OED versus OCR

Paul Dutton, “Solitude,” from Horse d’oeuvres: Four Horsemen (Toronto: General Publishing 1975) is reproduced in Caroline Bayard’s The New Poetics in Canada and Quebec: From Concretism to Post-Modernism. It is a concrete poem that functions by substraction. [First line, middle, and last line are composed of the word “solitude” typed four times without breaks; the reader is invited to reassemble words from the spaces and letters that comprise the lines in between; only letters that occur in “solitude” are used.] I am intrigued by Bayard’s encounter with the poem. She writes:

All nouns, verbs, and adjectives in the poem are rigourously derived by subtraction from the original set of letters; nothing is added. The totality is self-contained, with the kernel term opening a wealth of signifieds and permutations to the initially sceptical eye of the viewer […] Those signifieds operate either as complete units (‘toil’ / ‘destitute’ / ‘old’ / ‘dust’ / ‘elude’ / ‘sole’ / ‘stud’ / ‘lust’ / ‘ode’ / ‘to’ / ‘dilute’) or as unfinished ones (‘desult’ calling forth desultory one can presume — and ‘dolus’ impossible for me to complete let alone identify). With the exception of ‘lit’ they are all identifiable within one language.

So a hunting we will go. “Desult” — could it lie in an other bed like “lit” which can be illuminated by either French or English? First “dolus” which is Latin for trick or ruse. Appropriate for this puzzle composed of jumping letters.

Could the “Desult” incorporate a leap? The spacing leaves room for such a possibility: des-u-lt [an “i” could be dropped in between the “des” and the “u”] So we go in search of “desiult” and it appears that it may be a legal term. And we find it in A General Abridgment Able Modern Determinations in the Courts of Law and Equity Being a Supplement to Viner’s Abridgement. By Several Gentlemen in the Respective Branches of the Law. Volume the Fourth. 1801. or a facsimile thereof. Because what through OCR (Optical Character Recognition) has been picked up as “desiult” is default [with a broken “a” to give the “i” and the “f” is interpreted as a long “s”]. We are far too clever. And are saved by the scan.

We move off-line to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) and find the form “desult” !! [Yes the OED is online but search engines cannot penetrate its solitude.]

“Dolus” is not in the OED, alas.

And all this close reading reveals that /solidus/ could with wider spacing come out of the 4 times repeated “solitudesolitudesolitudesolitude”. And other jumps are prompted / / / / skipping along letters and sense.

And so for day 889

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