Friday, 31 May 2013

The Lady with the Bed


This week's Great Life (on Radio 4) was Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp [but a different sort of lamp from the one commonly depicted]. Ironically, for a woman whose bed-ridden letter-writing would have such an influence on hospital practice, she was a 'clinic' in the original meaning of that word in English – 'a bed-ridden person'.

In Classical Greece and Rome (and in 21st century Reading, UK. come to think of it) it took a special kind of doctor to visit patients in their beds – a clinicus (in Latin), a practitioner of κλινικη τεχνη. It was the 17th century French who encouraged the word's somersault from a patient who was visited by a doctor at home to a place away from home where a doctor was visited by a patient. French clinique was the model for the German Klinik (thence borrowed into English [first attested in 1884 – just in time for 'the Lady with the  Lamp But Not That Sort''], but long after her lamp-carrying days; she was in her sixties by then, and a confirmed clinic. [Incidentally, a digression on Lucifer ('light-bearer') invites my attention; but I must get back to The Book (την βιβλον –  oh dear) soon. So you're spared that.] If I had time for a proper digression I'd do some research into a feeling I have that Florence Nightingale, a pioneer of evidence-based nursing may have played a critical part in the history of the word clinical.

<rant intensity="low" possible_excuse="local accent">
Incidentally – no, really, this has nothing to do with clinical I keep wondering why the reporters all pronounce Vincent as though it meant 'twenty saints'. But I remember a discussion I had many moons ago with a music-head ('CUMS first band, don't you know' [and I was going to link that to a hoped-for article on the Cambidge University Music Society, but Wikipedia kindly diverted me to an article on the Capital University of Medical Sciences –  eerily relevant not to the discussion with the musican but to my piece on Florence. Scary or what?] about Poulenc. Apparently, the cognoscenti, or 'Radio 3 Announcers', all pronounce it as though it were spelt Poulinque. In fact, Wikipedia gives this tanscription in IPA characters:  [pulɛ̃k]) . Maybe something similar applies to the Vincent who got married in Montpellier last Wednesday, where – as I know to my cost, but that's another story – they have a very odd accent.
</rant>.

But although the origins of words may be interesting (and in some cases either illuminating or fascinating – I'm thinking of various tasty morsels I've posted about before: this, for example),  they don't have that unswerving dominance over meaning that Grumpy Old Men sometimes attribute to them. The primary meaning of clinical today has nothing to do with beds.[A rather frivolous exception is one I heard the other day on The Mentalist (a guiltless pleasure of mine). Cho said to Rigsby 'You're sleeping with Van Pelt again'. and Rigsby said the phrase sounded 'too clinical'. Maybe he was a Latin scholar – part of his back-story that's so far been inexplicably omitted – and felt that 'sleeping with' suggested beds rather than more spontaneous venues. Nah.]

 But I've got one week less than I thought, before the V2.1 release of  #WVGTbook is due (because the month ends on a Friday, which makes my month-to-a-page schedule repeat a week). So I must get on with that.

b

Update 2013.05.31.8:55 As an afterthought I went to see what the British National Corpus had to say about usage of 'clinical' followed by any noun. These are the first 25 results:

1  CLINICAL TRIALS 143
2  CLINICAL SIGNS 127
3  CLINICAL PRACTICE 94
4  CLINICAL RESEARCH 75
5  CLINICAL TEACHER 58
6  CLINICAL FEATURES 45
7  CLINICAL EXPERIENCE 35
8  CLINICAL DEPRESSION 35
9  CLINICAL EVIDENCE 34
10  CLINICAL COURSE 31
11  CLINICAL ECOLOGY 28
12  CLINICAL STUDIES 27
13  CLINICAL SYMPTOMS 27
14  CLINICAL USE 26
15  CLINICAL DISEASE 26
16  CLINICAL DIAGNOSIS 25
17  CLINICAL WORK 25
18  CLINICAL JUDGMENT 23
19  CLINICAL CARE 22
20  CLINICAL TRIAL 21
21  CLINICAL REMISSION 21
22  CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST 20
23  CLINICAL WASTE 20
24  CLINICAL MANAGEMENT 20
25  CLINICAL GRADING 20

etc. etc. – a total of 2,679 hits. These are the ones with 20 or more, but these few collocations account for more than a thousand of those hits. The meanings are mostly medical, but with little suggestion of beds.

2013.06.16.17:30 A small tweak to the previous update, and I've updated the TESconnect stats in the footer.
2013.06.25.15:10 Not before time I've added the </rant> tag; luckily no compiler was watching.

Update 2013.09.30.11:10
HeadFOOTer updated:


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Friday, 24 May 2013

Sudden increase in skier, mistaking right for power (5)

The Collins dictionary (example look-up, skierand I just noticed that page invites you to 'Like this word'; to misquote Joni Mitchell, 'Like? Where's that at?') has a well hidden feature, right down at the foot of the page – where it's almost guaranteed to be overlooked*. Talk about lights and bushels! Here it is:
Word usage trends for 'skier'
The input data for the graph are presumably the Collins corpus, whatever it's called, so I imagine one could work out what the grid-lines mean. But the relative usages are pretty starkly delineated (in a strangely apt application of that word). I chose the 50 year display because it most closely reflects my lifetime – though I did sneak a peak at the 100 year display, and there was a much smaller spike just before I was born – presumably a post-war fling (the spike, not the birth, of course...oh dear, I'll stop digging). But throughout my life, usage of skier has been in the bottom half of the graph; then, in the late nineties, it more or less doubled (as long as the count starts at zero). Why would that be?

Could it have been because of the extraordinary success of Norwegian businessman and cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie who won three gold medals at Nagano, bringing his total to 8 golds in a total of 12 (it says here)? I must say I doubt it. The name 'Bjørn Dæhlie' certainly didn't impinge heavily on my consciousness.

Hmm. So little time; so many digressions.

b
(PS Told you.)
Update 2013.05.28.10:20
  1. OK, time's up. It's spike.
  2. * Just the right place – the foot of the page – to put something when you want it to be over- looked (geddit? – the linebreak should help)

Update 2013.07.15: 'Tempus', as my old maths master used to say as we neared the end of another lesson, 'has fugitted'. See below for the latest.

Update 2014.05.25.16:20 – New footer again.



 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs ov vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: over 41.300 views  and over 5,700 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,100 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

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Monday, 20 May 2013

A Cunning Plan

 I've brushed up something I wrote on the subject of con a few years ago...
<rant flame="medium">
...before I hit my head on the OU's glass ceiling –  which makes it impossible to study beyond a certain level without wasting your time on angel-count-on-a-pinhead stuff that anyone in their right mind (if they've retained their right mind after the prolonged tedium of studying it) forgets the day after the exam. (And you have to pay them for the pleasure of this self-inflicted mental torture!)
</rant>
Anyway, here it is. I've left in a reference to 'course materials' to add some context. For what it's worth, U211 was the course. (Incidentally, there's a The History of English – in 10 minutes there, added since my time, and well worth the time)

To most native speakers of current English the most obvious (verbal) meaning of ‘con’ is the most recent (the Oxford English Dictionary [OED] traces it to 1896 – US, meaning ‘to persuade, to speak persuasively to; to dupe, to swindle’). This is a verb back-formed from an abbreviation of 'confidence trick[ster]' and has nothing to do with the present discussion.

Of the meaning ‘know’ OED says ‘there remains no consciousness of connexion between can to be able, and con to learn'; no consciousness, presumably, among people who did not learn a little French at school: Je sais nager means ‘I can swim’, and ‘je sais’ means ‘I know’. But this consciousness is of the connexion between the concepts, rather than between the English words.

For non-francophone English speakers we must go further back to find this consciousness. Chaucer, for example, wrote of the Squire, in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales:  
Wel koude  he sitte on hors and faire ryde.
He koude songes make and wel endite…
Here, koude refers to an ability.

But, in The Parson's Tale the Parson, talking of the Pater Noster, says
it is short, for [BK ‘so that’] it sholde be koud the more lightly
 – where koud refers to knowledge (although the two ideas are conflated: it is an ability to acquire knowledge).

However, Chaucer could be giving an early pre-echo of the point Melvyn Bragg made in The Adventure of English (3/15) – that the King James Bible was ‘deliberately archaic’; perhaps the Parson is intentionally – or by education – archaic-sounding (and consciously resurrecting an old usage). (As Melvyn Bragg points out elsewhere in The Adventure of English (2/13) Chaucer uses linguistic traits to further character development. And as Robinson writes in his ‘Introduction’ to an old edition of Chaucer's Complete Works 
<old_bone_of_contention>
no link, I'm afraid, Amazon has – to use a phrase annoyingly popular in the quaint vocabulary of the translator of The Killing, when referring to failed searches  – 'come up empty' [and heaven knows why I thought of that; it must have been quietly seething away for months] 
</old_bone_of_contention>
the Parson is not prepared to indulge in the Host’s game like all the other pilgrims, but agrees to speak of ‘moralitee and virtuous matere’. Linguistic conservatism might go well with this attitude. But it would take a Chaucer scholar to pursue this line of thought.)

This sense of ‘con’ – to ‘know –  has been largely lost to English, appearing today chiefly in crossword clues*;  but its traces can be seen in a number of ‘fossils’ contained in words made up with other morphemes: ‘uncouth’, for example, which OED dates to the early 10th century in the sense ‘Of facts or matters of knowledge: Unknown… uncertain’. It is today used in the more specific (and much later, 18th century) meaning ‘Awkward and uncultured in appearance or manners’. ‘Cunning’ contains another fossil of ‘con’; as does ‘canny’ in the Scots and archaic sense of  'knowing' (not able) – OED provides several 18th-century examples.  Perhaps also ‘conning tower’ carries this sense – although the OED supports no definite derivation. There is a clear maritime meaning in Stevenson’s (1886 [BK – sic Treasure Island was in fact published as a serial in 1881-2, and first published in book form in 1883]) usage: ‘Long John stood by the steersman and conned the ship.’

But where did the ‘l’ in ‘could’ come from? The OED leaves no room for doubt: ‘The current spelling is erroneous [BK – sic]: the 'l' began to be inserted about 1525, app[arently] in mechanical imitation of should and would, where an etymological l had become silent’. Presumably the apostrophe occurring in many examples represented a missing eth, thorn, or yogh (all also common), and not an '1'.  But it seems to have held the door open for a false analogy to be made with ‘sholde’ and ‘wolde’.**

Caxton used all three of these in a single sentence in his preface to Eneydos (quoted [BK –  by almost every historian of English, but I put a ref.  in here to pick up an extra mark!] in the late 15th century): 
…he also coude speke no Frenshe, but wolde haue had egges…. Loo, what sholde a man in thyse dayes now write, egges or eyren.’
But Melvyn Bragg, in The Adventure of English (3/8) mis-stresses his script, saying 
An l  was inserted in “could”  because it’d become silent [pause] but it was still present in “should” and “would”**. 
Presumably he meant ‘… because, while still present in “should” and “would”, it’d become silent [in those two words]’. A pause before ‘because’ would help make sense of some rather poor writing. This is a reminder that Melvyn Bragg was performing and writing for the popular market; The Adventure of English  is interesting and informative but not as reliable as the other course materials.


* Speaking of which, here's one. Nothing to do with con. By way of a clue, remember that I thought of it while working through *ie* words.
Bride or groom more confused? (8)
**‘Could’ is grouped with ‘should’ and ‘would’ as an ‘auxiliary modal verb’ in Swan's Practical English Usage, 2005, 353-4.


b
Update 2013.06.25.21:00

PS OK. It's time you had the answer the the crossword clue. When I re-read this, I couldn't work  it out for a while. But I've got it (and it's not bad, though I say it as shouldn't). Knottier.

Update 2013.09.30.11:10
HeadFooter updated

Update 2015.10.0610.05 – Corrected IPA symbols (which were previously an uneasy mixture of IPA and  SAMPA). And updated footer again.


Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?)

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each e cvowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
Well over 49,300 views  and nearly 9,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with nearly 2,700 views and nearly 1,100 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.






.
.

Friday, 17 May 2013

'Everything that follows is debatable'


Update 2013.09.30.11:10
HeadFooter updated

Update 2014.05.30.17.20
And again

Update 2014.08.16.11.30
Carl Bernstein, I heard on the radio this morning, decried the use of -gate in the way described in my May 2013 update, but the one case that he blessed with his imprimatur was 'Hackgate' – not just a scandal, but a cover up involving secrecy and duplicity in high places.

(I've taken this opportunity to update the footer again.)

Update 2015.06.15.11.40
Added picture (for the benefit of Pinterest).

Update 2015.06.16.11.20
Changed picture to keep the lawyers happy.


 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources:  over 44,640 views  and well over 6,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,250 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.













Friday, 10 May 2013

Noam's spark

It all started with a little stick, or in Latin regula.  (The Greek for 'little stick' was βακτηριον, but that's another story – this post is going to be about rules, not bacteria.) Regula is another of those diminutives that we've seen before. It's the root of our 'regulation'; and when things conform to a norm they are 'regular'; they may match up to a yardstick.

When I was a student of Linguistics, in the early seventies, Chomsky was the Big Cheese.  We were presented with recorded highlights of what had gone before The Man (the BC of linguistics, we thought: Before Chomsky) – von Humboldt, the brothers Grimm, de Saussure, Jakobsen, The Structuralists (chief Fall Guy B.F. Skinner) – and then Saint Noam. We learnt to laugh off B.F Skinner in a sentence (or at most two).

I 'did' Linguistics again at the Open University about 5 years ago. The Man now was Halliday. And – annoyingly for someone who has actually read both Syntactic Structures and Aspects of the Theory of Syntax and thinks their author is the bee's knees – we were expected to dismiss the new Fall Guy just as glibly and superficially as we in our time had been taught to dismiss B.F. Skinner. Academic karma. (I suspect that I could usefully spend some time finding out what he really did say, rather than the caricature I was fed over forty years ago.)

The thing about Chomsky is that he used the word 'grammar' with what he called (conveniently, and not without humour, I think) 'a systematic ambiguity' and in the two sorts of grammar the word 'rule' has a different meaning. Broadly – not to say trivially – in Transformational-Generative Grammar (TG) a 'rule' is not something you ought to do in order to speak grammatically, it's a step in the TG process that just happens (although it can be described rigorously – indeed, describing these rules is the job of the linguist [in the modern sense of someone who 'does' linguistics], not of the language learner).

So the rule, or regula wielded by Dave Barry's Mrs Thistlebottom (mentioned before, in the last paragraph of this post) mixes the metaphor painfully. If you get your grammar wrong you get a rap across the knuckles. Hers were prescriptive rules ('rulesp') Chomsky's grammar does not have rules that an everyday user can 'get wrong' (once the mother tongue has been successfully acquired – by a marvellous reiterative process that involves surface errors as the learner refines those descriptive rules – 'rulesd').

I'm not sure that Chomsky's views can affect the way we teach English. I had for a time a student who had read Chomsky and thought he could learn without 'rulesp'. What he didn't allow for was the fact that he was no longer a baby and didn't behave like one – playing with and practising new sounds and exercising new rulesd , just for the fun of it.

So I read with interest Mike Griffin's blogpost entitled* Making Grammar Relevant to Teaching with Chomsky and Halliday. With interest but disappointment.

Mike: Are you saying that we don’t need to teach grammar rules?
Chomsky: Exactly. There is no point...
I was initially confused. Chomsky wouldn't have said this, I thought. He would have pointed out that the rules that he thought there was ' no point' in teaching just couldn't be taught. But this doesn't mean that a teacher can't teach useful rules of thumb†, bypassing the sort of natural language acquisition of a mother-tongue that is simply unavailable to a non-native speaker. So I agreed with the rest of the imagined exchange:
Chomsky: ... Students need to use and hear the language in order to
figure out on their own ho w the language they are studying works.
Mike: I like the sound of that.
But I just don't see how an English teacher can make use of an understanding of TG.

* <rant>
And 'Spare us, O Lord' , from the gruesome 'titled'. There are three things in the culture that has nurtured British English.:
  1. (of a document) – bearing a title
  2. (of a person) – having a justifiable right
  3. (of a person) – bearing a title
And there are only two words, 'titled' and 'entitled'. Obviously the only possible solution (if your culture requires you to deal with all three meanings) is to pair one of them off. British English, with its cultural baggage of a class-system and honorific titles, pairs 1 off with 2: either a person or a document can be 'entitled', and only a person can be 'titled'. There is no question of ambiguity; if a person is entitled  it's a question of entitlement, but if a document is entitled it's a question of nomenclature. American English., with its egalitarian background, just doesn't feel it necessary to recognize 3. Two words/two meanings => one word for each is the AE rule. Fine: just don't force it (and thus your cultural background) on me.
</rant> 


News from the word face

IA is done. I am about to embark (interesting image – the 'bark' in question feels a bit like a coracle, hard to steer and making almost indiscernible progress) on IE. As I said in an earlier post, work on this may involve a period of purdah, but when it's done I'll be more than half-way there (as IA + IE > II + IO + IU).



Update 2013.05.10:22.05 
Couldn't help thinking about this phrase. The Phrase Finder, after dismissing an unconvincing story involving a ruling on domestic violence, says:
It is likely that it refers to one of the numerous ways that thumbs have been used to estimate things - judging the alignment or distance of an object by holding the thumb in one's eye-line, the temperature of brews of beer, measurement of an inch from the joint to the nail to the tip, or across the thumb, etc. 
I favour the last of these, not least because the French pouce can mean either 'inch' or 'thumb'. Like the English 'foot',  pouce is a metaphor that uses a part of the body to measure things. And Noah's Ark, coincidentally, measured '300 cubits by 50 by 30' (a cubit being an ancient measure of length based on the length of the forearm according  to the Collins English Dictionary.)

Update 2013.05.11:11.40 : A few tweaks.

Update 2013.05.12:19.00: Updated TESconnect stats, and added this:
In view of the pun in the title, I'm tempted to end with the reference to Noah's Ark. But another Biblical quotation adds to the store of measurements based on body parts  – Goliath's 'six cubits and a span'. The reality behind this is still up in the air, and presumably always will be. RECONSIDERING THE HEIGHT OF GOLIATH  makes him just quite tall (no taller than many modern day basketball players). But the later   RECONSIDERING THE HEIGHT OF GOLIATH (you'd think feuding academics would at least agree not to wear the same frock) says 'no, Goliath was Really Pretty Big, but we can't be sure because David (who must have measured him before cutting off his head) was only a squirt with a tiny cubit, but we don't know how tall David was'. But a span, again according  to the Collins English Dictionary was a unit of length based on the width of an expanded hand, usually taken as nine inches (though the author of the later Goliath  article would beg to differ on the nine inches thing).

Update 2013.05.13:10.35: A few tweaks.

Update 2013.09.30.11:15
Header updated:


 Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.0: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU, and  IA-IU, and – new for V4.0 – OA-OU.  If you buy it, contact  @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**,  and  4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.





Sunday, 5 May 2013

How are the mighty fall'n

I don't know why I put that apostrophe in there; it just seemed appropriate, as I've been thinking about the hymns we True Believers used to sing, in particular at Wednesday afternoon Benediction, which my primary school used to go to every week (in a crocodile – sort of forerunner of today's much more right-on 'walking bus'). And that is where I first met a word that I met again this week, when I was trawling through the -ia- words. (Perhaps that's the only time I've met it...):
Sweet Sacrament divine,
hid in thine earthly home;
lo! round thy lowly shrine,
with suppliant hearts we come


Francis Stanfield, 1835-1914

The word suppliant is  little-used. The BNC includes only 13 hits, 6 of which were nouns (an alternative to supplicant, three times more common, at 18). Its rarity made me expect,that the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners might not include it. But it does. To justify my lack of confidence in it, though, the voice sampled does not follow the transcription supplied. To quote an as yet unreleased note in my work-in-progress version of When Vowels Get Together:
 compliant
This may be, by mistaken analogy, the explanation of a mispronunciation in the Macmillan English Dictionary, which correctly transcribes suppliant with the vowel sound /iə/ (so that the word is excluded from the list at the beginning of this chapter, since '-ian' is such a common ending). The audio sample, however, provides a mispronunciation, with stress on the second syllable: /sə'plaɪənt/.

Canning's Oak

But what about those fallen mighty? In the late '80s, or possibly the early '90s (anyway, over 20 years ago) we visited Cliveden, and MrsK and I went there again yesterday. I had a vague memory of a big tree named after a notable person who used to sit under it with a view of the Thames – something like 'Macaulay's Oak', I guessed.Well I got the species  right, but not the notable person:




Given its state twenty years ago its present state should have caused no surprise. It stayed more-or-less upright until 2004, but here it is now:


No surprise, but it did bring to mind David's words, first represented in the Great Bible as 'Oh howe are the myghtie ouerthrowen' but more familiar in the King James Version's 'how are the mighty fallen'.

b
















Update 2013.09.30.11:15
Header updated:


 Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.0: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU, and  IA-IU, and – new for V4.0 – OA-OU.  If you buy it, contact  @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**,  and  4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.





Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Greetings, we win.

Oh dear, poor marathon. I heard what was to me a new abomination this morning: trekathon.

After Pheidippides's alleged long distance run from a place called 'Marathon' [are you trying to tell me he didn't stop for a breather?], the name was adopted to name a particular sort of long race.

Bringing the news of Marathon, he found the archons[†] seated, in suspense regarding the issue of the battle. 'Joy[‡], we win!' he said, and died upon his message, breathing his last in the word Joy ... 
[†Sort of rulers. When there's one, it's a monarch; when there are a few they're oligarchs.
 ‡ In my title I've used the translation 'Greetings'. This is the translation favoured by the editors of the The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations - third edition - 1980, my favourite work of reference and provider of my first full-time job.]
Lucian Pro lapsu inter salutandum (translated by F.G. and H.W. Fowler, 1905 [in unintended welcome of my father to the world in May of that year])
When exactly did he [Pheidippides] die? If he breathed his last 'on the word Joy', did he even get around to giving the news of victory? I'm really not buying this.
Now this really is a digression
The news was νικώμεν –  or so it says in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations - third edition - 1980 –  but as it happens I know the guy who read the proofs; well know is a strong way of putting it; one had a 1-to-1 relationship with him. And I know his knowledge of Classical Greek was Best Before May 1968. It wouldn't surprise me if there should be an iota subscript somewhere in there. But it's ironic, don't you think, that his 'νικώμεν' was a pre-echo of the brand-name of a certain kind of sports footwear? One can imagine the Swoosh on his original running shoes.
Then some time in the following century the suffix '-athon'† started to be used as
...[a] word-forming element denoting prolonged activity and usually some measure of endurance, abstracted from marathon. E.g. walkathon (1931), skatathon (1933); talkathon (1948); telethon (1949).  
 More recently, it started being used to denote a charity fund-raising event (presumably by analogy with the last of those examples). So as well as telethons we had swimathons and phonathons and sleepathons and....

Meanwhile, in the ninetenth century, the Boers undertook their Groot Trek to get shot of the British. The English language snapped up this word too, to refer to a long journey. The exact nature of a trek is a matter that I discussed here a while ago:
.... I think the contributor who wrote this had a good point when he mentioned animals, though his use of 'laboring animals' was wrong; he probably meant draught* animals rather than beasts of burden.

This link (don't expect a URL, I'm just talking about an association) goes back to the root of the word, the Afrikaans trekken. Note - I'm not saying animals are always involved in a trek, or that usage should always reflect etymology; it's just that some usages, in some cases, do.
(That is, the Afrikaans trekkers had wagons)


But today I heard about the confluence of these two much-travelled words. 'Trekathons' have been around for a few years, but until I heard it on the radio this morning I had been mercifully unaware.

Time and tide... though. IA awaits.

b
*Which, now I come to think of it, explains why barmaids of old (as some still do, though they might prefer some more PC job description) pull pints of draught beer. {And see the update for a second thought.]

Update: 2013.05.01 A few tweaks and this thought about  labour (a thought I had last night, and should have marked Labour Day): 'labour' was used for many years to denote toiling generally. Given that, until the Industrial Revolution, most toil was indeed agricultural in nature, the source (Vulgar Latin laborare - 'to plough'; the Classical Latin was arare [whence our 'arable']), the agrarian metaphor was apt. After the Industrial Revolution a new word was needed, which in French was travailler. In France the two words labourer and travailler have co-existed. In the UK, with its predominance of industry (until the 1980s), there was no need to maintain the distinction: if you were labouring the odds were you were not doing it in an agricultural context. So the borrowed word 'travails' (usually plural) was kept for special occasions. So my objection to the phrase 'laboring animals' in this post was unfounded. As the writer's first language, according to his Profile, is English I suspect that he may be American (note the spelling of 'laboring')  – possibly from a state such as Louisiana (named after Louis XIV).  But perhaps 'laboring animals' is just the common American English way of expressing the British English 'draught animals', and a 'laboring animal' is not just having a hard time of it but pulling something – a plough maybe (or should that be plow?)

Update 2013.09.30.11:15
HeadFooter updated:

Update 2015.07.29.13:40 – Updated footer, and added this note.

The latest addition to the list of -athon neologisms is one I heard this morning during a cricket commentary: Australian readers might prefer to avoid reflecting on the circumstances that led a commentator referring to 'a swing-and-miss-athon'...


Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?)

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
Well over 49,300 views  and nearly 9,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with nearly 2,700 views and nearly 1,100 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.