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Bit late, but here's something awesome I first saw this Christmas season.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in Anglo-Saxon meter, by Philip Craig Chapman-Bell. Via Etymonline on Facebook, who says “An Internet classic; but I can no longer find it where I first found it (Cathy Ball’s Old English reference pages).”
Incipit gestis Rudolphi rangifer tarandus

Hwæt, Hrodulf readnosa hrandeor –
Næfde þæt nieten unsciende næsðyrlas!
Glitenode and gladode godlice nosgrisele.
Ða hofberendas mid huscwordum hine gehefigodon;
Nolden þa geneatas Hrodulf næftig
To gomene hraniscum geador ætsomne.
Þa in Cristesmæsseæfne stormigum clommum,
Halga Claus þæt gemunde to him maðelode:
“Neahfreond nihteage nosubeorhtende!
Min hroden hrædwæn gelæd ðu, Hrodulf!”
Ða gelufodon hira laddeor þa lyftflogan –
Wæs glædnes and gliwdream; hornede sum gegieddode
“Hwæt, Hrodulf readnosa hrandeor,
Brad springð þin blæd: breme eart þu!”

Rendered literally into modern English:
Here begins the deeds of Rudolph, Tundra-Wanderer

Lo, Hrodulf the red-nosed reindeer –
That beast didn’t have unshiny nostrils!
The goodly nose-cartilage glittered and glowed.
The hoof-bearers taunted him with proud words;
The comrades wouldn’t allow wretched Hrodulf
To join the reindeer games.
Then, on Christmas Eve bound in storms
Santa Claus remembered that, spoke formally to him:
“Dear night-sighted friend, nose-bright one!
You, Hrodulf, shall lead my adorned rapid-wagon!”
Then the sky-flyers praised their lead-deer –
There was gladness and music; one of the horned ones sang
“Lo, Hrodulf the red-nosed reindeer,
Your fame spreads broadly, you are renowned!”

I was delighted when I first read this that it really is following Old-English rules of poetry, which didn't expect rhymes like modern English poetry but rather Anglo-Saxon meter, which has alliteration rather than rhyme and uses a lot of compound nouns (known as kennings).

My (sadly never finished, thanks nervous breakdown!) senior-seminar in college was about Old English riddles, which meant I had to read and write so much about kennings, clever/poetic ways of describing things (like "hoof-bearers" or "sky-flyers" in this). Often, it seems these clever constructions were not intended as solely poetic, artistic turns of phrase but created in order to keep to the rules about alliteration. Even if you don't know how the Old English is supposed to sound, you can probably see the alliteration in most of the lines about good old Hrudolf here.

From the same website, All Things Linguistic, where I learned about Hrodulf readnosa hrandeor, I also recently discovered the existence of the History of English podcast which goes into all this stuff in so much detail it's about thirty episodes before you get to anything recognizably English at all. I'm used to the history of English beginning after the Romans left Britain, and this is so much better, going all the way back to Proto-Indo-European and covering thousands of years of linguistic development as it affects English. It might be too detailed for a lots of people but I'm absolutely loving it.
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I read over something for a friend the other day, and after e-mailing it back to them I got a reply that made me smile:
Thanks! You are the comma fairy :) <,,,,,> I have no idea where the beastly little fuckers are supposed to go.
Best proofreading endorsement I've had in a long time!
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Sunny train window, the Train Picnic triumvirate of sandwich, snack and drink, new podcast. I am happy.

I think the joy of the triumvirate goes back to school field trips, the pleasing deliberation of the lunch packed as neatly as possible and taken with you, somehow making you want to eat it on the way there just because you know what it'll be and how nice it'll be.

The podcast is The Matter of the North, bittersweet now because listening to this first episode reminds me of having caught it on first broadcast, a week or two ago, when Katie and I were still planning to go to exactly this part of the world for a much-needed little holiday in October: Lindisfarne and Durham seemed perfect for a history nerd like her and an Old English lover like me, the perfect confluence of these things at a near enough ‎location to be cheap. Or so we thought, but it ended up being prohibitively expensive so we've had to abandon this plan, though I'm sure we'll work something out at some point.

It's especially disappointing because listening to this gives me an unbearably strong desire to visit these places: Hadrian's Wall, old ruins, cathedrals and coastlines, everything. I'm confused by the geography that's being narrated to me and I want to understand it better.

Somehow stories about the rest of England don't give me the same wanderlust. They're interesting, but I'm happy to leave them be. Somehow these northern ones -- and the Celtic bits of Britain --‎ are different. Evocative, and oddly familiar considering I'm from so far away and don't know anything about them really. 

To be topical at the beginning of this episode, good ol' Melvyn mentioned that this "referendum year" is a good time to do this (as if he isn't obsessed with being from Cumbria all the time...) and I think he's more right than he's willing to say. Because the campaign and especially the result has been yet more fodder for the arguments many of my Scottish friends and acquaintances are making that pit them against us which I have some sympathy with, but the Tory England they describe seems as foreign to me as it does to them. It seems terribly important to me that Manchester and Leeds and other northern cities were heavily Remain; we'll be dragged out of the EU just as unwillingly as Scotland.‎

Of course, the next episode of this podcast‎ I listened to is about Vikings, and of course the huge influence they had on this part of the country. The continuing vocabulary, attitudes and so on might explain why such an unfamiliar landscape can feel so familiar to me. I worry that's a bit of a reach, though: my grandmother's mother forbid her and the other children from learning Norwegian, even as her father sang hymns and lullabies in Norwegian (as well as English; I heard a recording of him at his wife's funeral, many years after he was gone himself), read his Bible in Norwegian, and gave the children Norwegian nicknames. My grandma doesn't remember what they were, though, and doesn't know a word of Norwegian. (Unless "uff da" counts!)

Still, [livejournal.com profile] rosamicula told me when she met me that I sounded like her friend Kjersti from Norway‎, and indeed I grew up knowing Kjerstis, and Bjorns, and every class in my school was full of Andersons and Carlsons and Knutsons‎.‎ Our jokes and our explanations and our vocabulary are different, even from the nearby states or parts of our own (apparently only Minnesotans play "duck duck gray duck" instead of "duck duck goose"?)

I liked that one of the academics talking about the Viking places and times in England started out by saying there must have been Viking women as well as men, for the language to persist as long as it must have done to be such a big influence in names and places. (There's a wonderful meditation on this in an excerpt from a Norman Nicholson poem, which googling led me to here after it was mentioned in the program.) So often it is the women, in charge of small children, feeding us lullabies and nursery rhymes that influence our language and our thinking on a level nothing in later life seems to reach.
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P.G. Wodehouse didn't invent the spelling of Gladys with a 'w', even though it sounds like the kind of thing he'd do.
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I was trying to write "visually impaired" but my phone changed it to "visually important."

Yes, phone. That too.
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From our U.S. correspondent, Holly:

"For years I mocked the Americans mercilessly for telling me my accent was so sophisticated," said some lady named Fiona, "and that was certainly something I never got back home in Liverpool! I kept telling that joke about us being two countries separated by a common language. After I was asked what 'bum' and 'chips' mean, I got a lecture about the dangers of linguistic prescriptivism and a demand to pack my bags."

"My test just consisted of listening to an earnest white Midwesterner say 'fanny pack' without giggling," a bloke called Kevin said, "and I failed. Of course! It's disrespecting my heritage to expect anything else!"

"Sure," said Alex, "it's funny to tell the Americans they're not speaking proper English. But if they start using our own rules against us and decide we have to say 'bathroom' when we mean 'toilet,' just so we can stay here in the land of the free refills and the home of the fuckoff big cars, that's taking things too far! You can't even use 'fuck' as punctuation here," he said, clearly on the edge of breaking down. "People get all upset. But...but the petrol's so cheap!"

Then he loses his battle against the sobs. "Gas," he says sadly. "I mean 'gas'! Not petrol! Don't make me go back to Milton Keynes!"
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This is a good point, but its use of "blind" to mean "doesn't know/doesn't care" about something did made me laugh.

It's used as a parallel to the I-don't-see-race type of "colorblindness," which is not a stance that -- however well-meaning -- supports the racist status quo but also bugs me because it is using "blind" in this sense of ignorant/uncaring.

A lot of our language does this: we talk about people being "blind to the consequences of their actions," or even "double-blind" scientific trials, where "blind" always means someone doesn't know or doesn't care about something.

Obviously there are far bigger problems in ableism, including the one written about here (though whether autism should rightly be considered a "disability" as such is a whole other can of worms I won't call up because I can't put it down). But the words we use are important in subtly shaping how we think, and what we think there is to think about.

I swear, everyone who thinks they have to get right up in my face and ask "do you know where you're going?" when I'm at a bus stop, everyone who thinks they can sneak in front of me in the queue, everyone who's amazed I choose my hair and my clothes to look the way the do, everyone who addresses questions to the person I'm with rather than me directly, has been influenced by this kind of metaphorical thinking that blindness implies ignorance or apathy.

But anyway, there's nothing except the title here that mentions any of that, and it is making some good points about how pretending autistic people aren't autistic is the opposite of the kindness some well-intentioned people believe it to be. Frankly, most of the autistic people I know think it's better than being neurotypical, or at least it would be if we stopped imposing our neurotypicality on them.
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"Southerners don't even think 'good' rhymes with 'blood'!" Andrew announced, no doubt something he learns from the internet he's glued to every waking moment. I've been busy tidying so if there's a context for this I don't know what it is.

When my brain finally gets around to processing this I say, "...They don’t!"

To which of course the only reply is to shout both words, because volume and repetition will solve everything. 

Then a terrible realization dawned on me. "Oh, God, this is gonna be like how you think I'm saying the same ‎thing when I say 'rum' and 'room,' isn't it?" That one went on for ages, and it was such a long time ago -- maybe even before we were married? -- that I hoped we were done with it...

..."for good," I was gonna say, but no. Turns out it's still "for blood"! Ha.

The shape of my mouth is different and everything, I now notice, when I say these words. It wouldn't be the first time my dialect aligns me with the south of England (I prpnounce "scone" so it rhymes with "phone" too). 

I hear a distinction between these two words that he doesn't, and that's fine. Because some people's linguistic capabilities really do develop in such a way that they retain or lose certain sounds; most remain separate but a few that don't get used enough to be worthwhile can get elided together. "Cot" and "caught" sound the same to some English speakers and different to others.‎ There are many and varied examples of this phenomenon of people who hear and speak a variety of languages.

But then there are also people who insist that their way is Right and all others are Wrong and Inferior. 

It's much easier to be one of those, I think, if you basically have always lived in the same place. ‎

"Good! Blood!" Andrew said again.‎ "Goodbloodgoodbloodgoodblood..."‎ ad infinitum until it was time for me to leave the house. Which, thankfully, was only a few minutes later!
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Today I learned the word "aGreekment," which I like because it's such an awful word and it's also for something that nobody seems to like or want. It's sort of onomatopoeic in that way.

(Also Greferendum, though. And I was reading about Brexit for weeks before I figured out what it meant (all my guesses were way off). Honestly, what is it with European politics spouting so many teeth-grindingly bad neologisms lately? I blame twitter: trying to get a phrase like "the latest bailout deal between Greece and the rest of the EU" into a tweet would leave no room for pontificating but "aGreekment" is only ten little letters!)
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I thought I was doing pretty well today, but it turns out that's only until I see some friend-of-a-friend on the internet saying that seeing U.S. English (on U.S. websites!) is cringeworthy or that American dictionaries aren't "real" (so what are they, then, ghost dictionaries?).*

Some variation of which has happened like six times today. None of it was directed at me personally, but still it's hard not to feel attacked after a while, and it only gets harder to bite my tongue and not rage at strangers who'd think I was crazy because they were, after all, only joking!

I did manage not to say anything to any of them. But I had to tell someone.


* Don't get me wrong, I certainly think U.S. English is incorrect for some situations, but I don't like blanket statements about how wrong it is and how awful that British people ever have to be subjected to it.

Brighouse

Nov. 6th, 2014 01:38 pm
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For a variety of reasons, I haven't gotten the train from Levenshulme very often lately, but I'm glad I did today. The ticket seller was the old man I'm most familiar with, the one who commented I was dressed up one day and congratulated me when I said I was going out to celebrate getting a job.

Today when I said tiredly, automatically, "Return to Brighouse, please," rather than just asking if I was coming back today (often I remember to say this, but today I didn't), he said, "What's it like, this Brighouse? Is it lovely?"

"It is!" I said, excited both because that is true and because this guy was the first worker at Levenshulme train station who I taught to recognize the word "Brighouse." (All those months ago! Aww.) I think all the ones who work in the mornings are pretty used to it now, but there used to have to be lots of spelling. 

I've seen [personal profile] magister have trouble getting train conductors to understand "Levenshulme" as well, so we're even there (oonce I just showed the conductor my train ticket so she could copy off that). 

One thing I do like about getting the train from Levy, as opposed to getting the bus in and having a ticket that says Manchester, and then getting a train from Piccadilly to Huddersfield. These trains go from Manchester or Liverpool all the way to Hull or Middlesbrough or Scarborough or Newcastle, and I can tell sometimes the conductor checking my ticket has no idea of where either Levenshulme or Brighouse is, of whether I belong on this train, but they always just scribble on the ticket and hand it back to me without saying anything. But I like to think that James and I are slowly educating the Trans Pennine Express train conductors by increasing their exposure to these strange words in this combination. ‎

"Is there a house with a brig there?" this Levenshulme ticket seller asked me, back in the present. I laughed and confessed I didn't know how the place got its name. "It's a nautical term, isn't it? Brig?" he said. I agreed, but I'd been about to say that I expected it was more likely to have something to do with "bridge" (indeed for the longest time I could never remember if "Brighouse" was pronounced with a hard or soft g, and I don't feel completely stupid about this because there are places like Brigend where it does still sound like you're saying "bridge" at the beginning). 

On the train now I've looked it up, and sure enough:
The placename is recorded in the Yorkshire Feet of Fines of 1240 as "Brighuses", and means "the houses by the bridge", from the Old Norse "bryg(gia)", bridge, with the Olde English pre 7th Century "hus", house.
I don't think I can credit my exposure to first-millennium languages in the north of England (which is never as good as I'd like it to be) as much as the fact that I walk across a bridge over the River Calder every time I'm in Brighouse. 
hollymath: (Default)
I just mis-read "specimen rose" (apparently that is a thing) as spaceman rose.

I don't know what a spaceman rose is, but now I want to.

True story

Oct. 17th, 2014 09:59 am
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So far today I've learned that when I try to write "DIY" on my phone, it autocorrects it to DIARRHEA.

Yeah, I look forward to each about as much as the other, so I can see the phone's point.
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I seriously if briefly considered defriending someone on Facebook because of their snobbishness.

They said they were going to get Mexican food from a street stall and then didn't because it said "taco's" and "burrito's." They went somewhere else just because of apostrophes. It just seems such a sad thing to be smug about. And I'm sure the comments will soon be full of people telling them how right they are.

I'm just a bleeding-heart descriptivist over here. The point of language is to convey meaning, something that's not harmed at all by the greengrocer's apostrophe. To demand perfect standard written English on all occasions is unnecessarily exclusionary (of not just speakers of other Englishes but also of, for instance, dyslexic people), not to mention churlish.

But then what do I know. Andrew just told me about a grammar question [personal profile] andrewducker's asking ("is it 'there have been a wealth of studies' or 'there has been a wealth of studies'?"), hoping that I could explain why he holds the opinion he does on this better than he can. Turns out I have the wrong opinion -- and even this is secondary to my "I'm sure they're both fine, barring a house style, because both are perfectly comprehensible" because I know not-taking-sides is never a satisfactory answer -- and he doesn't like my reason for it at all.
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"Wow, you sounded really Manc just then," Mary said to me at dinner yesterday after something I'd said (I forget what exactly). And I'm glad she's such a lovely person, because I think that may be the first time anybody's told me that, so it's good to have the news broken to me so gently.

I hate Manchester accents so much. When I first moved here I told Andrew that if I ever started to sound like one I wanted to move to Yorkshire. I have always thought Yorkshire accents are the best (but I like a lot of Scottish ones, too.) Since that's less likely to happen this week than any previous, I'll just have to make sure to watch lots of Twins games to remind myself how I should be talking.

Anyway, my attempting-to-be-humorous response to being told I sounded Manc was to say, "it's because I was being sarcastic. Manc accents are good for sarcasm."

But actually, thinking about it as I was waiting for the bus to work today, I think a reasonable argument could actually be made for this theory. Both because it's so harsh and awful, and because my dislike of it makes it good for saying things that I don't really mean.
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I changed my phone's language from English (US) to English (UK) so that the currency key would give me a pound sign instead of a dollar sign, and so it'd suggest more useful words (though I'm a bit bemused that I'm more likely to want Wycombe now than Wyoming...).

But then I noticed that my phone told me I had a "Torch" instead of a "Flashlight," and this made me so sad I switched it back to English (US). It's funny what matters to us, isn't it?

x

Mar. 15th, 2014 12:14 am
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My new phone is so affectionate.

Its typing suggestions are much more comprehensive than my old phone's, which I think was old enough to pre-date autocorrect as the necessity it now seems to be.

So whereas before a single character wouldn't cause any attempt to anticipate what I wanted next, now if I end a text message with an "x", it suggests "xx", "xxx" and "xoxo". And even if need angle-brackets for HTML, the phone's only suggestion when I type "<" is "3".
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Andrew's the worst person I proofread, because his writing is riddled with stylistic annoyances quirks, like italicizing the names of songs as well as of albums, which can make some of his music books incomprehensible at times.

But Andrew's the best person I proofread because where with anyone else I'd have just said "delete the hyphen in 'half-way'," since it's him I wrote
“Half-way” doesn't need a hyphen any more than “to-day” does. You are not an Edwardian gentleman, despite the beard and your insistence that “bus” has an apostrophe.
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"There's no need for a hyphen in reschedule. This isn't the nineteenth century!" said the man who puts apostrophes at the beginning of words like bus and phone.
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We're listening to a new Big Finish that has Beatles-analogues in it.

Just as I was starting to think okay, I think these accents are going to get annoying, Andrew said "Now I can sympathize with you and Peri's bad American accent!" He can do the Beatles' voices better than this! (If he went to parties, one of his party tricks would be explaining each of their different accents and the class and geography and background that made them that way, in the particular accent in question.)

Still, until these guys become regular companions he has to listen to for decades, I don't think he really can get it.

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