24 March 2013

The professor who invited me to the conference walked into the room where Grafton was giving his third talk and gave me a big hug. Never was a hug more welcome. She held a seat beside me with an acupuncture model of a head. Nearly all of the professors who have shaped my ideas the most turn up. Grafton's talk was fascinating, about philological divination (guessing), his new book project. His erudition, across six or seven languages, was jaw-dropping.

One day later Grafton remembers my name as he enters a conference seminar on Columbus' encounter with the new world. He admires my dedication and I say I'm getting my early modern fix (actually my early modern education.)

Two days later Grafton sits beside me for a seminar on indigenous peoples in London. I cannot for the life of me think of anything to say. I should have told him the persimmon tea was really good! At lunch he talks about how he got the name Grafton (his dad was a journalist and picked the most Protestant sounding name he could think of, the street he grew up on, when told to pick a new one to move with his boss to a bigger newspaper). A colleague from Princeton had given a talk on (non-metaphorical) languages in science and was discussing how Yiddish was descended from middle German along with Hoch Deutch, which, Grafton corrected his colleague, only people from [some place that I have forgotten] learn at home. Grafton then says he didn't learn Yiddish at home because parents at the time didn't want their kids to have the accent. He says he learned a little bit at Princeton.

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