Tag: Passion (home)

A Tale of Two Wordsmiths (AP Online; 10/22/98) By HILLEL ITALIE Associated Press Writer NEW YORK (AP) You could call them logophiles, those who are passionate about words. Or logologists, those who are scientific about words. Or logolepts, those who are maniacal about words. You could call them two of the great logolepts ever to dabble in and with the English language. Dr. James Murray was a tailor's son from the Scottish border who as a young man tried to teach Latin to cows and for fun memorized hundreds of Gypsy phrases. Dr. William Chester Minor was a Connecticut surgeon traumatized by the Civil War, convicted of murder in London and institutionalized in a two-room, book-lined cell. They both lived in turn-of-the-century England and they knew each other well. They corresponded by mail for years. They were friends even after Murray learned that Minor was an inmate, not a doctor, at the Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane. They were friends even after Minor imagined attackers crawling through the asylum floor. And they were collaborators on a historic project. Murray, an old schoolmate of the real-life model for Henry Higgins, was supervising the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary. Minor, whose confinement did not keep him from owning a handsome collection of 17th- and 18th-century literature, was his most dependable contributor. "They are THE odd couple, aren't they?" said author Simon Winchester, who tells the story of Minor and Murray in his best-selling biography, "The Professor and the Madman." "They're part of this great tradition of enthusiastic amateurs, people who made great contributions to all sorts of things. They were people with time on their hands and their enthusiasms would carry them away." Winchester, a New Yorker who has written about everything from travel in the Far East to imprisonment in Argentina, said he got the idea for his latest work right at home in the bathtub, to be exact. The author was relaxing with a good book (on lexicography, of course) and came upon a brief reference to Minor. He sat straight up in the tub and decided there was a story to tell. "The Professor and the Madman" not only has made The New York Times' best- seller list, but has attracted both Mel Gibson and "La Femme Nikita" director Luc Besson for a possible film adaptation. The HarperCollins publication is even being used in a joint advertisement with the Oxford University Press, with both biography and dictionary (the former selling at $20, the latter at $995) promoted under the tabloid slogan: "Madman Special." "I'm unhappy with it," Winchester said. "It just seems so uncharacteristic of the Oxford University Press. "I remember a meeting we went to and sort of threw that name out, `Madman Special,"' Oxford publisher Laura Brown said with a laugh. "If you call a book something in draft it starts to take on a life of its own." Murray and Minor's friendship was a highlight of one of the longest, most cerebral quests in English history the quest for the ultimate catalog of the English language. It was a quest that would involve everyone from Jonathan Swift to Samuel Johnson, a quest for which the Oxford dictionary provided the voluminous conclusion. Ever since the 17th century, Swift, John Dryden and other British intellectuals had been looking to trim a language that seemed to grow as freely as an English garden. There was no agreement on how words should be spelled, used or pronounced. No one even knew how many words were out there. A language mastered in print by Shakespeare and Milton still followed the uncertain rules of oral culture. Would-be trimmers multiplied but the first great one did not emerge until 1755, when Dr. Johnson published his dictionary. For several years, Johnson had been tracking down every possible usage for thousands of words he found more than a hundred just for "take" and added often-acerbic definitions. At least one listing, for "oats," soon became widely quoted: "A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people." But Johnson's dictionary was more literary than scholarly, and many continued to insist upon a reference guide that served as a catalog rather than a critical review. That would begin more than a century after Johnson's publication. Its working title: "The Big Dictionary." "There was a famous speech at the London Library made in 1857 by Richard Chenevix Trench, who was an author and a cleric and believed the English language had a kind of divine purpose, to be spread around the world," Winchester said. "He addressed the deficiencies in dictionaries which had come out before. People were amazed by the complexity of Johnson's dictionary but they realized there were hundreds and hundreds of words Johnson had overlooked." The Big Dictionary had the scale of a great public works project and, like so many public works projects, it ran longer than planned. The originators of the Oxford dictionary including the grandson of Romantic poet Samuel Coleridge thought they could wrap everything up within a few years. It would end up taking 70. "Every time they made an assumption about having limits on the number of meanings for a word, they found the limits were being breached," Winchester said. "It was as if they discovered that behind each soldier they were fighting there were a hundred more." By the late 1870s Coleridge was dead and Murray, an esteemed teacher and philologist, had been called in to edit. Minor, meanwhile, was an unstable ex- surgeon who had murdered a stranger on the streets of London and had been committed to Broadmoor, less than 40 miles from Oxford. Soon after starting his new job Murray issued an Appeal for Volunteers, an eight-page pamphlet that made a plea for specialists in 18th-century literature. Minor, who kept up with events in the literary world, wrote to offer his help. In the beginning, Murray simply thought of Minor as the prolific, highly organized researcher whose letters had the return address "Broadmoor, Crowthorne, Berkshire." Murray knew of the Broadmoor asylum, but assumed that Minor, whom he had publicly praised, was the medical officer. "This continued for years," Murray wrote to a friend, "until one day, between 1887 and 1890, the late Mr. Justin Windsor, Librarian of Harvard College, was sitting in my Scriptorium and remarked, `You have given great pleasure to Americans by speaking as you do ... of poor Dr. Minor. This is a very painful case."' Poor Dr. Minor? No official record exists of their first meeting, but over the next two decades these white-bearded companions saw each other dozens of times, with Murray always checking on Minor's mood before boarding the train from Oxford. On nice days, they would walk back and forth across the Broadmoor terrace. When the weather turned cold they would commune in Minor's cell, enjoying tea and cake and the warmth of the fireplace, special privileges granted by the asylum. Before losing both his mental and physical strength, W.C. Minor contributed thousands of listings to the Oxford dictionary, entries on everything from "art," "buckwheat" and "brick-tea" to "catamaran," "cholera" and "cutcherry." He also developed a meticulous system of documentation still used by researchers today. "He would create these indexes in his prison cell," Winchester said. "They knew they could rely on Minor to provide quotations, showing how a word was used. Not only was his work impeccable but he had this uncanny ability to produce words when they were needed." The dictionary was completed in 1928, but neither Minor nor Murray lived to see it. Murray, knighted in 1908, died seven years later, at age 78. Minor passed away at age 85, in 1920. He had been increasingly ill and ill-tempered since the morning in 1902 when he sharpened a knife on a whetstone, performed an unspeakable act of surgery and shouted to officials that he had "injured" himself. "I was on a train from Oxford to London with two elderly women, lexicographers with the Oxford University Press, and I was talking about what Minor had done," Winchester said. "Everybody else in the railway carriage was listening to this conversation. When I got to the bit about what he had done to himself, everyone was amazed and gasped, except for these two women. They both said, in unison, `autopeotomy.' "They knew about `peotomy,' which is the word for when someone else performs that procedure, and they came up with a new word. One of them said to me, "`Autopeotomy"' doesn't exist, but it will if you write it in your book."' The word appears on page 193. {APWire:Entertainment-1022.208} 10/22/98 Delivered via the Inquisit(TM) business intelligence service. All articles Copyright 1998 by their respective source(s); all rights reserved.

permalink source: AP Wire
tags: Persistence, Passion

If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.

permalink source: C. T. Studd (1860-1931)
tags: Passion, Sacrifice, Missions

We have all been inoculated with Christianity, and are never likely to take it seriously now! You put some of the virus of some dreadful illness into a man's arm, and there is a little itchiness, some scratchiness, a slight discomfort -- disagreeable, no doubt, but not the fever of the real disease, the turning and the tossing, and the ebbing strength. And we have all been inoculated with Christianity, more or less. We are on Christ's side, we wish him well, we hope that He will win, and we are even prepared to do something for Him, provided, of course, that He is reasonable, and does not make too much of an upset among our cozy comforts and our customary ways. But there is not the passion of zeal, and the burning enthusiasm, and the eagerness of self-sacrifice, of the real faith that changes character and wins the world.

permalink source: A. J. Gossip, From the Edge of the Crowd [1924]
tags: Evangelism, Faith, Passion, Culture

Jimmy Valvano was a New Yorker who went south and found success as basketball coach of North Carolina State University, which he led to a national championship. In one game, after his team blew the lead and lost to arch-rival North Carolina, Valvano insisted that a fan wrote to tell him, "If you ever do that again, I'll come over and shoot your dog." Valvano wrote him back to explain he didn't have a dog. The man responded: "I'm sending you a dog. But don't get too attached to him." (The American Enterprise, June 2002, p. 42) If only we had as much passion for our faith as we do for sports!

permalink source: Anonymous
tags: Worship, Passion, Sports