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Trenz Pruca’s Observations: Rumination on the Long Generation.


If when I was five years old and shook the hand and listened to the stories of someone who was the age that I am now, he would have been born during the Civil War. If he in turn, when he was five, shook the hand of another old man and listened to his stories, he might have learned that that man when he was young had shaken the hand of someone who had shook the hand of someone who may have known Shakespeare. Three handshakes by old men represent a chain of history from Donald Trump to William Shakespeare.

(Hmm——This may evidence that, as a species, we may have been devolving faster than we realize.)

Recently, my partner told me that when she was young her Grandmother told her that when she was young and growing up near Balmoral Castle in Scotland, she used to watch Queen Victoria and Prince Albert traveling in their carriage to the local church to attend Sunday services.

This is a long generation.

DAILY FACTOIDS: Germany was invented by Julius Caesar who also believed Moses had no knees. 

In about 410 AD the  Roman occupation of Briton ends with the Roman army abandoning it in order to avoid dying on the island in favor of being slaughtered somewhere along the banks of the Rhine. Virtually the entire upper class, Briton and Roman alike, ransack the island for anything of value they could carry on to the boats taking them off to Brittany or Galicia.
In 475 AD the last western emperor, Romulus Augustulus handed over the insignia of his reign to his German general Odoacer. The next two centuries are dominated by hair-obsessed crime lords, some long-haired gingers, others bearded Lombards. Clovis, first “King of France” and descendant of sea monster, chooses the correct faith to be baptized in. His descendants wade through blood and incest until replaced by Charles “the Hammer” Martel whose son Pippin strikes a bargain with the Pope.
In about 500 AD Arthur defeats the Angles and the Saxons at Mount Badon thereby assuring the Britons 40 years of peace. That allowed them to turn their attention to slaughtering each other until the grandchildren of those same Angles and Saxons who had been defeated at Mt. Badon, drive the survivors into the mountains of Wales. 
Great Britain is one of the most often conquered places on earth. Of those conquerors the Anglo-Saxons held the land for perhaps the least amount of time (except for the Danes) and controlled the smallest area of any of that Island’s conquerors. They also left behind the least of note, few notable structures, literature (perhaps Beowulf) or art. So, why does Marjorie Taylor Green, Rick Santorum and the Far Right insist that we in America should be proud to claim Anglo-Saxon heritage?

Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week: “Carole’s Stuff and Occasional Nonsense” by Carole Bristol.

While rummaging through the internet, I tripped across an interesting blog, Carole’s Stuff and Occasional Nonsense by Carole Bristol who lives in England when she is not travelingShe describes her blog asall about food, wine, history, music, life, whatever takes my fancy, but mainly it’s about food. Whatever takes her fancy includes: music, the BBC, books, the Byzantine Empire, communications, fashion, film, fishing, football (soccer), France, history, ideas, maps, Paris, photography, politics, the Roman Empire, westies, wine and more. What most interested me were her fascinating comments on history and her correspondence with other historians and students of history. Two posts regarding my current fixation, the influence of the Anglo-Saxon migration on history. She writes:

“My assessment here is that the commonly accepted narrative of Angles, Saxons and Jutes arriving under elites, bent on conquest, is wrong and that these elites only emerged from agrarian settlements once immigration had established itself. Furthermore, I would suggest that the actual identities of the “Angles, Saxons and Jutes” are a process of deliberate creation by newly emergent elites during the 7th century, and that these ethnic identities were manufactured in along with the claimed ancestries that the various new Anglo-Saxon elites constructed to claim traditional rights of leadership.”

Her essays on food and its preparation are excellent as well. Unfortunately, it primarily focuses on British cuisine which, as a cuisine, holds little interest to me consisting generally of over soggy meat and overcooked vegetables. As a committed British progressive, however,  she sometimes trundles off into delicious rants on politics as well as amusing comments on modern life.

What is the point of texting?
There is nothing at all that you do with a text that couldn’t be done better with a phone call. I mean, it isn’t difficult. You have in your hand a device that will almost instantly connect you voice-to-voice with anyone you want to talk to, so that you can have what is known as a conversation.
In a conversation you can exchange comments and information and, if something is unclear, you can ask a few questions and get clarification.
What could be easier?
The only thing more stupid than texting is Twittering.

Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week: History of the Germans.

I am always searching for new blogs on which to while away my time instead of attending to anything on my to do list. Usually, besides reading trashy novels, my interest is limited to economics, history, poetry and some physics but not always. Recently, actually this morning, I came across a blog from a fellow who, with no particular educational qualifications, decided to produce a series of podcasts about German History, the transcripts of which are also published in the blog. As a student of history myself, I have to say, it is very well done, entertaining and at times humorous. He begins his tale at 900 AD when what we know as what became Germany and the Germans began. Conrad the last of the Carolingian kings had died and his crown passed to Henry the Fowler (he had a passion for birds) Duke of Saxony because he was considered by the other contending Dukes as weakest among them and they felt he would be unable to interfere with their activities in their own dukedoms. They were wrong. Henry the Bird-man surprised them all and laid the groundwork for what was to become modern Germany.

He has produced 12 podcast transcripts so far, taking us from 900AD to I000AD, from Henry the Fowler to Otto III. Along the way, we meet some of my favorite characters of medieval European History such as, Gerbert who became Pope Sylvester II and there is even a mention of Stupor Mundi himself Fredrick II, although he would make his official entrance into the story two hundred years later. The following are some excerpts from the first post:

“We are starting in the year 919 AD. Things are not going well. The mighty empire of Charlemagne has fallen apart. What we have instead are a multitude of puny kingdoms. Their feeble rulers are being pushed around by formidable barons. The frontiers are breached. In the North the Vikings and Danes are ransacking towns and villages along the coasts and even deep inland. In the East the Slavs are burning Hamburg. And in the South the most terrifying of them all, the Magyars, a steppe tribe like the Huns and the Mongols, are marauding all the way from Bavaria to Northern Spain.”

“One of those crumbling kingdoms was East Francia covering most of what is today West Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Its ruler, Konrad, was the last king who traced his claim back to Charlemagne himself, though it was by adoption only. After 8 years of fruitless civil and foreign wars, Conrad, exhausted and disillusioned, gave up and died. For six months the throne remained vacant.”

“…in May 919 at the royal palace of Fritzlar, the nobles of Saxony and Franconia elected Henry, duke of Saxony to be king of East Francia…”

“Rarely has a king acceded to the throne with so little legitimacy.

• He was no close blood relative of any previous king,

• He was elected by only half of his kingdom’s barons, and

• He wasn’t even consecrated as king by the church.

To discover how the Bird-man vanquished his enemies and created a country, you will have to read the rest of the story at:

Tito Tazio’s Tales From Papa Joe, One Day I Had a Dream.

 It was 2017, I was living in Bangkok Thailand. It was mid afternoon. It was summer and far too hot to be outside. I was in my room. There was no air-conditioning in the room. I lay on the bed trying to move as little as possible. The Little Masseuse was asleep on the floor across the room. I drifted off into sleep and dreamed: 
I was riding in a car driving along a ridge near the California Coast and as I looked our over the ocean I saw, far off, a wave building that was higher than the ridge we were driving on. The driver said it looks like we were going to be hit by several giant tsunamis and we must get over the mountains and into to the Central Valley to be safe. He drove me about five miles inland where he dropped me off to meet my brother. We planned to ride our bicycles across the coastal range and into the valley. But, unfortunately, my bike was lost. So my brother (who was nine years old) and I ran for our house. We climbed to the third floor hoping to ride out the Tsunami. The first wave hit. I protected my brother with my body. We survived. I knew we had to leave before the next wave arrived.
I went to the front of the house where some relatives lived to see if they survived. I despised this family — no that’s not strong enough — I loathed them. Even that is not strong enough. I hated them since I was two when I went directly from the security of my baby bottle to loathing these people. 
  (I have many unresolved anger management issues in my dreams. During my youth, not knowing where my parents were, I spent much of my time being passed around to various families among whom were these particular relatives. Among the many reasons for my hate of them in addition to their generally detestable behavior was that they told me Santa Claus was not real then laughed at my disappointment. Actually, there was one member of the family I could tolerate. He was always very nice to me. Many years later I learned he became a serial child molester.)
They all survived the tsunami except for my uncle by marriage’s mother. “I had hoped you all were dead” I screamed at them. “I’m glad the old lady is dead. Now we don’t have to drag her wretched boney ass across the mountains.” I ran back up to the third floor and picked up my brother who had shrunk from a nine-year-old to a three-year-old.
We stood there by the window looking out at the mountains. We saw our father driving what looked like a 1925 Rolls-Royce Phaeton racing a 2016 black Lexus down the mountain. They drove straight at the house. At the last moment, they swerved off in a wide circle around the house. When they appeared again, they seemed to be heading back up the mountain. Suddenly my father’s car slid on a puddle of water, skidded across the road, bumped over the curb careened through a large parking lot and over another curb, smashed through a fence and climbed up a billboard where they stopped teetering on the edge. My mother and father exited the car and climbed down from the billboard on which it hung. My father stood there, arms upraised shouting, “Why me God? Why me?” My mother, furious, stalked away. They were dressed in 1940s style. My mom in a smart floral print dress and a tiny hat and my father looking a bit like Clyde Barker.
I was distraught, I imagined that we would have to walk up the mountain with the slight hope of crossing it before the next tsunami. In addition, I would have to carry my now screaming and urine soaked brother. I also would be traveling in the company of relatives I despised and wished were dead while being forced to listen to my parents argue. I imagined my mother saying something like, “Why God? I’ll tell you why God. Because you’re stupid, no you’re a fucking idiot, that’s why God.”
Suddenly I started laughing uncontrollably and the laughing woke me up and it woke up the Little Masseuse who was sleeping on the floor at the foot of the bed. She said, “You crazy. You very crazy.”
I lay back on my pillow and tried to figure out what the dream meant. I remembered that I had read somewhere that dreaming about water had something to do with sex. Putting that together with the rest of my dream, I realized I did not want to go there. So, I practiced my breathing exercises and contemplated the words of that great American philosopher and wry observer of antebellum Georgia society Scarlett O’Hara who, following Sherman’s laying waste to everything important in her life, opined, “Tomorrow is another day.”
At least, I certainly hope so.

Women Warriors:  Khutulun, Mongolian Warrior Princess.

 Khutulun, Mongolian Warrior Princess

“In the 13th century, when khans ruled Central Asia and you couldn’t go 10 minutes without some Genghis, Kublai or Mongke trying to take over your steppe, women were well-versed in badassery. In a society where skill on a horse and with a bow and arrow was more important than brute strength, Mongol women made just as stout herders and warriors as their men.

One woman, however, had the combination of both skill and might. Her name was Khutulun, and she was not only a devastating cavalry-woman but one of the greatest wrestlers the Mongols had ever seen. Born around 1260 to the ruler of a swathe of what is now western Mongolia and China, she helped her father repel — repeatedly — the invading hordes commanded by the mighty Kublai Khan, who also happened to be her great-uncle. Her favorite tactic was to seize an enemy soldier and ride off with him, the explorer Marco Polo recounted, “as deftly as a hawk pounces on a bird.”

Off the battlefield and in the wrestling ring, Khutulun went similarly undefeated. She declared that she wouldn’t marry any man who couldn’t beat her in a wrestling match; those who lost would have to give her their prized horses. Suffice it to say, Khutulun had a lot of horses. By the time she was in her 20s and a spinster by Mongol standards, her parents pleaded with her to throw a match with one particularly eligible bachelor. According to Polo, she initially agreed, but once in the ring found herself unable to break the habit of a lifetime and surrender. She overpowered her suitor who, humiliated, fled; she eventually chose a husband from among her father’s men and married him without submitting him to the evidently impossible challenge to out-wrestle her.”


During the evening of April 15th 2021 having nothing better to do, I decided to check and see if perhaps April 15th was more interesting ay sometime in the past. I discovered that, on this day in the last 110 years, the following occurred : 

2019: Just two years ago the historic Notre-Dame de Paris caught fire during a restoration campaign, and the blaze destroyed most of the cathedral’s roof, the 19th-century spire, and some of the rib vaulting. 

2013: Near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, two homemade bombs were detonated in the crowd of spectators; 3 people were killed and more than 260 were wounded in the terrorist attack. 

2003: US President George W. Bush declared that the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq had fallen. 

1989: Tragedy occurred at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England, when a crush of football (soccer) fans resulted in 96 deaths and hundreds of injuries. 

1980: French novelist and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre, who was a leading exponent of existentialism, died. 

1955: The first McDonald’s opened. 

1947: Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s racial barrier, played in his first major league game for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. 

1912: the British luxury passenger liner Titanic sank en route to New York City from Southampton, Hampshire, England, after striking an iceberg during its maiden voyage; some 1,500 people died.

Sticks and Stones Can Break our Bones and Names Can Hurt Us Too

In my never ending quest to avoid boredom, I often search the internet for facts and opinions that may tickle and invigorate whatever part of my brain that may be atrophying from an overdose of ennui. Of those bits and pieces of information that often make me stop, read, and at times regurgitate are articles discussing the causes and effects of prejudice and racism. I often focus specifically on that prejudice suffered by Italian-Americans because, 1. I am old enough to have experienced it myself and 2. we Italian Americans have passed that magic barrier that separates one from enjoying the full glories of citizenship in the USA — the freedom to hate those who have not yet passed; the right to  despoil our nests with happy abandon; the ability bear military weapons and shoot those who have not yet passed but are clamoring to do so; and the passion to become as rich as Croesus.  That barrier, being classified as being non-white (olive, khaki in our case), We passed  in the 1940s and 50s due especially to the efforts of Joe DiMaggio, Frank Sinatra, and the release of the Godfather I movie. Having passed that barrier and being firmly ensconced as white allows someone like me to contemplate the effects of racial bias somewhat objectively having no more skin in the game, so to speak,
Recently, I have come across and article in the Journal of Pragmatics entitled, Slurs and stereotypes for Italian Americans:A context-sensitive account of derogation and appropriation by Dr. M. Croom.
Despite his use of academic jargon and great difficulty in coming to the point, Dr. Croom unequivocally concludes that words can hurt and certainly can screw up your whole day

Italian slurs

Although no general account of slurs for Italian Americans has so far been proposed, there are in fact a wide variety of such slurs that would be useful for us to consider. For example, common slurs that have been used to target Italian Americans include 
  (a) dago,
  (b) eyetie,
  (c) greaser or greaseball,
  (d) guido,
  (e) guinea, ginnie, or ghinney,
  (f) hunkie or hunky,
  And (g) wop or whap.
  Concerning the slur guinea in particular, John Marino from the National Italian American Foundation claimed that it is ‘‘a pejorative term, which reinforces a negative image and harmful stereotype of an entire ethnic group,’’ Rosanna Imbriano from the Center for Italian and Italian American Culture claimed that it ‘‘portrays Italians in a negative light,’’ and  Lewis (2011) from the Department of History at Stanford University claimed that it is ‘‘the most vile racial slur that can be used against an Italian-American’’ (McKay, 2011). The perceived offensiveness of the slur guinea is demonstrated, for instance, by the fact that Italian Americans have campaigned to have it removed from place-names in New York since as late as the 1960s (Roediger, 2005, p. 40) and the fact that Alfred Catalanotto, an Italian American owner of the Central Market Grill and the Central Market Chill in New York City, was targeted with the slur ‘‘guinea bastard’’ and further discriminated against by being unfairly denied a renewal lease for his restaurants by MTA executive Nancy Marshall (Cohen, 2009).
Another popular slur for Italian Americans is guido, which de Stefano (2008) has characterized as ‘‘a pejorative slang term for a young, lower class or working class, Italian-American,’’ with Conley (2010) further explaining that ‘‘the primary intent behind use of such terms is to belittle’’ some (Italian American) group member and maintain the presumed
‘‘superiority of the one using them to the one against whom they are used, who are implicitly identified as belonging to an inferior class of  beings’’ (p. 21). Arthur Piccolo has even suggested that ‘‘the very term Guido is so offensive that it ought never to be uttered, much less studied and discussed, by an Italian American, not even a scholar trained to analyze social facts’’ (quoted in Viscusi, 2010). 
The expression greaser is another popular slur that CUNY professor of sociology Tricarico (2010) described as applying to ‘‘Italian Americans with stereotypically dark and ‘‘oily’’ complexions,’’ and which Roediger (2005) has colorfully identified as a ‘‘bar-room brawl word’’ or a ‘‘racialized ‘‘fighting word’’’’ (p. 42). 
Concerning the slur dago, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000) explains that it is commonly understood and ‘‘used as a disparaging term for an Italian, Spaniard, or Portuguese’’ person, and the Random House Dictionary (2010) further notes that, ‘‘This term is a slur and should be avoided. It is used with disparaging intent and is perceived as highly insulting.’’ Dinnerstein and Reimers (2013) for example have explained in Ethnic Americans how Italian Americans targeted with the slur dago by ‘‘old-stock Americans’’ were often considered ‘‘the Chinese of Europe’’ who are ‘‘just as bad as the Negroes’’ (p. 62; see also Barone, 2001, p. 143). Seiler (2014) also proposed that the slur dago is ‘‘an irredeemable ethnic slur on Italian-Americans,’’ Shattuck (2009) proposed that the slur dago ‘‘can be hurtful regardless of the context,’’ and Jones (2013) further proposed that language users should remove the slur dago from their vocabularies, effectively ‘‘toss[ing] it in the trash heap along with other now offensive — but once widely used — monikers’’ (Shattuck, 2009).
The perceived offensiveness of slurs for Italian Americans is demonstrated, for instance, by the fact that the New York Racing Association forced the Wandering Dago food truck to remove itself from the grounds of the Saratoga Race Course because of its potentially offensive name (Seiler, 2014) as well as the fact that the state Office of General Services rejected an application from the Wandering Dago food truck to sell barbecue supplies on the Empire State Plaza because of its potentially offensive name (Seiler, 2014). The Office of General Services argued that allowing the Wandering Dago to set up shop on the plaza could place the state at risk of suits alleging that it allows a hostile workplace environment due to the appearance of the slur dago (Seiler, 2014). Indeed, uses of slurs have often been implicated in verbal threats, physical violence, and hate-motivated homicide (Fitten, 1993; Hoover, 2007; Shattuck, 2009; Nappi, 2010; Guerriero, 2013; Beswick, 2014). For instance, Sheldon Canova, an Italian miner from Dominion Coal Company, reports that fights were often initiated at work through the use of slurs, mentioning one example where he fought someone for calling him a ‘‘chicken-head eatin’ dago’’ (Beswick, 2014). Henry Garofano, a member of the national Order Sons of Italy in America, also reported that, ‘‘From 15 years of age, I was in fights, because of the discrimination and being called wops’’ (Nappi, 2010). In describing his boxing experiences at Gramercy Gym in Manhattan in the 1950s, Louis LaMorte likewise reports that ‘‘I also had Italian American boxing friends who did get into fistfights if someone they did not know real well, called
them wop, dago or guinea — it all depended on the relationship and how it was being used’’ (Guerriero, 2013).
Consequently, Ronald Fitten (1993) has argued that slurs like guido and wop should be considered ‘‘fighting words’’ since they have often been used to initiate violence and carry out hate crimes, and Jeshion (2013b) likewise proposes that ‘‘Slurring terms are used as  weapons in those contexts in which they are used to derogate an individual or group of individuals to whom the slur is applied or the socially relevant group that the slur references’’ (p. 237; see also Hall, 2006,p. 136; Davis, 2001; Enger, 2014; Gratereaux, 2012; LaGumina, 1973; Luconi, 2001).
After considering in this section the various ways that the use of slurs has often been implicated in verbal threats, physical violence, and hate-motivated homicide, it should be clearer now why slurs more generally, as well as for Italian Americans more particularly, have been considered by many to pack some of the nastiest punches natural language has to offer. The next section turns to address how it is that slurs are able to do the kind of dirty work that they do.

Face threatning acts and the paradigmatic derogatory use of slurs

One’s knowledge of the application-conditions for the expressions common among their fellow language users is of paramount importance for their successful communication and interaction with others, and speakers typically learn the norms governing the differential use of various expressions during their socialization into a linguistic community (Ochs and Schieffelin, 1984; Garrett and Baquedano-Lopez, 2002). Prior work in the linguistics literature has suggested, for instance, that paradigmatic descriptive expressions such as male and Italian American are primarily used and understood to be most apt for neutrally picking out public items of the shared (inter-subjective or objective) world, that paradigmatic expressive expressions such as fuck and ouch are primarily used and understood to be most apt for expressing one’s own heightened emotional state, and that paradigmatic slur expressions such as guido and wop are primarily used and understood to be most apt for targeting certain members on the basis of descriptive features (such as their race or sex) in order to deprecate or disassociate (or in cases of appropriation, affiliate) with them on this basis (Croom 2011, pp. 345–349; 2013, p. 183).
Concerning the application-conditions of slurs more specifically, Croom (2013) proposed in ‘‘How to Do Things with Slurs’’ that:
As speakers we have strong expectations that uses of slurring terms such as nigger will correlate with the speaker’s being in a heightened derogatory state with respect to some features of their target (or wishing to create that impression). In turn, we use it only when we are in such a state (or wish to create that impression). The total effect of these assumptions is that a slurring term such as nigger is a prima facie reliable signal of derogation on the basis of target features. Knowing its use conditions largely involves being attuned to this information. (p. 183)
So in referring to a person with an expression like guido, and thereby ascribing the category G to that person, one may
presumably be taken to accept and allow into the communicative background certain obligations, expectations, and feelings that are commonly considered apt or fitting for typical members of the category G (Samra-Fredericks, 2010;
Croom, 2011). 
Importantly, Brown and Levinson (1978) proposed that a speaker S that conveys through their use of language that they are of higher social status or more powerful than their hearer H is thereby engaging in talk that ‘‘is risky, but if he [S] gets away with it ([and] H doesn’t retaliate, for whatever reason), S succeeds in actually altering the public definition of his relationship to H: that is, his successful exploitation becomes part of the history of interaction, and thereby alters the agreed values of D [social distance between S and H] or P [relative power between S and H]’’ (p. 228; see also Croom, 2001, 2013, 2014c, fn. 18). 
In accord with this proposal, Anderson (1999) has suggested that shows of deference from others can make one feel more self-confident and secure (p. 75) so this might serve as one reason for why a speaker S might choose to strategically indicate through their use of derogatory language more generally, and slurs such as guido or wop more specifically, that they are more powerful or of a higher social status than their target H. Further substantiating this point, Croom (2014c) conducted a critical review of recent empirical evidence from linguistics, sociology, and psychology on racial slurs and stereotypes, arguing from these findings that:
insofar as through the application of a slur towards a target an associated negative stereotype can threaten that target by (a) increasing how much they are worrying, (b) reducing their working memory, (c) decreasing their motivation to learn, or (d) degrading their ability to encode novel information necessary for skillful action, and insofar as (a)–(d) can negatively affect ones life chances, then it follows that the application of a slur towards a target can resultantly affect their life chances. (Section 3 in Croom, 2014c)
There is therefore good reason to believe that since our social identities are in part determined by the way members of society perceive us and consequently interact with us (Goffman, 1967; Brown and Levinson, 1978) the derogatory use of slurs like guido or wop can actually harm the individuals that they attack and constrain the range of action-possibilities that they can exercise in society. So a speaker S that derogates an Italian American target H on the basis of their presumed possession of negative features stereotypically attributed to Italian Americans through S’s ascription of the slur guido toward H, might thereby effectively work to support and contribute to a history of derogatory acts that actually harm the social identity of Italian Americans, increase the difference in asymmetrical power relations among S and H more specifically, and even increase the e the difference in asymmetrical power relations among their respective groups more generally (Croom, 2011).

Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week: Punctuating Penelope for Pedagogical Purposes.

Odysseus’ faithful wife Penelope.
Way back in 2012, while I was writing my own version of Ulysses homecoming (, I ran across the following in a blog called “erringness for perfection.” The blog written by Elizabeth Kate Switaj, the Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at the College of the Marshall Islands who completed her PhD at Queen’s University Belfast with a dissertation on James Joyce later revised and published as James Joyce’s Teaching Life and Methods (Palgrave 2016). It is a fine example of pedagogy gone mad.

Punctuating Penelope for Pedagogical Purposes.”

“This week, I finally had the chance to use an adapted version of an activity I first read about in Geri Lipschultz’s “Fishing in the Holy Waters” (College English 48.1 (Jan. 1986)), an article I mention briefly in my thesis. The core of the activity amounts to having students add standard punctuation to the text of the final episode of Ulysses. While Lipschultz describes using this activity in the composition classroom, I used it in a literature class that was reading selected parts of the novel.
Instead of asking them to add in the punctuation as an assignment, I had them do the entire activity in class: first they worked individually, and then they worked as a class with one student retyping the text into Word on the computer at the front of the room. Due to time constraints, they only got through 1-2 pages as individuals and a few sentences as a whole group, but given that one of the major reasons I wanted to try this activity was to show them how slowly one needs to read Joyce, I think of that as a success rather than a failure.
The greater success, however, came in the brief discussions held after each step in the process. My students demonstrated a strong understanding of both the content and style of the passage they worked on. They were also able to see different sides of questions that have no definitive answer—such as whether Joyce’s depiction of Molly is insulting or admiring.
The activity showed students who were put off somewhat by the difficulty and reputation for obscurity of Ulysses that they could, in fact, understand it.”

Tito Tazio’s Tales From “The Stranger Times” by Caimh McDonald.

Caimh McDonald (C.K. McDonnell)
The great Caimh McDonald (C.K. McDonnell), author of the amusing and enjoyable Dublin Trilogy and McGarry Stateside books featuring that indefatigable copper Bunny McGarry, has written a new and fascinating book for those who like their detective and monster stories humorous and enthralling . The eponymous newspaper of the novel,  a newspaper based in Manchester England and dedicated to reporting the weird and wonderful from around the world, can now be read at, The editorial team live inside the head of author C.K. McDonnell. 
The paper is like the Fortean Times’ unloved trashy cousin that gets drunk at a wedding and throws up in the mother-of-the-bride’s handbag.”
“The managing editor is Vincent Banecroft, the former darling of Fleet Street. He has had a fall from grace that makes the Hindenburg look like a largely successful flight.” 
   Here, below are two of their feature stories.


Michael Portillo (no relation), 46 of Dunstable, was left shaken by a most peculiar encounter of the third kind. 

He claims to have been out walking late at night in an effort to reach 10,000 steps when he was pulled into the night sky by a dazzling bright light. 

“Next thing I knew, I’m in this white room, strapped to a chair, naked – and these big grey lads with massive eyes and no genitals were standing over me making clicking and burping noises,” he said. 

“I noticed there was a distinct smell of alcohol in the air and I myself am a strict non-drinker. 

“Then, all of a sudden, like a switch had been flicked, I could understand what they were saying. 

“The most pissed one, Tarquin, kept trying to get Arnold to touch something – but I wasn’t sure what he meant. 

“Then the third fella, Douglas, rolls his eyes – which was impressive as he’s got a lot of eye to roll there, and said, ‘this is weird. Could we not just mutilate a cow like a proper stag do?’ 

“Honestly, the whole thing felt like three guys who’d grown up together and really had nothing in common any more. 

“They dropped me in the middle of a field and I was relieved to get out of there. 

“Tarquin had just said something about Douglas’s ex and it was getting tense.”



Hello and welcome to this week’s column. I put a shout out on Twitter yesterday on this topic and I was inundated with questions, so let’s dive in…

Margot Moonbeam Marks

My two-year old daughter refuses to eat anything but Monster Munch and those little plastic things that you find at the end of shoelaces. She also keeps escaping and throwing poops at next door’s Prius. Is it possible she is possessed by the devil?


Dear Concerned Mum, 

Don’t worry this is all perfectly natural. Children often develop weird eating habits and the poo throwing is almost certainly a territorial instinct that manifests itself in many primates. I suggest getting the neighbour to throw a few poos back in her direction and seeing how she likes it. 

My son is a very well behaved and quiet four-year-old. He actually spends all of his time staring at me with a weird look on his face. 

Often, I wake up and he’s standing there doing it. We took him to church and he totally freaked out, kicking and screaming and speaking what sounded a bit like ancient Aramaic to my uncultured ear. Should I be worried?


Don’t worry TerrifiedDaddy14, this is perfectly normal behaviour. All religious services are incredibly boring for a child and at that age, a father is always the apple of his son’s eye. Children have an incredible capacity to pick up languages, he must’ve just turned the TV onto one of the many channels that broadcasts in Aramaic. 

Dear Margot,

Animals become terrified in my son’s presence, whining and cowering if he comes near. Every time we bring him out to the park, birds drop from the sky dead at his feet. If he gets angry it often coincides with violent thunderstorms and his father has been involved in nineteen near fatal accidents since I gave birth. Please help! 


Ha, honestly Damo’s Mammy, if I had a pound for every time I’ve heard this one. It’s probably a virus or just a phase he’s going through. Animals are always playing hijinks and I’m not in the least concerned about your husband’s little oopsies — new parents are always suffering from a lack of sleep so being a little clumsy is only to be expected.

Dear Margot, 

My son is a delight but he just does not find SpongeBob SquarePants funny. Should I worry? 


Dear Happy Clappy Nappy, yes — your son is the spawn of Satan. You know what must be done or he shall surely bring about the end of days. 

Thanks for all the questions everyone, I hope that’s put your minds at rest a little.

 The Stranger Times does not condone infanticide. 

We would also like to go one edition where we did not have to point this out — Vincent Banecroft, Editor.



Commentary: Stupefying One’s Self with Etymology for idiots.

One morning I woke up at about 11 AM.  The dog, my usual alarm clock, seemed to have decided to take the day off. Outside, the sky was overcast and the temperature bounced around the cooler end of the 60s. The morning news shows appear to have gotten beyond flooding us with images of history being made as we watch. It now titillates us with hints that somewhere just behind the scrim something momentous is happening that will be revealed as soon as the hungry hot lights of the media illuminate it. In other words, not too much is happening that we know about.

One bit of news that did not make it into the media’s clutches was that the bannister on the stairway to the bedroom had pulled out from the plaster-board and crashed down upon the stairs. A handy-man (I am not very handy or, I admit, much of a man anymore, if I ever was,) was called in and he proved to be both handy and manly and repaired the thing lickety-split.

No one knows where the term lickety-split came from or why, but there is general agreement it arose in the American Midwest or South sometime between 1817 and 1849. There is some confusion about when it went out of general use except by smart-alecs like me.

Now, the origin of “smart-alec” is another kettle of fish entirely. “Alec” was actually a real person, named Alec Hoag. He was a pimp and a thief in New York City in the 1840s. Partnered with his wife Melinda and another man known as “French Jack”, they would rob his wife’s “customers” while she otherwise distracted them.

“Melinda would make her victim lay his clothes, as he took them off, upon a chair at the head of the bed near a secret panel, and then take him into her arms and close the curtains of the bed. As soon as everything was right and the dupe not likely to heed outside noises, Melinda would give a cough, and the faithful Alec would slyly enter, rifle the pockets of every farthing or valuable thing, and finally disappear as mysteriously as he entered.” (George Wilkes editor of the Subterranean who spoke with Hoag in prison.)

“Sometime after that, Alec would bang on the door and Melinda would make out that he was her husband who had returned early from some trip. The victims would hastily grab their clothes and escape through the window.”

“The police, who Hoag was paying off, soon discovered he was cheating them out of their share of this con and arrested Hoag and Melinda. Hoag promptly escaped from prison, with the help of his brother, but was eventually recaptured.”

“Alec Hoag was then given the nickname “Smart Alec” by the police for being too smart for his own good. The thought is that the police then used this term when dealing with other criminals who seemed a little too smart for their own good, often thinking of ways around giving police their payoffs: ‘Don’t be a Smart Alec’”.

Obviously,  had nothing to do today so I wrote the above and no, I will not research the derivation of “kettle of fish” except to point out that in 1785 Thomas Newte published A Tour in England and Scotland. In this he referred to fish kettles: “It is customary for the gentlemen who live near the Tweed to entertain their neighbours and friends with a Fete Champetre [a picnic], which they call giving ‘a kettle of fish’.”

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