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Re: [mythsoc] Gollum at a Wedding

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  • John Rateliff
    ... I m not. I wish he were alive, and well, and writing away. --John R.
    Message 1 of 22 , Aug 9, 2011
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      On Aug 9, 2011, at 7:27 PM, Carl F. Hostetter wrote:
      > I am SO glad Tolkien didn't live to see this.

      I'm not. I wish he were alive, and well, and writing away.

      --John R.
    • Carl F. Hostetter
      Yes, that s exactly what I meant, that I m glad Tolkien is dead. Sheesh.
      Message 2 of 22 , Aug 10, 2011
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        Yes, that's exactly what I meant, that I'm glad Tolkien is dead.

        Sheesh.


        On Aug 10, 2011, at 12:36 AM, John Rateliff wrote:

        > On Aug 9, 2011, at 7:27 PM, Carl F. Hostetter wrote:
        > > I am SO glad Tolkien didn't live to see this.
        >
        > I'm not. I wish he were alive, and well, and writing away.
        >
        > --John R.
        >
      • Mem Morman
        then perhaps you would appreciate this lovely poem by Jo Walton: http://papersky.livejournal.com/296693.html mem
        Message 3 of 22 , Aug 10, 2011
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          then perhaps you would appreciate this lovely poem by Jo Walton:

          http://papersky.livejournal.com/296693.html

          mem

          On 8/9/2011 10:36 PM, John Rateliff wrote:  

          On Aug 9, 2011, at 7:27 PM, Carl F. Hostetter wrote:
          > I am SO glad Tolkien didn't live to see this.

          I'm not. I wish he were alive, and well, and writing away.

          --John R.



        • David Bratman
          A test for students of literature - Read the following passage: I wish it need not have happened in my time, said Frodo. So do I, said Gandalf, and so do
          Message 4 of 22 , Aug 10, 2011
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            A test for students of literature -

            Read the following passage:

            "I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
            "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times."

            Does this mean that Frodo and Gandalf wish they were dead? Discuss.


            -----Original Message-----
            >From: "Carl F. Hostetter" <Aelfwine@...>
            >Sent: Aug 10, 2011 5:20 AM
            >To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
            >Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Gollum at a Wedding
            >
            >Yes, that's exactly what I meant, that I'm glad Tolkien is dead.
            >
            >Sheesh.
            >
            >
            >On Aug 10, 2011, at 12:36 AM, John Rateliff wrote:
            >
            >> On Aug 9, 2011, at 7:27 PM, Carl F. Hostetter wrote:
            >> > I am SO glad Tolkien didn't live to see this.
            >>
            >> I'm not. I wish he were alive, and well, and writing away.
            >>
            >> --John R.
            >>
            >
            >
            >
            >------------------------------------
            >
            >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
            >
            >
            >
          • davise@cs.nyu.edu
            ... It seems to me there s a difference between I wish this had not happened in my lifetime and I wish I had died before this happened. ... Though, of
            Message 5 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
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              --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, David Bratman <dbratman@...> wrote:
              >
              > A test for students of literature -
              >
              > Read the following passage:
              >
              > "I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
              > "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times."
              >
              > Does this mean that Frodo and Gandalf wish they were dead? Discuss.
              >

              It seems to me there's a difference between "I wish this had not happened in my lifetime" and "I wish I had died before this happened."

              > >> On Aug 9, 2011, at 7:27 PM, Carl F. Hostetter wrote:
              > >> > I am SO glad Tolkien didn't live to see this.
              > >>
              > >> I'm not. I wish he were alive, and well, and writing away.
              > >>
              > >> --John R.

              Though, of course, he would now be 119 --- not quite caught up to the Old Took, but old for a productive writer.

              If he had lived until today, we might actually have a lot less of his writing. He could well have gone on tinkering with the Silmarillion and with his languages for decades, and it is very likely that we would not have gotten the History of Middle Earth. Or, of course, we might have gotten a Silmarillion incomparably greater than the one we have, and a half-dozen more tales like "Smith of Wootton Major". No way to know.

              -- Ernie
            • David Bratman
              ... Only the difference of which end of the stick you re looking at. To say that I wish I had died before this happened means not I wish this hadn t
              Message 6 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
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                <davise@...> wrote:

                > It seems to me there's a difference between "I wish
                > this had not happened in my lifetime" and "I wish I
                > had died before this happened."

                Only the difference of which end of the stick you're looking at. To say
                that "I wish I had died before this happened" means not "I wish this hadn't
                happened until after I died" but "I wish I had died sooner" is no less
                perverse than to say "I wish this had not happened in my lifetime" means "I
                wish I had died sooner."

                > Though, of course, he would now be 119 --- not quite
                > caught up to the Old Took, but old for a productive writer.

                Old for any primary world human being. The Old Took was a hobbit, and even
                on average they live much longer than we normally do. For a non-Numenorean
                human in Tolkien's subcreation to live that long, he might have to have a
                Ring of Power. This would not, on balance, be a good thing.

                > If he had lived until today, we might actually have
                > a lot less of his writing. He could well have gone on
                > tinkering with the Silmarillion and with his languages
                > for decades, and it is very likely that we would not have
                > gotten the History of Middle Earth.

                Almost certainly. The older unpublished stuff would still be unpublished,
                and that includes "The History of The Hobbit". Tolkien had no objection to
                scholars studying the manuscripts he had sold to libraries, but publishing
                them in toto during his lifetime would surely have been right out, and even
                scholarly studies based on them would have been problematic.

                > Or, of course, we might have gotten a Silmarillion
                > incomparably greater than the one we have, and
                > a half-dozen more tales like "Smith of Wootton
                > Major". No way to know.

                Maybe, and yes, there's no way to know. But considering the work he did in
                the eight or so years he had after finishing "Smith", not very likely. Of
                course if he had lived longer, he might have felt younger and fresher even
                in the later parts of the years he did live. But that comes close to
                speculating on Tolkien being a different man than he was, and therefore
                meaningless.
              • davise@cs.nyu.edu
                ... It s a question of what you re considering constant in your hypothetical. If you say I wish this had not happened in my lifetime you mean, I wish that
                Message 7 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
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                  --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "David Bratman" <dbratman@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > <davise@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > > It seems to me there's a difference between "I wish
                  > > this had not happened in my lifetime" and "I wish I
                  > > had died before this happened."
                  >
                  > Only the difference of which end of the stick you're looking at. ."

                  It's a question of what you're considering constant in your hypothetical. If you say "I wish this had not happened in my lifetime" you mean, "I wish that my lifetime were unchanged, but that this would not happen until after my death, if at all." Whereas if you say "I wish that I had died before this happened," you are saying,
                  "Given that this was going to happen, I wish I had died earlier than I did, rather than see it." So I would certainly say, "I wish that the
                  attacks on the World Trade Center had not happened in my lifetime"; that means, "I wish that my life span were unchanged, but that the attacks either did not happen at all, or did not occur until after my death." Whereas the statement "I wish I had died before the World
                  Trade Center attacks", means "Given that the WTC attacks were going to
                  happen on Sept. 11 2011, I wish I had died no later than Sept. 10."
                  Which is certainly much more extreme, but, under some circumstances, reasonable; someone whose life had been ruined by the attack might well say that.

                  > To say
                  > that "I wish I had died before this happened" means not "I wish >this hadn't
                  > happened until after I died" but "I wish I had died sooner" is no >less
                  > perverse than to say "I wish this had not happened in my lifetime" means "I
                  > wish I had died sooner.

                  It's not at all perverse. The literal meaning of the phrase "I wish I had died before this happened" is certainly "I wish I had died sooner" and that's often the intended meaning. Lots of people like Job reasonably wish that they, or a loved one, had died sooner rather than go through various kinds of suffering or humiliation. One can argue the morality or advisability of _acting_ on this wish, but I've never before heard anyone say that _wishing_ it was perverse. Of course, often people speak hyperbolically, and say "I wish I had died
                  before this happened" when what they actually mean is just "I very much wish this hadn't happened." But that doesn't make the other reading perverse.

                  -- Ernie
                • davise@cs.nyu.edu
                  ... As a comparable, unambiguous, case, people will often say I would rather die than do XYZ or experience XYZ. Now, this is almost always hyperbolical; it
                  Message 8 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
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                    --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, davise@... wrote:

                    > Of course, often people speak hyperbolically, and say "I wish I had > > died before this happened" when what they actually mean is just "I > > very much wish this hadn't happened." But that doesn't make the other > reading perverse.

                    As a comparable, unambiguous, case, people will often say "I would rather die than" do XYZ or experience XYZ. Now, this is almost always hyperbolical; it is very rarely the case that they would _actually_ rather die than the alternative. But it is certainly not perverse to say that what this _means_ is that they would rather die than do XYZ.
                  • David Bratman
                    ... Now you ve actually proven my point, because what it _means_ is that they don t want to do XYZ, not that they want to die. Similarly, to say I wish I had
                    Message 9 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
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                      <davise@...> wrote:

                      > As a comparable, unambiguous, case, people will often say "I would rather
                      > die than" do XYZ or experience XYZ. Now, this is almost always
                      > hyperbolical; it is very rarely the case that they would _actually_ rather
                      > die than the alternative. But it is certainly not perverse to say that
                      > what this _means_ is that they would rather die than do XYZ.

                      Now you've actually proven my point, because what it _means_ is that they
                      don't want to do XYZ, not that they want to die.

                      Similarly, to say "I wish I had died before this happened" means "I wish
                      this hadn't happened (or at least not until after I died)", not "I wish I
                      had died sooner." And to return to the original example, "I'm glad Tolkien
                      didn't live to see this" means "I wish this hadn't happened, but at least he
                      didn't have to see it", not "I'm glad he's dead." Any other reading was,
                      and remains, perverse. As the original commenter wrote: Sheesh.
                    • davise@cs.nyu.edu
                      For instance, in A Study in Scarlet , John Ferrier says to his daughter Lucy, I would rather see you in your grave, my girl, than the wife of either of
                      Message 10 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
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                        For instance, in "A Study in Scarlet", John Ferrier says to his daughter Lucy, "I would rather see you in your grave, my girl, than the wife of either of those," "And so should I, father" she answered with spirit. It seems to me that what they both clearly mean is that they would prefer she were dead than married to either of her suitors -- not unreasonably, since in the event her forced marriage to Drebber ends up killing her ---, and that it is perverse to weaken the interpretation to "I very much hope you don't end up married to either of those.'

                        >"Does this mean that Frodo and Gandalf wish they were dead? Discuss."
                        >"Sheesh"

                        Since you explicitly invited discussion, I don't know why you're exasperated when you get it.

                        And, to return to the original discussion, of course neither I nor John actually supposed that Carl was pleased that Tolkien is dead; nor did I seriously suppose that John or anyone believed that Tolkien would actually still be writing much if he were still alive. John was cleverly using Carl's phrase to express an elegiac thought; and I was doing something similar for John's phrase.

                        -- Ernie
                      • David Bratman
                        ... Yes, but only because I very much hope is weak and inaccurate phrasing. I absolutely forbid it (insofar as I have power to do so, and I dashed well
                        Message 11 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
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                          <davise@...> wrote:

                          > For instance, in "A Study in Scarlet", John Ferrier says to his daughter
                          > Lucy, "I would rather see you in your grave, my girl, than the wife of
                          > either of those," "And so should I, father" she answered with spirit. It
                          > seems to me that what they both clearly mean is that they would prefer she
                          > were dead than married to either of her suitors -- not unreasonably, since
                          > in the event her forced marriage to Drebber ends up killing her ---, and
                          > that it is perverse to weaken the interpretation to "I very much hope you
                          > don't end up married to either of those.'

                          Yes, but only because "I very much hope" is weak and inaccurate phrasing.
                          "I absolutely forbid it (insofar as I have power to do so, and I dashed well
                          should)" would be more accurate. It still doesn't mean he actually wants
                          her dead, and even if he does, he's a heavy-handed father in a lurid 19th
                          century melodrama, not a 21st century member of a literary discussion list.
                          They shouldn't be read as rhetorically identical (nor Frodo and Gandalf,
                          either).


                          > Since you explicitly invited discussion, I don't know why you're
                          > exasperated when you get it.

                          So we can add to the misunderstandings here the fact that you unfortunately
                          did not recognize the (fairly standard, where I come from) rhetorical trope
                          of the hypothetical essay question, to which "Discuss" is the traditional
                          closing flourish. One is not supposed literally to answer the question;
                          instead, one should contemplate it for a moment and realize how stupid the
                          premise is. But apparently you don't think it's stupid.

                          In any case, my exasperation is not that you attempted the question, but at
                          the answer you gave. If this were a class, your grade might be less than an
                          A.


                          > And, to return to the original discussion, of course neither I nor John
                          > actually supposed that Carl was pleased that Tolkien is dead; nor did I
                          > seriously suppose that John or anyone believed that Tolkien would actually
                          > still be writing much if he were still alive. John was cleverly using
                          > Carl's phrase to express an elegiac thought; and I was doing something
                          > similar for John's phrase.

                          Well, they came across as incredibly cutting put-downs, and I'm not even the
                          person they were addressed to. If you don't believe in taking comments at
                          face value, why did you take my essay trope that way?
                        • John Davis
                          From a bystander s perspective, this appears to be a misunderstanding regarding what is being referred to as meaning something. Ernie is referring to what
                          Message 12 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                            From a bystander's perspective, this appears to be a misunderstanding regarding what is being referred to as 'meaning' something. Ernie is referring to what the speaker is actually saying - what the statement means; whilst David is referring to the speaker's state of mind as might be inferred from the statement and by taking the statement non-literally - what the speaker means.
                             
                            I am not sure either of you are disagreeing that a) 'I wish I this had not happened in my lifetime' differs as a statement of belief to 'I wish I had died before this happened', or that b) whilst they have different literal meanings, they probably reflect the same state of mind, so from a non-literal perspective can be taken as meaning the same thing.
                             
                            (And now I'll go back to lurking!)
                             
                            John
                             
                            ----- Original Message -----
                            Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 5:21 AM
                            Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Gollum at a Wedding

                             

                            <davise@...> wrote:

                            > As a comparable, unambiguous, case, people will often say "I would rather
                            > die than" do XYZ or experience XYZ. Now, this is almost always
                            > hyperbolical; it is very rarely the case that they would _actually_ rather
                            > die than the alternative. But it is certainly not perverse to say that
                            > what this _means_ is that they would rather die than do XYZ.

                            Now you've actually proven my point, because what it _means_ is that they
                            don't want to do XYZ, not that they want to die.

                            Similarly, to say "I wish I had died before this happened" means "I wish
                            this hadn't happened (or at least not until after I died)", not "I wish I
                            had died sooner." And to return to the original example, "I'm glad Tolkien
                            didn't live to see this" means "I wish this hadn't happened, but at least he
                            didn't have to see it", not "I'm glad he's dead." Any other reading was,
                            and remains, perverse. As the original commenter wrote: Sheesh.

                          • WendellWag@aol.com
                            Yes, in fact, it s hard to even define what the term meaning means. Do people know about the Gricean maxims of conversational implicature?:
                            Message 13 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                              Yes, in fact, it's hard to even define what the term "meaning" means.  Do people know about the Gricean maxims of conversational implicature?:
                               
                               
                              I know that this idea was frequently mentioned back when I was studying linguistics thirty-some years ago.  I don't know if they're still thought important or useful.  The idea is that there are implicit rules on how a conversation works that determine how one participant in a conversation should understand another participant.
                               
                              Wendell Wagner
                               
                              In a message dated 8/12/2011 4:48:07 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, john@... writes:
                               From a bystander's perspective, this appears to be a misunderstanding regarding what is being referred to as 'meaning' something. Ernie is referring to what the speaker is actually saying - what the statement means; whilst David is referring to the speaker's state of mind as might be inferred from the statement and by taking the statement non-literally - what the speaker means.
                               
                              I am not sure either of you are disagreeing that a) 'I wish I this had not happened in my lifetime' differs as a statement of belief to 'I wish I had died before this happened', or that b) whilst they have different literal meanings, they probably reflect the same state of mind, so from a non-literal perspective can be taken as meaning the same thing.
                               
                              (And now I'll go back to lurking!)
                               
                              John
                            • Mike Foster
                              Is this another way of saying “I wish that it never happened.” 9.11.01 and the JFK assassination both happened in my lifetime. The Great War and
                              Message 14 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                                Is this another way of saying “I wish that it never happened.”  9.11.01 and the JFK assassination both happened in my lifetime.  The Great War and Hitler’s hideous history did not.  I would prefer a world where none of these had happened.
                                 
                                Mike
                                 
                                Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 3:47 AM
                                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Gollum at a Wedding
                                 
                                 

                                From a bystander's perspective, this appears to be a misunderstanding regarding what is being referred to as 'meaning' something. Ernie is referring to what the speaker is actually saying - what the statement means; whilst David is referring to the speaker's state of mind as might be inferred from the statement and by taking the statement non-literally - what the speaker means.
                                 
                                I am not sure either of you are disagreeing that a) 'I wish I this had not happened in my lifetime' differs as a statement of belief to 'I wish I had died before this happened', or that b) whilst they have different literal meanings, they probably reflect the same state of mind, so from a non-literal perspective can be taken as meaning the same thing.
                                 
                                (And now I'll go back to lurking!)
                                 
                                John
                                 
                                ----- Original Message -----
                                Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 5:21 AM
                                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Gollum at a Wedding
                                 
                                 

                                <davise@...> wrote:

                                > As a comparable, unambiguous, case, people will often say "I would rather
                                > die than" do XYZ or experience XYZ. Now, this is almost always
                                > hyperbolical; it is very rarely the case that they would _actually_ rather
                                > die than the alternative. But it is certainly not perverse to say that
                                > what this _means_ is that they would rather die than do XYZ.

                                Now you've actually proven my point, because what it _means_ is that they
                                don't want to do XYZ, not that they want to die.

                                Similarly, to say "I wish I had died before this happened" means "I wish
                                this hadn't happened (or at least not until after I died)", not "I wish I
                                had died sooner." And to return to the original example, "I'm glad Tolkien
                                didn't live to see this" means "I wish this hadn't happened, but at least he
                                didn't have to see it", not "I'm glad he's dead." Any other reading was,
                                and remains, perverse. As the original commenter wrote: Sheesh.

                              • davise@cs.nyu.edu
                                ... Well put. David writes, among other things, ... I really have trouble believing that you or Carl or anyone took John Rateliff s post, I wish he were alive
                                Message 15 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                                  --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "John Davis" <john@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  > Ernie is referring to what the speaker is actually saying - what the statement means; whilst David is referring to the speaker's state of mind as might be inferred from the statement and by taking the statement non-literally - what the speaker means.

                                  Well put.

                                  David writes, among other things,

                                  > Well, they came across as incredibly cutting put-downs and I'm not
                                  > even the person they were addressed to. If you don't believe in
                                  > taking comments at face value, why did you take my essay trope that
                                  > way?

                                  I really have trouble believing that you or Carl or anyone took John Rateliff's post, "I wish he were alive and writing" as an "incredibly cutting put-down" of Carl's post "I am glad that Tolkien didn't live to see it" or even as a disagreement. If John took my post "he would now be 119, and not writing much" as an incredibly cutting putdown, I apologize to him. It was not intended at all as such; I enjoyed John's post. My point was just "Mourn not overmuch! Mighty was the fallen" and that one can hardly weep over Tolkien as an author who was cut off in his prime like Keats or Austen. In your second post in this thread, you agreed with that.

                                  Of course I recognized the essay trope; I deliberately misinterpreted it. The rhetorical device in all three responses is the same: To deliberately misinterpret the previous statement in order to make a tangential point. E.g. "What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature!" "Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand."
                                  Or "Goodness, what a lovely mink!" "Goodness had nothing to do with it." Or "It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn't a dentist. It produces a false impression." "Well that is exactly what dentists always do." Perhaps it is not the best device to use in online discussion. Apparently it is open to misunderstanding and hard feelings. I will try to avoid it in future.

                                  Wendell raises the issue of the Gricean maxims. I don't know the linguistic/philosophical side well, but on the artificial intelligence side, this kind of inference is very important for automated dialogue understanding. Grice's article is one of the seminal works in the area, and his categories are very important, though a lot has to be done to turn them into usable rules.

                                  -- Ernie
                                • davise@cs.nyu.edu
                                  ... It s stronger than that. It is I am going to risk my life and yours in order to prevent it, and in fact they both end up dead. And one does not have to
                                  Message 16 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                                    --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "David Bratman" <dbratman@...> wrote:
                                    > Yes, but only because "I very much hope" is weak and inaccurate phrasing.
                                    > "I absolutely forbid it (insofar as I have power to do so, and I dashed well
                                    > should)" would be more accurate. It still doesn't mean he actually wants
                                    > her dead, and even if he does, he's a heavy-handed father in a lurid 19th
                                    > century melodrama

                                    It's stronger than that. It is "I am going to risk my life and yours in order to prevent it," and in fact they both end up dead. And one does not have to go to lurid 19th century melodrama to find people who put their life at great risk in order to escape horrible marriages or relationships; one can, alas, find it every day in the newspaper. I am sure that many people in that position say, "I would rather die than continue on in this way," or "I wish I had died before I ever met him/her" and mean that exactly and literally.

                                    -- Ernie
                                  • davise@cs.nyu.edu
                                    Dear David, On consideration, some of my recent posts have unfairly twisted your arguments, and have been unnecessarily provocative. My sincere apologies to
                                    Message 17 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                                      Dear David,

                                      On consideration, some of my recent posts have unfairly twisted your arguments, and have been unnecessarily provocative. My sincere apologies to you and to the rest of the list

                                      -- Ernie
                                    • Mike Foster
                                      One problem with on-line discussion is that participants cannot perceive the friendly face, the wry smile. “An argument is ruined by turning it into a
                                      Message 18 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                                        One problem with on-line discussion is that participants cannot perceive the friendly face, the wry smile. “An argument is ruined by turning it into a quarrel.” –G.K. Chesterton.
                                         
                                        Mike
                                         
                                        Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 12:31 PM
                                        Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Gollum at a Wedding
                                         
                                         

                                        Dear David,

                                        On consideration, some of my recent posts have unfairly twisted your arguments, and have been unnecessarily provocative. My sincere apologies to you and to the rest of the list

                                        -- Ernie

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