From Derb's Email Bag: Pronouncing The Bard, Addiction Apology, Senicide And Infanticide, And Gangsters And Tattoos. 
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Just a few. 

 Solution to the brainteaser in my February Diary ”Math notes” segment is here.

 Pronouncing the Bard.  A listener, following my January 20th podcast, objected to my pronunciation of Shakespeare’s verse:

Dear Derb:

I’m pretty sure that ”grave” is meant to be pronounced ”grahv”, as it probably still was in Shakespeare’s time. The last two lines in each stanza rhyme and the last stanza is all rhyming couplets anyway.

So I guess you should have gone with the ”flow” of the poem.

Thanks for that, Sir. With older verse, though, it’s fielder’s choice. A reader has to decide between meaning and euphony. I always opt for meaning. 

For some reason these conundrums are particularly numerous in Alexander Pope’s verse.  You don’t have to read much Pope to know that he pronounced ”tea” to rhyme with ”way.”  Also, just flipping through The Rape of the Lock: give/believe, long/tongue, beams/Thames, shone/alone,…

And should we pronounce the ”h” in ”humble” when Kipling plainly doesn’t (”An humble and a contrite heart”)? Again, I do, in spite of having been brought up when well-spoken English people pronounced ”hotel” as ”otel.” 

 Addiction apology.  A regular correspondent scolded me for making light of Oxycodone addiction in my February Diary


Your comments, made with the best of intentions, could encourage your readers, many or even one (and one would be too many), to indulge in Oxycodone use.  

The thing about drugs is, their effect cannot be predicted from individual to individual.  Some don’t tolerate Oxycodone at all.  It gives them nightmares ...

On the other hand (and this appears to be the case more generally), it appears that many people, like you, get a trip to youth or heaven with the stuff.  Some get addicted with just a few days’ use.  More just enjoy the drug and take it because it feels good.  Then over time, they get addicted.

So that’s why I’m scolding you.  You can’t mess with this stuff, and assume people are 1) reacting the same as you; 2) as strong as you, have as much self discipline as you.

People react in all kinds of ways to drugs, and most of us are quite weak.

Please, post a retraction of your comments about drugs.  I’ve got close family in rehab as we speak.  I’m stamping out the sparks of drug celebration wherever they appear.

Sorry, pal. I guess I showed a blind spot there. I just don’t get addiction.

I traversed the 1960s occasionally smoking (hash, pot) and popping (LSD) narcotics just to be social, or out of curiosity. I never got anywhere close to addiction, though. As with that Oxycodone high, my reaction following an experience was: ”Well, that was kind of interesting. Now back to normal life.”

Other people react differently, I understand. I don’t think it’s a matter of strength or self-discipline, either. (Self-discipline? I’ll have things to say in my March Diary.) It’s just a personality variable.

A different reader had a more straightforwardly physiological reaction to Oxycodone: ”Pleasant buzz, but not worth the awful constipation.” 

 Muscle cramps.  Two different readers, both frequent sufferers, recommended Liquid I.V.  (cheapest at Costco).

Drink while playing/exerting, have a thermos bottle bedside just in case. If a cramp happens, a couple of swallows do the trick.

But even better, says one reader: 

Vita Coco” Cocoanut Water. It comes in paper half-pint cardboard boxes, but also by the case (Costco). I drink a full one after exertion, half of another before bed, with the other half bedside, just in case.

 Senicide and infanticide.  A listener to my February 17th podcast offered some very interesting input on the topic of boomercide.

Hi John,

I have just read the transcript of your latest Radio Derb. You mention academic Yusuke Narita, who urges the Japanese elderly to kill themselves in order to boost the economy.

In fact, he is tapping into a long tradition. There was a Japanese practice called “ubasute” (discarding grandma)— which involved carrying the elderly up high into the mountains and leaving them there for a quick death in the cold.

Ten years ago the Japanese Finance Minister told the elderly they should hurry up and die (having earlier said he wanted Japan to become the kind of successful country in which ”the richest Jews would want to live”).

Thank you, Sir. That first link you provided gives ”senicide” for what I called ”boomercide.” I guess it’s a better, more general term.

That link also tells us that while there are folk stories about ubasute, there’s no evidence it was ever a common practice. For sure it hasn’t been as common as infanticide, which has been a feature—although usually at a low level—of most human societies at one time or another. (The ancient Greeks, however, were not as free and easy about it as my schoolmaster told us.)

There has in fact been an unpleasant symmetry between the treatment of unwanted infants and the treatment of unwanted old folk. At both ends of the scale there has been abandonment to probable death out of sight of the abandoner.

Consider the fate of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s five children. Having no interest in raising them, J-J dropped them off at the Hôpital des Enfants-trouvés. Paul Johnson tells us in his 1988 book Intellectuals that:

It is unlikely that any of them survived long. A history of this institution which appeared in 1746 in the Mercure de France makes it clear that it was overwhelmed by abandoned infants, over 3,000 a year ... By 1772 it averaged nearly 8,000. Two-thirds of the babies died in their first year.

Does that count as infanticide? If I die from neglect (or worse) by orderlies at an ”assisted-living facility,” does that count as senicide?  

 Gangsters and tattoos.  In my March 3rd podcast I said, concerning the roundup of gangbangers in El Salvador:

Sure, some of those guys in boxer shorts are evil masterminds with a lot of innocent blood on their hands, but many more are lower-level ”buttons” with perhaps nothing more on their consciences that some beatings and robberies. A few are innocent of anything more criminal than thinking a whole-body tattoo would be cool.

A listener objected:

Non-gang members getting gang tattoos would be killed by the gang.

Possibly so. I don’t know enough about Central American gang culture to say for sure.

Is the relationship between gangsterism and whole-body tattoos one-one? So that if you’re tattooed you are invariably a gangster and if a gangster, invariably tattooed? Or are there un-tattooed gangsters and tattooed non-gangsters? Is the content of the tattoo any kind of a tell? Don’t know.

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