Monthly Archives: April 2008


Apparently Hank Williams Sr. nicknamed Hank Williams Jr. “Bocephus” from a ventriloquist dummy used at the Grand Ole Opry.

But there’s more to the story. One old set of lyrics to “The Arkansas Traveler” apparently is about a boy named Bosephus and a fiddling bear! (Albert Bigelow Paine, children’s author and biographer of Mark Twain, was inspired to write a whole bookful of stories about their adventures. It’s called The Arkansaw Bear: A Tale of Fanciful Adventure Told in Song and Story. There’s also a sequel, The Arkansaw Bear and Elsie. Modern copies spell it “Arkansas”.)

Wasn’t it likely that the Grand Ole Opry audience were expected to know that Bocephus came from “The Arkansas Traveler”? (Did the ventriloquist have any bear dummies in his act?)

The interesting thing about the name etymology is that the song initially just identifies the boy as “a boy named Bo“. (Really, “Beau”.) Only later do the lyrics spin it out: “And his folks are still waiting for Bosephus to come back.” This suggests that the kid’s first name is indeed Beau, and that “sephus” (see-fus) is really a corruption of his last name (or something else – “carcass” might be too crude).

If you could find out where the song came from and the local family names, you could probably make a shrewd guess. “Bo Seavers” or something like that would make perfect sense.

Alternately, it could be some French word. “Beauregard” = “Beau” + “regard”. What French word sounds like “Sephus”?

Or it could be that the boy’s name was really “Joe” (a name that shows up in another set of “Arkansaw Traveler” lyrics), in which case “Josephus” would be quite in order.


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Prayer Request

A young man I know is in the hospital under observation. His parents apparently caught him “cutting” on himself; and I’m afraid that’s exactly what he’s been doing. (He’s been showing up with some very odd injuries lately, though I thought he was just undergoing a string of typical teenaged engineer mishaps and fits of absentminded clumsiness. The injuries weren’t the same every time, either.) He’s a good kid. But though he’s very good-natured around us, he apparently is very angry at school; and of course it’s no fun being a teenager.

So if you could please pray for Matt, and for his family too, I would really appreciate it. I am very worried about this, and I wish to heck we’d figured it out.

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The Legendary James Nicoll, King of Mishaps

Yes, my children, James Nicoll is a real person. And he is not dead yet. In fact, I suspect he will die at the age of 140 in his sleep, albeit with no inch of skin unscarred and no bone unbroken.

For those who have never encountered the man, Cally Soukup has compiled a guide to his many encounters with Death By Severe Bodily Harm, as well as other Nicoll Events. Found via Bill Higgins.

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Vulgates Galore!

Wikipedia gives you the basic rundown, but here’s a more practical overview. See how all the different Vulgate translations in existence affect the wording of Psalm 90/91!

First off, though, you should know that I’m putting in line breaks for readability. Most Vulgates run along like prose, without line breaks. Also, not a lot of punctuation. (That’s what declensions are for!)

Version 1: (What I mostly used)

qui habitat in abscondito Excelsi
in umbraculo Domini commorabitur
dicens Domino spes mea
et fortitudo mea
Deus meus confidam in eum
quia ipse liberabit te de laqueo venantium
de morte insidiarum
in scapulis suis obumbrabit tibi
et sub alis eius sperabis
scutum et protectio veritas eius
non timebis a timore nocturno
a sagitta volante per diem
a peste in tenebris ambulante
a morsu insanientis meridie
cadent a latere tuo mille
et decem milia a dextris tuis
ad te autem non adpropinquabit

Version 2: (This seems to be the version St. Thomas More used; the phrases seem familiar.)

Qui habitat in adjutorio Altissimi,
in protectione Dei cæli commorabitur.
Dicet Domino: Susceptor meus es tu, et refugium meum;
Deus meus, sperabo in eum.
Quoniam ipse liberavit me de laqueo venantium,
et a verbo aspero.
Scapulis suis obumbrabit tibi,
et sub pennis ejus sperabis.
Scuto circumdabit te veritas ejus:
non timebis a timore nocturno;
a sagitta volante in die,
a negotio perambulante in tenebris,
ab incursu, et dæmonio meridiano.
Cadent a latere tuo mille,
et decem millia a dextris tuis;
ad te autem non appropinquabit.

Version 3: (The ultra-current Vatican version of the Vulgate — the Nova Vulgata.)

Qui habitat in protectione Altissimi,
sub umbra Omnipotentis commorabitur.
Dicet Domino: “Refugium meum
et fortitudo mea, Deus meus, sperabo in eum”.
Quoniam ipse liberabit te de laqueo venantium
et a verbo maligno.
Alis suis obumbrabit tibi,
et sub pennas eius confugies;
scutum et lorica veritas eius.
Non timebis a timore nocturno,
a sagitta volante in die,
a peste perambulante in tenebris,
ab exterminio vastante in meridie.
Cadent a latere tuo mille
et decem milia a dextris tuis;
ad te autem non appropinquabit.


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Never Say Never — “On Eagle’s Wings” in Latin

Probably Holy Whapping has already done this, but it’s good fun for me.

So, by popular demand of the comboxes of The New Liturgical Movement:


Pinnas Sicut Aquilae
To the tune of: “On Eagles’ Wings” by Michael Joncas and the Bible

Latin Lyrics: Maureen S. O’Brien and the Vulgate

VERSE 1 (Psalm 90/91):

Qui habitat in abscondito,
in umbraculo Domini,
Qui habitat in umbraculo
Domini commorabitur,
dicens Domino “spes mea —
Deus meus, confidam.”

CH: (Psalm 40/41, Isaiah 46:4, Matthew 13:43)

(Et) adsumet pinnas sicut
aquilae et faciet
te fulgere sicut sol;
portabat te in pugillo, pugillo.

VERSE 2 (Psalm 90/91)

(Li)berabat de laqueo venantium,
de morte insi
Veritas eius, scutum.
Sub alis eius, sperabis.


VERSE 3 (Psalm 90/91):

(A) timore nocturno, non timebis;
a sagitta volante.
A latere tuo cadent
(mille), non adpropinquabit.


VERSE 4: (Psalm 90/91)

Quia angelis suis mandabit de
(te in) omnibus viis tuis —
in manibus
portabunt te, ne
offendat pes tuus ad lapidem.


Pretty much straight from the Vulgate, albeit with some chopping; but Latin is pretty easy to rhyme and rearrange. I’m afraid I paid no attention whatsoever to the quantities, though.

Now, in the original song, you’ll notice that it’s not “my God in whom I trust”, as in the psalm, but “My Rock in whom I trust”. I’m pretty sure that this is entirely for valid songwriting reasons (nice hard sound, “rock”). But if you find it easier, feel free to sing “Petrus meus, confidam.” It would even be strangely fitting, after last week!

I do not apologize for changing other bits to hew closer to the psalm, like “And famine will bring you no fear”. Also. the Vulgate does say that God’s truth will be our shield and protection, not His faithfulness. (Just so you know that I’m not making this stuff up.)

I do apologize for not solving all the English version’s scansion problems. Variable numbers of syllables put to the same piece of music are fine in a folksong learned orally, but they are a royal pain in a hymnal.

UPDATE: Slightly revised to deal with some of the problems noted above. Besides the obvious edit in the first verse, I also added “te” to the chorus in a couple places. (Which actually comes in handy to smooth out the scansion, as well as adding more purty internal rhyme.) I like the first line of the chorus better without a “te”, but you can put one in between “et” and “adsumet” if that’s what you really want. You can also change “dicens” to “dicet” (present or future), if it’s really bothering you, as one of the Vulgate translations does say it that way.

Sorry for the deficiencies of the audiofile; but it’s just for proof of concept, and it was recorded at 7 AM.


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Providence Report

I’m fighting some kind of minor sinus infection now. (Yay.) So I skipped one of my choirs’ practice, because I felt like crud and could barely stand up. I settled down with some industrial strength hot and sour soup along with a helping of Mongolian beef, and prepared to feel miserable.

For some reason, the hot and sour soup really did a number on the gunk. Which was odd, because it didn’t “clean out” my sinuses; the swelling just seemed to go down to a manageable point. So I started working on my latest podcast chapter….

And then a friend called, needing help.

I was feeling so much better by the time she got to my place that I was able to spend a long time talking to her, as well as dealing with the immediate need. Yet I’d been feeling so sick and weak just a little while before! Yet if I hadn’t been too sick to leave, I wouldn’t have been there when she needed me. In some odd way, God uses my stupid health problems to do good in the world.

God works in mysterious ways. But sometimes He lets us see a bit of what he’s up to.

(Btw, this morning my sinuses are yucky again. But I still have some hot and sour soup, and a shower. I don’t expect as good of results, but I’ll get to work. God’s nice, but He sure doesn’t spoil us!)


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After the Pope’s Visit

Well, the Pope came and made his pilgrimage and then left again, but on the way he did a considerable amount of shepherding. Like most people who tried to follow the coverage, my brain is full of ideas and good examples, but it will take a long time to absorb it all.

The quiet decency and sweetness of the man will stay with me, of course. I think most people saw him as he is, and I hope a good many people saw Christ through him. Certainly, his call to the faithful and the questing to follow Jesus, the Truth, seemed very winning.

But I also will remember the many class assignments that this professor has given us. Without saying a hard word against anyone in particular, he made it perfectly clear that all American Catholics have a lot of work to do. We must champion truth more, help those who need it more, love more. We must fight division. We must give ourselves totally to God, or never be quite free.

I kept telling my mom this week that he really wasn’t saying anything new. He was just talking about the basics, trying to get people back on track. But actually, I think he was subtly redefining the terms of the debate.

Sex education, safe sex, and birth control? It’s about the exciting “beauty of conjugal love” vs. boring old “management of risk”.

Catholic schools and Catholic identity? It’s all about showing people Christ, acting like Christ, loving truth because truth is Christ.

Diversity? It’s us being more ourselves and bringing our own contribution to the table, not straining to be something else or hiding the fact we’re Catholics and Americans.

That re-definition or change of viewpoint  has apparently been resonating with people. We won’t see immediate effects, maybe, but the ideas are definitely going to have an effect on those who really listened.

I think I can go to bed now. 🙂

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