Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Respighi and the Doppler Effect

This morning on Radio 3 I caught a snatch of Respighi's Pines of Rome, specifically the fourth movement, Pini della Via Appia, which according to the presenter depicts Roman legionaries marching to (or from?) Rome. From the sound of it, my feeling is that they were probably marching back to Rome after one of their less successful campaigns; the 'marching' ostinato sounds to me rather disgruntled. (And, if the word's new to you, think of the English cognate obstinate  – it's a stubbornly repetitive bass line [well, usually bass; there may be exceptions – in matters musical I'm a dilettante {delighting in it}, rather than a cognoscente {knowing about it}]).

Which leads me, more or  less seamlessly, on to Italian words in music – not a boring list (that's what Wikipedia's for), just a few that have piqued my interest.
<digression theme="pique">
I wonder if pique has anything to do with pizzicato...? That'll have to remain FFS as they say in the OSI world: 'For Further Study', though it would, if true, exemplify the tendency of Italian loans and derivations dealing with the arts, while Spanish loans and derivations tend to deal with the more immediate and physical; picante is the Spanish word I'm thinking of, obviously connected with pique.

On the other hand, Ital... no, no time for even-handedness now.
</digression>
Italian words and music go together, though 'Italian' is a concept that post-dates a lot of music we listen to.
<autobiographical_note date_range="1999-2002" theme="Italian">
A good few years ago, I sang (not with my present choir) Howard Blake's Song of St Francis. The setting was mid-late 20th century, but the text was by St Francis of Assisi, written in whatever Italic dialect he spoke – Umbrian of the 13th century, probably. But saying it was written in that dialect is an oversimplification. Vulgar Latin had various different substrates – whatever medium of spoken communication underlay it – throughout Romania (in the historical sense of 'that part of the world that was directly influenced by the Romans'). St Francis may have thought (if he thought about it at all) he was writing Latin. Strongly influenced as his life was by Latin texts, it is probably a rather Latinate form of his dialect.

Anyway, speculation like that is something I left behind 40-odd years ago. The point is that during rehearsals people asked now and then about the text – sometimes 'in the original', sometimes 'in the Italian' sometimes 'in the Latin'. And after a while, knowing that I knew a bit about languages, they asked me 'What is it, Bob?' But my answer left a lot to be desired. It wasn't 'Latin'; it wasn't (just) Umbrian; it certainly wasn't Italian – a language that wouldn't be codified for several centuries.

Shortly afterwards, the same choir sang from Verdi's Nabucco. OK, by now it can be called 'Italian'. But that doesn't mean it's the sort of Italian you'll find in Parliamo Italiano
The word for 'where' has a chequered history in the Romance Languages. Simply put (which is all I'm up to) it is derived from UBI [='where'] or UNDE [='where from']with or without an initial DE. So French  comes from UBI, Italian dove comes from DE + UBI  and Spanish is 'etymologically pleonastic' when it asks  'Where are you from?'; '¿De dónde eres?' starts with  DE DE UNDE, meaning 'from[from[from where]'. To flesh out the Iberian picture, confirming the preference for derivation from UNDE, Portuguese has onde and Catalan has on.

In his text for Va pensiero, Verdi (or his librettist if he had one ...?) does not use dove, in
Ove olezzano tepide e molli
L'aure dolci del suolo natal
(something like that – it's a while since I sang it) the ove shows that at one stage some Italic dialects followed the French path, without an initial d. And what in modern Italian would be aire is aure (reminiscent, to me, of the two possible forms in Portuguese of the word derived from CAUSA(M): Fr. chose, Italian and Spanish cosa, but Portuguese [modern Continental Portuguese, that is] either coisa or cousa  – to be filed under Interesting but irrelevant I suspect). And as for olezzare, my Italian dictionary (admittedly not the most scholarly of tomes) does not recognize it at all.
<retraction>
It's fine. Lousy dictionary.
</retraction>
</autobiographical_note>
Oops. Tempus has fugitted, in the immortal words of my old maths master. I'll get on to those musical terms in an update.

b

PS

But I can't leave you guessing about Doppler. I thought, when I first heard that Respighi piece – in a realization a bit like Bob Peck's in Jurassic Park, when he thinks he's hunting a velociraptor but there are actually two, hunting him, and his last words are 'Clever girl' – that the ostinato bass mimicked the Doppler Effect by falling in pitch at the high point of the crescendo, to mark the arrival in the foreground of the marching soldiers. But I checked on YouTube, and I was wrong. Pity.

Update 2014.09.11.09:20  – Added red bits.

Update 2014.09.14.21:45  – Added this update, [a few more thoughts about musical terminology.]

It was my mentor Joe Cremona (mentioned in several of my other posts – see the word  cloud on the right)  who pointed out that Italian native speakers pronounce mezzo with the voiced affricate /ʣ/ and prezzo with the unvoiced affricate /ʦ/ without – for the most part – knowing the reason: that the one with voicing is derived from MEDIU(M) and the one without voicing from PRETIU(M). Yet I've never heard a mezzo-soprano called (in English) a /meʣəʊ/. Of course I'm not saying the English pronunciation 'should' have the /ʣ/; it's just interesting that it doesn't.

Another double letter in musical terminology forms one of a pair of similar-looking little notes, distinguished only by a "/" through one of them: the appoggiatura and the acciacatura. In the second of these, the "i" softens the "c", so that the word has five syllables: [a'ʧakatura]. Again, the only pronunciation I have heard (admittedly rarely) is [aki.aka'tura]; and again I'm not suggesting that anyone 'should' do anything.

The appoggiatura 'leans on' or 'presses on' the note it precedes; (Mozart was a great fan). Meanwhile, the acciacatura is a sort of sneeze squashed in before the note it precedes. And music theoreticians about to raise an eyebrow at that sneeze metaphor will be interested – though possibly not convinced – by my mnemonic for remembering which is which: acciacatura/atchoo.
<digression>
 And, incidentally, no less an authority than Gyles Brandreth claimed on the radio a few weeks ago that 'atishoo' is derived from à tes souhaits, which takes the biscuit, I suspect, in the too-good-to-be-true department. I must look into it, but it smacks to me of folk etymology.
</digression>

I imagine the Italian appoggiare is cognate with the French appuyer. But the Spanish ignores the double p and has just apoyar. Another musical double letter, attacca(r), has lost the second double letter in the French attaquer. But Spanish dispenses with both: atacar.
<digression theme ="Spanish and double consonants">
In fact, Spanish and  double stops don't mix. Which leads some people to say Spanish has no double consonants. Au contraire. 'But the dog...' leads to the most obvious counter-example: pero el perro...  

I am on shakier ground when I point to ll and even shakier with ñ. What Spanish seems to have done is this: take double consonants and give them independence as new autonomous letters. Children's alphabet blocks in Spain have both l and ll. And students using Spanish dictionaries are often confounded by the  fact that llama doesn't fall after liar and before lobo; ll is a whole 'nother letter.

The ñ really is a new letter (in that it's a different shape from nn). But that is where it came from – the manuscript convention that saves ink, space, and effort by writing nn as ñ. A lady in Portuguese is donna; in Spanish it's doña.
</digression>
But where was I? (Late for my 8 o'clock, that's where.)




 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  nearly 45,800 views  and over 6,150 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,300 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.











Thursday, 28 August 2014

Bercow in Toyland



One of the BBC news programmes on Monday last featured a gloriously mixed metaphor that conjured up a picture of someobody – I can't remember who (someone involved in the Bercow/Ozgate kerfuffle) – in a pedal-car, knees pumping frantically in an attempt to avoid an accident:
 'he's back-pedalling to avoid a car crash'. 
If this person had done a U-turn as well my cup – as I'm an avid collector of mixed metaphors – would have run over (pausing, of course, for many a slip).

This led me to reflect on the effect of transport on the language.

Starting at the pedestrian end, when you match your actions precisely to those of someone else, you march in lockstep with them (and if you have the same objectives you march to the beat of the same drum. You may follow in the footsteps of somebody, in which case you're walking the same path. The future is further down the road.

Taking a step up from the purely pedestrian, horses figure largely in the language, whether in the humdrum doings of a pack-horse or in the night-time visitation of a nightmare. If you let someone do what he wants, you give him his head. The opposite is keeping them on a tight rein. And if they're keen to get started they are champing at the bit. If you want to see what they can do you put them through their paces (the paces being walk, trot, canter, and gallop). If you don't know what they're likely to do, they're a dark horse. I've said elsewhere that I'm not a believer in the Alastair Cook derivation of cinch – though I'm often a sucker for folk etymology (once I've got the bit between my teeth ).
<digression>
Incidentally, that post's title reminds me of another equine metaphor: back in the saddle; and if someone's had an unfortunate accident that took the wind out of their sails (if you'll excuse a momentary diversion to water-borne craft) they have to get back on the horse.
</digression>
But maybe you ignore the dark horse's unexpected wishes, and ride roughshod over them.

Furniture can sometimes be named after horses as well. Think of a cheval mirror. And if the digressiuon from transport to funiture strikes you as extreme, think of meubles (Fr) muebles (Sp) etc.

<explanatory_note audience="non-linguist">
Those words obviously connote movement to me, but I imagine it's worth noting  that French  meubles are 'moveables', while a building is un immeuble.
<explanatory_note>

In fact, come to think of it, this picture unites furniture and transport and explains the very derivation of the word metaphor:

See full source here

But where was I – got it, cheval  mirror. But for people who don't run to fancy foreign words, the horse is kept below stairs as a clothes horse. In between upstairs and downstairs, artists in Italy use yet another horsey metaphor to hold their paintings while they're working: a cavaletto is an easel (this time derived from a diminutive of the Latin CABALLU(M) – and classicists should see my earlier posts, passim [here, for example], for an explanation of that conventional notation.
<digression>
CABALLU(M) was a lower class of horse than an equus; more of a nag, which makes it ironic that it is the root of chivalry (a less obvious scion than 'cavalry').
</digression>
On life's journey, a lucky man will be accompanied by a helpmeet, a fellow traveller, to share the burden; in Latin, a woman would put a man sub jugum (under the yoke – as in Yugoslavia (and see what came of that yoking). A man didn't put his wife under that kind of trapping; he just led her (astray?): uxorem ducere. But let's return to transport

A procession involving horses is a cavalcade – there's that CABALLU(M) again. But in America they wanted a similar word for a procession of cars. So they knocked the horse part off the word, and substituted motor for it in motorcade.

I have a Crystal reference for that somewhere, I think, but it'll have to wait for an update (which'll have various thoughts about the internal combustion engine as well). But for now I must get on.


b

Update 2013.08.30.18:20 – Added red bit.
Update 2014.08.31.19:10 –  Updated footer
Update  2014.09.02.16:25 – Added this PS

PS
I've found that reference, and it's not in a Crystal book. (I'm pretty sure he's mentioned this somewhere, but I can't find it.)
<autobiographical_note>
It's from a Pelican, which I read in 1970 (no doubt in preparation for Cambridge Entrance exams): Brian Foster's  The Changing English Language. That (if you follow the link) is a later edition. The Pelican edition seems to be Out of Print, or 'OP' as we used to say in my Grant & Cutler days – discussed here. My Pelican, though badly foxed, has survived MrsK's reforming zeal throughout its 35-year shelf-life (that is, 45; but only 35 in the family library!)
</autobiographical_note>
 He writes:
'Cavalcade', etymologically a procession  of horsemen, has given rise in American English to a series of words in which the -cade element denotes the idea of 'spectacular display', e.g. aquacade, musicade and motorcade. Of these only 'motorcade' has penetrated into British use.... It remains to be seen  how productive this ending will be in Britain....
Well, he was writing in 1968 (or before), so I think we can stop holding our breath; -cade's hopes of becoming a productive suffix in British English, can wave  forlornly to that slow-moving motorcade, or cortège, that follows many a linguistic speculation like this

But elsewhere automobile-based metaphors pervade the language. A person who is not at their best can be said to be 'not firing on all four [cylinders]'. Rather than rush you can 'put the brakes on' (or, with a nod to former times, you can 'hold your horses'. If you're in a hurry you either 'put the pedal to the metal' (which must come from American English, as the wordplay is better with an American accent) or 'step on it' or 'burn rubber'. The point where, for the walker 'the shoe pinches' is where 'the rubber meets the road'. And while we're on the subject of tyres, assessing the suitability of something in a desultory way, with no clear intention of buying it (either literally or figuratively,) is 'kicking the tyres'. People who need to get moving should 'get their a$$ in gear' and someone who's making progress is 'going through the gears'.

But apart from these metaphors that are 'hard-coded' into the language, cars provide a source of all sorts of figurative references – not fixed metaphors, but one-off metaphorical references.  I had a Musical Director once who, when asking us to make a sudden effort, said 'spin the wheels a bit'. I've never met this in any other context, but we all knew perfect well what he meant.

As another example of our culture referring to motor technology, much software today has a central control module called the 'dashboard'. Of course, it's not just cars that have dashboards. But the software engineers who coined the usage knew dashboards from their cars  and knew that everybody else would too.

On the BBC news recently (or quite possibly The Westminster Hour as it was in the mouth of a politician talking about another politician) I heard a usage that's new to me: Someone (name escapes me, but 'the sword of truth' and Ford Open Prison leap to mind  – got it, Neil Hamilton) was 're-treading himself' as a potential UKIP candidate. A retread  [noun] is a used tyre that has been beefed up so that it looks fairly new but is a bit suspect and is of course cheaper than a new tyre; but I'd never heard the word verbified. And as we've already got the word 're-branding' I doubt if  're-treading' has, as they say, 'much mileage' as the sort of metaphor that future ESOL students will be required to learn by heart. But it was extraordinarily apt in the context.

That must be all for now, but I wouldn't be surprised if more examples spring to mind...

Update  2014.09.03.22:25 – Added this PPS

PPS  That quote was from The Westminster Hour of 31 August. You can still catch it on iPlayer if you're quick and in the right part of the world. It's about 33'30"  into the main programme. But there's a clip here. I didn't get the words quite right; it was
...people like Neil Hamilton are trying to retread  themselves as UKIP candidates...

 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  nearly 45,500 views  and over 6,100 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,300 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.










Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Money down the drain - DRAIN?

My attention was grabbed today [to be honest, it didn't take that much grabbing] by this tweet:

She starts with an interesting piece of typical choplogic:
As a neuroscientist I am interested in how we can use insights from our basic research and apply those insights to understand contemporary life. The brain adapts exquisitely to the environment... 
By definition, if you use computers heavily, guess what? You are going to turn yourself effectively into a computer, because that is the environment you have adapted to. You will have certain skills, but not others.
More here 
Wow! 'By definition'; this is obviously clever stuff, only to be grasped by trained neuroscientists like Herself. I'm not sure I've got this, but it seems to me that 'if you use handtools heavily, guess what? [nice bit of vox poppery there; 'Don't be frightened by all this clever stuff, I'm talking your language'] you are going to turn yourself effectively into a handtool,  because that is the environment you have adapted to. You will have certain skills, but not others.' Scary. I obviously had a lucky escape when I spent only three weeks in a holiday job as a carpenter's mate's mate's mate. Much longer and I'd've been saying things like 'Sorry, I can't have a conversation right now; would a dovetail joint do instead?'
<rantette>
And I do wish people wouldn't brandish the phrase 'By definition' like some kind of omnipotent weapon at the beginning of sentences, with the general meaning 'It's obvious that...' but with no definition anywhere in the argument.
</rantette>
The insidious thing about her piece is that there are occasional shafts of sense:
... A while ago Michael Gove, when he was the education secretary, said that every child should learn a poem. My own view is that a parrot can learn a poem
The whole point is that the child should understand the poem. Facts on their own are pretty boring, whereas true knowledge is how you use those facts, relate them to each other and put them together in a framework.
Shame about that 'My own view' bit. Another bit of vox poppery. But there's no need for the assumed diffidence. A parrot can learn a poem (well.. a short one). And the word 'knowledge' is an odd choice. But her heart's in the right place (in this instance).  It's when she embarks on simple-minded extrapolations from neuroscience to the-trouble-with-education-today that she comes unstuck:
If serious money is being spent on high-tech devices, we need to think whether that will really achieve the best ends. In a report commissioned by Nesta in 2012, Decoding Learning, it was concluded that, "in the last five years, UK schools have spent more than £1 billion on digital technology. From interactive whiteboards to tablets, there is more digital technology in schools than ever before. But so far there has been little evidence of substantial success in improving educational outcomes".
There is no issue here. An inspirational teacher is an inspirational teacher, using whatever media are appropriate, from traditional pen and paper at one end of the spectrum to the latest high-spec iPad at the other. 


<autobiographical_note theme="educational spending">
I must say, it seems to me that the high-spec end of the spectrum will quickly move downwards. When my daughter was studying 'Don Juan' a few years ago, I recognized the text she was using. When in 1969 I had studied 'Don Juan', the text we used had been quite recently published (June 1967, says Amazon). So in September 1969,
when we first opened those olive covers, it was only two years old. Nearly 40 years later, my daughter was using the same text in the same binding.</autobiographical_note>
In the context of education spending this penny-pinching, I'm amazed that any teacher manages to get any hi-tech equipment. But if they can, good luck to them! And anyone who whinges about the cost of education – as Baroness Greenstuff does – should weigh it against the cost of the alternative.

And anyone who decries the pouring of money down the drain, in the case of education, should perhaps reconsider their use of the term DRAIN.

b



 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  over 45,100 views  and well over 6,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 2,300 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.










Monday, 11 August 2014

To lose ONE teacher is an anecdote, but...

How many anecdotes add up to a trend? This article has added to the feelings of... despair [no, that's not an exaggeration] that I voiced here.
<autobiographical_note theme="reformation" date_range="1965-6">
My third-year history master was an old priest, semi-affectionately known as 'Gob' for reasons best known to his Maker (presumably not omniscient in matters of orthodontics). Officially he was Father Brendan.

He comes to mind in this context because of his insistence on saying 'the So-Called Reformation', because – he said – the word reformation meant 'reformation for the better', and anything that led to the dissolution of the monasteries could only be called 'The Reformation' if prefixed by 'So-Called' in as sarcastic a tone as possible.

I wonder what he would have made of Michael Gove's So-Called Reforms.
</autobiographical_note>

This article reports the frustration of an 'outstanding' teacher:
According to all the different criteria against which I have been judged, despite the constant shifting of goalposts, I have been outstanding. I worked hard; I delivered engaging yet academically challenging lessons – despite us all being told that these two concepts were mutually exclusive; I assessed pupils in rigorous detail against ever-changing marking schemes; I completed fatuous administrative tasks within all deadlines. I was at the top of my game....

...I see children as individuals; today's ministers see them as a mass that must be trained.

This became particularly visible in Michael Gove's reforms to the English Literature curriculum, which come into effect next month even though he is now out of the picture. Gove was unable to relate to anyone or any belief system outside of his very narrow range of experience, and yet, due to his changes, all young people in Britain (regardless of gender, ethnicity, class, or individuality) are now expected to relate to the white, middle-aged, upper-middle class values which he decided were the right values....

This intellectual snobbery would have made my job not only impossible, but also soul destroying. I cannot stand at the front of a classroom and make children chant the works of Keats – instilling in them the belief that the only voices worth hearing in our society are those of a dead, white, English, male establishment figure.
I seem to be quoting most of the article. You might as well read it in situ. But I'll leave you with her closing words:
We now have a generation of pupils who have been trained that their individual opinions and skills invalid, that reading is only worthwhile if the text was written by a white, British man; we have a generation of disaffected teachers, who are woeful1 about the notion of change (even if it's sometimes for the better); and a generation of school leaders that has been told that managing teachers must involve distrusting them. Politicians may be transient, but attitudes are not. The rot has set in, its effects will be felt for years.
Basically 'We're doomed'.

b
PS

Another Guardian article worth reading in this context is this – in which a retired (but only 50 year-old) soldier dismisses full-time teaching as  'too stressful' for an ex-army man.
NB Dodgy PS – see PPS (below)

Update 2014.08.11.14:20 – Added this note
1 This use of woeful to mean full of woe is woefully common. A similar thing is happening to hateful (which, when I was lad, meant likely to occasion hatred [as opposed to feeling hatred]). Ah well...

Update 2014.08.12.09:40 – Added this PPS

PPS

My PS was misleading  in a number of respects – the Guardian page was taking ages to load, and I decided to rely on a faulty memory. The ex-service man (not army, I think) was 'in his fifties'. And he didn't 'dismiss teaching as too stressful' (he was a teacher). Ex-colleagues had dismissed it.


 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources:  nearly 45,000 views  and well over 6,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with nearly 2,300 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.













Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Thoughts of Chairman Bigdork

Wes Bigd... sorry, Brett Wigdortz OBE has an impressive string of achievements to his name, strangely omitting a business school (which was where I imagined he must have learnt that the best disguise for wooly thinking is wooly language). In an interview in  The Times (quoted in a recent Saturday's Magazine) he said:
You are now ['Now?' I suppose it made sense in the original interview, which I haven't seen.] more likely to  do well on free school meals [??? What's he talking about? Thriving nutritionally?] in an inner city than in a coastal town where you are not. [WTF? This person starts in an inner city and then has an existential crisis when moving to the coast? ]
Think about it. You'll probably need a long time. You see what he's done? The first You and the second you are different people. He has no doubt been on a writing course that tells you [oh yes, I've done that course too] to avoid abstraction by using 'you' as often as possible, regardless. In fact, one of the reviews on Amazon says, self-importantly
Brett writes as though he is talking to each & every [not just each, note] reader personsally [sic].
Read more here if  you must. Some snake-oil looks really tempting. And there are traps for the unwary at every turn: Listed among 'Praise for Success Against the Odds' is Jeremy Paxman's 'Teach First is great. Everyone should do it'. But this isn't about the book at all. For all I know, the next sentence might have been 'This book is utter drivel though; avoid it like the plague.' Or quite possibly the quote came from an edition of Newsnight that predates the writing of the book entirely. Anyway, caveat emptor (or as Woody Allen said in an aside, when a grossly exaggerated compliment bore fruit, 'She bought it!)

So the trick worked.You can fool all of the people all of the time.

OK – time's up. My guess at what he meant is that a student disadvantaged enough to qualify for free school meals (however the criteria for allowing that are applied by distinct authorities), at an inner-city school (however that is defined) is more likely to 'do better' (whatever THAT is) than a student without such qualification for state largesse at a school in a coastal town (where the local authority probably applies the free school meals criteria in a totally different way). This sort of meta-meta-meta-statistic (depending on the interaction of a large number of unspoken definitions) always bothers me. Kent's The coastal authority's Mr Bumble may just be having a crack-down on dishing out free meals. Such numbers are the homoeopathic medicine of rational argument: supposedly, the more the criteria are diluted the more potent they are.

Hattie Denington, a [just] survivor of her first year, and a self-styled [but  pseudonymous] 'defector', has written of Teach First's 'survival-of-the-fittest model, and its focus on expansion at any cost' in an illuminating piece entitled Why I Quit Teach First.
I feel it needs to show it [Teach First] can provide adequate support to graduates it already employs before it can justify this kind of expansion [from an intake of 186 graduates in 2003 to a reported '1,261 fresh-faced grads' {oh dear, someone needs to go on a writing course, but the post is worth reading despite this sort of infelicity} this year]. As a Teach First defector, it makes me feel I was ultimately disposable. And given schools are struggling to hold on to teachers in general, this isn’t helping...

...Looking at my classes now, I can’t help thinking I’ve let them down this year [although she has become what some observers have called a 'good' teacher] – that any experienced, carefully trained teacher in my place would have given them more. I might have made a great teacher with time, who knows? But the bitter experience of single-handedly letting down whole classes of children has driven me, and a number of others like me, away from the profession altogether.
Education is at least as important as Tony Blair said all those years ago. It needs more than some Big Society posturing (Teach First is a charity)  and amateur meddling by sometimes well-intentioned whizz kids.

b

A low blow, I grant. But when reading Amazon reviews I can't help recalling Walter Raleigh's [no not that one, the professor, author of "Wishes of an Elderly Man, Wished at a Garden Party, June 1914"]:

I wish I loved the human race
I wish I loved its silly face
I wish I loved the way it walks
I wish I loved the way it talks

And when I'm introduced to one

I wish I thought 'What jolly fun!'
Update 2014.07.27.19:20 – Correction. 'Kent' mention was irrelevant . I got my wires crossed

Update 2014.07.29.10:45 –  Various typo-fixes, and added links



 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources:  over 44,640 views  and well over 6,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,250 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.













Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Werra werra werra



The possibility of paid employment has prevented me from posting since my holiday, and much of today's post is cut&paste shamelessly from an IATEFL scholarship application:

<cut&paste theme="classroom situation and reflection">
This is a general problem of a culture clash between students. Something of this nature arises from time to time, but I give here an instance where several points of friction – male/female + education + religion + race ­+ politics – combined to create a very combustible mixture.

The conservative side of the clash was represented by a young Frenchman. He was a very able student with an academic background, and an intellectual arrogance that I have met more than once among his countrymen (and women). Having visited France at the height of the OAS problems (in the ‘60s) I assumed that the French/Algerian friction was a thing of the past; I should have known, from the example of Northern Ireland, that these post-colonial matters have a half-life of several hundred years and smoulder in the most apparently pacific of breasts.

The ‘outsider’ (l’étrangère) was a young lady of 17/18 years, algérienne, swarthy (he was blond), not so academically gifted (apparently ­– though in the context of a summer school it was hard to tell ­– and besides she had been hamstrung for years by her lack of privilege). She had, understandably, an enormous chip on her shoulder, and was hyper-sensitive to any kind of assumed slur. Given his arrogance and contempt, it didn’t need any kind of sensitivity to detect an implied slur – pachydermicity was all that was needed. It didn’t make matters any more comfortable that he was short, pale, and slightly built – one of H.G. Wells’s Eloi – whereas she was one of the Morloks (by no means  Amazonian, but more than a match for him). But he gave as good as he got verbally, with a mastery of contemptuous arrogance: ‘Tell that woman’ – he said once, in a quietly menacing tone – ‘I NEVER want to hear a word from her again.’ (They could snipe at each other in their native French, but this was addressed to me.)

All it seemed I could do was separate them physically – different teams, different groups, never working together – and cast oil on troubled waters (praying there were no naked flames) as needed. In the event, a family issue called her away (at least, that was what the Director of Studies told me – though now I think of it the fact that the DoS was involved may suggest another explanation), so the problem went away. I suppose the alleged ‘family issue’ might have been a diplomatic fiction.

If it was (a possibility that has only just occurred to me) I failed. I suppose that, while maintaining a cordon sanitaire as already discussed, I should somehow address the problem. But it is a secular one, and the handling of open aggression is not something that comes naturally to me. I discuss the issue with other teachers from time to time (less often as retirement beckons!) but I have not yet found an answer (although it would have been a start to police more punctiliously a ban on back-channel/native language jibes).
<cut&paste>
What these two were engaging in was WERRA (not the noise that introduced Tigger [? – I've looked for confirmation of this, to no avail. The Internet insists on taking me down Disney-based sidetracks] but  a Germanic word [and as my two combatants spoke French, I'm using the Frankish variant]Etymonline says the PIE root was *wers- with cognates suggesting an original meaning of  'to bring into confusion' – used by the barbarians who wouldn't stand up like a proper Roman and have a good old proelium – the sort of pitched battle that the Romans usually won). My young Frenchman was a Roman (educated, arrogant, urbane, with overwhelming cultural resources) and the young étrangère was a Barbarian (refusing to fight on the terms of the habitual victor).

When Latin speakers, with no W in their alphabet, met a useful foreign borrowing like this, they often replaced it with GU. And Romance languages reflect this: war but guerre . And sometimes one language, formed on the basis of several Romance vernaculars, yields pairs like warranty/guarantee, ward/guard, wile/guile ... (the last of which I've discussed here).

To complicate matters still further, English has borrowed a diminutive from Spanish. guerra/guerrilla
but war/guerrilla (and indeed guerrilla warfare)

b

Update 2014.07.25.14:55 – Added PS


In my closing sentence I referred to 'complicat[ing] matters'. The only complication is for fellow sufferers from the Etymological Fallacy (discussed here)
<rantette>
There is a tendency to use the suffix -itis to form jocular names for maladies (such as memory-itis an affliction that I'm suffering from at the moment, as I can't  recall any). Hitherto I (in company with many a misinformed pedant) have typically objected: but what's INFLAMED? An -itis has to involve inflammation as in gingivitis, tonsillitis, etc.

Well, up to a point. According to Etymonline it is
... Modern Latin, from Greek -itis, feminine of adjectival suffix -ites "pertaining to." Feminine because it was used with feminine noun nosos "disease,"
<autobiographical_note 1966-8>
Speaking of which, irrelevantly, a list of 'femine nouns ending -os' comes to mind: '...nesos, nosos, basanos [a touchstone FFS: what use was that knowledge to a twentieth century scoolboy, let alone his twenty-first century later{sic} ego] and taphros'.
</autobiographical_note>
Although the Etymonline gloss does start 'noun suffix denoting diseases characterized by inflammation...' it is probably just accidental that it typically refers to inflammation. The four classically recognized signs of disease/disorder are 'calor, rubor, tumor, and dolor' (I imagine there's a useful Wikipedia reference available to the time-rich), so the odds are in favour of an '-itis [via calor] → inflammation' link. But there's no strictly etymological reason for it.

I do try, with varying degrees of success, to avoid the Etymological Fallacy. But it seems that even the most dyed-in-the-wool etymoholic [GROOGH; apologies to fellow haters of the widely abused '-holic' pseudo-suffix] isn't justified here (even if etymology can ever be argued to be a[n] ever-fixed key to meaning).
</rantette>
;[where was I? Oh yes, 'The only complication...']  in Spanish (and many other Romance languages), there is a clear link between guerre/guerra and its diminutive. It is only the 'silly Cnuts' of England (discussed in a footnote to this blog) who feel the lack of a clear etymological link.

Update 2014.07.29.14:30 Added this note:

 

I knew I'd seen this somewhere before, in a Crystal book I mentioned here. The list I was thinking about is in one of those badly presented asides, for which someone at Penguin shouold be SHOT.

7.3
Norman loan    Parisian Loan
.
.
.
reward              regard
warden             guardian
warrant             guarantee 
wile                  guile

(An earlier entry in that table isn't relevant to the w/g argument, but it's Quite Interesting: 'gaol' is a Norman Loan, and its Parisian pair is 'jail'.)

 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: over 43,600 views  and nearly 6,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,200 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.