This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Spot the Frippet: air guitar.

Many many of us are confined to our houses and apartments at the moment, so spotting things isn't easy. 

Luckily, though, every dwelling place, however small, contains at least one air guitar.

It's probably propped up in a corner of the bedroom.

My air guitar is a Fender Deluxe P-Bass Special:

But you, of course, may prefer to play lead rather than bass.

Anyway, here's a video to give you the basic idea:

Have fun!

Spot the Frippet: air guitar. The word air comes via French and Latin from the Greek word aēr, which means the lower atmosphere. The word guitar comes via Spanish and Arabic from the Greek kithara, which is a sort of posh harp:

File:Woman kithara CdM 581.jpg
photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen 

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Sunday Rest: park. Word Not To Use Today.

Crazy times, these, when even a walk in the park isn't a walk in the park!

Still, park is an odd word, now I come to think about it. It has rather an aggressive sound, like the noise a goose might make if one of its flock did something disgusting on top of a particularly juicy clump of grass he was looking forward to nibbling after his afternoon nap.

File:Angry Goose (2622447410).jpg
photo by Mike Haller

On the other hand, like the times, I may just be going crazy.

Ah well.

Word Not To Use Today: park. This word comes from French, where it is parc, from the Latin parricus, enclosure. The word's relatives (fifth cousin and half-mother-in-law, respectively) include the words paddock and pen (as in animals).

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Saturday Rave: A Light Exists In Spring by Emily Dickinson

Nature and Science seem to be engaged in a fight at the moment. It's sometimes tempting to think they always are.

Here's a new slant that throws that idea, among others, up in the air, catches it elegantly, and presents it anew for our contemplation.

A Light exists in Spring
Not present in the Year
At any other period -
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay -

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

File:Ernest Lawson - Spring - Google Art Project.jpg
Painting by Ernest Lawson 1873 - 1939

Word To Use Today: March. This month is named after Mars, the Roman God of War and guardian of agriculture.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Word To Use Today: tillicum.

We all need tillicums at the moment. Well, we always need them, but now particularly.

We all need to be ourselves good tillicums, too.

Are you a good tillicum?

Not sure?

Tillicum is a word of the Canadian and United States of America Pacific North West. It means friend.

Strangely, we're in a time when we don't want close friends, so my aim is to be a good, cheery, but distant tillicum for the duration of this horrible blight.

Stay well, everyone, and much love.

Word To Use Today: tillicum. This word is Chinook Jargon (it's an old trade language) and comes from the  Chinese tixam, which means kin, especially as distinguished from chiefs.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Togetherness: a rant.

I am grateful to the member of Her Majesty's Opposition who told us that coronavirus was a means of getting us all to come together; and also to the member of the Government who told us that Britain's prisons were now in lock-down.

Quite frankly, we needed the laugh.

Word To Use Today: together. This word was togædere in Old English, where it had the sense of being all in one place. Way back, the word is connected with the words gather and good.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Nuts and Bolts: miscue analysis.

Can you read?

Well, there's a question with only one answer: isn't it?

Well, no, actually. I mean, just think how often you read something and imagine it says something else. The other day I was reading about the word parapet and I thought the dictionary said that parapets were erected in military situations by making a pile of earth or handbags.

It's a lovely image, but sadly it actually said sandbags.

Children misread things all the time while they're still inexperienced at working out what all the squiggles mean. I'll always remember a nephew reading out a joke involving a politician called the Prime Monster.

Well, out of the mouths of babes...

Anyway, some time ago Ken Goodman, now Professor Emeritus, Language Reading and Culture, at the University of Arizona, came up with the idea of miscue analysis. That basically involves looking at the reasons why people read things wrongly (these occasions are called miscues rather than mistakes to avoid upsetting people).

For instance, if a child sees a sentence that begins Look at the - and he says teddy when the word written down is bear, then you know he's got his cue from the illustration, and not the text.

Miscue analysis tells you something about the reading process, but also about the thought-processes and experience of the reader.

I mean, whenever I read about some authority bringing out a draft proposal I always read it as daft proposal. I do this every single time.

Mind you, as often as not I'm right.

Nuts and Bolts: miscue analysis. The word cue probably comes from the name of the letter q, which was used in actors' scripts to stand for the Latin quando, when.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Thing To Deliver Today: a panegyric.

Oh, it's easy to mock (wickedly good fun, too).

In fact mockery is fine unless it becomes a habit, when it can poison the minds of both the mocker and the mocked.

Is it too much to ask for understanding, responsibility and justice?


Still, how about trying a panegyric, that is, a formal piece of praise for someone or something?

Here's one to give you the idea. It's by G K Chesterton. Stilton is a place in Cambridgeshire, England, where they once sold a cheese called, er, stilton

(By law it now, bizarrely, has to be made somewhere else.)

Sonnet to a Stilton Cheese

Stilton, thou shouldst be living at this hour
And so thou art. Nor losest grace thereby;
England has need of thee, and so have I -
She is a Fen. Far as the eye can scour,
League after grassy league from Lincoln tower
To Stilton in the fields, she is a Fen.
Yet this high cheese, by choice of fenland men,
Like a tall green volcano rose in power.
Plain living and long drinking are no more,
And pure religion reading 'Household Words',
And sturdy manhood sitting still all day
Shrink, like this cheese that crumbles to its core;
While my digestion, like the House of Lords,
The heaviest burdens on herself doth lay.

Blue Stilton 01.jpg
photo by Coyau

Mind you, as you may have noticed, this panegyric manages to mock poor old Wordsworth at the same time. 

Clever man, was Chesterton - and, thank Heavens, still spreading cheer.

Word To Use Today: stilton. The name of the village of Stilton was Stichiltone in 1086. It probably means something like farmstead or village by the stile or at the bottom of a steep hill