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Sherlock Holmes and English
Posted: 01 October 2012 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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[sobiest said:]

but to rip the characters out of their historical context and “re-use” them strikes me as… ah, I don’t know… how about, “artistically incestuous?”

[Dave Wilton replied:]

I disagree. There’s a long history of adapting characters and stories into other media and contexts in literature, stage, and film. (Not to mention rearranging, remixing, and covering musical compositions.) Should all James Bond films be set in the 1950s starring a character who is a sociopathic thug? Should Superman forever dwell in the 1930s? Recasting the context can be an extremely effective way to breathe new life into a character when a particular actor has defined the character in the “canonical” style (which for me and Holmes is Jeremy Brett, a far superior performance to Rathbone). Of course it has to be well done....

Good point. I noted that mine was a snarky comment, but I did think the thought as I imagined sitting at a blank paper, poised to write a screenplay. In my imagination, I rejected the idea of using the Sherlock Holmes character in favor of a new character, and thus the snarky comment was born. (I didn’t actually write much on that imaginary paper, by the way.)

Also, shortly thereafter, I was listening to Lenard Bernstein’s Norton series lecture #6, The Unanswered Question: The Poetry of Earth, where some of Stravinsky’s work is considered.  Stravinsky quite freely conscripted aspects of the music of others, including traditional folk musics in much of his work. It is difficult to see the connection unless one is familiar with the other music and musical forms. This process of allusion enriches his work, and indeed the world of music and culture.

Case in point: The Hobbit has many allusions to Beowulf, and is much the richer for it.

Rathbone may have been unforgettable mainly due to the calabash pipe he used for it’s visual appeal. (I understand that the calabash pipe was traditionally used in theater because its distinct shape and large size allow it to be easily recognized from the far audience as a pipe.) In the written stories, Holmes smoked a cherry-wood pipe with a long stem, and sometimes a long stemmed clay-bowled pipe, possibly a churchwarden-style of pipe.

[Edit: It was most often mentioned to be a clay pipe, but also (less frequently) cherry-wood, and briar. See Dr. Techie’s post, immediately below]

[ Edited: 01 October 2012 12:18 PM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 01 October 2012 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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I think in the stories he most often smoked a briar, not cherrywood. [Edit: I erred.  Having searched The Adventures of S.H. at Project Gutenburg, I find that when the type of pipe is mentioned, it is most often clay, with one mention each of briar and cherry-wood.]

I’ve read that that calabash-meerschaum was popular with actors portraying Holmes because it hung well on the lower teeth, making it possible to speak without having to take it out before every line.  I cannot guarantee the truth of this.

[ Edited: 01 October 2012 12:10 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 01 October 2012 06:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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To my mind, although the Rathbone and Bruce movies are enjoyable in their own right, the characters are very little like those in the novels and short stories.

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Posted: 01 October 2012 06:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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I never enjoyed Bruce. He portrayed Watson as an idiot. Holmes would never tolerate having an idiot around. In the books, and most other screen portrayals, Watson is depicted as smart and capable; it’s just that Holmes’s intellect is on another plane of existence.

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Posted: 02 October 2012 02:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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While I quite agree that Dr Watson was no idiot, Doyle does have a lot of fun with him when he portrays him applying Holmes’ methods and coming to spectacularly wrong conclusions. It’s this aspect of Watson which Bruce has built his portrayal on. He’s certainly exaggerated it but on the other hand he also conveys many other of Watson’s qualities in the movies, eg his loyalty to Holmes, his bravery. It may not be entirely canonic Watson but it’s most amusing to watch and the one thing that Rathbone and Bruce bring out rather well is the indissoluble bond between the two men.

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Posted: 02 October 2012 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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I wholly agree with your critique, aldi. The Rathbone/Bruce pair may be a long way from the canonical Holmes/Watson, but they were great fun to watch. And as Dave justly points out, Holmes and Watson are, after all, the stuff of legend - which may reappear in any number of guises.

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Posted: 05 October 2012 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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’At what o’clock did Mr. Drebber leave your house for the train?”

This use of o’clock is common in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

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Posted: 05 October 2012 06:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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OP Tipping - 05 October 2012 04:11 PM

‘At what o’clock did Mr. Drebber leave your house for the train?”

This use of o’clock is common in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

A sufficient answer to the question, “At what o’clock did Mr. Drebber leave your house for the train?” might be, “It was nine o’clock.”

“O’clock,” I thought, simply meant “of the clock,” as in time of the clock, or “time of day.”

Q: “What time is it?”

A: “It is nine ‘o’[f the ]clock.’”

Doesn’t “o’clock"=time of day as read by a reader of the clock?

How is this not interchangeable with responding to the question, “What time is it?” with, “It is nine.”

Am I missing something here?

How is this usage pointed out above unusual in current English language convention?

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Posted: 05 October 2012 07:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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How is this usage pointed out above unusual in current English language convention?

Well, very unusual. I’ve never encountered it before, by anyone from anywhere. Have you?

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Posted: 05 October 2012 11:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Yes, but many years ago by an older generation.

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Posted: 06 October 2012 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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The OED marks it as “now rare.” It has three twentieth century citations for this usage, one from Valley of Fear, one from the 1932 stage adaptation of Alice in Wonderland by Gallienne and Friebus, and one from Heyer’s 1951 The Quiet Gentleman, set in Regency England. So the latter two would appear to be deliberately archaic.

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Posted: 06 October 2012 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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It didn’t seem unusual to me.

But, I cannot recall specifically hearing it, or using it.

I would have easily considered using it in speech.

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Posted: 07 October 2012 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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"Shoving the queer” is a phrase Doyle puts into the mouths of his American characters: it means distributing counterfeit money.

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Posted: 07 October 2012 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Queer, both adjective and noun, seems to be a rather common underworld slang term for counterfeit money. According to the OED, it’s still current in both the US and Britain. Dates back to the eighteenth century.

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Posted: 08 October 2012 12:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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The extremely un-PC phrase “queer as a nine-bob note” neatly combines both slang senses of queer.

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