Sunday, June 28, 2020

To err is human, to forgive practically impossible

That title is not original with me, but I liked it when I read it or heard it several years ago, and today I pass it along to you to do with what you will.

In 1711, an Englishment named Alexander Pope (1688-1744) sat down and wrote, at the tender age of 23, a little something he called An Essay on Criticism. It contains what became several famous quotations, such as "To err is human, to forgive divine", "A little learning is a dang'rous thing", and "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread".

(Note. Some readers may detect that I use British-style punctuation when it comes to quotation marks, which the British call double inverted commas, because the American way of putting commas and periods inside of quotation marks seems illogical to me. American pedants and grammarians, whoever you are, please do not send me comments pointing this out as an error. I am doing it on purpose. --RWP)

I'm not sure, but I think yesterday's post may have demonstrated all three of Pope's aphorisms. Be that as it may, I forge ahead. Inadvertently, of course.

Of course.

The post had six comments as of this morning, and I find myself agreeing with them all (except the part in Bonnie's comment about Jesus' middle initial as a child -- that seems a wholly fanciful explanation to me. How could he have had a "middle initial" when he didn't have a last name?). So I thought I would give the commenters their due and publish yesterday's comments as my post today for those readers who never bother to look at comments. You know who you are.

1. Kathy in Virginia wrote:

Very interesting.
Actually I don't say it since it seems like cursing and taking the Lord's name in vain. I hadn't heard of adding the H either.
And I didn't know there were wires around Manhattan. If one was really a devout Jew, I don't think wires strung overhead would make me think it was ok to break God's laws on the Sabbath. But I'm not Jewish, and it seems silly to me, but I'm glad the wires help them anyway.

2. Elephant's Child (Sue) in Australia wrote:

The eruv seem proof that where there is a will there is a way.
I believe that Jesus H Christ is a particularly American term - or at least I have not heard it here.

3. Terra in Oregon wrote:

The eruvs are hard to understand and allow Jews to move around more on their Sabbath and do things considered work, such as pushing a baby stroller, etc. I read about them several years ago when they wanted to put up an eruv in the San Jose area.

4. Emma Springfield in northwest Iowa wrote:


5. Bonnie in Missouri wrote:

Well, you have taught me something new. I've never heard of an eruv but then I'm not Jewish either. It does seem like the eruv is stretching their rules a bit though.

I was going to jokingly say that the "H" in Jesus H Christ was a middle initial. However I looked it up and it was his middle initial! As a child the "H" stood for Holy. Thanks to your post I have learned two things today.

6. Graham Edwards in Scotland wrote:

There are so many points on reading this and looking at the two links.

Firstly (here I go again), I've never heard of 'Jesus H Christ' so, as stated before me this may be a peculiarly American thing.
Secondly, I am atheist but I try never knowingly to blaspheme in any cultural context. It's always offensive to someone even if not someone within earshot.
Thirdly, when I was in my early 20s I had a Jewish friend and spent time with her family (she and I were not romantically involved which is a very important point). They were Orthodox. They used to employ a goy (their word not mine) to come in on The Sabbath to set and light fires in the winter and even switch the lights on and off plus anything else that was 'work'. It was worse than The Isle of Lewis when I arrived 45 years ago. That was the Free Church of Scotland though.
Fourthly, it seems to me that using obviously artificial methods to circumvent a law which was obviously thought to be stupid (otherwise the circumvention would have been irrelevant) is a blatant disregard for one's avowed beliefs and more a reflection of one's true beliefs.
That's enough. All this thinking first thing on the morning of the Sabbath is making my head hurt.

(end of comments)

Kathy is right. the phrases "Jesus H. Christ" and "Jesus, Mary, and Jehoshaphat" and even "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph" are epithets that call for exclamation points. They wouldn't be said in casual conversation; they are what are called "minced oaths", supposedly milder forms of cursing. I have never said any of them.

Sue is right. According to the article in yesterday's link, "ignorant Americans" before Mark Twain's time began saying "Jesus H. Christ" for the reason given in the article.

Terra is right, and there are more eruvs than just Manhattan and San Jose. There is a very long list of eruvs right here.

Bonnie is right about "stretching the rules a bit" (although I suppose the faithful leave it up to the rabbis to decide) but wrong about the H in "Jesus H. Christ" as I said before.

Emma is right. Not only is she right, she is also succinct. I could take a lesson from her.

Graham is right. His penultimate paragraph (the next to last one, for readers in Alabama) especially resonates with me.

Until next time, gang, don't take any wooden nickels, and not even then.


  1. Well, as you know, I do read comments and responses. It is one reason that I find (and I know and understand why you do it) comment moderation very frustrating. There is no conversational flow.

    1. Graham and kylie, there is conversational flow, it just occurs more slowly, that's all.

      I plan to continue moderating comments because I receive spam and troll-input from time to time, and I don't want at kind of garbaget appear on my blog under any circumstances.

  2. I have not seen the term minced oaths in decades. Minced oaths were strictly forbidden on media and in my case in personal conversations. How times have changed.

    1. Emma, maybe the examples I cited are more accurately epithets, not minced oaths.

  3. I also always read comments for I enjoy sharing thoughts with others. I will say as to the "H" what I discovered about that standing for Holy was the "not gospel" according to Google and I did not read it in the actual gospel according to the Bible.

    1. Bonnie, I thought I detected from Googled "not gospel" in your original answer!

  4. Just to let you know that I have read the last two blogposts and have not deserted you as you may have surmised. I was tempted to write, "I thought that Jesus's middle name was Howard" but I knew that this would cause your hackles to rise so I thought better about leaving such a remark. My personal safety is paramount.

    1. Yorkshire Pudding (Neil), my hackles would not have risen because I brought up the subject in the first place. And your concern for your personal safety seem more Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer than Paramount to me.

  5. I have had a houseguest for a few days and have finally arrived here to catch up but I can't play the video on the machine I am using so I still don't know exactly whats going on.
    I think I am not the only one

    1. kylie, I don't know what to tell you about the video. It's pretty much a summarised rehash of the article, to tell the truth.


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