Monthly Archives: August 2012

How the Magna Carta impacted the American Revolution

The Magna Carta is a powerful document, although not many people have read it. It c contains a number of provisions that are reflected in the US Constitution.

Way back in 1215, a group of English nobles gathered in the fields near Runnymede and demanded certain rights from their monarch, King John. (yes, the brother of Richard Lionheart and the villain of Robin Hood folklore)

Since King Johgn needed the support of these nobles (politics, you know) he agreed to their demands, and the Magna Carta (“the Great Charter”) was signed.

Following are some provisions of the Magna Carta and the corresponding concept in the Constitution. Do you see any resemblance? (If so or not, please comment!)

MC Paragraph 20: “For a trivial offense, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offense.”
Constitution, Eighth Amendment: “Excessive bail shall not be required … nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

MC Paragraph 34: “The writ … shall not in the future be issued … if a free man could thereby be deprived of the right of trial in his own lord’s court.”
Constitution, Sixth Amendment: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial … [in] the state or district wherein the crime shall have been committed which district shall have been ascertained by law …”

MC Paragraph 38:
In the future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth thereof.”
Constitution, Fifth Amendment: “No person shall be held to answer for a … crime … shall be compelled in any criminal case to be witness against himself…”

MC Paragraph 39: “No freeman shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions….or deprived of his standing in any other way except by the lawful judgment of his equals …”
Constitution, Sixth Amendment: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury …”
Constitution, Eighth Amendment:
“In suits at common law … the right of trial by jury shall be preserved…”

MC Paragraph 52: “To any man who we have deprived … of lands, castles, liberties or rights without the lawful judgments of his equals, we will at once restore these.”
Constitution, Sixth Amendment: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a … trial by an impartial jury…”

Today, a gold copy of the Magna Carta sits in the U.S. Capitol crypt as a symbol of its importance to American history.

 

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The Fine Art of Ellipsis

The use of ellipses is not as easy as it seems. In case you are not familiar with ellipsis – it is used by writers to indicate an unfinished thought. It can also be used at the end of a sentence to trail off into silence (aposiopesis). It is used to build tension or show that the sentence has been left unfinished.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, an ellipsis was often used when a writer intentionally omitted a specific proper noun. An ellipsis may also imply an unstated alternative indicated by context, such as in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, where the Count says “I never drink . . . wine“.

Ellipsis comes from the Ancient Greek ἔλλειψις, and means “omission” or “falling short“. The most common form of an ellipsis is a row of three periods or full stops (. . .) or a pre-composed triple-dot glyph (…).

The Chicago Manual of Style recommends that an ellipsis be formed by typing three periods, each with a space on both sides, as does Oxford. The Modern Language Association (MLA), however, states that an ellipsis must include spaces before and after each dot in all uses.

Examples of ellipses: “But I thought he was . . .” and “Jan was born on . . . a street in Warsaw.”

In legal writing in the United States, Rule 5.3 in the Bluebook citation guide governs the use of ellipsis and requires a space before the first dot and between the two subsequent dots. If an ellipsis ends the sentence, then there are three dots, each separated by a space, followed by the final punctuation. In some legal writing, an ellipsis is written as three asterisks (*** or * * *) to make it obvious that text has been omitted.

You see, using ellipses is indeed a fine art!

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All About The Word Bonanza

You might associate “Bonanza” with the western television series that ran on the NBC network from September 12, 1959 to January 16, 1973. This show centered s on the Cartwright family, who live in the area near Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

But the word “bonanza” has an interesting history. It is generally used in the context of a windfall, a financial success or a goldmine.

But the  word “bonanza” has its roots in Spanish. The Spanish word “bonanza” has its roots in ancient Greek. The Greek word “Malakia” means weakness or indolence. It was incorporated in classical Latin as “malacia”, which means calm, as no wind.

Old Provençal considered the “mal” part of the expression incorrectly as “male”, which means “bad”.  It was decided at one point to change “malacia” into “bonassa”, so it would be associated with “bon” or “bene”, which means good!

In Spanish, the world “bonanza” has various meanings, including: pause, calm (in the sense of no wind), as well as (financial) windfall and prosperity.

Bonanza became a household name thanks to the TV series featuring the Cartwright family in the Wild West.

Don’t you love how words traveled?

If you have great examples of how words traveled, please content me and I will feature it on my blog!

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About Plagiarism

In Roman times the author Marcus Valerius Martialis (40–102 BCE and) realized that it was bad for his business to be copied by others without being given credit.

He launched a campaign to denounce what he considered to be literary thieves. He coined the phrase plagiārius (kidnapper, someone who ensnares children or slaves in a plaga or net). Since copyright law did not exist yet, and there was also no other legal recourse open to him, he came up with a clever idea.

Being known for his acid stylus, he put his writing skills to good use. He wrote several verses aimed at copycats.

One that survived is a wonderful quip about Fidentinus, whom he perceived at being a plagiarist.

“Fame has it that you, Fidentinus, recite my books to the crowd as if none other than your own. If you’re willing that they be called mine, I’ll send you the poems for free.
If you want them to be called yours, buy this one, so that they won’t be mine.”

Nowadays, plagiarism is a criminal offense that will also ostracize an author. Some famous examples include:

  • Alex Haley settled a 1977 lawsuit with Harold Courlander that cited approximately 80 passages in Haley’s novel Roots (1976) as having been plagiarized from Courlander’s novel The African (1967)
  • Kaavya Viswanathan‘s first novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life is reported to contain plagiarized passages from at least five other novels. All editions of the book were subsequently withdrawn, her publishing deal with Little, Brown and Co. was rescinded, and a film deal with Dreamworks SKG was canceled.
  • Paul Crouch, the televangelist founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, was sued in 2000 by novelist Sylvia Fleener. She claimed that Crouch’s novel The Omega Code was plagiarized from her unpublished manuscript, The Omega Syndrome. Crouch and Fleener’s attorneys reached an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed sum.
  • In 2007 at the age of 12, Marie-Pier Côté, a Canadian, published a novel titled Laura l’immortelle.The author later admitted that she plagiarized a Highlander fan fiction, rewrote it, and presented it as an original work.
  • In December 2011, Naomi Ragen was convicted of using parts of Sarah Shapiro’s 1990 book “Growing with My Children: A Jewish Mother’s Diary” in her book “Sotah,” which appeared in 1992. In addition to levying damages, as well as court costs and lawyer’s fees, the court ordered Ragen to remove the plagiarized passages in future printings of the book.

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