Monday, 28 September 2015

No particulate place to go

Today‘s subject announces a valuable competition. No age-restrictions. The prize: IMMORTALITY. Brief: make a .jpeg or .png of a cartoon copy of this incompetent version (which reflects the fact that I didn't see eye-to-eye with ‘Pug' [as, for obvious reasons, we knew our art master – Father Ignatius]). I see it in the style of ‘Larry‘ (particularly the furtive emissions character, who I shall refer to for convenience as Mr Smokey).

Grist to the mill



your picture here

It might work better as a comic strip:
  • Frame 1 – Interior of car approaching test centre; Mr Smokey is in the passenger seat
  • Frame 2 – Mr Smokey hiding (behind WC door?);  car being tested in the background
  • Frame 3 –  Car leaving test centre and Mr Smokey getting back in (throwing away his cigarette butt?)
Anyway, it's up to you.

And now, the thought for the day, on echolalia, or 
the tendency to repeat mechanically words just spoken by another person: can occur in cases of brain damage, mental retardation, and schizophrenia
as Collins puts it. That dictionary classifies the word as pertaining particularly to the world of psychiatry, but I know it from the world of language (where it might have another name – I just like the word echolalia)

Some languages do it systematically. The response to the Continental Portuguese (I don't think this is true of Brazilian) Fala Português? , for example, is Falo sim or Não falo, não [or Falava sim bastante bem há 40 anos, mas agora...{="Yes, I used to speak it quite well 40 years ago, but now..."}] This involves a certain amount of linguistic processing on the part of the respondent; they need to identify the verb in the question and then change the ending (so that it's first person rather than second). Often this is not too difficult, but irregular verbs can confuse the issue.
<digression type="autobiographical note">
I'm reminded, not entirely relevantly, as echolalia doesn't come into it, of an exchange I had (I won't call it a conversation, which would've been barely possible at the time) with a young Argentinian woman in Bilbao arcelona, where I was starting to learn Spanish. After work one day (the nature of which is discussed here) María Fernanda said Contános. She was asking me what had happened that day. 
In much of South America, they speak Spanish but with many differences from the Castilian Spanish largely taught in schools. The crucial difference in this case is in verb inflections. Argentina preserves the informal second person vos (originally plural as in Old Castilian, in current Spanish (but with -otros tacked on*)  and in modern(-ish [older people use it {or at least did in 1971}] ) Portuguese, but in the singular. The informal Spanish imperative plural of contar is contad – with stress on the second syllable. 
The imperative singular of contar  was – according to the O-level grammar book I was using at the time – cuenta (the stress on the etymological o causing the diphthong). So, if I had reached the bit in the book that dealt with the position of object pronouns (doubtful), I would have expected cuéntanos in place of María Fernanda's 'Contános'.
</digression>
The subject of people repeating things said  – especially in the context of language-learning – came to mind while I was listening to the first of the Price of Oil series plays on Saturday, Stand Firm, You Cads!; it‘s about 22-23 minutes  in, in a conversation between an Englishwoman and a speaker of English as a second language whose mother tongue is Farsi:

She:  I ... I think I misjudged the whole thing.  
He:   You didn't get anything wrong.
This didn't ring true for me, as a student of other languages. The speaker of ESOL was a competent speaker; and I know no Farsi – but it's possible, though improbable, that Farsi has an idiom that translates word-for-word as 'to get something wrong'. If this is true, that's just the sort of lucky coincidence that language learners hang on to (and a prolific source of near-misses – false friends) like 'take French leave' [which doesn't mean the same as filer à l'anglaise]).

But otherwise I feel it would be more likely that the speaker of ESOL would reflect back the native speaker's expression and say "You didn't misjudge anything'.

<digression type="autobiographical note", "again, not entirely relevant"> 
In the mid '70s I was on the books of the police as an interpreter. This could be quite exciting (being called in the small hours and given a lift in a Jamjar that could jump red lights with impunity, for example). On one occasion I was called to interpret for some Brazilian students who had had a few drinks and made off with a dustbin-lid. In the car on the way to the Station I was talking to the arresting officers, trying to glean the details of the alleged offence (so that I could rehearse the appropriate vocabulary, and if necessary think up some periphrases to make up for lacunae). 
The crucial word was 'dustbin-lid', and I had no idea how to say it. It was with huge relief that I heard the students blurt out, as soon as they saw me, o tampo de lixo
Speakers of foreign languages rely very heavily on what they hear. 
</digression>

That's all for today.

b

PS A clue:  Wind about one means of avoiding a possible miscarriage of justice. (8)
 
* I made the unreasonable assumption that everyone had a passing knowledge of Spanish when I added this rather gnomic parenthesis. The Spanish vosotros means you (plural and informal). By coincidence, French does a similar thing, but with a word-break; and the result is extremely informal (meaning something like "you lot" – vous autres).

Update 2015.11.02.09:55 – misremembered placename fixed.

Update 2015.11.16.09:50 – The solution: MISTRIAL.





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, 21 September 2015

The point of a myth...

...or why 'myth-busters' often [ahem] myth the point.

Last week on Computing Britain,  a long-held belief of mine was called into question – but by stealth. In the 10th minute the presenter of that short broadcast says
...the American military think-tank the Rand Corporation ..among other things [NB pre-emptive strike against accusations of  'quoting out of context' {for heaven's sake, what is a quotation if not words taken away from the surrounding words (AKA 'context')}], aimed to design a computer network that would survive a nuclear attack.
'I knew that', I thought. I mentioned it here. Next. When's she going to mention X.25 or JANET?' [she didn't, but I'm sure Wikipedia will fill you in if you're that interested.]

But a few minutes later, about 11'58", the wheels start to come off. 'But there is one thing we must get clear' says the presenter and then cuts to an ARPA-net engineer:
There is a myth that has been going around for 30-odd years that the ARPA-net was constructed in order to protect the United States against a nuclear attack. False. Totally false. [BK: And the presenter continues:]  No. ARPA-net... was built for sharing of computer resources, not for surviving a nuclear attack. It just so happened that the design had also emerged from thinking in that area.

Hmm. Do I detect some doubleplusgood duckspeaking, to borrow Orwell's term? The ‘myth', to whose dissemination I may have contributed in a document I wrote in the early '90s (was I an early carrier of the "myth" [an iconopoet {like an iconoclast, but making rather than breaking}]? – I don't know without wasting time trawling through stuff I wrote 35 years ago). If I didn't write it down, I was certainly told it by my main research source; and I've certainly repeated it since.

But things don't happen in a vacuum, especially not in the field of technology. One idea sparks off another and there follows a chain-reaction of ideas sparking off new ideas. The ability to withstand a nuclear strike (not to 'protect the US against a nuclear strike' – Geez, what planet is this guy on?) was one of the design criteria that underlay a predecessor of the ARPA-net.

<rant>
And why does he have to call it a MYTH? As I've said before here (and probably elsewhere) this is a sore point with me. Generally – from the point of view of the culture they belong to – myths are a Good Thing.
<digression type="autobiographical note"> 
I remember a Latin-American Studies seminar in the mid-'70s that featured an interesting expansion of  myth-related terminology.  The leader of the seminar said she wanted to ‘explode the myth of... [something]', and my hackles started to rise. 
But they needn't have. She said she wanted to explode a myth in the sense of explode used in the phrase exploded diagram. In other words, she was going to take it apart and show how it all fitted together – an illuminating, interesting, and creative use of the expression. 
</digression>
Besides, even overlooking the abuse of the word myth, I am sick and tired (yes, both) of people who parade their greater knowledge by dismissing out of hand the beliefs of us lesser mortals when those beliefs, while not 100% correct, contain a grain of truth that is worth examining.
</rant>
That's all folks.

b
Update 2015.09.21.17:10 – Corrected typo in bold. It was LONG ago.

Update 2015.09.22.10:10 – Esprit de l'escalier, in green.


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.




Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Sounds like my sort of thing

An article in last Saturday's Times (yes, I know, The Times [sigh]) was a less than glowing review of Richard Dawkins's new book. Not having read (nor intending to read)  it (the book, that is), I don't mean to add to the review, but one assertion quoted leapt to my attention as dubious:


Really? I was saying /'mɑ:li:bəʊn/ (in the brief few turns it took to buy me out of a game of Monopoly™  in those days) several decades before Transport for London was even dreamt of. I wish the reviewer had been more punctilious with his punctuation, as on the basis of this it's nigh-on impossible to determine which bits of the assertion are those of Dawkins. But I imagine the Marylebone instance is his, as is the faintly ridiculous 'classic [BK: Really? Has he any idea of what 'classic' means?] struggle between two memes'. But this isn't a review, so I'll lay off.

Excuse my use of IPA symbols...
<rant flame="simmer">
 I have ranted about this before, somewhere  in the UsingEnglish forums, but I can't find  where. So some readers may get a sense of déjà-lu  – but probably not. (And I did mean -lu.)  Anyway, here I go again. 
When you know your audience (and that word is crucial  –  when people can hear you) it's OK to say things like 'lear sounds like leer'. 'Sounds like' is meaningful only if there's a known sound to compare. But when you're writing – say, in an online forum – it's not so easy. What  if one of your readers has just learnt bear, pear, tear (NOT the lachrymal sort) or wear, so that the /eǝ/ sound is uppermost in their short-term memory of English sounds? You've told them that leer is pronounced  /leǝ/. 
Or suppose one of your readers mispronounces law as /lǝʊ/  –  a common enough mistake in an ESOL classroom   –  and you write that a word  'sounds like law'. Again, you've misinformed them. And I don't think that's too strong a word, at  least not in a language-teaching context.  If the teacher wants to communicate something, it's part of the job to make sure it's understood correctly. 
People complain about 'having to learn a whole new alphabet'. That's nonsense, particularly in the case of English  – which can be adequately transcribed using the letters of the alphabet (most with 'their own' sound – b ⇨ /b/, k ⇨ /k/, s ⇨ /s/, and so on) with a dozen or so new symbols). The system can be taught in a few lessons, makes dictionaries infinitely more informative, absorbing and rewarding, makes modelling and correcting sounds easier and clearer, supports increased learner autonomy.... And yet many learners (and even quite a few teachers, to my utter bewilderment – as I can't conceive of learning a new language [except by total immersion] without using the IPA) resist the idea of learning/teaching IPA symbols. 
</rant>
... but old habits die hard (and dye deep).

<digression>
There are various stories about etymology of that word. [Marylebone, remember?] This site says
...In the thirteenth century when the language of the aristocracy was French, St-Mary-by-the-Tyburn would have been St-Mary-a-le-Bourne (‘bourne’ being the French for a small stream) and from this we arrive at the word ‘Marylebone’ as we know it today.  
Based on this etymology and a progression of phonetics, the correct way of pronouncing ‘Marylebone’ is widely considered to be ‘Marry-leh-bon’ – although in reality this is rarely heard.
As to the meaning of "a progression of phonetics" your guess is as good as mine – though I imagine it may mean something like 'a number of both phonetic and phonological changes' ; after all, those 13th-century origins pre-dated the Great Vowel Shift. 
I once gleaned, from a source that I regarded at the time as authoritative (although as this was in the late '60s I no doubt set the bar pretty low), that ‘-le-bone' just meant 'the good', as le was feminine at the time,  and the convention of doubling a word-final consonant before adding an e for the feminine (for example bon/bonne, cadet/cadette, Bourgignon/Bourgignonne... 
<mini-rant status="stillborn">
No, I won't but... If people would just pronounce the /n/ when they say Bœuf Bourgignonne.  PLEASE.
</mini-rant> 
... etc.) had not yet been adopted by the Académie – which had surely ... (nope, not until the mid-17th) not yet been set up.  Still, -a-le-bourne is plausible enough, and I'm not going to lose any sleep over it either way. On the one hand, beware folk etymologies, especially on special-interest web sites; on the other hand, what's the point  of saying 'St Mary the Good' at all, unless there were a... aha, maybe Mary Magdalene was 'Mary the Bad' (not so 'bad', though, as to stop her being canonized in the end [for all that, by all accounts, she was no better than she SHOULD be, if you catch my drift, and note the colour of this parenthesis. St-Mary-the-Not-So-Bad-Really-(just-not-the-one-in-the-blue-frock), perhaps]).
</digression>

And by the way, while we're on the subject of what was said and when., in that (i.e. Saturday; do keep up) night's televised version of An Inspector Calls, some of the dialogue was surely in Priestley's original. Just before the Great War, it makes sense for both Sheila and the Inspector to say during the 31st minute, 'Why had this to happen?' (where an 21st-century speaker would say 'Why did this have to happen?' – or would they? Maybe it's the sort of Northern English syntax that's still current... I can imagine Sir Geoffrey saying it.)

On the other hand, bits of the dialogue stick out like... something very sticky-outy [I'm avoiding clichés like the pl... um, like something jolly bargepole-y]. Would Gerald really have said 'It's a question of the bottom line'? (the context is a bit uncertain, as I can't find the reference, but he certainly used the expression the bottom line, which Etymonline says is  attested from 1967.)

Well, must be off.


b

PS A couple of clues:

Dildo's met an awful aria. (5,6)
Dumb-show of involuntary movement – that's imitative. (7)

Update: 2015.09.16.08:55 – Whoops... fixed in maroon.
Update: 2015.09.21.15:45 – Added long-overdue clarification in red.
Update: 2016.01.29.15:10 –  Supplied answers to clues, and deleted footer (as I will do in other posts when I get 'a round tuit'. The latest info. is on my other blog.)

PPS The answers: it's been so long that it took me a while to work them out – DIDO'S LAMENT and MIMETIC

Friday, 11 September 2015

Brief Tale from the Word-Face

Last year (two years ago – talk about time's wingéd chariot...) I wrote this:
I was in Truro at the end of my choir's short tour of the West Country, of which more anon. But before I go I can't resist an etymological reflection induced by my visit to the Mayflower Exhibition
Plymouth was noted for being a Roundhead stronghold during the English Civil War – and that name for the Puritans' soldiers, was coined with reference to their headgear (I prefer the soldiers' helmet theory to the pudding-basin haircut theory expounded – very briefly – here). 
The Roundhead soldiers were by no means the first fighting force to be given a nickname based on what their heads looked like. When Roman soldiers occupied Gaul the locals thought that their helmets looked like cooking pots (Vulgar Latin TESTA(M)). Among all the Romance-language names for head (capo, cabo, cabeza, cabeça ...) where does the French tête come from? Well, here's a hint; the circumflex in French is often a vestige of an s.
I left the conclusion as an exercise for the reader (which I'm still doing).

I've included that snippet for two  reasons:
  1. It's interesting
  2. It's context reminds me of work I did on  WVGTbook. I was about halfway through the process when I wrote it.
The second of these has spurred me into renewed efforts on the next in the series, which led to this:

Tale from the word-face

The picture is fairly self explanatory, and depends (as usual) on my dysdactylographical ability. I was entering the word depilatory into a spreadsheet:



I have difficulty in imagining what CD epilepsy might be, but it sounds very last century. Haven't they heard of streaming?

That's all for now. The book (and garden) awaits (AWAIT), and the weekend will be unproductive (TCB performance on Saturday and birthday lunch on Sunday (giving poignancy to the question

Will you still feed me?

which may give you an age-related clue.)
<apropos subject="clue">
Actual place to make alternative distribution arrangements. (10)
</apropos>

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 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.




Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Intonation revisited

Late last week I heard a BBC continuity announcer (or news summary reader – I tried to track her down on iPlayer, but found I have no future as a cyberstalker) make a mistake of intonation that betrayed her ignorance of the Beautiful Game. It was about England fielding its "first team" (that is, its first choice of players) against San Marino. I reproduce here (in the first of the pair) a representation of the appropriate intonation to convey this meaning:

<excuse> 
Apologies for the somewhat basic graphics (basic in comparison with the ones I used here, in my first post about intonation). 20-odd years of experience with the graphics  capabilities of The Dark Side outweigh less than a year with Android.
</excuse>
But she used the second intonation – which would have been appropriate in the case of a record-breaking event or achievement, such as this:

Fig. 2
This example led me to reread last May's post about the way stress can affect meaning.  In a digression there I said of some aperçu  I had quoted:
<autobiographical note> 
It may have been mentioned in a lecture by the then Doctor, now Professor, Erik Fudge (though he may have read it somewhere else). 
</autobiographical note>
Thinking to avoid a digression too far I didn't mention another, which has been simmering away at the back of my mind. Well the metaphorical steam has been building up for several months, and the pressure has got too much for me; so here is that thought:

<suppressed_meta_digression phase="preamble">
The intonation patterns in direct and indirect speech differ; the information conveyed by the intonation is more specific in the case of direct speech. Look at these two:
Fig. 3
The first, of course, is the more dramatic; moreover, the gradient of the arc is infinitely variable. In contrast, the arc in the case of indirect speech is much flatter, and if the reporter wants to vary the reported utterance's force all they can do is add something adverbial and/or change the verb. Here are three possibilities:
Fig, 4
(The possibilities are almost limitless, given the range  of adverbials and substitute verbs, and they all have pretty flat intonation, but at least there‘s some variation.)

But look what‘s happened to the high point of the intonation curve. In the original direct speech [shown in the first of the pair, Fig.3] , the intonation reaches its peak at the word away, but in the expanded versions [shown in Fig. 4] it doesn't. Perhaps this might be referred to as "intonatio praecox": the intonation in the report reaches its climax earlier than in the actual speech.

In the report of that direct speech, though [shown in Fig 5], while the contour of the arc is necessarily different [but hold that thought: necessarily?] the peak  is on the same word:
Fig. 5
<autobiographical_note>
To use the words my brother learnt when he was doing geology at O-level, it has a scarp slope (for the first part of the actual speech)  and a dip slope for the end of the actual speech plus the predicate. 
</autobiographical_note.>

</suppressed_meta_digression>

<suppressed_meta_digression phase="NECESSARILY">
In reports of direct speech, the intonation is inaccurate. It would be possible to use intonation such as that shown in Fig. 6, which would be closer to the truth of the speech event:
Fig. 6
"Accurate" but unnatural intonation,
with the direct speech starting and ending at the same pitch
But that's just not the way English intonation works. You may hear this sort of intonation in dramatic readings, but the less "accurate" version shown in Fig. 5 is the conversational  norm.
<afterthought>
Maybe this intonation defines a dramatic reading: as the initial arc of the quoted speech begins and ends at the same level, it's easier to forget that the reader is there at all. On the other hand, in the more common (Fig. 5) intonation, the reporter hi-jacks the original speaker's intonation, flattening out the dip slope – and effectively saying 'I'm here'. [I'm not sure about this though  – feel free to disagree.]
</afterthought>
</suppressed_meta_digression> 
b

PS Another clue: Hang about, that is a foundation. (7)

Update, 2015.10.16.10:20 – Added esprit d'escalier in blue.

Update, 2015.12.06.10:40 – OK, that's long enough. The solution to that clue: LINGERIE.



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, 4 September 2015

Water, water everywhere

<plug object="choral concert">
Tonight – or,  by the time I hit the Submit button, last night, probably – my choir will start rehearsals for its first concert of the new term, when we'll be singing Elijah. When this was first suggested I thought I could use my secondhand copy of the score. The choir's instructions were
I think those of you who have a previous Novello version of the Elijah score may be able to use it ...
But as my previous edition's original sale price had been 7s. 0d. I thought I'd better use a new score. I'm quite attached to my old score though. Its previous owner, who sang with South Chiltern Choral Society, (and who I suspect was a language teacher, because he used my trick of using IPA symbols to make pronunciation notes) had kept the programme from their concert in 1957:

  Anyway, if it's as good as our our last Elijah over 10 years ago...
Elijah is a work of enormous excitement and dramatic force....The response of the chorus to their self-inflicted woes [BK not WCS's; the Israelites'] captured every nuance of their emotional turmoil and the semi-chorus sang with winsome sensitivity.)
Wokingham Times, April 2005
...it'll be a perfect way to spend a winter's evening at the Great Hall Reading.
</plug>
But what has this to do with  water (mentioned in the subject line)? Well those self-inflicted woes all stem from a drought:
...there shall not be dew nor rain these years, there shall not be dew nor rain  but according to my word.
(note cursey typeface)
Be that as it may, water – specifically water-based metaphors – has been on my mind. And drought is a good point de départ. When a source of something (there's another: a source is a spring – the watery kind ) runs low it dries up, or dwindles to a trickle. (on reflection, I suppose I could probably also have highlighted RUNS LOW; the low could refer to the level of a liquid in a container). And when a speaker loses their flow ...
<digression theme="fluency">
On the subject of flow, I am often asked – as a speaker of more than one language – if I'm "fluent in X". When you're fluent in a language words flow (without apparent reflection) from your mouth. "Am I fluent in X?" Hell, I'm not even fluent in English (although I am, as they say, a 'native speaker'.)
<meta_digression>  
Stephen Fry, in the last edition of Fry's English Delight, distinguished between early and late bilinguals – a distinction I'm not sure about. For me, to be  bilingual a child has to be raised in a household where two languages are naturally spoken.  A man who, in later life, made a point of learning (not acquiring, to use the linguistics word for what a child does) Yiddish  (this was one of the examples given) is not, by my lights, bilingual. Maybe my lights are on the blink though. Maybe...
In my youth I was a social contact (and colleague of sorts) of Michael Portillo, erstwhile Cabinet Minister (and now sporter of multifarious jackets on a television near you). His father was Spanish. His Spanish was very good. In 1971, in Madrid, I met his cousin – who agreed; but, she added, 'habla como un libro'  ['like a book']. Maybe this wasn't original; maybe it's a traditional family description, but I give her as the source because she it was who said it to me. 
Does this make him bilingual? (Of course, he may be, depending on the linguistic environment he grew up in). 
</meta_digression>
</digression>
... their speech dries up, just as an actor may simply dry.

So much for speech; many water-related metaphors relate also to immersion (which itself is probably one... yup). If you're on uncertain ground (whoops: mixed metaphor warning) you're out of your depth; and maybe there are things going on under the surfacestill waters run deep. You need to keep your head above water. And if you go against prevailing attitudes you swim against the tide; if you change your mind you row back, or in some circles (the sort where a lazy person rests on his oars, or doesn't pull his weight), you back-water ("backwater" does duty in another metaphorical sense with regard to a place where nothing much happens [oh yes, my use/non-use of hyphens is both intentional and deliberate (and if you think that's pleonastic, look 'em up)]. Or you could just go with the flow.

The word immersion itself suggests another metaphor, about language learning  – another source of watery metaphors: students acquiring vocabulary by osmosis, teachers drip-feeding information. And not just language-learning; skills and information may leak from other disciplines. I'm sure many more such examples will come to me.

But I have other fish to fry. Before I go though, I'll share a thought I've had about bascule bridges. (That gear-change could have been smoother [via water ⇒ river ⇒ bridge], but this isn't The One Show.) Since seeing the hydraulic mechanisms that make Tower Bridge work, I no longer see it as two arms waving up and down but as a pair of asymmetrical see-saws, with their longer arms meeting, Each longer arm (half the roadway) tips up as water slooshes into the arm you can't see.
<digression theme="tai chi, nothing if not eclectic">
I use this image to reinforce the idea of weight draining from one leg into the other, so that upward movement doesn't involve muscular effort (in the rising leg).
</digression>
And where does this fit in, metaphor-wise? Well the French for see-saw (American teeter-totter) is une bascule.

b

PS: Here's a clue:
Thinker about body. (7)

Update: 2015.09.05.12:30  – Added picture, and fixed a rogue its (sorry about that,  it's not that difficult, I know, but I'm always doing it).

Update: 2015.09.14.10.55 – Added this PPS:

PPS Here's another water-based metaphor – not a current one, but still striking. Not having read Strait is the gate I don't know how – or whether – it survives translation [come to think of it, it's so striking that any translator must surely have kept it in] but La Porte Étroite includes this image. A person who has been blind from birth imagines birdsong as the sound of the environment [horrid over-functional word, but I don't have the text in front of me – the air? the world? boiling with joy and excitement.

Update: 2015.09.19.16.55 – Added this PPPS:

And, on  the subject of boiling, I happened on this one this morning...
<spoiler_alert>
...while doing today‘s Polygon in The Times.
</spoiler_alert>
Ebullience. As Etymonline says,
 ...from Latin ebullientem (nominative ebulliens) "a boiling, a bursting forth, overflow," present participle of "to boil over"...
More here from Etymonline .



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.