Friday, June 8, 2012

Which One?


Here is a list of things. One of them does not belong on the list. Which one?
Free Gift PIN Number Opening Gambit ATM Machine VCR Recorder Opuses Sum Total Rapid Transit Close Proximity ICBM Missile He Exits NATO Organization Unexpected Surprise Philharmonic Orchestra False Pretenses UFO Object
Several of them are redundancies. It's clear that it isn't a gift unless it's free, proximity means close and a surprise is always unexpected. Then an ATM is a machine and a PIN is a number. I must thank Geo for correcting me on my initial posting of ICBM. It is a missile, not a missal. It is not the Pope going ballistic and throwing books at people. It's a rocket.

Several people liked He Exits. Now you may think I'm caviling and picking nits but the fact is "exit" is a Latin word meaning "he leaves" or "he goes " or she., (or it, which is highly unlikely unless you're talking about a robot). So "He exits" is literally "He, he goes,s." The term, though incorrect, is usually found in play scripts. I don't know when this practice of using Latin first got started but it predates Shakespeare and it refers to a character leaving the stage. It is only recently that it is found in the form "he exits." Formerly, if you didn't know whether it was Tom, Dick or Harry who left you would write "Exit Tom." And if they all left you would write "Exeunt Omnes." Cute, huh? (Parenthetically, it was customary to list the Cast of Characters as "Dramatis Personae." The word persona also means "mask.")

A philharmonic is an orchestra. There is no other use of the term. Sometimes you will hear a classical music announcer refer to something as, say, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra if he wants to sound particularly important. But it's wrong and he just sounds pompous.

Now let's take up the word :Opuses." Here we are in the world of Latin again. The word means "a work" and the plural of opus is not opuses. It's opera, as Geo once again graciously pointed out.

One evening I gave a lecture on opera before a concert by the Queens Symphony Orchestra (no, that's correct) in New York. During the lecture I read from my Webster's the definition of opera and the first thing it said was "plural of opus." I pointed out that most operas, particularly from the Italian and French repertory were divided up into numbered sections: number 1, the overture, number 2 the opening chorus, etc. Each one of those sections is an opus. If you ever see a score of Handel's Messiah you will see the parts listed as opus 1, opus 2, opus 3 and such.

On the orchestras schedule was the shimmeringly beautiful and heart wrenching Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. (I know you probably won't, but you should check it out, and listen carefully. It's a masterpiece.)

I happened to have a vocal score of the opera with me. I opened it to the Intermezzo and asked a woman in the front row what it said at the top of the page. She read it and replied "10." So then I told the audience that when they heard the Intermezzo later they would be hearing Opus 10 from the Opera Cavalleria Rusticana.

(Parenthetically, there was a New York radio personality whose program was about Broadway composers. For some strange reason he could not refer to their "works" as opera, probably because he was afraid of the term and didn't want to sound like a snob. So instead he wormed his way into using the French term "ouvre" and thus sounded even more snobbish. At least he didn't say opuses.)

So what's the answer? The Vagabond prefers the phrase "Rapid Transit." If you walk across the bridge that's slow transit. If you take the bus, that's rapid transit, provided the bus comes. And once you reach the other side you may leave the bus at the EXIT sign. And if everyone gets off the bus it will be exeunt omnes.

There was one winner Rubye Jack of the Blogspot Tigers who wins the grand prize of a genuine Tupperware bus ticket or one of my autographed shoes. Whichever I can find.

Thank you for playing.
DB - The Vagabond
Never Give Up


Geo. said...

Fiendishly clever contest, DB! More please. I want to win a balsa wood baseball bat.

Jon said...

Diabolically clever! My guess was He Exits, but I didn't participate because I was reluctant to display my profound stupidity!