Additional April Letters

War of the Words

In “Gertrude Stein’s Radical Grammar” (February), Kay Armatage quotes Stein’s famous line, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” The line is, in fact, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” (“Sacred Emily,” 1913), which may refer to Sir Francis Rose, an English painter.

Clifton Fadiman caught the essence of Ms. Stein in Party of One, when he wrote that she was “a past master in the art of making nothing happen very slowly.”

Jim Lotz
Halifax, Nova Scotia

In her article, “Gertrude Stein’s Radical Grammar,” Kay Armatage misquotes her subject. Ms. Stein’s famous declaration, in the 1913 poem “Sacred Emily,” was “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” without the initial indefinite article. The subject is a young girl, Rose Lucie Renée Anne d’Aiguy, whom Stein and Alice B. Toklas met on holiday. Rose was also the inspiration of Stein’s small book for children, The World is Round.

Alan Strand
Lachine, Quebec

Editor’s Note:
The first line of Stein’s poem, “Sacred Emily,” is indeed “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” (The jury is out as to whether “Rose” refers to Sir Francis Rose or Rose Lucie Renée Anne d’Aiguy.) However, Stein later amended the phrase in a number of works, including “Poetry and Grammar”: “When I said/A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose./And then later made that into a ring I made poetry and what did I do I caressed completely caressed and addressed a noun.”

Ken Alexander’s February Sighting (“Nation Proliferation”) was excellent, but a “tinker’s damn”? No sir, a “tinker’s dam.” A tinker was an itinerant who would mend kettles and other tinware by using a little dam of dough or clay to stop the solder from spreading. The “dam” would then be thrown away, a worthless little plug.

Charles Cooper,
Lindsay, Ontario

Editor’s Note:
It seems there are two camps here: Tinker’s Dam, in the red bandanas, are headed by Edward Knight, who wrote a
Practical Dictionary of Mechanics in 1877; Tinker’s Damn, in the blue bandanas (of course), honour Henry David Thoreau, who is first recorded using the expression in 1839. In an apparently unsuccessful attempt to avoid a thrashing, The Walrus deferred to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary’s spelling.

1 comment(s)

Jean d'Aiguy M.MJuly 27, 2008 14:29 EST

Maybe I can help clarify a little on Gertrude Stein famous line Rose is A rose is a rose... My mother was born in 1928 and
the 1913 poem Sacred Emily and quote was before her birth. As for the painter Francis Rose I do not beleive the poem is addressed to him. I beleive the that the line became my mother as it is dedicated to her personnally in "The World is Round" at the beginning of the book quote : to Rose Lucy René Anne d'Aiguy with rose is a rose is a rose going around and around my mothers name. One must mot forget that Gertrude Stein Painted a picture in writing that is why her lines and quotes have a diferent meanning as the times change... Rose d'Aiguy son Jean d'Aiguy M.M

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