Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Denouement or tying up loose ends?

Neither, I think (not that they're the same thing – it's just amusing that they're such a near miss)...

A denouement is an unknotting; most English speakers, especially gardeners...


Other people conversant with word "node" include doctors, and people working in the area of networks and/or databases. My exposure to database software is  getting on for 20 years out of date, but one of the earlier systems was called quipu (and there's an account of the early days of LDAP development [Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, if you must know] here). This directory-related name was taken from a messaging and/or recording device made of knotted string. A quipu, as Wikipedia explains...

...usually consisted of cotton or camelid fiber strings. The Inca people used them for collecting data and keeping records, monitoring tax obligations, properly collecting census records, calendrical information, and for military organization...The cords stored numeric and other values encoded as knots, often in a base ten positional system. A quipu could have only a few or thousands of cords....The configuration of the quipus has been "compared to string mops. Archaeological evidence has also shown the use of finely carved wood as a supplemental, and perhaps sturdier, base to which the color-coded cords would be attached. A relatively small number have survived.

 The idea of knotting is a fruitful source of idle mental wanderings.

...will know what a node is, even without the aid of the French noeud. The author has got loads of concurrent and intermixed story-lines, and in the denouement they are disentangled. Tying up loose ends is a rather different process; unfinished story lines have been left dangling, and the author tidies up. Hmm.

... And I'm talking about Line of Duty, of course; I was thinking of The end of the line? but Radio Times got there first. And I doubt if they're the only ones; as puns go, it's pretty low-hanging fruit. 

But I started to have my doubts during the penultimate episode. Why did Kate run off after the shooting? In the interests of devil's advocacy, I tried to defend it when MrsK objected.

<parenthesis subj="The case for the defence">
'There was no hard proof against Pilkington, so Kate feared she'd be framed for his murder'.

But my heart wasn't in it. He was carrying and threatening to use an illegal gun, so it was obviously a righteous shoot, as they say. The motivation at this stage was further muddied by an article in Saturday's Times, which hinted at a Lesbian/Bonnie and Clyde angle, but as devil's advocacy goes, this was really scraping the barrel.

REWOP (reprinted w/o permission)
And when, during the Bonnie and Clyde bit (after reading that Times article it's hard to see that scene without imagining Foggy Mountain Breakdown as background music), a police pursuit vehicle appeared after Jo had been giving directions, why didn't Kate suspect that Jo had led her into a trap (again – Kate had precious little reason to trust her at that stage).

Then the action moved to Spain, and the wheels really came off. The subtitles (the Spanish ones) were a bit dodgy. For example, when the captain was telling his men to go in, the subtitle read 'Entrar, entrar', making him sound like an official instruction rather than the informal command (which I imagine it was): Entrad! Entrad! But the sound wasn't that clear, and this is not a serious error anyway; it just added to the undermining of my willing suspension of disbelief.

What really did it for me though (OK,  I'm a pron-Nazi) was the pronunciation of 'Thurwell'. I imagine the actor was a native speaker of Spanish who lived in England and had met the distinctly English /ɜ:/ (though even when exposed to the sound, in my experience, Spanish-speakers rarely get it). But this, in the world of fiction, was a Guardia who had

  • never (or never knowingly – that is, he might have been exposed to it, but didn't recognize it as linguistically meaningful) heard our /ɜ:/
  • only ever seen the name 'Thurwell' in reports

So he should have said [ur]. He flapped the /r/ OK, but he used the highly improbable (if not impossible) /ɜ:/.

<usual_apologies reason="IPA symbols">
Regular visitors to this blog will be used to my insistence on not using "sounds-like" soi-disant 'equivalences', which never work and sometimes mislead in an ESOL class. But here I should perhaps supply a 'misericord' (as defined here) by saying that the word word is transcribed /wɜ:d/. 
For the full pro-IPA rant, see here.
I recently wrote to The Times on this subject, after they had published a profile of  Kamala Harris around the time of the US presidential election in November 2020:
As a retired teacher of English as a foreign language I was disappointed to read Dana Goodyear's misleading and unhelpful pronunciation advice ('it's Comma-la'). 'Sounds-like' pronunciation aids, as I was always telling my fellow teachers, are no better than the memory of  a speech event. This speech event involved two people who were both speakers of American English. So 'comma-la' tells us about the stress but nothing about the vowels. A speaker of British English will be misled by this memory aid:
  • there is no /ɒ/ in the first syllable; 
  • the schwa at the end of 'comma' is more-or-less the same in British English and in American English
  • even a speaker of American English would have no idea about the last syllable (/ɑ/, /ɑ:/, or /ə/)

When I first read the Goodyear article I wronged the writer, assuming she was British and had  misled her readers by slavishly regurgitating her notes of what Harris had said. But what she wrote turns out to have been true for her speech community, and just misleading for speakers of British English (as I presume most of your readers are). 



Returning to that series (containing only seven episodes, as if originally written for a commercial service, allowing for ad-breaks in an 8-episode series), there were many other disappointments. It was a bit of a damp squib (or 'DS').

But if the rain holds off, the hedge (the one bit that survived the depredations of Li'l Miss Lebensraum next door) needs attention.


Update: 2021.05.05.21:30 – Added <meta-parenthesis />

No comments:

Post a Comment