Marching On

The process of mind expansion marches on. What better way to begin the new month of March than with another new word to add to one’s vocabulary? The splendid Mr. V. M. Yeates has done it again. Writing as an exhausted Sopwith Camel pilot on the western front in WWI:

… beyond a phenakistoscopic veil he saw the flying moons and spheres caught in webs and dragged away.

Where’s that blasted dictionary? If things carry on like this, I’m definitely going to have to get an extension to the book loan [Winged Victory – V. M. Yeates]. It’s worth it, though, ‘cos my knowledge is increasing in leaps and bounds. It seems that a phenakistoscope is a device whereby a disc bearing a series of still images is rotated before a viewing slit, the ultimate effect being one of motion. I’ve seen things like that, especially on the Antiques Roadshow.

I can’t begin to imagine how good the old English education system must have been. Admittedly, RFC pilots tended to come from well-shod families; the commoners were used as little more than infantry cannon fodder in World War One – but one has to wonder at a Sopwith Camel pilot writing such colourful prose.

Our modern education system is open to all, not limited to the landed gentry, but appears to struggle to produce people reaching such a degree of literacy. It simply isn’t fashionable. “One mustn’t stifle creativity by insisting that they get it right. It’s more important that they have a go.” Piffle! Language is a wonderful thing which can, and should, be very precise. It’s about the only thing that differentiates us from the animals, whose physical prowess far outstrips ours. Let’s not regress to the prehistoric level of interpreting grunts. [You can tell that I’ve never raised a teenager, can’t you?]

Thank you V. M. Yeates, for more than you could ever have imagined.

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