[poetry, not about language]


Richard Starkey 7/7/40
Arnold Zwicky [not a Beatle] 9/6/40
John Lennon 10/9/40
Paul McCartney 6/18/42
George Harrison 2/25/43

July 7, once again
Ringo ages
A year, just
Two months before
I do.

The senior
Beatle is
Older than
I am,
But just barely;

John was, is, a month older,
Paul and George older
Still, a couple of
Years, yet

They all were a
After me.
Ringo especially.

Ringo welcomes the
New decade, so
I guess
I should
Go along.


A photo, not of Ringo (or any Beatle), not of me — but of a guy, possibly Swedish, photographed by Walter Hirsch — as amended by Robert Cumming for my 60th birthday:

Ok, I changed my mind. Here’s a version of something about language (and Ringo Starr) I just posted to the American Dialect Society mailing list:

All over the media: the news that “former Beatle” Ringo Starr celebrates his 70th birthday today. It’s clear what is meant; the reference is to his having been a Beatle before they split up, oh so long ago now.  So he was a Beatle and he isn’t now, but that’s not because of a change in him (as with “former President”), but because of a change in the Beatles.

In tensed clauses, the verb be in the past is neutral as between the ways in which it could come about that

SUBJ be INDEF-NP (“Ringo was (once) a Blupp”)

was true at a time in the past but is no longer true now.  So is

once INDEF-NP (“Once a Blupp, Ringo …”)

However, for me

ex-NOM (“ex-Blupp”) and former NOM (“former Blupp”)

have only the understanding that the status of the referent of the larger expression has changed, and not that the status of the referent of the NOM has changed.

Alas, I have no easy way to pack this second understanding into a NOM.  Some other people seem to allow both understandings for “ex-Blupp” and “former Blupp”, with the appropriate one picked out using real-life knowledge, the way “once a Blupp” works for me.

Of course, I understand these people perfectly well; it’s just that I wouldn’t say it their way.

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