From The Side of the Road… A rose by any other name

Chris Jones

I do my best to keep up with the latest goings on in Bluegrass Today, from recent births, deaths, new releases, and scheduled surgeries of the bluegrass stars. Sometimes one particular article will stand out or really engage my full attention. Such was the case with the recent story about word substitution software badly mangling a press release from the Kentucky Arts Council (Word substitution software makes a hash of Kentucky Arts Council press release). The press release announced that Tom T. Hall and Michael Johnathon were to be given special honors by the governor of Kentucky. Word substitution software was used on the press release, however, and apparently no human being bothered to proof-read the copy before sending it out. The equivalent in music would be to run every part of a band’s recording through auto-tuning software and then just release it before actually listening to what it sounded like.

For starters it changed Tom T. Hall’s name to “Tom T. Corridor” and changed the name of Tom T.’s “Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine” to “Outdated Canines, Kids, and Watermelon Wine” (apparently there are no decent synonyms for “watermelon”).

As a whole, the press release ended up closely related in style to the African bank phishing emails we’ve all grown to love (“Dear Trusted Friend . . .”), or to translating Rocky Top into Tajik with Google Translate, then translating back to English (“Once I had a girl on the rock, lift the other half of the cat”)

I guess the purpose of this kind of program is to find different, and perhaps more creative ways to say things by varying your choices of words for you. It has to be said first of all that this is simply a bad idea in almost any imaginable circumstances. Computers, while being very valuable for finding restaurants, finding mates, tabulating tax deductions, and providing an appealing surface for cats to sleep on, can’t be expected to understand the context of all your words.

I was inspired by it, though, if I’ll confess, and I decided it would be a worthwhile venture (substitute: “waste of time”) to rewrite a portion of Bill Monroe’s Wikipedia entry using this system. I don’t have the sophisticated software used for the Kentucky press release, so I just used an old fashioned word substitution program called a “thesaurus.”

Invoice Monroe:

Invoice Monroe was an American mandolinist, cantor, and poet, who created the “blue turf” music breed. Because of this, he is often called the “Old Man of Blue Turf.” The ilk takes its moniker from his association, The Blue Turf Male Children, who named their ensemble for the blue sod of Monroe’s home condition of Kentucky. Monroe’s enacting career traversed 69 years as a minstrel, soloist, songster, and conductor.

Early Professional Career:

In 1929, Monroe budged to Indiana to exert himself at an oil refinery with his siblings Stick and Charlie, and childhood Quaker and guitarist William “Mature Hardwood” Hardin. Together with a confidant Larry Moore, they formed the “Monroe Siblings” to frisk at local balls and domicile soirees. Stick and Moore soon left the cluster, and Invoice and Charlie behaved badly as a duo, eventually winning spots executing breathing on radio stations, first in Indiana and then, sponsored by Texas Rocks, on several walkie-talkie transmissions in Iowa, Nebraska, South Carolina, and North Carolina from 1934 to 1936. RCA Victor signed the Monroe Siblings to an archiving covenant in 1936. They gouged an immediate smack single with the gospel strain “What Would You Present in Trade For Your Inner Being?” and ultimately recorded 60 footpaths for Victor’s Bluebird sticker between 1936 and 1938. 

Why do I feel like a just played an exhausting round of Mad-Libs solitaire? By the way, my favorite Tom T. Hall song is, “I Laundered My Visage in the Dawn Condensation.”

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