Sunday, 22 November 2009

Bloggis Personae

I had a great surprise earlier in the week looking at the Dashboard of this blog (that's the place on any blog hosted by Blogger where you can edit text before finally posting it). There, against the title Saturday afternoon in Oxford, was the glyph 1 comment. Then felt I like Robinson Crusoe marooned on his desert island when he sees a human footprint on the beach and he realises that he is not alone. Agog I looked at the post and there it was, and now, here it is.

How to refer to the family is a big problem which Dinah B didn't get right, in my view...
if you use their first names, you exclude people who don't know that (say) Zoe is your daughter…
"my husband" ( i..e the possessive) reeks of the Queen… it's
my husband and I speak
in fact I have used the definite article in conversation for years and year with friends... as in "how's the paramour?' ... so for me it feels – well – conversational…

This comment had been posted by maryb at 13:23 on 8 November 2009: Sophomore (that's me) had posted the text at 08:31 on 8 November 2009. So, Mary Beard was commenting on my comments on Dinah Birch's comments on her (Mary Beard's) blog on my blog, within five hours of my posting it there: for once, the mot juste is, truly, incredible!

Mary, Dinah and I were all considering the best way of identifying people who appear on a blog post who will be (unless they are public figures) unknown to readers coming to that blog for the first time or who are regular readers but can't remember exactly who's who.

I'm now reconsidering all this in light of maryb's comments. I suggested in the post that "If you really want to know my relationship to the lady named in the next sentence, just click on her name and go to the post which describes what it is." This is clumsy: not only are you asking somebody to go somewhere else, but then you are asking them to tease out of a fresh piece of text what the relationship is and then return to the original post. And maryb's solution has its limitations. "The husband" is just fine, because there is, one supposes, only the one husband: likewise "the daughter", which may work for her but doesn't for me, with three of the little blessings (as they all were and have since become again).

And how does one apply this principle to friends? Belle de Jour used a coded approach, naming them things like The One, N and A2, but this is because she was until very recently writing quite anonymously. I have used a similar approach with, for example, RFCG, which is decoded elsewhere as Resident Fertile Crescent Guru. I quite like the idea of identifying Paul Burns as ELH (England's Leading Hagiographer) or Tony Seaton as STH (Sage of Trolly Hall), but these quips can backfire. Maggie the RFCG, for example, was not desperately happy with the epithet of guru, which to her implies spurious mysticism rather than the sound scholarship I intended.

Therefore I am testing a new approach which was rather crudely first tried in the Bloggerel post last Sunday. In the one posted today I have put down at the bottom of it the briefest of details about people directly or indirectly mentioned in it. This is similar to what you have at the beginning of traditional editions of Shakespeare's plays, the Dramatis Personae, or People of the Drama: Duncan, King of Scotland; Malcolme and Donalbaine, his sons; Macbeth and Banquo, Generals of the King's Army. That is why I have given this post the title of Bloggis Personae.

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