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Posts Tagged ‘Richard II

“I got stood up by the letter Y, he was hanging around with his X”*…

 

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It’s perhaps not pornography’s fault that it’s cashing in on a global crisis. As, around the world, whole societies confine themselves to their quarters, traffic to major porn sites has been spiking everywhere, telling us all we need to know about how humans with a broadband connection tend to deal with exceptional levels of boredom and anxiety. From the point-of-view of page views, the season of self-isolation might well be the porn industry’s historical high point — but in terms of reputational damage, it also marks a new low for one of Western culture’s most enigmatic figures.

Once, the letter X was the holiest of all alphabetic symbols, standing for nothing less than the triumph of Christendom itself. The Roman emperor Constantine I imposed his adopted religion on Europe and the Middle East, with armies marching under the banner of an “X,” and for centuries, Latin scribes used it as shorthand for “Christ.”

But at the present moment… the 24th letter of the English alphabet is synonymous not even with professionally lit kissy porn, but rather the explicitier, extremier world of hardcore sharing platforms.

It’s a remarkably stratospheric fall from grace, especially for such a shy and retiring character — X is the second-least-common letter in written English (after Z), and the one that begins by far the fewest number of words. Oh X, what happened to you? Where did it all go so badly wrong that you’re hanging out in NSFW corners of the internet…?

From holiest hallmark to horniest sex symbol — the X-treme, X-haustive story of how the wild child of the alphabet lost its way: “How Did X Become the Edgiest Letter?

See also: “What’s So Fascinating About the Letter X?” and “Before X Was X: The Dark Horse Story Of The 24th Letter.”

* Norah Jones

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As we mark the spot, we might recall that it was on this date 1397 that Geoffrey Chaucer “told” (read aloud his ribald, if not X-rated) The Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II.

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A woodcut from William Caxton‘s second edition of The Canterbury Tales, printed in 1483

source

 

Written by LW

April 17, 2020 at 1:01 am

“We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary”*…

 

Terms of Sale

 

In the early history of international trade, when exotic goods traveled to new regions, their native names sometimes hitchhiked along with them.

Naturally, the Germans have a term – Wanderwörter – for these extraordinary loanwords that journey around the globe, mutating subtly along the way…

See the map above in larger format, and learn more about each of the examples it illustrates at: “Mapping the Spread of Words Along Trade Routes.” [sourced from Lapham’s Quarterly]

* James Nicoll

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As we ponder the provenance of our produce, we might recall that it was on this date 1397 that Geoffrey Chaucer “told” The Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II.

220px-Canterbury_Tales

A woodcut from William Caxton‘s second edition of The Canterbury Tales, printed in 1483

source

 

Written by LW

April 17, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’… Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land”*…

 

 larger version here

The rough beauty of the American West seems as far as you can get from the polished corridors of power in Washington DC. Until you look at the title to the land. The federal government owns large tracts of the western states: from a low of 29.9% in Montana, already more than the national average, up to a whopping 84.5% in Nevada…

More on government land, the uses to which it is put, and the issues it raises at “How the West Is Owned.”

* John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

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As we wonder what Horace Greeley was on about, we might recall that it was on this date in 1601 that agents of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, paid Shakespeare’s theater troupe, The Lord Chamberlin’s Men, to perform Richard II.  The group had been reluctant to dust off the by-then old piece of repertoire, but were convinced by a 40 shilling “gratuity.”  Essex’s purpose in the endeavor was to stir the public against Queen Elizabeth (who identified– and was identified with– the childless, and thus heir-less Richard II, who is deposed in the play).

Essex had squandered and blundered his way into financial trouble and out of the Queen’s graces; desperate, he had plotted a rebellion that he launched two days after the play’s performance– only to find that he had garnered no support at all from the people.  He was quickly captured by Elizabeth’s Lord High Admiral (the Earl of Nottingham) and his men, tried, convicted, and on February 25th, less than two weeks after his patronage of the stage, beheaded at the Tower of London.

The rebellious Earl of Essex

 source

 

Written by LW

February 7, 2015 at 1:01 am

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