Pete Seeger messes around with English

Pete Seeger, American institution, died this week. He is one of those figures who, even when living, seemed only legendary, like John Henry or Paul Bunyan. How could any person actually have lived the life he actually lived?

But since he did actually live, I had the chance to see him perform a few times. I attended one concert in California and one performance in DC, but most memorable for me was a free concert I saw him give in 1985 in New Paltz, NY, not far from his home in Beacon along the Hudson River. There he was in his element, and it was there he handed out a flier with one of the more memorable puns I've come across.

Here's the set-up: In 1985, the Nuclear Freeze Movement was at its peak, and there was a unique march upcoming in Washington, DC. Across the country peace activists had created 36-inch cloth panels that could be tied together at the ends. The goal was to extend the panels around the Pentagon, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial—the effect of which can be seen on the cover of the book about this march:

Other example panels can be viewed on the Mennonite Life site, and you can read a Schenectady Gazette news story that mentions Pete Seeger in its coverage.

In preparation for the event Pete handed out a flier to us concert-attendees describing the project. In the flier was included this description:
It's a Frieze Movement, sew to speak.
. . . which I have never forgotten as an excellent example of Pete's sense of humor and appreciation for great language.

And over at the Visual Thesaurus, they also talk about Pete's love of language, as demonstrated by the accompanying video, "English Is Crazy."

No comments: