All posts by Richard K. Munro (Auld Munro)

Like Russell Kirk, I am a great admirer of the late Gilbert Highet. I am the president and founder of the Gilbert Highet Society (on Facebook) which includes many scholars and authors. I was intensely homeschooled as a boy learning English phonics, drama, and oratory as well as the history of the Raj and British Empire where my people prominently served as Empire builders in the Merchant Marine, Indian Civil Service or Highland Regiments. My people specialized in building ships, trains, bridges and were interpreters or scouts for the British Army or Navy for generations. For many generations, it was the desire of each son of Munro, Fraser, MacFarlane or MacKenzie to go a-soldiering far "frae the hame" and to return to marry a woman of his faith "and race and line" and by that was meant to marry a woman of the Gaeltacht (Gaidhealteachd). Two things changed this pattern forever. 1) the depopulation of the Highlands from 1790-1890 meaning there was no place to go home to and 2) the Catastrophe of what we called An Cogadh Mor (the Big War) and An Cogadh Hitler (the Hitler War) 1914-1945. This led to the biggest catastrophe of all -the British Empire went smash and so we became "Orphans of Empire." But the old Highland prophecy sang "Is gearr gach reachd ach riaghailt Dhe" (Each realm is short but the Kingdom of God. " We have seen many Empires rise and fall. I am a teacher of English, Spanish.& history. Author of Spying for the Other Side, KIM PHILBY &The Historic El CID. I have authored one-act plays such as "Euripides' Trojan Women (Calliope),"Romans on the Rhine", "Clad in Gold Our Young Mary" "Beneath Alexandria's Sapphire Sky" among others. Certified teacher in history, Spanish and English. MA Spanish Literature. BA with Honors (NYU '78) winner of Helen M. Jones Prize for History. ISI Fellow UVA 2004-2005. Board of Advisors PRO-ENGLISH I have edited galleys of several books but especially CHURCHILL WALKING WITH DESTINY for my dear friend Andrew Roberts with whom it was my honor to serve. I consider this biography to be the greatest biography of our time both for history and as literature. I Have taught Spanish for Native Speakers, AP US HISTORY, AP Spanish as well as English for Learners in the USA and Spain. My specialty is English literacy for newcomers (emphasizing phonics, diction, and grammar) and sheltered English immersion Social Studies (history) for English learners. I believe in sheltered English immersion for newcomers (English language books, notes, tests and quizzes with some translation and bilingual glossaries available. I have a New Wine Credential. I am married with three children. Two of our children are teachers and one is an engineer. I am proud to have served as a peacetime "Ice Cream" Marine (reserves) and to hold an honorable discharge from USMCR. My people served in the Armies of many Allied Powers 1914-1945; we served under the King's and Queen's Colours of the Red, White ,and Blue of the United Kingdom in every generation since 1707. No one "in my race and line" (to use the old expression) was ever conscripted or press-ganged into service. The graves of my kith and kin who answered the call are found in American and Allied cemeteries around the globe. Spain. Italy. Greece, Belgium, France, Germany. Guadalcanal, North Africa, Burma, India. I have made pilgrimages to many of these places. Perhaps the saddest are the Menin Gate (Ypres), Normandy and Dunkirk. Dozens of close family friends and relatives were killed there including the entire football team of my father's youth. Along with the 51st Highland Division, every single man was killed, wounded or captured. There was no evacuation for them. Captain Patrick Munro was a POW for five years. Many died "fo sgail a Swastika"(under the dark shadow of the Swastika) as slave laborers in the mines and factories of the 3rd Reich. NE not forget. Caisteal Folais Na Theine; the signal fire was set and we answered the call. (An Gairm). The Brave will be tried and no hero is proof against wound. God made man strong only for a while so that he could serve the Chief and help others. Never seek a fight but never shun one either. Touch not this cat but with a glove. My parents emigrated to the USA when young in 1923 and 1927. The war destroyed the fragile economic communities from which they came and essentially no one ever returned. They became US citizens and were Americans by choice. Both graduated from public high school and were the first and only members of their families to graduate from high school and go on to college. My mother was an RN and came from a strict Free Church Calvinist family. My father had a BA in English and French Comparative Literature and was a Roman Catholic. They were married in two separate Catholic and Anglican ceremonies. No one in my mother's family came to either wedding and during the entire war period, my mother had no contact with her mother and family. Needless to say, from a young age I was exposed to great sectarian hatreds and prejudices and this almost destroyed my Christian faith altogether. What saved me? The love of good Christians; the forgiveness of good Christians. I am a direct descendant of the recusant Gaels of Ferindonald baptized by the martyr Father Robert Munro in the 18th century. My father's mother was baptized in Oban, Scotland by Father Allan MacDonald and my father by Father Collins (St. Anthony's Glasgow). Both religious were graduates of the Scots College in Valladolid (Spain) and spoke fluent Italian and Spanish. In the 20th Century, my family emigrated to the Americas (Chile, Canada, and the USA) My uncle worked in Chile and Argentina circa 1914-1936 and my father was an American officer in Texas, Louisiana and the Pacific Theater during WWII. My father was a notable amateur linguist ( reading ancient Greek, Latin, speaking Tagalog, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian). I grew up in a multilingual cosmopolitan household and cannot remember a time when I spoke, sang or heard only English. My mother played the piano and sang in five languages. I lived and studied in Spain and got my MA in Spanish Literature there via the University of Northern Iowa under the legendary Adolfo Franco Pino. I first visited Spain and Italy in 1964. My primary interest is in classical literature (chiefly English and Spanish), history, music, and poetry particularly the music and literature of the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands. Cuimhnich air na daoine bhon tainig mise (I remember the people I came from...the Gaels of Cioch Mhor in Ferindonald). Most of my family today is Spanish-speaking (Spain, Mexico, Chile and the USA). Most of us follow the faith of St. Maelrubha, St. Columba, St. Patrick and St. Mungo. Of course, no Highlander ever recognized St. Andrew as a patron per se as he was later accretion of lowlanders as worthy as St. Andrew is. I was married in Spain and my son was married in Mexico. Every marriage in our family for centuries has a direct or indirect connection to Spain either through marriage in Spain or marriage by priests educated in the Scots College in Spain or Rome. I believe in the policy of the Buen Vecino (the Good Neighbor) and in la conviviencia (peaceful coexistence) of different cultures, languages and religions. I realize I am the very last of my race but am glad to be the father of a new race of Americans whose blood comes from the peoples and races of four continents. Hyphenations can be good descriptors but they are usually a temporary condition like bilingualism. Monolingualism, cultural diffusion and assimilation are the natural tendency of the human race.

Why do men fight? What makes for a great military unit?

Fighting for one’s comrades is thought to be the main driver, I believe. Anyone? Richard Brookheiser.
MUNRO: speaking as a former Marine and son and nephew of WWII Army vets and descended from a long line of Argylls @ArgyllsMuseum, comradeship is vital but only a part of what makes for a great military unit. 1)For example, (2) not a single Argyll was executed for desertion or cowardice 1914-1945. But Auld Pop witnessed the French executing their own, especially Black Colonial troops. The men shared great love with their NCO’s and officers, great love and friendship.3) there is more than just fighting for your comrades in arms. The Argylls represented Scotland as an honored member in the British Empire. The 1914 volunteers were mostly mature men 25-42. They were the Empire builders. They had great pride in the Empire, their Regiment.4) They were very close to their officers whom they addressed by nicknames and with whom they spoke in Scots dialect or Gaelic or that Hindi-Punjabi patois many old India hands knew. The Argylls was a brotherhood. They shared music, song, literature, a stoic philosophy & sports. 5) why did they fight? To keep England safe. They knew very well if Little Belgium fell the channel ports would become U-boat havens and Britain could be strangled to death. But they were the Thin Red Line. They were British soldiers. They were Scots and Highlanders.6) they would have been ashamed to fall beneath a certain standard or let down their chums who were the longtime friends, relatives, co-workers and in-laws. They were fun loving but highly disciplined and magnificently trained.7) and they followed in an ancient tradition of fearlessness in close combat -the mire-cath -the ancient battle frenzy -the ancient blood lust. They were very aware of the primordial roots as the last White Barbarians -the very last relic of Iron Age warriors.8) you could hear it in their war cries and in their piper’s skirling tunes of glory. Tunes everyone knew. Tunes, in some cases that were connected to bardic poetry. Tunes that were 10 years old or 1 year old (like Col Bogey or 500 or 800 years old.)9) the very best troops have deep esprit d’corps, elan and shared values and history. This is why the Marines emphasize tradition and history so much. Every Marine learns of Tripoli and the ‘Canal and Iwo Jima. The very best troops have a deep culture and identity. 10) culture and identity are essential to creating the deep philia love that is the brotherhood of warriors and fighting men. Auld Pop used to say, “A soldier will die for the Colours but not for an extra two bob a day.”

10:37 PM – 13 May 2019 from Bakersfield, CA

Are dictionaries dead?

I have many dictionaries. The languages I have taught, Spanish and English, are the languages I have with the most dictionaries. I use online dictionaries also but I rely on my shelf of carefully collected books and dictionaries. I have German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, Scottish Gaelic, Breton-French, Irish, German-Spanish, Latin-Spanish, Latin-English and Spanish-Greek dictionaries. On the Spanish side I have a Diccionario de Dudas which analyzes the difficulties of the English idiom from the Spanish side. It is remarkably cogent with very few errors. It’s chief drawback it that it tends to focus on BRITISH English rather than American English but that doesn’t bother me. I have a number of Spanish dictionaries Collins Spanish-English (great grammar notes), Oxford (magnificent treatment of phrasal verbs) and American Heritage (great synonyms and explanation of multiple meanings) The AHA, my prefered dictionary, uses a simple phonic system instead of the IPA. The IPA is very precise but useless to help English learners spell and pronounce English. I prefer the Merriam-Webster or American Heritage phonic system for the purpose of teaching. Even I sometimes use the AHA dictionary primarily for copying the phonetic letters. But I learn much more by studying real dictionaries because the words are explained in detail and are surrounded alphabetically by related words (sometimes false cognates).

Of course, I have the venerable RAE (dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy), and the Larousse dictionary with its encyclopaedia like features. I have the Larousse in Portuguese also. I read Portuguese and occasionally read articles from Brazil or correspond with people from Brazil. I also watch films with Portuguese subtitles. I used to be reasonable fluent in Portuguese but as hardly ever use it the only thing I have retained is a good reading ability. When speaking Portuguese today I inevitably lapse into Spanish.

Another favorite dictionary is BEYOND THE DICTIONARY IN SPANISH by A. Bryson Gerrard. This dictionary consists of short essays on words and phrases and the author clearly explains nuances and multiple meanings as well as the limitations of certain Spanish words. Every teacher of English or Spanish knows there are cognates that English and Spanish (indeed most Romance languages) share. And every teacher knows there are FALSE COGNATES; words that look alike but have completely different meaning. Famous examples are éxito,  suceso embarazada ,agonía etc.

Spanish English
éxito  success[1]
suceso Event or incident  or a [2]happening
embaraz-ada literally “heavily burdened with child”; pregnant NOT embarrassed [3]
agonía Means dying breath or death throes [4]
extravag-ante Partially FALSE; Wandering away from the normal or eccentric especially in clothes[5]
feria Fair of course is in market but NEVER “just”[6]

[1] Not exit which is “salida

[2] éxito  is, of course, success not exit.

[3] Preñada does mean pregnant but is used ONLY for animals or if used for humans it is humorous or insulting. Very insulting.

[4] Dolor horrible is probably agony or a prolonged agony would be “martirio” (martyrdom)

[5] Extravagant in the sense of money is us “derrochador”  (big spender) or “pródigo” (prodigal)

[6] Feria in slang means (fare or money)  ‘feriar” means to change a large sum into small change as for the bus.

But the really difficult words are idioms or are the cognates that are PARTIALLY FALSE. Of course, it is complicated by the use of “americanismos” or “Spanglish”. I have no problem, per se with “americanismos’ or “Spanglish” . I do have a problem with illiteracy; that is substituting English words so much that one is unable to read standard Spanish. Slang words add humor and zest but they should be used as some extra spice. They should not be the whole “enchilada.”

I will never forget the time when a student came back to California after an extended time in Mexico on her family ranch. She said, ” ¿Me mistió , míster?” At first I did not understand her as this is not properly Spanish but after a moment I realized she was asking “Did you miss me, Sir?” That’s “Spanglish”. It never ceases to get a few laughs when I recount this true story which proves that slang is great for humor or local color.

Similarly, in my private life, I love to use Scottish dialect for our “hame” dialect. The Glaswegian/Oban language my father spoke as a child was a Scots/Gaelic hybrid. An example would be “Yon’s a paltry lassie” (not meaning trashy but overly skinny) or “yon’s a fey mon” (meaning he is taking so many chances he is going to roll snake eyes -that is to say he is doomed). My father often remarked that his father (Auld Pop) upon seeing JFK in an open car waving in a motorcade in New York City said (in 1960), “yon’s a fey mon.” My father said, “What do you mean, Pop?” He said, win or lose he was an easy target for an assassin. When November 22, 1963 came around my father remembered that expression. Of course, Auld Pop (his father) had seen many a commanding officer and comrade laid low by German snipers at 2nd Ypres. Of course, having a knowledge of Scottish dialect is mostly important to enjoy poems of Burns and Scottish songs but otherwise has a very limited utility.

But normally I would never use Scottish dialect outside of my clan circle or except when corresponding with Scottish friends because I am aware that this argot is impenetrable to most English-speakers and especially almost all English learner. I have only met one Spaniard in my entire life who was fluent in Scots and he had been educated in Glasgow. He found the Scots pronunciation easier than English so he stuck to it. He sounded like a well educated Glaswegian who had lived in Edinburgh. I am a firm believe in language control and in having command of STANDARD ENGLISH or STANDARD SPANISH. But I am well aware “non-standard English” etc. exist and have their uses. I like online dictionaries, I like electronic dictionaries on my NOOK but I love and rely on and study my real dictionaries and my real books. If I really want to study an article or book I get the real Mccoy. Virtual books do not make as strong an impression on my mind and memory.


John deCrèvecœur SAID:
the most famous and important question in American history: “What then is the American, this new man?” The authentic American leaves behind him “all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds.” The American “entertains new ideas, and forms new opinions.” Crèvecœur was enthusiastic about this new man whose “labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.”