Sunday, 14 December 2014

FOGgies (special Christmas Carol supplement)

(The story so far: the FOGgies are annual awards for outstandingly bad writing. The idea for the name derives from Robert Gunning's FOG index, although these awards don't restrict themselves only to obstacles to readability measured by that index.)

Special Seasonal Award for Outstanding Opacity in a Carol goes to Anon for

Hinds o'er the pearly
Dewy lawn early
Seek the high stranger
Laid in the manger
'Past Three A-Clock' (the spelling is traditional;
I've never been in a choir  that didn't say O'clock')
The judges said
"WHAT? The last line makes sense (if you're primed with the right background). So we know Who the stranger is. But why seek him unless you're either one of the Magi, a shepherd, or Herod? And why would anyone seek him riding a hind. And is a dewy lawn ever pearly? (The notion of  a dewy lawn in Palestine is beyond question, falling under the general Willing Suspension of Disbelief that most Christmas Carols require.) This brilliant string of non-sequiturs reaches new heights in opacity."

A Break from the Awards 

Yesterday evening was a busy time. My choir's annual carol concert (that link will work only as long as the website isn't updated; thereafter you'll have to click on the Past Concerts tab). I kept a straight face when our MD said the choir would add a coda to the audience-assisted singing of the song 'Little Donkey'. As coda is the Italian for 'tail' it was a game of Pin the CODA on the donkey.

The concert was a great success, both musically and popularly – the hall seemed, from my point of view, full – and both the hall and the timing of the concert were new to the choir. The timing was important as it meant that more children could come; and, crucially for me, it meant that I could catch the tail-end (coda?) of my daughter's concert  (a bit over half). A busy and enjoyable evening.

Next time, more awards.


Update 2014.12.18.12:35 – Added this note:

† Duh. I got so near the truth here, but there's none so blind as them who haven't looked in a decent dictionary. A correspondent has just alerted me to this meaning of 'hind':

archaic , chiefly Scottish 
skilled farm worker
1.1 A peasant or rustic.
late Old English hīne 'household servants', apparently from hīgnahīna, genitive plural of hīgan,hīwan 'family members'.

I suppose I could  have pretended I knew this all the time. I think, having got so close to a probable meaning, I did check – but made the elementary mistake of using only one source: Etymonline.

She mentioned its being a typical instance of Victorian arch archaism – a topic mentioned by Andrew Gant on Midweek yesterday. In his discussion of  'a partidge in a peartree' he didn't mention what I thought was the 'true' origin: et parturit in aperto [='and she gave birth in the open']Which led me to check; and it's (as I should've guessed) a load of hooey – Holy Mother (to rhyme with bother) Chorch sticking her oar in again. I'm not sure whether to call this folk-etymology; the 'folk' were involved, but only after they'd been got at. But if you want some interesting speculation on the origins of this and other carols,  Christmas Carols: From Village Green to Church Choir sounds like a good starting point.

 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 48,600 views  and nearly 6,550 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.

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