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Archive for the ‘Grammar & Linguistics’ Category

Sam’s the man!

September 19, 2017 3 comments

My reader may have noticed on his/her cyber-trek that Google has just celebrated the anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s 308th birthday. He was undoubtedly its predecessor – lexicographically speaking – before the more modern encyclopedias appeared. And his dictionary reflected his character as a poet, wit and literary compiler. Read more…

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Pardon?

August 2, 2017 27 comments

It can be dangerous to seize the moral or social high-ground. But it’s what institutions and their representatives do for a living.

Take the venerable Church of England. It gets its ecclesiastical underwear in a tangle every time a social norm is challenged, trying valiantly to remain relevant. Divorce, same-sex partnerships, gender-switching – and now women’s rights. Guess what! Equal pay is a distant dream for female staff at Head Office! Come on, Justin.

And on the day when British society’s top dog conducts his final public duty, the top people’s handbook flies in the face of decency and established principle. How? By declaring that the cognoscenti now accept the long-outlawed retort, ‘Pardon?’ when one mishears or seeks clarification. The Murican interrogative alternative, ‘Excuse me?’ has never gained acceptance in the face of the patrician, ‘What?’ and is now firmly removed from the contest by the plebeian and not-a-little-Gallic, ‘Pardon?’.

Both of these faux pas will acquire legs, I fear. Two referenda will be needed to help us decide what to do.

Shooting from the lip

May 9, 2017 32 comments

A nice phrase from the Beeb today, asking if it’s snobbishness that makes us hate Don the One. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39849073

So I’ve asked myself the question. Do I react against him because he can hardly string three words together? And when he does, the words often fly in the face of the facts? Yes and yes.

No, I don’t expect heads of state to be academic icons, intellectual leaders; but I do expect them to have some grasp of their language, some awareness of the key issues facing them and some respect (yes, respect) for their peers’ qualities as heads of state. A quick jibe and a quick u-turn won’t do.

What’s your take on the soon-to-be-lame Donald duck?

A good read

April 6, 2017 3 comments

I frequent the English/American section of the local public library, which offers an apparently random selection of novels of every genre. And a couple of weeks ago I spotted this – not a name I recognised -and gave it a try.

The story reveals the complications arising from the young lives of two brothers brought up near Calcutta; one of whom moves to New England.

I particularly enjoyed the author’s insights into relationships, expressed fluently and never dull, each character revealing their take on the dramatic events they experience.

I’ll be looking out for Jhumpa’s other titles.

It’s time for Basil to act

April 3, 2017 24 comments

Yes, the charmingly slow Iberians are in need of a good slap. Poor dears, they’re mixing up their ideas even more than usual. So let’s help them to behave, shall we?

They don’t believe in self-determination for their regions – or anybody else’s. Or do they? OK, they now think Scotland deserves the chance. Fine. But Gibraltar still doesn’t.

Que?

Try to keep up

March 13, 2017 6 comments

I realised how out of touch I am when one of my young clan emailed me on my birthday, ‘Haps baps Gramps!’ A swift google informed that’s how the incrowd say it these days.

But senility apart, I’ve always been fascinated by dialect expressions, from Cockney slang to common or garden terms. All my grandparents (b. 1878 – 80) used them constantly. ‘Be said!’ ‘It’s a new gansey.’ ‘Give it some elbow grease!’ ‘I’ve got it fast here.’ ‘They’re gilli flowers.’ ‘Give me a dollop o’ that.’ It’s really taters out.’

Still awake? OK – show me yours!

 

That’s the spirit – or is it?

March 10, 2017 23 comments

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/03/09/brain-activity-can-continue-10-minutes-death-new-study/

Who or what is the entity known as ‘I’? The whole composite of mind and body? Or just the persistent voice in ‘my’ head that tries to deal with the rest? And how do ‘my’ deep-sleep dreams fit into the definition you prefer? Thinkers down the ages have wrestled with the topic and supernaturalists have formulated conflicting explanations, leading to revolution and war. And now some new science will fuel the flames of the debate. There seems to be brain activity after ‘death’ as defined by accepted medical practice.

Does this persistent brain activity have any ‘purpose’? Is the owner ‘conscious’ of it? That is, what is it for, if anything? Or is it like the decapitated chicken that keeps on running? Or a turbine spinning after shut-down?

Fascinating, huh?

The so-called President

February 5, 2017 58 comments

donald-duck-trump

His VP says we are getting used to him ‘speaking his mind’. Well, yes, but there is a clear line between expressing an opinion based on facts and expressing an objection in derogatory terms (ad hominem). His latest jibe – the ‘so-called judge’ crosses that line.

This portrait catches admirably his other Donald Duck-like features.

Edgukayshun

January 2, 2017 8 comments

There’s a lot of noise about further education, its price and its value. Let’s not question the principle that studying a subject after school will be valuable, not as a substitute for eventual on-the-job training but as an intellectual challenge by way of preparation for work. Its price varies from country to country. Here in high-tax DK it’s free, as it was for Brits when I were a lad. Now in England somebody has to find £9k p.a. in fees (or thereabouts) and the cost of living on top. Loans, bursaries, etc. are available but it ain’t cheap for the average family to deal with.

But the meeja bang on about the demographic bias in universities – as if it’s a surprise. But have you looked at the mix in fee-paying schools? A lot of non-local children from the nations of the world.

So not surprisingly the top universities appear to be biassed towards the ‘home counties’. Sorry to say it but that’s because they and many of the top schools are there. Not all of course, before there’s an outbreak of under-collar heat! The brightest kids can be found everywhere but life is not an ‘equal opportunity’ experience.

Naturally, if you don’t believe in further education this whole issue is meaningless. But I do and it means  lot.

 

Spoonerism, anyone?

November 5, 2016 7 comments

The only examples we see tend to be vulgar or worse. The Rev himself however is quoted as uttering amusing confusions which did not depend on smut.

So do you know any new ones?

Coincidentally I saw  a real, live footie player today who rejoices in the name of Connor Wickham. So? you ask. Well, when spoonerised he is (yes) Wonnor Cickham! How appropriate, eh? OR he’s a NY chef with limited skills: Cinnor Wockham. Sorry.

So now it’s your turn. People are the best subjects. Laters…..