Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Dipping a languid toe into the swimming pool of your mind

I want to explain that all the characters of a play have been deaded. Do I say:

1. "The entire dramatis personæ is murdered", or

2. "All the dramatis personæ are murdered"?

The Poxford English Dictionary is no assistance on this one.

15 comments:

TimT said...

If you substitute the word 'cast' for 'dramatis personae', both versions would seem to be acceptable. (Both words would seem to serve exactly the same function in this context, so I don't see why this argument shouldn't apply.)

In other news, if all the characters has been deaded, why is they been deaded? It don't make no sense!

alexis said...

I think "a cast" is murdered. It's a collective noun, so it functions grammatically as if it were singular, even though semantically it signifies a plural.

So my question is whether or not "dramatis personæ" is a collective noun, or whether it's a plural noun, like "scissors" or "trousers".

(They done got deaded because there were a war.)

TimT said...

Macquarie says this 'ere 'dramatis personae' is a plural noun.

It's the offishul Australian dictionary, and wot taught me to speak goodly and properness, like. So you can trust it.

alexis said...

That settles her. I will haste forth and "are". Thanks, Tim.

Dale Slamma said...

I will use this question to annoy my colleagues by having a surprise quiz.

vague said...

I was going to chime in, but Tim has already solved it. Plural indeed! Anyway, I think you should definitely go with "deaded" instead of "murdered." Verb that adjective; go on, verb it!

eyrie said...

I would just have plumbed for "are" without even thinking twice, but the moment of uneasy doubt prompted by this post was indeed refreshing.

"Deaded" is a very charming verbalised noun, which is refreshing too, since they're usually things like "incentivise".

eyrie said...

Um, verbalised adjective, unless one says "the dead". But the point stands- language is funny when one looks at it closely.

Mark said...

Mistah dramatis personae, they dead.

Anonymous said...

Exeunt omnes, pushing up daisies?

Maria said...

I think it was the Macquarie I consulted for the definition of "geek", which told me something about "people who indulge in activities such as biting the heads off chickens"

Indeed!

Martin Kingsley said...

Yarr, that'd be a "circus geek", a role that overflowed from the bad old sideshow/freakshow days. Not that those days are totally over, but I digress. It's not really a career path to be encouraged in '08, so there aren't many left.

The Enigma, he's probably one of the last real, solid, big-screen, old-school "circus geeks" left. I can't think of anybody else, anyway. My favourite documented trick of his, is that he will, on command, retrieve a bottle of blue liquid, drink it, ram a pipe up his nose and down into his stomach, retrieve the liquid and pump it back into a glass, hand the glass to his wife (less of a 'geek', but anyway), who'll then drink it, pipe up nose, retrieve, pass, and so on. Biting off the heads of chickens in 2008 impresses nobody, y'see.

They're divorced now, something which I, personally, was terribly saddened to hear.

You can see why it is that this is a dying vocation, yes? Tsk.

TimT said...

Martin, I note that in the Wikipedia link you provide, Katzen is not described as a 'circus geek' or 'freak', but as a 'performance artist'. And they're certainly not in a short supply....

Old freaks don't die, they just - change their portfolio.

Martin Kingsley said...

Katzen doesn't really qualify as one, no, but in their show together, I think there was a better case to be made. By all accounts (there were a couple of articles on it, back when I kept up with this stuff), it was one of the more disconcerting sideshows.

On a related note, I still think Carnivale was an amazing television series, and that it was so tragically cut short is proof that television executives are bloodless reptilian creatures quite unlike your average humanian in every respect, and probably come to work coated in the blood of small children.

Mitzi G Burger said...

What an extraordinary exchange to make sense of, and all for the want of a horse shoe-nail*!

*something small and seemingly irrelevant that turns out to be incredibly important which started the conversational ball rolling: in this case, plurality of a certain noun.