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Chapter and Verse

Correspondence on not-so-famous lost words

March-April 2010

Vann McGee would like to discover the origin of the following declension: “I am firm. You are stubborn. He or she is mule-headed.” He has heard it attributed to Bertrand Russell, but acknowledges that that might be just a rumor.

 

Richard Barbieri hopes someone can identify the book by a contemporary social scientist that begins with the thesis that everyone in the field is seeking a definition of what makes us human, but that it is unwise to publish one’s theory until late in life, so that one may die before critics take the theory apart. The book, he adds, “naturally continued with the author’s theory, but I forget what that was.”

 

“Learning about normal functioning from extreme cases” (September-October 2009). Camille Norton traced this assertion by Sigmund Freud to his essay “Femininity,” in New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, translated and edited by James Strachey (1965). The quotation reads: “Pathology has always done us the service of making discernible by isolation and exaggeration conditions that would remain concealed in a normal state” (page 107).

 

“I have spent sleepless nights that others might rest” (November-December 2009). Charles Miller, who submitted the original query, curious about a quotation in an essay by the late Harvard Law School professor Paul Freund, writes that he has “discovered a ‘near enough’ source for the internal quotation. The ‘German historian’ referred to is Theodor Mommsen. The quotation is from a eulogy to Mommsen composed in 1903 by the theologian Adolf von Harnack: ‘His sleepless nights have brightened our day.’ Harnack himself was quoting Goethe on Schiller.”