Waaay off topic

| 49 Comments

Never let it be said that we are pure science nerds on PT. As is the case with all group blogs, PT has a back channel communication system in which we argue, discuss, argue, debate … erm, well, we talk about stuff. sometimes in vigorous disagreement. Mostly it’s about one or another topic relevant to the stated purpose of PT, but sometimes we wander.

For some reason a recent conversation wandered into limericks (is a limerick a limerick if it’s clean?), doggerel, and similar high-brow literary entertainments. In the course of the conversation one of the PT crew composed a two-stanza poem in macaronic style, in which the lines of the poem are in different languages but the meter and rhyme scheme are preserved through the language shifts. Most such works are in just two languages, but this particular one, which I won’t publish without permission, was in three languages. Were there no other reason for being a member of the crew, seeing that kind of creation pop up in casual conversation would make it worthwhile. Just thought you’d like to know. :)

49 Comments

I know you’re not exactly dieing for my opinion since I’m not a frequent commentator here (although you’re just going to have to take my word about “daily reader,” “nothing to say,” yadda, yadda, yadda).

So here’s the deal:

* A limerick is not a limerick unless it’s dirty. A clean poem that meets the metrical and rhyme scheme of a limerick may be a fine piece of doggerel, but without the frisson of sexual content, it’s not a limerick.

* The really important thing about haiku is that it begins with an observation about nature, and then ties that into human behavior. You can count syllables until the cows come home, but if it’s not a brief depiction of nature tied to human culture, you don’t have a haiku. In fact, all that business about counting syllables is secondary to the rules about content – even in Japanese.

* Publish the freakin’ macaronic verse already. Publish it under your name, and attribute it to Anonymous, if the author is not willing to do so. I say this as someone who has, against his better judgment, submitted verse comments to blogs in languages I barely know, including German, Portuguese, and Spanish. So far, no native speakers have complained. A remarkably tolerant lot, the Foreign.

What could be more appropriate than a more or less off topic comment in an off topic thread. It is the translation of the title of a French song “Solange, tu es la” into German “Solange du da bist”.

I disagree. A limerick may be a bona fide limerick if it is not sexual–it may be merely execrable or disgusting

.

Can’t believe this hasn’t been mentioned yet, but if it’s macaronic (& no, I never heard the word before) it must be about the FSM, which makes it on-topic. ;-)

This is just the kind of off-topic stuff I love to read about. It’s important to advertise the fact that scientists are human, and it’s important to insert science into art of all sorts. Back in the day, the McGarrigle sisters recorded a song about the love story of sodium and chlorine.

Back in the day, the McGarrigle sisters recorded a song about the love story of sodium and chlorine.

That must have been a salty story. Those two had a strong bond.

I am one of those who argued that a proper limerick must be dirty; though I used to read Edward Lear’s so-called limericks to my kids, I always considered them perversions.

Among the few books I have read more than once is Some Limericks by Norman Douglas. I bought it in 1967 in a Grove Press edition, some time after the U.S. Supreme Court decision on, I think, Tropic of Cancer. The book was originally published in 1928. It cost the princely sum of $4.00; you can get it used today for not much more. It contains 50 limericks, which Douglas collected from anonymous friends on both sides of the Atlantic; one of the few things he gives Americans credit for is their ability to write limericks. Those limericks that are not filthy are generally blasphemous. A very few are too offensive, even for me.

Douglas’s only other claim to fame is a novel, South Wind, published in 1917, which I have also read more than once.

Henry J Wrote:

That must have been a salty story. Those two had a strong bond.

Ionically (sorry, had to say that), while the McGarrigle Sisters sang about salt, the McGuire Sisters sang “Sugartime.”

There is of course the well-known limerick which (in one version at least) runs:

Let’s speak of the family Stein / There’s Gert and there’s Ep and there’s Ein / Gert’s poems are bunk / Ep’s statues are junk / And no-one can understand Ein.

This obviously needs a second verse to cover the more recent member of the family who got Expelled.

by backchannels do you mean ATBC?

the McGuire Sisters sang “Sugartime.”

Well wasn’t that sweet of them. :)

Kevin B Wrote:

This obviously needs a second verse to cover the more recent member of the family who got Expelled.

He’s back with Shaq.

And still peddling stuff we can all do without.

Marion Delgado said:

by backchannels do you mean ATBC?

Nope, a private listserve.

Richard, if you wish to post my macaronic exercise, I have no objections whatsoever, with an understanding that I have no claim of its being a good poetry. It was just for fun, concocted in about 10 minutes, and I thought it was relevant to the topic we discussed on the listserve in question. Cheers!

HA! I knew that the poem had to have been either from Mark, or Reed.

(Howdy Mark)

I’ll post it later tonight if I get it to format properly in a blockquote box.

OK, I never comment here, but I decided to throw this in just because I can’t imagine any other situation where it would be even vaguely on topic. The following is a snippet of an E-mail exchange I recently had with my son, who was off at college. It was triggered by a terrible typo in a Haiku I sent him…

Chris-

You were the best haiku creator But I fixed it a couple days later Now to limericks I’ve moved and I’m better than you Due to your spelling of “regridgerator”

Roger-

I guess poetry ought to be festive But your latest attempt made me restive Of your limericks you boasted But the one that you posted Was inadequately suggestive

A limerick ought not to be flirty Too tame or excessively wordy Classics of the art Always mention a fart Then become inexcusably dirty

Alas, I was raised with some couth And I’m getting quite long in the tooth So I genr’ly avoids Scatalogical woids And my limericks don’t really go over very well. Uh… forsooth!

There was a little repartee preceding Mark’s poem, so I’ll set the context. Mark wrote

Ha! Pushkin wrote several poems, some of them pretty long, where every odd line was in Russian and every even line in French, all with perfect rhymes and impeccable metric.

A little later he wrote this:

The concept of a macaronic verse was new for me as well as for Matt. Hiwever, I doubt it is indeed “the most difficult” form of poetry. So I decided to try my hand in writing a short macaronic doggerel. I decided to make it a bit more complicated, namely writing two stances, with the following format: every first and third line in Russian, every second in English and every fourth in Hebrew. It took about ten minutes, and here it is (since I could not type Hebrew characters, the lines in Hebrew are rendered in Latin characters:

Kак стихами не увлечься
Wait a minute,what a luck:
Если укреплять предплечье,
Gam ken iad ihie khazak..

Так стихом улучшишь речь ты,
Thus fulfilling sweetest dream,
Так что лучше не перечь ты
Im khaver koreh shirim.

Here is its full translation:

I can’t help but like poetry
Wait a minute, what a luck:
If you exercise your shoulder
Also your hand will get stronger.

So through poetry you’ll improve your speech
Thus fulfilling sweetest dream.
Hence better don’t resist
If your friend reads poetry aloud.

The metrics and the rhymes in that piece are faultless. Regarding the Hebrew part, Matt probably can ascertain it. As to the Russian part, you’ll have to trust me. As to overall “quality,” it is of course a primitive doggerel, but its “macaronic” properties are there, and it was very easy to concoct it.

Easy for Mark to say!

One of the greatest pleasures of being on the PT list is reading Mark’s thoughts and his occasional reminiscences about life in the Soviet Union. He’s one of the genuinely good men I have known.

There was a doc doc with a Weasel
Who said “The Design’s on the easel.
My Microsoft box
Has got one that locks,
But only when running on diesel.”

There are some who would say Isaac Asimov was not a literary ‘expert’ but that’s because they have not read any of his non-fiction stuff. He has written a number of articles on what the limerick is and its history, and at least one book of limericks. He states a true limerick must be ‘dirty’, ‘insulting’ or ‘off color’ depending on how you say it. with the emphasis on sex. But the ‘common’ person who has no real understanding of the word ‘theory’ and have changed the meanings of words at a whim (i.e. ‘I am gay’ does not mean what it use to mean) has ‘cleaned up’ the limerick so that it is the 4 line rhyme that is now called limerick. But a really ‘good’ limerick still has to have the pun, double meaning, dirty connotation to be effective.

Gary Hurd: Thanks, Gary, I appreciate your kind words.

Sorry, those nice words were from Richard. Anyway, I appreciate both Gary’s and Richard’s posts. Thanks.

Trivia question: Which Beatles song was macaronic?

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

OriGuy said:

Trivia question: Which Beatles song was macaronic?

Michelle

OriGuy said:

Trivia question: Which Beatles song was macaronic?

“Yellow Submarine”. Clearly a metaphor for macaroni in a pot of water.

Or maybe it was “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey”. No probably not. I just like the title.

I cannot express in words how disspointed I was to find that “macaronic” did not refer to poetry sung to the tune of “Macarena”

From Stephen J. Gould: While Titian was mixing rose madder/his model reclined on a ladder/This position to Titian suggested coition/so he climbed up the ladder and had her.

Gould didn’t write that limerick (I have it in a book published in 1956), but it is better as “mounted the ladder.”

rpsms said:

I cannot express in words how disspointed I was to find that “macaronic” did not refer to poetry sung to the tune of “Macarena”

No, that would be “macarenic,” not “macaronic”

Dave Luckett said:

OriGuy said:

Trivia question: Which Beatles song was macaronic?

Michelle

And Sun King. Although the foreign language part was just a nonsensical mix of romance-language words.

This comment is so off topic from the way offtopic it brings back to on topic. (Good luck parsing that statement)

I like the discussions about limericks and all, but it is almost a full day gone since the appointment of the theistic evolutionist Francis Collins to head NIH. And still there is no discussion about it yet here at PT? Big O seems to be genuinely looking for compromise candidates (unlike Bill Clinton).

From what I remember about his views, he does not deny that evolution happened or that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Just that it all happened at the Will of God. I usually do not argue with such a believer, as long as they dont pretend this view is scientific and should be taught at tax payer funded schools. Live and let live.

F Collins is under crossed fires
His personal worldview requires
Apologetics
Ditto genetics
And gets flak from Dembski and Myers

From the link:

But he rejected creationism and intelligent design, arguing that “evolution from a common ancestor is clearly true. If there was any lingering doubt about the evidence from the fossil record, the study of DNA provides the strongest possible proof of our relatedness to all other living things.”

Ravilyn Sanders -

There’s nothing “compromised” about the choice of Collins. Like virtually all of Obama’s scientific appointments to date, he’s extremely qualified.

The primary argument against him would be that merely being religious disqualifies him, which I would regard as discrimination.

Call me an old-fashioned, tolerant, bleeding-heart liberal, but I’m happy to see any highly qualified atheist, agnostic, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, or apatheist scientist in that position.

I’m not religious myself, but it’s patently obvious that some highly qualified scientists are, and as long as it’s a private matter, it shouldn’t be a basis for discrimination against them.

There was a young man named Obama Who was elected president with much drama He said I believe in evolution So don’t start a revolution We’ll deal with the creationists mañana

harold Wrote:

Call me an old-fashioned, tolerant, bleeding-heart liberal, but I’m happy to see any highly qualified atheist, agnostic, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, or apatheist scientist in that position.

It occurred to me that it is misleading to evaluate such things in general (including teaching “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution) on a “tolerant to intolerant” scale. Rather they must be evaluated - constitutional issues notwithstanding - on a scale of “earned to unearned.” Qualified scientists earn their position regardless of their religious or political views, and “unearn” it by virtue of a record of misrepresenting and/or “playing favorites” with evidence, whether or not such actions are driven by their religious or political agenda. Similarly, “strengths and weaknesses” and related approaches to teaching biology have not earned the right to be taught as science. And unless they include the well-documented weaknesses of the “weaknesses” they haven’t earned the right to be taught in non-science class either.

… but it is almost a full day gone since the appointment of the theistic evolutionist Francis Collins to head NIH. And still there is no discussion about it yet here at PT?

I do not know enough about Collins to write a post to PT, but I can tell you that his book showed a dismaying naïveté. His theological argument is pure God of the gaps - morality could not have evolved; therefore God. He presents no argument to refute those like Frans de Waal (and me) who see morality or the rudiments of morality developing in the animal kingdom, but rather rejects such arguments out of hand. He claims, rather, to have read C.S. Lewis and seen the light. Someone, I forget who, remarked that Lewis merely gives him the intellectual cover for his evangelical views. None of this says that he would not be a good administrator, and I doubt that he would favor pseudoscience in any way.

Frank J -

If someone “earns” something, but it is denied for an irrelevant reason, that is an example of “intolerance”.

Matt Young -

I strongly agree that Collins appears to be a terrible philosopher/theologian. He has no training in those fields, and his sparse interviews and writings on those subjects are naive and unconvincing indeed.

However, as a biologist, he has been gifted and productive, and shown a strong facility for administering large and complex projects. He is actually one of a few rather obvious choices for the position.

harold Wrote:

If someone “earns” something, but it is denied for an irrelevant reason, that is an example of “intolerance”.

Put that way, it’s clear that the anti-evolution activists who peddle “strengths and weaknesses” are the intolerant ones. Unfortunately, ~75% of the public, including ~25% that claim to accept evolution, that has been fooled into thinking that we critics are the intolerant ones.

Frank J said:

harold Wrote:

If someone “earns” something, but it is denied for an irrelevant reason, that is an example of “intolerance”.

Put that way, it’s clear that the anti-evolution activists who peddle “strengths and weaknesses” are the intolerant ones. Unfortunately, ~75% of the public, including ~25% that claim to accept evolution, that has been fooled into thinking that we critics are the intolerant ones.

We have to remind people that there is absolutely nothing intolerant about wanting scientific quality control.

I mean, how can someone continue to say that scientists are intolerant of those poor Intelligent Design proponents when we point out how those same Intelligent Design proponents refuse to lift a finger to explain why they have never lifted a finger to do any science to begin with?

Besides being a religious shyster, or a hoodwinked dupe, that is.

Let’s condense the above to a sound bite:

Earned intolerance isn’t intolerance.

Henry J said:

Let’s condense the above to a sound bite:

Earned intolerance isn’t intolerance.

Or,

質量管理不是反革命!

“Quality control is not counter-revolutionary!”

Put that way, it’s clear that the anti-evolution activists who peddle “strengths and weaknesses” are the intolerant ones.

Hell, yes.

Obviously distorting science or teaching mistruths as science, in taxpayer funded schools, in a misguided attempt to treat certain religious sects with government favoritism, is extraordinarily intolerant.

FYI: Use the <verse>...</verse> construct to compose verse:


Aeneadum genetrix, hominum divomque voluptas,
alma Venus, caeli subter labentia signa
quae mare navigerum, quae terras frugiferentis
concelebras, per te quoniam genus omne animantum
concipitur visitque exortum lumina solis:
te, dea, te fugiunt venti, te nubila caeli
adventumque tuum, tibi suavis daedala tellus
summittit flores, tibi rident aequora ponti
placatumque nitet diffuso lumine caelum.

Click “reply” to see the source.

Nioely done, Kevin B. It brought a smile to my lips as I was reading it:

Kevin B said:

F Collins is under crossed fires
His personal worldview requires
Apologetics
Ditto genetics
And gets flak from Dembski and Myers

Typo. Here’s the correction:

Nicely done, Kevin B. It brought a smile to my lips as I was reading it.

John Kwok said:

Nioely done, Kevin B. It brought a smile to my lips as I was reading it:

Kevin B said:

F Collins is under crossed fires
His personal worldview requires
Apologetics
Ditto genetics
And gets flak from Dembski and Myers

HP said:

A limerick is not a limerick unless it’s dirty. A clean poem that meets the metrical and rhyme scheme of a limerick may be a fine piece of doggerel, but without the frisson of sexual content, it’s not a limerick.

Not according to the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. “Often bawdy” but not necessarily so. Lear who popularized the limerick in the mid 1800s saw them as nonsense light verse.

Or am I taking your pedantry too seriously? :)

Kevin B said:

F Collins is under crossed fires
His personal worldview requires
Apologetics
Ditto genetics
And gets flak from Dembski and Myers

I see that I got that 50% right. PZ has chipped in, but the “other place” has detailed O’Leary for the job.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on July 7, 2009 1:50 AM.

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