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Here’s how we began last week’s column:
Gentle reader, as we write this the world is agog with anticipation as to how long the federal government will be partially shut down, and even more importantly whether the limitation of federal debt that may be incurred is increased and, if so, how much and under what conditions.
We hope that by the time this writing is published both these conundra will have been successfully, and, more importantly, wisely resolved, but as far as we can see, this is unlikely.
Well, here it is, a week later, Wednesday, 16 Oct., and as of this time nothing has yet been resolved. It is to be hoped that by the time you read this on Friday everything will have been worked out to everyone’s satisfaction, but don’t bet on it.
Therefore, rather than speculate in this haze of uncertainty, let us write about sundry other topics this week.
First, there is the Confederate Rose.
This has been an unusually favourable season for this beautiful plant, a member of the hibiscus family.
There are multiple forms of flower, but the one growing here is a large double flower, most coloured pink, although there is also a form which opens pure white and in a few hours changes to the usual pink, which results in flowers of both colour on the same tall plant.
Although it is not yet widely grown in the county, there are three or four plants up on Ridgecrest Drive here in Kingston, with the showiest and largest plant at Carrie and Jim Miller’s showplace garden at the end of the street.
However, the biggest show is in the back yard of Mr. and Mrs. R. H. Jenkins at Scott Road’s intersection with West Race Street, just before you get to Mama Mia’s.
As far as we are aware, Mrs. Jenkins is responsible for the introduction of Confederate Rose into Roane County.
Although this is a very widely grown plant elsewhere, it has hitherto been considered to be not hardy enough to grow this far north.
But, whether this was an underestimate of the plant’s hardiness, or as a result of Global Warming, it has been growing for us outdoors ever since Mrs. Jenkins so generously gave us some rooted cuttings several years ago. This was the double pink form.
She subsequently shared rooted cuttings of the white form after she had successfully grown this lovely form.
And as far as we can ascertain, her plants are the source for most, if not all, of those presently being grown here.
So, we extend a hearty thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins for their generosity to us and all the other gardeners with whom they have so liberally shared this plant.
Although there may be a commercial source for this flower, we are not aware of it, and it seems to be available only through the generosity of other growers, like the Jenkinses.
Almost since we first became aware of language, we have observed that certain words and phrases become widely popular for a time, and then fade out of usage, as some new word or phrase appears to take its place for a moment of popularity, or what James Anthony Froude once referred to as a moment of “transient enthusiasm.”
Some of these words or phrases are of sure attribution. For instance, the Watergate Hearings were responsible for popularizing “At this point in time,” or the variant, “At that point in time.” In one form or another, this was all the rage for a while, but we haven’t heard it now for years.
No, the current indispensable “In” word is “So.”
This word is being utilized as the “crutch” word in every conceivable fashion, but most often it is used to begin a sentence, serving no apparent purpose other then helping the speaker to get his or her verbal engine started. It is not a particularly grating usage, as the “point in time” phrase proved to be, but it still marks the user as not particularly articulate, nor confident in his or her statements.
We can’t help but wonder what will be the next verbal crutch, for like all the others, “So” will gradually recede to its former utilitarian usage.
Ted Cruz, the freshman U. S. Senator from Texas, has flashed across the political horizon like a comet, or a shooting star, in the short time since he was elected from that hot bed — we chose this phrase with some deliberation, because our inclination was to refer to it as that cesspool — of irrational right-wing politics: Texas.
We sometimes wonder about that pioneer who uttered the famous words that go something like this to a fellow with whom he was engaged in a dispute: “You can go to Hell, but I’m going to Texas!”
As things are now, how could he have told the difference?
As longtime readers know, we have always been fascinated by language, especially by names.
We know, of course, that Cruz being Hispanic, his name would be Spanish, and as we recalled our school Spanish we knew that Cruz in that language means “Cross,” but we wondered if it had other meanings, so we looked in our “Cassell’s Spanish Dictionary”, and here’s some of what we found — cruz, n. f. cross, instrument of torture, ... affliction, sorrow, trial of patience, toil, trouble, vexation ... etc.
Although Ted is riding high now with the right-wing radicals, including the Tea Party crowd, we wonder how long it will take for them to recognize that this is a “cross” they do not wish to bear.
We cannot help but detect a marked similarity between Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy.
We do not think Cruz is as dangerous as McCarthy was, seeming to be less intelligent than the Wisconsin Republican, but he is dangerous enough, and the sooner he fades from the national scene the better it will be for the Republic, and especially for the Republicans.
We conclude with one other allusion to linguistic oddities, i.e. the curious formation of the past tense of some verbs. We had never encountered the past tense of the verb “wave” other than “waved” until we came across a writing in a book by Sommerville and Ross, the famous writers of works on Irish themes, entitled “The Sweet Cry of Hounds,” published in 1937, about fox hunting in Ireland.
An old lady is excitedly describing her response to a hurried enquiry as to whether she has seen the hunt, especially the pack of hounds.
She says, “I seen the Whip-man, from me, on the hill above me little house, an’ I took the old shawl I has on me and I wove it to him!”
So next time you talk of that peculiar practice of fans at an event doing the “Wave”, you may say that what they did was the “Wove.”