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10:05 PM
Ok, I think I understand it now. It's not Sci Fi, so I won't ask here.
 
@b_jonas Lit then?
 
@Jenayah Well, I don't need to ask the question about that detail, but I might still ask a different question.
 
@b_jonas but said question will be on Lit, that's what I meant
 
Not that question, no. That won't be anywhere.
 
No, the new question
 
10:10 PM
I'll explain what this is about, since I no longer need to figure out how to ask that question (though I might still ask a different one).
@Jenayah Yes, probably.
 
@b_jonas I'm all ears
 
The work is the short lyric poem by Rudyard Kipling: “The Secret of the Machines” from 1911. See en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Secret_of_the_Machines for full text, and magyarulbabelben.net/works/en/Kipling%2C_Rudyard-1865/… for a translation that seems good.
This one is a nice poem that grabbed my attention.
The part I was the most curious about is the third stanza:
> Would you call a friend from half across the world?
> If you'll let us have his name and town and state,
> You shall see and hear your cracking question hurled
> Across the arch of heaven while you wait.
Now it took me some time, but it seeems that Kipling was back in the UK when he published this, but had previously lived in the US. The next four lines are:
> Has he answered? Does he need you at his side-
> You can start this very evening if you choose
> And take the Western Ocean in the stride
> O seventy thousand horses and some screws!
^ And that one was really opaque to me, but I believe the Western Ocean means the Atlantic Ocean, and the, uh, we need more lines, it's complicated
> The boat-express is waiting your command!
> You will find the Mauritania at the quay,
> Till her captain turns the lever 'neath his hand,
> And the monstrouos nine-decked city goes to sea.
Anyway, it turns out the the “Mauritania” probably refers to a transatlantic cruise ship that was the largest ship when it was built, called “Mauretania”, with a strange spelling,
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Mauretania_(1906) , since that matches the time period, going from the UK to US, is famous enough to mention in a poem, and the translation by Tellér Gyula seems to interpret it that way too, calling it “Mauretánia”.
And back in the first lines of the third stanza, “town and state” clearly means the friend lives in the US, and “half across the world” probably means Kipling refers to him and his readers being in the UK, or in any case, the old world.
But what really confused me is that “call a friend” and “You shall see and hear your cracking question hurled / Across the arch of heaven while you wait.” sounded to me at first like it was a personal telephone call trasmitted through a radio channel (or satellite link) from the old world to America. And although the history is somewhat unclear to me, it seems like that technology didn't yet exist in 1911.
But it turns out, that's not what it means at all. “If you'll let us have his name and town and state,” means it's not a telephone call, because most people didn't have a telephone back then, but obviously everyone had access to telegraph,
and although telegraphs were more usually transmitted through the transatlantic telegraph cables of which multiple were built since around 1965, they could also be transmitted by radio by that time, which seems strange given how primitive radio technology was back then.
But it seems like it actually existed, so “Across the arch of heaven” is possible that way.
And “You shall see and hear your cracking question hurled” because it's a stupid spark gap radio, because the reasonable kind of amplitude modulated radio telegraph transmissions were invented but not in general use yet in 1911.
Since they didn't have proper vacuum tubes yet.
And since this is a poem the most difficult things machine could do at that time, using the futuristic but actually existing transatlantic radio telegraphy is reasonable, even if transatlantic cable telegraphy might be more reasonable, although both were very fishy back then, because of the lack of vacuum tubes.
That leaves “turn a river in its bed” as the only element of the poem that isn't possible with technology, not only in 1911 but even today, but that one is probably a hyperbole.
And the part I'm confused about now is why it says “secret” in the title, but even there I think I might be able to understand it on my own, given that my big Oxford dictionary mentions some less common meanings of “secret”, one of which may apply.
 
10:29 PM
Which one?
 
I'll try to figure out that later, but not today, and if I can't, then that's what I'll ask in Lit.
 
In any case thanks for the (very detailed!) explanation. I can see why you were puzzled, would've been as well.
 
Reminds me that I still have to ask my poetry question.
 
@Jenayah Yeah. Also I found out some cool things about the history of communications, both telegraphy and telephony, although there are still parts I don't understand yet that I'll have to research, and possibly ask on Sci Hist SE, but they are no longer needed for the poem itself.
 
And the anti-hero one (@Alex)
 
10:33 PM
@Jenayah That one's less likely to happen, at this point.
 
Why not?
Too broad?
 
@Jenayah I can't figure out how to make it an actual question.
 
Now as for “secret”, my Oxford defines the most common meaning as “something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others”, and I'm not sure yet how it would apply, but if it doesn't, then there's two more uncommon meanings I can consider:
 
@Alex no sandbox for Lit?
 
@Jenayah This is it.
 
10:36 PM
“■ something that is not properly understood; a mystery: I'm not trying to explain the secrets of the universe in this book. ■ a valid but not comcmonly recognized method of achieving or maintaining something: the secret of a happy marriage is compromise.
(The italic stuff is examples given by the dictionary.)
There are a few more meanings listed, but they seem irrelevant.
 
@b_jonas Your first italic is messed up because there's a space between the * and the word. You still have a minute or so to edit it.
 
@Alex try chat then
 
@Jenayah As in a Chat other than this one (like Literature Chat)?
 
The dictionary, by the way, uses large bold sans serif for headwords, compressed bold sans serif for part of speech marking, bold sans serif for additional words or phrases defined in an entry without a new headword, roman for pronunciations and definitions, small-caps bold sans serif for see also words, small-caps roman for certain extra stock headings, compressed sans serif for certain stock extra grammar or register info,
italic for examples, bold italic for marking the key phrase within an example by the dictionary, and IIRC roman for words originally italic in examples but I'm not sure of that.
Plus a black triangular bullet after the headword and a black square bullet between sub meanings and bold large sans serif numerals for different etymologies of a word.
So it gets really difficult to transcribe dictionary entries verbatim to formatted text or plain text. It's even worse than in my Longman.
Roman is also used for etymology information, and italic for related foreign words referred to in etymology information.
 
Side note: all my pings are coming in silently for some reason.
 
10:46 PM
There's also bold dash bullets before etymology entries and other extra entries that start with a linebreak, the same trianguler bullet as after the headword used before different parts of speech, also starting with a newline, and the bold sans serif numbers also start in a new line except for 1.
Oh, and slashes around pronunciation, vertical bars to separate multiple entries, square brackets around the compressed small caps extra grammar, but not around the compressed small caps or register markings, and probably some mroe I missed.
Oh yeah, italic for titles of works referred to in encylopedic entries, because this dictionary also has some of those.
It sounds complicated, but actually makes the dictionary very easy to read.
 
@Alex yeah
 
Sep 26 at 21:45, by Jenayah
I've just posted a question draft, and I know I'll get feedback from the people there, but I'd also enjoy feedback from you guys because, since you know me (well, I mean, you know me better than the good people of WB, the community of which I'm a complete stranger to) and might then grasp my point faster than them.
 
@Alex fair point ahahah
 
Oh, and I missed one: superscript numerals for different etymologies, both after headwords and small-caps sans serif see also references. The bold sans serif numbers aren't for different etymologies, they separate different main meanings in the same etymology and same part of speech.
Oh, and there's more. Encyclopedic explanations in dictionary entries in small sans-serif on a shaded box background, with small sans-serif see also references; and extra usage note explanations in the same small sans-serif on shaded box background, with bolded small sans-serif references, italic small sans serif examples, and bold italic small small sans serif for the dictionary marking the key words in an example,
and (wait for it) a white small bold small caps sans serif "USAGE" heading in a small black box at the start of those same shaded extra usage guidance boxes.
That, I admit, seems a bit excessive.
Excessive formatting, that is, not excessive information. The extra usage notes are very useful in a dictionary, for how crazy language English can be.
Wait, there's more I missed. Short additional encyclopedic information isn't in a shaded box, but after a round bullet in the same small sans serif with sometimes italicized or bold parts, same as the shaded encyclopedic additions.
So encyclopedic information appears in three forms.
I should add, numerals in the roman definitions and and etymology info and encyclopedic entries are always in nice old-style numerals; whereas the bold numerals at the heading of main meanings are the fixed width kind, and so are the numerals in sans serif encyclopedic entries.
And, by the way, the superscript roman numerals for marking different etymologies of the same headword, they're new style (the 3 doesn't have a descender), but I think (it's really hard to tell) they're not of uniform width (the 1 is narrower).
Info about equivalent alternate forms of words are listed between the headword but before the triangle bullet in parenthesis, or after the triangle when they apply to one POS, with the words themselves in bold sans-serif but the surrounding info in roman.
When verb conjugation is given, it's surrounded by roman parenthesis, the keywords like "past participle" are in compressed sans serif like the other grammar headings, the words themselves are in bold sans serif, and some extra markings like "and" are in roman too, and so are the pronunciations for the inflected forms.
This would probably make more sense if you saw scans of a few pages, but I won't do that now.
G'nite.
Also, I'll have to read the few other Kipling poems of which I have a translation to Hungarian too, maybe some of them will be as interesting as “The Secret of the Machines”.
 
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