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Quotable Quotes

I love quotes and collect them. It often surprises me who said what. I am sometimes shocked by the name of the famous or non-famous speaker of a little known saying. Some of my favorites are below.

“Words are the only thing that last,” was one of Winston Churchill’s frequently spoken lines. He was famous for his speeches and used words in many books. This Prime Minister who led England during World War II wrote the equal of 43 books and was honored in the film The Darkest Hour. This fine drama earned an Academy Award for Best Actor for British thespian Gary Oldman, who played Churchill brilliantly. Unfortunately, this word group that Churchill uttered was first said by William Hazlitt, a writer and critic who lived in the 17th and 18th century. He was born in 1778 and died in 1830. Attributing a wise quote to someone is often tricky. Churchill also said, “Success is going from failure to failure.” He actually was the original speaker of this witty and accurate line.

“Since we can’t choose how we die, we’d better be careful how we choose to live.” This great quote is attributed to someone named Jeff Giles. Giles was a writer who became an editor for the magazine Entertainment Weekly, which is now a monthly publication. He actually said this.

“If at first an idea is not absurd, then there’s no hope for it.” This brilliant observation is attributed to the man who discovered The Theory of Relativity and other seemingly absurd but true principles. His name was Albert Einstein.

I especially like quotes about travel. Who said,” Travel is at its most rewarding when it ceases to be about your reaching a destination and becomes indistinguishable from living your life.” This was said by travel writer Paul Theroux, who would surely know how true it is.

And second from last, “Anyone who isn’t confused really doesn’t understand the situation.” This was said by a man who became one of the first TV newsmen and made his living from a career in media. He was one of the first TV stars. His name was Edward R. Murrow. He died in 1965. I wonder what he would say about current national and international news?

“Is this what it meant to be a parent–to constantly fail to be in control of anything?” This was said by the father of twins who writes books that I love including Four Seasons in Rome and All the Light We Cannot See.

Hank


Holidays

Ruth & I were in a grocery store on St. Patrick’s Day. Ruth asked the young clerk checking us out how he planned to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and he said he planned to do something after work. It was pretty vague, but I got to thinking that St. Patrick is the only saint we still honor with a special day each year. Why is he the only saint with an American holiday still connected to his name? I got to thinking about the last time St. Patrick’s Day made an impression on me, and I recalled trying to visit Wrigley Field in Chicago on St. Pat’s weekend and almost hitting several young men who were very drunk in a street.

What does Easter mean now? It’s on April 4 this year. I was in another grocery store this morning and looking at a display of Easter bunnies. They were ceramic, chocolate, and plastic. Is this all that Easter has become, a celebration of rabbit images and candy? It used to be a serious religious holiday in my family preceded by Palm Sunday and The Stations of the Cross.

In Under the Tuscan Sun Frances Mayes, who grew up in Georgia as a Methodist and then became an Episcopalian said, “I never tire of going into Italian churches.” This is what everyone does in Italy. She became a nominal catholic each summer when she lived there. What do you think about when you think about Assisi? St. Francis, of course. Why are certain old books like Under the Tuscan Sun and The Queen’s Gambit timeless and always a potential read or TV series when other books are dated as soon as they are published? People are still reading Moby Dick and To Kill a Mockingbird, and Emma and Pride and Prejudice are still being made into movies. “Sunday is Cemetery Day here,” Frances Mayes comments. In other words, living members of Italian families visit cemeteries on Sunday and lay flowers on the burial places of dead family members. I remember seeing a movie called For Roseanna several years ago about a woman who was dying and struggling to rent grave space for just a few years in her village cemetery. The practice of lingering in a local cemetery on weekends to talk to long-dead relatives remains an Italian custom. The last time I visited my mother’s grave was the day we buried her many years ago.

And what has become of Christmas? We still buy gifts, but why do we still do this? To go into holiday debt? Frances Mayes and her husband went to their home in Italy every Christmas and invited family members and friends to stay with them to celebrate Christmas in traditional ways. They went to church before opening gifts. Big food feasts followed gift opening. About the only thing traditional about Christmas any more is the music, but no one I know goes caroling.

If you want to know how far we’ve come when it comes to celebrating holidays, think about the last time you celebrated Columbus Day.

Hank


Several Strange Words

On February 10, 2021, I wrote about weird English language words in “Strange Words Indeed” because words have always fascinated me.

For example, some words in English have negative meanings but sound like something beautiful. I nominate bramble for this category. No one wants to walk through a bramble patch, but the word itself sounds like something rather nice. Some words have positive meanings but sound negative. Is it good or bad to be puissant? It’s desirable to be puissant, having great power or influence, but when spoken the word can sound like something no one would desire to be.

Because of their very sound, some words sound positive and are. Sometimes nominated for the most beautiful word in the English language are dulcet, gossamer, euphoria, lithe, diaphanous, silhouette, panacea, and lullaby. Again some words sound positive but can be negative. Is to be sibilant a good thing are a bad thing? Most people would say that to make a hissing sound is negative.

I wrote about the most beautiful phrase in English in “Strange Words Indeed”. Some say that “cellar door” wins. Others favor “summer afternoon”, which sounds nice and can be rather pleasant.

When asked the most difficult word to pronounce, some say Worcestershire wins. This is hard to argue with.

An odd category is “least used words”. Usually words seldom used become obsolete and die of natural causes. Some say that genipap is the least used word. What’s a genipap anyway? It’s an evergreen Caribbean tree with orange-like fruit, and it’s hard to argue with this designation. But what does it mean to bumfuzzle? Isn’t that word as little used as genipap?

Spelling is a more useful category. It’s definitely hard to spell some words. Often for me these are often used words that cause a mental block when I try to use them. The Reader’s Digest in 2020 nominated the following words as among the 20 hardest words to spell. They should know. They include nauseous, indict, Wednesday, fuchsia, mischievous, and onomatopoeia. I have found that an abundance of close together vowels in a word can lead to spelling confusion. Look at how may vowels are in onomatopoeia, for example. However, I can usually spell onomatopoeia with little difficulty. By the way, a word is onomatopoeic when it imitates the sound of its meaning like tinkle, fizzle, and buzz.

Hank

PS It’s hard to match this subject with appropriate photos. That’s why I used plants for “Strange Words Indeed” and why I chose art glass for “Several Strange Words”. In my opinion, Neon Art fits this category. The top 3 are by glass art expert Dale Chihuly of Seattle.


Halls, Aisles, and Arches

For some unexplainable reason, I have a lot of photos of staircases, arches and hallways in my albums. I am astonished by how many times over the years I have taken pictures of them while traveling. I suppose I take the Renaissance idea of a vanishing point too seriously or often wonder what’s beyond that arch or up that empty staircase, and my eyes and lens are drawn to classic steps, mysterious arches usually in foreign countries, and interesting hotel hallways.

I have pictures of steps and arches like the one just above in places like Ireland, Russia, China, and The United States. The steps are sometimes in old and new theaters, the halls are in not-so-busy or closed hotels, and the arches are over entryways or on streets in many foreign countries.

I suppose my compulsion has led me to seek out and appreciate artists who show these in their works. Maurits Cornelis Escher has been a longtime favorite of mine with his stairs going nowhere or mathematically balanced oddities. I dote on the works of Edward Hopper with his often seemingly depressed humans in paintings like “Nighthawks” and “Rooms by the Sea”. I still remember liking the works of Marvin D. Cone, a little known Iowa artist who often depicted ghosts and human abandoned staircases leading to partially opened doors in paintings like “Uncle Ben” and “The White Hotel”. I first saw his output in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and I was immediately drawn to his works. He was a friend of Grant Wood of “American Gothic” fame, a long-time college professor, and a respected regional painter whose haunted paintings are seldom seen outside of Iowa. However, my favorite mystery painter is Belgian artist Rene Magritte. A couple in Houston, Texas, the Menils, befriended him, entertained Magritte in their home, and bought many of his paintings. Ruth and I have a copy of a mysterious Magritte painting hanging in our living room and I look at it often.

Today you are the recipient (or victim) of an effort to clear some photos off my cluttered desktop. Outside my window today are many snow sculptures, no traffic going up or down a usually busy street, and piles of snow from our first and only big dump of the winter of 2021. Because of where we live, it’s supposed to be gone by tomorrow when rain is forecasted. In the meantime, Ruth and I are experiencing cabin fever in a rare year of no travel.

Hank


Strange Words Indeed

I was reading a book and the author used the word sclerotic. I wasn’t sure what “sclerotic” meant, but it seemed rather interesting and descriptive. I looked it up to learn that it means, in terms of its use in the book, becoming rigid and unresponsive or losing the ability to adapt. Its first meaning was “having sclerosis”, which to me was nonsensical. “We NEED a word like sclerotic in the English language” was my 2nd thought. My 3rd thought was, “A lot of people on the internet have too much time to think about nonsensical words. “Nonsensical” means, by the way, “making no sense”.

I began thinking about weird words and remembered that, long ago, I learned that a word not used since 1755 is considered officially dead. That means that it was once a legit word, but no one has used it recently so it died. Not being sclerotic, I began looking for unusual words still considered usable. They are legion and on the internet.

What do you think impignorate means? Considered one of the weirdest words in English, I had to call on both Merriam and Webster online to find out that it’s a verb that means to “pledge, pawn, or mortgage”. I have little or no use for impignorate at the present time. Also on the list with it were the words anachronism and accismus. Both qualify as weird all right, but I knew that an anachronism is “a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists”, making it a useful and wonderful word. I love anachronisms in movies and books. Barney the Dinosaur comes to mind as an example. However, I had no idea what accismus” means. It’s a form of irony in which a person pretends to refuse something he or she desires”. If the humanized coyote caught the roadrunner but refused to eat him that would be accismus.

I found a list of someone’s idea of the 12 weirdest words in the English language. They included gerrymandering, fungus, kerfuffle, berserk, and vex. Vex? I found the best word ever a kind of intriguing opinion. Someone decided that it’s diphthong. I tend to agree. A diphthong sounds kind of sleazily sexual, but it means “a sound formed by the combination of two vowels in a single syllable, in which the sound begins as one vowel and moves toward another”, like the word oil for example. The vowels in this word create a sound different from anything “O” or “I” can produce alone. Understand? Another thinker suggested that the most random word in English is potato. I don’t get it. What is the most beautiful sound that 2 English words together can produce? I recall learning a long time ago that it’s “cellar door”. Talk about nonsensical! How about mellifluous serendipity?

In conclusion, what are the 10 longest words in the English language? If you guessed the “super” word from Mary Poppins you’d be close. However, the super word is number 3 and pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoniosis is 11 letters longer and #1. Please don’t ask me what it means or request that I ever type it again.

Hank