Friday, October 23, 2009

Bless This House with Death: Uniforms, Patriots, & False Cognates

What I'm reading right now: Literary Journals Your Future Agent is Reading by Zachary Petit, Writer's Digest * November/December 2009

Stay with me on this one. It will start with baseball but end with logophilia.

Change of Venue

DISCLAIMER: I have no scientific data to support the following claim, but it's kinda fun.

All of my examples are anecdotal. I can't cite the numbers, but it's widely accepted in the sports universe that building a new stadium will generate revenue for your team and somehow imbue the players with talent. Let's take the New York Yankees for example. In 2008 the Yankees played their last season in the house that Ruth built and how did they fare? It was the first season since 1993 that the Yankees failed to make the post season.

In 2009, the NY Yankees moved into their new Yankee stadium

and as I write this, they have a 3-2 game lead on the Angels for the ALCS and the right to play the Phillies in the World Series. All this from a simple change of venue?

New Uniforms

How about football? Let's talk New England Patriots

A brief history, beginning with the AFL/NFL merger in 1970, the New England Patriots were largely unremarkable until 1985 when the Pats won the AFC and made it to their first Super Bowl, SB XX; then got smoked by Jim McMahon and the Chicago Bears 46 - 10. Following their loss, the Pats immediately settled into a decade of mediocrity.

After the first uniform/logo change in 1996, the Pats returned to the Super Bowl, SB XXXI, where they posted a better showing, but still lost to Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers 35 - 21.

The third, and current uniform/logo change, for the 2000-2001 season was only a slight change, but all that was necessary given that the Pats were so near greatness, to catapult Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to their run of Super Bowl titles: 2001, 2003, & 2004.

SIDE NOTE: Interesting that the first Super Bowl victory for the Patriots was the Super Bowl following 9/11 and coinciding with the most recent uniform change.

Notable interest: Which team won
The 2007-2008 season the Patriots flirted with a perfect season, returning to the Super Bowl and losing their one and only game, the Super Bowl, to the New York Giants.

Well, thanks for that stroll down sports lane, but how is this at all related to a love of words?  Cognates. (Admitedly, it's a bit of a stretch) In language we have cognates and false cognates. Again, I will turn to

cog nate: of the same or similar nature : generically alike

For example, let's talk France

Paiement par carte de crédit -- Facturation mensuelle automatique
Payment by credit card -- Monthly automatic billing
Paiement and Payment are cognates. I also find it interesting that monthly and mensuelle are not cognates but their meanings are similar.

As there are cognates there are also false cognates:

Bless and Blesser: The French verb blesser means harm or hurt, a far cry from a blessing. The French verb to bless is actually benir. There's nothing life or death about false cognates, however they can lead to humorous and awkward scenarios. Take the new English speaking missionary struggling to learn the language but wants to participate and connect with a family and offers a pray saying, 

"On te demande de blesser ce masion avec la mort." (We ask that ye hurt this house with death.) Instead of:

"On te demande de benir ce masion avec l'amour." (We ask that ye bless this house with love.)
A Final Thought

Is a logo/uniform change a cognate or a false cognate? Do clothes make the man? Does a new venue make that much of a difference?

I was thinking about how this might apply to writing. When you've got a piece that you've gone over again and again stick in the drawer for a few weeks, let it sit, then look at it with fresh eyes, like a new uniform on an old body of work. It just may do the trick.

What about a change of venue? Well, sometimes there's nothing better than a different set of eyes to give you a new perspective on a tired piece. Next time I'll talk about those new eyes and how they can effectively help us revise our work.

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