We’d better have something a little less serious. Last week, I had a strange item on Germany — having to do with a Germany “whole and free” (as we used to say), rather than divided between East and West. I spoke of having addressed a Christmas card to “Frankfurt, Germany.”
And several readers said, “Jay, you doofus!” (Actually, they were much nicer than this.) “There are two Frankfurts in Germany. You should have put ‘Frankfurt am Main’ or ‘Frankfurt an der Oder.’” Well and good — but the truth is, I didn’t address my card to Frankfurt at all. I addressed it to Hamburg. I simply forgot, when writing my column.
I guess I can’t keep my hot dogs, wieners, and hamburgers straight. I probably knew the city had something to do with picnic or ballpark or Fourth of July food.
A little music? Well, I have a story or two about music, in a post at The New Criterion. See what you think.
A little language now? Language mixed with music, actually? In a podcast with Mona Charen, I mentioned “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” — the punctuation of the title, in particular. Many people don’t know where the comma goes. They hear “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” (which is wrong).
Well, I have another one for you — another “situation.” It arises in “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” There are different versions of this great, immortal poem. But I believe the follow punctuation is correct: “Where meek souls [or meekness] will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”
Most people sing, and write, “Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ …” — because that’s the way the music falls. That’s what the musical cadences lead you to sing.
But I believe the correct line is “Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”
Commas are important. Someone once told Bill Buckley, “Never depend for your meaning on the placement of a comma.” I can’t think, just now, who the someone was — but someone will remind me, a second or two after this column is published. For which, thank you in advance!
Okay, let’s have some notes from Ann Arbor. I was in my dear old hometown over “Christmas break.” (It has been a long time since I was a student, but I’m still prone to thinking in those terms.)
I see, now, that there’s a hookah lounge. We always had hookers, but not hookahs, to the best of my knowledge.
Speaking of hookers, there is a Safe Sex Store — which is very Ann Arbor, except for the “safe.”
There is a store that says, “American Apparel. Made in the U.S.A. Sweat Shop Free.” (I believe I have copied that correctly.) I think sweatshops are abhorrent. But I can’t help thinking of what a friend likes to quip: “I wonder what those poor Third World souls would do instead of work in sweatshops. Put on blazers and go to Groton? Start tech firms?”
Also, it occurs to me that I’ve never seen a sign that says “Laogai-Free” — i.e., free of slave labor from China (whose gulag is called “laogai”). Walmart, for one, could not put up such a sign. But who could?
Back in A2 (Ann Arbor), there’s a store called “My Urban Toddler.” I’m pretty sure that’s the most pretentious store-name I have seen in ages.
But what to my wondering eyes did appear? In the middle of the University of Michigan campus, there was a sign advertising “God and Brotherhood Together — a Christian Fraternity.” In Ann Arbor? Blow me down.
One more thing: I’d rented a black Ford Fiesta — a hatchback. When I returned to a parking garage, there was another black hatchback, parked right next to it. The back of that car said “Porsche.” I had to rub my eyes a little. Underneath “Porsche” was “Cayenne.”
I’ve been out of the car world for a while — am I the last to know that Porsche makes a hatchback?
Instantly, I thought of a good-news-bad-news joke: The good news is, you own a Porsche. The bad news is — it’s a hatchback.
Have I committed “hate speech”? Believe me, I’d happily accept a Porsche hatchback. Even a Fiesta.
Have a good one.