This month, presidential candidate Donald Trump delivered a morning convocation at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. During his address to a large evangelical audience, Trump said, “I hear this is a major theme right here. . . . Two Corinthians 3:17. That’s the whole ballgame.” Trump’s saying “two Corinthians” instead of the conventional “second Corinthians” drew criticism from a host of Bible readers.
This incident brings to mind a similar gaffe involving Roman numerals: Famous band leader Lawrence Welk once introduced a medley of “songs from World War Eye!”
This past November, I wrote about author Lewis Carroll’s love of portmanteau words — words made up of two words scrunched together, as if stuffed into a carrying bag. Carroll’s two most famous portmanteau creations are chortle ( chuckle+ snort) and galumph ( gallop+ triumph).
In recent news, we’ve read about Ethan Couch, who, at the age of 16, killed or maimed seven people while driving drunk and high. His defense was affluenza , an inability to distinguish between right and wrong caused by a privileged and dysfunctional upbringing. Turns out that affluenza is a portmanteau word, a whimsical blend of affluence (“we have the gold; we make the rules”) and influenza (“a debilitating disease”).
Funnily enough, “The Los Angeles Angels” translates into “The the Angels Angels.” It’s but one of many bilingual redundancies: If you know your Middle English, Greek, Anglo-French, Latin, Italian, Japanese, Malay, Chinese and Dutch (doesn’t everybody?), you will avoid talking about time and tide (which are simply “time and time”), Greenwich Village (“Green village Village”), an epileptic seizure (“a seizure seizure”), the hoi polloi (“the the people”), beautiful calligraphy (“beautiful beautiful writing”), correct orthography (“correct correct writing”), a handwritten manuscript (“handwritten handwriting”), something that is very true (“truly true”), pizza pie (“pie pie”), a head honcho, (“head head”), shrimp scampi (“shrimp shrimp”), rice paddy (“rice rice”), lukewarm (“warm warm”), The La Brea Tar Pits (“The The Tar Pits Tar Pits”) and the Gobi or Sahara Desert (“the Desert Desert”).
Walking the Earth are a number of people who really care about proper grammar and usage. For example, three defenders of proper grammar are devoting themselves to ridding Quito, Peru, of poorly written street graffiti. They have been patrolling the streets of the capital and making sneaky, corrective raids with spray paint in order to correct punctuation and spelling atrocities. One of the three Conan the Grammarians told The Washington Post that he acts out of “moral obligation,” that “punctuation matters, commas matter, accents matter.”
Iceland is a small island nation, home to only about 330,000 people. Its population is rather homogenous, in part due to its relatively isolated location in the North Atlantic. And one thing that many Icelanders have in common is bibliophilia, a love of books. Icelanders are avid consumers of literature, with the highest number of bookstores per capita in the world.
Iceland boasts the highest per capita publication of books and magazines, and about 10 percent of the population will publish a book in their lifetimes.
Of the medium of print Socrates, in “Phaedrus” complained, “The discovery of the alphabet will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories. They will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.”
Before the invention of alphabets and printing presses, human beings were capable of feats of memory that most people today find incomprehensible.
Epic poems were composed from memory and improvisation and transmitted by song and chant. We must not forget that epics, such as the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey,” were created by illiterates and passed from person to person, in the manner of the book people in Ray Bradbury’s book-burning world of “Fahrenheit 451.”