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I never drink "Earl Grey", finding it unpleasant to a degree. That this disgusting beverage has never been near the eponymous earl is no more surprising than the fact that my favourite tea blend has never been anywhere near a caravan, Russian or otherwise. Tea merchants ape their cousins in the wine trade by inventing florid names and exaggerated pedigrees for their wares.
Toggle Commented Jun 3, 2013 on Earl Grey at Lavengro
WOULD be set? Surely not. That precedent has already been set by the removal of a certain Mr S. Hussein. Truly it is said that "There is nothing new under the sun."
I know that Charles and Camilla, individually and jointly, are a bit of a pain, but I think shooting them would cause more problems than it solves. Tempting, though.
I note that the quotation of remarks ascribed to the spokeswoman is prefaced by the clarifying phrase "Marie Clair, spokeswoman for the Plain English Campaign, said". This word "said" implies that the quoted remarks were expressed verbally and were subsequently rendered into written form by a reporter or editor. That being so, Marie Clair (lovely name, by the way) cannot be held responsible for errors of spelling or punctuation. With regard to the phrase "it is appalling" that you consider so infelicitous, I beg to differ. I might agree with you if the phrase - complete with dashes - had appeared in a formal piece of written prose, but it didn't. It is part of an ad lib verbal response, probably to some question such as "What do you think of this, then?" As such, I would say it is a quite natural and acceptable aside. We do understand perfectly what Marie Clair is getting at, after all. I personally deprecate the modern use of third person plural pronouns to refer to singular third persons. I would much prefer to use the singular (and to my mind, correct) pronouns him(self), her(self) and their corresponding possessives or to rephrase and avoid them. But I am not the world and for better or for worse, this usage is here to stay and we have to put up with it. In that sense, though "themselves" would be unsuitable in a formal written context, it strikes me as natural and acceptable here in a verbal off-the-cuff remark. Perhaps we need to invent a new form such as *themself for such occasions. (Much as I shudder at the thought.) I do sometimes feel quite irritated by organizations that seek to legislate on the form of language they think the rest of us should use and it therefore heartens me to know that a representative of this particular organization, when talking to reporters, speaks like a normal human being and not like a grammar book.
Toggle Commented Dec 2, 2010 on Spelling and dunces at Lavengro
I would be less concerned about perceived infelicities in the layout (the spaces may have been added deliberately to the first line because it was felt that it looked uncomfortably short compared with the others) than about the standard of English in the text. That standard would be perfectly adequate for many practical purposes (English spoken by waiters, shop assistants, tour guides, tourist information personnel, etc.) but as a showcase for the school's linguistic excellence it obviously leaves a lot to be desired. The missing 'u' in "Or school" suggests lazy proof reading (perhaps it was an error perpetrated by a printer with scant knowledge of English) rather than linguistic ignorance. That, of course, is no excuse for allowing it to remain. My first reaction was that someone should let the school's authorities know that the advertisement is letting them down. My second, however, was to leave things as they are: the advertisement (unwittingly, perhaps) gives a very good indication of the school's standard. Caveat emptor. There is a popular myth in our culture that the English language, being so flexible, is easy to learn and hard to get wrong. Examples like yours show how incorrect that view is.
Toggle Commented Nov 30, 2010 on Highest end educative installations at Lavengro
I don't think there is always a "logical" explanation for the phrases used to express concepts. In the specific case of for free, I do not believe for one second that speakers created this analogically from expressions such as "for 10 euros". I think it was deliberately concocted to sound odd and trendy but gradually lost these qualities of novelty and became the normal form for many people. One could quote other examples such as the expression "I am like" to replace "I said". I do not think you can find a correct structure from which this twisted locution has been formed by analogy. New generations produce new ideas and invent new speech forms with which to express them, the more different these are and the more shocking, the better, because language, as well as being a mode of communication is also a powerful discriminator between social groups. I don't think Spanish students are alone in requiring hard and fast right-wrong linguistic judgements. I think all language learners share this desire. In the early stages of language acquisition, the last thing you want to hear is that "This is a grey area". You want to know exactly what to say in the given situation so that you can confidently say it. Later, you enjoy playing with different forms but in the beginning you need certainty. Finally, I think the influence of the old Latin grammarians still sometimes weighs heavily on us, tempting us to think that we can somehow generate all correct phrases of the language using a set of definite rules and that any phrase that cannot be so generated must be "wrong". Language isn't like that. Language reveals certain patterns, yes, but swells its store of useful expressions by an imaginative accretion of words. Successful expressions live on and unsuccessful ones die. Grammatical correctness has little to do with either their survival or their demise.
Toggle Commented Nov 10, 2010 on For free – right or wrong? at Lavengro
I don't think they need either sort. It seems to me that they create plenty of crises without any need of a mechanism for doing so.
Toggle Commented Oct 29, 2010 on The importance of hyphens at Lavengro
I have tried out all the main online free automatic translation services and while they all have good moments, occasionally producing an excellent translation for a sentence, none produces an acceptable finished version of a longer text. They can, however, be very useful in sketching out a first draft. Seen in that context, I found that the Google translator consistently produced the best versions. I regard it as a helpful translator's tool. I am both amused and irritated by people who blithely put buttons on their blogs and other Web sites for them to be translated into other languages. They obviously do not realize that offering their sites in these awful versions does their reputation more harm than good.
Toggle Commented Oct 28, 2010 on Forming a lid sort on Nespresso at Lavengro
I am sorry to see that your caps key has jammed in the off position and hope it will be repaired soon.
We went on a walking tour in Iceland some years ago and I impressed the tour guide with the fact that I knew Njarl's saga when it first came up in his commentary. The rest of the group looked blank so I gained useful brownie points. Njarl was to be mentioned many times after that because, whereas we in Britain regard the sagas as interesting literary productions of a by-gone age, Icelanders treat them as a historical reality. They will say, for example, "Over there, where that lave flow now is, was once Njarl's farm..." When I tried to learn the Icelandic language, I understood why they all speak such good English - it's much easier!
Toggle Commented Oct 21, 2010 on Father figure at Lavengro
It always amazes me on occasions like this how, suddenly, everyone is an expert on police procedure and on how the police should have behaved during the incident, especially those who have no experience of police work and were nowhere near the scene at the time. Then again, reality does tend to get in the way of as good conspiracy theory.
Before the modern age, herbal remedies and similar nostrums were all that was available for treating disease, so a considerable body of knowledge was built up. Much of this has been forgotten today, though I recently met a medical researcher who is actively researching medieval remedies to find out which are effective and why. One of the problems of the pre-scientific age was that it was easy for ineffectual or even harmful remedies to enter the system. This meant that quacks could happily sell their "snake oil" as no one could prove it false. You only have to go back as far as the Victorian era to find an astonishing array of quack medicines on sale, some of it more harmful than the condition it claimed to treat! Herbal remedies are still popular in France (and so are herbal teas) and doctors will still sometimes prescribe these for mild complaints rather than industrially produced pills from the pharmacy.
I have it in mind to visit all of Islington's parks and this post of yours will certainly encourage me to do so! What a lot you managed to see! You may not be a leading wildlife photographer but, then, so few of us are! Is there any chance that you might post the odd photo of what catches your eye? You have the advantage of being able to see the story unfold day by day and that could lead to an interesting collection of photos.
Toggle Commented Jun 3, 2010 on My Halcyon New River Diary at Islington Wildlife
An interesting rotation of niz to cin which preserves the sounds if not the letters representing them. Incidentally, the title of your piece appears as Jamn, jamn! in my Google Reader, something that mystified me while I tried to work out its significance. All became clear when I visited the blog and realized that Google Reader apparently cannot cope with ó and ¡ and leaves them out.
Toggle Commented May 12, 2010 on ¡Jamón, jamón! at Lavengro
In businesses catering for a multilingual clientele, translation is often the element receiving the least care and attention, perhaps because linguistically over-confident entrepreneurs think they can do it themselves with the help of a dictionary. (Perhaps a bit like an amateur electrician thinking his tool kit provides the necessary knowledge and skill.) We Londoners don't need to go abroad to see egregious examples of mangled English. There are plenty to be found adorning shops and cafes run by people whose first language is not English (and some whose first language is English!). Even when the right words are used, the spelling is sometimes glaringly wrong. Where these have been professionally reproduced, I always wonder why the sign writer or the printer did not point out these errors but happily went ahead and copied them.
Toggle Commented Apr 27, 2010 on Brave potatoes at Lavengro
Silvertiger is now following Islington Council
Apr 26, 2010
New rules and laws affect life in unforeseen ways. In matters like copyright, it isn't until there is a court case that we can really know how things will pan out. Anyone who is prepared to make definite statements about the future, then, is either remarkably sapient or reckless. Point number 4 caught my eye. This is because I went into the library service from working in bookshops. During my training for the library, I asked whether there could not be greater cooperation between bookshops and libraries. This was greeted as a very peculiar notion and brushed aside. It has lurked in the back of my mind ever since, though, and this statement made me chuckle. (Not that I necessarily believe it to be true.) Google has some good applications and service and it is all too easy see them as a one-stop shop but the fact is that their offerings are not perfect and alternatives should always be considered. Where books are concerned, only those that are formed by printing them on paper are acceptable to me. I spend enough time using computers to know that reading books online is a very bad idea, not least for health reasons. I sincerely hope the beautiful printed book outlives me.
Toggle Commented Apr 21, 2010 on The Google Book Settlement at Lavengro
Here in the UK, the first decade has frequently been called "the Noughties" which, of course, is ambiguous when spoken rather than written, rhyming as it does with "the Naughties". In that sense it harks back to the "Naughty Nineties", as the final decade of the 1900s was often called. Theoretically, the teens don't start until 13 but, stretching a point, I suppose 2010-2019 could be referred to as "the Teenies", though I expect that economists and other serious folk will simply call this period "the Twenty-Tens". Don't worry about removing the snowflakes from your windows. After all, you'll only have to put them back on again in a few months' time... :)
"Belle Marquise, vos beaux yeux me font mourir d'amour..." :)
Toggle Commented Mar 2, 2010 on Translating Tolstoy at Lavengro
I suspect people have always quibbled, carped and complained about linguistic variation and change. For some reason, it seems to put a lot of people's teeth on edge. In such arguments, everyone thinks he is an expert and knows infallibly what is "correct". We may not like it, but language changes continually and there is nothing we can do to stop it. I too have my pet hates - "decimate" being used to mean "massacre" or "destroy", is one - but I realize that much of our currant standard vocabulary acquired its meanings through such "incorrect" usage in the past. (Comparing English words with the "same" word in French or Spanish, can be very instructive.) I find such pedants tiresome and suspect that they are less interested in preserving some fictitious pristine English language than in publicly asserting their own dubious claims to authority in this domain and using criticism as a handy weapon against those of whom they disapprove.
Toggle Commented Mar 2, 2010 on Fings ain’t what they used to be at Lavengro