Nick's .sig dictionary

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Many an e-mail correspondent of mine is perplexed by the plethora of .sigs I use. To avert many an explanation, here follows my current .sigs on rotation, with explanations where appropriate. (Some are displayed with outdated tags, but will be preserved in my new digs, mutatis mutandis.)

  1. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Nick Nicholas. The Nonce and Future    Henry Squirrel was thirsty. He
    Linguist. University of Melbourne.     walked over to the river bank  where his good friend Bill Bird    was sitting. Henry slipped and
                                           fell in the river. Gravity drowned.
            ---  TALE-SPIN Story Generator, James Meehan, Yale AI Lab, 1975.
    For 1975, I think that's pretty good for a computer generating fairy tales. The logic here is that, since Gravity is pulling Henry into the river, and Gravity has no mates, arms, or legs to extricate it from the river, Gravity is doomed to a watery grave...
  2. A freshman once observed to me:      Nick Nicholas. PhD student,
    On the edge of the Rubicon           Linguistics, University of Melbourne.
    Men don't go fishing.      
    -- Alice Goodman, _Nixon in China_.
    A line uttered by Henry Kissinger in this classic opera by John Adams (1987), with a sharp libretto by Alice Goodman. For the longest time, I was convinced Kissinger was attributing this maxim to a Frenchman...
  3. **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** ****
    *    Nick Nicholas, Linguistics, University of Melbourne, Australia      *
    *    "Eschewing obfuscatory verbosity of locutional rendering, the       *
      circumscriptional appelations are excised." --- W. Mann & S. Thompson, 
    * _Rhetorical Structure Theory: A Theory of Text Organisation_, 1987.    *
    **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** ****
    A marvellous dictum at the conclusion of the introduction to Mann & Thompson's classic paper (which was the starting point for my Master's thesis.)
       Nick Nicholas     Linguistics
    Two snippets of mediaeval Latin poetry, well-known because of their inclusion in Carl Orff's setting of the Carmina Burana. The one on the left is by the Archpoet, a 13th century wandering scholar and one of the first literary rebels against society: "Chains won't hold me down; locks won't hold me down. I seek out those like me, and am judged to be depraved. (The Archpoet's Confession.)" The second is from the Carmina Burana themselves, and is a quite lovely two-stanza poem, its second stanza switching charmingly between Latin and Middle German. (Regrettably, a third stanza has turned up, all Middle German, and clumsy as buggery.) This is the first stanza: "A girl stood in a red tunic. If anybody touched her, the tunic would rustle. Oh... (From the Carmina Burana.)"
  5. ki egeire arga ta sthqia ta qlimmena;#Nick Nicholas, Linguistics, 
    san ahdoni pou se nuxtia anoijiata   #University of Melbourne  n.nicholas@
    thn wra pou kelahda epnixth, wimena! #
    stis murwdies kai st' anqismena bata.#
    -- N. Kazantzakhs, Tertsines: Xristos#         ~opoudjis
    This from the terzinas Nikos Kazantzakis wrote in honour of his various intellectual heroes in the early '40s. This is from the conclusion of his terzina in honour of Christ, and anticipates The Last Temptation by about a decade: "And he slowly turned his sorrowful breast [away from temptation], just like a nightingale, which, just as it was singing in a spring night, drowned, alas! in the perfumes and the flowering marshes."
  6. Nick Nicholas  Linguistics, Uni. Melbourne  Dera me xhama t"e larm"e,       Dera mbas blerimit         Me xhama t"e larm"e!
     In case you're wondering:                  Lumtunia nuk ka ngjyra tjera.
     the poem is in Albanian.            (Martin Camaj, _Nj"e Shp'i e Vetme_)
    This is indeed a poem in Albanian; and rather a charming one at that, from the late Martin Camaj ('60s). I was first attracted to it because I recognised the word for window-pane, xham (which Albanian, like Greek, has borrowed from Turkish): "The door with the stained-glass window; the door behind the green, with the stained-glass window! Joy has no other colour."
     "Some of the English might say that the Irish orthography is very Irish.
     Personally, I have a lot of respect for a people who can create something
     so grotesque." -- Andrew Rosta
    A dictum And Rosta pronounced on the Lojban mailing list (1993-7-26). In the same thread, John Cowan said he reckoned Cyrillic was ideal for Irish...
  8.  O Roeschen Roth! Der Mensch liegt in tiefster Noth! Der Mensch liegt in
     tiefster Pein!  Je lieber moecht'  ich im Himmel sein!   ---  _Urlicht_
    Nick NICHOLAS,  PhD candidate,  Dept. of  Linguistics,  Univ. of Melbourne
    One of the loveliest folk songs anywhere, from the Des Knaben Wunderhorn collection, and featuring in the fourth movement of Mahler's Second Symphony: "O red rose! People live in the deepest sorrow! People live in the deepest pain! I'd much rather be in heaven!"
  9. Kai san swqhkan t' akriba piota,          N N O  n.nicholas@linguistics.
    kai san plhsiaze pia h wra tesseres,      I I L  http://
    ston erwta doqhkan eutuxeis.              C C A
     K.P.Kabafhs, _Duo Neoi, 23 Ews 24 Etwn_  K H S   *Ceci n'est pas un .sig*
    One of Constantine Cavafy's more sensuous vignettes: "And when the expensive drinks ran out, and when it was getting close to four o' clock, they happily gave themselves over to love. (C. P. Cavafy, Two Young Men, 23 to 24 Years Old.)" The gratuitous surrealist comment on the bottom right can be taken as a memetic infection...
  10. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Nick Nicholas, Ling. & App. Ling,
    Melbourne Uni, Australia           
    "Despite millions of dollars of research, death continues to be this 
     nation's number one killer."    --- Henry Gibson, Kentucky Fried Movie.
    As was once said on The Simpsons, "it's funny 'cause it's true."
  11. yISotQo', jupwI'. yIQuch...                  Nick Nicholas, Linguistics,
    chaq DuQuchmoHlaHbej yuch.                     University of Melbourne,
    Don't be distressed, my friend. Be happy...           Australia.
    Perhaps chocolate can cheer you up.
    -- David Barron, Klingon Opera _Kang_.
    This dates from 1995. I do hope this opera gets produced eventually...
  12. %^) %^) %^) %") %^) %^) %^| %^) %^) B^) %^) %^) %^) ;^) %^) %^) %^[ %^) %^) 8)
     NICK NICHOLAS!! ! Melbourne Uni, Oz!!!
     "I've been told that I'm sexy and cute, intelligent and witty with a great 
     sense of humour, but then people will say anything when they're about to come 
     in your mouth." Judes, on
    This would have been posted some time like 1992. I think this really funny, but I don't think I'm game to put it on the bottom of most of my email...
  13. [Nick Nicholas. Linguistics & Applied Linguistics, University of Melbourne ]   
    ["There is no theory of language structure so ill-founded that it cannot   ]
    [be the basis for some successful Machine Translation." --- Yorick Wilks   ]
    A quotation from Yorick Wilks, the bovver boy of Artificial Intelligence...
  14. "Assuming, for whatever reasons, that neither scholar presented the evidence
     properly, then there remains a body of evidence you have not yet destroyed
     because it has never been presented." --- Harold Fleming
    | |
    A masterwork of doublethink. A whole throng of linguists spent an entire issue of the palaeolinguistic journal Mother Tongue soundly refuting the evidence presented to support a genetic link between Basque and Caucasian languages. The editor of the journal then complains that the link can't be considered disproved by virtue of the evidence presented not being up to scratch: why, there's plenty of perfectly good evidence out there. It's just that noone's ever gotten around to publishing it.
    The reader is left to ponder the implications for scientific methodology...
  15. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Nick Nicholas. Linguistics,           "Rode like foam on the river of pity
    University of Melbourne                Turned its tide to strength    Healed the hole that ripped in living"     - Suzanne Vega, Book Of Dreams
    Her worst album (1991), but her greatest stanza...
  16. How can the king and nobles makes ends meet,   Nick Nicholas; Linguistics,
    if not by eating you and all the others?         University of Melbourne.
    (Lynx to Ox; _Tale of the Quadrupeds_,
     Byzantium, 14thC)              
    Some incisive social commentary from the mediaeval Greek bestiary I have co-translated into English.
  17. ____.____1____.____2____.____3____.____4____.____5____.____6____.____7____.
    When in doubt,  Nick Nicholas, Linguistics & Applied Linguistics,
      ---   DOUBT!      University of
            (- me)   Melbourne, Australia
    That's my bon mot! All mine!
  18.   Nick Nicholas,     Linguistics          University of Melbourne
      "There is a danger, my dear Neophron, that they will go further, and
       conceive a contempt for the stress-accent as something very trivial,
       and will decree that any group of words of any kind is a verse."
      --- Maximos Planudes, predicting free verse and worse, late xiii AD.
    (Cited in: Jeffreys, M. 1974. The Nature and Origins of the Political Verse. Dumbarton Oaks Papers 28. 142-195. p. 145.) And he was only 700 years early...
  19.  Edarh oni oroumene          NICK NICHOLAS. PhD, Linguistics,
     kouraste na mpa"inei,       University of Melbourne, Australia
     apo ton kosmo entenh
     tsi naxei na orinei?
        --- Dhmhtzh Xouph, _O gerou-Kwstagkh_ (Tsakwniko poihma)
    A poem in Tsakonian, a moribund sister-language of Greek, by Dimitris Houpis, 1991. Old Kostantis is a dead man who turns vampire; in the last stanza: "Now he is no longer seen; he's tired of wandering. What more could he expect to see from this world?"
  20.     NICK NICHOLAS. LINGUISTICS, UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA.  Tour orghnie tou gerou na ninere,    tou p!ounte si na mh si ninere:
    "Hearken to an old man's advice --- not to his farts." Tsakonian proverb.
    Fairly self-explanatory...
  21.     NICK NICHOLAS.  
    In Athens, news spreads fast: they know everything as soon as it happens,
    sometimes before it happens, and often without it happening at all.
     --- Jean Psichari, _My Voyage_.
    True in 1888, and no less true now...
     Such a lack of true education is finally also attested for the common
     administration of the time, both secular and religious; had they not
     lost their brain, they would not have lost their kingdom three hundred
     years hence. (Adamantios Korais on Byzantium, _Miscellanea_, 1828).     
    He may have decried 'vulgarism' once too often for my liking, but he had quite a sharp turn of phrase...
  23.  ----------------------------------------------------------------------
     Nick Nicholas; University of Melbourne,   Linguistics & App. Linguistics
     No saves, Antonyo, lo ka es morirse una lingua. Es komo kedarse soliko
     en el silensyo kada diya ke el Dyo da --- Marcel Cohen, 1985 (Judezmo)  
    I don't remember where I came across this quotation (I think it was in a 1996 or 1997 issue of the Esperanto literary journal Literatura Foiro), but it really struck a nerve with me. As a linguist, I am confronted with the tragedy of dying languages and dialects --- particularly in the region I study, Greece, where an erstwhile linguistic fecundity is giving way to a bland diglossia of Athenian Greek and TV American. One of the now dead languages of Greece was Judezmo (aka Ladino), the Judaeo-Spanish language of most Jews in Greece and elsewhere along the Mediterranean. Judezmo has much less institutional infrastructure in place than Yiddish, and in Israel is inevitably giving way to Modern Hebrew. One of the last poets in the language writes: "You do not know, Anthony, what it's like when a language dies. It's like finding yourself alone, in silence, every day God gives." (Updated and corrected at my blog.)
  24.  ------------------=================================--------------------
     Nick Nicholas; University of Melbourne,    Linguistics & App. Linguistics
     "The Orthodox Church lead the Greek nationalist movement in the island
     until 1977. Since then it has been in decline, confining itself mainly
     to the real estate market and homophobia."  (Andrew Apostolou, MGSA-L)
    From a message about Cyprus, posted to the Modern Greek Studies Association mailing list (1998-5-16) by one of its more acerbic subscribers...
  25. Life                Nick Nicholas, Dept of Linguistics & App. Linguistics
    Is a knife          University of Melbourne, Australia
    Whose wife
    Is a scythe                            
    --- Zoe Velonis, Aged 14 1/2.
    In 1998, Zoe was 25, and found this stanza embarrassing. Myself, I find it utterly charming.
  26.            Nick Nicholas, Linguistics, University of Melbourne
    "My most mighty, God-respected, God-glorified, God-promoted, God-governed,
    God-magnified Holy Lord King. Health and merriment to your soul, vigour
    and well-being to your divine and royal body, prosperity to the benefactions
    issuing from your hand, and everything else good and salvific does my
    humble self wish to your Holy Majesty on behalf of God Almighty."
        --- Miklosich & Mueller I. CLXXXIV; Patriarch to Emperor.
    A handy example of how to ensure your job prospects, from late Byzantium. (Miklosich, F. & Müller, I. (eds). 1961 [1871]. Acta et Diplomata Graeca Medii Aevi Sacra et Profana (Sacred and Secular Mediaeval Greek Acts and Documents). 6 vols. Athens: Spanos.)
  27.     Nick Nicholas, Thesaurus Linguae Gracecae.
     "All the nations also under his dominion were filled with joy and
     inexpressible gladness at not being even for a moment deprived of the
     benefits of a well ordered government."
        --- Eusebius of Caesaria on the accession of Constantine I.
    Mid fourth century AD. I find the image of peoples rejoicing in their subjugation amusing --- in a disconcerting kind of way. (Richardson, E. C. (ed.) 1890. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. I. New York: The Christian Literature Company. p. 488.)
  28. Nick Nicholas              [Stephen] King published _The Green Mile_ as
    Associate Researcher       the first serialized novel since the 1920s,
    Thesaurus Linguae          in a gesture that was meant to recall the
    Graecae, University of     serial work of Dickens. No doubt, King is the
    California, Irvine         Dickens this century deserves.           -- Richard von Busack, _Metro Santa Cruz_,     Dec. 8-15 1999, p. 29.
    This alone made my visit to Santa Cruz worthwhile. (The claim is factually false, in that Armistead Maupin was serialised in the 1980s. But I wouldn't let facts get in the way of a bon mot.)
  29. Nick Nicholas. TLG, UCI, USA.;
     Many among their proselytes had sold their lands and houses to increase
      the public riches of the sect --- at the expense, indeed, of their
      unfortunate children, who found themselves beggars because their
      parents had been saints. (Edward Gibbon, _Decline and Fall_.)
    It is not for nothing that Gibbon is hailed as the greatest stylist of the English language.
  30. --------------------=================================---------------------- 
    Nick Nicholas; TLG, UCI;;        
    "Electronic editors have to live in hope: hope that the long-awaited        
    standards for encoding texts for the computer will arrive; hope that they   
    will be workable; hope that software will appear to handle these texts;     
    hope that all the scholars of the world will have computers which can       
    drive the software (which does not yet exist) to handle the texts (which    
    have not yet been made) encodd in standard computer markup (which has not   
    yet been devised). To hope for all this requires a considerable belief in   
    the inevitability of progress and in the essential goodness of mankind."    
                                                        (Peter M.W. Robinson)   
    Hits close to home, considering my current employment. (Robinson, P.M.W. 1997. New Directions in Critical Editing. In Sutherland, K. (ed.), Electronic Text: Investigations in Method and Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 146-171.)
  31. Momenton senpretende paseman mi retenis kaj  #  NICK NICHOLAS.  TLG, UCI, USA
       kultis kvazaux                           #  
         senhorlogxan elizeon                  #
           (Dume:                             #
    [Victor Sadler, _Memkritiko_ 90]         #    
    From the greatest (and certainly most underrated) poet in Esperanto, Victor Sadler; poem 90 of his only collection, Memkritiko (Self-Criticism). "I held on to an unpretentiously passing moment and / cultivated it as if it was / a clockless elision  / (Meanwhile: "
  32. ***
    "Relax." -- "yIleS." [Three seconds pause.] "Stop Relaxing!" -- "yIleSHa'!"
                                      --- the Conversational Klingon tape.
    Nick Nicholas.
    nIchyon jIH. nIchyon SoHbe'. nIchyon ghaHbe'. nIchyon tlhIHbe'. nIchyon jIHqu'.
    With a little Klingon conjugation thrown in: "I am Nick. You are not Nick. She is not Nick. You all are not Nick. I am Nick."
  33. ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==
    Nick Nicholas, Breathing      {le'o ko na rivbi fi'inai palci je tolvri danlu}                   -- Miguel Cervantes tr. Jorge LLambias
    A good illustration of the power of Lojban attitudinal markers: "(Aggressive!) Avoid [me] not, (Inhospitable!) thou evil and cowardly beast!"
  34.  /|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||\
    |  "One must first know that traditionally a Japanese bus has carried not ||
    | only a driver but one or more young girls who stand in the aisles and   ||
    | sell tickets, announce stops, and in general console the passengers for ||
    | the inadequacies and discomforts of this transient world."               \
    |               --- Roy Andrew Miller,  _The Japanese Language_,  p. 251    \
    \|||||||||||Transient Passenger|||||||Nick Nicholas||||||
          ()()                          ()()                            ()()
    Roy Andrew Miller is a notorious and wickedly funny linguist working on Japanese; his book The Japanese Language is full of jabs at quirks of Japanese culture like this.
  35. Nick Nicholas, TLG, UCI, USA.
    "Most Byzantine historians felt they knew enough to use the optatives
     correctly; some of them were right." --- Harry Turtledove.
    The renowned byzantinist and science fiction author, in Turtledove, H. 1982. The Chronicle of Theophanes. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. xiii.
  36.                                 Nick Nicholas, UCI, USA.
      "Must I, then, be the only one to be beheaded now?" "Why, did you want
    everybody to be beheaded for your consolation?" Epictetus, Discourses 1.1.
    W.A. Oldfather's translation (Loeb Classical Library)
  37. ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==  ==
    Upon completing His outburst, God fell silent, standing quietly at the
    podium for several moments. Then, witnesses reported, God's shoulders
    began to shake, and He wept.
     Nick Nicholas.
    Aftermath of Sept. 11.
  38. [][][][]                   [][][][][][][][][][]                [][][][]
    Dr Nick Nicholas.
                      University of Melbourne:
        Chiastaxo dhe to giegnissa, i dhedhato potemu,
        ma ena chieri aftumeno ecratu, chisvissemu.    (I Thisia tu Avraam)
    From the Marcian manuscript (written in an Italian-based orthography) of the 17th century Cretan play Abraham's Sacrifice --- an early instance of writing Greek in Roman script. Verses 401-402: "Let me think I never gave birth to him, nor saw him ever; I merely held a lit candle --- and it went out."
  39. It appears to be a real script (or a board game), and there are 
    people who want to be able to work with the script as part of the 
    decipherment process.  On the other hand, there *is* just the one 
    document (or board game), so there's only so much one can do.
    (John Jenkins on the Phaistos Disk; Unicode mailing list)
    Posted 8 Oct 2001, as a justification for the rejection of the Phaistos script as a proposed addition to the Unicode repertoire.
Nick Nicholas, opoudjis [AT] optusnet . com . au
Created: 1997; Last revision: 2009-11-18