Thursday, January 26, 2006

HNT No. 2

When I was young I had no confidence in my looks, or in myself, when it came to girls. As I've grown older, I come to think I'm not such a bad looking chap. And when I now look back at pictures of me when I was younger, and think I looked fine, and I don't know what I was worrying about. But, I've always quite liked my eyes - it's just that they are permanently hidden behind quite strong lenses, which makes them look small.

It the best spirit of HNT, I've got no clothes on. Why am I showing this? - hit the Half-Nekkid Thursday button to the side to find out.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bits 'n Bobs

You can tell I'm off sick - I'm just blogging away...

Little interesting (?) things I've discovered; "Great Britain".

Who put the 'Great' in Great Britain? I remember from some past reading that Great Britain is called Great, meaning 'Greater' to distinguish it from 'Lesser' Britain, or Britanny, in France. I think that, as the Celts were pushed to the edges of Britain in Wales and Cornwall by subsequent invasions from Europe, some moved over to what is now Britanny, and hence the similarity of the name. Certainly, a lot of place names in Britanny start with a K which is not a French derivation, and similarly many place names in Cornwall start with a K too. The BBC site (link below) approaches this subject from a Welsh perspective, and has some interesting information, including this about languages (and as you know, I'm into languages at the moment, from reading the India History with Sanskrit references).

"Despite the encroachment of English - and French, in Celtic Brittany - six of the Celtic languages survived into the modern period. Irish, Scottish, and Manx Gaelic, which are referred to as q-Celtic or Goidelic languages, comprise one group; while Breton, Cornish, and Welsh form the p-Celtic or Brythonic group".

And why are Jersey and Guernsey, two islands just off the French Coast, part of Britain? This ones easy; they came with the Norman Estates, when William the Conqueror invaded in 1066.

Not the best of weeks

Anjum's shoe

I never used to get colds like this. I went down with a sore throat on Friday, had a cold over the weekend, went to work on Monday, and have been at home sick since Tuesday. Headache, blocked nose, achey, and a nasty cough. I couldn't sleep; lying down seemed to block up my nose even worse, so I was up at 4.30 yesterday, with a cup of tea, watching Buffy then looking through some blogs. Finally went back to bed at 6.oo.

And then I had to take Only Son and friend to Stansted airport - three hours there and three hours back. He's gone to South America for six weeks - his year off after finishing Uni; six weeks seems a bit lame to me, if you are going to go you should go for about three months. But it's what he thinks he can afford, and he is very careful with money. So I shouldn't complain. But I did tell him that if he goes for a job interview, he should say he went for three months - six weeks just seems like a long holiday, not what you would take a year out for. IF he goes for a job interview... I'm assuming he's going to hit the real world when he gets back, and look for a job!!!

I'm sure he will. We trust him. So, they flew to Opporto for 7p, then overnight in the airport, and then onto Brazil, arriving about tea-time. So he's in the air now. And from Brazil, they go to Uraguay, or is it Paraguay, or both, and then on to Argentina. I'm sure they will be fine, but you worry a bit...

The really, really, really strange thing, is that that are leaving Brazil before the Carnival. They are missing the Carnival! The young, eh? Going to see football, apparently. I've never seen a football game in my life, but if it's what turns them on....

So, I'm driving back from the airport, feeling coughy, tired, and headachy, coming over the moors within a mile from home, and I'm into the cloud-base, so it's foggy. But I know the road, driven on it loads of times, and there's the headlights of another car some way behind, so I'm not going slow as it's worse driving in fog with headlights in your mirror. And suddenly there's a right bend and I'm half off the road, shouting Shit! and the car's bumping and scraping the bank, but I get it back onto the road. I drop down into the village and pull into the bus layby under the streetlamps to see what I've done - is the bumper trailing, are there gouges down the doors or the back panels, and - there's not a mark!
[Pause - goes outside]
I've just been out to check in daylight; no, not a mark, just a couple of bits of grass sticking to the side. Must have been a very grassy bank.

Still, it's not been the best of weeks. But, I'm looking forward to the weekend. Understanding Wife is off for the weekend with all her chums in the choir - she's in a female choir - and I'm off to London to see my friend Anjum. She's lovely, and I love her to bits. When I went through my mid-life crisis (strangely enough, I thought I'd got through the point when it should have been, so I was feeling pretty pleased with myself - and then, a few years on, it hit) she was part of the answer, helping me to find the right way to live life. And the result is - I'm a happy and contented person now. I'll post more on this later, as it does mean a lot to me. But as for the weekend, we are going to have a meal and catch up, and we'll probably go and look at shoes in Selfridges, and in the evening her partner is joining us to go and see a Tintin play - Tintin in Tibet - at The Barbican . Anjum loves shoes, and so do I. In fact I'll post a picture of one of Anjum's shoes...

My first Half-Nekkid picture!!

Well, I can't look at all these half-nekkid pictures, and not join in, can I?

If you want to know why I'm showing this picture here, click on the Half-Nekkid Thursday! link to the right.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

More exciting words!

Continuing my reading of Inda - A History by John Keay; he's talking about how jobs became bureaucratic functions within the royal retinue - and likens them to similar processes in the European households. So, the master of the royal stables (comes stabuli) became 'constable', now used for members of the police force in Britain, and keeper of the royal mares (mareschal)became 'marshal', now used for similar roles in the US. And, of course, the US has Sheriffs, which we dropped - whenever.

Words, words, words

I’m reading John Keay’s ‘India – A History’. In the millennium before the birth of Christ, the Aryan tribes, probably nomads who had entered India through Afghanistan, were expanding from the Punjab area eastwards towards the higher and middle reaches of the Ganges. They took two routes; the Uttarapatha (Northern Route), and the Daksinapatha (Southern Route – from where ‘Deccan’ comes from). And I just wonder – if Sanskrit is the base for all European languages - does our word ‘path’, which has wide meanings from a track through to the choices you make in directing your life, come all the way from this early derivation. And Raj, meaning ‘rule’, is this the basis for ‘regal’ and ‘royal’? I just want to know!

I find language fascinating. I was reading Trollope the other day, and he used ‘sore’ in the American meaning of ‘annoyed’ or ‘angry’ – a form not used in Britain today, where it is used to describe the pain from a grazed leg or a burn. And many American words were used in Dickens and other Victorian writers; the word ‘gotten' is in Dickens and is used in America, but not in Britain, although we still use ‘forgotten’. I think I had a tendency to think that Americans were making these words up – perhaps based on the NASA fetish for long descriptions; ‘solid waste disposal unit’ for ‘toilet’, for example. But in fact they have retained many words in older usages which we in Britain have moved away from.

I have no problem at all with the English language adapting as the world changes; it has ever been thus. English started from a dialect of a small village on the west coast of Holland, adapted and incorporated Latin as the Romans invaded, and French when the Normans invaded. And all this on a base language which presumably included input from the Viking, Norse, and Danish invasions. And from the Raj, words from the Indian sub-continent were incorporated – sofa, cha, pukka etc. So no problems with new words like ‘movie’; it’s a living language which is what makes it work so well (although in Britain, we still tend ‘to go to the pictures’). And it has so many alternative words for similar situations, that you can choose the nuance of what you are trying to say. So we have cows, but eat beef, have pigs but eat pork – not so in French, where you eat the animal itself. It’s probably in adjectives where this shows best – so from different language sources we can use cold or frigid in different situations, with the latter almost automatically having a feeling of describing somebody’s [female: lack of] sexual enthusiasm (and cooler, or cool-box, and fridge, I suppose,).

But I find some changes strangely annoying, and I’m not sure why these particular ones annoy so much. Increasingly, in Britain, we are using ‘train station’ instead of ‘railway station’ – even on the BBC and in The Times. Why does this annoy me – is it because it just sounds a less elegant phrase, or is it that the station is the entry to an entire railway and not just a train, or is it that I grew up with one and resent the other? I don’t know – but it does annoy me.

And the one that really annoys me, is the word ‘alternate’. I used to buy DVD Monthly and they always called alternative endings to DVDs, alternate endings. Now, in Britain alternate means that you have two things, A and B, that you use alternately; A then B then A then B then A etc. Alternative is different; there may be two or more alternatives, and they may all be used as you think fit. But, going back to the magazine, I noticed that when DVDs have alternative endings, they call them alternate endings, and I’ve subsequently noticed that this seems to be the American word for alternatives. But these two are completely different words, and to confuse them just causes… confusion. So that one really annoys.

But the rest don’t. Generally, language is fascinating, and no doubt if I get up another head of steam on this one, I’ll post again. Oh, and schedule is pronounced ‘Shed-yule’ and not ‘Sked-yule’ as a number of Brits and all Americans seem to think (the only thing is, I don’t know how this was pronounced in Victorian times, because Dickens and Trollope didn’t leave sound recordings – so it could have been either of us who changed the pronunciation).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

So very precise

We've had a total sort out of the front room this week, in that New Year spirit of Getting Things Done. The incentive was to move the chest in which we keep half the Christmas things; candle holders, table decorations and other Non Tree stuff. This chest has always been in the (what do you call the bit on either side of the chimney breast? - alcove?) in one corner with the TV - heavy - and the stack of Video, Sky Box, DVD, amplifier, CD player, and record player, all on top. So we had to move this lot twice every year - once to get the Christmas stuff out, and again to put it all back in. In was back-breaking, in a confined space, and all those wires fought back, and wouldn't let the various boxes move much at all. And the chaos of those wires!

So the chest is now on the landing with nothing on it, the TV with DVD, CD, and Video are on a new stand in the other corner, and I - a complete non DIY type - have to extend the Sky arial somehow this afternoon with some stuff B&Q say I need.

But the worrying thing is this geekoid phase I've entered. In all the sorting, I was looking for a lightbulb, and we have so many types now. Large and small bayonet, large and small screw, candle shapes, small round ones, reflectors, little tiny track lights. There was a time when we just had large bayonet fittings. Why do we need all these others? Or, were we limiting the sorts of lighting we could get, before we started using screw bulbs? And where did screw-bulbs come from - Europe? America?

So the geekoid bit is that I've listed all the bulbs by wattage, fitting type, shape, and type, and what's worrying is that I'm considering listing the lighting types in each room. The family are being sufficiently scathing of these efforts that I'm unlikely to introduce a procedure for issuing bulbs based upon application by Warrant in triplicate, but it's a slippery slope, so - take this as a warning! On the plus side, I've discovered that we are completely out of small round large-bayonet bulbs which fit all our table lamps in the front room. So there!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Men and Boats

One of my favourite opening lines is in Three Men in a Boat: "There were four of us". This book has been described as the funniest in the English language, which is enough to put you off and think it's not very funny at all. But it is, so... not the book to read in a public place if you don't like making a spectacle of yourself. I was reminded of this because I have just been watching the second part of Three Men in a Boat on BBC2 with Griff Rhys Jones, Rory McGrath, and Dara O'Briain - not as funny as the original book, but pretty funny all the same, so if you haven't seen it, one to watch out for.

And I think this was the only book written by Jerome K Jerome.