Monday, 18 November 2013


... that I don't know where I was when I heard about JFK's assassination. This may come as a surprise to people I've told otherwise. Marvo the Memorious has become Fibbo the Mendacious.

<autobiographical_note date_range="1963">
It's not that I thought I was lying. I thought I had a memory of sitting in a primary school classroom and being told by a grief-stricken RC teacher. (JFK was RC too, and was generally  thought to be a Good Thing among papists; the Marilyn Monroe stuff was unknown then {at least by innocent [at the time] little me}, and even if it had been he'd have been OK – nothing Holy Mother Church likes so much as a good-hearted sinner).

But the assassination was in November, when I'd have been in my first term  of secondary school, and at 18.30 UTC (which is the trendy euphemism for 'GMT' [avoiding any  imperialistic overtones]). So I wouldn't have been in a classroom at all, let alone one in a primary school.

The nearest my 'memory' can be is that, in those pre-Twitter days the news didn't break until the following morning. I'll have to start working on a new 'memory', in which Dodo (RIP, Fr Dominic mentioned elsewhere) announced it in assembly.
Dodo it was who had been one of the many owners of my latin dictionary, first inscribed in 1868  – before even he was born. And one of the previous owners, in the entry for Confiteor, had struck out the words 'acknowledge, confess', leaving 'own [not 'own up'], avow, concede,  grant'. But I don't know what weight to put on this; perhaps he (I'm pretty sure it wasn't a 'she'   – a girl learning Latin in those pre-war days, the very thought!) was studying a set book that used the other meaning exclusively....

Confiteor is a two-headed word that is uppermost in my mind because of my choir's latest offering. In the Credo it has its sinless sense: Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum.
<autobiographical_note date_range="1958-1960">
My apprenticeship in the Latin mass started when I was 7. My local church was a large monastery, so dozens of priests said Mass every day – so the server was often the only one in the congregation. A lot of the Mass is a dialogue (in Latin in those pre-1966 days). And a 7-year-old had to memorise long screeds of gobbledygook.

One did this by recognizing near-sound-alikes: Quia tu es Deus, Fortituda mea, Quare me repulisti et quare tristis incedo dum affligit me inimicus? had something  to do with 'forty-two' (it's /fɔ:titu:da/ , not /f.ɔ:titju:da/, and besides I hadn't met the word 'fortitude' [well, I had in the Catechism , that being one of the 'Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost', but it was not part of my active vocabulary.]) My party piece was the Confiteor:

Confiteor Deo omnipotenti [and a long list of saints in the dative] quia peccavi nimis.... Ideo praecor beatam Mariam semper virginem [and a similar list of other saints, in the accusative this time]... orare pro me ad Dominum Deum Nostrum.
The Confiteor was my party piece, as I said  (since the congregation, even if there was one, didn't join in). The Credo was open to all comers, and included the word Confiteor (but in the other sense) 'I confess one baptism'. This duality, a few years later (just before the cassocks got too short for a bare-calved ten-year-old) bothered me. I hadn't yet appreciated that Sin was everywhere; however good your intentions, there was someone to LEAD US INTO TEMPTATION (a pretty unfriendly thing to do, I remember feeling at the time).

Anyway, time's a wasting and an ELTon  application has to be submitted by Friday. Oh, and I've got to rewrite the Introduction so that it doesn't look like what I submitted last time.


I've borrowed this adjective from a translation of Borges' memorioso  – the funereal character Funes, who had the Midas Touch of not being able to forget anything.
There's that peccare word again. Whichever meaning confiteor has {'claim as done in error' or 'assert as true'}, Sin is never far away.

Update 2013.11.18.17:50    –  added red bits

Update 2013.11.19.16:10    –  added PS:

PS Another, similar-looking word is confide, which is related in at least two ways. The one that may have struck some of  my readers is the idea  of 'having faith' (Latin fides). But in the context of what I said about confiteor the second thing they have in common may have struck fewer (if any). It is that confide is similarly Janus-like (January?): it has two very different meanings.

The earlier mid-15th-century meaning is 'have faith in'. I read somewhere a story, fascinating if true, that Admiral Nelson's planned message [before the Battle of Trafalgar –  added 2013.11.22 for clarity: English people had this story drummed into them at school {perhaps with Drake's Drum...? This is getting silly.}] was not  'England expects that every man will do his duty'. Any MBA student, studying 'Motivation 101', would recognize that while it has a certain force it is not nearly as good as the planned message: 'Nelson CONFIDES that every man will do his duty'. The story goes that 'England' and 'expects' had short forms, and HMS Victory didn't have enough flags for the more human version.

It was not until the 18th century that the meaning of confide was extended to mean 'have faith in somebody...' [so far so conservative] '...'s discretion to such an extent as to tell them a secret'. This second meaning seems to me to have more or less ousted the simple 'have faith' meaning. Nelson's  alleged original message sounds rather quaint, to my ear at least.

Anyway, must go. V5.2 will be appearing very soon. (I've submitted it to Amazon, and the wheels of Kindle Direct Publishing are grinding away even as I write.)

Update 2017.10.06.14:45 – Format tweaks and removed old footer.

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