All about writing

Words are fascinating ... Put them together in the right way, and we can communicate with people in other places and other times. Make a mess of it and ...

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Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Memories of Christmases Past

What are some of your most vivid Christmas memories?

Is there one in particular that has stayed in your memory?

What's your earliest Christmas memory?

Is there one Christmas that is lodged in your little grey cells for all the wrong reasons?

What's your favourite family Christmas memory?

Which Christmas would you prefer to forget?

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Do You Save the Best for Last?

My (ahem) scientific study, for which I'm going to enlist your assistance, dear, gentle reader, involves one of those universal questions that may have great import for the future of civilisation as we know it!

And it's this:

When you sit down to your dinner of meat and three veg, do you eat your favourite food first, or do you save it till last?

I know, I know ... It's quite staggering that no-one up till now has thought to conduct a scientific investigation into this complex question ... But that's why I'm here -- to ask the difficult questions.

The Love of My Life grew up having to eat his vegetables first and saving the meat till last ... but my philosophy had always been to eat what you enjoyed first, because then if you were full, you could leave the things you didn't like as much on your plate.

I remember reading an article once that postulated that many of the eating problems of Westernised children stem from the practice of their parents coaxing them to eat their vegetables before they could have dessert -- the clear implication being that dessert was the reward for tolerating the nasty vegetables. Not terribly sensible when you come to think about it, is it?

Children these days don't know how lucky they are, when you think of all the wonderful vegetables we have to choose from. Not like in the Olden Days when we were limited to potatoes, bitter pumpkins, ditto carrots, vile parsnips, swedes and turnips.

Now there are lots of lovely varieties of these old vegies, plus fresh supplies of things we only ever got in tins when I was a child (mushrooms and asparagus spring to mind) and then all the salad vegetables and sprouts and ...

So here's your chance to set the record straight ... Add your comment below so we can find out once and for all: Do you save the best for last?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

600 and Counting!

This is issue number 600 of our little newsletter. Yes, that's a six followed by two (count 'em) zeros.

I'm very grateful for your patience with me and my ramblings over the years, and for the many comments and suggestions I've received (all of which I could pass on in mixed company!)

If you'd like to suggest a topic for a future newsletter or just leave a comment you can do so on our much-neglected Blog below ...

Friday, January 15, 2010

What's in a Name?

A couple of observations about people and their names ...

I happened to be flipping through one of those ubiquitous women's magazines while waiting for some person or other to deign to serve me, when I happened upon yet another article about Our Nic and Our Keith and their little girl, Sunday Rose, and it got me thinking about the days of the week as names, and why some days are popular and others don't rate a mention.

F'r instance, we have the aforementioned Sunday Rose Urban; those of us who can remember the 60s will recall Tuesday Weld; those who landed on Earth a little later will be familiar with Wednesday from the Addams Family (so named because she was "full of woe" as is Wednesday's child). Then we all know Robinson Crusoe's mate, Man Friday, but have you ever come across a person or character called Saturday or Thursday, and if not, why not?

And we come across a similar mystery regarding the months -- April, May and June are all popular girls' names; we can stretch it a bit and say that July (Julie) is a common name, as is Auguste (for a boy), but where are the Februaries, the Septembers and the Decembers?


And that brings us to 7, one of our Merry Band, whose legal name is the numeral 7 (not the word "Seven").

Do you have an unusual name?

Have you given your children unusual names?

Do you know anyone who has a name best forgotten?

Click the Comments button to tell your tale!

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Foreign Words We Could Use in English

Then there are those words we don't have in English, that do exist in other languages, Nick Skellon wrote, "On an added note, I'm always amused by the way the Germans have words we don't have. My favourite in the whole world is 'backpfeifengesicht,' which means 'a face that deserves a slap'.

"Another is 'handscuhschneeballwerfer', which is a long (and typically German - why use one syllable when you can use six?) way of saying 'wimp'. It literally means 'someone who wears gloves when throwing snowballs.' I read a magazine article ages ago in which it said that they have about half a dozen other long-winded ways of referring to different levels of wimpiness (including 'someone who indicates whilst turning in a car park') but I can't remember any of them."

I wasn't able to confirm that the utterly divine 'handscuhschneeballwerfer' actually exists, but oh, I hope it does!

I'd expect nothing less from our wonderful German cousins who brought us the too, too perfect word 'schadenfreude,' which means taking delight in the misfortune of others.

If you have any words like this from another language (not just German) that we really could use in English, please click the Comment button and add them to our vocabulary.

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Missing words in English

What a nightmare it must be for teachers these days when they're trying to teach correct spelling to children busily sending profound messages to each other, such as: cu b4 u ce me

Sigh ...

And some of this shorthand is just plain silly.

I can see the point (sort of) for the abbreviations above: 'cu b4 u c me' is marginally quicker than typing 'see you before you see me,' and it is possible to work out the meaning from the phonetics. But other text abbreviations are mind-blowingly useless.

F'r instance, IANADBIPOOTV is short for I Am Not A Doctor But I Play One On TV.

Granted, it's definitely shorter ... but exactly why do we need a shorthand expression for that?

Despite having hundreds of TMTs (text message thingies) we don't yet have a word for them. Maybe I've just coined a new acronym!

We seem to be coming across quite a few gaps in English these days. After writing about this a couple of weeks ago , member of our Merry Band, Nick Skellon, commented, "Firstly, how are we supposed to describe our children when they've grown up? When people ask me if I have any children and I reply 'yes'' they somehow imagine them to be 12 or 14. When I tell them that they're 24 and 26, they're surprised. So how about a word for 'grown-up kids'?

"Secondly, we really need a word for something in between 'like' and 'love'. If you say you like someone it puts them on a par with your mates and your favourite dessert. But love is just too over-the-top to be used in anything but very special circumstances. How do you say you really like someone?

So? Does anyone have any suggestions for these missing words?
We're looking for three words here:

1.a word for TMTs

2. a word for grown-up children

3. a word that's between 'like' and 'love'

And a couple we've been pondering for some time:

4. a collective word for aunts and uncles (we have mother, father, parent, but not aunt, uncle ... ?)

5. a separate word for our female cousins and our male cousins (fuzzins and muzzins is taking longer to catch on than I imagined!)

6. a word for our Significant Other when not married and in Our Prime. 'Girlfriend' and 'boyfriend' simply doesn't cut the mustard when describing someone who's a grandparent, while 'lover' is just too much information!

Click the Comment button to add your suggestions!

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Poor Humpty Dumpty!

I suppose it was reminiscing about children's stories last week ( ) that has kept my little grey cells attuned to the subject, so it was only to be expected that I pricked up my shell-pink ears last week when I heard an item on the news about Humpty Dumpty. (And really, how often does Humpty Dumpty make the headlines?)

Now, if you haven't kept up with the latest happenings in the life of this adventurer eggstraordinaire, may I be the first to break the happy news to you?

It seems, dear reader, that the old dare-devil of our acquaintance has taken on the characteristics of a super-hero and can no longer be harmed. Some boffins at the BBC, in their politically-correct wisdom, have decreed that it's upsetting for the kiddies to sing about Humpty having a great fall, and even more distressing to discover that "all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again."

So ... the new version of the rhyme concludes that "...all the king's horses and all the king's men now make Humpty happy again."

Now is it only me, or do you also find that wrong on so many levels?

Let us count the ways ...

1. The rhyme has been around since 1810; are we to conclude from this that we can now change the endings of any story we don't like? (Well, I think Heathcliff and Catherine should have lived happily ever after together, so let's rewrite Wuthering Heights to have a happy ending.)

2. We (and countless millions of other children) were brought up singing happily about a large ambulatory egg that fell off a wall and was smashed to bits, and we all turned out all right.

3. Even the youngest children up till now have managed to successfully separate reality from fiction in the case of Humpty Dumpty (unless they live with some very odd-looking people, in which case they need all the help they can get).

4. And just how exactly, I ask myself, are all the king's horses and all the king's men going to make Humpty happy again? Hmmm?

5. Could this be a royalist plot to make us believe all our problems can be solved by HRH and his merry men?

In their defence, the news report concluded, "A BBC spokesman said the changes were made for creative reasons. 'We play nursery rhymes with their original lyrics all the time and the small change to Humpty Dumpty was done for no other reason than being creative and entertaining,' he said.

"It is not the first time the BBC has tweaked a popular nursery rhyme to ensure a more sanitised ending.

"A recent CBeebies cookery show changed Little Miss Muffet so the little girl no longer runs away from the spider but instead becomes friends with the eight-legged creature."

Right ...

A "tweak" he calls it. I rather think that changing the fate of the character from annihilation to living happily ever after with the help of a bunch of horses and humans is far from tweaking. And what lessons does that teach the littlies? That it's all right to climb tall walls and fall off, because when you do, there'll be someone to make you "happy again."

At least our version of the rhyme had an object lesson -- if you don't listen to your mum when she tells you to stay off the wall, you'll end up scrambled like poor Humpty Dumpty!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Social Etiquette ...

All of us need an appreciation of etiquette ... not the sort of etiquette that demands you know which of 53 pieces of cutlery to use, but the etiquette that governs and guides the way we all get along in our everyday activities.

Alas and alack, there seems to be a significant lack of skills in this area today.

Here are a couple of my personal peeves with my fellows ... I'm sure you have many you can add. Feel free to click the Comments button and vent your spleen about the poor manners we all encounter every day!

What gets up my nose ...

1. People who come to a dead stop in the middle of busy walkways while they search in their pockets for money, keys, whatever ...

2. People who stand two abreast on escalators when there are busy people who want to walk up and get where they need to be instead of regarding it as an amusement ride ...

3. People who get their meals at a table when dining with a group and then start to eat instead of waiting till everyone has a meal ...

OK ... your turn!