When Charles Dickens & Edgar Allan Poe Met, and Dickens’ Pet Raven Inspired Poe’s Poem “The Raven”

‘Poe reviewed the first four chapters of Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge for Graham’s Magazine, predicting the end of the novel and finding out later he was correct when he reviewed it again upon completion. He was particularly taken with one character: a chatty raven named Grip who accompanies the simple-minded Barnaby. Poe described the bird as “intensely amusing,” points out Atlas Obscura, and also wrote that Grip’s “croaking might have been prophetically heard in the course of the drama.”

It chanced the following year the two literary greats would meet, when Poe learned of Dickens’ trip to the U.S.; he wrote to the novelist, and the two briefly exchanged letters (which you can read here). Along with Dickens on his six-month journey were his wife Catherine, his children, and Grip, his pet raven. When the two writers met in person, writes Lucinda Hawksley at the BBC, Poe “was enchanted to discover [Grip, the character] was based on Dickens’s own bird.” …’

Source: Open Culture

Seeing and Saying

‘New York radio station WQXR used to inflict this pronunciation test on prospective announcers — try reading it aloud:

The old man with the flaccid face and dour expression grimaced when asked if he were conversant with zoology, mineralogy, or the culinary arts. ‘Not to be secretive,’ he said, ‘I may tell you that I’d given precedence to the study of genealogy. But since my father’s demise, it has been my vagary to remain incognito because of an inexplicable, lamentable, and irreparable family schism. It resulted from a heinous crime, committed at our domicile by an impious scoundrel. To err is human … but this affair was so grievous that only my inherent acumen and consummate tact saved me.’

It’s a minefield. In Another Almanac of Words at Play, Willard R. Espy lists the pronunciations that were considered correct:

  • flaccid FLACK-sid
  • inexplicable in-EX-plic-able
  • dour DOO-er
  • lamentable LAM-entable
  • grimaced gri-MACED
  • irreparable ear-REP-arable
  • conversant KON-ver-sant
  • schism SIZ-m
  • zoology zoh-OL-o-ji
  • heinous HAY-nus
  • mineralogy miner-AL-o-ji
  • domicile DOMM-i-sil
  • culinary KEW-li-ner-y
  • impious IM-pee-yus
  • secretive see-KEE-tiv
  • precedence pre-SEED-ens
  • grievous GREEV-us
  • genealogy jan-e-AL-o-ji
  • inherent in-HERE-ent
  • demise de-MIZE
  • acumen a-KEW-men
  • vagary va-GAIR-y
  • consummate (adj.) kon-SUMM-it
  • incognito in-KOG-ni-toe

Getting 20 of the 25 “stumpers” right was considered excellent. But that was 40 years ago, and even at the time Espy found 21 dictionary listings that accepted different pronunciations. “So not to worry when you don’t sound like WQXR,” he wrote. “One man’s AB-do-men is another man’s ab-DOUGH-men.”

Source: Futility Closet

I certainly would not have cut the mus-TARD at WQXR! I would have pronounced at least 12 of them differently:

  • flaccid FLA-sid
  • inexplicable in-ex-PLIC-able
  • lamentable lam-ENT-able
  • grimaced GRI-maced
  • conversant con-VER-sant
  • secretive SEE-kre-tiv
  • precedence PRE-sed-ens
  • vagary VEY-gar-y
  • consummate KON-summ-it
  • incognito in-kog-NI-toe


The Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle May Finally Be Solved

‘This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes. The Bermuda Triangle lore includes such stories as that of Flight 19, a group of 5 U.S. torpedo bombers that vanished in the Triangle in 1945. A rescue plane sent to look for them also disappeared. Other stories include the mystery of USS Cyclops, resulting in the largest non-combat loss of life in U.S. Navy’s history. The ship with a crew of 309 went missing in 1918. Even as recently as 2015, El Faro, a cargo ship with 33 on board vanished in the area.

Altogether, as far as we know, 75 planes and hundreds of ships met their demise in the Bermuda Triangle. Possible causes for the catastrophes have been proposed over time, ranging from the paranormal, electromagnetic interference that causes compass problems, bad weather, the gulf stream, and large undersea fields of methane.

Now, a new theory has been proposed by meteorologists…’

Source: Big Think

R.I.P. Tom Hayden

Civil Rights and Antiwar Activist Turned Lawmaker, Dies at 76

‘As a civil rights worker, he was beaten in Mississippi and jailed in Georgia. In his cell he began writing what became the Port Huron Statement, the political manifesto of S.D.S. and the New Left that envisioned an alliance of college students in a peaceful crusade to overcome what it called repressive government, corporate greed and racism. Its aim was to create a multiracial, egalitarian society.

Like his allies the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who were assassinated in 1968, Mr. Hayden opposed violent protests but backed militant demonstrations, like the occupation of Columbia University campus buildings by students and the burning of draft cards. He also helped plan protests that, as it happened, turned into clashes with the Chicago police outside the Democratic convention…’

Source: The New York Times obituary