Subject: Re: FYA
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: "Tariel, Lauren R" <lt34 -at- saclink -dot- csus -dot- edu>
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2007 14:50:43 -0800

Tariel, Lauren R wrote:

Ned chimed:
"And what a word--I want to know the etymology of it. "

I should apologize in advance for leading you onto my boggy ground of etymology.
Agreed, m-w delivers credible insights, but I haven't felt very satisfied by the standard dictionary treatment where etymologies end with the first similar Latin word. Anyway, Latin owes so much to Greek.
Admittedly, without the OED at hand, I turned to the web, eventually synthesizing an etymological understanding from bits taken from 'inter' and 'pret' as separate entries in wikipedia, the ultimate authority for bits on the web. My humble apologies for throwing the etymological curve ball, I didn't think I would hit anyone!

Ned, I think you think too much. I went to your website (that is yours isn't it?) to see what I can "interpret." "Services" seems a little blank, but your "documentation project methodology" might be worthy of "interpretation." ;-)

My web needs everything, but frankly I'd rather scrape palimpsests than be the web master. The methodology section is the heart of the web--I refer new technical writing clients to it, with the hope that they will look for the substance instead of the sizzle, and that we'll then have a common understanding of how to work together. Projects depend on setting client expectations early.
Uh, <nervous chuckle> by the way, is there room for interpretations that I might need to know about?
I think that if a piece of work is derived from another piece of work and the derived work so closely resembles the original work that we can recognize the original work within the derivation, then credit should be given to the original writer or risk being a plagiarization, unless the original author is clearly recognized in the derived work.
Agreed, and I don't think that my objections stand up to this test. I was shrill in hinting that the work approached plagiarism simply because it didn't nominate for credit those others who have riffed on, or written about, the same object. The New Yorker column still gets under my skin, yes, because in a world that is fractally elaborated with funny, interesting, unique things (not to mention their metaphors) that require little or no direct experience or observation to write about, it just strikes me as something past odd that a writer/humorist would land on 'shower curtains' for subject matter unless it was an attempt to coat-tail on the successful work of the subject's earlier writers. But now that I see the emerging tradition of shower curtains as a challenging subject that attracts (and will doubtlessly continue to attract) the most athletic writers, I have no more problem with it as an unoriginal topic. What a fool I've been.

For example, Bach's "Minuet in G Major" is frequently used in other works, but he rarely if ever receives credit when the melody is borrowed and there is no need to give him credit because most people can recognize the melody as Bach's. "A Lover's Concerto" by the Toys used the melody and that song is not refered to as "A Lover's Concerto based on Bach's Minuet in G Major" but we know that the melody is not original. Additionally, eventhough the melody is cited as Bach's, it is the work of Christian Petzold and this brings a new dynamic to the paradigm of giving credit where credit is due. Would anyone even know of the work if Christian Petzold was given full credit? I don't think so. So in this case, the work outlived the composer because it was essentially stolen by a well-known composer.

I imagine that Bach's claim to the Petzold melody is an artifact of some practice of that age. Could he have bought it from Petzold's family? Could the attribution to Bach have begun when he submitted it to manuscript copyists? I can't believe he stole it outright, it would be a well-known fact to his contemporaries and peers, and a blot on his reputation! Wouldn't it? Maybe it was a composer's version of a duel, a point of honor that demanded satisfaction: Bach heard that Petzold was claiming authorship of original Bach melodies, so he simply gave him something to complain about. JS Bach, Father of the Blues, ladies and gentlemen.

In contemporary music, you'll find constant contentiousness and lawsuits galore about which stunning arpeggio or soulful refrain harks to whose. Elsewhere in the same industry you'll find a culture of free borrowing with implied consent, similar to our shrinkwrap versus opensource debate reprised for art. We're lucky in tech writing that no one reads our stuff, so no accidental or intentional borrowing ever goes to court, as far as I'm aware. To date.

You said "When Miles Davis recorded Cyndi Lauper's pop hit Time After Time." You didn't say that it was Miles Davis's hit.

You pose several additional tests to clarify my concern over the shower curtain essay. Thanks for your help, I promise to consider it all in the fullness of time.

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com


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FYA: From: Janice Gelb
RE: FYA: From: Tariel, Lauren R
Re: FYA: From: Janice Gelb
Re: FYA: From: Ned Bedinger
RE: FYA: From: Tariel, Lauren R
Re: FYA: From: Susan Hogarth
Re: FYA: From: Ned Bedinger
RE: FYA: From: Tariel, Lauren R

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