Wednesday, 20 June 2018

The Brexicon

Whether you parse my subject line as Br[itish]+ exit + lexicon or Br[itish] + exit + con[fidence trick] is a matter of personal conscience. I couldn't possibly comment (well, I could,  but as the whole sorry shambles reduces me to incoherent/impotent rage, my comments woudn't have much force either way).

On 25 March of 2018 The Westmnster Hour included an item that dealt with the language of Brexit "[f]rom Cakeism and Remainiacs, to Regulatory Alignment and Insufficient Progress" as the iPlayer blurb puts it. The programme as a whole is not available, but iPlayer's largesse makes up for this, by making available a "clip" of about 8 minutes.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly told us that Brexit means Brexit. But what do the words associated with Brexit mean? The Westminster Hour's John Beesley has been exploring the etymology of the Brexit lexicon. 

More here
Graeme Davis, Profeeor of Humanities at Buckingham University, gives the interviewer some basic pointers to start with. It all started with Grexit – which, as you may remember, referred to a putative exit of Greece from the Euro. Britain was never in the Euro, so Brixit [sic, with an i – an early form that didn't catch on] wasn't just about money.

Brexit spawned various spinoffs, includind Brexiter and Brexiteer. Dr Davis calls the first of these  "I suppose, relatively neutral" [hmmm – not sure what that "relatively" is doing; just – suppose  academic feigned diffidence] and the second "has quite a positive spin on it".  Again, hmmm; I think the direction of the spin depends on the attitude of the hearer. If you think Brexit is A Bad Thing, then Brexiteer has more of the negative spin of racketeer (one might link this word with capitalists with off-shore wealth profiteering from the chaos which is bound to... No Bob, don't go therre. Even words like privateer and buccaneer have spin that can be either positive or negative, depending on which end of the cutlass is involved. 

And the addition of the prefix arch- seems to me to impart renewed negativity. If I call Jacob Rees-Mogg an arch-Brexiteer, I don't think there's much risk of my being thought to  approve of his antiquarian antics. 
Excuse the gratuitous assonance; I can't hear a word without being tempted down playful back-alleys. At least I spared you the 'Jacob Real-Smug' gag...
No I didn't.
In the end, I didn't find the Westminster Hour clip very enlightening. But I did find the words of Kathleen O'Grady ("a journalist with a special interest in linguistics") interesting:
German is currently the most widely spoken native language  about 16% of the EU speaks German as a native language. But once you take into account people who speak various languages as a second language, English then quickly overtakes both German and French, and also Italian – which is quite widely spoken. So 38% of adults in Europe speak English as a second langage. If you compare that to the total of German speakers – both native and as a second language – that's only 27%.
And she goes on to refer to research that suggests the use of English may be boosted by Brexit:

After the UK leaves, most people speaking English in the EU ...
Most people? Perhaps she has some Astérix-like vision of a redoubt of hardy native speakers of English among all the second-language speakers – perhaps led by Nicola Sturgeon in the Astérix role, with Alex Salmond playing Obélix...
will be on the same footing. If everybody's on the same footing, everybody's speaking it as a second language, people might be more happy to use it.
This is strangely reminiscent to me of David Crystal's work in Original Pronunciation (OP)  and his observation that OP gives non-UK actors ownership of the text. I heard this at a British Council talk a few years ago., but the same point is made by David Crystal's son Ben:
The accent draws him [HD: the actor using OP] more out of the head of the standard accent and into the heart. This, he believes, brings “an ownership over Shakespeare that is rare,” both for the actor and the audience. Americans, he notes, have sometimes told him that they feel like Shakespeare isn’t theirs because “we can’t do your accent,” but that many of the vowel sounds in O.P. may in fact be more accessible naturally to Americans than to modern Brits.

More here
So Globish will go sailing off pluckily into the unknown, leaving us speakers of RP clinging to the wreckage.

But this isn't getting the lawn patched. Bye for now

PS: A couple of clues:
  • Hostile response to insult, with intervention of mountain bike in reverse; formidable. (11)
  • Men and girl conspiring to put a spanner in the works (7)
Update: 2018.07.12.09:30 – Shame-faced typo-fixes (involving acute accents).

Thursday, 14 June 2018


The other day  an edition of Notes from the Stave reminded of a piece I'd written in the early days of this blog on Gabriel Fauré's Requiem. One of the people commentating on the manuscript also featured as a boy soprano in the King's College Choir recording – Bob (credited at the time as "Robert") Chilcott. (In particular it alerted me to a mistranslation of mine, now fixed. To make matters worse, it was in a section that corrected a common mistranslation [of In Paradisum as *in paradise – which it doesn't mean]).
...In can mean many things  in Latin, but when followed by a noun in the accusative it doesn't mean 'in'. If the words were In Paradiso they would mean 'In Paradise'; but they are In Paradisum ... going on ...deducant Angeli : 'May angels will lead you into Paradise...' One of many other meanings of in, this time followed by the dative, is exemplified in the next phrase: in tuo adventu: that's closer to 'in' in meaning, with a sense something like 'on the occasion of', though I'd favour a simpler translation: 'When you arrive...'.

More here
My mistake (future simple rather than subjunctive) was perhaps explained (though not of course justified – mea maxima culpa) by Fauré's own attitude to the Requiem as a lullaby of death. I let his view of death as a peaceful return to a state of eternal rest influence me. As Michael Lewanski‘s blog says
Unlike nearly all other works in the genre, it [HD: Fauré's Requiem ] contains none of the drama, anxiety, or fraught emotions one tends to associate with human thinking about death.  Nearly all references to the last judgement from the Catholic liturgy (and trust me, there are plenty) are excised. 
This nonchalance  in the sense of "not getting  hot under the collar" misled me into  assuming on the part of  Fauré a certain (not to say sanctimonious) belief that angels would lead the departed into paradise.

The manuscript, and thus the stuff of the discussion, was an unbound version without some movements added later (Offertorium, Libera me, etc.); it was, in the words of the Bibliothèque Nationale's Head of Music Manuscripts a manuscript de travail working copy rather than a draft of something to be  published.

Bob Chilcott makes frequent additions to the discussion based on his experience as a chorister;   from the sublime (David Willcocks‘s observation that the high strings after the triumphant Hosanna  represent  the angels flying off  into the distance) to the ridiculous (after the recording of  Pie Jesu, when the sound engineer asked if Chilcott wanted to listen back to his efforts, the response was "Sorry Sir, he's gone off with  Marriner [Neville‘s  son Andrew] to buy sweets" [not the exact words – check Bob Chilcott's memory in the 17th minute of the programme]).

At one point (maybe more than one) Bob Chilcott calls attention to Fauré's word painting, which put me in mind of my own favourite example, discussed in an old post of mine:
My choice of 'listen out' [HD: the post was discussing phrasal verbs in  a context that had nothing to do with music] as an example is not entirely accidental. I'm singing this season Fauré's Requiem, which includes the prayer Exaudi orationem meam. This phrase is preceded by a soprano tune marked both piano and dolce: a very gentle and not-very-down-to-earth (in fact angelic)  'It is fitting that a hymn should be offered to you in Sion, O God'. Here the human penitent breaks in,  fortissimo: Exaudi – as if they were saying 'Enough of this airy-fairy stuff  "it is fitting that..." my Aunt Fanny! This really matters to a human soul. Among all the millions of prayers addressed to you throughout Christendom not to mention that bl**dy  'hymnus' listen out for mine.' The rather limp translation 'Hear my prayer' doesn't do justice to the word.
And in the same post I returned to the theme of 'listen out':

At the funeral of a
grande dame yesterday... I witnessed an underlining of the importance of this Ex-  [HD: in exaudi]. We were in the middle of one of those interminable call-and-response prayers, with the congregation saying ‘Lord, hear our prayer‘ again and again. And The Angelus butted in. (For the uninitiated:  The Angelus is a very noisy Call-to-prayer – much noisier than the Islamic version: ding ding ding <pause> ding ding ding <pause> ding ding ding <pause...has it stopped?>  <oh dear me NO, suckers> DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING... [ad nauseam]).  And the congregation was bleating (that‘s one for the etymologists: grex = ‘flock‘) ‘Lord, hear our prayer‘. Here was the perfect opportunity for something more robust: ‘Listen out for my prayer‘.
Not all believers would recognize this as a call to prayer exactly, but the name 'Angelus' is the first word of the prescribed prayer.

So it's a call to – and an accompaniment to – a particular prayer, to be prayed wherever the hearer happens to be, rather than [as in the Islamic case] a call to the faithful to come and pray at the mosque.
But this isn't getting the lawn repaired (Don't ask; in short I'm doing a Rooney
[transplanting bits of "turf" from where it's spread over a path though it's not turf exactly; it's just a bit greener than the weeds that are in the "lawn"].)


PS And here are a couple of clues:
  • Hatter in cahoots with odd characters from Idaho returning to get rich. (11)
  • Neat ass at the Gare du Nord on track for underhand trickery (9) 

Update 2018.08.29.13:00 –The answers: MILLIONAIRE and CHICANERY. And, swatting away hornets ("...Because he knows it teases") I've added an inline PPS in red.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Advertorial or what?

Generally speaking, I'm in favour of the BBC. No prizes, though,  for detecting a none-too-faint whiff of adversity (or but-ness) in the offing.  A while ago the first of three facinating programmes was aired. The second and third programmes were a vast improvement...
 (although it's hard not to judge the acuity of the analysis  on the basis of a scarcely credible abuse of incredulously 15'17" into the third, as if bacteria were going around scratching their tiny heads – but one shouldn't be snobbish about... hell yes I will:

this is BBC Radio 4 for pity's sake, and we
can expect at least a MODICUM of literacy
<loaded_term value="literacy">
Tricky word that one. I've seen it used in the context of an infant ...
<etymological_fallacy risk="high">
And I have to admit that when I use the word "infant" I have a perhaps over-zealous regard for its root. Sorry, but I regard 'infant who has not yet learned to talk' as pleonastic; infants haven't.
...recognizing and responding to the golden arches indicating a certain McFood outlet. But here I'm using it in the specific sense of ability to use words to convey meaning. And don't try any clever-clever stuff about "the meaning of meaning"; you know what I'm talking about.
But the later programmes were less of a hook-line-and-sinker regurgitation of a press release from the company that has the very same name as the BBC series (which took the name verbatim from the market leader in this area: The Second Genome...
At least they didn't add the TM. Here's the  iPlayer link
...) At the time of the series I made a note in a draft that I was inspired to dust off by last Tuesday's Life Scientific, which dealt with the immune system. To quote the programme's précis:
Traditional descriptions of the human immune system bristle with military analogies. There are "lines of defence" against "enemy invaders"; "border guards" at "strategic points. And when barriers are breached, there's "a call to arms". That's before you mention Natural Killer Cells.

But Professor of Immunology and Public Engagement at the University of Manchester, Sheena Cruickshank, tells Jim that as well as the war-like descriptions, our immune system is now being understood in terms of its capacity for diplomacy too. Jaw-jaw as well as War-war.

Our immune system has to know when to tolerate the trillions of microbes that live on us and in us, to hold fire but also to know when full-scale immune activation is required.

More here
But the whole thing  is well worth a listen. Give it a go.

I, meanwhile, must go and learn my words for this – less than 3 weeks away as I type:

(One or two notes could do with some attention as well.) 

Sadly it'll be our  Musical Director's UK swansong with the choir; I say 'UK' specifically because he and the choir will be performing in France in August.


PS: A couple of clues:
  • Blackbird embracing upstart noose in a big way (10)
  • Mistaken queen preceding onerous with queen coming first. (9)