Sunday, August 23, 2015

American English

Today's Futility Closet quotes an Americanized Hamlet by writer Albert Edward Wilson, guessing that "it might be from the 1930s". I decided to have a look...

In the 1 Sep 1945 Adelaide (Australia) The Mail is a piece — apparently from a reader — titled Uncle Samlet:

   So Hollywood is to film "Hamlet" up to date with Cary Grant playing the Gloomy Dane as a modern man, and speaking to a 1945 script (writes "Jacques").
   Some years ago Sir Barry Jackson produced a Hamlet, who wore plus-fours, and smoked cigars, but Shakespeare's script wasn't altered. Sir Herbert Tree gave the Prince of Denmark a beard, a score of women (including Bernhardt) played the part, but this screen version will strike a new note. Can you imagine the "To be, or not to be" soliloquy in modern American? Something like this, maybe:—

"To quit or not to quit: that's what I'm up against.
Ought I to stick the darn thing out,
Let old man Fortune make a monkey out of me,
Or take a crack against this gang of twerps
And swipe the lot of them..."
   And so on.

Very similar to the start of the A.E. Wilson version so one might suspect that it was taken from him. By the way, the Cary Grant (Hitchcock) version of Hamlet was not to be. I wonder how the soliloquy was handled in Irving Fiske's (1941) Hamlet in Modern English? At any rate, the very idea of an Americanized Hamlet occurs much earlier. Here's a 1917 version in the Richmond Guardian:

   An authority estimates that in about 20 years the American language will be unintelligible to English ears. Then we shall, doubtless, hear the latest American representative of Hamlet delivering the famous speech something like this:—

To quit or not to quit — that's what I'm up against
Is it the cheese to sit still in the game,
And take whatever's coming to you yet,
Or to put up a rough-house 'gainst a bunch of troubles
Till they are down and out?
Who'd stand for all the hardest kind of luck,
The frozen face, the main guy's jollying,
The fly cop's club, the handling of a lemon
When any old time he can chase himself
Into the boneyard?

Say what?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Trust, but verify

The phrase is generally attributed to (president) Ronald Reagan by way of a Russian proverb. Reagan may well have popularized the expression (in English) but it appears in print somewhat earlier; for example, translated from a "Khrushchevian motto" in the Jan/Feb 1966 issue of Problems of Communism. I'm going to suggest prior usage much further back in time, albeit significantly out of context. The following quotation negates the 'trust' part, but doesn't that make more sense?

"The secret of success in the practical study of facts is to observe carefully and patiently; to take nothing on trust, but verify the truth of every appearance; to test the accuracy of every impression, and bring each inference to the trial of fact without daring to make any generalisation."

[The Lancet: To the medical student. London, 13 Sep 1879]

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The refund

The 3 TB hard drive on my late-2012 iMac failed in September 2014, nine months past the one-year Apple warranty included with the computer's purchase. It cost me over $400 (Canadian) to have it replaced. I was a little pissed at the time because hard drives ordered directly from manufacturers are generally guaranteed for five years, so this seemed like a drive manufacturing defect for which I was made to pay because I purchased it through a third party.

Fast-forward another nine months: Apple officially recognizes a problem with those drives and initiates a replacement program. Since I already had my drive replaced, I was offered a full refund on the aforementioned expense instead. Great! I phoned Apple and they mailed me a check. Or at least they said they did. After five weeks, I informed them of not having received it. One of my options was to have that check cancelled and have the funds transferred electronically instead. I decided to try this. I phoned Apple with my banking details and, after an initial mixup over the so-called transit number, found the money in my bank account on July 30. Great!

Then, yesterday, I received a check in the mail for those same funds, initiated on the same day as my wire transfer — July 30 — so this was not the check mailed a month earlier.

Of course I had no intention of cashing the check but I thought it would be a courtesy to let them know of it, since the check's creation at the same time that the funds were being wired electronically pointed to an obscure failing of Apple's refund procedure. I provided the check date, number, and the reference numbers that were on the printout that accompanied the check. The slightly snarky email response was: "I can confirm that we successfully canceled the check, so we appreciate your assistance in discarding it, and not attempting to cash it." There seemed to be no recognition that the check they had cancelled was (presumably) the older check and not this newly generated one! Wow.