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I came to the State Library today to do some writing, and also chat to one of the teachers from the House of Netjer on AIM. I can't get AIM to work through any channels, so it looks like the library has it blocked. Why can't people understand that Gtalk is the way of the future? (Meaning: Why can't we do things my way? ;)

Anyway, I emailed her to update her on my travails, and she closed one email, knowing I'm an Aussie, with the salutation, "Have a G'day!"

So cute, and so, so wrong.

No-one in Australia uses G'day in this form. Although it is a contraction of "good day", it is only ever used as a greeting equivalent to "hello". This makes me translate this in my head as "Have a hello!", which makes me giggle. Also: another note for foreigners. Pretty much no-one in the large cities uses "G'day" on a regular basis. You may as well say "Tarnation, you durned yankees!" in the middle of New York.

I've picked up a copy of Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled, mostly because I find Stephen Fry funny, and didn't quite realise it was, essentially, a poetry workbook. I'm quite enjoying it so far, and have (as instructed) practised some Iambic Pentameter. My favourite so far is my first one:
And to his feet he cried, "What curse is this?
What cruel and spiteful trick upon me played?
For if that's not the Gorgon's blood there spilt,
Then whose unseemly hide is split in twain?

I know what happens next, but it was taking far more time for me to versify it, and I'm supposed to trot these out as fast as possible. And only dealing in single or double lines. And, ideally, not in old-fashioned language. I want to write the rest of the story, though (it involves an oracle, a son, and a curse).

I think my love of old-fashioned turns of phrase is working against me so far. Fry has some awesome lines in the vernacular:
I haven't time to take your call right now,
So leave a message when you hear the tone.

Oh Christ, I hate the way you do your hair,
Expect you feel the same about my tie.

I think I shall have fun with this book.

And leaping to his feet he cried, "What curse
Is this, what spiteful trick upon me played?
changeling: (Default)
I'd like to say a little something about one of my least favourite language quirks out there. Folks, meet "off of". It's a lazy construction, and it doesn't actually mean anything.

You didn't "base my project off of this idea I had". You base it ON an idea. It's like saying that your house is "based off of the ground". It isn't. It's based ON the ground. You don't sit off of a chair. You don't serve your meal off of some plates. The cat did not sit off of the mat. It's ON the chair, ON the plates, ON the mat.

Similarly, you didn't "get this off of some guy I know". You got it FROM some guy.

Prepositions. They are your friend. Don't beat them up and leave them in an alley for dead.
changeling: (Default)
I was reading an article about Graeco-Egyptian worship (as you do), and came across what seems to be an alternate spelling of hagnos, which I'd always assumed meant "holy". The spelling was agnos and what it literally meant was "set apart".

This made me wonder about the derivation of agnostic. The OED website ( didn't have the derivation, but gave an interesting definition of agnostic: "a person who believes that nothing can be known concerning the existence of God". Did this mean, I wondered, that agnostic derives from a concept that God/the gods are "set apart" from men, and so we cannot know them?

I surfed on to, which uses American spellings but has word derivations. The word agnostic derives from the Greek word to know; same basic root as gnosis, or gnostic. Ah. So agnostic shouldn't actually be connected with h/agnos at all. The pronunciation tripped me up. Surely agnostic should actually be pronounced "a-nostic", to bring it in to line with the pronunciation of gnostic (and other words beginning with a–, such as amoral)?

Sometimes I despair of English.
changeling: (Default)
So, I'm editing today, right? And I have my big mo-fo of a dictionary (Macquarie Dictionary, fourth edition) on the table beside me. It's 1676 pages long, hardback, and heavier than Nicole Richie (ooh, unexpected almost-current event joke). It's one of the two "approved" dictionaries for Australian use (the other being the OED). The Macquarie prides itself of being "by Australians, for Australians", and including Australian slang, sayings and people. Most of my (Australian) friends who are editors eschew it for its preference of American spellings over British*.

While looking up "bulimia" for the style sheet, I came across the word "bullrush", which referred me to British bulldog, a game I had played as a child. Always inquisitive about the definitions of others, I flicked back (well, turned the large and thin pages carefully). This is the definition:

British bulldog Pronunciation guide I can't be bothered looking up the ASCII for noun a children's game in which a group of children run repeatedly through an area guarded by the other children, those who are caught each time joining forces with their catchers [ed: why not use "captors"? Much better term. More dramatic] until only one child remains uncaught and is the victor. [stupid run-on sentence theirs]

Well, excuse me, but that is not the British bulldog I played. That sounds more like Octopus (though in that game everyone who is "it" joins hands rather than merely forces and forms a wall across the playing area). In British bulldog, players attempt to run from one side of the field to the other, with the "it" players being in the middle. When a player is caught, s/he has to be physically subdued to the ground with tripping, violence or wrestling, and afterwards joins the "it" players. It was generally banned in schools due to its brutality.

Don't sanitise my childhood games.

* Such as -ize rather than -ise, and giving equal weighting to colour and color, the latter of which is certainly not reflected in, say, Australian media.

Still to come:
A post on naughty bits.
changeling: (Default)
So on Non-Fluffy Pagans, there was a discussion on whether or not the spelling "magick" should be used and why.

Ratatosk (squirrel of discord), had this to say:
Words are maps of ideas. If the word conveys the idea, then how important in the spelling?

This made my editorial brain whirring (it's one of those, Why bother doing what you do questions). I'm reposting here, because it's one of those flashes of clarity one rarely gets:
"Correct" spelling is a politeness to your readers, as is "correct" grammar. If words (and sentences) are maps of ideas, using "correct" spelling and grammar is a map using commonly understood symbols for the paths and quagmires within. "Bad" spelling and grammar is the same map, but using uncommon symbols that your reader is unfamiliar with so they have to keep referring to the key. Sometimes there is no key. Sometimes the same symbol means two things, or the symbol for "road" may change several times over the course of the map. Your reader may take a wrong turn once or twice along the way.

Both will (probably) get you to the same place, but one will get your reader there faster and in a better mood.

Food words

Jun. 22nd, 2006 11:43 am
changeling: (Default)
I love Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, and for putting it online.

Sir Walter Scott remarks that live cattle go by Saxon names, and slain meat by Norman-French, a standing evidence that the Normans were the lords who ate the meat, and the Saxons the serfs who tended the cattle. Examples:

Sheep Ox Calf Hog Pig (Saxon).
Mutton Beef Veal Bacon Pork (Norman-French).

Meat, Bread.

These words tell a tale; both mean food in general. The Italians and Asiatics eat little animal food, and with them the word bread stands for food; so also with the poor, whose chief diet it is; but the English consume meat very plentifully, and this word, which simply means food, almost exclusively implies animal food [...] (emphasis mine)

Oh, and this is my favourite. We shouldn't call it the Fatkins diet, we should call it the Banting diet:

Doing Banting. Reducing superfluous fat by living on meat diet, and abstaining from beer, farinaceous food, and vegetables, according to the method adopted by William Banting, a London cabinet-maker, once a very fat man (born 1796, died 1878). The word was introduced about 1864.

This is all due to the fact that I'm planning on setting up my food blog on my website. I've been humming and hawing over a title. I thought of calling it Scaramouche's Kitchen (just because I really like the name – Scaramouche is a character from the Commedia Dell'arte, a roguish adventurer who replaced Il Capitano in later troupes), then I thought of calling it Belly-timber: “And now, Dame Peveril, to dinner, to dinner. The old fox must have his belly-timber, though the hounds have been after him the whole day.”—Sir W. Scott. Peveril of the Peak, and at the moment I'm leaning towards Eat not the Heart, from Pythagoras:

Pythagoras forbade judges and priests to eat animal food at all, because it was taking away life. Other persons he did not wholly forbid this food, but he restricted them from eating the brain (the seat of wisdom) and the heart (the seat of life).

I still like Belly-timber. Has an almost pirate edge to it. Also, I do want to have a memorable title to my blog! Otherwise what will happen when I have a spin-off book? *grins*

So now, the poll! Also, do not hesitate from discussing further in comments. I like discussion.

[Poll #753342]

Edit: Apparently "Eat not the heart" in its original form was "Cor ne edito". This amuses me, due to my chosen field.
And woe! There is already a blog called "Belly Timber".


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