Thursday, April 30, 2009

Don't Mess With the Marching Band Girls.

Finally! Score for the bandos! Read the story here.

My favorite line? "'The moral to this story is don't mess with the marching band girls, or you just might get what you deserve. Final score: marching band 2, thugs 0'."

In case you didn't know, I was the drum major of my high school marching band. Oh, yes I was.

Also, Nancy Sinatra's biggest fan. Apparently.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Word's The Thing.

I love etymological poems (I should have studied linguistics rather than 16th-c. literature). I love the idea that poetry--the genre responsible for radicalizing and advancing language through metaphor and syntax and linguistic deviance--can study itself, can study where language has been. And why.

There is no bigger shiver for me--no greater sense of duende--than to read the etymological origin of a word I had no clue about before, especially when there's a connection rooted there to something I wouldn't have otherwise guessed. It's a way to carry language forward by carrying it back. We've "forgotten" the connection, the root; it's buried in and by cultural history. But, in the process of digging it up, we can actually make language move forward again, in new and surprising ways. Total turn on.

Yes, I am a word geek.

So. Anyway. Today's poem in the Poem-a-Day feature for celebrating National Poetry Month was this one, by Debra Nystrom, entitled "Floater," which has the following wonderfully etymological lines about the speaker's daughter playing her Bach mordents on the piano:

What does mordent mean,

her piano teacher asked—I was waiting in the kitchen
and overheard—I don't know, something about dying?

No; morire means to die, mordere means to take
a bite out of something—good mistake
, she said.
And so I looked up "mordent" (also, "mordant") in the online dictionary. It also includes a nifty little tool called a visual thesaurus, which informs me that "black" and "grim" are close relatives of "mordant"--who knew? But a noun, an adjective, that has as its root meaning, to take a bite out of something? Brilliant.

Have I mentioned I'm writing a series of poems called "Eve in L.A."?

Duende, baby. Pure duende.

UPDATED: So, I just needed to confirm the plural of avocado (is it avocados or avocadoes?) and, looking it up, came across this:

Word History: The history of avocado takes us back to the Aztecs and their language, Nahuatl, which contained the word ahuacatl meaning both "fruit of the avocado tree" and "testicle." The word ahuacatl was compounded with others, as in ahuacamolli, meaning "avocado soup or sauce," from which the Spanish-Mexican word guacamole derives. In trying to pronounce ahuacatl, the Spanish who found the fruit and its Nahuatl name in Mexico came up with aguacate, but other Spanish speakers substituted the form avocado for the Nahuatl word because ahuacatl sounded like the early Spanish word avocado (now abogado), meaning "lawyer." In borrowing the Spanish avocado, first recorded in English in 1697 in the compound avogato pear (with a spelling that probably reflects Spanish pronunciation), we have lost some traces of the more interesting Nahuatl word.
Anyone know that the fruit shares its etymological root with testicle? I knew this about the word orchid (from Greek orkhis, testicle, orchid [from the shape of its tubers]), but not avocado. Hmmmmm.

Kind of glad to learn that the plural is *not* avocadoes, which would have me thinking of antlerless deer.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Quote of the Festival.

I've been catching up on the LA Times Festival of Books, which happened this past weekend, and which I didn't attend. Carolyn Kellogg's updates have been keeping me informed, and her summary of the Publishing 3.0 panel, largely heralding the demise of traditional publishing outlets (not new news), contained the nugget I've been waiting for:
Nash noted that poetry micropresses are flourishing in this new, hectic publishing environment. With what may be the quote of the festival, he added, "Poetry, like porn, is a harbinger of culture."