Pandemic poetry 1: “You’ve got the Flu, boy, You’ve got the Flu.” (1919)

When your back is broke and your eyes are blurred.
And your shin-bones knock and your tongue is furred,
And your tonsils squeak and your hair gets dry,
And you’re doggone sure that you’re going to die,
But you’re skeered you won’t and afraid you will,
Just drag to bed and have your chill;
And pray the Lord to see you through
For you’ve got the Flu, boy,
You’ve got the Flu.

When your toes curl up and your belt goes flat,
And you’re twice as mean as a Thomas cat,
And life is a long and dismal curse,
And your food all tastes like a hard-boiled hearse,
When your lattice aches and your head’s abuzz
And nothing is as it ever was,
Here are my sad regrets to you,
You’ve got the Flu, boy,
You’ve got the Flu.

What is it like, this Spanish Flu?
Ask me, brother, for I’ve been through,
It is by Misery out of Despair,
It pulls your teeth and curls your hair,
It thins your blood and brays your bones
And fills your craw with moans and groans,
And sometimes, maybe, you get well —
Some call it Flu — I call it hell!

By  J.P. McEvoy, published in The Arizona Republic, 1919

President’s, Presidents’ or Presidents Day?

Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington / Wikimedia Commons

Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington / Wikimedia Commons

Well, which is it? Presidents Day, Presidents Day or Presidents Day? Is the name of the American public holiday, which we’ll be celebrating on Monday, spelled with an apostrophe or not? And assuming it is a possessive day, i.e. belonging to either the first or all of our presidents, where should the punctuation be placed accordingly? Continue reading

The editor: linguist, diplomat, empath, and more

This is an unusually personal and serious post for Glossophilia, but I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it takes to be a good editor. Over the past year or so I’ve been editing my late father’s diaries, as well as discussing with my family the words that will mark his gravestone. Both experiences — especially in such an emotionally-laden context — have made me reflect more on what a delicate and important process the editor’s job is. As a professional editor of nearly 35 years, in a world that’s driving this particular role/profession towards sure and imminent extinction, I’m aware of and keen to expound the value an editor brings to our world of communication. It’s a complex job that goes far beyond just the nuts and bolts of linguistic proficiency. Here’s my take on it.

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BoJo’s booboo (and he signed this one)

No world leader can trump Trump in the high stakes world of grammar and spelling errors. But Boris Johnson came fairly close when he flubbed one of the three letters he sent to Brussels a few days ago — and it was in the letter he actually signed that he made his gaffe (so you can’t wriggle out of this one, BoJo). Read it here and see if you can spot the mistake:

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On National Poetry Day: Truth … (and a golden shovel)

    

Today is National Poetry Day in the UK, and the national day’s theme this year is “Truth”. To celebrate, Glosso presents two poems by British poet Marc Woodward — both of which address this year’s theme with searing and witty relevance. The first poem is a “golden shovel” — a poetry form invented by the US poet Terrance Hayes in which all the poem’s line-ending words, put together in order, form the line of another existing poem. Woodward’s poem An Egret In Jerusalem speaks for itself, but by way of a brief introduction: historically egrets used to migrate to England from the continent, but since the 1970s they have gradually become residents of the island nation. The second poem, also relevant in today’s Great Britain, plays on King Henry II’s infamous line “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”, which he is said to have uttered over Christmas in 1170 with dramatic consequences. Enjoy both poems: we’ll be hearing more from Marc on Glosso’s pages in the future. Continue reading