Dissertation Dilemmas


available at: http://tiny.cc/94guky

Well, it’s that time of year again which sees the libraries of universities packed to the rafters with students who desperately wish they’d:

i] Started work earlier

ii] Chosen a totally different topic for their dissertation

iii] Chosen a totally different course of study altogether [personally, a degree in Lego-building would suit me down to the ground!]


iv] Been studying at the university where Dr Who is currently residing – he could, surely, just take them a month or 2 into the future , just in time for their graduation party 🙂

Since academic proofreading is one of the services my company –  Starfish English Services – offers, I have been glued to my computer for the last few weeks desperately wondering whether bi-variate needs a hyphen, [it doesn’t], whether ‘smoothening’ is a word [it can be, but usually ‘smoothing’ is best] and other such considerations. However, sometimes everybody’s brain needs a break, so I thought I’d share a couple of common errors for your information TOTALLY FREE OF CHARGE! How generous is that?

One such error is ‘people that…’ or similar. When discussing people, the word needs to be ‘who’ [or whom, but that’s another topic altogether]. So, ‘the politicians who passed the resolution…’ but ‘the experiments that proved…’. OK?

Another one, very important to get right, is ‘objectionable’ or ‘objective’. ‘Objective’ is when a case is looked at from a neutral, impersonal point of view, with no hidden agenda or bias. ‘Objectionable’, on the other hand, means unpleasant, offensive, rude….definitely not the way a researcher would want to conduct their survey!

One final point, which isn’t as clear cut, is when to use ‘that’ and when to use ‘which’. I found this really helpful blog post about it and, as I doubt I could put it any more clearly myself, I’ll just leave you  with the link.


PS – In conversation with the worship leader at our church, as I shooed him out of the kitchen we’d just set up for serving the after-service tea and coffee, I found myself saying

‘Don’t you dare disrupt this kitchen; we’ve only just rupted it’!

I reckon I’ve maybe coined a great new word 🙂


Praises and Passwords

The Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijnants (1670)

Have you ever used a Shibboleth? It’s a way of signing in whenever I need to access the OED online through my university’s portal. It is also, according to a quick Google search ‘among the world’s most widely deployed federated identity solutions, connecting users to applications both within and between organizations.’

Another definition comes up as: ‘a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important.’

The OED, which, ironically, I needed to use Shibboleth to look up the self-same word has, amongst many definitions:

A word or sound which a person is unable to pronounce correctly; a word used as a test for detecting foreigners, or persons from another district, by their pronunciation.

A custom, habit, mode of dress, or the like, which distinguishes a particular class or set of persons.

A catchword or formula adopted by a party or sect, by which their adherents or followers may be discerned, or those not their followers may be excluded.

But, where did this word actually come from? The topmost entry in the OED explains:

The Hebrew word used by Jephthah as a test-word by which to distinguish the fleeing Ephraimites (who could not pronounce the sh) from his own men the Gileadites (Judges xii. 4–6).

Basically, it was an ancient equivalent of what I call the ‘Chip Butty’ test. Being a proud Lancashire woman [albeit with a Yorkshire influence from my mum] I often hear people bragging that they’ve lived in Lancashire for x number of years and are, therefore, now true Lancashire-ites. I simply ask them to say ‘Chip Butty’. If it comes out more like ‘Chip Batty’ then they are NO WAY proper Lancashire! [If they don’t even know what a butty is, then they are ridiculed out of the pub, staff room or wherever by all and sundry.] If they do get the beautiful ‘u’ sound just right then, Hallelujah, they can count themselves as true natives of our fair county.

So, Hallelujah? I’m sure many people find themselves saying it, even if in a rather ironic or patronising way at times. It is actually Hebrew for ‘Praise the Lord’ and, therefore, something I love to say but in a hopefully more meaningful sense. Did you realise you were praising the Lord whenever you uttered that word? Something to think about maybe.

‘God Knows’ is another saying which people seem to use all the time – to which I usually answer ‘Yes, I know He does, but do you?’ Something else to think about?

Whilst I am on this topic, I’m sure we have all heard about the Samaritans, and I’m not ashamed to admit I have phoned them myself on a couple of occasions. They do amazing work for which they can’t be praised highly enough. However, did you realise that the original Good Samaritan was something of an oxymoron*? Interestingly, when I searched for an antonym for Samaritan I couldn’t find one at all. Nowadays it would perhaps be equivalent to Good Hooligan or Good Thug, although it had religious and racial connotations too. The Samaritans were people who vehemently differed from the Jews as to where to sacrifice to God, and the two nations were deeply mistrustful and antagonistic towards each other. For one to perform such an act of kindness in the parable [found in Luke 10:25–37] would have been almost unthinkable to Jesus’ audience. Yet nowadays it is a byword for kindness, unselfishness and helpfulness – quite a difference from its original derogatory meaning.

Despite the fact that most people nowadays would never open a Bible from one decade to the next, it’s quite surprising how much of our language is derived straight from there.

*Oxymoron:  A term which contradicts itself, for example ‘Deeply Superficial’

A Fresh Perspective


One of the things I love doing is browsing in the children’s section of Waterstone’s. The amazing range of books available nowadays; tactile, audible, some even incorporating glove puppets….they are a joy [which could never be replicated with a Kindle, could they???].

So, with half an hour to spend, I was idling there the other day when I spotted a book by a wonderful writer:- Shirley Hughes. My daughters loved her Alfie* books when they were small, and so my eye was drawn to one I hadn’t seen before…then I had to look again! Since when did she become a political writer? A year of Tories????? What a strange book to write for small children. I’m all for educating them, but surely this was a step too far!

Happily, I soon figured out my mistake – by taking a step closer I could see it was actually A Year of Stories. Phew! But then I started noticing other rather misleading words. On the bus to Liverpool, mentioned in my earlier post, I saw a car with ANGER written on the back. It was a big 4 wheel drive type, very shiny and expensive looking. I have long thought DUSTER a silly name for a car – [when will the dishcloth and tea-towel models be following?] but to actually call a model ANGER – this is just inviting road rage, isn’t it. The car pulled away slightly to reveal it was actually a RANGER. Phew again. A much more peaceful-sounding name.

I do, however, still chuckle when I remember my absolute horror whilst strolling in the lovely Northumbrian seaside town of Seahouses. Ambling down an arcade, ice cream in hand, thinking about puffins, Vikings and other such Northumbrian-related matters I was suddenly confronted by a very large sign, proudly stating SEMEN. Yup….you read that right. I wondered if this was the red-light district [although the sign was a very innocent-looking blue and white]. Not sure whether to investigate more closely or just hurry past in the very British ‘none-of-my-business’ way, I took another step and the mystery was solved. The AMU and TS from either end of the sign were now, thankfully, in view. Seahouses is not the vice capital of Northumbria after all….unless you know differently?


A Change of Pace


© http://pcwallart.com/blossom-tree-branch-wallpaper-1.html

The other day I had to go to Liverpool [yes, it was a super-secret undercover mission and I will now have to kill you because you know].  I am a Christian, and recently came across Shelly Miller’s Sabbath Society*. This is, in a nutshell, some books, writings, blogs and inspiration for us to take more rest and realise it’s ok to do nothing; God rested on the Sabbath so why do we think we’re superhumans who can keep going seven days a week?


So, back to my Liverpool trip. I don’t drive, so the quickest way would have been to get the train. It saves an hour over the time the bus takes so – a no-brainer? However, I felt God telling me – ‘Take the bus, it’ll be fine.’ I really didn’t fancy a 2 hour bus ride, but the impetus was so compelling I surrendered and climbed on board.

I decided I might as well sit on the top deck to make the most of the scenery [it was an absolutely beautiful Spring day when England is looking especially lovely]. The route trundles through sleepy villages and country lanes for a good hour until it reaches Southport so I thought I might have a nap. [Yes, I’m definitely at that age where any excuse for a nap is most welcome!] However, the things I saw from my vantage point kept me enthralled.

I saw a couple of pheasants in the fields; magnificent birds which you just never ever encounter on the urban estate where I live.

I saw the clearly-defined shadow of a gull swooping low over a field.

I saw a small workshop, its door wide open to let in the sunshine, where two men were making a big iron fireplace; I wondered what home it would eventually grace.

I saw some amazing street names; Sugar Stump Lane and Cockle Dicks Rd. Why? How? Who on earth christened them?

I saw both great sturdy Shire horses and tiny, yet equally sturdy, Shetland ponies.

I saw tall trees bursting forth with magnificent blossoms, and delicate spring flowers timidly standing nearby at the roadside.

I saw No Fracking signs which always gladden my heart – it would be an unforgiveable crime to destroy these centuries of beautiful heritage with ugly, poisonous monsters.

We came into Southport – a place I have visited many times, but on this occasion I noticed how wonderful their Waterstone’s branch is.


I also spotted a hostelry called Peaky Blinders which described itself as a Beermongers – what a lovely word.


The journey took 2hours, 15 minutes – yet I was almost sad when it came to an end. The slow way is sometimes the best way – it can do the soul a power of good.

The trouble with Aunts


I am not technically gifted, especially where TVs are concerned and I’ve been having some trouble with one of the gizmos connected to my set. Thankfully I have friends-and-relations, just like Rabbit does, who can usually sort stuff out for me. So, after almost a month of not being able to watch anything through my Now TV box, I am playing catch-up.

As I mentioned a while back, I’d been loving The Big Spell and, tonight, I finally managed to catch the last 2 episodes. One word the children had to spell was a word beginning with ANT meaning ‘a thing that existed before or logically precedes another‘, and I had my heart in my mouth wondering if they’d think the 4th letter was ‘e’ or ‘i’. Would you have known? Anticedent or Antecedent?*

Anti-Natal or Ante-natal?

Ante-Perspirant or Anti=Perspirant

Anti-room or Ante-room?

Antediluvian or Antediluvian

Antiseptic or Anteseptic

Antebacterial or Antibacterial…….

Basically, if a word means it is trying to combat or stop something then the first part [or prefix, for the grammatically minded] is anti- from the Latin and Old French words meaning against.  [It’s also from a Greek word – not many can claim joint parentage from Greek AND Latin].

Ante- that prefix comes only from Latin [awww, bless] and means ‘before’. So, an Ante-room is one where you wait before a meeting, Antediluvian means before the flood, but Antibacterial is something that fights or is against bacteria. Simples……..

Until you come across an Antelope. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr


*It’s Antecedent, and ………….SPOILER ALERT…………………  they got it right 🙂