Archive for the ‘Language and religion’ Category

Two cartoonists take on Charlottesville

August 17, 2017

Yes, vast numbers of cartoonists have taken up the subject, from many angles, some more than once. Here are two slashing images of POTUS and his response(s) to the event: Jon Berkeley’s cover for the August 19th issue of the Economist, and Peter Kuper’s New Yorker daily cartoon on the 15th.


The word came down on Pentecost

June 7, 2017

Four language-related strips in my comics feed on Sunday the 4th, which this year was Pentecost,

the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter. (NOAD2)

KJV Acts 2:3: And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them

The word came down. In One Big Happy, Rhymes Wth Orange, Zits, and xkcd.


Memorial song: Fellowship 330b

April 24, 2017

Saturday was the annual BASH (Bay Area Sacred Harp) all-day singing, this year at a Lutheran Church in Alameda (with an assembly hall that has a fine wooden ceiling, making for ringing acoustics). Part of the routine for “conventions” like this is a “memorial lesson”, during which someone lists singers who are sick or in distress and people who have died in the past year who were special in some way to a singer at the convention, and then we sing for them. The song for remembering the dead was 330b in the 1991 Denson Revision of The Sacred Harp, Fellowship, with a very familiar text (“Blest be the tie that binds”), excellent as a memorial song, but with a tune that was completely unfamiliar to me.

I realized too late that I should have added a name to the memorial list, but then used our regular Palo Alto singing yesterday to dedicate a song, and picked Fellowship because I had liked it so much at the BASH singing. As it turned out, another singer in the Palo Alto group picked it to lead, for reasons much like mine (but without the memorial function). So we all got to learn a “new” song (the words are 18th century, the tune mid-20th century).


Is that a Paschal Peep in your pouch?

April 24, 2017

From Chris Hansen on Facebook, a late entry in this year’s Easter Peepstakes: a model who dreamt he played with yellow Peeps in his Aronik swimwear:


About the company, its products, its models, its symbol, and its name


Passover minestrone

April 14, 2017

On Monday a friend made me a pot of minestrone, for Passover (a custom in her definitely gentile family; my definitely gentile family did gefilte fish for the holiday; who knows how these things got started) and because she knew it’s a favorite comfort food of mine (simple, warm, homey, and hearty).

Unaccountably, I seem not to have posted about minestrone before, so I’ll start with that. And then move to an actual Italian Passover soup,  minestra dayenu.


Ignaz Moscheles

December 15, 2016

A few days ago I awoke to the sound of really sparkly Schubert piano music. Well, not actually Schubert, but Ignaz Moscheles, a fascinating figure from the transition from high classicism to full-blown romanticism in music. A man of two musical worlds, devoted to the music of Beethoven but also close to Mendelssohn. And a man of two religious worlds, Jewish and Christian. (He was given a notably Jewish personal name, Isaac, at birth, but later changed that to the notably Christian Ignaz, a German version of the Latin Ignatius, a name borne by several Roman Catholic saints, most prominently Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), founder of the Jesuit order. But he kept his notably Jewish family name — related to the biblical name Moses  — and maintained close relations with his Jewish family and with other Jewish musicians of the time.)


My tongue broke out in unknown strains

November 28, 2016

Yesterday, shapenote singing (Sacred Harp, Denson Revision 1991) in Palo Alto. The Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend (in the U.S.), so songs of thanks (there are a great many of these). And the first Sunday of Advent, so songs with come significantly in the text (pretty many of these) and, looking forward, Christmas songs (there are tons of these); meanwhile, we are now firmly into the commercial and cultural Christmas season, so of course Christmas songs. But we wandered onto other church holidays: Easter Anthem #236, and the passionate Pentecost song Conversion #297:


In the events alluded to here, on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, a group of very early Christians (among them, the Apostles and Mary, the Mother of God) are possessed, enraptured, by the Holy Spirit, manifested as tongues of flame that descend upon them, granting them God’s grace and so transforming them, making them new, and, in addition, giving them the ability to speak in all languages (earthly or divine), to speak in tongues, as this ability came to be known.

So Pentecost is one of a small set of linguists’ holidays (up there with Hangul Day in Korea and an assortment of invented occasions like National Grammar Day).


The mazel tov cocktail

November 20, 2016

From the Washington Post on the 7th, “Actually, the Mazel Tov cocktail is real. And it’s delicious” by Maura Judkis, beginning:

In what will be perhaps the last great moment of comedy this presidential campaign season has given us, Donald Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes of criticized Jay Z after the rapper performed in Cleveland on Friday in support of Hillary Clinton.

“One of his main videos starts out with a crowd throwing mazel tov cocktails at the police,” said Hughes, referencing the “Run This Town” video.

Except: The explosive is called a molotov cocktail. “Mazel tov” [more or less literally, ‘good luck’] is a celebratory phrase in Hebrew — something you say when a baby is born, or a happy couple gets married. It’s not the first time a Republican has confused the two terms — when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was a county executive, he wrote “molotov” as a greeting to a Jewish constituent. So while Jewish people were laughing at Hughes’s malapropism, everyone else began to wonder: What is a mazel tov cocktail … ?

Judkis’s piece goes on to explain the mazel tov cocktail, and I’ll get to that. But some readers were made uneasy by these mazel tov / Molotov eggcorns, with their mixture of Judaism, Russian communism, and bomb-throwing protestors (like cartoon anarchists).



November 17, 2016

In the spirit of yesterday’s posting on a Psalm 73 text in two settings from the Denson Sacred Harp, on the occasion of Helmet GrabPussy’s election as POTUS, a revisiting of another biblical text on striking down the prideful, powerful, and rich, and raising up the meek, humble, and poor.

Previously, a 1/15/12 posting “Evensong”, about the Magnificat from the Anglican Evensong service and an entertaining and spirited burlesque of (part of) it by J. Keene Daingerfield (Sr.) (Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky’s great-grandfather), with its stirring climactic phrase, “Away, you rich, you son of a bitch”. A text now worth revisiting.


November 7th, in the liminal zone

November 7, 2016

Twilight Dawn in America

Between the dark and the daylight,
Between the end of Daylight Time and Election Day,
When the light is beginning to fade,
Comes a pause in the year’s occupation
That is known as Revolution and Solidarity Day,
Or, take your pick, Freedom Fighters Killing Day.

November 7th in America. We can be pleased that today’s birthdays include Marie Curie and Joan Sutherland. But then there’s the former national holiday of Bangladesh, a sad story of rebellion and ensuing dictatorship in a dreadfully beleagured country. And of course the terrible story of one of today’s saints, Ernest of Zwiefalten, disemboweled in the wars between Christianity and Islam, for God and territory (in roughly equal measure), over 800 years ago. A bloody awful day, in several senses.