I heartily disagree with people who complain about police officers and speed traps and such. I am thankful for law enforcement, and I despise speeders, tailgaters and obnoxious drivers. But I would like to teach policemen and dispatchers the fine points of clear, concise speaking and writing.
I read a plethora of police reports in the line of duty, and I hear scads of scanner chatter. In the course of all that law enforcement reading and listening, I regularly notice the unnecessary verbosity of police officers and dispatchers. Read the rest of this entry »
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An Alliance Review column … A Scriptorium production … A presentation from John G. Whitacre, aided by Amanda Weber and Christopher Schillig
(The following commentaries do not reflect the views of The Alliance Review, its readers, its advertisers, its subscribers, or the gerbils and birds whose cages it lines. The author is not responsible for editorial changes made after submission of his work. The Alliance Review and the author are not responsible for financial loss, dismemberment or death inflicted upon readers who try any ideas suggested by the author’s piece. This essay may or may not be a work of fiction and makes no claim to historical authenticity.)
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So I say to fellow columnist Chris Schillig last week how much I hate historical present. I can tell he feels less strongly about it than I do, but he is interested in hearing my thoughts. Historical present (HP hereafter) is the use of present tense to describe past happenings, and it drives me bonkers.
Museum guides love HP. Perhaps they think it makes the action sound more immediate, but it just irritates me. The tour guide:
“Jedediah marries Jememiah, and they live in a small log cabin while Jed builds a frame house, which Jem demands during their prenuptial discussion. ‘I ain’t livin’ in no gol-durn log cabin,’ she tells him. ‘If you make me live there, I’ll up and R-U-N-N-O-F-T.’ Jed works all summer on the frame house, but a tornado rips through the countryside and destroys his work,” and so on.
HP annoys me mainly because it is annoying, but at times it creates confusion, when the guide truly needs the present tense, and you, the visitor, can’t tell when the action happened. I get so annoyed at the tour guide using HP that I begin to focus more on his use of HP than on the information offered, and I eventually drift back in to the conversation after Jem threatens to divorce Jed unless he remodels the kitchen in the new house, which is almost flattened by an earthquake, and now they have 15 kids, and one of them won’t quit twangin’ the banjer. So when did the quake happen, I wonder, and where did all those kids come from?
Does some international museum guide training program give lessons in the use of HP? Its use is nearly universal and ubiquitous. I’ll congratulate and generously tip the tour guide who has the daring to use good old past tense, but I figure I can spend that money on beer because I’ll never need it otherwise.
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Paragraph Selection: 1. John Whitacre complains to Chris. 2. Jed marries Jem. 3. Annoyance. 4. Training programs.
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Editor’s commentary: This column describes Whitacre’s passionate hatred of historical present. He first presented the idea for the column to me over margaritas at Don Pancho’s. We envisioned Salma Hayek in the lead role as the museum guide who uses historical present, so we called her, and she loved the idea. She offered to do the part for free because it is her dream role. We wanted Don Knotts in the supporting role, but someone reminded us that he has gone on to Mayberry-in-the-Sky.
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1. The guitar loaded with music: John finds a bundle of blues packed in his new mahogany Martin guitar. 2. Talk like a cop: John campaigns for plain English in the law enforcement profession. 3. A visit to Lincoln: John visits his friend Dale in Nebraska. 4. The mandocello: John discusses the big, deep cousin of the mandolin.
I went to Herrington Cemetery in Carroll County, Ohio, south of a small town named Augusta, for a funeral on Saturday and discovered the grave of Revolutionary War veteran John Herrington next to the old stone church, which was built in 1843. Note the years on Herrington’s gravestone; he lived to be 103. I found the following biography on the Carroll County Historical Society website, and if you don’t want to read it all, skip to the end and read about Herrington walking to vote at age 100. (I apologize for the camera strap in the photos; I was in a hurry, and my presbyopia and myopia always force me to remove my glasses to look at my camera screen, which I did not do.)
Founder of Herrington Bethel Methodist Church
January 1, 1759 was a significant day in the history of Herrington Bethel Church. That is the date of its founder John Herrington’s birth. Herrington family traditional stories vary, but a common thread runs through them that John’s parents died as a result of an Indian attack when he was quite young. Some accounts say he was eighteen months old, others two years old; still others say he was five years of age. Read the rest of this entry »
Standing in line at Marc’s one Friday, I was craving fruit and spices, and I made this list: coffee, chocolate, lime juice, chiles, garlic, onion, cinnamon and banana, intending to make everything on that list part of that day’s diet. I had already had coffee, but the remainder needed attention. Later I added nuts, tea, vanilla, pepper and oils to the list.
You may notice that many of these foods come from the tropics or subtropical regions. I discovered that fact when, a few years ago, I studied and wrote columns about cocoa (published in The Review March 13, 2007), chiles (Dec. 9, 2008) and pineapples (March 6, 2007). It seems that many of our most flavorful foods and spices come from the warm regions. Read the rest of this entry »
Yellow daffodils were in full bloom when I stopped at my parents’ house on Wednesday. Those cheery flowers of spring gave a false impression that all was well inside, that my mother was in there sitting on her couch knitting, but she died in November, and it was ironic that those flowers were flourishing after my mother was gone. It’s only the latest in this type of nearly automatic reaction to seeing from the outside the house where I spent my childhood, looking convincingly but deceivingly normal while inside the walls and floors echo the structure’s emptiness. Read the rest of this entry »
A new corn crib at Huston-Brumbaugh Nature Center, combining old barn timbers and new siding, will soon educate visitors on the historical side of the former Huston farm. Campbell Brothers farms of Washington Township donated an old barn that stood along Salem Church Street, and some of that wood has found a new home in the small corn crib, which will help to interpret Ohio farming methods.
J.A. Mehl Restoration Inc. of Washington Township is building the crib. Owner Jim Mehl said the barn timbers date to the 1860s or 1870s.
Mehl and his crew — Ed Znosko and Bud Murphy — sawed the main timbers at Mehl’s shop to make them the proper size for the crib and assembled them there using the traditional mortise and tenon joining technique, in which wooden pegs are pounded into holes in the beams, attaching angled supports to connect the vertical and horizontal members. They will leave hand-hewn timbers exposed — Mehl said the hand hewing is one factor he uses to date a barn. Read the rest of this entry »
Photos of Ohio riverside cities in late March 1913 show buildings surrounded by water, where water should not have been. The tremendous Easter weekend flood, part of a storm that brought tornadoes and high water to the U.S. from Nebraska to the East Coast and down the Mississippi valley, caused 752 deaths in Ohio, and it ended once and for all — and in one city with a blast — the state’s canal system.
Ohio’s canals opened the state to economic development in the mid-1800s. The Ohio and Erie Canal broke ground south of Newark in 1825, and the first stretch opened from Cleveland to Akron in 1827, reaching Stark County soon after. The canals brought prosperity to a state that had been isolated and struggling. But by 1900 canals were in decline, giving way to the railroads, and a series of improvements to locks in the early 1900s in the northern portion of the O&E were a last-ditch effort to save the canals in their last gasp of usefulness. That work was proven pointless a few years later when the flood hit the state. Read the rest of this entry »
If you wear a Highland bonnet, you should scrug it, and you may decorate it with a cockade or a clan badge if you wish.
“Scrug your bonnet” is an old saying meaning to cock up one side to look smart or bold, as defined in “The Scottish Dialect Dictionary” (I love those specialty lexicons), the verb “cock” meaning to turn up one side. The cockade is a small piece of fabric sewn to represent a flower and indicating the wearer’s loyalty. The clan badge, a metal ornament made to resemble a leather belt encircling an emblem and bearing the clan motto, declares the wearer’s family. For example, the Clan Wallace badge shows an arm clutching a weapon and the motto “Pro Libertate.” Read the rest of this entry »
It’s Thesaurus Day, brought to you by the man who can’t have just one of anything. Read the rest of this entry »