Practical cats

A few weeks ago I mentioned the musical Cats, and commented about translating the title and the lyrics into other languages, including Korean.

The first song is ‘Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats’, which is not in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, so I guess it was in TS Eliot’s unpublished poems, along with Grizabella. Andrew Lloyd Webber consulted Valerie Eliot while composing this work. (Note that Trevor Nunn wrote the lyrics for ‘Memory’ (and see my previous comments about this song here.)) The song ends with a series of 22 occurrences of ‘adj cats’:

Practical cats, Dramatical cats
Pragmatical cats, Fanatical cats
Oratorical cats, Delphicoracle cats
Skeptical cats, Dispeptical cats
Romantical cats, Penantical cats
Critical cats, Parasitical cats
Allegorical cats, Metaphorical cats
Statistical cats and Mystical cats
Political cats, Hypocritical cats
Clerical cats, Hysterical cats
Cynical cats, Rabbinical cats

These are a mixture of standard, semi-standard, non-standard and non-existent outside this work.

practical – standard, from noun practice. records adjective practic, but Google Ngrams shows that it is very rare compared with practical.

dramatical – does not record this, but it is clearly from noun drama and adjective dramatic. Google Ngrams shows that it is very rare compared with dramatic.

pragmatical – semi-standard. gives it as an alternative for some definitions of pragmatic. Google Ngrams shows that the two were interchangeable until 1904, but I can’t think of what happened in 1904 to kick-start pragmatic.

fanatical – standard but rare, from noun fanatic. records fanatic as an adjective as well, defining it simply as ‘fanatical’. I would have thought this was rare, but Google Ngrams shows that is it about half as common as fanatical and, indeed, more common that fanatic as a noun (which has, in turn, lost a lot of usage to fan). (Note that Google Ngrams lumps together the air-moving fans and the sports fans.)

oratorical – standard but very rare, from nouns orator and oratory. (I can’t trace anything, but I’m wondering if it’s also used in relation to oratorio.)

delphicoracle – took me straight to Delphic oracle. Delphic oracle cats might just be considered standard English grammar. Google Ngrams does not record delphicoracle, and even Delphic oracle is very rare.

skeptical – standard, from nouns skeptic and skepticism.

dispeptical – There are 1180 results for dispeptical cats on the interweb, compared with 1610 for dyspeptical cats. (I copied and pasted from a random lyrics website, one of the 42% of sites which has dispeptical.) Searching for dispeptical, suggested despotic as well as dyspeptic. Searching for dyspeptical and dispeptic, it suggested dyspeptic. It gives dyspeptical as an alternative for dyspeptic, but Google Ngrams shows that dyspeptical has always been vanishingly rare compared with dyspeptic. (There is a whole nother blog post about the similarities and differences of the prefixes dis– and dys-.)

romantical – suggested romantic’. Google Ngrams shows ‘romantical’, but it is vanishingly rare.

penantical – There are 565 results for penantical cats on the interweb, compared with 406,000 for pedantical cats. I guess someone mistyped it, and other people copied and pasted. Pedantical exists: took me straight to pedantic, but lists pedantical as an archaic alternative, and Google Ngrams shows that it is vanishing rare compared with pedantic. (There is a whole nother nother blog post about adjectives ending in –ic and –ical.)

The next 11 words (critical, parasitical, allegorical, metaphorical, statistical, mystical, political, hypocritical, clerical, hysterical, cynical) are all standard, and obviously related to nouns and verbs. The last adjective is rabbinical, which exists alongside rabbinic. gives the definition of Rabbinic (upper case) as ‘noun the Hebrew language as used by rabbis in post-Biblical times’, and that of rabbinical (lower case) as ‘rabbinical or rabbinic adjective 1. of or relating to rabbis or their learning, writings, etc. 2. for the rabbinate: a rabbinical school.’ (I don’t know why the second definition is necessary; a rabbinical school is ‘of or relating to rabbis’ and as such fits into definition 1.) Google Ngrams shows that rabbinical was more common historically, but that the use of rabbinic has soared since the late 1940s, certainly as a result of the founding of the modern nation of Israel.

During my first stay in Korea, I taught for one year at a government high school. The English coordinator introduced me to the music teacher, but her English was so limited that there no chance of any serious collaboration. (It is possible to collaborate musically without a common language, but neither of us was really inclined.) Towards the end of my year there, the English coordinator told me that the music teacher was giving a demonstration lesson, with her homeroom class, for the inspectors from the provincial education office, and that any of the school’s teachers could also observe. I was free at that time, so I went and observed. I immediately noticed that her homeroom class was the worst class I had – very low level and very badly behaved (maybe I already knew that). They behaved for her though, and at the end of the lesson the class captain gave a signal and they all stood up and bowed to her. I thought ‘The little shits!’.

The reason I mention this is that her lesson was about Cats, including Memory and Jellicle Songs. The video she used was subtitled in Korean. I already knew the word 고양이, but the adjectives flew by so quickly that I couldn’t read, let alone remember, any of them. Google Translate translates the first of them – ‘Practical cats’ – as 실용적인 고양이, which certainly doesn’t fit the meter.

(The spell check on Pages for Mac doesn’t recognise delphicoracle, dispeptical, romantical and penantical, and the one on WordPress doesn’t recognise those or dramatical (or, for that matter, recognise).)

Words copyright, quoted under the ‘fair use’ provisions of the relevant copyright Acts.


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