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NOTE: This conversation runs backwards. For the benefit of regular readers, the newest comments are put at the top.
July 27, 1953

Music playing: Doris Day, Ten Thousand Four Hundred Thirty-Two Sheep

Hello again!

I think I may have been a bit unclear last time I was here. Miss Henderson is entirely right of course. "Like a river flows" is entirely idiomatic (though ungrammatical) English. I didn't mean that the phrase itself was unidiomatic. It can be and is used in the normal way as a simile following the thing it describes. This is Standard Incorrect English.

It is really the reversal of subject and simile that does not take place in ordinary speech. We find it in Homer and in the Psalms and throughout our literary tradition, but not in modern speech which (sadly perhaps) is quite careful to avoid forms that sound too "poetic."

"My money disappear like water goes down the plughole" is perfectly idomatic. "Like water goes down the plughole, so does my money disappear" is not. Neither, come to that, is the correct "as" form. But the "like" form is particularly odd, because it takes a literary form and grafts onto it an out-of-place error which belongs purely to un-literary speech.

By the way, talking of popular music, we saw the Quirrie film Shake, Rattle and Roll last night and had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Fats Domino with his band as well as lots of jiving cats and chicks. We want to learn to jive so we can do it at Sweethearts which now is able to permit dancing.

Love to all,

ALICE LUCY TRENT

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Remember the other day when we told you that Alice wasn't all stuffy head-learning? Well, here's a picture to prove it. Though scholarly and brilliant, Alice is also a great trend setter when it comes to the fashions of Aristasia. Will such delicious frivolity catch on here, with the pencil and poodle skirt crowd? We can only hope so!

This picture gives me what I hope you will think is a Swell Idea. I would like to place photographs of all of the Romantians who frequent my place in a photograph album I keep here at the diner. If you have any pictures of yourselves in your most up-to-date look, would you please pop them over to me and I will put them in my album and share them with the others? I think newcomers who might think we are playing a game would like to see that we really do live, dress, and deport ourselves in a manner utterly unlike what they are accustomed to in the Pit.


July 24, 1953

Music playing: Sammy Kaye and the Kay-dets, Those Old Records

I just read the definition for Archetype in the Romantian Glossary and I am struck by the fact that it describes exactly how I live my life. Every morning I wake up with the perfected form of Woman, Housewife, and Mother in my heart, and every morning I decide to dress, act, speak, and live in a manner that comes as close to those perfected forms as possible. Of course, I fall short of perfection every day, and the discrepancy between my life and the Archetypes I live by keeps me humble before God. This humility is good for my soul, I believe, and I always try to dwell upon the perfect Goodness represented by the Archetypes rather than on my own shortcomings.

How do I strive to live guided by the Archetypes? Well, each morning I get out of bed, clean myself up, don my dress, stockings, and apron, fix my hair and put on my makeup, then do my morning chores, just as my mother did before me, my grandmother before her, hers before her, etc. Being linked in this way, to the tradition of womanhood and motherhood and to the Archetypes of Woman and Mother, gives me such immense happiness! If only all those mothers down in the Pit who are forever thinking about "taking time for themselves" or making sure that, above all, they are happy could know that the only true happiness comes from abandoning one's own silly selfish individuality and yielding completely to one's function. Then, the sweet joy that can fill a soul! Well, I don't need to tell you all about it, I can see that each of you is given over completely to function, to being, in turn, Librarian (Hello, Miss Featherington, over there in the corner!), Doctor, Scholar (Hello, Alice!), Father, Handy Man (Good afternoon, Hank!), Gentleman, Fluffy Blonde Beauty (Hello, Mary!), Maid, Youth, Bride, Priest, Nun, etc. This is Romantia, after all, isn't it! At least we understand the vitality that comes to a civilization when each member cares more about building a home (be it a home for a single family or the home one finds in a neighborhood, church, or whole civilization) than about expressing an individuality that is somehow separate from that home.

But enough! Darling waitress, you've stood here, in your adorable red and white checked uniform, with your pad flipped open and pen poised while I've rambled on and on for the longest time. Please forgive me! I'll have a vanilla Coke and an order of onion rings. Would you tell Rosie I like them extra crisp?

AMY


July 23, 1953

Music playing: Eddie Fisher, Lady of Spain

Miss Alice Lucy Trent is so erudite! And I will certainly remember that very useful concept, Standard Incorrect English.

But I must say that "like a river flows" would be perfectly acceptable Standard Incorrect English in my neck of the woods (Well, it is a red neck of those woods - oops, sorry about the bad pun.) Just the other day I heard my cousin Bob use exactly that expression, in fact. We were talking about Rosie's Diner, and he said he would be coming by here more often now that the word is out about the great milkshakes and hamburgers you can get here, because, and I quote, "all the girls will be flocking to Rosie's, like the River flows to the ocean." That seems to me to be pretty much the same construction as the hart panting for the brook (except of course in this case it's the does panting for milkshakes).

Bob does have a way with words. Our grandma was trying to find out if he was interested in any of the girls around here, and she was asking really obvious questions, you know how they do. And one of her questions was, "What do you think of those Portuguese girls? Some people say they're mighty pretty."

And Bob answered, "Well, I guess it depends on who's looking at them." Now isn't that just the most down-to-earth paraphrase of "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"?

ROSE HENDERSON

Hello Rose! Do ask Bob to stop by soon and sample our food. And thanks for coming in yourself. We don't seem to have many male patrons as of yet, but with pretty girls like yourself freqenting our place, the men are sure to follow!


July 22, 1953

Music playing: Della Reese, Don't You Know

Hello, Rosie. What a very lovely place you have here. I think I would like a chocolate milkshake, please. Thank you, that looks good.

Well, it's nice to see so many people in the place, and all of those cars parked outside look so cheerful and welcoming, especially the ones with lots of chrome. Mmm, Rosie, [leans over confidentially] do you know the name of that chap in the corner? He looks nice. The strong silent type, you say? Always in here but never speaks to any one? Well, I think that I might take that as a personal challenge. I'll sit over here in the opposite corner and smile at him. Perhaps he's shy. I don't see why men shouldn't be shy, really, it isn't only a girl's pregrogative like being late for a date, is it?

CORDELIA


July 21, 1953

Music playing: Jessie Matthews, Everything's in Rhythm With My Heart

Dear Madam,

Chattering (as I was a while ago) about "as" and "like" in popular songs, a very curious example struck me the other day. In the song I Can't Help Falling in Love with You we find the verse:

Like a river flows
Surely to the sea,
Darling, so it goes
Some things are meant to be.

Now isn't that a curious phrase, like a river flows? I don't believe any one ever uses that form in such a way. It seems that the writer of the song habitually uses correct English, and having thought of the lines "As a river flows/Surely to the sea" decided that this was too formal for a popular song and changed it to like, which, in this context is quite unidiomatic. A writer, one might say, who is so used to correct English that he cannot speak correct incorrect English!

No uneducated speaker would ever say "Like a river flows surely to the sea". But what would he say? Would he say "As a river flows surely to the sea"? I think the answer is that nobody, educated or uneducated, would use this sort of construction in ordinary speech. It is, and has been for a long time, a purely literary form. It recalls, for example:

"As the hart panteth after the stream so does my soul yearn for the Lord" (that is not quite accurate as my Bible is not by me, but you know the one I mean).

No one would ever say in the course of conversation "As the swallow flies south in Autumn, so did my car speed down the highway."

But in the unlikely event that any one did say that, it would be a conscious reference to literary form, and therefore even a speaker who would be guilty of saying "it flows like a river does" would say "as" rather that the curiously unidiomatic "like." And this would not be particularly because he was trying to be correct or faithful to the literary model, but because there is no precedent for this use of "like" in what might be called Standard Incorrect English.

This last point raises another matter of interest, demonstrating the fact that, contrary to what many people might be inclined to assume, incorrect English is not in the least innovative or "free-form." It is quite strictly controlled by precedent. Children sometimes use innovative idioms when they are striving to express concepts for which they as individuals have no linguistic precedents, but long before they reach adolescence children have learned to speak either Standard English or the Standard Incorrect English of their particular social group. Adults who use innovative idioms are usually educated writers (more rarely speakers) who know the language well enough to be able to manipulate it.

With affection to all,
ALICE LUCY TRENT

Thank you, Darling, for that very interesting tidbit. We had never thought of it, even though we've listened to that particular favorite so many times. For those of you who don't know dear Alice, please don't think her all erudition and grammatical school mistressliness when it comes to up-to-date ditties. She can be as jinky as any pippsie when she sits at the soda fountain with her friends listening to our music! But isn't it nice to know that at one table here in the Diner, a smart girl like Alice can pop in from Aristasia and talk about the grammar of song lyrics, and at another table, like that one over there with Hank and the fellas, engine repair on the beautiful cars of Quirinelle can be the talk of the day? Of course, we in Romantia would be the last ones to applaud any silly notions of bongo "diversity," but we do pride ourselves on how in the real world, each of us contributes according to his essential nature, thus creating the honest variety that exists within all true civilizations.


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