What’s in a Name?

Quite a lot, as it happens.

For instance, did you know that the infamous Roman Emperor Caligula was really called Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus? Caligula actually means ‘Little Boots’ or ‘Booties’!

I kid you not – unless the Encyclopaedia Britannica also lies: 

Born Gaius Caesar, he became known as Caligula (“Little Boot”), a childhood nickname bestowed on him by the soldiers of his father, Germanicus Caesar,


So, the dreaded emperor Little Boots!

[Picture from Encyclopaedia Britannica]

Who else then? Well, having not long returned from Uzbekistan, I have been told rather a lot about Tamburlaine. We were shown statues of him, palaces and fortifications associated with him, and also told that his name was NOT Tamburlaine!


The great hero of Uzbek history was called Temur, or, to be correct, the Amir Temur. He was a son-in-law of Genghis Khan but before coming to power must have been a Very Naughty Boy. [Yes, that was in my best Monty Python voice]

When he was about 12, our esteemed tour manager Sanjar informed us, Temur decided to go with some of his mates to steal sheep. The shepherd managed to stab him in the leg and he walked with a limp ever after. This led to his rather derogatory nickname Temur-e-Lang, or Lame Temur.

So, what else? Well, in the Bible, names are extremely important. As Gabriel said to Mary ‘You shall name Him Jesus, for He shall save his people from their sins.’ [Matthew 1.21] His name was, actually, closer to Yehoshua, which is the equivalent of Joshua meaning The Lord Saves. Yes, His name is very important and apt.

One last thing while I am on this theme, for an amazing revelation about Biblical names, click this link:


It gives the meanings of the names from Adam to Noah; I’d love to hear what you think.


Character Confusion


So, more linguistic mutterings about my recent trip to Uzbekistan. The country has three official languages: Uzbek, Russian and English. Obviously, English is written in Latin characters, and Russian in Cyrillic. Uzbek is also written in Latin characters, so you’d imagine it would all be pretty easy to figure what’s what? Oh no……..

There were signs which were clearly in Uzbek:


This was a market stall selling mostly honey, though that doesn’t appear to be what the sign says 😦

There were signs in Russian:

1] Alisher Navoi, their great poet and Metro station!
2] Sign outside the State opera house, advertising a Concert.

There were signs in more than one language:


However, [sadly I didn’t manage to get any photos] as we were driving I noticed words on cars, vans etc which said things such as COHEP, MEPET, BOH [not these actual words, I am giving  examples concocted from memory]. So, what language were these? They might be in Cyrillic, thus saying  soner, meret, von or they might have been in Latin characters and pronounced as read. Hmmmmm, I never did untangle this muddle. One word, which was easy enough to read and pronounce, though, was a very good wine which we were served almost everywhere:DSC_0990

Highly recommended at the pricey sum of £2 a glass!

https://www.vivino.com/wineries/bagizagan in case you’d like to try it yourself.

A Little Salom….

Many, many moons ago I posted about a trip I had booked to Uzbekistan [ https://wordpress.com/post/starfishenglishservices.wordpress.com/540 ]; it was well over a year ago and the trip felt as though it was too far in the future to actually be real. Well, dear reader[s], it came, it was magical, and it’s now, sadly, over.  It has, though, [BABVA*] given me material for LOADS of blogs, so expect an Uzbek overload. I do not apologise one iota, I hasten to add.

So, this is a short introductory article about how far learning a few words of a language can get you. I was a bit overwhelmed at first – the words looked so long on the signs. Checking up on good old Google I discovered that the way of saying ‘Hello’ was Assalomu Alaykum. I tried and tried to remember it, but kept getting tongue-tied. However, I was told by our wonderful tour leader, Sanjar Mavlonov, that a simple ‘Salom’ would be fine – the long version is a very respectful version for use in formal occasions and for children to show respect  to their elders [yes, they really do that in Uzbekistan!].1527402271646

The incredible Sanjar – a cross between Mary Poppins [looking after us amazingly] and the best teacher you ever had.

Plucking up my courage, I tried it out. With a ‘Salom’ and the gift of a couple of US dollars I was allowed to photograph the two women at the head of this page. They were in Xiva, a UNESCO Heritage site [more of that to come on Travelling Hamster].

We next moved on to Bukhara and I was feeling braver.1527325487765

I love photographing the ordinary people and things in a new place – these three road sweepers were delighted to pose for me after a quick greeting!

While we were in Bukhara we were blessed that our visit coincided with the annual Silk and Spice festival

I hope these few pictures can give you an idea of what it was like – but the spicy aromas I must leave to your imagination – heavenly 🙂 Anyway, it was bustling with families galore and by now I was ‘Saloming’ right, left and centre. I just happened to say ‘Salom’ to a delightful little boy who was smiling at me – he couldn’t have been more than 2. He replied with a really cute sort of ‘Slamu’ and then we got holding hands, touching each other’s faces and generally being great friends. I eventually signalled to his father that I would like permission to take his photo – the father readily agreed: this was my wonderful reward……


Yes, A little ‘Salom’ does go a LONG way.

*Be Afraid, Be VERY Afraid

New Arrivals :)

Firstly, I admit I’ve not had much time for posting on here lately – it’s been a busy few months. Finishing my MA Thesis, proofreading academic articles for students, preparing lessons for a new Italian friend and submitting an article for a conference [Stop Press: it was accepted!!!!!]. Yup, been busy – which I do enjoy.

Anyway, I found some free time to go to a networking group run by a friend of mine, Julie Lightfoot, where the speaker explained how she’d self-published her books; I was inspired. On my computer I have a large file containing many poems and short stories which I tend to write and then forget about. All fired up after the meeting, I went home to have a look through the contents and realised that some could make story books for young children. At the moment they’re only available as Kindle e-books but who knows what the future might bring…?

So; here they are…..

They are written in rhyming verse and would, hopefully, appeal to children aged between 3 and 7. My friend Jhilmil kindly did me some sketches for the Sushi story, and I found a copyright-free clipart site for images to illustrate ‘When You’re Four’. It’s so exciting seeing something come to life like this, and I do hope you’ll show these to anyone you know who has children in this age-range.

When You’re Four can be found here: https://amzn.to/2HD1T0d

Sushi Gets Her Collar can be found here: https://amzn.to/2raKcxR

For more about Jhilmil, an extremely talented poet and artist, her  page can be found at: https://jhilmilsjourney.wordpress.com, or on Twitter at @jhilmilspirit

The author who gave the talk is called Caroline James, she writes humorous romantic fiction [and, yes, I did buy one of her books for my upcoming holiday] Her website is: http://www.carolinejamesauthor.co.uk/

And, if you’re in the Preston, Lancashire area, Julie Lightfoot runs several groups for meeting and networking. Her website can be found at: https://www.jlconsultancy.org/


PS…I feel a book about Pirates coming on…watch this space 🙂

An Academic Sightseeing Day


As you may or may not know, I’ve been studying for my MRes at the University of Central Lancashire for most of the past 2 years. It’s been a fascinating journey – I’ve climbed mountains  [cue Julie Andrews!], overcome obstacles,  learnt new skills and been to the pits of despair and the heights of elation. However, all this time I have mostly just been focused on my own research topic, the English Dative Alternation* – more specifically between the years of 1410 and 1680. Sometimes it feels as though I eat, sleep and dream it. Sometimes it feels as though there is nobody or nothing else in the world apart from my area of study. Sometimes I wonder if anybody else could give a proverbial.

Today, however, was the undergraduate dissertation conference at UCLan. Being a lofty post-grad student I had vague memories of the terror I went through before I had to present my paper. This time, though, I wasn’t presenting, I didn’t know any of the presenters and I had no real involvement whatsoever. It was bliss! I could just sit and listen from a vantage point of academic interest.

There were some fascinating topics. How sleep is represented in literature, Textual analysis of the New Testament, neologisms in Harry Potter, the rhetoric of Donald Trump and forensic analysis of the language of Brendan Dassey’s interview transcripts**

Nothing was really relevant to my own thesis, and in a way it could have been considered a waste of a day which I could have spent preparing for my exam [or playing with my Lego – much nicer!] However, as I walked away, after the delicious cakes at the closing remarks, I felt strangely refreshed. I realised why – it was as though I’d been on a coach trip of English Linguistics; admiring, enjoying, learning a little bit here and there, but with no obligations whatsoever – a nice little mental holiday in fact. Nice 🙂

*English Dative Alternation: In a nutshell, the difference between I gave flowers to her and I gave her flowers.

Should you be interested in any of the topics I have mentioned, I would be happy to point you in the direction of the researchers involved.

Feel free to email me: StarfishEnglishServices@gmail.com

Where Punctuation Fears To Go


This article appeared on the BBC News website a week ago. It’s actually a very hopeful story, but I had to read, read and re-read the headline before I could make sense of it:

Wearable Tech Aids Stroke Patients

WHAT! I thought – when we’re under the weather are our FitBits getting a bit too up close and personal? Am I in danger of being fondled by a pair of headphones? Will those virtual reality headsets start kissing their wearers? Thankfully, [or maybe not, depending on your viewpoint?] no – well not yet it seems. The above headline is a classic example of ambiguity at its best. The wearable tech aids in question have not been stroking people lying in hospital beds – but wearable tech has been aiding patients recovering from a stroke.

Usually, a well-placed punctuation mark can make all the difference between two similarly worded sentences; for instance:

Let’s eat Grandma  –  Let’s eat, Grandma.

In cases such as the over-friendly tech aids, however, there is actually nowhere a comma or other helpful punctuation mark could have been inserted – the whole ambiguity is down to the actual words used. The problem the writer did not realise is that aids can be a noun or a verb – similarly stroke can be a verb or a noun. Were this particular sentence read aloud, the whole misunderstanding would be cleared up by intonation – try it yourself and see. A stress on the word aids gives a very different meaning to a stress on the word stroke.

Later on, I must mention, the headline had been changed to the clearer, but much less amusing:

Wearable tech could help stroke patients with recovery

I couldn’t help wondering who had noticed the problem with the first one and spoiled my fun!

The Perils of Being a Proofreader


This is just a quick outlet of steam, rage and annoyance at myself; not to mention a plea for understanding. Yes, I am a proofreader – I also write bespoke poems, edit books and do English tuition but that’s another story.

Anyway, I have just, after a long afternoon’s proofreading, been sending a few messages on Facebook. I have used words such as mdae for madedoen a drqaft for done a draft, and typed, in an apology/explanation for these said typos, that I must be going croww-eyed instead of cross-eyed.

A huge problem when you make laughable claims to be good at English, is that everyone seems to be watching you like a hawk for whenever you do make a spelling or punctuation error. What people often don’t understand, though, is that there is a world of difference between bashing out words onto Facebook without even looking at the screen before pressing ‘enter’ and carefully reading somebody else’s work to check for their mistakes.

I am human; I am fallible; I make typos! The main thing to remember though, is that when I am reading other people’s work I can spot them and know how to correct them – when I am simply ranting on Social Media my fingers go faster than my brain. So, please, think of the dilemma of the proofreader – even we can get our fingers in a twist when writing in a hurry – but we take our time and check your work very, very carefully indeed.

We are all ‘The Others’

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

Desmond Tutu 1931-


Holocaust Day Service


I make no apology for blogging twice about the same event; Holocaust Memorial Day 2018 [for my other post, see my Travelling Hamster site – Scarred Places http://tiny.cc/hmsoqy ]

Words have power indeed. The words of the three speakers; Jeremy Dable, [Chairman – Preston Faith Forum], Elinor Chohan [Director at Miri Roshni Academy] and Dr Ayman Jundi [Syria Relief] were full of power. The beautifully sung words, in Hebrew, of Psalm 133 sent shivers down my spine. The tales of persecution in Srebrenica chilled me. The account of the terrible situation in Syria, of how the regime targets medical centres because that is a proven way to make the population move, sickened me. Yet, despite the news reports coming into our homes, on our TVs every evening, they all still feel far away.

We are, however, all ‘the others’. Words were used by regimes such as the Nazis to describe various groups – ‘parasites’ ‘vermin’ ‘scum’ – not a giant step from ‘lazy beggars’ ‘benefits tourists’ ‘economic migrants’ is it?

Are you educated, maybe even an intellectual? In Cambodia you would have been persecuted not so very long ago – http://tiny.cc/wgsoqy

Are you disabled, suffer from mental illness, maybe you’re gay? Not very long ago, the German state would have sought to eradicate ‘your type’ – http://tiny.cc/agsoqy

Are you a Muslim? Only a few decades ago in Bosnia, and even now in Myanmar, you would be in fear of your life – http://tiny.cc/resoqy

Are you a Christian? In North Korea, Afghanistan and many, many other countries, you would be at risk of arrest, torture and even execution right now – https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/

The language of discrimination is pervasive; it creeps into the collective psyche through the media, jokes and general conversations if we don’t guard against it. Right now there are calls for the language used to describe immigrants to the USA to be chosen with care – http://tiny.cc/ycsoqy

We are all at risk of being ‘the others’. We are all human beings with no more dignity, rights or intelligence than any other race or group.

What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Anne Frank, 1929 – 1945.