Another evocative quotation from Oxford University’s online Word of the Day (November 12, 2014). Lawrence George Green wrote what might be called “social geography” describing life in southern Africa. In the Land of Afternoon,
one expert driver…encourages his mules by yelling the principal parts of Greek verbs… The word of command ‘Proot!’, which appears to have come from France with the Huguenots, is more commonly heard.
Principal parts of Greek verbs! This is double nostalgia for me, remembering my Greek professor who told us about his professor whose students chanted the parts at basketball games instead of cheers. What a refreshing student learning outcome! Stephen Schierling, late of LSU, looked like a California beach bum yet was dedicated to his work and inspired me with a new vision of teaching. (Read his 1999 obituary in the Louisiana Classicist.)
In my last days as an English professor, I taught students some new words to describe the products of drafting and revising. The final draft–the last and best, the ultimate paper–is the “ultima”; the one before it is the “penult,” and the one before that is the “antepenult.” Greeks will recognize the terms for syllables which may receive an accent, but I heard a sportscaster that semester refer to a “penultimate game.” No “Library Jeopardy” for me; chanting principal parts is my idea of making learning seriously fun. It pleases me to think that Dr. Schierling would have approved.