Wednesday, February 1, 2012

From The Waste Books

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799) was a professor of experimental physics and a keeper of Sudelbücher, “waste books”:

Merchants have a waste-book (Sudelbuch, Klitterbuch, I think it is in German), in which they enter from day to day everything they have bought and sold, all mixed up together in disorder; from this it is transferred to the journal, in which everything is arranged more systematically, and finally it arrives in the ledger, in double entry after the Italian manner of book-keeping. . . . This deserves to be imitated by the scholar.
Sounds like proto-blogging. One more sample:
It is strange indeed that long syllables are designated with a ˉ and short ones with a ˘, since the former is the shortest way between two points and the latter is a crooked line. The inventor of these things must therefore have been been thinking of something else when he invented them, if he was thinking of anything at all.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, The Waste Books. Trans. R.J. Hollingdale (New York: New York Review Books, 2000). Originally published as Aphorisms (1990).
[The macron and breve mark long and short syllables (and sometimes stressed and unstressed syllables) in metrical poetry.]

comments: 2

Elaine Fine said...

The words "long" and "short" have nothing to do with duration. Perhaps the symbols have something to do with what we do with our vocal production. When we voice a "long" a we keep the pitch constant and level, and when we voice a "short" a, we allow the air to drop a bit.

Michael Leddy said...

In classical prosody, long syllables take longer to say. A dactyl: —ᴗᴗ, long-short-short. A spondee: ——, long-long. Syllables, not vowels. :)