Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Enlightenment Porn

Via The Sensuous Curmudgeon, we learn of an amazing, paradigm-shifting, life-transforming 'Spiritual memoir and dramatic journey of inner discovery' by one Ruth Angela. So urgent is Ruth's message for humankind that she has eschewed the self-scrutiny and multiple revisions that a publisher might require of her, and published it herself. You can find it on Amazon, enthusiastically recommended. Ruth has a way with vivid imagery that truly awakens the soul's yearning to achieve oneness with the universe:

When I received this gift of awakened kundalini from an Indian guru in 1979, from a dramatic two-hour meditation, I had no idea of its value. Even though I tasted ineffable bliss then, the process disrupted my marriage, family and my organised, well-controlled, yuppie lifestyle, causing great confusion and distress to everyone. Family and friends saw my former passive, compliant self dissolve before their eyes as my consciousness was overturned like a great mattress.



Sunday, 20 April 2014

Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

Στ'αρχίδια μας.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Language Nerdery II


I know this is supposed to be all in good fun, and I suppose it might make some people take more care with their spelling, but these chirpy little captions are all over the internet and boy, do they bring out the curmudgeon in me. (He's never far below the surface, I admit.) First off, 'your' and 'you're' don't sound similar, they sound identical in connected speech, even if some people differentiate the citation forms. This explains the frequent confusion in spelling, and it's spelling that's the issue here, so the comparison with a potential but improbable pronunciation error is way off beam. 'Catastrophe' is stressed on the second syllable with the first 'a' and the 'o' reduced to schwa, and in the unlikely event that you would ever need to use the term 'cat ass trophy', you'd stress the first syllable of 'trophy' and give 'cat' and 'ass' a full vowel. Let us have a few seconds' choral drilling:

Catastrophe: oOoo
Cat ass trophy: ooOo

Catastrophe: oOoo
Cat ass trophy: ooOo

You see?

So writing 'your' when you mean 'you're', or vice versa, is absolutely nothing at all like screwing up the stress pattern on 'catastrophe'.

Happy Easter.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Reformulation?


When correcting a piece of student writing, you have a number of options: correction codes, cheery exhortatory comments, or correcting every spelling error, missing word and misuse of those damnable electronic dictionaries. An alternative to slathering it with corrections and underlinings is reformulation. This is when you rewrite the student's work according to your interpretation of what he's trying to say, then 'conference' (FFS) with him to see if you were right. I was going to do this for Abdulrahman's latest offering, but decided it would probably violate the union's work-to-contract ruling if I did. Should anyone out there feel equal to the challenge, here's a snippet for you to work on:

At this point possible financial Police officer's salaries are not equal to the size of their large. In my opinion, the police officers safer and functionally better then the players understand the functions of its official hierarchy. Players are either laid off or fell when hit by their level. 

Don't expect an answer key: I haven't a clue.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Language Nerdery


I found this on facebook. I agree with one, three, four, five and nine and disagree with two, six, seven and eight. However, since one, three and six are not about grammar and I don't really understand ten, I'm not sure if I meet this writer's criteria for grammar nerdhood or not. I always thought of grammar nerds as those who internalise a load of prescriptive rules - don't split infinitives, don't place prepositions at the end of sentences - and then enjoy a good wince when other people break them. Or maybe you are truly a language nerd if (like me) you enjoy feeling superior to those poor saps who are stuck in their prescriptivist rut and not really quite clear about what grammar is. Number eight made me cringe for reasons other than those envisaged by the writer. There's no logical reason not to double a negative in English. Double negatives are mandatory in French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, so how can they 'cancel one another out' in English, as prescriptivist logic-choppers claim? Sixty years or so ago, you might have heard an exchange such as the following between a gowned and mortar-boarded school master and a scruffy first-former:

'Why are you not writing, Higginbottom?'
'Amp got no pen, sir.'
'Then I see no possible impediment to your commencing the test forthwith, Higginbottom.'
'Bur I amp got no pen, sir.'
'I'm simply taking you at your word, Higginbottom...'   

No, you're not, teech, you are just being a dick and a snob. Pragmatics, mate: you understand the kid perfectly well. If someone asked you to describe yourself, would you say 'well, I can't get no satisfaction!' and expect us to understand that you are a fairly contented soul? No, you wouldn't. Double negatives are a sociolinguistic matter, not a semantic one - as underlined when the school master warns Higginbottom that he's going to end up working in the mills unless he bucks his ideas up. I actually heard this warning issued to contemporaries at school in the early seventies. (If some prescriptivist is thinking of ticking me off for ending that last sentence but one with a preposition, it's actually an adverb, so there.)      

Number four, though, hell yeah. Leicester station is an endless source of irritation in this regard, but usually for misplaced stress rather than mangled grammar:

This barrier will retain tickets

This notice was posted probably because the staff got fed up of people waiting to get their tickets back and holding up the queue. They decided to underline one of the words for emphasis:

 This barrier will retain tickets

This has been causing me mild discomfort for some time. Surely the point is that 'this barrier will not give you back your tickets, no; the fact is that: 

This barrier will retain tickets'

But then I decided that from the point of view of a barrier attendant, maybe there is some logic behind this apparently unmotivated stressing of the auxiliary. 'Look, you lot, we've told you over and over, but you never bloody get it,     

 This barrier will retain tickets

so what's up, don't you believe us?' It's just that any passenger who needs this information is by definition not in on the subtext.  

I've just spent a couple of hours of a free day sounding off about matters of scant interest to non-language teachers, so I suppose that qualifies me for nerdery of some kind.  

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