Articles by Jerome Shea

Jerome Shea is an emeritus professor of English at the University of New Mexico, where he still teaches his classical tropes course every fall and his prose style course every spring. He has been the Weekend Wonk since January of 2007. His email is


  November 25, 2011

Patience is a virtue / Have it if you can / Never in a woman / And seldom in a man. Well, whoever said that was a misogynist of the first water. Seems to me that women are much more patient than men. But I digress—without even having established a point to digress from. What got me thinking about patience was watching my goldfish under the ice the other morning. We just had a cold snap here in the Duke City, making for about three inches of ice on the little goldfish pond in the back yard.

Power to the People

  November 25, 2011

The heavyweight of all the argumentums, it seems to me, is the argumentum ad populum, the appeal to the crowd, to their passions and biases. If you need your rabble roused and you are an accomplished word man, ad populum will do the trick. What makes it so versatile, as we shall see, is that it often drags in other argumentums, especially ad misericordiam and ad hominem. Long before sociologists began to study crowd psychology, orators knew well how to exploit it.

Rollin' on the River(s) and Other Doings of the Summertime Sheas

  November 25, 2011

The old wonker is back, after a very busy summer of traveling. I think the Long-suffering Diana and I—or at least I—were gone more than we were home, and I appreciate Matt’s having suggested that I take the summer off.* It was a good break, but I look forward now to banging out more wonks, teaching my classical tropes course, and, since Albuquerque persists in turning into Phoenix, getting a break from the summer heat.

Shining Heroes and Dastardly Villains

  November 25, 2011

Can you stand one more wonk on argumentum ad populum? That’s the spirit. After this one I will put my hobby horse in the stable and bar the door. What interests me especially about ad populum is that there is no one strategy to associate it with, as for example with ad vericundiam, where you try to impress the audience with so-called expert testimony, or ad ignorantiam, where you hold that a proposition is true—Obama was born in Kenya—because no one has proven it false to your satisfaction.

Shrink Rap

  November 25, 2011

“Magic words of poof, poof piffles make me just as small as Sniffles.” (“Mary Jane and [her mouse friend] Sniffles,” a comic book series from my long lost childhood) We are all drawn to the miniature. Ships (in or out of bottles), toy poodles (and then teacup poodles!), doll houses, model airplanes that can actually fly, Matchbook cars, toy soldiers. Our folklore is rife with tiny human-like creatures: pixies, fairies, elves, leprechauns.

Small World

  November 25, 2011

“But it is what is left from little lives, well enough lived, that we can carry with us most easily when the lives have passed, lovely miniatures that ride lightly in the corner of a pocket and fit in the cup of our hand.” (Tom Teepen, syndicated columnist) I see by the paper that Guinness has given the palm to the world’s smallest cow, a bovine about the size of an ovine (sorry, couldn’t resist).


  November 25, 2011

Time again to clean off the workbench. So, in no particular order… I hated to leave the topic of miniatures, and I got some good feedback, too. Joe calls my attention to nanotechnology, a big (pun intended) recent development. Scientists are getting so savvy at the molecular level that they have developed, for example, a one-molecule engine. (I think that’s what I had in my Geo Metro.) Now THAT’s a miniature!

Tears, Idle Tears

  November 25, 2011

Let’s hear it for sadness. No need to whoop and holler, but let’s hear it anyway. Sadness is sadly underrated. Let me quickly say that I am certainly not talking about depression, and if you have ever been clinically depressed you know what I mean. Depression is a thirsty leech on the soul and we will speak no more about it. Sadness—the sadness that I am talking about—is a condition of living and can affect even the determined optimist.

The Neanderthals Next Door

  November 25, 2011

An excellent article on Neanderthals in the current issue of The New Yorker (August 15 and 22) got me thinking about this creature from the dawn of our history. That’s easy to do. I don’t know anyone who can resist imagining these very early humans—for humans they now appear to have been—and speculating on what they were like, what became of them, and—on the fringes—whether they still survive somewhere. In one sense they do indeed survive, if we can believe the latest findings.

The Wages of Sin

  November 25, 2011

This was supposed to be a lark, an easy summer wonk. Perhaps an account of my week in Louisville reading the Advance Placement essays, and then of our road trip to SoCal to visit son Dan and some old Albuquerque friends who recently moved to San Diego. And then the fecal matter collided with the oscillating device. I refer to the astounding scandal here at UNM, the fascinating saga of the “Southwest Companions.

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