Saturday, 31 August 2013

tripping the light fantastic toe

Just a thought, before the post-Wales chores ramp up:
<update_note> 
This made sense in summer 2013; I‘d been on holiday in the Land of Someone Else‘s Fathers. 
<update_note>

My trawl through'-oo-' words has led me to speculate on what it is about FOOTWORK that invites the collocation fancy. There are 59 usages (varieties?) of <adjective> + 'footwork' in the BNC, and over 10% of them have the advantage of alliteration. But there are more fancy footworks than fine footwork (2) or front-row, fast, and famous (1) put together.

1  FANCY FOOTWORK 9
2  DEFT FOOTWORK 5
3  GOOD FOOTWORK 5
4  NIMBLE FOOTWORK 4
5  CLASSICAL FOOTWORK 2
6  FINE FOOTWORK 2
7  NIFTY FOOTWORK 2
8  NEAT FOOTWORK 2
9  SWIFT FOOTWORK 2
10 TWINKY FOOTWORK   1

... etc. See more here. (The links in that table may take you to an expired session of mine.)



COCA  (BNC's  brash American cousin – bigger, of course) is even more conclusive, with 65 out of 156. Here are the top ten:

1  FANCY FOOTWORK 65
2  GOOD FOOTWORK 6
3  FAST FOOTWORK 6
4  INTRICATE FOOTWORK 4
5  GREAT FOOTWORK 3
6  BETTER FOOTWORK 3
7  EXCEPTIONAL FOOTWORK 2
8  EXCELLENT FOOTWORK 2
9  FINANCIAL FOOTWORK 2
10  LITTLE FOOTWORK 2

(As before, the links in the table might be useless.) G'night – it's been a long day.)

b

Update 2013.09.01.19:45 – Added this PS:

PS. ...And on the subject of footwork, my Welsh trip has made me think about miles. When I was at school my Latin master tried to convince me  that our word 'mile' is derived from mille passus. 'A thousand paces?' I thought. 'This was before Corn Flakes, mind you. Just how long were the Roman soldiers' legs?' But the Etymological Dictionary has won my youthful scepticism round.

An ancient Roman mile was 1,000 double paces (one step with each foot)...
It was still a fairly short mile ('about 4,860 feet ', says the dictionary); but everything was a bit smaller in those  days.

What about the Welsh milltir (a mile), though? There are traces of Latin in Welsh: ysgol and eglwys owe as much to Latin as école and église do. So I wonder if the Welsh milltir just happens to share its first syllable with mille and is actually derived from militaris, because the Welsh had their own measures for middle distances ta very much boyo and wanted to make it clear that these new-fangled long straight roads were being measured in military miles. Just a thought; don't quote me. (If there's a good dictionary of Welsh etymology somewhere out there, do let me know.)


And another thing, what's the Welsh for 'oriel window'? (I'm sure Milton Jones could make a better job of jokifying this; but I was struck by the fact that a 'gallery' is an oriel).

Update: 2013.09.27.12:35
Footer updated

Update 2013.10.15.14:40  – Footer updated

Update 2015.01.20.14:40  – And 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 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:  
nearly 48,200 views  and over 6,500 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 2,400 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, 23 August 2013

New images from old guns

A few weeks ago I mentioned (here) a possible future post about the way obsolete arms technology is used to form  metaphors that persist long after the arms technology is relegated to museums; it's not just arms-related vocabulary of course. Someone who has never seen a stair-rod or heard a telephone bell may give someone a bell and report that it's coming down in stair-rods. But arms-related (and armed-conflict-related) vocabulary is a particularly fruitful source of metaphor.

I've compiled a list of expressions/collocations/sayings of one kind or another, even a name, that refer to obsolete arms technology. I'm sure the list, like all such lists, will grow:

  • Broadside – all the cannon on one side of a fighting ship firing at once.
  • Give no quarter – like take no prisoners (see below), but the expression 'give quarter' is itself archaic. Modern soldiers don't talk about 'giving quarter'.
  • Flash in the pan – in a flint-lock, the trigger sparked off an explosion in a pan which itself set off the main explosion. Sometimes there was a flash in the pan, but the main charge was unaffected.
  • Fletcher – the name of a medieval arms dealer (the person who added the feathers to arrows)
  • Laden to the gunwales – see my recent post
  • Lock stock and barrel – parts of an old gun
  • Loose cannon – a danger in an operational gun-deck, when a cannon's recoil broke its tether
  • On a short fuse – there are still fuses, but the expression (meaning short-tempered) dates from a time when many explosions were controlled by the length of a fuse
  • Ordnance Survey maps – The original Ordnance Survey was carried out to support the use of ordnance in Scotland after the Jacobite Rebellion. See more here
  • Ramrod – either ramrod-straight or straight/stiff as a ramrod. The ramrod was used in packing the charge in a muzzle-loading firearm
  • Sally – walled towns often had a sally port, a small gate that allowed besieged forces to launch an informal attack
  • Salvo – a slightly more modern form of broadside
  • Shield – there are still shields in modern warfare, but they are generally not free-standing articles (except in the case of police controlling hostile crowds)
  • Shoot from the hip – people can still do this, but when the idiom was first used metaphorically to mean 'shoot first and ask questions later' (there's another one) it referred to gun-fighters shooting as soon as a gun was out of its holster 
  • Take no  prisoners  – the taking of prisoners is still a feature of modern warfare, but the metaphorical usage (meaning 'be ruthless') dates from a time when prisoner-taking was hedged around with more gentlemanly conventions
The following are ones that (like shoot from the hip) may be interpreted as referring to current technology, but probably first saw the light of day when arms were less sophisticated than they are now.

  • air cover – assistance from on high
  • covering fire – a  distracting attack while something else is happening
  • give it to someone with both barrels – a reference to twin-barrelled shotguns
  • have something in your sights – intending to attack
  • out of a clear blue sky -  of an unexpected attack (reference to fighter planes)
  • Russian Roulette - a means of dicing with death. Now, it doesn't have to be death that you're dicing with. I remember in the '60s a line about 'Vatican Roulette' (5 aspirin pills and a contraceptive one [)]- it may have been on TW3)
  •  sawn-off – first used of a shotgun, adapted to do maximum damage at close range, but now used in other contexts to refer to any DIY reduction of anything.
  • staring  down the barrel of a gun – sure of something unfortunate
These two lists have a lot of overlap. A metaphor is usually supported by at least some vestige of the relevant technology, until the metaphorical usage is established. And the process will no doubt go on. Long after solid projectiles and gunpowder are things of the past and everything is done with lasers and tasers and what-have-you, people will still  be referring to bullet points and silver bullets and smoking guns.

That's all for now. I'll update with a few more links  when I return from my week in Wales but I've got to finish off the "-oo-" trawl before I go tomorrow.

b
Update 2013.08.23.21:15 Added this PS:
PS Five more from an afternoon's cricket commentary, one that I'm not sure about (the first) and one that relates to military strategy rather than hardware:
  • To have a shot in your locker – maybe this has had an 'a' introduced to make it work for cricket...? I need to check.
  • Gun-barrel-straight
  • To shoot yourself in the foot
  • To go off half-cocked
  • To burn your boats/bridges – this refers to a miltary strategy that ensured that troops far from home would not think about going back
And that last one reminds me of another expression that refers to a no-going-back-now river crossing undertaken by Julius Caesar – crossing the Rubicon. By doing that, Caesar had shown his hand [another fertile source of metaphor, card games – discussed here many moons ago] as having designs on Rome (if I remember the story right – De Bello Gallico-related memories best-before June 1968).
Yechy da, or whatever.

b
Update: 2013.09.27.12:40
HeadFOOTer updated

Update: 2015.01.20.19:30 ‐ and again; and added this admission:

<autobiographical_note date="30 Jan 1965" type="PS">
At the age of 13¼ I watched the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. And I remember Richard Dimbleby‘s commentary – especially the words ‘gun carriage‘. I knew what a gun was  – my television-watching was restricted: my father had bought a black-and-white TV to watch the Coronation, but if I wanted to see ITV (or anything in colour) I had to sit on the floor in Archie‘s Room. Archie was my mother's very Scottish father, to whose insistence on a non-Catholic name for his new grandson I owe my name. But on The Lone Ranger I had seen hand-guns and rifles.
But I couldn't for the life of  me see why that horse-drawn vehicle should be called a gun carriage. I was not aware in those days of the historical background, or of its importance in metaphor.
</autobiographical_note>
Update: 2016.12.05.15:00 – Deleted obsolete footer.
Update: 2016.12.06.12:50 –  Added PPS and  added explanatory line in red.

PPS I just noticed another one to add to the first list:

  • Hold the fort – Do the necessary for the defence of a fort, either alone or short-handed, while the main body of troops  moves on to another field of activity (perhaps protecting refugee civilians).

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

By the bootstraps

A quickie, to show that I'm getting down to -OO-. [Incidentally, when I search for "*oo*" the software automatically enunciates the first word it finds. This is achoo. My laptop is so blessed by now that it must be in line for a CANONIZATION (or to use a word of the moment, sainthood)]

But what caught my attention was the Macmillan English Dictionary's definition of bootstrapping:
the activity of building a business from nothing, with very little money put in from outside the business 
(There are loads of links there, because that's what the cut&paste got me and I see no point in deleting them. [On the other hand, I see no point in following them either. ])
When I was starting out in the IT world, and asking more questions than the engineers found comfortable – or indeed comprehenisble ['How can he not know that?] '– I wanted to know why computers had to boot.  I was told (and here's what Etymonline has to say) that it was an abbreviation of  bootstrapping. In the days of its first sighting (shortly after I was born, says Etymonline) computer memory was tiny – but I really mean teeny {teenssy-weensy}. This next bit doesn't take the Etymonline line (the computer pulling itself up by the bootstraps) but follows the information of my DEC informant who probably knew what he was talking about (although it might have been a bit of folk etymology peddled to him at Brunel University or wherever...).

He said the computer's memory was too small to handle the complete set of instructions that it had to follow when it started up. So the operator gave it a small bit of the instructions (the metaphorical bootstrap), and at the end of this bit there was an instruction to read the next bit, and so on in a sort of daisy-chain of bits. This bootstrapping was in time reduced to booting (in 1975, says Etymonline, which means it was really cutting-edge slang when I met it in the early '80s).

And so it joins many other metaphors in referring to obsolete technology. The  latest specs for the latest telecomms standards refer to the 'off-hook condition'; the hook was a feature of the earliest telephones, in which the earpiece was a separate part that you would hang up when you were done.. In the commmunications world you sign off at the end of a message, referring to a more leisurely sort of pen-and-ink communication, and indeed a DJ signs off at the end of a show. The meaning of putting something on the back-burner depends on a system of cooking  that is now experienced predominantly in museums. Bootleg liquor was hidden in an accessible but secret place, in the leg of a sort of boot that is not current. And that itself is extended to any illlicit activity (usually, today, involving digital technology)...And so on.

Today, booting is an unquestioned feature of the language, with all sorts of derived words†. More or less any bit of electronics has a boot-sequence, and the solution to any problem (from computers to phones, to video-recorders, digital cameras...) often involves rebooting. This is used again as a further metaphor (in a recursive re-use of the metaphor not unlike 'bootleg'), when it means 'start again from scratch and let's hope it works this time': people talk about rebooting their lives. A film can be called <similar-film>-'rebooted'.

And before the Macmillan English Dictionary's entry for bootstrapping (which as the quote shows, doesn't mention computers) there is an entry for bootstraps [pull yourself up by the ...]:
to become richer or more successful through your own hard work, without anyone else's help
Their (computer-free) definition of bootstrapping gives the impression that these two definitions are so closely related that I could be forgiven for excluding one of them. But I think the whole story behind them means #WVGTbook should have them both (and I can feel a lengthy footnote coming on).

Luckily, the Macmillan English Dictionary does have a separate entry for bootstrap program (so my footnote needn't be that long):
a program that makes a computer's operating system start working

Right. Enough already. 'Quickie' he said. God help us if he writes a Slowie.

b
Update: 2013.08.21.14:53 Added this note:
† Carrying on with the '-oo-' words, I've discovered what to me is a new example (or perhaps an old one that I heard in the IT world and dismissed as a nine days' wonder (careful with that apostrophe Eugene): coldboot.


Update: 2013.08.22.10:15 Added this note:
... And  hardboot
Update: 2013.09.27.12:45
HeadFooter updated:

Update: 2013.12.12.12:55
Footer updated: 




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

Freebies (Teaching resources:  nearly 35,000 views**  and  5,000 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 1762 views/827 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.



Monday, 19 August 2013

A plague o' both your houses

This sense of  'plague' is derived from the Latin plaga. In Spanish 'a wound' is una llaga – because that's the way they did palatalization in that part of the world: PL- → 'll-'. But in Portugal (which had more than one form of palatalization) one of them is PL- → 'ch-', so that 'wounds' are chagas.

These words have no connexion with plagiarism (well... perhaps not no connexion, but one that –  if it exists (the possibility depends on the putative relatedness of two supposed PIE roots, which is a bit obscure even for me) – is lost in the mists of etymological prehistory. A (Latin) plagiarius was a kidnapper or other underhand operator of some sort). It was Martial (first recorded user of another expression which I forget now, though for some reason wallpaper comes to mi.... got it! 'paper over the cracks') who first used it to refer to the literary sin discussed on the radio  this morning.

'A plague/pox on...' was a popular curse in Shakespeare's time. Some time later (I have a feeling I first met it in Regency Buck [ – in my early teens I was led astray by the literary tastes of my older sister] a cuss-word with similar force was 'Zounds' (which I originally mentally misvocalized to rhyme with 'sounds'). It is derived by attrition from the expression used by Chaucer's Pardoner: By Goddes Wounds; but by the time the Regency Buck got hold of it any explicit reference to God, or even the wounds of Christ, had been ironed out: 'S 'ounds

In the 1970s, the UK committed the act of a plagiarius (keep up...a kidnapper or underhand dealer) in doing the Chagossians out of their birthright so that the Americans could build an airbase within easy range of the Soviet Union). And in 2010 the UK government (the smylere with the knyf under the cloke) established a marine conservation area in the archipelago (butter wouldn't melt...) which – with its no fishing law – would (gosh, fancy that) prevent the islanders from returning.

When that news broke in 2010 I wondered about the name of the archipelago. The colonizing powers (I'm thinking chiefly of Spain and Portugal, who had the appropriate religious background) were wont to name islands with religious references: Trinidad or Dominica , for example, the latter named after the Lord's Day– when Columbus 'discovered' it. Even El Niño refers to a particular Niño, whose official birthday is celebrated at the time of that meteorological phenomenon off the coast of the Spanish-speaking Chile.

So, feverishly I supposed that the Chagos Archipelago must have five islands (one for each hand – or wrist if the preacher was of the hell-fire persuasion – one for each foot, and one for the lance in the side). The atlas disproved this, so I moved on to a more numerous source of wounds: the scourging would have left hundreds of  marks.  But the fever of folk etymology passed: Goddes Wounds were not chagos but chagas. Another fine mess a little learning had gotten me into!

Onwards and upwards: OO...

b

PS And get downloading while #WVGTbook's free! (19 and 20 August 2013)
Update 2013.08.21.13.30: Too late

Update: 2013.09.27.12:45
and ‡: Until the end of September 2013, V4.0's there now
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.
 

Friday, 16 August 2013

Laden to the gunwales

It's a long story (which says little for my powers of concentration )

It started with the word starboard (I'm reviewing the latest chapters of #WVGTbook, -oa- being the first of them). To quote my soon-to-be-released note:
In common with several other words with maritime applications (other examples include mainsail, coxwain, boatswain [often spelt bosun]...). the unstressed vowel pair is reduced to /ə/. The 'star' part of the word has nothing to with 'navigating by the stars'. It is related to 'steer', and refers to a rudder let down over the right-hand gunwale (another word with schwa in the unstressed syllable), used for steering. The side of a boat was its bord.
This set me to thinking about gunwale  This nearly archaic word is preserved in current English in the phrase 'laden to the gunwales' (in which, reflecting its pronunciation, the g-word is often spelt "gunnels"). If a vessel is laden with people it is 'packed to the gunwales'. This gives rise to a less nautical phrase full to the gunwales, in which the notion of 'fullness leading to vertical displacement' is almost completeley lost:
Full to the brim; packed tight.
is all Phrase Finder says.

The 'gun' part of gunwale is not disguised. It is, like several other pieces of figurative language, related to firearms ( ''flash in the pan', 'give it to someone with both barrels', 'broadside' ... but I'll [ahem]  'keep my powder dry' on this one – as  it has the makings of a possible future post).†

But where does wale come from? It is related to current (though not very common) English 'weal' and – though with less obvious relevance – to wurzel.  Follow that link for the full SP. The last line of that dictionary entry brings us back to gunwale:
Wales "horizontal planks which extend along a ship's sides" is attested from late 13c.
So, in a ship of war, the guns were mounted on gunwales.

But this isn't getting V3.1 any closer to release (which it is – close, that is).

b
Update 2013.08.16.21:00 – Added this PS
I'll upload 3.1 tomorrow. Here's a brief taster, hot off the presses:

What have readers said about previous editions?

  • 'A guess becomes educated ...It will be invaluable to non-native teachers of EFL/ESOL as well as their learners.....  I wish that this resource had been available before I retired from life as a teacher trainer. I would have recommended it without hesitation.' (Read more here.)
  • 'A useful resource ...Complete and accurate. A very useful book.'  (Read more here.)
  • Members' reactions at UsingEnglish.com
    • 'I would encourage learners to check it out.' (page 2)
    • 'I will be able to be more comprehensive in answering questions on the topic here. I liked the thoroughness of this guide.' (page 2)
    • 'From my personal teaching experience, I can only confirm the practical value of this book.' (page 3)

Thassall for tonight.

b
Update 3013.08.17.23:00 – Added this PPS:
†I've re-jigged this sentence entirely, and hope that it now makes more sense than it did yesterday (which is setting the bar pretty low ).

Update 2013.08.18.17:00 – Added this PPS
Here 's the latest.
Update: 2013.09.27.12:50

HeadFOOTer updated

Update 2013.10.08.19:40 – Added this PPPS 
Added a link to the 'possible future post'.


 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.




Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Come together

When I was doing  Latin at school, I had no problem with the word coitusco-, 'with'; itus , 'going' (as in 'itinerary'). But I never got to use it in an English context – not at the Salvatorian College. [That Wikipedia page is a constant battle between the Powers That Be and the people who want it to reflect reality, paedophiles/sadists and all.]

'Coitus' is on my mind at the moment because it represents the second most common -oi- sound. But for much of my young life I thought it belonged to the most common (by far the most common, along with more than two-thirds of all -oi- words: a goldfish with a cough, as it were, /'kɔɪtəs/, rather than – as we were taught at that hallowed establishment – 'The Beast With Two Backs'.)

It was in 1976 that I happened, by a quirk of fate, on the /əʊɪ/ pronunciation. The Brotherhood of Man had, earlier that year, won the  Eurovision Song Contest with the insupportably twee song Save Your Kisses for Me. In preparation for the Edinburgh Fringe, at which I was to be playing with the Oxford Theatre Group, I wrote a pastiche of the song, which (as keen students of mid-70s Middle-of-the-Road music will know) ends with the couplet
Save your kisses all for me
Even though you're only three.
[Geddit? It's not about sex, it's about paternal love. Honi soit qui mal y pense.]

My version took the idea of the sexual meaning made innocent by a revelation in the last line, and developed it. The song required a certain amount of Willing Suspension of Disbelief, as the singer was a Meccano set with a missing piece. It was called I Could Do with a Screw.

The song ended up on the cutting room floor, as did much of what I had written, as loads of new material were shoe-horned in to make way for the Latest Big Thing. Well he was. But his arrival turned an overlong 8-person revue into an overlong one-man show with patches of brilliance and a cast of 9.

Anyway, we've all passed a lot of water since then. I mention this only because the final couplet of my pastiche (which joined the ranks of Paul Simon's 'songs that voices never shared') was

Prudes may take offence and show it us
But we haven't mentioned coitus.
Must get on. I'm nearing the end of the -oi-s, and V3.1 of #WVGTbook will be available (deo volente, weather permitting, and with a following wind) early next week.

b
Update 2013.09.02.11:12 – Small tweaks (esprit de l'escalier) and updated the footer.
Update 2013.09.27.13:45
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.



Thursday, 8 August 2013

OE, you, get offa my... erm

This is an excerpt from the (imminent) V3.1. It's a bit lacking in context, but I hope you'll get the gist. Frantic work on the latest release –  before a planned holiday in the last week of August –  has distracted me from Harmless Drudgery for a while.
  1.  Noes
    This  is the plural of 'No', used – for example –  in the parliamentary phrase 'The Noes have it' ["'People who voted 'No' are in the majority."]
  2. Noel
    This  is the word that means Christmas. The name 'Noel' is dealt with later on in this table.
  3. socioeconomic
    This  is the sole representative of words that use this prefix. The  Macmillan English Dictionary has matching transcription and audio. But whenever this prefix precedes a word starting with 'e+<consonant>', any of three alternatives (/əʊɪ/, /əʊe/, and /əʊi:/) is usually acceptable.
  4. '-soever' pronounsThese are used chiefly in rhetorical contexts and even then are sometimes considered archaic. Other such words exist in theory but are very rarely used: whencesoever, whithersoever, and whomsoever.
  5. macroeconomy and microelectrics
    The Macmillan English Dictionary transcription has this sound, but the audio sample is /əʊe/. Either is acceptable. Some speakers use one, some use the other, and some use both (depending on the degree of formality).
  6. Boer
    The Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this word (in British English) in two alternative ways. For the other, see the appropriate section.
  7. geoeconomics, microeconomic, and macroeconomic
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary transcription has this sound, but the audio sample in the first two of these words is /əʊe/. Either is acceptable. In the case of macroeconomic, the  Macmillan English Dictionary has matching transcription and audio.
  8. joey
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this with the unique sound /əʊi/ (with a short /i/).
  9. homoeopathy and homoeopathic
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes these words, alone among -oe- words,  with a short  /i/ but this is not a meaning-bearing distinction; it is simply a matter of stress.
  10. manoeuvrable 
    This has already been listed in the relevant -eu- section.
  11. oesophagus The Macmillan English Dictionary transcription has this sound, but the audio sample presents a sound somewhere between /e/ and /ə/.
  12. oeuvre 
    This has already been listed in the relevant
     -eu- section, but note that the vowel sounds of oeuvre and manoeuvre, though the words are etymologically related, are not the same.
  13. does
    This is the 3rd person singular of the verb do, and not the plural of the noun doe.
  14. OEICThe  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this with the sound /ɔɪ/, but despite this transcription the speaker providing the audio sample spells out the abbreviation.
That's all for now. I'm still busy musing (nave, eureka, and tessera have recently caught my attention, but not so as to spawn a post. Maybe some time...)

b
Update 2013.09.27.13:45
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, 4 August 2013

Taken in isolation

On the day before the Great Twittopause (that is, on Saturday 3 August) I went to the second open day of the year at the Silchester Excavation. On the guided tour, led by someone whose name I didn't catch (but it was the 10.00 tour, if that helps anyone place her –  a lucky lady who knew her stuff and loved her work), we learnt of the Victorian excavations of  the 1890s, one part of which dealt with Insula IX:
Insula IX was first excavated in 1893, the fourth season of a twenty year project by the Society of Antiquaries of London to excavate the entire Roman city of Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester).
When I first visited Silchester (probably a few years before the Town Life Project started in 1997, I dismissed the word insula as just a hi-falutin' way of saying 'bit' – the sort of grandiloquent affectation that would have appealed to the Victorians; my grandfather, whose boyhood and adolescence almost exactly coincided with the Society of Antiquaries of London's programme of excavations from 1890 to 1909, would have loved a posh word like that! He (despite the keenness of his interest in horticulture) insisted on pronouncing buddleia with what is known in some circles as a 'honeypot', like the u in Buddha (/ʊ/).

But I may have been wrong. In fact one online Latin dictionary gives 'island' as the secondary meaning of insula. The primary meaning given there is 'apartment house'.


Turning to my well-worn paper dictionary (missing its title page, so I can't give a reference – but the earliest handwritten date on the inside cover is 1868, which would have made it current at the time of the Rev. J.G.  Joyce's earlier Victorian excavations between 1864 and 1878).

This dictionary gives this definition for insulaA house not joined to the neighbouring houses by a common wall.... Sometimes the term insula (sic – no change of font, which was a bit of a faff at the time [we blasé users of ctrl/i don't know we're born ]) was applied to several such houses, if adjoining and the property of one proprietor.


This is getting nearer to the Silchester usage of 'block', though it is used here (at Silchester) in the sense 'city block' rather than 'apartment block'.

Still, I didn't set out to quibble about the usage of Insula. I mentioned the Victorian excavations because they were timeless, as archaeology at the time had not discovered the principle of stratification (the dating of layers). As far as the Victorians were concerned, if a building at Silchester was made of stone it was contemporaneous with all other stone buildings; and any building not made of stone was not worthy of consideration.

The stratification of language [stick with me here, I know it's a bit of an  abrupt change of gear but I think it's worth the trip] has been documented in historical dictionaries. For a Victorian archaeologist insulated and isolated were just different words – different 'stone buildings' as it were. But historical dictionaries have sorted out the different layers.

In the early 16th century English acquired the verb 'insulate', in the sense 'make into an island' (Latin insula.) About 2½ centuries later a word came into English, via French isolé and earlier Italian isolato; 18th century English tacked the suffix -ated onto the French borrowing (initially the English word was just isole).

But where did the Italian isolato come from? No prizes for guessing it was Latin (in fact it's not clear to a philologist what 'Italian' meant that long ago†). The word was insulatus, 'made into an insula'. So the English words 'isolated' and 'insulated' both owe their origins to the Latin insula. But we can only trace their separate stories because historical dictionaries have sorted out the different layers; for a Victorian archaeologist the language they could see was just a mass of words with no precedence or history.


b


†The idea for a future post has been flirting with me for a while. Not long now, I fancy, before the consummation.

Update 2013.08.05.10:10 – Added this PS:

PS Yesterday, in my haste to get the metaphorical 'Victorian archaeologist' out there, I skated over an interesting difference between the history of linguistics and that of archaeology. My last line – 'for a Victorian archaeologist the language they could see was just a mass of words with no precedence or history' – was particularly misleading. In the history of linguistics the Victorians were most punctilious. And perhaps the distinguishing feature of what they did was that their studies paid particular attention to 'precedence [and] history'; the word I learnt to use in my History of Linguistics course was 'diachronic': their interest and studies were diachronic.

So the progress of linguistics, from comparative history (philology) to what-there-is-now – 'a mass of words' – is in a sense the reverse of what happened in archaeology. The Victorians unearthed a mass of buildings that were either presumed to have existed at the same time or whose 'precedence and history' was considered insignificant and/or unfathomable. The modern archaeologist has an awareness of the different strata that give clues to what happened over time; the Victorian linguist (who would probably have called himself – sic, almost certainly – something like a 'philologist') had an awareness of just that).

b
Update 2013.09.27.13:50
HeadFooter updated


Update 2014.04.16.17.05
 And again

Update 2014.08.01.11.15
 And again, and esprit d'escalier in maroon.

Update 2014.09.28.11.05
And at last – well over a year –  here's the promised 'consummation'.


 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: just over 44,100 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.













Thursday, 1 August 2013

White rabbits

Notes & Queries reports this in 1909, though it must surely date back further than that. I pride myself on (probably) being the first to use it for the first blog of the month. I wonder why white , though Wikipedia reports a colourless alternative: 'rabbits, rabbits, rabbits'.

The word bunny has been with us for some time. Etymonline dates it to the late seventeenth century Scottish dialectal 'bun'. It was suggested to me, by – I think – Joe Cremona (whom I have mentioned  several times before [and that's what meta data is for!]) that prim English nurses and governesses were keen to discourage their charges from using the word descended from the Latin cuniculus – whence come the Spanish conejo, Portuguese coelho, Catalan conill, and various other words including the English 'coney' (rabbit fur).

The word coney was used as a rhyming euphemism for the 'female intercrural foramen', as – like honey and money – it did rhyme with cunny (Latin cunnus in which the double n yields, as often the Spanish ñ  – whence  [] coño). Perhaps the stressed vowel in our 'coney' changed from /ʌ/ to /əʊ/ for  euphemistic reasons similar to those nursemaids'. I have not met the word cunny 'in the wild', but it was used in the script of The Unforgiven in that anatomical sense.

But I must get on. I want to get OA done by the end of the week.

b
Update 2013.08.01.18:00
Added to last (full) para.
Update 2013.08.02.10:00
PS I assumed that, among those words derived from cuniculus, I might include Italian coniglio. But I wasn't sure at the time. I have looked it up, and it turns out that I should have had the courage of my convictions. But the dictionary yielded two other bits of information:
  • coniglio can also be used in Italian as a taunt to someone who's not brave: 'chicken'
  • 'bunny' is coniglietto
In English, a rabbit isn't notably lacking in courage. The animals themselves are known to be timid, but the only usage that I know of that likens a timid person to a rabbit is this: the 'tail' of a cricket team – not inappropriately, given that Scottish bun, a hare's tail, is cited here as a possible source of the word 'bunny' – are sometimes referred to as 'bunnies'. I wonder if English is alone in not using some sort of rabbit as a term for a timid person. I am reminded of Le bon roi Dagobert:
Le bon Saint Eloi
Lui dit <o mon roi
Votre majesté
Est bien essoufleé. >
<C'est vrai – lui dit le roi – 
Un lapin courait après moi. >
 When I heard this [RIP Cedric Baring-Gould, a brilliant French teacher, ahead of his time, under-estimated by almost everyone], the irony was lost on me.

Coniglietto  is striking for a more formal reason. It has the Italian diminutive suffix -etto/a (as in many borrowed words familar to English speakers: libretto, cornetto, bruschetta...), but coniglio is itself derived from a Latin (-ulus) diminutive.
Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.

Back to the grindstone...

Update 2013.09.27.13:50
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.