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June 1, 2003

Dangling engineer
Posted by Teresa at 09:57 AM *

I had this morning a note from John M. Ford:

From a British documentary on the Great Train Robbery:
“The brakeman returned to the cab to find his engineer on the floor, his head bleeding. It was filled with men in balaklava masks that hid their faces.”
Obviously an inside job.
Addendum: If you don’t read the comments, you’ll never understand how we got from this post to Elise’s finial reply:
Oh, dear. Now I have something dreadfully Hiawatha-like in my head. (With a balaklava mask on, no doubt.)
Then returned the mighty brakeman To the cab in which he found him
Found the noble Hiawatha
Lying on the floor and bleeding
With a head all full of pastry
Sweet and flaky layered pastry
On the men with hidden faces
Tiny men with hidden faces
In the head of Hiawatha
ackj;kljfthpth ok, i’ll stop now.
Comments on Dangling engineer:
#1 ::: Davey ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2003, 10:09 AM:

Ruthless thogs, those guys.

#2 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2003, 11:44 AM:

Are you sure it was a British documentary? It uses the American words "Brakeman" and "Engineer" rather than the British "Guard" and "Driver".

#3 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2003, 02:44 PM:

But it uses the word 'balaklava' (shouldn't that be 'balaclava'?) instead of 'bandanna'.

That said, I sometimes wear a baklava mask that hides my face...or my mouth at any rate!

#4 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2003, 03:11 PM:

It was a British doc, with British narrator -- part of a long-running "Great Crimes" series that History International shows -- but I may well have accidentally revised the words in the half-hour or so between seeing it and sending Teresa the note. (I -do- have a fairly complete vocabulary of UK railspeak, at least at less early hours of the morning.)

And a balaklava (which can be spelled either way) isn't a bandanna -- it's a pullover hood, what Americans call a "ski mask."

#5 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2003, 03:34 PM:

His problem is all in his head.

#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2003, 12:23 AM:

Chris, a balaclava is one of those knitted head-condoms that terrorists and bank robbers are so fond of.

#7 ::: marty ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2003, 12:17 PM:

I still can't get it out of my head that they are talking about baklava, a pastry.

#8 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2003, 05:38 PM:

If it were a sticky enough pastry, they could be viscous criminals?

Sorry, couldn't resist...

#9 ::: Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 01:54 AM:

He's filled with tinier men!

#10 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 08:13 AM:

Got to love those unclear antecedants....
Thanks for sharing!

(Back to watching out for sheep gambling in the meadow....)

#11 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 08:51 AM:

corrections:

1. The brakeman, his head bleeding, returned to find the engineer on the floor in his cabin, filled with men eating greek pastry that hid their faces.

2. The bleeding brakeman, returned to find his head engineer floored in the men-filled cabin, a hidden balaclava masking his face.

3. The brakeman returned to the head to find his engineer bleeding from the cabin, filled by men in balaclava masks that hid their faces.

4. broken man and bleeding,
from the engineered head,
from the masked face,
returned to the hidden cabin
with his head on its floor.

5. The masked brakeman, returned the cab to his hidden engineer, filled with men wearing balaclavas that hid their bleeding faces.

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 08:57 AM:

Bryan, I am slain.

#13 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 12:24 PM:

You left out "Blood was pouring from the head of the engineer, who lay on the floor of the cab as the brakeman entered to find it filled with men in face-hiding balaclava masks."

Also "On the floor of the cab as the brakeman entered lay the engineer, bleeding from the head, and surrounded by balaclava-masked men."

And the extremely GERMAN "The brakeman returned to the men-in-face-hiding-balaclava-masks-filled, having-on-the-floor-the-from-the-head-bleeding-engineer cab."

While seldom tempted by the likes of the third of these, I go through and discard many, many variations like the first two every time I try to write...this may be why I've finished only one story (and that stream-of-consciousness) in the past 20 years.

Anyone else doubt that the GTR felons wore balaclavas? Were they in fashion at the time? If so, have I just been hornswoggled by too many movies, including the famous very first one?

#14 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 01:54 PM:

Huh.

I too first thought it was some odd misspelling of "baklava," then realized it was something else and began to confuse it with "balalaika," which made for an even more surreal image.

After all, this being the old west, they would have covered their heads with banjos while they cleverly hid in the engineer's wound.

#15 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 03:56 PM:

Xopher, I think in German it would be "The brakeman to the men-in-face-hiding-balaclava-masks-filled, having-on-the-floor-the-from-the-head-bleeding-engineer cab returned." Verb at the end.

Just one of many reasons I'm glad my ancestors came to America.

#16 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 04:00 PM:

Naw. There's always a chunk of verb in the second position in a German declarative. It would be "The brakeman turned to the men-in-face-hiding-balaclava-masks-filled, having-on-the-floor-the-from-the-head-bleeding-engineer cab re."

#17 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 04:55 PM:

Now someone translate all that into Klingon...

#18 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 07:55 PM:

Idiomatic Klingon translation:

Robbed train. Left no witnesses.

#19 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 08:30 PM:

Xopher, my German classes were long ago, but isn't the prefix in the second position? Thus, "the brakeman re to the men-in-face-hiding-balaclava-masks-filled, having-on-the-floor-the-from-the-head-bleeding-engineer cab turned."

Owie. Now I remember why I do medieval French instead.

#20 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 08:59 PM:

I've spent too much time in offices. Anne, that leads me irresistibly to

MEMO

FROM: The Head bleeding Engineer
TO: The Brakeman
RE: Men in face-hiding balaclava masks

Please ensure that subject men fill the cab and are turned toward the floor.

#21 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 01:08 AM:

Anne:
No, Xopher has got it right. The verb stays put in the middle, the prefix separates and goes drifting off in the breeze, eventually to turn up at the end of the sentence.

#22 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 12:02 PM:

It's the auxiliary verb that stays in second place in German sentences and lets the main verb wander off to the end.

E.g.,

Der Lokomotivfuehrer sollte das Baklava essen.

Or something like that.

#23 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 12:29 PM:

Vielen Dank, messieurs dames...I made it out of German alive only because my 4th-semester prof saw how bad we were and used the grammar-translation method exclusively. (If there's one thing I can do, it's look stuff up.) So I'm always pleased to dig random little bits of grammar out of my subconscious and dust them off.

#24 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 09:59 PM:

-- Where is the potato?
She is on the sideboard.
-- Where is the lovely young maiden?
It is in the parlor.

No points for sourcing -that- one.

#25 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 02:44 PM:

Yes, John, because the -chen suffix is (or was formerly) always gramatically neuter. BUT in that particular case the feminine gender is commonly used, for exactly the cog-dis reason you point out.

#26 ::: Vancouverite ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2003, 01:40 AM:

But, more importantly, is a balaclava named after the battle of Balaclava? or is that Crimean site named after the fashion item which we in the upper 13 are so fond of, especially in 40 below temperatures?

#27 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2003, 01:47 PM:

As for whether the Great Train Robbery perps wore balaclavae, I expect this is the 1963 GTR, as opposed to all the other GTRs.

#28 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 06:59 PM:

Andrew, it's a bit much to copy and repost the entire thread. The usual practice is to reproduce an amusing chunk of it, and send the readers over to look at the rest in situ.

Reproducing entire documents (or, in this case, entire compilations) is generally a bad idea. Fair use lets you quote a portion for the sake of commentary. Quoting the entire work is infringement.

I'm glad you liked it, though. I hope you go on liking my comment threads in the future, because I truly think they're the best part of my weblog. I'm just hoping you'll express your appreciation in a different way.

Cheers --

Teresa Nielsen Hayden

#29 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 09:38 PM:

Simon:

Der Lokomotivfuehrer sollte das Baklava essen.

Yes, exactly. Putting on my poker face, I see your auxiliary verb, and raise it to subjunctive:

Der Lokomotivefuehrer haette das Baklava essen sollen.


#30 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2003, 12:13 PM:

String raise!

#31 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2003, 02:22 PM:

Oh, dear. Now I have something dreadfully Hiawatha-like in my head. (With a balaklava mask on, no doubt.)

Then returned the mighty brakeman
To the cab in which he found him
Found the noble Hiawatha
Lying on the floor and bleeding
With a head all full of pastry
Sweet and flaky layered pastry
On the men with hidden faces
Tiny men with hidden faces
In the head of Hiawatha

ackj;kljfthpth ok, i'll stop now

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