Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Archive for the category “Writing”

The importance of dash placement

The Economist

 

Thanks to The Economist, for demonstrating how an unfortunately placed dash can change the thrust of a story…

Mistakes like this are why I always try to insist on seeing my signed-off copy on the page (whether digital or printed) before it’s published.

It’s particularly frustrating when clients tinker with signed-off copy at the last moment, as a ‘tiny change’ can so easily throw a line or a paragraph out of whack.

 

26 Atlantic Crossings

Canigou

When ‘The Unseen’ (shown below), a painting by Canadian artist Barb Hogenauer, pinged into my in-box last May I felt a sharp pang of homesickness for the dramatic landscape of Céret in southern France, my home for seven years, where the view from my window was of The Canigou (above), sacred mountain of the Catalans.

‘The Unseen’ was my artwork – produced by Barb for 26 Atlantic Crossingsa collaboration between 26 Canadian visual artists and 26 writers based in the UK. You can read my poetic response to ‘The Unseen’, below.
my artwork the unseen

The Unseen

The squall hits at dusk, blackening the sky

Like a three-day bruise,

Shrouding the mountain in sulphurous mists

Red sandstone runoff bloodies the sea,

And icy flames of phosphorescence –

Blooming phytoplankton and disturbed crustacea –

Flicker on the ship’s churning wake

Old World émigrés cross themselves,

Filling with foreboding for their journey’s end,

But Canada holds no Ellis Island-like inquisition:

This is home.

Of course, everyone’s response to art is different: I’d be interested to know what Barb’s painting evokes for you. The painting was recently sold, along with a framed copy of my poem, so is now gracing the home of some second generation Canadians, for whom the combination of my words and Barb’s painting had particular resonance, and evoked profound emotions.

If you’re curious to learn how such a geographically challenging collaboration came about, you might want to read this blog post by project originator, Faye Sharpe. Of course, if you had, by chance, been in Prince Edward County, Canada when the project went live, you may even have visited the 26 Atlantic Crossings exhibition, which featured all 26 artworks alongside their matching sestudes (poems of exactly 62 words – a playful inversion of 26, the writing group’s name, inspired by the number of letters in the alphabet).

26 Atlantic Crossings is the latest in a series of fascinating projects I’ve been lucky to be involved with, organised by writers’ group 26: these range from 26 Treasures, a collaboration with National Museums in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (which resulted in a beautiful hard-backed book), to 26 Characters, a project celebrating favourite fictional characters from childhood, at the Oxford Story Museum. You can see more about these projects on my website.

If you’d like to know more about the project, why not download the lovely little 26 Atlantic Crossings e-book free, HERE? (You’ll find ‘The Unseen’ on pages 36/37.) On the same page you’ll find a link to a gorgeous paper version of 26 Characters, for sale at just £5…

Absolutely Shoreditched…

Image copyright Charlotte Cory

I seem to be unable to step foot on the grim and grimy pavements of Shoreditch after dark without getting drunk (or ‘Shoreditched’, as I’ve now christened it). See image at left by Charlotte Cory, from her ‘You animal, you’ series, which bears an uncanny resemblance to me the morning after the night before, and can be found on the walls of the Hoxton Hotel.

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This tendency to overdo it whenever I head to Hoxton seems to stem from the period when I was working in Shoreditch, reeling from a break up with a long-term boyfriend/business partner. Hedonism seemed the way to go, and it was fun and frantic time of excess, irresponsibility and freedom – a kind of long-delayed adolescence. A dozen years on, I’d thought all that was far behind me, but the last fortnight has proved me wrong, as two successful client presentations in the Old Street area have ended up in decidedly messy evenings…

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I’m starting to think I may have a Pavlovian response to being back on these mean streets.

But – reluctant to admit that Shoreditch can still ring my bell – I have another explanation. I blame the food, or rather, the lack of it. Everyone knows that if you forgo the tacos and enchiladas, a couple of glasses of Tequila can have the same effects as a bottle… And I’m frequently unable to eat when I’m out on the town, as I have a serious and frustrating allergy to garlic, which can make eating out positively dangerous. (Unfortunately, I love spicy food – I can think of nothing more delicious than Thai street food – but these days I have to resort to making my own, and it’s just not the same!)

Read more…

Wordy Wednesday: gratitude

Feeling grateful

Feeling grateful

Happy New Year, everybody! I thought I’d give gratitude the starring role in this Wordy Wednesday, as I’m feeling incredibly grateful for all sorts of things at the moment. My lovely friend Erin sent me this picture she took of me last night as we watched London’s spectacular firework display from a friend’s boat on the Thames, and it captures how happy I was to be in that place, at that moment ,with such a special bunch of people – something I’m incredibly grateful for… I’ve also just spent Christmas surrounded by my family and other loved ones, and I’m incredibly grateful for that too, and for having them in my life.

I’ve always believed that an attitude of gratitude is one of the keys to a happy life, and it’s now been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on one’s levels of happiness. I’ve used it myself: a few years ago, if my step daughter was feeling grumpy, I’d challenge her to a rapid-fire, one minute gratitude list-making exercise: the idea being to shout out as many things as we were grateful for as we could. (Specificity is key to this, by the way, so not just ‘friends’ but ‘Jane and Edgar and Fred and Ruth’, and not just ‘my pets’ but their names, and it’s also good to include all the different aspects of yourself you’re grateful for, such as intelligence, hearing, sight, touch, taste etc, plus tthe things you love to do, and the places you love to visit.) We always ran on for far longer than 60 seconds, and she was always much happier afterwards.

Read more…

#shelfie, #26xmas

Twitter #shelfie

#shelfie, a glorious, literary take on #selfie (this year’s word of the year, according to the Oxford Dictionary), has been trending on Twitter for the past couple of weeks.

It’s the kind of trend I’d normally be right on top of (see Wordy Wednesday: Selfie), and the fact that I’ve been reluctant to add my bookshelf pic to the mix doesn’t reflect the busyness of the season, instead demonstrating that ego plays as much part in a #shelfie as it does in a #selfie (in fact, since I’m no longer a teenager, possibly more…). Ok, I admit it: I want a #shelfie that suggests erudition and hidden depths of character – who wouldn’t? Read more…

Wordy Wednesday: vinegar stroke

vinegar stroke: the face you make as you're comingI’m a woman of the world.

I’ve been around a bit, read a lot of books and have a particular interest in language (after all, it’s the premise behind this blog, particularly my Wordy Wednesday posts)Yet this was the first I’d heard of the term ‘vinegar stroke’. 

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An enlightening and entertaining half hour on Google followed, which told me all I needed to know and more about the vinegar stroke. If, like me, you hadn’t come across the term before (for those already in the know, sorry about the pun…), here’s a definition for you.
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The vinegar stroke is a colloquial term for the final thrust in a sexual act, the one which takes you over the edge into orgasm.  Still not with me? Imagine the face you’d pull if you were chugging vinegar. Uh huh, that’s right: THAT face…
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Once I’d understood the phrase, I realised that my friend Erin’s (LA writer, Erin Donovan) use of vinegar stroke to describe the final push towards finishing a screenplay was a stroke of genius (again, pun absolutely intended).
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Erin seemed to think it was an Englishism, but that may be because she first heard it years ago, from her English husband, Chris Long (who these days is Producer of The Mentalist). But if it’s English English, rather than American English, surely I’d have heard it before? And as it’s such an evocative phrase, shouldn’t it have made an appearance in laddish TV programmes such as Men Behaving Badly and Fantasy Football League? If it has, there’s scant evidence of this online.
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Actress Katie Aselton, from hit US TV series, The LeagueA bit of digging uncovered a reference to vinegar strokes in the cult  laddish US fantasy football series, The League. The gorgeous Katie Aselton, left, who plays Jenny in The League, gave a hilarious explanation of this and other terms used in The League, when she appeared on a talk show with fellow guest Mike Tyson. 

Other sexual terms from the show include:

  1. Eskimo brother: when guys have had sex with the same girl, they’re Eskimo brothers.
  2. Teasing stallion: a non-threatening male who you allow to innocently flirt with your girl in the knowledge that this will merely get her worked up for you.
  3. Second virginity: the faux ‘virginal’ state experienced in the immediate aftermath of a break-up, when you haven’t had more than a single sexual partner for a prolonged period.
  4. Vaginal hubris. (My favourite kind…) Talking about this, Katie says, “my character is someone with a lot of confidence in their hoo-ha.”  But when does a lot of confidence become excessive?
    I don’t know that I’ve ever thought in terms of my vagina as having moods, but I’m going to be keeping an eye on things, and if I spot it being aloof, timid or cantankerous, I’ll let you know.

Wordy Wednesday: paean

glass animalsMy choice of ‘paean’ is purely because I went to a great gig last night, the first in a long, long time, and in my old stomping ground of Shoreditch, no less. And as I loved the band I wanted to offer a paean (viz. sing a song of praise) to the talented foursome, whose members include a neuroscientist and two classical musicians at the top of their game. The gig was at Concrete, and I was there with my friend Janie, supporting her nephew Joe, drummer with Glass Animals. The band is the first signing for Wolf Tone, the new label by super-producer Paul Epworth (he of Adele fame). Epworth himself, who was supposed to be in LA on the night, was there, grooving along to his new signing’s performance. As was I…
Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 18.59.36You can make your own mind up by listening to their enthralling, intelligent and inventive tracks on Soundcloud, here. Their extraordinary musicality reminds me of early Muse, though you’re more likely to find them being compared with Radiohead.

Read all about them in Paul Lester’s Guardian article, Glass Animals (New band of the day No 1,635) (theguardian.com)

Wordy Wednesday: acronym

Royal spotting at the Badminton Horse Trials

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I discovered a few years ago that acronyms weren’t quite what I’d thought they were… This brings a blush to my cheeks not only because I am now a copywriter, but also because at 14, while working at the Badminton Horse Trials (indulging in a spot of Royal watching while sporting a fetching turquoise t-shirt bearing the legend ‘NatWest is Best’), I’d laughed condescendingly on noticing ‘AIB Bank’ emblazoned on a fellow worker’s t-shirt, and – in the patronising way of a teenage know-it-all – explained to him that the acronym meant Allied Irish Bank Bank – I have a horrid feeling that I might even have attempted this in an Irish accent. Of course, as I later discovered, it wasn’t an acronym at all, it was an initialism. Oh the shame…  Read more…

Movember: the Cerne Abbas giant sports a ‘tache

The Cerne Abbas Giant sports a 'tache for Movember

The Cerne Abbas Giant sports a ‘tache for Movember

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The Cerne Abbas Giant made Dorset proud today, by sporting a fabulous moustache in support of Movember.

The Giant’s grass moustache (grown by British Seed Houses) is, at 36′ by 9′, big enough and bushy enough to make even Tom Selleck green with envy.

Magnum PI

Magnum PI

The chalk Giant has joined the ranks of those sporting a ‘tache for Movember in support of health programmes that combat prostate and testicular cancer (and mental health challenges).

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It seems an inspired pairing: the priapic Giant
(who says size doesn’t matter? Ed.) and the Movember charity, which aims to make an ‘everlasting impact on the face of men’s health’ through its support for prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health. 

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The Giant already has a reputation for virility, with folklore holding that infertile couples making love on its huge appendage will conceive within two years (that is, if the guy isn’t too intimidated to be able to perform…).

The National Trust showed its funny and compassionate side by giving permission for the grass moustache to be added to the chalk giant for a day.

Watch a video on this, here:

http://www.itv.com/news/west/update/2013-11-01/moustache-for-cerne-abas-giant/.

Brid: I know how this looks, but it wasn’t me…

Brid
Do you ever feel guilty about things that aren’t your fault? I do, and when I saw this photo on Grammarly’s Facebook page yesterday I had a flutter of panic: what did I misspell?

(It’s the stuff of nightmares: a post on Grammarly about a misspelling by the word bird…)

I imagine that the artist himself wasn’t an English-speaker (he probably saw ‘Brid’ not as a word, but as a shape). But that doesn’t explain why the US wholesaler, the warehouse assistants who unpacked the boxes, and the shop assistants who placed the items on the shelves failed to pick up on it.

Read more…

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