Thursday, April 20, 2017

Joyce is Dead

Yesterday's anecdote of the wine glasses reminds me of another language-related anecdote.

It was Christmas morning, many years ago-- I was probably in my late teens. My father and I were talking about a new dictionary somebody had received as a gift, a big fat proper dictionary. I was complaining about pedantry, which is a common theme with me-- I'm a bit of an anarchist when it comes to language.

"For example", I said, "Why should we talk about "The Dead" by James Joyce as Joyce's 'The Dead'? Isn't it more elegant to say Joyce's Dead?".

"No", said my father. "Joyce's The Dead is clearer."

"Joyce's Dead is perfectly clear!", I complained. "Nobody could mistake what you meant. It's just pedantry."

A few minutes later, my mother appeared, looking rather concerned. "Did I hear someone say Joyce is dead?", she asked. Joyce is the name of my aunt.

This really happened.

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