Pronunciation: Liszt

When I was 11, my teachers taught me to say ‘Dvorak’, ‘etude’, and ‘allargando’ to keep me from sounding like a yokel. I can tell you who my favorite pianist is, and it’s suitably obscure. I know where to find the unicorn musical direction ‘beklemmt. I know the story of the Shreveport Tosca. I can chat about modulation styles as they changed over the 19th century.  In other words, if I feel like it, I can use language to flash my in-crowd street-cred at any classical music event, anywhere. I can drop names, make inside jokes (I’m very proud of some of them) add meaningful trivia, and fight over chaconnes with the very best of them. I have a nemesis, though, something that can make me feel like I don’t and never will belong with the in crowd.

Franz Liszt

*stares into middle distance, displays hands conspicuously*

This is Franz Liszt. His name comes up from time to time.

How in Euterpe’s name should ‘Liszt’ be pronounced?

I do whatever has to be done to avoid saying Liszt. If I can’t get around it, I make a joke and get all crazy with the z. Liszzzzzzzzsst…zzzzz…st.

Time to stop all that. I met a Hungarian physicist a few weeks ago, and while we walked along a lake, he kindly, if amusedly, explained the rule.

In Hungarian, and Liszt, folks, is Hungarian,

S = shhhh, nice and harsh. As in “shit”. I’m just quoting my friend.
Z = zzzzz… they’re not total heathens.

SZ =….. sss. just s.

So go out there, and casually call him Franz ‘List’, and if anyone (hopefully your attractive date, but I can’t help you with that…) points it out, just tell them.

“Oh, in Hungarian, ‘sz’ just says ‘s’.”

Optimists, Pessimists, Physicists.

I am not a natural optimist. In fact, I like to call myself a realist. That means, to the uninitiate, that I am a pessimist. Fine, so be it. That doesn’t have to mean I’m bitter and angry all the time. You have to admit, there are more kinds of people than just two.  There are lots of different kinds of optimists and pessimists. Try to think of it this way:

Pessimist 1: Expects the worst, gets the worst and takes a melancholy joy in such. Result: a style of happiness Ex: Eeyore.

Pessimist 2: Expects the worst. Sometimes is blind sided by God’s Hilarity and is proved wrong. Result: Confused. Ex. Me.

Optimist 1: Expects the worst, and has the delight of being occasionally proved wrong.  Result: Happy. Ex: My mom…

Optimist 2: Expects the best and is regularly let down by everything. Result: Sad. Ex: I can’t think of one. But it’s someone tragic.

However, don’t you think that this is still an oversimplification? This glass.

It is half full to you, half empty to me…but to others…. maybe there are just 6 ounces in a 12 ounce glass. There is another kind of person out there. One who is sometimes happy and sometimes sad, but as for a general outlook it is… factual, observant, and remarkably matter of fact.

Let me show you what I mean with a little moment from my family history.

My mother enjoys rearranging furniture. It doesn’t matter if the previous arrangements were nice or comfy. Every so often, she just likes to move stuff about. She is also deliberately unconcerned about moving heavy things. The sleeper sofa, oversized chair, full bookshelves and the piano were as fair a game as end tables and fireplace sets. One day, she took it into her funny head to move the piano from the dining room into the drawing room. Past the table, through the door, around a corner. Just a heavy heavy piano. Oh and being moved by one woman, one girl and a 12 year old boy. Yeah, I know. Can’t be done.

Oh yes it can! my mother put her back into the matter and began to shove.

Perhaps, if we turn it about….. my brother said.

Honestly, Mom, stop trying. It can’t be done.

Sure we can!

Really, if we turn it, it’ll be fine!

We argued and shoved. Mom laughed. I cried. My brother maneuvered. My mother nearly brought us to ruin at the corner with her cheerful piano pushing. At that moment, I totally despaired. Look how the piano is wedged between rooms! Now my brother will be stuck in the drawing room forever and we will have to pass him food through the piano legs! He’ll never get married, and I’ll never be an aunt! Mom stood back undaunted but confused and said, “Hm.” My brother pleaded with us. JUST TURN IT!

By turning the piano, we got it through the door. The corner was navigated in much the same fashion. Mom’s zeal wedged the piano hopelessly in a corner. I wailed. Now my brother would be stuck in a tiny corner forever. We’d have to knock out a wall to get him out. The whole front of the house would be destroyed; even the pretty sunburst shaped decoration over the front door. If we didn’t, he’d die back there. My brother calmly explained. “If we turn it….”

In the end, I was wrong. The piano made it to the proper corner. But my mom was wrong too. Mere optimism and feats of strength did not get that piano where it was going. In the end, it was my brother, evaluating the space and the shapes, thinking through the ramifications, adjusting for the insanity wrought by female family, it was my brother who got the piano to its new resting place.

It’ll never work.

Sure it will!

If we turn it…..

Now, I thought at the time that this was an isolated incident. I also thought it was isolated to my family. I did think that.

After my brother got married, I took charge of his cat. This cat is her own long long tale (get it?), but for now, I’ll say that she is feisty, and adorable, preferring to climb things over any other activity. To give her something to climb, my mom donated an old trellis. This is a large trellis, but it had to come back with me from my brother’s house to my house.

Terpsichore said “It’ll fit in my car!”
“No, no, …no it won’t ever fit.” I said.

Then my brother’s friend, a brilliant young physicist, entered the conversation. Clearly he was pondering and ruminating. He put his head on one side and said thoughtfully,
“I bet if you turned it, you’d be fine.”