October occasions

Thursday, the 9th, was Hangul Day, which reminded me of my wonderful linguistics colleague Jim McCawley, who was a notable exponent of the holiday (but died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1999, so there’s some sadness in the day). And then yesterday, the 11th, was National Coming Out Day (NCOD), a joyous occasion in many ways, but also the day my husband-equivalent Jacques Transue and I chose to celebrate as our anniversary; alas, Jacques died in 2003, so NCOD is also a sad occasion. Then yesterday, the mail brought an ad for University Health Care Advantage, a Medicare HMO plan providing “comprehensive care at Stanford Health Care” for Santa Clara County residents — mail for Ann Zwicky at my home address in Palo Alto. Alas, Ann never lived in California, and certainly not at this address, and she died 29 years ago, so this mail was a grotesque reminder of Ann.

Tomorrow is Columbus Day in my country (also Thanksgiving Day in Canada, so mail doesn’t work in either country) — not a sad occasion, but now a rather bizarre holiday, celebrated (or not) in different ways in different places.

One thing at a time.

Hangul Day. From my 10/09/13 posting about the holiday:

Today is Hangul Day, a holiday to celebrate the Korean writing system. Here’s a video from some years ago with the great linguist Jim McCawley explaining why this is an important day in the calendar…

So there’s sad remembrance of Jim here. And then, recently I’ve been struggling to create an interview document for a grammar / linguistics site about my work in linguistics and on my blog, a task that has demoralized me deeply: what have I done with my life? Ouch, ouch.

Remembering Jim has deepened my despair. As Noriko Akatsuka McCawley once said to me about Jim: he extruded papers and books. Wonderful papers and books, engagingly written and produced at white speed. A hard standard to meet.

NCOD. Earlier postings on this blog, several with artwork for the occasion:

11/23/10, “In September and October”, with, among other things, an account of how NCOD came to be the Jacques & Arnold anniversary

10/11/11, “NCOD 2011”

10/11/12, “NCOD”

10/11/13, “NCOD 2013”

By my reckoning, yesterday was anniversary #38. Meanwhile, Jacques has been in my dreams, again and again.

The UHCA ad. This piece of mail came to me as a consequence of software that links data, putting together pieces of information that don’t really belong together. For a while, well after her death, Ann got mail here in Palo Alto from Stanford sites, and I was able to shut off those off. But only for a while; new mailings would appear from new places, ones much harder to get at (coupon offers for her birthday, for instance) and ones not responsive to NOT AT THIS ADDRESS or ADDRESSEE DIED IN 1985. Expunging people from mailing lists seems to be a very difficult task.

Columbus Day. From Wikipedia:

Many countries in the New World and elsewhere celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, which happened on October 12, 1492, as a holiday or official celebration. The landing is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Día de la Raza (“Day of the Race”) in many countries in Latin America, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, as Día de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional in Spain, as Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) in Argentina, as Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in Belize and Uruguay and as Giornata Nazionale di Cristopher Columbus or Festa Nazionale di Cristopher Columbus in Italy and in the Little Italys around the world. These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century, and officially in various areas since the early 20th century. This holiday has met with a long history of opposition with several regions in the United States either refusing to observe it or celebrating a different event entirely.

Columbus Day first became an official state holiday in Colorado in 1906, and became a federal holiday in the United States in 1937, though people have celebrated Columbus’s voyage since the colonial period.

… Many Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage, the first occasion being in New York City on October 12, 1866. Columbus Day was first enshrined as a legal holiday in the United States through the lobbying of Angelo Noce, a first generation Italian, in Denver.

… The city of Berkeley, California, has replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day since 1992, a move which has been followed by several other localities including Sebastopol and Santa Cruz, California; Dane County, Wisconsin; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Seattle, Washington. Various tribal governments in Oklahoma designate the day “Native American Day”, or name the day after their own tribe.

Spain gets to celebrate because the funding for the voyages came from the Spanish crown (and because Spain reaped enormous benefits from the Conquest). Italian-Americans, and some other groups in the Italian diaspora, get to celebrate because Columbus was by birth Italian (well, from the geographical area that was eventually united as an Italian nation in the 19th century). Latin American and Caribbean celebrations are somewhat harder to understand, and it’s easy to appreciate why many people want to dissociate the occasion from the waves of conquest of the New World.

For Italian-Americans (and others in the Italian diaspora) a suitable replacement for Columbus Day would be the feast of San Gennaro (St. Januarius, or St. January), the patron saint of Naples, whose feast day in the Roman Catholic calendar is September 19th. A number of American cities have festivals of San Gennaro on this date.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the second Monday in October is a postal holiday called “Columbus Day”, and in some places, nothing more than that (or is something different). Stanford classes go on as usual tomorrow.

One Response to “October occasions”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    I knew Jim McCawley through his Eater’s Guide to Chinese Characters, one of my favorite books about language – and food.

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