Well, I went and did it! For no reason other than the tile-work looks amazing, I’ve booked myself on a trip to Uzbekistan in May next year. [You sort of head towards Turkey then carry on a few countries to the right]


I mean, just LOOK at the decorations! That’s SERIOUS tiling. I want these Uzbeks to do my bathroom.2839316735d3646881992b80b987300c

Anyway, whenever I visit a new country, I always think it’s polite to learn at least a couple of words of their language. I managed Poland with dzień dobry [Good Morning – no matter what time of day it was!] and Dziękuję [Thankyou]. Mind, I did get them mixed up when trying to thank some border control people – with guns! – for reminding me I’d left my keys at the passport control. I politely said ‘good morning’ to them, wondered why their faces looked puzzled, then amended it to ‘thankyou’. Lots of laughter ensued, and thankfully no-one drew their gun. 

OK, so, back to Uzbek. I had no idea what sort of language they speak there, or even if there IS an Uzbek language, so off to good old Wikipedia I trotted. It turns out Uzbek is a Turkic language and therefore of the agglutinative variety. Don’t panic, just concentrate on the -glu- bit in the middle. These languages can ‘glu’ loads of bits together to create humungously long words if they see fit. Whereas, in English, we would have to ask ‘How are you?’ using three different words to convey each part of the question, all the Uzbeks do is ask ‘Qandaysiz?’  The first part, qanday, means ‘how’ to which they simply stick ‘siz’ – ‘you’ on the end. So, Howyou?

As I said, these languages can formulate seemingly endless words; The longest word in Turkish being, arguably,

Muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine at 70 letters. Yup. It means As if you would be from those we can not easily/quickly make a maker of unsuccessful ones Makes schifffahrten [see my post Tongue-Twisters and Triple Letters] seem quite innocuous.

So, a 70 letter word? Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in Wales has a mere 58. Pffffft. Taumatawhakatangi­hangakoauauotamatea­turipukakapikimaunga­horonukupokaiwhen­uakitanatahu is the place with the longest name in an English-speaking country [New Zealand] at 85 characters, but these are place names. So, what’s the longest word in the world? Back to Wikipedia, and it seems there is a Sanskrit word, which I have copied and pasted needless to say,  which runs to 431 letters. AAAAAARGH. Even the children on The Big Spell would balk at that. So – here it is in all its glory –



Its meaning:- In it, the distress, caused by thirst, to travellers, was alleviated by clusters of rays of the bright eyes of the girls; the rays that were shaming the currents of light, sweet and cold water charged with the strong fragrance of cardamom, clove, saffron, camphor and musk and flowing out of the pitchers (held in) the lotus-like hands of maidens (seated in) the beautiful water-sheds, made of the thick roots of vetiver mixed with marjoram, (and built near) the foot, covered with heaps of couch-like soft sand, of the clusters of newly sprouting mango trees, which constantly darkened the intermediate space of the quarters, and which looked all the more charming on account of the trickling drops of the floral juice, which thus caused the delusion of a row of thick rainy clouds, densely filled with abundant nectar

from the Varadāmbikā Pariṇaya Campū by Tirumalāmbā, the longest word ever to appear in worldwide literature [see Wikipedia][[yes, it’s Sunday evening and I feel lazy]]

-unless, of course, you know better?


I want to be Hevelled


Sitting on the bus the other day, for no reason at all I suddenly wondered to myself if there is some point wherein things aren’t deflated or inflated but just nicely ‘flated’? To my way of thinking [which few people seem to share, luckily] something deflated is rather sad and flat, whereby being inflated brings connotations of…well….Donald Trump and spacehoppers. [Yup the colour is very similar too!] Anyway, my mind wandered along happily to other words which don’t seem to have a positive or moderate form.

I have long been an advocate of the word gruntled – and it IS listed in the OED as a back-formation of its unhappier cousin. Gruntled is maybe the English version of the Danish Hygge – warm and settled by firelight with hot chocolate and a pizza or, well, whatever does it for you!

I dream of being kempt and hevelled . My usual ‘look’ is somewhere between Worzel Gummidge and an Old English Sheepdog. Actually, no, that wouldn’t be fair to those lovely Dulux dogs….they make shagginess into an art form, something I could never be accused of.

Kempt is, surprisingly, also in the OED – it relates mainly to beards and how nicely combed they are. I don’t have a beard, believe it or not, so maybe that’s why I never feel kempt? Hevelled, however, is not in the dictionary, but I reckon it’s a word we need desperately. Some women can get out of bed with not a hair out of place, then sit on a plane for hours and not have a crease in their clothes whereas I only have to breathe for all my clothes to go skew-whiff. Those people are definitely hevelled and, yes, I am jealous!


I Like Rise Pudding, or..Beware the Perils of Spell Check


I would just like to qualify that first part of the title; I do like rice pudding served a la peasant….cold and straight from the tin. I prefer my baked beans that way too, come to mention it. Maybe I have stumbled upon a whole new class of cuisine! For those who aren’t terminally offended by this revelation, read on….

In my last offering here I inadvertently mentioned Spell Check, that fiendish invention designed to lull people into a sense of false security. Yep, it’s very useful for instances where those of us with over-wide fingertips accidentally press the wrong key[s] and write a nonsense word; and it does also highlight the times where we have typed faster than our brains can cope and transposed letters by mistake. What it cannot do is tell you when you’ve written utter junk [if it did, this blog would be permanently underlined with a red squiggly line].

To see just how dumb Spell Check can be I decided to create a perfectly innocuous sentence with correct, but wrong, words. The one I came up with is in the picture…not one of the words is incorrectly spelt, but the only mistake that the squiggle noticed was ‘bee’. [OK, there is a green line where I inserted an extra space erroneously, but you get the point.] It did spot that there should not be a noun in that position and informed me that I must have meant the verb ‘be’, but apart from that it was perfectly happy with my literary creation.

Spell Check is great if you already know how to spell pretty well; it will highlight the words which we all struggle with [I can finally remember how to spell necessary since I read somewhere that it is neCeSSary for a shirt to have one Collar but two Sleeves. You may thank me on the back of fifty pound notes, ask for my address or bank details in the comments section]. What it cannot, usually, do is differentiate between desert and dessertdiscreet and discrete  or, as became apparent to my surprise from the aforementioned experiment, four and for. [I expected it to pick up on that….HA, just goes to show!]

One other problem I have found. As part of Starfish English Services’ services [for want of better phraseology] I do proofreading for students, many of whom do not have English as their first language. When writing for a UK university they need to write, generally speaking, using British English spellings, yet most computers seem to default to US English. They spell words such as realize, color, and center and spell check happily allows them because it doesn’t know where in the world they are studying. Or, they spell these words in the UK style realise, colour and centre and are greeted with a plethora of red squiggles, giving them the impression they have made a multitude of errors.

Dear reader [says me, coming over all Bronte-esque] please, please, please never think that Microsoft can replace a good knowledge of spelling. True, computer programs are getting better and cleverer all the time, but I think they will have a long way to go before they can understand why I do NOT like rise pudding four desert.

Spelling made Heartwarming


Firstly, before I get entangled with spelling, children, Sue Perkins and Moira Stuart, I would just like to say hello, thank you and sorry to the people who have taken the time to comment on previous drivellings within this picnic. Being somewhat new to WordPress I am still unraveling the mysteries of my dashboard and it’s only very recently that I noticed I had notifications and needed to ‘approve’ comments. A few days later, I then realised there was a further option for me to reply to comments…YAY! So, as I said, ‘Hello, Thank you and Welcome indeed’.

So, spelling. It’s pretty tedious isn’t it? Something we’re either good or bad at – even with the hindrance of Spell Check [I feel another rant coming on, but will control myself for now]. I’m sure we all remember having to learn lists of spellings for tests at school – even spelling in foreign languages as our academic careers progressed. Anybody have heartwarming memories of this?  The silence is deafening 🙂

Anyway, for Christmas one of my daughters bought me a Now TV box with an entertainment pass. I am famed for not really watching much telly and I find Freeview is usually more than enough to keep me busy when I do settle down for some viewing. However I managed to sort out the new gadget and, after only 2 or 3 weeks I have sorted out some settings! [Pause here to take a bow and hear the thunderous applause]. By default I head for the documentaries section when I’m searching for something to watch; Minotaurs, the Silk Road, Russian artworks…all fascinating to we nerds. I have no idea how I found it – maybe one of those ‘suggested programmes’ which pop up -but I somehow discovered The Big Spell  on Sky TV yesterday and am hooked.

Ordinarily I would say that putting pressure on children [aged between 9 and 13] to perform with the added stress of an audience and TV lights is not a good idea. My opinions are, however, changing.The programme is in 8 parts [only the first 2 have been broadcast so far] with a variety of spelling games in which the children compete each week. Sue Perkins is the host, with Moira Stuart asking the questions. I think the choice of these 2 for the roles is brilliant. Their blend of light-heartedness, gravity and motherliness is just right given the ages of the contestants. Nervous children frequently get hugs, high-fives and encouragement from Sue whilst Moira’s look of genuine pleasure when they get a spelling right is wonderful to see.

The children all seem happy to be there, and so far there is a total absence of ‘pushy’ parents; just proud, supportive and warm mums and dads always ready with a cuddle and word of reassurance. The way the contestants themselves are so mutually supportive is also lovely to see. Although they all want to go through to the next round, they genuinely cheer each other on and delight in each other’s success.

I couldn’t help but wonder, if I were to take part in something like this, [well I did enter 15 to 1 in 2015, but maybe more of that another time] would I be able to spell surveillance under the glare of the TV lights. I’m pretty sure the answer would be………..HELP!

PS, I’m loving Agatha Raisin too in case you wondered.

If you want to see the programme, this link just might take you to it…or then again, it might not 😦

Tongue-twisters and Triple Letters



The other day, at work, I was trying to ask a colleague if they would be able to swap a shift with me. Well, I tried to ask them. I tried VERY HARD to ask them. ‘Would you mind doing a swift shop?’ was my first attempt. I quickly rectified it:’I meant a shwift sop.’ Hmmmm. Attempt three was something on the lines of ‘I mean, are you ok to shop a shwift with me?’ Easy enough to write, but my poor befuddled tongue just couldn’t get round the words. In future I will have to either ask:’Would it be convenient for you to exchange some of your rotas for some of mine?’ – or maybe just text!

The reason we struggle over tongue-twisters is the way our brains anticipate the next parts of a word or sentence before we’ve fully formed them. We are trying to synchronise the formation and choice of words in our brain; the necessary movements of our mouth, tongue and lips; the syntax of the words and also make the correct noises in the correct order. When you think that most of the time we manage all this fairly successfully it is actually an amazing achievement. Yet babies begin learning this skill from the moment they are born [and some believe they are absorbing linguistic rhythms, tones and other ‘building-blocks’ whilst still in the womb]. By the age of 2, most children have a vocabulary wide enough to meet their everyday needs [and embarrass their parents!] – aren’t humans fantastic?

I then got wondering about other tongue-twisters. Apparently, Peter Piper was a real French person called Pierre Poivre and the ‘She’ who sells seashells was Mary Anning, the famous Victorian fossil collector of Lyme Regis [ go to:   – I reckon it has more than a ring of truth to it].

Moving on, I found this awesome page dedicated to tongue-twisters in Tagalog [no, not an alien race, but one of the main languages of the Philippines].

I think no 7 is my favourite ‘pitumput-pitong puting pating‘.  Could be fun to try after a drink or 4!

So, where do triple letters fit into this? We have many instances of double letters in English, as do many other Indo-European languages. However, do any words have triple letters? The answer is, unsurprisingly, ‘no’. Yet I was once walking in Bremen [one of the most wonderful cities in the world, trust me] and my eyes skimmed over a sign and tried to continue admiring the riverside scene, but my brain came to a mental full-stop, staggered and fell flat on its face. The word Schifffahrten was in my line of vision and I just could not process the three F’s I was reading. I almost felt my mind had been mugged; tricked; deluded….no word has the right to a triple letter. But, actually, the way German can stick words together, seemingly endlessly like a verbal game of dominoes, means this is possible and does happen.

Well, never in English, surely? But in Preston, on my way to work or the university, I usually walk past a branch of a certain clothes shop which, for some unfathomable reason, decided to remove the space in its name. Proudly emblazoned on the window, making my brain stop and do a double take almost every day, is MISSSELFRIDGE. Sob, sniff, snuffle…the PAIN. Please make it go away , someone?

I Did Warn You…


..I warned you about a few things, in fact. Firstly – I had thought of a way of choosing a new name for my blog – so how do you like ‘Picnic At Asgard’?



Where do recipe books come into it?

One of my favourite Christmas presents was the amazing book pictured above. Yes, the official Dr Who Cookbook 🙂 [It has delighted the grandkids too, especially after I made them Cassandra lasagne]. Well, what better place to look for a blog title I thought to myself. How to do this? So much to choose from. Ood head-bread? Extermicake? Adipose Pavlova?  Sweet Silence rated highly among the possibilities, but I had decided to pick the blog’s official ‘forever’ name at random. [I also struggle to be silent once I get going, as you may have noticed]

So, I found an online random number generator and entered the first and last pages of the actual recipes [nope, even I didn’t want a blog called ‘introduction’ or ‘index’]. The thingumma-jig gave me number 61, so I excitedly turned to that page to be greeted with the lovely pie slices in the other picture above. The name of this recipe [cheating slightly, cos it’s on page 60 in actual fact] is ‘picnic at Asgard’ and…yep…I love it. Welcome to the picnic that is my blog.Nibble on my nuttier notions, munch on my meditations, taste my tome-lets..ok, you get the idea.

If you want to make your own Dalek head noodle salad, Cybermelts or any other such delights, try:

Now, I did say I had warned you about two things in my last post – and the second could well have turned into a small rant. However, I am going to try to behave myself and continue with decorum.

After telling you about the damp squid, I decided to investigate a couple of other sayings that make no sense whatsoever: Head over heels and Cheap at half the price. Why? Cos they’re how things should be anyway, aren’t they? Just as a squid WOULD be damp, [and that fine tooth-comb isn’t for all those times you need to comb your teeth*] one’s head is almost always in a higher position than one’s heels; and if something were half the price, well it would certainly be cheap [Private jets and Rolls Royces excepted].

Looking into this it would appear that ‘Heels over head’ was actually the original saying [ ] so how it turned upside down itself, so to speak, is a mystery but surely an ironic one!

Cheap at half the price seems to be a little more intriguing. After reading some online debates about this, I had to turn, as usual, to every linguistics student’s best friend, the OED. There, in the etymology of ‘cheap’ I found the following definition dating to the 9th and 10th centuries:

Exchangeable commodities, merchandise, goods, chattels, esp. (live) cattle.

So, the ‘cheap’ in question looks as though it was originally not an adjective but a noun in its own right. If somebody were offering merchandise at half the price, then it would be a very good bargain indeed and rightly something to be shouted about in your very best Old English. Did I ever mention my dissertation? No? Be extremely thankful…..


*Our beloved fine tooth-comb should, in reality, have its hyphen moved, giving an enormously different meaning: fine-tooth comb. Now that WOULD be useful when searching for the ubiquitous needle in the haystack, wouldn’t it?

Of Squid and Schadenfreude




©2012-2017 jonathan 3D

Schadenfreude – it’s a lovely word to roll off the tongue, maybe not so easy to spell. Its meaning, though, isn’t quite as delightful; taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. I’m sure we’ve all done it; especially when that smug TV personality or arrogant politician is knocked off their perch. Yep, it’s definitely a useful word, although maybe the fact that there is no exact English equivalent means it is a reminder of our Germanic roots?

I think we need an English antonym for this concept – a word meaning to take pleasure in the good fortune of others. We all love it when the underdog wins, we love hearing good news from family and friends, yet we have never really coined a word to express the feeling. I decided to search for ‘schadenfreude antonym‘  to see what Google could offer.

Firstly, I came across some threads on various sites about what the opposite of schadenfreude [ok, ok, I’m showing off ‘cos I have finally learnt how to spell it!] actually consists of. I was thinking of joy in the good fortune of others, yet some contributors suggest that the opposite would be to take pleasure in the fact that others had succeeded where you had failed []. Nope, I really don’t think we’re ready for a word to express joy in being beaten to the top job, losing out in love to a rival or seeing somebody choose the lottery numbers which you used last week and scoop the jackpot.

The Huffington Post has a similar take on it -[ It offers unbelievably complicated German compound words to try to fill the gap, Vergangenheitsbewaltegung or Gesellschaftsgeschichte [I didn’t even try to spell these – hallelujah for ‘copy and paste’ functions!]. So, the search continued. ‘Compassion’ seemed to be the nearest concept which people could suggest, but this, to me, implies an element of misfortune with which one is emotionally and/or practically involved in a supportive way.

Last call – the good old OED. Despite offering several quotations, dating back to 1852, and a brief etymology of its German elements, all the OED could offer by way of definition was ‘Malicious enjoyment of the misfortunes of others’. No suggestions of synonyms or antonyms. So, as the original is a compound German word, I see no reason not to create a compound English antonym; and after much thought and head-scratching I offer you….

Gladyourlucky, or it could be shortened to glucky? Yup, Glucky works for me. Will it catch on? Let’s all try it and see.

PS – where do squid come into all of this? Basically, I was chatting to a friend yesterday about their New Year’s Eve party, and they said it hadn’t been too bad, but maybe it had been a ‘bit of a damp squid’ with hindsight. Squid are almost always damp, the fact they live in the sea sort of makes that a given. The correct phrase is ‘damp squib’ – squib being an explosive device which, if damp, would fail to perform.

This got my wandersome brain heading off in all directions – the ubiquitous fine tooth-comb; the phrases ‘head over heels’ or ‘cheap at half the price’. I will leave you to also ponder these and will be back, quite possibly with a gentle rant, on this subject very soon. BABVA*


*Be afraid, be VERY afraid.


An Eye-Opening Experience


What’s this scribble all about? [I mean the picture above, not my virtual scribbling in this blog!] This, I discovered today, is a representation of what it can be like to have dementia. As part of an article I will be writing for Podio PR1 magazine’s next issue, I was invited to try life with various cognitive and physical impairments for a short while this afternoon.

The main focus of the experiment was for me to wear different apparatus which would simulate age-related problems such as arthritis, stiff joints, visual and hearing problems. Before we set out, though, and with all my senses still fully functioning [ok, ok, that could be open to debate] I was offered the chance to have a taste of what dementia can be like.

It was a seemingly simple task. I had to draw between the twin lines of the star shape above – but in a mirror image of it. I started out quite well and thought ‘this is going to be easy’. Suddenly, though, I seemed to ‘forget’ how to do it. The lines, you will observe, suddenly start wandering back and forth in an increasingly manic-looking scrawl. The more my line went ‘wrong’, the harder I tried to get back in the shape, and the harder it was to do. Logically, I should simply have done the opposite of whatever I had been doing to get back again, but I just could not seem to be able to do it. It was as though my hand and brain had ceased to communicate in any meaningful way. I knew I wasn’t doing what I was trying to do, but for the life of me I could not figure out how to rectify the situation.

At first it seemed funny [of the ‘ha, ha’ type], then it got a little irritating, then I went from anger to terror to giving in, almost on the point of tears. Never being one to admit defeat easily, I decided to try again at a new point on the star, hence the separate area of scrawl half way down. This time my pen just seemed to wander aimlessly, no matter how much my brain was trying to direct it. Truly, this was a terrifying experience. I had the luxury of being able to say ‘ok, I can’t do it’ and opt back in to ‘normality’. In a real situation, this option is not there.

After this, we set out round Preston with me wearing the other apparatus, the point of which was to experience the town from the perspective of a person suffering from common age-related infirmities. The company, Kingswood Consulting, aim to encourage businesses and public authorities to realise that, with our ever aging demographic, more and more people will need their difficulties taking into account if they are to continue working, shopping and generally experiencing life as fully as possible.

Discussing it afterwards, I told Jane, from Kingswood Consulting, that it reminded me of a poem I wrote when I was still suffering quite badly with panic and anxiety; Invisible Wheelchair.  The problems I faced, thankfully temporarily, today were brought about by my wearing lots of strange-looking equipment and it was obvious to passers-by that I was impaired in my movement etc, but ordinarily none of these conditions would be apparent to others at a glance. Disability is not always obvious, but that does not make it any the less real.

Invisible Wheelchair

Can you see my wheelchair?

Why I can’t get through the door?

The obstacles that block me

From doing that much more?

How some things are so difficult

While I’m stuck in this thing

Yet I know you can’t see it

I need understanding.

Sometimes there is access

To where I want to go

But only I can find it

Only I can know

My wheelchair is all in my head

Not obvious to you

But terror, fear, anxiety

Keep forcing me, anew

To stay in here and battle

Do mental physio

To work my cerebal muscles

So I can stand and go

Wherever I would like to

No fears to stumble on

I long to stand and walk again

My mental wheelchair gone.

PS. I am, as the title suggests, still awaiting a good suggestion as to what to call this blog. If none are forthcoming in the next couple of days I am going to pick one in a very random way indeed….watch this space!