Sunday, December 30, 2007

Another Fun Quiz

Well, according to this quiz, I should probably read up on Captain Canterbury and find out what he's got besides a famous (and I would assume much misunderstood) proof of God's existence.

Which theologian are you?
created with
You scored as Anselm

Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period.He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'



Karl Barth


Friedrich Schleiermacher


John Calvin




Charles Finney


Jürgen Moltmann


Martin Luther


Paul Tillich


Jonathan Edwards


Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Thought For Advent

In his sermon this morning, Pastor Brady suggested that there is something very special about God becoming a baby, not only that in becoming a baby the Almighty has become the least powerless of us all, as is often noted, but also that the presence of a baby has a way of bringing people together regardless of other circumstances. I find something excellently charming about this second proposition, for I think it is ratified even by the experience of those of us who are less than thrilled by children. It is a peculiar sort of misanthrope who does not brighten a bit at a calm baby, and feels no compassion for the mother cloud his irritation at the presence of a wailing one. In the case of babies only do people almost universally warm to a stranger, whether at home, in a restaurant, on the street. A baby of any people can indeed be ‘a great joy to all peoples.’ (Luke 2:10) Some might say that this is circumstance of our particular culture—as though that somehow undid the significance of the fact that our Lord was a baby, as though he was not born for us too—; some might say that it is merely a predisposition necessary for the survival of the race, again as though that mitigated things, as though the significance of the Incarnation, which is God-With-Us, can be understood only insofar as we extract it from all its human contexts of history and matter, that is, as God not with us. When God chose to make things clear to us by becoming flesh, does it seem as though He would then demand we understand Him in that state in terms other than our own, when it was His aim to greet us on our own terms, in the flesh?

There is also an interesting way in which our behavior towards babies provides space in the Incarnation for some divine irony. For it is only said that we ‘fawn over’ babies for need of a sillier term; the action is adoration. We adore them and make them an object of our hope and love. How beautiful is it then that out of this little idolatry, this common sin of ours, God has worked actual worship? How beautiful that out of unconscious evil good was brought forth? Make then this occasion for sin a reminder of the good worship we all should aim at, and of the incredible ingenuity of God’s good working.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jonson's Alchemist

Ben Jonson's play The Alchemist is the ancestor of all con-man movies; it also is an excellent expression of classical aesthetics. The play centers on what happens when a gentleman leaves his residence in London to avoid the plague. In his absence one of his servants sets up shop posing as an alchemist and takes in many deceived customers; an ever-increasingly complicated sequence of hoaxes culminates in the master's return and a frantic salvaging of the situation/getaway. It's all great fun. And since we're dealing with Ben Jonson here, it hardly appeals to the lowest common denominator: the funniest scene in the play involves a prostitute babbling about the book of Daniel.

Some good lines:

Face: By the way, you must eat no cheese, Nab: it breeds melancholy,
And that same melancholy breeds worms. (III.4.110-111)

Dame Pliant: Truly I shall never brook a Spaniard.
Subtle: No?
Dame Pliant: Never sin' eighty-eight could I abide 'em,
And that was some three year afore I was born, in truth. (IV.4.29-32)

[a puritan]: Thou look'st like Antichrist, in that lewd hat. (IV.7.56)

Lovewit [the master of the house]: Gentlemen, what is the matter? Whom do you seek?
Mammon: The chemical cozener.
Surly: And the captain pandar.
Kastril: The nun my sister.
Mammon: Madam Rabbi.
Ananias: Scorpions, and caterpillars. (V.5.20-23)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Where's the Controversy?

I guess 941 years makes people forget.

*Goes back to thinking how much better the world would be if it had been an arrow through William the Bastard's eye instead*

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hick Etymology

E.G. Withycombe, in her always informative Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, has this to say about the name Richard (my emphasis): "Richard and Ricard were equally common in the Middle Ages, together with many nicknames and diminutive, such as Rich(ie), Hitch, Rick, Hick, Dick, Dickon, Ricket, Hicket, which in turn gave rise to an immense number of surnames."

The OED, which defines a hick as "an ignorant countryman; a silly fellow, booby. Now chiefly U.S." confirms the etymology: "A familiar by-form of the personal name Richard: cf. Dick, and Hob = Robert, Hodge = Roger."

I hope you will all find time to address someone you know named Richard as "my dear Hick."

Bonus etymology!

Before there were 'hiccups,' says the OED, there were just 'hicks,' a shortened form of 'hicket,' from whose entry we happily learn that onomatopoeia does not preclude etymology:

"One of the earlier forms of hiccup, the other being hickock, both app. with a dim. formative -et, -ock. The echoic stem hick appears also in MDu. hick, Du. hik, LG. hick, Da. hik, Sw. hicka hiccup, MDu. hicken, Du. hikken, Da. hicke, Sw. hicka to hiccup; also Bret. hok, hik (Littré), F. hoquet (15th c.), Walloon hikéte, med.L. hoquetus (Du Cange), hiccup, F. hoqueter (12th c. in Hatz.-Darm.) to hiccup. The Eng. hicket corresponds in formation to the Fr., and is identical with the Walloon. Assuming this to be the earliest form, we have the series hicket, hickot, hickock, hickop, hiccup (hiccough)."

Furthermore, the OED cites Thomas Hobbes' translation of Thucydides for the word hick-yex, used to describe the symptoms of the plague at Athens in Book II: "Most of them had all the hickeyexe which brought with it a strong convulsion." (a modern translation has here "an ineffectual retching which produced violent spasms;" the word must mean more than the OED's mere 'hiccup' if Hobbes was translating correctly). 'Hick-yex' is a combination of 'hick' and the word 'yex' which can mean 'sob' or 'hiccup.' I would surmise that this is the same word which is used under the spelling 'yucks' (cited as an alternate spelling for 'yex') or 'yuks' as a word for laughter, although the OED does not confirm this, saying instead that 'yuck' or 'yuk' is of unknown origin. There are certainly some laughs that sound like hiccups, though, and I don't see why the line isn't plausible, especially with such a slangy word.

Bonus Latin Etymology!

The Latin word for hiccup is 'singultus' which is related to our word 'single.' Thus a hiccup is a single sound, a sound all on its own. Certainly a more interesting way of looking at it than our say-what-it-sounds-like.

UPDATE 12/4:
The word Thucydides uses in the passage above is λυγξ (lunx), which means, you guessed it, 'hiccup;' it is modified by the adjective κενη, which means 'vain' or, as the other translation has it, 'ineffectual.' The lexicon I consulted made no mention of retching, although I see how you could get there from 'ineffectual hiccup.' Like our word, λυγξ is onomatopoetic.