Tuesday, 26 February 2013
I have always been interested in words and dictionaries. When I was at college I read my way through the Oxford Companion to English Literature – effectively a dictionary of who’s who in English literature with a lot of word meanings thrown in for good measure. It was whilst I was there that I also received my first gift of a dictionary.
I think that at the time I was using some version of Collins or Chambers dictionary but a girl friend gave me the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Bearing in mind how hard up we all were and how special a book it is I have treasured it ever since. Even though both older and newer editions have subsequently come my way it is still the one I turn to as ‘my dictionary’. (Thanks Judy!) I began to read my way through it but gave up at the end of ‘A’. I think the need to do a little bit of work on my degree forced me away from words for a while.
Some years later I bought the larger two volume Shorter Oxford and that has been the one to which I turn as the voice of authority for my word blog. I’ve never managed to afford the complete Oxford (and if I had had the money, the space it requires might have been an issue!).
Words and phrases for my word blog have come from a variety of sources. In the beginning it was primarily words that I came across while reading, the meaning of which I had to look up. Then there were also words that were answers in crossword puzzles or word games that were equally new or unfamiliar to me. To those words and expressions were added words that I came across while reading books about lost or unusual words like Mark Forsyth’s ‘The Horologicon’ or Novobatzsky’s ‘Depraved English’. Dr John’s Dictionary has been another fun source as I have read my way through a couple of books of extracted words from it, like the Penguin Classic version by David Crystal.
Phrases tended to be ones which struck me as familiar but whose origin I didn’t know. So, in a conversation, for example, Partner or I would suddenly say ‘I wonder where that expression comes from?’ Looking it up would yield an answer of interest and onto the blog it would go.
Gradually I added words which were more familiar to me but which I thought might be less familiar to readers whose first language was not English. This was because my two most enthusiastic commenters were (and still are) in that category. Thanks Meike and Monica.
And now I have one more source. I’m reading the dictionary again. The two volume Oxford Illustrated Dictionary, to be exact. We bought it in an Oxfam shop in Chester a couple of weeks ago. The word blog is scheduled a long way ahead but in a couple of months you can expect a lot of letter A words to appear….
Monday, 25 February 2013
Quotes of the Day
‘While a gentleman is speaking to you do not let your eager attention and visible preference betray the flutter of your heart.’
from John Gregory “A Father’s Legacy to his Daughters”, a popular conduct book of 1774.
‘On the first date, avoid staring romantically into his eyes. Otherwise he will know that you’re planning the honeymoon.’
from Ellen Fein & Sherrie Schneider “The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr Right”, 1995.
Wi-Fi Indoor Plant Sensor Indoor
Did you forget to water the plants? Well, Koubachi is here to change all that. This revolutionary Wi-Fi plant sensor tells you when and how to care for your friendly Ficus (or any other indoor plant). All you have to do is stick the sensor in the soil, download an app, and listen for a notification on your phone! Now, there’s no excuse to let that poor plant die
That’s in the past
For the past ten years I have had to move the washing machine whenever the electricity meter reader has called. It’s our fault for having the washing machine in the corner where it is but there’s nowhere else for it. So I rock it and heave it until eventually the man can stoop down and shine his torch on the meter and read the numbers. This is the tall thin man who called at the door and simply stood there with a miserable look and said ‘Electric’ like it was ‘Open sesame’. He wrote the numbers in his book and without a word turned and headed for the door. My only consolation was that every time he left, despite my ‘Mind the step’ he managed to trip on the little black strip at the bottom of the doorway.
This week a different man called. A jolly little man, more round of body and face. “May I read the electricity meter, please?” So different. I brought him in and began my usual heaving act only to have him shout “Hold it!” “I expect we can manage without all that effort,” he said. I must admit my immediate reaction was that if tall thin man couldn’t see it then surely pleasantly fubsy meter reader wouldn’t be able to see into the space. He instantly proved me wrong by leaning over and sticking his head in the gap. “5432” (or whatever), he exclaimed. “There we are, that was easy – no need to move it. Thanks very much.”
He left with another “Thank you” and, because he took notice of my warning, he managed to exit without stumbling. In the past I had been left with a washing machine to move back into place and a distinct sense of disgruntlement at the world. This time I thanked him profusely as he left and returned to what I was doing with a distinct sense of all being well with the world.
When you visit someone with a job to do, what a difference an attitude makes.
By popular request
Saturday, 23 February 2013
DefeatI have just admitted defeat and increased the size of the image on my laptop screen – again. It’s easy enough to do and its no great hardship but I have been putting it off for ages because it is yet another sign of the rapidity of the deterioration of my eyes.
It’s either increase the size or keep having to clean the screen where my nose has rubbed against it! The thought of death has never scared me. (Though I should prefer it to be some time off and painless.) But the prospect of going blind scares the hell out of me. Hopefully that too – if it ever were to happen – is a long way off.
PostcrossingOn a happier note I must mention again the subject of postcrossing. It never ceases to amaze me how many people go to a great deal of effort to find just the right card and stamps for the stranger to whom they are sending. All that is required by the ‘rules’ is that they send a postcard to some total stranger picked for them by the computer. But many people read the person’s profile in detail, choose or find an appropriate card, put the requested type of stamp on it – if available, and write what they think will be of interest to that person. All that and still posting it as soon as possible – usually that very day or the next.
For a while just forget my rant against Hilary Whotshername. Forget the wars in the less fortunate parts of the earth. This can be a lovely world to live in.
Live WriterI have decided to use Live Writer as an experiment. But I notice that even with Live Writer I am getting large spaces between paragraphs. I must see if I can find out why it happens because it bugs me.
Shakespeare CatsSome books can be read in half an hour and yet still deserve their place on our bookshelves, whence they will be taken down and admired time and again. Partner-who-loves-tea and I have just been given such a book by a certain member of the genus Poecile.
Fountain pensAccording to the Goddess Wiki - "The earliest historical record of a reservoir pen dates to the 10th century. In 953, Ma'ād al-Mu'izz, the caliph of the Maghreb, demanded a pen that would not stain his hands or clothes, and was provided with a pen that held ink in a reservoir and delivered it to the nib, which could be held upside-down without leaking, as recorded in Kitab al-Majalis wa 'l-musayardt, by Qadi al-Nu'man al-Tamimi (d. 974). No details of the construction or mechanism of operation of this pen are known, and no examples have survived."
I can confirm that no examples have survived because from the age of nine I haven’t found a fountain pen that didn’t stain my hands.
“In 1828 Josiah Mason improved a cheap, efficient slip-in nib in Birmingham, England, which could be added to a fountain pen and in 1830, with the invention of a new machine, William Joseph Gillott, William Mitchell and James Stephen Perry devised a way to mass manufacture robust, cheap steel pen nibs. This boosted the Birmingham pen trade and by the 1850s, more than half the steel-nib pens manufactured in the world were made in Birmingham. Thousands of skilled craftsmen and women were employed in the industry. Many new manufacturing techniques were perfected, enabling the city's factories to mass produce their pens cheaply and efficiently. These were sold worldwide to many who previously could not afford to write, thus encouraging the development of education and literacy.”
“In the 1880s the era of the mass-produced fountain pen finally began. The dominant American producers in this pioneer era were Waterman, of New York City, and Wirt, based in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.“
“Pens still tended to leak inside their caps and at the joint where the barrel opened for filling so many inventors turned their attention to the problem of leakage. Some of the earliest solutions to this problem came in the form of a "safety" pen with a retractable point that allowed the ink reservoir to be corked like a bottle. In 1907 Waterman began marketing a safety pen that soon became the most widely distributed such pen. For pens with non-retractable nibs, the adoption of screw-on caps with inner caps that sealed around the nib by bearing against the front of the section effectively solved the leakage problem (such pens were also marketed as "safety pens", as with the Parker Jack Knife Safety and the Swan Safety Screw-Cap).”
“During the 1940s and 1950s, fountain pens retained their dominance: early ballpoint pens were expensive, were prone to leaks and had irregular inkflow, while the fountain pen continued to benefit from the combination of mass production and craftsmanship. This period saw the launch of innovative models such as the Parker 51.”
It is a Parker 51 that I am using at the moment. Well, I'm not using it at this exact moment because I'm using a keyboard... But unlike the Parker 51 that everyone else uses my Parker 51s (I have three) all include a something created by a sub-designer. An auto-leak device to ensure inky digits.
I was thinking about this the other day as I wrote a letter and I was also reminded that at one time pens dripped large parts of their contents, leaving great blotches on the paper. At least they don’t do that nowadays, I thought. It was no more than a minute later that the letter was christened with two large blots. Ah well…
Have a Nice WeekendI’m off to write some postcards. Then, if the sunshine of the last few days keeps up I’m aiming to tidy the patio. Or, to be a bit more alliterative about it, I’m planning to plant pink primulas in the patio pots. What are your plans?
Thursday, 21 February 2013
P.S. At least Kate doesn't need to rely on publicity shots taken fifteen years ago!
Rant now really over!!!!
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
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