WORDS! WORDS! WORDS! Hamlet (II.2)

Ted seriously pondering over the crossword puzzle.

To me and to some of Ted’s friends and students it was apparent how much Ted loved words, syntax, dialects, all things related to language.  He loved to create a well-turned phrase especially when laced with humor.

Once he told me that during his youth he noticed how his mother loved to do the New York Times crossword puzzle to which he wouldn’t give a second thought, and how this mildly disappointed her.

Perhaps within a year after Ted and I had met, he noticed I had an established morning routine consisting of first bringing in the newspaper, putting on a pot of coffee, feeding the cats, then settling in to have my coffee and do the New York Times crossword puzzle.  There were occasions when questions about Pop-culture or sports arose as clues and Ted knew the answers instantly!  This began to engender a mild curiosity and interest.  At some point, a particularly challenging puzzle appeared and Ted offered to assist.  That day the two of us spent hours pondering the possibilities until we solved the entire torturous conundrum of that puzzle.   From then on Ted was hooked.  He told me he wished his mother could see him now, how “tickled she would be, and pleased as punch.”

Since the crossword puzzle obsession was mine, I would continue to do the weekday ones but conceded to share the big Sunday puzzle with Ted.  Needless to say, this was a delight for us, many a time quite humorous, and even educational!  Another thing Ted truly loved to do: THINK!

Quincy pointing out a sale on his favorite cat food.

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  1. David Bishop
    August 9, 2010 at 3:33 am

    That rascal, Quincy!

  2. September 20, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    I only know the publicly visible tip of Ted’s iceberg, but it’s interesting to me that there’s no visible record of Ted writing song lyrics.

    But I can easily see how a love of language could be exercised and fulfilled through music alone. Music is certainly its own language, as Ted said in the introduction to at least one of his books. I’ve found that revising a written phrase is similar in many ways to playing with variations on a melody.

    Thank you so much for this site, Barbara. I spend hours here… and I’d love to read more about Ted’s relationship with words–he’s so articulate.

  3. September 21, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Hi Nicholas,
    Ted never had a desire to be a lyric writer nor a poet. The only poetry experiences Ted had were when I shared something with him I knew he would appreciate. Likewise, he never listened to the words to songs; his total focus was the music.
    Regarding words, Ted’s interest was primarily in language usage and especially syntax. He had a natural ability for expression, which developed and grew from vast amounts of reading and teaching. All of Ted’s reading was non-fiction, a good part of his reading included music theory and harmony books, sometimes for learning purposes, but in latter years he also sought clarity in the expression of concepts. He had a high regard for a well-expressed explanation and would note that in the margins of books.
    Ted’s word-play was unique and humorous. Primarily the word-play would be interlaced throughout conversation, or found in margins of a book for his personal amusement. An example in which Ted noted to himself on 10/26/00, “Ted, this is your funniest stuff ever,” were comments he wrote about text in an old music book. I quote Ted’s margin notes, “Absurd in exactitude; love and apprehension colliding on the ‘don’t play it funky now’ highway. Don Ho Ho & The King James Brown Consortium join up with The Greenwich Village Sformandoing Smithies to perform the ‘Sonata de Cupcake’ by Ludwig von Bakeoven.” Another one, “Don Diego Debussy’s axiom, maximshuganonabsolutum #1: ‘Leave out a rest, go to siesta school.’ (whose graduation from has not been unknown to be of indeterminate length.)”
    These examples usually found their way into general everyday conversation and would have me and many others laughing hysterically.

    Nicholas, I am so pleased that you enjoy this site, I have posted much of what Ted has actually written down here already. I wish he’d written more. I bring to your notice – all of the interviews are of Ted’s own construction.
    All the best, Barbara

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