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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: "What's in a name?"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1683  Tuesday, 3 July 2001

[1]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jul 2001 13:43:06 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jul 2001 13:53:17 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"

[3]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jul 2001 23:47:11 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"

[4]     From:   Stuart Taylor <
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        Date:   Tue, 3 Jul 2001 02:15:31 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"

[5]     From:   Stevie Gamble <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Jul 2001 05:18:27 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jul 2001 13:43:06 -0400
Subject: 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"

Sean:

"Deconstruct." That's from the philosophy that insists that if something
can be shown to have more than one meaning it's impossible to know the
meaning and therefore it has no meaning? Which was invented by a guy
trying really hard to prove that Nazi propaganda he wrote during World
War II really wasn't?

Showing something can have more than one meaning doesn't deconstruct a
damn thing. More than one thing is true. More than one thing can be
true. It is computers and androids which explode (on Star Trek) when
presented with contradictions. Humans actually do just fine with them.
In fact, when I read 'Thunder, Perfect Mind,' all I feel is this
wonderful sense of peace and rightness with the world:

"Why, you who hate me, do you love me?
and hate those who love me?
You who deny me, confess me,
and you who confess me, deny me.
You who tell the truth about me, lie about me,
and you who have lied about me, tell the truth about me.
You who know me, be ignorant of me,
and those who have not known me, let them them know me.
For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless, I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace.
Give heed to me.
I am the one who is disgraced and the great one.
Give heed to my poverty and my wealth..."

To insist that only one meaning can exist at any one time is to
oversimplify to the point of unreality. Human nature and human art are
both more complicated. Yes, Gauguin's Ondine has a blue-green sea. But
take a closer look at that sea. The color that first appears to your eye
is made of many blues and many greens. (Unless you are looking at a
print, of course.) Does that mean it is only one of those colors? Or
that you must ignore those colors and see only the blue-green? The many
colors provide the depth of that sea, which is blue-green. The many
meanings in many of the words Shakespeare has chosen provide the sense
of endless depth we find in his work. It is still, of course, that
blue-green sea. And if that's all you can or want to see, fine. It is a
BEAUTIFUL blue-green sea. But some of us are also awed by looking a
little closer, and seeing those other colors.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jul 2001 13:53:17 -0400
Subject: 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"

The people here are not reading enough trash. It is a romance novel
commonplace to refer to a man in an amorous mood as "hard as a rock."
(And I've heard it referred to as "wood" on late-nite TV. Not quite as
indestructible but still the same stiff, unbending, long-lasting
concept.)

I also have a postcard sent me by a former monk showing an interesting
stone feature of Bodmin Moor. The card oddly insists the photo is of a
"Cornish Celtic Cross." I recall writing back that the "cross" had
obviously been circumcised.

Then there was that Osiris thing where he got cut up and thrown to the
fishes and Isis found and reassembled every part but one: guess which?
So she replaced it with a nice new stone one. Even if you don't believe
the Egyptians made it to Britain (I do), the Romans did and THEY had
been to Egypt.

This idea is OLD and established, folks.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jul 2001 23:47:11 +0100
Subject: 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"

Stuart Taylor seems to have a vision of poetry (and much ordinary
speech) as some quite ungoverned verbal free-for-all.

The issues raised in his latest post take us to the bedrock (hmm ...) of
the argument, rooted in the nature of linguistic perception, and the
nature of constructed verbal art, that only incidentally tangent on
Shakespeare.

Trees may be profoundly phallic, but "When I see a tree, I imagine a
penis; when I hear rock, I think of a testicle," has perception and
language strapped down into a quibbling straightjacket by some
linguistic gautleiter.

I think one of the larger issues behind the arguments on this thread is
to what degree connotation (and, indeed, denotation) is contextually
governed.

Words in isolation are virtually meaningless.  "cat", for instance, has
a wide range of possible meanings, both denotative and connotative, but
even the most cursory context narrows these down: The cat sat on the
mat. She's such a cat, you don't want to get on the wrong side of her
tongue. He was eaten by a big cat in Kenya.

Stuart Taylor's argument seems to depend on the assertion that any
connotative or denotative meaning of a word which exists at any time or
place (geographic, social, or textual) exists at every time and place.
Context, whether in speech act or artistic text, has apparently been
abolished.  In terms of the argument around the temporal constraints of
meanings, I suppose it could be proposed that Stuart Taylor is extending
Saussure's synchronic linguistic moment to embrace all time between 1200
and 2000.  Perhaps.

The above is intended to apply to the generalisations consuming the
early part of Stuart Taylor's post.

To continue with the specifics ...

"Stevie Gamble says, "I think the problem isn't about Peter=rock.  It's
about rock=penis, a counter-intuitive proposition given the
characteristics of rocks, and penises."  I think that part of the
problem may have to do with equating any two terms.  They aren't
identical, and only need to share some similarities for a comparison to
be made.  Stevie Gamble could explain why she thinks rock/penis is
counterintuitive, but how about this as an alternative:  stone can mean
testicle (ca1200), rock is close in meaning to stone, and penis is close
(anatomically and in thought) to testicle.  Thus rock and penis are
easily associated in thought.  If indeed, certain characteristics of
rocks are similar to some characteristics of penises, other trains of
thought could be worked out."

To begin:  "stone" doesn't mean 'testicle'.  "stones" [sic] can mean
'testicles' [sic].

Unless we're in Colonel Bogey land ...

(This singular/plural distinction re-emerges, incidentally, [and given
the normal anatomy of the human male, not unexpectedly] when "rocks"
+does+ develop as a slang term for "testicles" in the twentieth
century.  Try getting your rock ...  Need I say more?

As an aside, having a tin ear as to the distinction between singular and
plural in speech, popular or otherwise, manages to wreck a line in
Philip Larkin's poem, "High Windows".  There Larkin begins:

        When I see a couple of kids
        And guess he's fucking her and she's
        Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
        I know this is paradise ...

Admittedly, before the common usage became "on the Pill", it had been
"taking the (P)pill".  But from the start, in the sixties, the
contraceptive pill was always singular.

Words matter.  They matter profoundly, as among many poets, Ezra Pound
was fond of pointing out.  Let's at least get them as right as we can.)

But to return ...

"stones" can mean testicles (in the plural form, as noted above), along
with a whole range of other physiological meanings of stone -- gall
stone, stone in the bladder, etc.  "stone" and "stones" have early and
strongly established physiological connections.  Rock (or rocks) doesn't
(and don't, till +much+ later, and then in a limitedly testicular
context).

The shift from "stones" to "rock" only holds if the terms are  untimely
ripped from the womb of language and considered in the context of some
miasma in which history has been abolished.

"Although we started with Peter/rock/penis, other reasonable associative
threads have emerged, including Peter/fish/penis, Peter/saltpeter/penis,
Peter/petar/penis, Peter/pier/penis, Peter/Piers-pierce/penis.  These
are not mutually exclusive; they could all contribute to someone hearing
Peter as meaning penis."

They +could+ associate (anything can) -- what is singularly lacking is
any evidence that they +did+, in the fashion that "stones" has an
established to link to testicles, going back to the Middle Ages.

You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him sing ...

    The dancers inherit the Party,
    While the talkers sit alone in the corners, and glower.

                -- Ian Hamilton Finlay

Robin Hamilton

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Taylor <
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Date:           Tue, 3 Jul 2001 02:15:31 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1671 Re: "What's in a name?"

A.
Is Mike Jensen the arbiter of:  what counts as linguistic history
(6/19), what is the nature of "proof" (6/22, 27), when arguments are
"crap" or are mistaken (6/27), what is 'intellectual honesty

 

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