Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Pet rocks and gonks


The new girl (ducking and covering here  )  on Woman‘s Hour  last Tuesday, interviewing the co-authors of The Hillary Doctrine...  discussing Hillary Clinton‘s success or otherwise in advancing the cause of women‘s rights in a context of international diplomacy, got  her wires crossed on the subject of pet rocks. At first she thought they were just rocks, and one  of her interviewees corrected her – "pet rocks" –  without noticing that the cultural reference had misfired. In  her summary after the interview she repeated the misunderstanding – easy  enough to do, given the almost unfathomable inexplicability of the phenomenon.

Pet rocks were the brain-child (which might be a bit of an over-statement  although the idea A fool and his money are soon parted has a certain weight –  of an American businessman:
Pet Rocks were a smooth stone from Mexico's Rosarito Beach.[3] They were marketed like live pets, in custom cardboard boxes,[3] complete with straw and breathing holes for the "animal."[1] The fad lasted about six months, ending after a short increase in sales during the Christmas season of December 1975. Although by February 1976 they were discounted due to lower sales, Dahl [HD: the man responsible]  sold 1.5 million Pet Rocks for $4,[3] and became a millionaire.[4][5][6]... 
So says Wikipedia 
A ‘pet rock' - like a Gonk, but less cuddly

It became fashionable in the late '70s to use this phenomenon as a way to disparage the efforts  of fellow-businessmen. If one Vice President felt that another Vice President  ...
<explanatory_note – theme="separated by a common language"> 
(in the world of US business there are almost as many VPs as there are professors in the Groves of US Academe)  
</explanatory_note>
...was spending unwarranted amounts of money on a project that had no intrinsic worth but attracted attention and resources away from real business opportunities with a reasonable prospect of justifying the investment in them,  they would call it a pet-rock project ...
<digression> 
Come to think of it they would almost certainly have omitted the hyphen, to judge from this – but I‘m old-fashioned  enough to think it‘s worth making a distinction between a compound noun and the attributive adjective formed from it.
</digression>
This usage  of course  leaked into business jargon throughout the world. I first heard it in the mid-'80s, in the mouth of (oh yes) a ‘VP‘, who flew over to  inspect the UK outpost once or twice a year. But the usage was new enough for the speaker to know that he had to explain it. In fact he probably knew that wacky concepts like this would always need explaining for a Transatlantic audience.

b

PS
<crossword_clue>
Fielder‘s cry of congratulation, with twice the energy, might become comfortable. (4-6)
</crossword_clue>
PPS
Two more observations of metathesis (use the word cloud in the right margin to get some background). This could have been an update to a very old piece, but these thoughts have only struck me recently.
  1. Along with Cavalleria Rusticana (which I mentioned in a recent  update to this) an interesting thing often happens to Bachianas Brasileiras. The ending  -eiro, common in Portuguese, is derived (by way of metathesis) from the Latin ending -ARIU(M) – there‘s that r again [one of the usual suspects  in the field of phonological  environments that encourage metathesis]. But often (I‘m tempted to say usually, but maybe I‘m being over-pessimistic) announcers of this Villa-Lobos piece try – all unbeknownst – to repair this evolution by saying brasilieras. But the i, which used to come after the r, only takes one step further away   – coming to rest before the vowel that precedes the r.
  2. Whenever I see a poplar tree (Latin name populus) I think of the Portuguese choupo (what an exciting life I lead.... You may wonder how I cope with all the excitement). I have observed before how a Portuguese ch often comes from a Latin PL But where‘s the PL in POPULUS? There‘s a p and an l all right, but . . .

    Well attentive readers will remember  what often happens to unstressed vowels between consonants: some_prefix-cope (apocope, I think,  or else syncope). The  vowel gets dropped  – leaving a pl (poplus), but in the wrong place for choupo. Then metathesis takes over, and moves the ch to the front of the word. [That's the letters; the phoneme is /ʃ/ rather than /ʧ/.]
Update: 2015.09.14.15:45 – Added clarification in red, and this solution to the PS.
OK, time's up: WELL-HEELED.

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.


Monday, 24 August 2015

Latte of this parish

<gratuitous_pun theme="subject line"> 
Not that I was ever a habitué of the local church, but when, over five years ago, this started being discussed, I admit to having had  a house of prayer/den of thieves [Matthew 21:12]  moment. But since then, despite the toe-curling tweeness of the name, I've come round to the idea. More recently, I felt not a twinge of such hypocritical pietism at the opening of a small (and now thriving) village shop in the next-closest church.  Besides, it makes for a rather pleasing (if gratuitous) pun (at the possible expense of its being mistaken for an Android-inspired typo). 
</gratuitous_pun>
I've been thinking of late about the TV series Witnesses – specifically who witnessed what?  What does it have to do with the series? I suspect that a reason will be revealed in due course.

But already, regardless of the denouement, Témoins (the original title) is relevant, because exhumed corpses appear in show homes, and a show home is a maison-témoin. This sort of untranslatable linguistic clue to the theme of a work of fiction is also apparent in the name of a key (not quite central) character's name: Maisonneuve.

Death and the compass, one of the Fictions, misses a similar trick (an unwinnable one, in a translation)
<plot_spoiler avoidance_advice="Skip this bit"> 
The piece translated as Death and the Compass (most recently published as one of the Ficciones) appeared originally as  La Muerte y la Brújula in 1944 (Artificios). The denouement expected by the central detective is not where or when he expects it. He guesses the position of a murder by looking at a street-plan and plotting an equilateral triangle based on two murder sites. He assumes that this is the end of the series. 
It turns out that he was on the right track with the idea of an equal-sided 2-dimensional figure, but it is not an equilateral triangle; it is a rhombus, with the fourth corner being the site of the final murder. 
<meta_plot_spoiler>
Look, I‘ve warned you ONCE... But no, I'm  not saying who  the victim is.
</meta_plot_spoiler> 
But you don't need a compass to read a street-plan. What you do need, to describe an equilateral triangle (and then – if you've read the story –  a rhombus) starting from two points on a street-plan, is a pair of compasses – un compás
Borges, whose command of English was impeccable, knew what he was doing. So he knew that he was giving his translator an impossible task. 
</plot_spoiler>
<rant flame="5">
On the subject of Borges, a reworking of his El Aleph has been in the news. I first got wind of it on A Good Read of  16 August, as part of. Carlos Gomero's Postcard from Buenos Aires. The relevant excerpt is at 14'44"– 15'27": that three-quarters of a minute will save you  reading this Guardian piece.

He refers to the book as The fattened Aleph, although  Amazon doesn't know of a translation. In fact – as Pablo Katchadjian only published 200 copies – Amazon doesn't know anything about it at all. The English-speaking world doesn't seem to know much about it; that Guardian article is the only one I've found in the English press.

Anyway, as that article says
In the short story Pierre Menard: Author of Quixote, Jorge Luis Borges writes of an author’s quest to reproduce Cervantes’ masterpiece, word by word, comma after comma. “Pierre Menard did not want to compose another Quixote, which surely is easy enough – he wanted to compose the Quixote,” Borges writes. 
More likely than not to be aware of this Borgesian playfulness, Argentine author Pablo Katchadjian decided in 2009 to remix one of Borges’s most renowned short stories The Aleph, keeping the original text but adding a considerable amount of his own writing. The result was the short experimental book called El Aleph engordado (The Fattened Aleph), published by a small underground press in a short run of 300 copies [BK sic; I'm not sure this is right; but the figure, whatever it is, is tiny] . An unfortunate consequence of Katchadjian’s literary experiments is an ongoing lawsuit initiated in 2011 by Maria Kodama, Borges’s widow and fervent guardian of his literary estate...
More here
The reason the issue has come to the fore again, as the judge in 2011 saw sense and dismissed the widow's talk of  'plagiarism' as the pitiful nonsense it so obviously is, is that Ms Kodama has appealed again and again and finally got a criminal court to take her allegation of  FRAUD seriously.

If found guilty, Katchadjian faces up to six years in gaol. 

OK, Katchadjian is guilty  of impoliteness. Having read Borges, he must have known that Borges would have approved [and approved of, which is a whole 'nother thing] the literary experiment; but Katchadjian should have run the idea past the literary executors as a simple matter of courtesy. In spite of this lapse, though,  should the nut of a slight literary faux pas be cracked with the sledge-hammer of six  years inside? I think not.

Also, had he addressed the executors back in 2009  (the 'publication' date – a print-run of 200 was hardly going to fund Katchadjian's retirement; no  wonder it took the executors two years to so much as notice it), there would have been one of two outcomes:
  • his idea would have either been given its deserved imprimatur 
  • he would at least have known that the executors were totally out of sympathy with the playful inventiveness that lies behind the body of work that they were supposed to be protecting
In the second case, he would have known what a legal minefield he was dealing with and he could have chosen to engordar something that was out of copyright – though, come to think of it, perhaps a Borges work was essential to underline the Borgesian nature of the enterprise.

Anyway, I recommend this summary and petition to all and sundry.
</rant>

b

PS And remind me, if ever I appoint literary executors, to make sure to avoid penny-pinching and pusillanimous NINCOMPOOPS

PPS
<crossword_clue> 
Spooner might point the finger at child minders; topping! (5,7) 
</crossword_clue>
Update 2015.11.13.10:45 – Added PS
OK, time's up: the answer to that clue is CRÈME FRAÎCHE.

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.



Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Fessing up


In an old post I said
Somewhere – I'm pretty sure it was in Crystal's Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language – I saw an account of a conference that set out to analyse a few hours of recorded language. The proceedings of the conference, in the event, were published under the name The First Five Minutes – which contained a book's worth of analysis; the publisher had decided that analysis of all the data would make the book unpublishably big.

I misremembered the circumstances surrounding...
<digression>
And I have to admit to a bugbear of mine, born of the Etymological Fallacy – the unfounded insistence  that words‘ meanings "should" reflect their etymology. I know it‘s silly of me, but I have an unshakeable feeling  that circumstances should surround things (as circum meant, in Latin, "surrounding". Under NO circumstances will I... uh-oh.)
</digression>

...the book's publication, though at least I got the name right, and I was right too about the place where I saw it cited  (page 159 of the first edition, if you must know): linguists are snappers-up of unconsidered trifles (line 1749) and anything is grist to the mill.. There was no conference and no proceedings. The book is reviewed here:


So the professionals involved were not even linguists. But language was happening, and being accurately recorded.

Tales from the Word-face

Progress on the new book is glacial, but here is an excerpt from the notes I have written for the
-el-=/ǝ/ section (which gives the context for the references to this and this transcription scattered here and there):
  1. alleluia
    The Macmillan English Dictionary has this transcription but the audio sample has an /e/ vowel.
  2. babel
    The Macmillan English Dictionary does not give this its initial capital, which some speakers associate with the pronunciation that has /eɪ/ in the first syllable.
  3. becquerel
    The Macmillan English Dictionary has this transcription, but many people use /e/ – especially if they did French at school.
  4. belligerent
    The Macmillan English Dictionary has this transcription but the audio sample has an /ɪ/ vowel. Both are both common and acceptable.
  5. by-election
    On the Macmillan English Dictionary CD-ROM, although the speaker of both this and "election" is the same, the second vowel is different (although there is no transcription). It sounds closer to /ə/. It is probable that after the /aɪ/ there is dissimilation to avoid the triphthong (although this /aɪɪ/ is not uncommon – in words such as weighing.
  6. celeb, celebrity, celerity, celestial, correlate, crenel(l)ated, derelict, and dereliction
    The Macmillan English Dictionary has this, but the pronunciation /ɪ/ is common (it is given, for example, in the Collins English Dictionary).
  7. deluxe
    The Macmillan English Dictionary has this transcription but the audio sample has the /ɪ/ vowel – a common alternative.
  8. fuselage
    The e seems like a magic E, as it makes the u into /ju:/ rather than /ʌ/ (as in pairs like fuss/fuse or muss/muse), but the word has three syllables.
  9. gravel(l)ed and gruel(l)ing
    The Macmillan English Dictionary does not include a version with a single l on the CD-ROM, but does in the online version.
  10. grovel(l)ing
    The Macmillan English Dictionary does not include a version with a single l, although many other dictionaries (for example, the Collins English Dictionary) do.
  11. haveli
    The Macmillan English Dictionary puts primary stress on the last syllable, but the speaker in the audio clip does not. This is not a commonly used word in the UK, and the speaker is probably meeting it for the first time.
  12. jewel[l]ery
    Also spelt (as it is pronounced – that is, with 3 syllables) "jewelry". In British English this spelling is optional. In American English the shorter version is standard; it outnumbers jewellery nearly 100:1 in the Corpus of Contemporary American (7,650:79). There is a slightly greater preponderance (this time for jewellery over jewelry) in the British National Corpus (1,216:11). .
  13. labeled and labeling
    The Macmillan English Dictionary does not list a version with two ls although many other dictionaries (for example the Collins English Dictionary) do.
  14. leveled and leveling
    The Macmillan English Dictionary does not include a version with two ls, though it does include "leveller" (not more level, but a participant in a particular politico-historical movement, The Levellers.
  15. minstrelsy
    The Macmillan English Dictionary does not include this word, but many others (for example, the Collins English Dictionary) do.
  16. Noel
    This name is a homograph of a word in the /e/ section.
  17. quarreled, quarreling, shoveled, shoveling, shriveled, shriveling, snivelling, snorkeled, snorkeling, swiveled, tunneled, tunneling, unraveled, and unraveling.
    The Macmillan English Dictionary does not include a version with a single on the CD-ROM, but does in the online version.
  18. rebel
    This word when stressed on the first syllable (with a /ə/ in the second) when it is a noun. When it is a verb it takes stress on the second syllable.
  19. shellac
    The Macmillan English Dictionary gives both this and /e/ as alternative pronunciations for the noun and does not give the verb. Other dictionaries (for example the Collins English Dictionary) give both. Some speakers distinguish between the verb with /ə/ – and stress on the first syllable – and the noun with /e/ (matching a similar distinction between the noun produce – with an open vowel in the first syllable – and the verb produce – with /ə/).
  20. untramelled
    The Macmillan English Dictionary does not give the spelling with a single l in the CD-ROM version, but in the online version it gives untrameled (with a URL that identifies it as an American usage).
  21. Vaseline
    The e looks as though it might be a magic E, which should affect the a in the first syllable. But this a represents the /æ/ vowel, the s is not voiced (as in the RP pronunciation of vase – /vɑ:z/), and the whole word has three syllables.
b


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.




Thursday, 13 August 2015

Methinks the Dane doth not protest enough




The other morning, in a piece about Benedict Cumberbatch, the presenter said that the role of Hamlet had more lines in it than any other tragic hero. He may have said 'than any other Shakespearean hero', in which case I beg his pardon. But the claim recalled for me my first – and only – appearance on stage in a serious vein. Thereafter, throughout the 1970s, my aim on stage was to make 'em laugh.

<autobiographical_note date_range="1971-1972" theme="Segismundo">
In my first year I was recruited by the Cambridge University Hispanic Society ...
<disclaimer>
That site traces the Society's doings since the year 2000. I haven't been able to track down anything that keeps records for a further 30 years back...
<disclaimer>
... to act in a performance of a play by  Pedro Calderón de la Barca ...
<pronunciation_tip>
Football fans, particularly supporters of Barcelona, should note that the last part of that name has a [k] in it.
</pronunciation_tip>
...who lived from 1600 to 1681, born when Shakespeare was in his teens and outliving him by just over 65 years. 
At the time it was the custom for  the Society to stage a play in Spanish, with a fairly captive audience of A-Level students on school trips  (the play selected was always on the current A-level syllabus).
<digression>
I doubt if this would be possible now. There has been a marked decline in Modern Languages places in HE, and it would be reasonable to assume (Stop Press YUP) there was a similar decline in schools (especially since the incredibly short-sighted decision to make Modern Languages optional in Year 10 (or whatever it's called now). In any case, this sort of jaunt (school trips to the theatre) is, I fear, some of the low-hanging fruit likely to be the first to go in the bean-counters' frenzy of belt-tightening.
</digression>
The play, known in English as Life is a dream, deals with ... 
<disclaimer> 
I was cast because of my size (big) rather than my command of Spanish (negligible, at the time), so my memory of plot details  is not great. If anyone would like to check the text, try here
</disclaimer> 
... a prince who was too big as a baby for his mother to survive the birth, so – fearing an ill omen – his father locked him in a tower (as they used to do in those days). Then, for some reason, a sleeping draught comes into it 
Made of opium superadded
To the poppy and the henbane
, and the prince  awakens  in his princely state. He runs amuck, drunk with power,.. ...another dose of sleeping draught... awakes back in durance vile., thinks he's a butterfly or something....yadda  yadda yadda.
<autobiographical_note>

Anyway, the point is, as I remember it (our director may have cut it that way) he is scarcely off the stage for three or four hours – depending on how much  is cut. And I wonder how the size of this part [some of which I can still quote] would compare with Hamlet's.

Later the same day, Mr Cumberbatch was in the news again, "pleading" with fans, to quote the CNN piece, not to film while he‘s on stage. A BBC report said  that this new version of "the Danish Play" {sorry, wrong superstition} was aimed at a new audience – people more used to going to rock concerts where there was a long tradition of bootleg taping.

The word bootleg introduces an air of petty criminality. The word has an interesting background, referring to purveyors of illicit liquor, secreting bottles in  the top of their wide-necked boots – think of a leading boy. As Etymoline says
 ...As an adjective in reference to illegal liquor, 1889, American English slang, from the trick of concealing a flask of liquor down the leg of a high boot...
<potential_digression>
Hmmm. Pantomime... Hamlet.... nope, no time.
</potential_digression>
This idea of illicitness raises the idea of breach of copyright, a hot button for that new audience, brought up with the expectation that whatever‘s online should be free. There are people who can‘t see an Intellectual Property Right without trying to breach it.  The Internet is the Wild West of the 20th and 21st centuries.

But complaining about the legality of it – which I don‘t think Cumberbatch did, though many artistes do – misses the point. In live theatre there is an  unspoken deal between the actor and the audience: You pretend I'm a Danish prince havering about avenging my father's murder, and I'll pretend you‘re not there.

Then along comes a child of the Internet brandishing an iPhone and shatters the illusion. I can't imagine exactly what goes on in an actor's imagination to maintain their side of this delicate contract of mutual willing disbelief, but I'm pretty sure buzzes and clicks and red lights don't help.

On the other hand, one shouldn't be too precious. The groundlings at Shakespeare's Globe  didn't observe the hushed niceties of a well-behaved 21st-century West End theatre audience. They shuffled aboutperambulated,  peeled  and atepartook of applespears, picked pockets, peed... They really were a mobile vulgus (or to use its modern abbreviation "mob") – they MOVED. But those Elizabethan audiences were better at making believe.

This isn't just a case of modern theatre etiquette though. Anyone who tries (pointlessly, in view of the technical shortcomings of the results) to film a live theatre performance makes it harder (I'd say impossible, but actors may be different) to maintain the actors' half of the bargain, diminishing it the experience for everyone:
ASK NOT FOR WHOM THE TWAT TWEETS... 

I just used the word "pointlessly"; but maybe I'm missing the point. The object of posting these things to YouTube or Instagram or Facebook or whatever is not to record the performance but to record  an instant in the poster's timeline (or life, to use a rather old-fashioned word). Such posts are the 21st-century equivalent of graffiti: "Kilroy was here", "I saw Cumberbatch's Hamlet[, cool  or what?]"


ASK NOT WHEREFORE THE TWAT TWEETS,
HE TWEETS FOR'S SELF

b
Update 2015.08.17.16:00 – A few alliterative tweaks in  the antePenultimate para. and clarificatory tweak in the penultimate para.

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.




Monday, 10 August 2015

MRSGREN and the magnolia




With thanks to Jeffrey Dunn,
courtesy of TESconnect
In our front  garden, much to the regret of MrsK, there is a magnolia. Its natural size (if I gave the G of MRSGREN its head and let it grow unchecked) is far too big for its position. If not pruned (something not usually required for magnolias) it would totally blot out the front of the house. Only the second-floor rooms would have a view [of sorts] between the greenery.

So I prune it constantly – not just once or twice a year...
<autobiographical_note      theme="gardenfreude">
Come to think of it, what would my father have said, inside, on a lovely day like this? Aren't there jobs to do in the garden?... (In his view, any day  – as far as getting the kids outside was concerned  – was lovely [just as 8.00 in the morning was the middle of the day]).  But today,  here in sunny Berkshire, England, it really is lovely. The rest of this post will have to wait. 
<autobiographical_note>
... but whenever I'm passing. This, as many gardeners will know, causes a feedback loop: the more it's cut back, the faster it grows. This ‘pruning'  involves two things: dead-heading (which gets rid of both the disfiguring browning petals and  the seed-pod – which would only sap the plant's energy), and taking out growing shoots (which avoids a trip to the garden shed for the secateurs).

This process affords lots of thinking time, and among the topics are MRSGREN – particularly one of the Rs G, E, and N. (The other three are there somewhere, I'm sure, but Physics with Chemistry O Level 1968 wouldn't guarantee my face against streaks of egg).

There is an evolutionary deal that links the first of the  Rs E, and N. In order to Reproduce, the magnolia needs to arrange for cross-pollination. And it does this by producing reproduction bombs. Passing animals are tempted by the outer casing of the bombs (which they need for Nourishment). Hidden away inside that outer casing is the bomb's payload – the fruit's seeds.

The passing animal (not necessarily passing, as many animals return repeatedly, on an intricate set of schedules ...
<digression> 
Ahathere's the M, both in the eater, and in the pollinator, and even in the plant itself, manoeuvring its leaves towards the Sun, to fuel the Growth of  the bloom 
</digression>
...to gather the bombs (fruit), eats them (N) and then excretes them (E – which further justifies the word passing [now I come to think of it], along with a bit more N for whatever plants happen to be there.) conveniently wrapped in a growing medium, and sterilized by the passing animal's gastric juices.


Gene-bomb from the magnolia, which escaped
my destructive inspection for several weeks

Then along comes Mr McGregor and interferes. We horticulturists [Guilty, yer 'onner] know that in order to extend of the flowering time of a shrub you need to dead-head it (which, when you think about it, is a pretty dastardly thing to do – it frustrates the plant's deal with the passing animals, not entirely unlike the way a cuckoo frustrates the deal between the duped "parent"-bird and its mate).PPPS

Like any other living thing, the magnolia needs to Reproduce before it dies (or, more precisely, before it stops being fertile). The poor dead-headed magnolia thinks (if you'll excuse the Princeps-Caroline anthropomorphism)  "Bugrit. My job is not yet done. I must have another go." So it starts again, Growing a new flower – only for my dead-heading to snatch the victory cup from its lips again, and again, and ...

As Samuel Morse so nearly wrote, WHAT HATH DARWIN WROUGHT?

b

<crossword_clue>
Ways of combining penny buns and rice.  (8)
</crossword_clue>
Update 2015.08.11.12:15 – Fixed a few typoes (I wonder what the collective noun for them is – an embarrassment perhaps...), and completed thought in blue.

Update 2015.10.05.14:30 – Added PS

And while we're on the subject of Movement (in plants), most plants exhibit phototropism, which accounts for Jerusalem Artichokes being so-called, as Etymonline says:





...Jerusalem "artichoke" is folk etymology of Italian girasole "sunflower" (see girasole).



...Gira-sole means "turn-sun".

Update 2016.03.11.14:30 – Added PPS and deleted footer:

PPS: Time's up: RECIPES (I counted wrong)

Update 2016.06.04.13:05 – Added magnolia fruit picture.

Update 2016.06.09.17:40 – Added PPPS (footnote)

PPPS I've realized on re-reading that this metaphor miight need a bit of unpacking (itself a complex metaphor, though one that is quite current (at least it is among people who listen regularly to In Our Time).

Duped Bird & Cuckoo (DBC), Magnolia & Mr McGregor (MMG) 

Needs to reproduce – DBC: lays egg / MMG: sets seed
Needs to dupe for own ends – DBC: cuckoo lays own egg / MMG: prunes/dead-heads
Victim duped – DBC: Host bird feeds cuckoo chick  / MMG: Mag. sets fruit again

Update 2017.03.10.15:30 – Added P4S

P4S: (Springing into life again after a year;) The magnolia's beginning to blossom already:



Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Where there's a muckle...

...there's brass. Or iron.

At each end  of the Iron Bridge there is a
building. At the far end (from the eponymous town, that is) is a small building – the Tollhouse, with its tariff displayed on the wall. It's all interesting, but what particularly interested me when I first saw it was the last line.

The bridge was built over the three years 1777-1779, and opened in 1781. At about that time there was a royal visit.  I wonder whether the last line on that notice was an afterthought [and how many horses drew the royal carriage].

Pro:
  • the last line is not ranged left, because the descender of the p in the penultimate line would clash with the ascender of the t unless the last line were to come perilously close to the edge of the board (leaving ragged spacing between the last four lines). The way to avoid this, if  "the Royal Family" wasn't an afterthought, would have been to loosen up  the previous line (as they used to say in the printing world  – adding a little extra space between the words) and carry over the "for" (with a knock-on effect in the next line, so that the "or" is carried over). That would avoid the ascender/descender clash.
  • there are two black marks after "waggon"  – the second of which could be the original full-stop, but was incorporated into the M of Mail-coach, with a new comma added.
Con:
  • the last line is not ranged left, because the descender of the p in the penultimate line would clash ... [etc.] The sign-writer was just not provident enough
  • there are two black marks after waggon  – the second of which was just a regular flourish at the beginning of the M of "Mail" as with any other capital initial in that cursive script.
To be certain, someone would have to inspect the original, which may even [now I think of it] not have been contemporary. But I like to imagine the scene, with the Republican Entrepreneur arguing with the Town Clerk during the planning meeting:
TC: ...Then the royal party crosses the bridge...
RE: 'ow many 'osses?
TC: I don't think we can say at this juncture. What does it signify anyway?
RE: What does it signify? I'll tell thee what it SIGNIFIES my lad. It's not a charity I'm running. T' tolls must be paid  – for the carriage, and for any out-riders, and for any Officers or Soldiers accompanying them. Master Scrivener?
MS: Sir?
RE: Remind me to tell t' sign-writer to make it clear on the Bill of Tolls that there are no exceptions – not even for royalty..
MS: I must check sir, but I think he finished last week.
RE: Well 'e'll just have to unfinish it then, and squeeze it in ..[ etc. etc.]
A few years later, to accommodate the many sight-seers, a hotel was built at the town end of the bridge. Over a century before Lorenzo de Tonti proposed (whether wholly originally, or simply refining previous similar financial instruments) a new sort of life insurance called a Tontine, which "combines features of a group annuity and a lottery". Initial capital used for building the new hotel was raised using a tontine, and the hotel was called (and still is called) the Tontine Hotel. This method of finance strikes me as carrying on the same republican principles: they would not go cap-in-hand to T' Quality, begging for money. They sold Tontine tickets to any Tom, Dick or Harry who had a bit to invest.

Here, though, is a problem. In Wikipedia's Tontine article we read "tontines have been banned in Britain, pursuant to the British Life Assurance Act 1774," But later in the same article: "it [the Tontine Hotel] was built in 1780-84 by the proprietors of the bridge to accommodate tourists who came to view this wonder of the industrial age.

So in the late 1770s money started being raised for the Tontine Hotel, in spite of a law passed several  years before. Which suggests that Shropshire's attitude to laws passed Down South is not unlike (for example) Greece's attitude to European authority. Or, come to that, France's or Italy's ...ortcetera. Tontines may have been "banned... pursuant to the ...Act", but the pursuit can't have been very hot. Or maybe Wikipedia's... Nah... couldn't be.

b



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.