, but as you know, it doesn't so much as buy a can of beans.
Language is a lovely thing. I hate those who butcher it. I appreciate you for not being on my "hit list." I know I must, at times, add my own name to the list of malefactors. Strange what folks will read!
~ James

helenalex said...

1) Cassette tapes are back, somehow. (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/fast-forward--and-press-play-again-cassettes-are-back-8588768.html) They are the Georgie Pie of music formats; everyone has forgotten how crap they were.
2) In paradise you are, presumably, as young as you used to be. The whole thing is still ridiculous though.
3) As you well know, the job of a dictionary is to record usage, even when it's stupid.

Stephen Stratford said...

Re 3), helenalex, yes absolutely - it's that old descriptive/prescriptive thing. Chambers is usually very relaxed and non-prescriptive so it was surprising to see it holding the line on "literally". I looked it up just now on "disinterested" - yep, still firm on that too. Phew. #losingbattles