Would Anyone Care to Test This?
Is "Little Pink Houses" a Patriotic Anthem?


A few months back...no, wait, over six months back--see this post...I listened to an audio version of the Josephine Tey novel The Franchise Affair. It involves someone falsely accused of a crime, and early in the story there's an exchange between the accused and her lawyer which goes something like this:

What have you done?

I haven't done anything.

Well, what are you supposed to have done?

This use of "supposed," precisely in its strict sense, referring to something believed but with a degree of uncertainty, similar to "alleged" or "conjectured," caught my ear, because as often as not today we don't use that ordinary sense. And I would bet that its most frequent use is to convey something similar to "required" or "commanded," or at least "intended." "You're supposed to..." frequently means "you must."

Tey's sentence above, for instance, in isolation, would be most likely to refer to something meant to be done but not in fact done: "what should you have done?" or "what are you expected to have done?" But in common usage "You're not supposed to park here" means "you must not park here."

A couple of other words or phrases have taken on that imperative sense that they are not, well, supposed to have. It's a curious thing that I began to notice a long time ago. Frequently the imperative sense is a matter of word order in the sentence. Consider:

You have this form to fill out. 
You have to fill out this form.

It would be better for you to fill out this form.
You'd better fill out this form.

The second sentence of each of those pairs is essentially a command: "You must fill out this form."  "You'd better" is weaker, a command that's a little short of "must" but with an implied threat for non-compliance. I associate it first with children, especially girls: "You better give it to me," often followed by "or I'm going to tell Mama."

These things trouble me a little because they remind me that any particular language at any particular time is a sand castle. I spend a lot of time writing, and most of it now is poetry, in which every single word is to the best of my ability very precisely chosen and placed. Oh well, it isn't likely to be read very much, so it won't matter much when my words

Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.

--Eliot (T.S.)


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I was supposed to get notified about this post, but I didn't.


Neither did my test account. But it did get notified of the previous message. Wonder what's the deal....

I think I see the problem. I was wondering how it could promise to give you control over your feeds when you subscribe if it doesn't require you to register. Turns out it registers you automatically. When you subscribed, you got (I assume, because I did), an email with a link for you to click to confirm the subscription. Apparently it automatically registers you. So if you look at that email, below the big CLICK HERE TO CONFIRM button, you'll see "You can always manage your subscription by logging in with your username...and password...."

I hadn't noticed that. So I logged in, which took me to a list of recent posts (from this blog, which is the only one I'm subscribed to), clicked on the Settings on the most recent post (the typical gear-looking thingie, on the right in the buttons below the post title/snippet), and it took me to a page where I can change various settings. One of these is Output Channel(s), and apparently the default it sets when you register is Newspaper, which is one email per day containing all posts for the last 24 hours. I changed that to Single Email--one email per "story" i.e. post. Then the Save Settings button at the bottom. I'll see what happens now.

Presumably we will be notified of this post at some point today. I don't know how they set the 24-hour interval.

I got the email. It has a 9:02 AM time-stamp.

I just got it.

Odd. I don't see any connection between the time of the post and the times of the emails, or even the time when I originally subscribed.

Maclin, I read your poem in the current Dappled Things and it inspired me to come back and read more of your well-chosen words here on your blog. I have not been reading blogs for the last couple of years, but now I regret having dropped yours. Still, I'm always struggling to keep my use of the internet within reasonable bounds, so I probably will not comment much.

Thank you very much, and I'm delighted to have you back.

You might be interested in a feature which allows you to be notified of new posts, which appear pretty irregularly. It uses the Follow.it service. I haven't yet got it configured to appear in the sidebar, but if you go to the post below you'll find an ugly but functional form that you can use to subscribe. You'll get a confirmation email which will also include a Follow.it username and password that you can use to tailor various settings about the notifications.


There's a rather serious (to me) misprint in the poem, by the way. "Casablanca" is not meant to be on a line by itself. In case you wondered.

I figured it ended up on a line by itself because the margins were set too narrow!

Your poem also inspired us (me, husband, and father) to watch Funny Face, so thank you for that as well.

I signed up to follow your blog. I hope I didn't also inadvertently sign up for the NYT, WSJ, and several others.

Yes, margin might be the problem. But it’s customary when printing poetry to indent the overflow from a too-long line.

Did y’all like Funny Face? I have kind of a thing for it (obviously).

I don’t think you’ll get unwanted subscriptions. I hope not! I tested it with one of my email accounts and haven’t received notifications from/about other sites.

I loved Funny Face. I had not known that Audrey Hepburn was so good a dancer, and I was struck more forcefully than before by how fluid and natural Astaire's dancing is. My husband is a philosophy professor and my father, a retired English professor, so we all laughed aloud when Maggie Prescott called the Literature and Philosophy bookshop "perfectly dismal."

I'm glad you liked it so much. I've been trying to remember how I ever came across it in the first place. That poem was first written over 15 years ago, so chances are very good that it was a VHS rental. Why did I pick it? I have no idea. That kind of thing is not normally my cup of tea. It's possible that my wife picked it, but doubtful--I was usually the one who went off to the video store and chose something.

I'm not much on either musicals or dancing, but I really love the Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire movies, for much the same reasons that I like Funny Face. But that's a fairly recent change for me, too. Maybe I had already discovered Rogers/Astaire and tried this one because Astaire is in it? Oh well, I don't know, but in any case they're a great mood-booster, somewhat in the way that P.G. Wodehouse is for me, though for very different reasons.

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