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A recent homework matter in which ol’ Robbo assisted has put back in his braims a question about the proper pronunciation of the word “Byzantine”.  Not that the question had anything directly to do with the assignment itself.  Rayther, discussing the subject matter simply reminded me of it.

You see, I’ve always placed the accent on the first syllable and gone with a short “i” sound for the “y”.  Thus, BIZ-n-teen.

However, I was watching a program on the subject some time back in which the commentator kept putting the emphasis on the second syllable, as well as making the “y” a long “i”.  Thus, Bye-ZAN-teen.

I must say that I thought the fellah’s pronunciation of the word to be rayther clumsy and frankly ridiculous.  On the other hand, he was both a) a Brit and b) an Oxbridge professor of some sort,  so who am I to argue.

A look at Merriam-Webster gives both pronunciations, although the commentator’s seems to be a secondary or tertiary option.  Is this choice more common across the Pond?  Or was he just being pretentious?

(Of course, when speaking of the City of Byzantium¹ itself, a subject that comes up surprisingly often in my conversations, I also accent the second syllable.  But that’s necessitated by the addition of the fourth syllable.  Try saying the name with the accent on “By” and see where that gets you.)

So that’s that.  The only reason I bring it up at all is that the commentator’s pronunciation still seems strange to me.  Who am I to argue, did I ask?  Why, I’m Robbo the Port Swiller, that’s who!  (Often inaccurate, but always definitive!)

¹  It occurs to me to try and rework the lyrics to “Istanbul” to go one name change previous.  (“Constantinople was Byzantium/ Now it’s Constantinople not Byzantium/ Been a long time gone Byzantium/ Now it’s ‘Perial delight on a moonlit night.”)  There’s probably some classickal geek cred there but it doesn’t seem to scan very well.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see that our meteorological friends are beginning to go into their traditional St. Vitus’ dance over the approach of Hurricane Sandy to the East Coast, alternately clamoring over the impending doooooom bearing down on the major metropolitan areas and then backing off and telling us all not to panic.

I shrug.  Nobody yet seems to be suggesting a direct hit on the environs of Port Swiller Manor, so I expect the most we’ll see out of it is a bit of breeze and rain, perhaps just enough to give Virginny Power an excuse for cutting off the lights.  Unlike this summah’s visit by El Derecho, from which we lost power for four days, at least if it happens again the house won’t turn into a sauna this time.

The advent of Sandy from the southeast and the approach of a strong cold front from the northwest are also bringing up reminiscences of the great “Perfect Storm” of October 1991.  Now it’s a very curious thing, but I was just out of school and starting my pretend legal career when that storm hit.  I like to think that I was keeping reasonably up to date and well informed about current events at the time, and yet I have no recollection whatsoever of having actually heard or read anything about the storm as it happened.  When Sebastian Junger’s book and George Clooney’s moovie on the subject first appeared, my initial reaction was, “Huh? Where was I?”

Granted I was living in Charlottesville a couple hundred miles off the coast at the time so was not really affected by the storm itself, and granted I was distracted by trying to eek out a living in my first ratty job while also getting engaged to Mrs. R, but it still puzzles me that I should have so completely missed out on what has since come to be such a notorious “weather event”.  Is it possible that all the hoopla was of the post hoc manufactured variety?

Anyhoo, whatever happens with Sandy apparently will happen early next week.  We shall see, but at this point I don’t feel any pressing need to start hording toilet paper.

UPPITTYDATE:  DOOOOOOOM!!  The latest forecast suggests that Sandy might slam headfirst into the Delmarva Peninsula, which could make things pretty sticky round here.  Reminds me of that exchange from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum:

Pseudolus (to Hysterium):  Calm yourself! I’ll tell you when it’s time to panic!

Miles Gloriosus (menacingly):  I smell mischief here…

Pseudolus:  It’s time.

To the paper-products aisle!

UPPITTYDATE DEUX:  75% Chance of a direct or indirect hit on Port Swiller Manor.  DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!


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October 2012