Showing posts with label nonsense. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nonsense. Show all posts

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Slight misunderstanding

People who’ve dabbled ever so little in the domain of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics—to the extent, say, of reading the fantastic story of the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone by Jean-François Champollion—are likely to have met up with the French term cartouche, designating a group of symbols enclosed in a round-cornered rectangle, and representing the name of an important personage. The following example of a typical cartouche is the name of the pharaoh Ramesses the Great [circa 1290-1224 BCE]:

Now, cartouche is in fact the everyday French word for “cartridge”. In French, as in English, there are two kinds of cartouches:

 • Cartridges of the kind you fire in guns.

• Cartridges of the kind you insert into printers.

There should be no confusion between these two quite different kinds of cartridges. That’s to say, your printer wouldn’t work if you inserted shotgun cartridges into the place that’s designed to house its ink supply. And there’s no way in the world that you could fire ink cartridges out of a shotgun.

In the recycling zone of my local supermarket, there are plastic containers designed to receive such stuff as used batteries and empty ink cartridges. As a regular consumer of cartridges for the Canon printer attached to my Macintosh, I often drop empty plastic cartridges into this box. I was intrigued to find that the supermarket management has been obliged to put a warning sign on the latter container:

The words in red state that it is prohibited to put shotgun cartridges into the container. Apparently there are local hunters who don’t understand that the container is intended for empty ink cartridges. And the supermarket management was disturbed to find that their personnel might be obliged to handle ammunition, be it live or spent. On the other hand, to the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever dropped any ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics into this container.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I'm almost certain (unless my memory is playing me tricks) that my dear father, who was particularly fond of my young sister Anne Skyvington (a few years younger than Don and me), used to refer to her in cuddly terms as "my little Angie Divey" (spelling?) as if he were referring to his divine Angela. Dad was earwashed (radiophonic variant of "brainwashed") by the refrain of a silly song, composed in 1943, which sounded like this:
    Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
    A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?
While hoping that my sister was in fact named for more noble reasons than this (which my genealogical research hasn't yet suggested, since there seem to be no Annes—or Donalds or Susans or Jillians, for that matter—among our recent ancestors), here's a plausible English transcription of these largely nonsensical words:
Mares [female horses] eat oats
And does [female deers] eat oats
And little ants eat ivy
A kid [baby goat] will eat ivy too
Wouldn't a ewe [baby sheep] (also eat ivy)?
That final line, of my invention, is highly conjectural. Maybe the poet was simply referring, in fact, to human kids. Was "ivy" maybe a US military slang term for something I haven't grasped? Here's a recent interpretation of this curious affair:

This morning, when I was pouring out doses of oats for my donkeys, and rejoicing in the fact that my dear Fitzroy seem to have got over a nasty four-day bout of diarrhea, I saw my dog diving into stuff I'd just thrown out as decomposable organic rubbish… and I found myself humming a crazy new stanza to the melody brought into my memory by the "donkey zotes":
Dogsey shit…
Meanwhile, I'm enlightened by a Google revelation concerning the existence of an old English nursery rhyme:
Cowzy tweet and sowzy tweet and liddle sharksy doisters
Nonsense—as our dear Mr Dodgson made clear—is good for you.