Roundup (With Many References to Violent Elocution Instrutors)

  • The British Library is releasing some snazzy and rare recordings of authors. And the Guardian article includes an audio clip with Virginia Woolf sounding like an elocution instructor who will beat the shit out of you with a sharp riding crop until you crawl across her parquet, bleeding and pleading until the “uhs” and “you knows” are most definitely out of your vernacular.
  • For Patrick Kurp, one of the reasons he’ll never contemplate suicide is the proliferation of color in the world. I wonder if Mr. Kurp has read A.S. Byatt’s Still Life: “We know that we live in a flow of light and lights, as we live in a flow of air and sounds, of which we apprehend a part, and make sense of it as best we can. The pigments on van Gogh’s palette, with their chemistry and their changing tones, are as much a part of this flow as the trees and variable sky. We relate them to each other, and to ourselves, from where we are. It seems to me that at the height of his passion of work van Gogh was able to hold all these things in a kind of creative or poetic balance which is always threatened by forces from inside and outside itself.”
  • Richard Dawkins’s next book will involve an investigation of Harry Potter. Do these books cause children to believe in witchcraft? And are these imaginative books harmful? Should these books be stopped because the Godzilla Prediction Network requires Total Ubiquitous Rationality? Well, all fine and dandy. But here’s another question: Does capitulating imagination in the pursuit of hard reason turn you into a shrill, humorless, and not particularly fun histrionic type past your prime?
  • Andrew Wheeler brings up a pronoun misuse that has likewise troubled me. I’d sooner stomach the strange-looking “s/he” over the utterly erroneous “they” any day. Indeed, I would happily have a gang of elocution instructors beat the shit out of me if it would get five people to stop using “they.”
  • Finally, someone has concocted an inexpensive and more sensible e-reader. The best part of it is that you can probably persuade some elementary school teacher to hand over the necessary materials. If the teacher doesn’t believe you’re in second grade, you can always point out that this is a retroactive request. You always wanted to learn arts and crafts. But the elocution instructors beat the shit out of you and made you shy. Decades later, the confidence has come back. You can even speak to elocution instructors again, and sometimes speak articulately in an elocution instructor’s presence. You don’t even have to bleed on the parquet as much. But you do need to secure your mojo with the butcher paper, et al. And you are a taxpayer. So why the heck not? Butcher paper please. (via Bibliophile Bulletin)
  • A painting purchased for $5 in a thrift store turned out to be a Jackson Pollock offering that now has an asking price of $50 million. Yes, it’s another one of those patented Antiques Roadshow stories. There’s no way that I can involve an elocution instructor here. But with the economic downturn, perhaps the lesson to be learned here is that reappraisal may be way to boost one’s finances. (via Bookninja)
  • Reappraisal, however, shouldn’t involve getting nasty. The Observer‘s John Koblin is now reporting that all Condé Nast publishers and editors are being asked to cut their staffs by five percent and their budgets by five percent within weeks. What’s particularly bleak about this news is that Koblin has confirmed this with “five sources,” thus achieving a morbid symmetry. Maybe the real solution is to have Vanity Fair editors write considerably more than 3,000 words a year, cutting the editor’s salary by 5% if s/he (not they!) can’t generate more material. The more callous solution — one more likely to be employed — is to hire a ball-busting elocution instructor as an efficiency expert.
  • For what it’s worth, I have experienced no problems with elocution instructors. Nor have I had bad experiences that would suggest that they are violent. But I do advocate more fierceness and fearlessness within pedagogues of all types. It’s certainly a lot more pro-active than sitting around believing in blind hope.


  1. The singular they is the future, and you can fight it, own it, or weep before it — yet it will come anyway.

    We contain multitudes. Our genitalia are cut and paste accessories.

  2. In fact, the singular they is also the past.

    From an interview with Ursula Le Guin:

    “SiTW : When did the singular “they” fall out of written English ? It’s nice to be able to defend the practice.

    Ursula : Grammarians in the 17th and 18th century, trying to kind of cut a common path through the wild jungle of Elizabethan English, regularised a lot of usages—including spelling—not a bad idea in itself ; but they admired Latin so much they used it as their model, rather than looking at how English actually solved some of these problems. “The reader” or “A person” doesn’t agree in number with “they,” and in Latin it is genuinely necessary that subject and verb agree in number . . . so they said it was necessary in English. (Actually it isn’t always, because we have other ways of making the meaning clear, like word order, which is almost irrelevant in Latin.) So colloquial usages such as “he don’t” (which my father, a professor, sometimes used) were frowned out of the written language, and so was the indefinite “they,” even though it turns up in Shakespeare. But the grammarians couldn’t get it out of the spoken language. It is perfectly alive and well there. “If anybody wants their icecream they better hurry up !” So it doesn’t take an awfully big jolt to just slip it back into written English.

    It is funny how the people who object most furiously to “incorrectness” like that almost always turn out to be far right politically and/or socially insecure.”

  3. “Richard Dawkins’s next book will involve an investigation of Harry Potter.”

    Dawkins can take comfort in knowing that Christian fundamentalists are with him on this one. Next, of course: all that irrational Greek mythology crap…

  4. Wait a minute . . . Marshall McLuhan’s mother, Elsie, was an elecution instructor, Ed, a fact which may explain why he spoke so articulantly and eloquently; but, she beat the shit out of both Mars and his brother, Red, too many times to believe (for no reason anyone ever understood except that her husband, Herb, had more fun with his boys than she did). Horrible woman; and, he forgave her (which makes him a true saint in my book / s :)).

    She only had two boys; and, trumour has it, she even knocked Herb around the block a time or two in Winnipeg, aussi. Ughly!

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