Short Words, Short Shrift

July 3, 2007

There are times that I remember I’m in the third world (which, despite the presence of THE SOURCE is not to be confused with Jack Kirby’s 4th World). While Israel as a whole may indeed be a rising high tech superpower, someone neglected to tell the architect of these dormitories (this is the last time I ever live in student housing) who, in place of a proper shower, decided that it would be acceptable to just put a drain in the middle of the bathroom under some sort of spigot. But that is neither here nor there, or, as Joyce is so fond of saying in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, “hither and tither.” Rereading Portrait, I’m struck by how many times Joyce uses “hither and tither,” culminating in a paragraph in which the phrase is used at least 300 times. Of course, I haven’t finished rereading, so I may find that this is not the culmination and that there is a paragraph consisting entirely of “hither and tither,” but something tells me that would have been memorable, and it sounds like something Joyce might have done in Finnegan’s After-Party, and not Portrait.

 

J oyce (and, in honour of Joyce, that space between the letters is very important for the meaning of this dispatch) used the phrase so often that I had to check if he was quoted in the OED. The OED has the following for hither, v:

 

“To move or come hither; chiefly in phr. to hither and thither = to go to and fro; to move about in various directions.”

 

It would thus seem theoretically possible to say, “I would like to hither and thither awhile before settling down.”

 

There are lots of great entries for hither, adv that I’ll address in the future, but in passing there was also the great word “hitherest” meaning nearest that will now occupy a dear place in my word bank.

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One Response to “Short Words, Short Shrift”

  1. Rabbi Dr. Professor Jurgen Haverstam, DHL Says:

    I’d recognize that description anywhere…are you doing the Yiddish program at Tel Aviv and living in the dorms? Learning a pidgin German in cement dormitory with open walls? Sounds like hell on earth for a “yeke” like myself…wait a second…


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