Sunday, 15 June 2014

Farewell to Gitte Christensen

Farewell, Gitte, my inspiration.

I write with great sadness that Australian writer Gitte Christensen has passed away.

It's been about four years that I've been visiting her blog each day. At first I lurked, shy to comment, until eventually I gathered my courage to tell her how inspirational I found her professionalism as a writer, and her determination to make a name for herself in the world of speculative fiction.

Invariably she took the time to reply to me.

I've read many of her stories, and enjoyed each one. Here's a list of some of her publications, and you can read an interview with her here.

I will miss her.

But her stories live on.

Here is a tribute to her from a fellow Australian writer.

words with a soft c or g sound after a or u

proud womon's comment on my previous post about the pronunciation of the word gaol has given me food for thought. I'm wondering what other words there are in English that don't follow the 'rule' that a soft g or c precede the letters i, e and y.

I looked at and found some words:
gear, get, gelding, give, girl, gift, tiger, celt

Now, of course, I wonder why they are pronounced the way they are.
Celt interested me, because my mother was from Edinburgh, and I seem to remember she said Celtic (the Glascow football team) with a soft c. There's a discussion about this issue at and Calum Mac Neill has written what I think is a really informative response
So, I looked at the words give, girl, gift. What's the story there? As part of a discussion by J Robert Lennon about the word gif, I found:
GIF comprises the first three letters of "gift", which has a hard G. In fact, most words in English that begin with a G and are followed by a vowel and another consonant are pronounced with a hard G. Gibbon, gilt, give, gimme, gum, gelding, gun. There are a few that are pronounced with a soft G - gym, gibbet - but they're few and far between. Instinct invites us to go with the hard G.
Now I'm starting to get a headache. How fortunate it is that most people who learn English as their native language don't have to figure out the 'rules'. I'm not sure I could ever work it out. But don't get me started on how hard it is to learn Danish...

gaol or jail?

I'm pleased that one of my stories has been published online at World City Stories. It's set in  a museum in  a former prison in central Melbourne in Australia.
The museum is called The Old Melbourne Gaol.

When I was a child, 'gaol' was the accepted spelling for this word, but it's been many a year since I've seen it written this way in any other Australian context.
I've always wondered why it's pronounced like 'jail', when it's a g followed by an a, and a Google search using the terms 'etymology gaol' clears up the mystery. It used to be pronounced with a hard g.
Middle English; based on Latin cavea (see cage). The word came into English in two forms, jaiole from Old French and gayole from Anglo-Norman French gaole (surviving in the spelling gaol), originally pronounced with a hard g, as in goat.
 An article from 5 April 2014 in The Spectator gives a more in-depth look at the history of these two spellings. I particularly enjoyed the passing references to such interesting linguistic oddities as 'Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200'; gaggia (as in the coffee machines); and rage.

Linguistic change over time is fascinating.

Monday, 13 January 2014

mens and womens

Recently I went to see the film 'The Railway Man.' I was upset about the frightful treatment of the soldiers,  but enjoyed the film overall because of its message of hope for a peaceful world.  A friend who saw it with me said there was nothing in it that she hasn't seen in documentaries about the terrible conditions under which Allied soldiers slaved on The Thai-Burma Railway, but I think the gut-wrenching impact of the torture occurs because the viewer is so immersed in the main character's point of view.

Anyway, that's not what I'm blogging about here...

I can't resist showing these two photos of the male and female toilet signs at the picture theatre. Why pay all that money for such a posh, well-lit sign and not employ someone who knows about the apostrophe of possession?

Saturday, 24 August 2013

gorgeous plates with strange grammar

I recently bought some lovely plates. They are just the right size to serve a salad and their bright decoration makes me feel cheerful. Each one has a message written on it about the uses of olives in cooking.

I wonder if the designer has English as her second language? The messages use language in an off-key way. For instance, here's what it says on the box:

'Olive oil's uses in gastronomy are immense...' 

And one of the plates has this:

'The olives can be green or black and is traditionally served...'

What a pity no one edited the language before the plates were printed. I notice that they were made in China, but they were designed in the USA. Here's the  mark on the reverse of one plate:

I enjoy oddities of language, so I'm expecting to find food served on my lovely new plates has an extra piquancy.

I've found a link to the manufacturer. I think their products are lovely, by the way.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

stationary or stationery?

Here's another store where things are at a standstill. Last time it was the stock that wasn't going places. This time it seems to be a trolley.

What a pity the people who make these signs don't know that stationery relates to writing equipment and stationary means not moving. Maybe they need a mnemonic to help them.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Aboriginal words and Flinders Island

Words are powerful. Yesterday, at The Ian Potter Gallery, I looked at a video artwork by Julie Gough. I was so entranced by the words she used that I stood through two viewings of the seventeen minute presentation
The contrast of the words against the idyllic video clips made a strong impression on the viewer. Here are two sets of photos from the display:
********************************************************************************** Other Aboriginal words featured in the artwork - for instance, the words for flour, tobacco, musket, sheep, blanket. (I've posted on my other blog about the word for 'kangaroo dog'.) However, the ones that made the most vivid impression on me were two concepts that must have been new to the indigenous inhabitants - flagellate and hang by rope. What terrible ideas the Europeans brought with them.
I hope you get a chance to see this artwork. It will make an impression on you.