P.S.: Post Script

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It was pointed out to me today that it has been a long long long long long long time since I posted here.

Apologies, readers. My sincerest apologies.

Having gone through my comments and replied to them (sorry about the wait!), I’m leaving a post script, before – unfortunately – signing off.

I have loved this blog. I have loved reading up on topics, writing posts, getting involved in others’ blogs, reading the comments people wrote and replying to them.

However, I’m a geek with many a geeky project, and other things were a priority.

Since my last post – nearly 14 months ago – I have:

  • Written a dissertation in courtroom discourse in the Leveson Inquiry. This was mostly about how the language used in the hearings of the Leveson Inquiry changed according to the witness. It’s ridiculously long, and meant I essentially lived in the library, but it was interesting to write. I emailed a copy to Alistair Campbell (because you might as well go full geek) – if you want a read too, drop me a line and I’ll send you a copy!
  • Graduated! I got a first class degree in English Literature and Language, and I’m chuffed to bits about it.
  • Been travelling. I went to Berlin, New York, Chicago and San Francisco before heading back to Scotland, very jetlagged. It was wonderful fun, and just what I needed after so many hours in the library.
  • Presented at a conference and written a paper. I went to GayCon 2014 in Edinburgh, where I presented on the linguistics of sexual health. I looked at how the language used in sexual health publications changes according to the intended audience demographic. I got some really interesting results! It went down well, and I made a number of contacts at the conference. I also turned the presentation into a paper, so if you fancy a titillating read, just ask!
  • Completed a TEFL course. I love language. I love inspiring other people to love language. I love working with young people. I love travelling. TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) seemed perfect for me!
  • Got a job teaching English in Taiwan – I leave in ten days to work in Taiwan for a year. Looking forward to it, and there’s a chance I’ll start a new blog when I get over there, to share my experiences and pictures on

So, all in all, it’s been a good year! Busy, but fun.

I’m sad to officially say ‘goodbye’ to this blog, but I think it has to be done. Thank you to everyone who read, commented, shared and argued with my posts – it wouldn’t have been the same without you.

Over and out.

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We Need to Talk About Epistolary Books

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Having recently finished We Need to Talk About Kevin, I’ve been thinking about epistolary books.

An epistolary book is one made up of letters: the beginning of Frankenstein, for example, or We Need to Talk About Kevin.

They present a bit of a conundrum for me. For instance, this excerpt here seems a bit silly:

That night you were furious.

“So a little girl scratched herself. What has that to do with my son?”

“He was there! This poor girl, flaying herself alive, and he did nothing.”

“He’s not her minder, Eva, he’s one of the kids!”

“He could have called someone, couldn’t he? Before it went so far?” “Maybe, but he’s not even six until next month. You can’t expect him to be that resourceful or even to recognize what’s ‘too far’ when all she’s doing is scratching. None of which remotely explains why you let Kevin squish around the house, all afternoon from the looks of him, plastered in shit!” A rare slip. You forgot to say poop.

“It’s thanks to Kevin that Kevin’s diapers stink because it’s thanks to Kevin that he wears diapers at all.” Bathed by his outraged father, Kevin was in his room, but I was aware of the fact that my voice carried. “Franklin, I’m at my wit’s end! I bought all those there’s-nothing-dirty-about-poo how-to books and now he thinks they’re stupid because they’re written for two-year-olds. We’re supposed to wait until he’s interested, but he’s not, Franklin! Why should he be when Mother will always clean it up? How long are we going to let this go on, until he’s in college?”

“Okay, I accept we’re in a positive reinforcement loop. It gets him attention — “

“We’re not in a loop but a war, Franklin. And our troops are decimated. We’re short on ammunition. Our borders are overrun.”

 Having been married to Eva, having been there when this conversation happened, why would Franklin need to be told this much detail?

Of course, it turns out that the letters were more therapeutic than communicational, so this detail may have been for Eva, but it highlights an issue with epistolary books: namely, the reader.

The unacknowledged, unspeaking audience to whom the whole book is addressed presents an issue for the writer. We, as readers, know nothing of the history of the people writing to one another. To write normally, omitting the details we need to know to build up a full picture, would be to exclude the very people the book is written for. But the write letters filled with details which would be, if the book were non-fiction, comical, make it seem patronising and slightly unrealistic.

Is there a middle ground? Are then any epistolary books which manage to get the balance just right?

 

When Is a Book Not a Book?

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Music travels from vinyl to cd to downloads. Videos that once had to be fast-forwarded through adverts and rewound back to the start can now be on your screen at the push of a button.

Alongside technological advances, there seems to be a strange reminiscence or nostalgia, as if these new advancing technologies are always harking back to their ancestors.

The save button is a floppy disk. Phone cases that look like tape players.

Books started off, not as books but as scrolls. Even the text was different, as it was written by scribes, who only marked where they would pause for breath when it was to be read aloud again. The nature of scrolls meant it often had to be read in one, long go, as if you stopped, you lost your place. Continue reading

S is for Shindig

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Shindig

/ˈʃɪnˌdɪg/

Noun, Informal.

1. An elaborate, noisy or large dance, party, or other celebration

2. Another word for shindy

Etymology

Either:

1. 1855–60, Americanism; shin dig; compare slang shinscraper dance

2. 1871, probably from shindy “a spree, merrymaking” (1821), perhaps from shinty, name of a Scottish game akin to hockey (1771), now obsolete.

Shindy

/ˈʃɪndi/

Noun, plural shin·dies. Informal.

1. A row; rumpus.

2. A shindig.

Etymology 
1810 –20; variant of obsolete shinty row, orig., game resembling fieldhockey.

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Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

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For me, T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock epitomises why I love – and am able to look past the propensity for pretension and drama of – Modernist Literature.

Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky,

Like a patient etherised upon a table;

It has an aspect of lethargy to it, which seems to capture the essence of a city at dusk. Personifying the city and its streets to be ‘muttering’, or likening them to an argument, it has an aggressive laziness to the opening. Continue reading

Less or Fewer?

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Anyone who has ever spoken to a pedant or a linguist will be more than aware that less and fewer are to be confused with one another at a great risk. Used as comparatives, less is used for mass nouns (‘less chocolate’), while fewer for count nouns (‘fewer pieces of cake’).

A lot of people, however, use less when they mean fewer – though never the other way around; for some reason saying ‘less biscuits’ sounds better than saying ‘fewer cake’. On the flip side, more is used for both mass and count nouns, causing no such confusion there.

Where did this obscure rule come from? Continue reading

Class, Language and Style Shifting – Part 3: Modern Day Language

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In the other Language, Class and Style Shifting posts, we learned about how language became a marker of class, due to the plague killing half the population and allowing more social mobility. The remnants of this are still a major part of today’s society, and are visible all around us. Or, rather, audible.

Today, we still use language to indicate class. Generally, upper classes use fewer non-standard variants than lower classes. That’s not to say that there’s a strict division between classes: Prince William will still glottal stop – drop his Ts – but he’ll do it for ‘that time’, dropping the T in ‘that’ ([ðæɁ taɪm]) rather than in ‘butter’ ([ˈbʌɁər]). Continue reading

R is for Rescue

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This is a Wednesday’s Wonderful Words post, in which I chose a word, well-know or otherwise, and discuss why I think it’s so wonderful.

Rescue

[ˈrɛskjuː]

Verb (used with object)

  1. To free or deliver from confinement, violence, danger, attack, harm or evil; to deliver or save
  2. Law. To liberate or take by forcible or illegal means from lawful custody.

Noun

  1. The act or an instance of rescuing.
  2. As a modifier. A rescue party
  3. The forcible removal of a person from legal custody
  4. law  the forcible seizure of goods or property

Etymology:
1300–50; Middle English rescuen or rescowen, from Old French rescourre: re + escourre; ‘to pull away, shake, drive out, remove’ from Latin excutere  (ex + cutere, from quatere ‘to shake’)
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Schizophrenic Discourse

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The study of pragmatics is something that’s quite difficult to explain: it’s the study of language at a conversational, rather than semantic or grammatical, level. For most people this is too vague to understand, and is difficult to explain.

However, the study of discourse disorders, especially schizophrenic discourse, makes the study of pragmatics make more sense.

Rochester and Martin’s ground breaking (though now dated and not politically correct) study, Crazy Talk, noted that ‘though schizophrenics use proper words and produce reasonable well-formed sentences, one is unable, after having heard a series of such sentences, to comprehend what has been said’. That is to say, there is little or no connection and a lot of vagueness. Continue reading

Q is for Quirky

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Quirky

/ˈkwɜrki/

Adjective

1. Having or full of quirks.

Etymology:

1806, “shifty,” from quirk. Sense of “idiosyncratic” first recorded 1960.

Quirk

(kwɜːk)

Noun

1. An individual peculiarity of character; mannerism or foible

2. An unexpected twist or turn: a quirk of fate

3. A continuous groove in an architectural moulding

4. A flourish, as in handwriting

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