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Delany on Dhalgren. 3

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  • Biblioteca Statale
    Some more for you. August 3, 2002 The expanded form of the idiom (I use the masculine form, because, arbitrarily, it’s
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 3, 2003
      Some more for you.

      August 3, 2002
      <<Page 310: <She’s pretty together.> The expanded form of the idiom (I use
      the masculine form, because, arbitrarily, it’s traditional), <he’s got his
      shit together> originated among street people and hippies in the early
      sixties, and perhaps goes back even further to hobos and vagabonds of the
      ’fifties and ’forties, shortly after WW II: <he’s got his stuff
      together/his shit together> meant his personal possessions were all in one
      place, and presumably organized and easily accessible. Someone whose stuff
      was together was ready to move quickly and was not as likely to be as
      greatly upset by the harassment of the police or the vagaries of life on
      the road someone whose stuff was not together. Thus the phrase passed over
      to become a metaphor for the mental state that went along with having one’s
      possessions conveniently together.
      Thus one would hear the phrase in both it’s positive and negative form:
      “He’s really together, man!” Or “He’s not very together at all!”
      In the phrase, “pretty together”, “pretty,” there, means “more so than not”
      and is just more or less a noise word, the kind of word that someone would
      add to the idiom without thinking. So: <pretty together> means <more
      level-headed than not>, <more calm than not>, <more sensible than not about
      most things>.
      P 319. In New York’s “Alphabet City” (also called “the Lower East Side” and
      “the East Village”), where I lived for nine/twelve years when that area was
      the center of the city’s counter culture (1961 to 1969/’73), the main
      north-south streets were “Avenue A,” “Avenue B,” “Avenue C,” and “Avenue
      D.” They were never called “A Avenue” or “C Avenue.” The names are so
      firmly fixed in the counter-culture idiolect that if you referred to “B
      Avenue” in speech, a native American hearer would probably assume you were
      speaking about some city other than New York.
      Also: “Haze” is Lolita’s last name in the Nabokov novel for which she
      provides the title. “Q” is the name by which the villain, Clare Quilty,
      goes by during most of the novel.
      P 321. “The Great American Un-screwed” is a playful troping of a phrase
      fairly common in the sixties and seventies: “The Great American Unwashed.”
      It referred to those members of the American laboring class who did not get
      a chance to wash their hands and face after work, and so returned to their
      homes after whatever menial job they had looking fairly dirty. (As brief a
      time before as the 1950s and 1940s, construction workers went to work in
      suits, ties, and hats and changed into their working clothes on site;
      afterwards, they then washed their faces and hands, dressed in their suits
      again, and returned to their homes by public transportation. In those
      years, only rural workers wore their workclothes throughout the day. The
      appearance, in cities, of men who displayed their dirt in public was
      considered a great social disaster of the end of the 1950s.) In “The Great
      American Un-washed,” the word “American” is an adjective. “Great” here
      means “great number”, or “wide-spread”. “Un-washed” (and by extension
      “Un-screwed”) is an adjective taking the place of a noun. The Great
      Unwashed (another form of the phrase) were also considered too slow and too
      stupid to advance much in society. What Bunny is saying in effect is that
      this class, from which Pepper doubtless comes, is also too scrawny and in
      too poor physical shape to get any sex, even with girls from their own
      class, who have probably fixed their sights on men a little higher on the
      social ladder.
      P “Radical Effeminism”—it might be of interest that there actually was a
      Gay Liberation group in the early 70s called “the Radical Effeminists.” One
      of its leaders was the poet and translator of Rilke, Kenneth Pitchford, a
      gay writer who was married for some years to the much better known
      feminist, Robin Morgan (Sisterhood is Powerful). The Radical Effeminists
      were among the most politically savy of the various gay liberations groups.
      They more or less disbanded, I believe, in the eighties.
      P. 328: As to <Afro/natural>, When black hair stylists originated the
      practice, they used the term “natural.” When white hair stylists wrote
      about it, they used the term “Afro.” Because white hair stylists had
      greater access to the media, pretty soon the term “Afro” more or less
      displaced the term “natural.” Kid thinks “natural” because he’s spent a
      large part of his life among black people.
      I hope the above is useful, if not of interest.>>

      I myself found fascinating all these explanations about words and
      colloquial expressions and am glad to share them with you, but perhaps this
      is simply a translator's point of view, so if you think I'm annoying you,
      please tell me. I can send them only to people who are interested.

      bye
      Maurizio Nati


      I think it's of interest, don't you? I found fascinating all these
      explanations about words and expressions.
    • Paul Brazier
      Mauritzio, this is all fascinating. One of the things that characterizes Delany s writing is his fascination with language and how usages arise, and this is
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 3, 2003
        Mauritzio, this is all fascinating. One of the things that
        characterizes Delany's writing is his fascination with language and how
        usages arise, and this is one of my major interests in his work. I
        would have thought it nearly impossible to be a Delany fan and not be
        interested in language. So please don't take these off-line -- I might
        miss one.

        I've never been to New York, but I've heard of the Lower East Side and
        I've heard of the lettered avenues, but I've never heard it referred to
        as Alphabet City before. In Hove, near where I live on the south coast
        of England, there is an area of streets named after poets -- Coleridge
        Street, Wordsworth Road, etc -- which is known as Poets' Corner,
        although this does not appear on any map. It is this kind of
        commonplace usage that goes largely unrecorded that I find fascinating.

        Equally, I never thought this idea of someone being "pretty together"
        had such a firm base in common speech. I had always assumed it was the
        converse of "going to pieces" which is the state of not being in
        control in a stressful situation. I wonder how fanciful it is on
        Delany's part, although it doesn't really matter, as it still reveals
        his thought processes.

        And I found the root of the expression, "The Great Unwashed"
        enlightening too. I had always assumed it was simply a contemptuous
        expression of the upper classes for the workers, as certainly in this
        country working people go to and from work in their working clothes and
        the only provision for washing or changing clothes has been as a result
        of legislation requiring minimum standards of hygiene in food
        production, and control of hazardous products.

        Paul Brazier



        On Thursday, Jul 3, 2003, at 15:22 Europe/London, Biblioteca Statale
        wrote:

        > Some more for you.
        >
        > August 3, 2002
        > <<Page 310: <She’s pretty together.> The expanded form of the idiom (I
        > use
        > the masculine form, because, arbitrarily, it’s traditional), <he’s got
        > his
        > shit together> originated among street people and hippies in the early
        > sixties, and perhaps goes back even further to hobos and vagabonds of
        > the
        > ’fifties and ’forties, shortly after WW II: <he’s got his stuff
        > together/his shit together> meant his personal possessions were all in
        > one
        > place, and presumably organized and easily accessible. Someone whose
        > stuff
        > was together was ready to move quickly and was not as likely to be as
        > greatly upset by the harassment of the police or the vagaries of life
        > on
        > the road someone whose stuff was not together. Thus the phrase passed
        > over
        > to become a metaphor for the mental state that went along with having
        > one’s
        > possessions conveniently together.
        > Thus one would hear the phrase in both it’s positive and negative form:
        > “He’s really together, man!” Or “He’s not very together at all!”
        > In the phrase, “pretty together”, “pretty,” there, means “more so than
        > not”
        > and is just more or less a noise word, the kind of word that someone
        > would
        > add to the idiom without thinking. So: <pretty together> means <more
        > level-headed than not>, <more calm than not>, <more sensible than not
        > about
        > most things>.
        > P 319. In New York’s “Alphabet City” (also called “the Lower East
        > Side” and
        > “the East Village”), where I lived for nine/twelve years when that
        > area was
        > the center of the city’s counter culture (1961 to 1969/’73), the main
        > north-south streets were “Avenue A,” “Avenue B,” “Avenue C,” and
        > “Avenue
        > D.” They were never called “A Avenue” or “C Avenue.” The names are so
        > firmly fixed in the counter-culture idiolect that if you referred to “B
        > Avenue” in speech, a native American hearer would probably assume you
        > were
        > speaking about some city other than New York.
        > Also: “Haze” is Lolita’s last name in the Nabokov novel for which she
        > provides the title. “Q” is the name by which the villain, Clare Quilty,
        > goes by during most of the novel.
        > P 321. “The Great American Un-screwed” is a playful troping of a phrase
        > fairly common in the sixties and seventies: “The Great American
        > Unwashed.”
        > It referred to those members of the American laboring class who did
        > not get
        > a chance to wash their hands and face after work, and so returned to
        > their
        > homes after whatever menial job they had looking fairly dirty. (As
        > brief a
        > time before as the 1950s and 1940s, construction workers went to work
        > in
        > suits, ties, and hats and changed into their working clothes on site;
        > afterwards, they then washed their faces and hands, dressed in their
        > suits
        > again, and returned to their homes by public transportation. In those
        > years, only rural workers wore their workclothes throughout the day.
        > The
        > appearance, in cities, of men who displayed their dirt in public was
        > considered a great social disaster of the end of the 1950s.) In “The
        > Great
        > American Un-washed,” the word “American” is an adjective. “Great” here
        > means “great number”, or “wide-spread”. “Un-washed” (and by extension
        > “Un-screwed”) is an adjective taking the place of a noun. The Great
        > Unwashed (another form of the phrase) were also considered too slow
        > and too
        > stupid to advance much in society. What Bunny is saying in effect is
        > that
        > this class, from which Pepper doubtless comes, is also too scrawny and
        > in
        > too poor physical shape to get any sex, even with girls from their own
        > class, who have probably fixed their sights on men a little higher on
        > the
        > social ladder.
        > P “Radical Effeminism”—it might be of interest that there actually was
        > a
        > Gay Liberation group in the early 70s called “the Radical
        > Effeminists.” One
        > of its leaders was the poet and translator of Rilke, Kenneth
        > Pitchford, a
        > gay writer who was married for some years to the much better known
        > feminist, Robin Morgan (Sisterhood is Powerful). The Radical
        > Effeminists
        > were among the most politically savy of the various gay liberations
        > groups.
        > They more or less disbanded, I believe, in the eighties.
        > P. 328: As to <Afro/natural>, When black hair stylists originated the
        > practice, they used the term “natural.” When white hair stylists wrote
        > about it, they used the term “Afro.” Because white hair stylists had
        > greater access to the media, pretty soon the term “Afro” more or less
        > displaced the term “natural.” Kid thinks “natural” because he’s spent a
        > large part of his life among black people.
        > I hope the above is useful, if not of interest.>>
        >
        > I myself found fascinating all these explanations about words and
        > colloquial expressions and am glad to share them with you, but perhaps
        > this
        > is simply a translator's point of view, so if you think I'm annoying
        > you,
        > please tell me. I can send them only to people who are interested.
        >
        > bye
        > Maurizio Nati
        >
        >
        > I think it's of interest, don't you? I found fascinating all these
        > explanations about words and expressions.
        >
        >
        >
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        Paul Brazier

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        "Don't tell me why it can't be done; tell me how you're going to do it"
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