Slow learner

by | Mar 7, 2013 | Remington | 22 comments


  1. Ton S.

    Nice, I really like how you used "As Time Goes By" as leitmotif for your essay.

    All this reminds me of my pending project to read a couple of 19th Century Spanish colonial novels notwithstanding the fact that I do have the english translations and have read them.

    To the question of finite time, I'm inclined to answer "both-and"…. starting projects that are rich enough that they take more time (a lifetime?) to finish.

    I have the University of Chicago-published Theaetetus translated by Seth Bernadette. It's on my to-read pile (or tower). "It's still the same old story…" ( :

  2. Duffy Moon

    I studied Greek in college, and about once a year since then (twenty-odd years ago, now) I think to myself: I really should have kept that up.
    Just this morning, oddly enough, I had this thought during my drive to work: I can still learn. In the 21st Century, I have access to whatever I would need, instantly deliverable on my desktop, to re-learn Greek. I have no excuse.

    This was a wonderful and timely post. Thanks, Richard.

  3. Jason

    I don't know anything about "Greek" or "Pianos" but I do know that the Remington you're using makes my heart go pitter-patter (rhythm vs. melody). I can't wait to go home and use mine. :-)

  4. notagain

    I'd just like to know where you get all this energy. Between my club meetings and getting exercise I can barely scrape up a couple typecasts most weeks. By the way – the best version of "As Time Goes By" is the Rudy Vallee recording.

  5. rn

    Ah, Richard. How great. You have gently reminded us that the phrase that makes no sense is sometimes the most apt. There's a good reason why we call getting things in our memory 'learning them by heart.'

    Gadamer wrote that memory and forgetting are an important part of culture (bildung, I think, was his term–and the meaning is far beyond a single blah English word) and, thus, part of philosophy.

    Can there be a memory book of forgetting? Or perhaps that's what's so essential about all writing and typing and other acts of communication, whether to ourselves or others.

    Thank you, from the heart.


  6. Richard P

    Well, there you go, you're getting exercise — just let yourself go to seed like me and you'll have more time (for now).

  7. Ted

    Wowser. You guys are teaching me new words! "leitmotif" and "bildung", not real sure I'll end up using that second one in everyday conversation but that first one oughta come in handy someday. :D

    I spent a few years as a musician, and never really learned to read music. The few music classes I had I passed by ear entirely. I would make a terrible academic.

  8. rn

    Great course outline, Richard. Thanks.

  9. Richard P

    Get with the zeitgeist, man, or you'll succumb to weltschmerz!

  10. rn

    Your post also reminds me that every language has some essentially untranslatable phrases–concepts that just can't be done justice in other tongues.

    I ran into this while trying to learn Turkish, when I tried my hand at some poems by Nazim Hikmet. There's a fabulous Hikmet poem called SEVERM???M ME?ER. I couldn't find the words in the dictionary. So I asked my tutor, who said, "Oh, the M?? form. Don't worry about that. That's the storytelling tense." I later parsed the title as the first person singular storytelling tense of the verb sevmek, to like or to love, but adding ME?ER makes it negative. My negative love story. I had no idea what to do with this. Mutlu Konuk and Randy Blasing, Hikmet's wonderful translators, found a damn fine English equivalent: "Things I didn't know I loved."

    On the other hand, when I was in Brazil, I spent a hilarious afternoon trying to explain what it might mean to call something "a little too much," as in 'way over the top.' My friends understood 'muito pouco'–very little–but would not agree that 'um pouco muito' could ever make any sense at all. I should have known: nothing is over the top in Brazil.

  11. Doug Freeman

    Those first two pages, that preamble, is what was known as the "verse" in popular music at the time. Everything that follows, all we often hear performed of the song, is the "chorus." (Very different, and more complex, from what we know as the verse and chorus in modern pop music.) We miss a lot of meat and potatoes by performing only the chorus, as your little discovery amply demonstrates. The verse really provides the "why" for the chorus. My band, which plays music from that era and earlier, prides itself on actually performing the verses to a lot of those standards. Makes for a much richer experience for performer as well as listener. Thanks for sharing, Richard. And wouldn't you know it? I'd never heard that verse before!

  12. Richard P

    Thanks for this insight, Doug.

    A brief online search hasn't yielded any recordings that include the verse. There are lots of performances of the chorus. My favorite so far is Billie Holiday's.

  13. Brian

    I arranged "As Time Goes By" for my a cappella group years ago, verse and all. After going through the sweet, bland little verse, when we opened up the harmonies for the well-known tune, it always got a laugh and a sigh. You know, "Ha! Ah …"

    Power to you on the Greek! I've let my classical Greek lapse, more's the pity. I learned it to read the plays and became a Homer fanatic instead. I pulled out my old Underwood Greek typewriter some time back to work through some lessons. Instead of getting it into my muscles, I put callouses on my fingertips from those glass keys.

    Keep up the learning. It's a good project, and classical Greek is gorgeous though complex language. Are you reading it with the tones, I hope?

  14. Richard P

    I'm aware of (our theories about) ancient Greek tones, but that pronunciation never quite felt natural to me, so I hear the accents in my mind as emphatic rather than tonal. I suppose to really re-create the text I need to memorize it with the tones. Thanks for slowing my learning down even further! :)

  15. Richard P

    PS: … and I need to read it out loud. Apparently silent reading was almost unheard-of in the ancient world.

  16. Scott K

    What a fascinating path to both learning and exploring. One thing I always find when I'm exploring heady texts, is that I bring to it more than the text itself may have contained. To that end, knowledge always has a subjective nature – as it is not what it is, but rather what it means to you and how you absorb it and understand it.

    That said… Where's the recording of you trying to play this tune!

  17. Scott K

    AH! You've made an excellent stab at it there!

  18. Anonymous

    Holy crap, dude. Every time I think myself bereft of a spare moment to do what I will, I see you doing something like this and realize the countless hours I've frittered away.

  19. Brian

    No one read silently until hundreds of years later. Rich Roman houses had separate rooms for readers, so they wouldn't disturb everybody else. For us moderns, reading aloud makes the language live in our brains. Language is aural – writing is a late stepchild. Valuable, of course. I read aloud all the time now, and especially when learning a language, it's the only way to do it.

    The Greek tones aren't theoretical, though just how the tones were "sung" is still slightly controversial. The Hellenistic grammarians marked the tones because people from all around the Mediterranean basin were learning Greek and had no clue as to where to raise and lower the voice. Very much as Chinese, without the proper tone, one word could sound as a different word entirely. Don't forget, most people were illiterate, language was aural. Soon the tones fell by the wayside with the influx of non-native speakers. The interplay of Greek poetic forms (meter based on syllable length) adopted by the Romans with Latin's native stressed forms is quite fascinating.

  20. DonN

    I can think of many classic tunes of that era which have intro verses which we almost never get to hear:
    White Christmas, I Can't Get Started, All the Things You Are..
    Time for the IntroVerse Insurgency perhaps?


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