Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Archive for the tag “language”

Ken’s pants

pants

Had to share a fabulous example of twisted kid’s language given to me by my lovely friend Amanda…

Her sister’s family used to holiday down in Cornwall, and the long car journey was punctuated by her niece Molly proclaiming, “We’re going to Ken’s pants! We’re going to Ken’s pants!”

I’m never going to think of Penzance the same way again…

Thanks, Molly.

P1010721

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.

 

oh no, brown cow

It might have been my love of reading that persuaded my mum to sign me up for elocution lessons when I was ten. Then again it could have been the fact that, while my elder sisters were excelling at the piano, I was more interested in kicking Heidi, our teacher Miss Hartman’s poodle, for licking my legs during the few lessons I had. Or simply that, in an effort to fit in at our frankly bloody awful school, I was starting to flirt with the Gloucestershire vernacular, saying ‘gurt’ for ‘great’ and ‘Ow bist?’ for ‘How are you?’… Read more…

ghosting

photoNot everyone uses words in the same way, and Jennie Erdal shows the funny and frustrating effects of someone with a different take on what the ‘right word’ is, in ‘Ghosting’ (Canongate, 2004), her extraordinary book about life as a ghost writer.

“Once I used the word humility, as in ‘I felt a deep sense of humility‘ – to explain how Tiger had felt in the presence of a woman he very much admired and who had borne a heavy cross. I was confident he would love humility. But he didn’t.

‘Isn’t it the same like humiliation?’ he asked. Read more…

Wordy Wednesday: dichotomy

Platos Dichotomy (sic)

I decided to dedicate this Wordy Wednesday to ‘dichotomy’ after stumbling across Platos Dichotomy (sic), a blog which purports to be devoted to language and its origins, which, with its glaring lack of an apostrophe in the title, made my inner Grammar Nazi snap to attention. While we’re all capable of making language mistakes (I usually discover mine just after hitting Publish), the omission of the apostrophe in a standing title can only be the result of a woeful lack of basic grammar or an approach to editing that’s so slack it’s inexcusable in a language-related blog.

So, back to dichotomy… According to the Oxford Dictionary, a dichotomy is:

Read more…

the mangled English of ebay listings

ebay ad

After a year in the smelly rental, we’ve finally moved into our lovely new house.

As we still need quite a few bits and pieces, I’ve been falling into bed (well, onto a mattress on the floor), and browsing ebay well into the small hours.

I think I must be over-tired, because the type of grammatical or sense error that would normally irritate me is starting to seem rather poetic. In fact I dreamt last night of a white day bed suffering little pain while haring around a field with a brindled greyhound in hot pursuit, jaws snapping. (See ad above, which I read before falling asleep.) I’d like to say I dreamt of wraith-like ‘smoke pets’ in their free home too, but I’d be lying…

We still need quite a lot of stuff, so if I see any more badly-written but lyrical ebay ads, I’ll let you know.

‘No toking’: kids write the funniest things

T is for tights

T is for tights

Spotted these funny notes in the Huffington Post this morning, and thought I’d share them with you… The one about the tits / tights reminded me of something: about 20 years ago my elder sister decided that instead of shaving or waxing her legs she’d try bleaching them. On holiday that summer my then-boyfriend, with no hint of irony, complimented her on her expensive angora tights. That in turn reminded me of a compliment paid to our Sunday school teacher by a friend of mine: ‘Oh Mrs Grant, how your moustache glistens in the sun!’

No talking

No talking

My dad is the best cook ever...My dad is the best cook ever…

dig a little deeper

61K0InWjL4L._SX385_My nephew Sebastian had a panoply of changed words and meanings:

“Effisgator!” he used to shout as my sister drove down the M4: it took a while to work out that this digger-loving three year old was spotting yellow JCB excavators (this was pre-Bob the Builder so perhaps inspired by Dig Dig Digging?).

“Stacky backy mash boe!” This was Seb’s frustrated two year old’s version of ‘just back off [or similar four letter words ending in **ck] and leave me alone’. (I might adopt that one myself: it would certainly save on the swear box donations.)

“Hinxie needs some milk”. This was Seb (aged 2 1/2) trying to say ‘Think he needs some milk’, when he was worried that his crying baby brother Alex might need breastfeeding. From then on, Alex was known as ‘Hinxy’, later ‘Hinx’.

Be good to hear your own versions of baby-talk, family expressions and phrases and names that just don’t feel right if you change the order around…

mondegreen

Sometimes children’s mixed up words are the result of their not being able to get their mouths around a difficult word or phrase – my nephew Seb saying ‘Effisgator!‘ for ‘excavator’, for instance.

At other times, as when Molly said ‘Ken’s Pants‘ for ‘Penzance’, they’re the result of kids making their own story out to make sense of something they couldn’t understand, or that they’ve misheard.

photoMolly’s phrase is an example of mondegreen. And if you’ve never heard the phrase (I hadn’t, until a Wiki search earlier today), and you’re wondering what on earth I’m on about, mondegreen is the mishearing of a phrase because of a near-homophony. In other words, something sounds like something else, so you mis-say it.

A classic example of this is the transformation of ‘Gladly my cross I’d bear’, from the eponymous hymn, to ‘Gladly, my cross-eyed bear’: even if this is, as rumoured, an urban myth, it still makes me go ‘Ah’.

The etymology of Mondegreen can be followed here, on Wikipedia. Briefly, an American writer named Sylvia Wright coined the term for an essay she wrote for Harper’s Magazine in 1954.

Her mother had read aloud to her from Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,

Oh, where hae ye been?

They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray,

And Lady Mondegreen.

The actual fourth line was ‘And laid him on the green’…

orderly conduct

images-2

Have you ever noticed how, when you talk about couples you know, you say their names in a particular order? In our family, for instance, we always say Jilly and Colin, never Colin and Jilly, and Sue and Donald, not Donald and Sue… Somehow it would feel wrong if you changed the names around. Why is that? The lyrical quality of the word order, perhaps? Your subconscious mind taking over and letting you know who matters most? Read more…

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