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:

Sushi Gets Her Collar can be found here:

For more about Jhilmil, an extremely talented poet and artist, her  page can be found at:, 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:

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


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:

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 ]

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 –

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’ –

Are you a Muslim? Only a few decades ago in Bosnia, and even now in Myanmar, you would be in fear of your life –

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 –

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 –

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.




No, Thank You, I Don’t Want Fries With That.


Well, there are several reasons for my dietary choice actually. Firstly – my generous proportions make fried food rather a bad idea. Secondly – I actually prefer a nice jacket potato any day of the week but, thirdly, I AM BRITISH and I prefer to call them chips!

I also prefer to talk about TV series rather than seasons, and the phrase ‘Monday through [or even worse, ‘thru’] Thursday’ brings me out in a rage. OK, I must admit I’m probably fighting a losing battle against the American form of our language; it’s arriving daily with TV programmes, advertisements, fast food outlets etc. As a student of the history of the English language I know how our tongue has been influenced since the very beginning by contact with other nations [where would we be without baguettes, shampoo and saunas*?] so I will, perhaps, just have to grit my teeth and bear it.

A very interesting article appeared in The Guardian and I would recommend you take a few minutes to read it.

However, despite the fact that I acknowledge that language must change or die, I will never, to my dying day, say ‘Should of’, ‘Would of’ or ‘Could of’ – so there!


* French, Hindi and Finnish

I Hate Chasing Envelopes!


I’m sure we’ve all had to do it – we go to the supermarket to buy a few tins of beans or a cabbage – and find them running up and down the aisles doing their best to escape the oncoming shopping trolleys…..No?

I was waiting for a bus this evening and, to pass the time, I was reading one of those light-up message boards in a bargain shop across the road. They had cigarette papers on offer, kitchen equipment and stationary items. I was so happy; I so hate the type of establishment I mentioned in the first paragraph. What am I talking about? Stationa/ery – that’s what. Two very similar words with one important difference – the final vowel.

It’s easy to confuse the words stationary and stationery uness you remember the simple rule….E is for Envelope. So, if you are writing about paper, pens, envelopes etc it’s spelt with an ‘e’ – stationery. If, however, you are talking about something which is totally still [as I prefer my cabbages and beans to be in the shops!] then it’s spelt with an ‘a’ – stationary. Simples.


 Picture [of hopefully stationary pebbles] © Zen Pepples. Maurice Alexandre F.P. / Getty Images

Exciting News

This is just a quick piece of news I am bursting to share with you, dear reader[s?]. If you didn’t know already, there is a wonderful magazine about language called Babel which I find extremely enjoyable. It’s written in an informative but not overly-academic way and I have previously mentioned a few of its articles on my own Facebook page

Anyway, I saw a post on their Facebook page, recently, asking for people to submit articles for their ‘Ask an Expert’ section. Previous questions have included ‘Why do we use the letter X to symbolise a kiss?’ and ‘What is the difference between In hospital and  In the hospital?’ I hesitatingly volunteered to research an upcoming question ‘Why is the grammar of the proverb ‘Needs must’ so odd? Needs must… what? Be acknowledged?’ To my amazement they not only accepted my offer, but they liked my answer and it just may feature in an upcoming issue. So, why is the grammar so strange? You’ll have to get yourself a copy of Babel to find out!

You can read more about Babel for yourself on Facebook at

or their site can be found at