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Barthesian demon - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
Barthesian demon
This was received by webmaster (presumably intended for the department that actually does a creative writing course):
I was thinking about doing your creative writing course but can't afford the fees.

However I should be grateful if you could let me know the origin of the word "writerly". When I was at school you took an adjective and added 'ly' to make an adverb. Writer though is a noun.

Have the rules changed?
Well, obviously I was delighted; it's not often my Eng. Lit. background actually becomes directly relevant in answering the enquiries which webmaster receives. So I had a lovely response prepared about how critical theoreticians probably didn't feel themselves bound by the rules one learns at school, and that while you may regard lisible and scriptible as risible neologisms, "readerly" and "writerly" seem entirely reasonable translations of them, and that in any case Barthes was sadly unavailable to debate the point, having ended his discourse of the Death of the Author with uncharacteristically unstructuralist closure by falling fatally under a laundry van in early 1980. But sadly, a) I was discouraged from sending it, and b) on closer inspection it turned out that they were actually using "writerly" in the context of "writerly support", ie "support from writers", so I'm afraid morally I may be forced to side with the pompous have-your-sayer who can't tell the difference between a Creative Writing department and a Computing department.

Anyway, I forwarded the email to the right people.
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tla From: tla Date: February 23rd, 2009 10:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Pity. I would love the image of "send mail to Oxford Webmaster, get an English lit response directly back". On the other hand I guess you might run the risk of webmaster@ turning into a Q&A column.
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2009 11:59 am (UTC) (Link)
I sometimes wish we had a general-purpose "pedantry" role address, which anybody in the University with time on their hands could answer. Then I remember that's what oxnet was for.
pseudomonas From: pseudomonas Date: February 23rd, 2009 10:09 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm now distracted by the OED's history of the -ly forms. It's got separate entries for adj+"ly" => adv. and noun+"ly" => adj. I'm wondering whether I can justify this as relevant to my work.
monkeyhands From: monkeyhands Date: February 23rd, 2009 10:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Dear Burj Al Arab Hotel:

I was thinking about staying in one of your rooms for a few nights, but I can't afford those prices! However, I should be grateful if you could let me know the origin of the word "Dubai". When I was at school, we learnt that "du" means "of the" when applied to a masculine noun. Does this mean that Dubai is the land of the Bai people? However, the Bai people include both masculine and feminine people, which is how they manage to breed.

Have the rules changed?
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2009 11:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Dear Sir,

I'm afraid the rules have changed, partly due to pressure from Durham City Council who were tired of being asked what "rham" was and having to explain that it was what you ate with reggs and rchips. You wouldn't get that sort of nonsense under the Imperial system, I can tell you.

Brigadier-General Branes (Mrs)
emperor From: emperor Date: February 23rd, 2009 10:37 am (UTC) (Link)
This post cheered me up this morning while the gas-men were proclaiming doom. Thank you :)
simont From: simont Date: February 23rd, 2009 10:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Presumably this person had never encountered the word "fatherly"?
htfb From: htfb Date: February 23rd, 2009 11:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Or "broccoli"
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2009 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2009 11:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Good point. OED gives the first attestation of "fatherly" in this sense as being from over 1000 years ago...
pseudomonas From: pseudomonas Date: February 23rd, 2009 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)
"scholarly" came to mind, too :)
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2009 12:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
See, now I want to construct a reply* to them which uses every -ly word I can think of.

* meaning "like a rep"
pseudomonas From: pseudomonas Date: February 23rd, 2009 12:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Do it!

The -ly1 OED entry notes that the same construction gives forms like "goodly", "lovely", and "daily", as well as the more obvious "kingly", "beastly", "womanly", and so on.
redbird From: redbird Date: February 23rd, 2009 12:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
That would be a friendly deed.
nja From: nja Date: February 23rd, 2009 01:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Painterly" was the one that came to my mind - "writerly", by analogy, would mean writing where the technique was at the forefront. Nabokov, maybe.
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: February 23rd, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Apply yourself to it forthwith!

I hope the original author came from Ely...
bellinghman From: bellinghman Date: February 23rd, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
You see, this shows the hierarchy of language: nounes, adjectives, adverbs. '-ly' as a suffix moves the word to the next layer.

When out of control, it also gives rise to the horrible lily words: 'She did it lovelily'.
barnacle From: barnacle Date: February 23rd, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Loverly jubberly

I never knew about Barthes. Is it worth saying "death of the lather" at this point?
cleanskies From: cleanskies Date: February 23rd, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's such an archetypal webmaster experience!
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
:-) Do you reckon there's a market for a little book of hilarious webmaster anecdotes, maybe timed to come out around Christmas? Or is it just a bit too, well, niche?
cleanskies From: cleanskies Date: February 23rd, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
clubhopper15 From: clubhopper15 Date: March 1st, 2009 09:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Hi, hope you don't mind me adding you (came across you in the oxonians group). I noticed that you studied English at Oxford. I will hopefully be off to Wadham in October to study English, so thought it would be interesting to read your LJ.
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