Monday

Sep. 22, 2008

Windows is Shutting Down

by Clive James

Windows is shutting down, and grammar are
On their last leg. So what am we to do?
A letter of complaint go just so far,
Proving the only one in step are you.

Better, perhaps, to simply let it goes.
A sentence have to be screwed pretty bad
Before they gets to where you doesnt knows
The meaning what it must be meant to had.

The meteor have hit. Extinction spread,
But evolution do not stop for that.
A mutant languages rise from the dead
And all them rules is suddenly old hat.

Too bad for we, us what has had so long
The best seat from the only game in town.
But there it am, and whom can say its wrong?
Those are the break. Windows is shutting down.

"Windows Is Shutting Down" by Clive James from Opal Sunset: Selected poems, 1958–2008. © W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

This week,, we celebrate the anniversary of the Norman invasion of 1066. It was this week in 1066 that William the Conqueror of Normandy first arrived on British soil. The French-speaking Normans eventually defeated Old English-speaking Saxons at the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066 — which had a larger and more pronounced effect on the development of the English language than any other event in history. Within the course of a few centuries, English went from being a strictly Germanic language to one infused with a large Latinate vocabulary, which came via French.

The Normans of course imposed their ideas and practices of governing on their conquered English subjects, and our vocabulary still reflects a huge number of French-based words. Government is a word of French origin that came in during Middle English. The Old French word is governer from Latin "to steer" or "to rule."

For many years, English-speaking subjects took allegiance to the royal crown. Allegiance is a distinctly Anglo-Norman word — it's a variation of the Old French ligeance, from a Latin word describing foreign serfs who were allowed to settle on Roman land and till the soil.

Subject, no surprise, was a word introduced by the Norman invaders, and when it first came into Middle English from Old French (suget, "brought under"), the word meant "a person owing obedience."

Yet the conquered English subjects continued to swear allegiance to the king. The French-speaking Norman leader of the invaders, William the Conqueror, actually tried in his middle age to learn to speak English, the tongue of his newly conquered subjects.

But from the invasion, English gained several synonyms of French origin that meant, essentially, kinglike or kingly. These include royal, regal, and sovereign. Royalty developed in the late Middle Ages to include a sense of "right to ownership" over minerals, which in the mid-1800s began to also apply to payment given by a mineral harvester to the person who owned the land from which the mineral came. Later, royalties applied to the sales of copyrighted materials.

From the Norman Conquest came the Anglo-Norman French word corune, from Old French coroner, ultimately from Greek for "circle, ring." It formed the basis not only of the kingly crown, but also of corolla — the inner ring of petals in a flower — and corollary, coronary, coronation, and coroner — who in Norman times, as an officer of the crown, was appointed to investigate any seemingly unnatural deaths of members of the ruling class.

It's the birthday of novelist and playwright Fay Weldon, (books by this author) born Franklin Birkinshaw in Worcestershire, England (1931). She's authored more than three dozen books, including Praxis (1978), The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1983), and Puffball (1980). She published her autobiography, Auto da Fay, in 2002. And her latest novel is The Spa Decameron (2007).

It was on this day in 1862 that President Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation, one of the most important executive orders in American history. It announced that slaves in rebel states were free as of January 1, 1863.

And on this day in 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed the bill that created the Peace Corps.

On this day in 1776, Nathan Hale was executed for espionage. Before he was hanged, Hale stood on the gallows and uttered his famous last words: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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