Sunday, 12 October 2014

Me me me me me

Most readers will know that selfie was the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013, but I have to report a new development in the selfie world: the Bluetooth-connected selfie stick.

I heard recently a statistic about digital photography – something like More photographs have been taken in the last ten years than had previously been taken since the beginning of photography. But since the coining of the word selfie in 2002 I estimate that an order of magnitude more images with a thumb partly obscuring the lens have been taken. I was ahead of the curve. I took one such photo on a holiday in the mid '80s.

Are people today more soulless than the people were in the early days of photography who objected that the camera would steal their spirit? Anyone with a mobile phone is now eager for spirit removal.

The person on the tip of everyone's tongue – in the selfie arena at the moment – is Wossname M.P., he of the paisley pyjamas. I haven't read the Sundays, but I gather from Broadcasting House that he has come over all Oprah and blamed his crass stupidity on a mental condition. I must say, as a fully paid-up member of the Black Dog Tribe, that I'm inclined to cut him some slack; de profundis (or should that be in?...) one can make a prat of oneself. And I gather he's going for some spirit-replacement therapy. After all, that's where the psych- of psychiatry comes from; is a psychiatrist a doctor who replaces people's spirits after they've been photographed?

On the other hand the duplicitous 'journalist' who entrapped him should be ... I don't know, something jolly nasty. 'Public interest' my Aunt Fanny!

That said, I'd be very surprised if a spin-doctor were not involved. To a depressed person, anyone who suggests a way of making the best of a bad job is a straw to be clutched at.

<digression>
And while we're on the subject of drowning men, I had my first affogato (ice-cream in espresso) after a festive meal the other day, and wondered why it was so called. Italian is not my first second language, more like Nth (where N is a large number – or mallet, as we cruciverbalists say). So I was trying to do something with the idea of 'fog' (silly, I know); maybe the ice-cream makes the coffee look misty...? 
But the Portuguese afogado came to the rescue. The ice-cream is the drownee and the black coffee is the Cruel Sea.

</digression>

Some day I mean to expand this digression into a post on culinary metaphors. Wouldn't it be cool to plan a whole menu based on metaphors (with matching wines perhaps – I'm not a wine-buff, but I'm sure lacrima Christi would be involved)? It's the sort of thing an Agatha Christie murderer might do.  But not now – it's time I put in an appearance in the Real World.

b

Update 2014.10.19.16:16 – PS

The Language Show – which I went to yesterday – is a good place for savouring culture clashes. My favourite yesterday was a handwritten sign for some DVDs, but written in rather curvaceous European script. So it seemed to be announcing to the world that the stack of DVDs were 'DUD's. Foolishly, I didn't take a photograph. Come to  think of it, taking a photograph could have seemed a bit tactless. So you'll just have to take my word for it.

And while I'm here, I've updated the TES stats in the footer.

 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:  over 46,800 views  and over 6,300 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 2,350 views and 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, 1 October 2014

A born-again nincompoop

<ranr>
My choir's latest venture is – among other things – Howard Goodall's Eternal Light. So of late I've been browsing on YouTube for recordings. And, posted as a Comment after one, was this:


I can't say I'm sure exactly what having a problem with something involves. but here are a few issues that occur to me:
  1. 'theological issue' (l.1)
    This is self-important twaddle
  2. 'Goodall writing' (l.1) 
    erm, he didn't. There are disputes about who did  but Goodall is out of the frame – he wasn't even born when it first appeared in print (1938).
  3. 'It ends with...' (l.1)
    The words in question come much earlier too
    ,{Oops  – I misremembered.}
  4. 'statement' (l.2)
    It's not, it's an imperative, although I have to admit that it is followed by a statement.
  5. 'I understand' (l.2)
    If he'd closed the quote, I'd have had a chance of understanding too.
  6. '...the nuance' (l.3)
    The mind boggles. He has misunderstood so much that the nature of this nuance is a matter of some interest.
  7. 'portray' (l.3)
    This should win some sort of prize for oddness of collocation. How, I wonder, does one portray a nuance? Perhaps he's confused nuance with nuage, so that when writing that it 'fails miserably' he's suggesting that Goodall is no good at drawing clouds...
  8. 'Jesus' (l.3)
    What? Who said anything about him? I think maybe he's confused it with that source of so much error, Holy Scripture. For the record, Jesus didn't have a grave. He had a tomb, (Sceptics would point out that it's easier to 'rise from the dead' if you're entombed rather than interred.)
  9. 'PLEASE' (l.4)
    Lord deliver us from posturing like this! To whom is it addressed, for Heaven's sake? Does he have some psychotic fantasy of being forced by Someone to act against his will, so that he has to beg '...allow me to sing?' No doubt he hears voices too, poor chap. 
  10. 'Most discerning christians [sic]...'  (l.5)
    While not being one myself, I know quite a few discerning Christians, none of whom would 'have a problem' with that (though they might wish that I hadn't put the boot in quite so hard – they'll forgive me though; that's what they do, after all!)
  11. 'SHOULD' (l.5)
    In the words of Oliver Cromwell
    I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.
But amid this detailed stuff I'm in danger of missing the general point: this is a work of ART. If Goodall had written the text, he'd have been perfectly free to write anything that produced the musical effect he wanted. And while we're on the subject of oft-misinterpreted authoritative texts, didn't the Founding Fathers have something to say about this sort of freedom?

b
</rant>
Update 2014.10.02.22:45  –  retraction in the colour of shame.
Update 2014.10.09.12.45  –  added this PS
PS
Well, that was better out than in. But to remove the aftertaste of bile, here's a bit of levity –  a letter I've just sent to Faber Music (publishers of the piece). I imagine it won't get past the triage exercised by the unpaid intern who no doubt monitors the information@fabermusic.com mailbox.

My choir is singing this piece next month, and I'd like to report a typo that you could perhaps correct if there's a reprint.

In bar 3 of Factum est silentium the text has 'et vidi septem illos angelos' and the number is repeated correctly elsewhere. After the fourth angel has blown his trumpet, the mortals wonder what terrible things will happen at the sounds of the trumpets of the remaining 'trium illorum angelorum'. There's little doubt that the number is septem.

But in bar 6 it has 'Et septum angeli' as though St Jerome had a benign form of Tourette's Syndrome: 'And partittion angels...'!

All the recorded versions I have heard repeat this error, and I regret that my own choir will follow suit: a rogue  u in a quaver at this speed isn't worth spending precious rehearsal time on. But I'd like somebody to get it right sometime. ['I have to believe...']
b 
PS And in case anyone says 'This isn't Classical Latin. What does he know?', the answer is 'Quite a lot'. I studied Vulgar Latin (precisely the Right Sort of Latin, as the text comes from the Vulgate) at Cambridge (at the time, coincidentally, that Tom Faber was a Fellow of my college).
† This will certainly go over the head (between the legs?) of the intern. It's a reference to the text of the movement that follows Factum est silentium.
 

 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:  over 46,600 views  and nearly 6,300 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 2,350 views and 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, 30 September 2014

The Times it is a-changing

Some time in early Spring 1966 The Times dropped a bombshell. Since the year dot (and in the case of The Times this is a pretty remote dot – 1785, says Wikipedia): in place of the classified ads that had previously appeared on the front page (Wikipedia says 'the front page featured' them FFS. But the point is that the front page was featureless) they were going to print news. What a thing for a newspaper!
<autobiographical_note date_range=1965-6>

This was about the time my big brother came home with a nylon-stringed guitar that had a broken back, repaired with a three-inch screw where the fretboard met the body. Above the octave, the strings were a good half-inch away from the frets.This meant that before a string met the fretboard it stretched; so the higher up the fretboard you played, the sharper the note became not so much the Well-tempered klavier – the Ill-tempered vihuela perhaps.
           <excuse>           Took a bit of a liberty with the instrument there, but the consonance (all three                    vowels) was too good to miss.            <excuse>
In the spare time that pubescent boys had in those pre-National-Curriculum days, I started to pick out tunes. Mick had borrowed a 'teach-yourself' LP (on the Argo label) which tied a particular style of accompaniment to one song: 'hammering on' – 'Trouble in Mind'; arpeggios – 'Black Girl'; 'clawhammer'  – 'There Were Three Bothers'; calypso – 'Dip and Fall Back' ...and so on.

When the news of The Times' concession to sensationalism hit, Bob Dylan was still in his protest phase. 'The times they are a-changin'' was in the Zeitgeist. And the title of this post 'came up' from the depths of my mind (and you might have detected, in that 'came up', my current interest in subvenire). But I hadn't got far enough in my guitar 'studies' (I could do a pretty impressive accompaniment to  'Trouble in Mind', but nothing else) to think of making that first line into a song. I squirrelled it away, and here it is at last.

 </autobiographical_note>
Well,  John Walter who founded The Times on the 1 January 1785 as The Daily Universal Register, will be spinning in the family vaults (which his mortal remains have occupied since November 1812). This Saturday The Times had neither classified ads nor news on its front page, but a photograph taken on the occasion of a celebrity wedding. OMG or what? Murdoch hadn't forked out for the actual wedding photos, but the grubby intent was still there.

This calls to mind a scene from my as yet unpublished (as yet undone, except for a 30-odd page sample that I hawked around a few publishers in the late '70s) translation of Eça de Queiroz's Cartas da Inglaterra (a sort of Victorian Letters from America, but written by a London-based Portuguese diplomat and man of letters [no pun intended, and none taken I hope]). It was a breakfast scene, with a daughter doing her filial duty and saving Papa's eyes by reading from The Times over breakfast. But some filthy bounder, an infamous scoundrel of the first water (whatever that is), had breached 'The Thunderer''s Victorian firewall and somehow amended the proofs, substituting obscenities. When his daughter read the results of this cruel deception, Papa nearly choked on his kedgeree.  (I mean to quote this properly, but the translation, and indeed the text, is In a Box in the loft. Allegedly. Fingers crossed.)

My reaction on Saturday morning was similar. Well, all right, The Times did make a concession to the news of an insignificant little war somewhere East of Suez. But don't worry, there'll be no 'boots on the ground', only 'suits in the board-room'.

Or perhaps they could use pogo-sticks; no dusty boots then.

b
Update 2014.09.30.14:20 – Added this clue (not  relevant to anything in this post)

Evacuation without a breach of faith. (9)

Update 2014.10.01.14:30Esprit d'escalier, in blue.
Update 2014.10.01.14:20 – Encore plus, in maroon.


 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:  over 46,200 views  and over 6,225 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 2,350 views and 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.






Saturday, 27 September 2014

On the tip of his...you know, flappy thing

The morning after Ed Milliband's speech to the party conference, according to various BBC  news reports, a 'souvenir copy' was on sale to delegates (without a trace of irony). But this copy included the bit that Ed forgot, which makes the word souvenir ironic, given the meaning of the French se souvenir de... : M. Milliband ne s'est pas souvenu de mentionner l'éléphant dans la chambre.

This doesn't bother me unduly, although I'm sure the Tories will make it run and run – run it into the ground. No doubt they'll cite Freud or Schopenhauer or whatever unsuspecting academic they can dragoon into their shoddy mud-slinging offensive: 'He forgot it because it was a Freudian slip: he wanted everyone to forget it'. Well, what if he does value bedpans over the ...ahem bottom line? I'm not sure the memory lapse means he does, but good for him if he thinks compound fractures are more important than compound interest; give me a PM who values carers over bean-counters any day.

But where does souvenir come from? French of course, but where before that? Etymonline dates it to the 12th century.
1775, "a remembrance or memory," from French souvenir (12c.), from Old French noun use of souvenir (v.) "to remember, come to mind," from Latin subvenire "come to mind," from sub- "up from below" (see sub-) + venire "to come" (see venue). Meaning "token of remembrance, memento" is first recorded 1782.
But what happened in those nearly six centuries between 11?? and 1775?

According to Etymonline the story is ... linear: Latin subvenire → Old French noun → French (and thence, presumably, English). What I need to do is explain why I'm not satisfied by Etymonline's simple story.

I have mentioned before a book that really is magisterial – and I'm using the word not in the review writer's coded sense of 'having more than a thousand pages, so not recommended for the beach'. I, as regular readers will know, tend to attach sometimes undue significance to origins. And the origin of magisterial is the Latin magister [='master']. The book is a masterpiece. (There's scope for a digression on 'masterpiece', but I have to check a few facts before I put finger to keyboard.)

The entry for subvenire extends from the foot of the last column on p. 632 to the top of the first on p. 623, but by the magic of digital prestidigit... (no, that doesn't work...) anyway, I've spliced it here:


See quote in situ here, on pages 632-3
The fact that it spans 2 pages, and that subvenire has two meanings, and that the page-break comes at the end of "1." – at least, after the Provençal example there's only bibliographical stuff – led me initially to think that mainstream French was just out of the picture entirely.

The two meanings are (1) 'give assistance' (which presumably explains our 'subvention'), and (2) 'recollect'. My old Latin dictionary (mentioned here) gives some help on what is on the face of it a rather strange derivation: why 'under' (sub) and why 'come' (venire)? It defines it as 'come to mind'. And the sub idea? Watchers of quiz shows will be familar with the  idea of someone recalling something they didn't expect to know: 'Where did you dredge that up from?' asks the host. We're still left with the oddness of the pairing of those two meanings, but each one makes sense.

Anyway, it is only the 'come to the aid of' sense that passed French by. It spawned words in Italian, Afrikaans, and Provençal, but not French. (I've never heard Afrikaans being called a Romance language – I guess Meyer-Lübke just had the bit between his teeth).

The other meaning had offspring in Italian, French, and Provençal. (And if Afrikaans qualifies for mention in connection with the first meaning, I must admit to feeling a little hard done by that English doesn't get a mention in connection with the second meaning, for 'souvenir'.)

b

PS Crumbly story about tax rebate. (7)

 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:  over 46,200 views  and over 6,225 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.











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.)

Update 2014.09.25.12:15 – Updated footer


 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:  nover 46,000 views  and nearly 6,200 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, or (if it's very remote) over the horizon – too far to walk,

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...

(note for US readers: 'UKIP' is British English for 'TEA party' (roughly).)

Update  2014.09.29.12:05 – Added afterthoughts in blue.

 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.