My son and I were talking on the phone one recent morning and saying how little alcohol either of us consumes, now that we are so – ahem! – let us say, mature. I tell him one beer does it for me. We went on to talk about wine, and I said red is supposed to be good for you, but he said he prefers white, since it doesn’t all the -- . We both paused, searching for the word he wanted.
“Tannins,” I said confidently.
“No, it’s – congeners,” he said, pleased to retrieve a word that his mother had never heard or seen before in her life.
In the context of wine, congeners are produced during fermentation, that is, “born with” the alcohol produced. In a more general definition, any pair of things belonging to a set by reason of resemblance or action can be called congeners. So I learned something new but will leave you on your own to search out whether or not tannins or congeners or both or neither cause headaches (white wine is lower in tannins) and whether or not white wine as good for you as red is supposed to be, because I’m not taking sides on any of this!
Later the same morning, when a pair of my favorite local customer friends showed up at my bookstore, Walt told me he was pretty sure that Suzette Haden Elgin, whose verbal self-defense books I’d mentioned in a recent blog post, had also written science fiction. Really? I had no idea but looked her up online and found out that the linguist and science fiction author were indeed one and the same person. Astonishing!
I’m giving you the Wikipedia site address but with at least one caution: What does it mean to credit SHE with having written the “dead skunk song”? Loudon Wainwright’s dead skunk song? Some other dead skunk song? Explain yourselves, Wikipedia!
I was sorry to learn that Elgin died in 2015, because that means it’s too late to write and thank her for all her wonderful work. Not being a sci-fi reader, I have only read the books on language but am now keen to read her novel of feminist speculative fiction, Native Tongue, for which the author invented a new language she called Láadan, well prepared for the task by having written two doctoral dissertations, one on the English language and the other on the Navajo language. When philosopher Henri Bergson did his graduate work in Paris, there was a two-dissertation requirement, one to be written in French, the other in either Greek or Latin. I wonder if she wrote her second dissertation in Navajo....
Native Tongue, I see now, is the first in a trilogy. Well, I’ll start with that and see how it goes. Elgin also founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association, it turns out, and was dedicated, through her Ozark Center for Language Studies, to reducing violence. And if you follow this link, you can see her photograph -- and doesn’t she look like a lovely person? I am very pleased to have learned so much more about her. Thank you, Walt!
P.S. For today’s postscript, I’m going to shed all modesty and share a compliment I received last week. The young man and woman were serious browsers, quietly discovering and showing each other various books, but finally he said to me directly, “Your bookstore is amazing!” A welcome compliment! When I asked where they were from, and they said “Brooklyn,” and I asked “New York?” and they said “Yes,” he added, “This place?” And he gave thumbs up as he said, “New York quality!” Then I’m sure I blushed! I know I laughed with joy. And yes, they bought books, too, a true sign of appreciation!
My curated book collection, David’s beautiful original art: New York quality in Northport, Michigan! Who doesn’t love to be appreciated?
Learning and appreciation: pass it on!