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 🙂

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An Academic Sightseeing Day

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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.
**https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80000770

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

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43146117

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!

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

potatoes-french-mourning-funny-162971.jpeg

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.     http://tiny.cc/41ccqy

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!

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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.

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 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 https://www.facebook.com/starfish4english/.babel-the-language-magazine-issue-1

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

https://www.facebook.com/Babelzine?fref=ts

or their site can be found at

http://www.babelzine.com/

What’s the Japanese for ‘Umm’?

 

We all pepper our speech with those little not-quite-words such as ‘umm’ and ‘errr’, don’t we? Had it ever occurred to you that you were speaking English when you made those sounds [called fillers in Linguistics, should you want to know]?

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Picture from: https://drawception.com/game/9hZ3EsCfbM/ummm-hi/

Apparently, one of the most common ways of showing you are not a native speaker of a language – no matter how proficient you may be – is to forget to use that language’s own fillers during speech.

In Polish, for instance, the sound equivalent to ‘Umm’ is yyy or eee.

Japanese has ええと [pronounced eto I am informed] and Welsh has iawn.

So, should you be chatting away in Polish and you state – with perfect grammar and pronunciation – that ‘I think I might, ummm, try a new hairdo’ [Myślę, że mogę, ummm, spróbować nowej fryzury], that ‘ummm’ has just betrayed your non-Polish nativity. *

Say Myślę, że mogę, yyy, spróbować nowej fryzury, on the other hand, and nobody would suspect a thing [unless they spot your penchant for watching Coronation Street without Polish subtitles]. Novice spies – take note!

By the way – she waffles, off topic, isn’t fryzury a lovely word to describe a hairdo. Mine is definitely quite fryzurish every morning!

For more on this subject, [fillers not fryzury-style hair], try these links to get you started.

http://nprillinois.org/post/um-uh-huh-are-these-words-clues-understanding-human-language#stream/0
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/05/06/the_odd_body_language_fillers/

 

* Nativity – lovely word we don’t use often enough, except at Christmas. And it IS darned near Christmas [there’s virtual snow on this site and real snow on the streets outside], so I feel justified in using it. Happy Christmas everybody and a blessed New Year

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All French People are Male!

Before I start, apologies for the lack of posts recently, my thesis has now been submitted and normality is resuming. You have been warned. OK, as I was saying:

Ever been to France? Have you ever noticed the lack of female French people? No? Look harder!

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Picture from: https://lynnlchin.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/the-french/

French, along with many, many languages, [far too many if you ask me] has no neutral pronouns. Huh? Sorry – I’ll put it another way. In English, we talk about males as ‘he’, females as ‘she’ and inanimate objects as ‘it’ [ok, maybe not ships … but mostly we do]. If we are talking about a group of people we only have the words ‘them, they’ etc…nicely gender-neutral.

Because of this,  we don’t pluralise He and She for groups of males or females and talk about ‘hes’ or ‘shes’. Imagine:

‘Here come the bridesmaids…shes look lovely, don’t shes?’

Just not English, is it? However, in French, the word elles is a plural for a group of females, as  ils is for a group of men. The trouble starts when talking about a mixed group. Instead of some gender-neutral plural, the masculine ils is used by default, meaning that you would have no way of knowing just from this if the group included females or not.

Many generations of language students in English-speaking countries have puzzled over this; cries of ‘SEXIST’ have reverberated round many a classroom, yet we always presumed the French were fine with it. We thought they just gave a Gallic shrug and said something along the lines of c’est la vie.

It has emerged, though, that French women themelves are not happy about the inherent sexism in their language. This article from the Daily Telegraph sums it up:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/08/french-schoolteachers-push-gender-neutral-grammar-row-language/

One reason for the current state of affairs, cited in the article, is…shall we say…slightly controversial –

Above all, it was applied for “political” rather than linguistic reasons, they argue, citing a 17th century work by linguistic state advisor Dupleix on French linguistic “purity”. This reads: “Because the masculine gender is more noble, it takes precedence alone against two or several feminines, even if these are closer to their adjective.”

OK, have you calmed down yet, dear female readers? [I haven’t!!!!] Sadly, even those who are pushing for a change appear to be struggling to find a sensible solution. One such idea being mooted is the inclusive approach:

The inclusive approach splits up words using a mid punctuation point, so the plural for all friends becomes “ami·e·s”. Dear friends becomes “cher·e·s ami·e·s”.

Hmmm, can’t see that catching on, can you? So, as the debate continues across the channel , let’s leave THEM to it and have a nice cuppa instead!istock_000003335090small_1_1