Sunday, February 22, 2009


Last week I had the students in my upper-level English seminar do an OED exercise. They were to look up a word we had encountered in one of the readings (Golding, Browne, Shakespeare), produce a sense of its historical and etymological trajectory, then illuminate its use in the context of the passage where they found it.

One of my students looked up the word "sole." When I started reading her assignment I scoffed inwardly. I mean, what could the OED possibly add to a modern understanding of "sole"? It means "only." It means "alone."

My student surprised me. She revealed that in early modern England, "sole" specifically referred to an unmarried woman. It's actually the first three definitions in the OED. She produced a lovely reading of "sole heir" in Cymbeline that connected Innogen's status as Cymbeline's "only" and unmarried daughter, with another meaning of "sole" which is "soil." In her reading, it mattered not only that Innogen was Cymbeline's only unmarried daughter, but that her claim to inheritance tied her to the very soil of Britain.

Tonight I am feeling all sorts of "sole." I am alone again- my relationship with Mr. 19C ended this evening. I don't want to go into any details, but there was no anger or resentment. Only sorrow and a feeling of defeat.

But it has left me terribly saddened. It's always sad when things don't work out. And I will miss being part of something. I don't relish being alone again.

I went outside on the porch and smelled the frozen air, wandering around the garden. Just last week the sunshine and damp earth held the promise of spring. But right now it is cold outside- even the soil, which was beginning to show signs of warmth, pushing bulbs and worms to the surface, is chilled.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monday, February 09, 2009

Peanut Butter- or Something Else?

I've been browsing the FDA website listing the vast number of peanut butter products affected by the Blakley, Georgia processing plant salmonella re-call. The highest number of products containing peanut products from the factory is candy.

Candy that bears a strange resemblence, nominally, at least, to something else, and I quote from the list:

Bear Poop
Bear Scat
Buffalo Chips
Chicken Coop Poop
Cow Patties
Cow Pies
Deer Droppings
Moose Droppings
Osprey Poop
Prairie Dog Pebbles

I think these packages of chocolate coated peanuts are widely available in airport gift-shops, packaged as local "delicacies." Seriously, though- Osprey Poop?!

Why name confectionary after animal droppings? Is this perhaps the ironic, post-history of early modern fewmets? Coincidence? You decide.

Oh, and I have to include the names of some other peanut candies, just because they seem pretty funny to me:

Crew Rations
Torn Ranch

The full list is available here:

Armoured Cat

I was chatting the other morning with my boyfriend, Mr. 19th Century, about cats. He's thinking of maybe getting one. I'm thinking of maybe fostering some kittens. More importantly, it's that time of year just before early spring, when the ground warms up and the worms start to crawl toward the soil surface, and the air and earth are plastered with robins and crested titmouse (titmice?).

And the cat is going insane because she's an indoor cat. She sits in the window all day making predatory clicking and chirping noises at them. Lately, she's been so frustrated that she's given up chirring for wailing. She sits at the window and cries. All day long.

Mr. 19C wanted to know why I didn't let her outside to hunt. There are several reasons, but the main one is that I'm scared I'll lose her. My colleague's cat was nearly destroyed by a car, and my neighbors across the street had their kitten mauled by a nearby dog. That and the fact that Saffron has never been outside before in her life- I adopted her as a kitten in an urban environment rife with FIV (feline AIDS) and Leukemia and cars and buses.

So we discussed putting her in her harness on a long leash, for supervised periods of outdoor hunting. But the trouble with the harness is that whenever it's on, she acts like she's in a straightjacket, creeping along the floor, pretending that she's so encumbered that she cannot possibly even jump on to a chair (jumping on the chair and then falling off dramatically, wailing all the time).

Mr. 19C had a much better idea: Kitty Armor. We joked about it, and said something like "I bet it totally exists."

Well, it does, in the work of the artist Jeff Deboer, whose meticulously filigreed and chased helmets and breastplates for a war between cats and mice recall the arms hall of the Metropolitan Museum of art. I keep thinking that someone must have written a mock-heroic epic about such a battle, like the Batrachomyomachia (which pits mice against frogs), or Ebeneezer Mack's The Cat Fight: A Mock Heroic Poem (1824). Any takers?

But back to armor: Saffron is seriously considering it.