Esteemed thinker: Noah Webster

Eskimo

If you have ever been stymied by the loss of a word, unable to describe an object or a feeling, you are not alone. In English, as in many languages, we institute an adjective, a metaphor, or a simile to help us along. For example, let us think about snow. If it is a flurry we may call it a light snow and if it is coming down like a blizzard we may say it a heavy snow. However, in the land of snow and ice where the weather is hostile to most who inhabit the earth, there are people who communicate with snow; and within their language are lexemes (vocabulary) to describe the variety of conditions relating to snow. The Inuit/Eskimo language is credited for having over 100 of these terms however, linguistics claim the distinction is more like 50. But, regardless of the number, I believe we may all agree that it is quite eloquent a notion that one can find snow so expressive when the rest of us spend much of the winter discrediting it to nothing more than a nuisance.

Today’s blog brings to you the man who brought to us words in a compact manner, the dictionary. Allow me to introduce the esteemed thinker: Noah Webster (1758-1843). Best known for his noteworthy accomplishment as the American lexicographer, he was also a Founding Father. Born in Connecticut he grew up during the colonial days, becoming a Federalist who supported the efforts of creating a new nation. A leading statesman, who was a confidant of both George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, Webster was in Philadelphia during the Constitutional Convention writing influential essays on behalf of the nation’s founding document. Noah Webster

In 1783, he published the American Spelling Book; a text that was so popular it outsold every book in the 19th century except the Bible. He founded the first daily newspaper in New York City, American Minerva, as well as helping to establish Amherst College. However, it was in 1828’s publication of the two volumes American Dictionary of the English Language that we best remember him for. Webster was a change agent, known as the “father of copyright,” he remained active throughout his life promoting and legislating copyright protection.

I now bring you a snippet from a letter he penned to Senator Daniel Webster in 1826.

“When I was in England in 1825 I learned that the British Parliament had, a few years before, enacted a new law on copyrights, by which the rights of authors were much extended. This led me to attempt to procure a new law in the United States, giving a like extension to the rights of authors. My first attempt appears in the following letter [to the Hon. Daniel Webster, dated September 30, 1826]:—

‘Since the celebrated decision, respecting copyright, by the highest British tribunal, it seems to have been generally admitted that an author has not a permanent and exclusive right to the publication of his original works at common law; and that he must depend wholly on statutes for his enjoyment of that right. As I firmly believe this decision to be contrary to all our best established principles of right and property, and as I have reason to think such a decision would not now be sanctioned by the authorities of this country, I sincerely desire that while you are a member of the House of Representatives in Congress your talents may be exerted in placing this species of property on the same footing as all property, as to exclusive right and permanence of possession…’”

First image: On the way to sea @1900

Poetry

city Poetry…when you hear or read that word how does it make you feel? For some it ignites pleasure, for others it simply conjures up memories of bad days in literature class. I for one am a big fan of poetry. I read it, write it, record it, video it, sense it in my surroundings.
Try if you dare and ask someone when it was that they last read a poem and many will solicit an expression as though you have just stepped out from a Victorian novel… for not everyone may feel or regard the merits of the poem.

So, I have taken the liberty of offering up to you one of my own pieces originally published in Digital Americana Magazine (May 2011). It is titled…

Do Great Women Vacuum?

Each morning
Riding the number 32 bus
I see angels
Going to work

They step down
Leaving behind rose
And lavender scents
That cling to my skirt

Their starched uniforms
Melt into gray mornings
Till only a bleached silhouette
Fades into each house

And at night
When they return home
They continue to vacuum
Their ordinary lives

***
Which brings me to day’s blog; as you can imagine is about Poetry; whereby I put forward to you a moment to contemplate the words of our 19th century philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer. From portions of his essay Aesthetics of Poetry, let us read and break from our hectic day…

Authur Schopoeneur “ As the simplest and most correct definition of poetry, I would call it the art of exciting by words the power of the imagination…Because the reader’s imagination is the material in which poetic art represents its pictures, this had the advantage that the more special execution and finer traits so appear in each one’s imagination, as is at the most suitable to his individuality, his sphere of cognition, and his humor, and hence affect him in a most lively manner…but how infallibly a beautiful melody touching the heart travels around the world, and an excellent poem wanders from people to people…To delight the ear with its sounds, seems its whole destiny, and, having done this, everything seems to be accomplished and every claim satisfied. That it, at the same time, conveys a meaning, expresses a thought, proves, as it were, an unexpected addition, like the words to music, an unexpected gift, pleasantly surprising us, and because we made no claims of this sort, very easily satisfying us…”