Tuesday, May 08, 2007

ChesterCon Speaker

Dr. Thursday called my attention to an upcoming seminar on heraldry at
ChesterCon07. Those of you who have been reading TMWWT with us may have
wondered about the following line:
"Our bearings," continued Syme calmly, "are 'argent a chevron gules charged with three cross crosslets of the field.' The motto varies."
Such a shield would look like this:

It is not clear to us whether this is really the arms of an actual
"Syme" family, or if it is Chesterton's invention - but its simplicity
and boldness seem appropriate. Any speculations from the audience?


  1. Thanks, Nancy! Cool arms. At first I thought maybe those cross-crosslets were just grainy pixels, but they really do look like that. If the little bars were at the ends of each arm of the cross, it would be called a "cross potent". (A "potent" is a T-shaped thing, an old form of crutch used by Chaucer - I mean the term, not the device!)

    A bit of esoteric language detail for those who may wish to dig into this: it appears that when there are more than one cross-crosslet, a blazon will say "crosses-crosslet" - but the same reference also uses Chesterton's term, though not in a blazon.

    This issue of oddly-formed plurals reminds me of the exceedingly famous dictum (quoted by no less an authority than Fr. A. Thomas, O.P.):

    "You should always say octopi when you mean there are two or more octopuses."

    Of course the dictionary will tell you there are actually three different plurals of "octopus", and all legal:

    octopuses (according to the rules of English)
    octopi (according to the rules of Latin)
    octopodes (according to the rules of Greek, which is of course the origin of the word!)

    Alas, it doesn't work for other words. Then again, English has enough odd things...

    How come it is "mouse, mice" but not "house, hice"?

    Or "goose, geese" but not "moose, meese"?

    Hee hee.

    Dr. Thursday

  2. Say: how come "plural" is singular?

    Hey philosophers, linguists, philologists: what kind of thing is that?

    And what is the word for words which have more than one plural?

    Why do they call things sent by ship a "CARgo" and things sent by car a "SHIPment"?

    Curious, inquiring minds are seeking information...

  3. Whew, this is getting hard. But while I've got your attention, are there any high-tech Latinists out there? Here's one for you:

    Is "SCSI-bus" a dative plural, or an ablative plural?

    And my word verification is "xaycse" - is that the computer trying to say "GKC"?

  4. As to the arms: GKC knew that the red portion would point UP, of course, zu Gott

    Red for martyr, white for joy.

  5. Why would the red portion have to point UP, Dad29? Just wondering...

  6. white for joy.

    White also for purity.


  7. As I recall, "chevron" is from a French word meaning "rafter" - which supports the roof of a home. So the symbolic sense of a chevron might be a "home". Chevrons always point "chiefwards" (towards the top of the shield).

    Tech detail: an upside down chevron is called a "chevron reversed". There's a thing called a "pile" which is a v-shape - actually triangle, which is normally pointed DOWN from the top. If a pile were upside down it would look a little like a one-sided chevron, but THAT is called "a pile issuant in base".

    I can't tell whether it is the graphics, or the linguistics, or the cool colors and shapes, or just the fun of all this which I enjoy more... that seminar ought to be fun.

    Oh, and I think Dad29 was right on the money about red = martyr:

    "I really have no experience," Syme began.
    "No one has any experience," said the man in the dark room, "of the Battle of Armageddon."
    "But I am really unfit - "
    "You are willing, that is enough," said the unknown.
    "Well, really," said Syme, "I don't know any profession of which mere willingness is the final test."
    "I do," said the other - "martyrs. I am condemning you to death. Good day."

    For "Chestertonian"'s hint wrt purity, watch for tomorrow's posting...

    --Dr. Thursday

  8. Peter, I posted your question off to Therese Warmus, a former Latin major.
    ~ Gramps

  9. I look forward to tomorrow's posting, Dr. T!

    I am bringing my six-year-old son this year, and I'm thinking that while most of the talks will probably boor him to tears, he should like the heraldry seminar.

  10. Yes, I just hope I will be able to "focus" (hee hee) on the topic, and I won't be "all wet" when I am done. (hee hee squared!)

    Actually, I really REALLY want to go to the AAA seminar.

    But - er - cirumstances will force me to go to the heraldry one - especially now that I know I won't be the only one attending the defense of heraldry...

    And your son will be particularly delighted because I understand that there will be - uh - audience participation: media to be provided by the presenter. (That means CARYONS.)

    As GKC says, "I can say 'azure a bend or' quite as prettily as anybody else." You'll find out why if you are there. And if not you can ask Aidan about it; he was probably in court that day.

    --Dr. Thursday

  11. Cool!!!

    Will there be swords too? If there is even one real sword, it will make my six-year-old's whole day. Year, in fact.


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