Posts Tagged ‘english’

NFL coverage will resume

Monday, October 2nd, 2017 | Distractions

The title card says:

Coverage will resume momentarily

Which, of course, means that coverage will return but only for a moment. Which sounds about right with the number of adverts they have in the US.

I’ve found a new monger!

Friday, April 28th, 2017 | Life

As everyone knows, there are four primary types of monger. A fishmonger, a rumour monger, an ironmonger and a warmonger.

I turned out to be a popular phone-in on Alan Partridge’s radio show.

We’re asking, what is the worst monger? Iron, fish… rumour… or war?

But, last week, my world was turned on its head. There is a fifth kind of monger! A “costermonger”. Here is the description from Wikipedia:

Costermonger, coster, or costard is a street seller of fruit and vegetables, in London and other British towns. Costermongers were ubiquitous in mid-Victorian England, and some are still found in markets. As usual with street-sellers, they would use a loud sing-song cry or chant to attract attention. The costermonger’s cart might be stationary at a market stall, or mobile (horse-drawn or wheelbarrow).

What an age to be alive.


Monday, April 18th, 2016 | Photos


Nothing fills you with confidence look a good “ultrsound”.

Strictly English

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016 | Books

Strictly English is a book by Simon Heffer. It is a forerunner to Simply English, which I have already read.

While Simply is an A to Z of words and how they are often misused, Strictly is a work of following prose. It goes from subject to subject describing the English language in detail.

In the introduction to Simply, he describes it as complementing Strictly. This is for the most part true. However, there is a significant amount of crossover. I regularly found myself skipping through sections because I had already read the point in Simply. On balance, I think this might be the more valuable of the two.


Oxford English Dictionary online

Sunday, December 20th, 2015 | Success & Productivity


The OED is considered the closest thing to the definitive record of the English language that there is. They claim to be the definitive record. However, without a British equivalent of the Académie française (whose judgements are not even binding), it is difficult to argue a definitive document.

Nevertheless, it is the best thing we have. I had never taken a look at it before, but the depth of information is astonishing. For each word, sometimes over multiple entries, it contains the spellings, forms, frequency in current usage, etymology and a long list of definitions with extensive citations for each. The definitions are followed by a list of phrases, compounds, and derivatives. There is a thesaurus entry for each definition.

In short, it is difficult to image a more complete reference on the English language.

Why do I mention this? Because it turns out that it is totally free!

I have used for many years because it is easy and for a free product, it is very good. It too contains pronunciation, synonyms, and a limited amount of auxiliary information. It was perfectly adequate for what I wanted. The idea of paying the £215.00 a year subscription to get access to the OED was clearly laughable.

However, it turns out that we all have the ability to access it for free. The OED website allows you to log in using your public library membership number. They say almost every library subscribes, but given my Leeds Library card worked, it is hard to imagine any council cheaper than Leeds.

I registered my library card about eight years ago and it was still valid. It is well worth digging out of the wardrobe. Or, if you do not have one, pop down to your local library and register for one. Once you do, you can access the service online at home, or from anywhere else.

Simply English

Monday, November 30th, 2015 | Books

Simply English: An A-Z of Avoidable Errors is Simon Heffer’s second book on grammar.

It is a very interesting read. Approximately half the content I already knew, but it was a good refresher on that. Other issues it clarified or corrected me on. It literally is an A to Z of words and how they should be used correctly, and how they are often misused.

He frequently talks about the pedants. A group that he does not seem to include himself in. This seems strange given he has written two books on grammar. I agree that it was a sorry mistake for a leading national newspaper to misspell blackguard, but cataloging the date on which it was published strikes me as obsessive.

He does approve of the verb ‘to text’ though. I am glad, because as Heffer correctly points out, there can be little rational objection to it. However, he does like to reminder the reader on a regular basis that he is down with it.

Some of the content is rather elitist. Formally addressing a baron, for example. Am I ever going to use that? It feels like space that could have been put to better use. There was no entry on ‘troll’ for example, even though people frequently use the verb incorrectly.

I think the book will have a positive impact on my use of English. I have learnt some things already, and see it as a valuable reference for when I am writing in the future.


The importance of commas

Friday, March 14th, 2014 | Video

As many of you know, I always insist on the highest stanards of spelling and punctuation.

It is not without good reason though. For example, this can happen:

Please, for the love of god, do not post a comment pointing out that I spelt the word “standards” incorrectly. You will look like an idiot, even on my blog.


Thursday, July 11th, 2013 | Books

I first attempted to read Ulysses while we were in Dublin last year, as it seemed culturally appropriate, but having made it through the first part I soon found myself overwhelmed by the complexity and seamless tradition of abstract and concrete ideas expressed throughout the novel.

Not to be beaten though, I recently gave it another go. Now that I have made it all the way through, looking back on what I’ve done with my life so far, reaching the end could be the most impressive achievement.

I started off making the amateurish mistake of trying to follow the plot and work out what was going on. As Joyce darts randomly between things that are actually happing and the various thoughts that flow from each of the characters, discerning reality from imagination is a tricky business indeed.

A much better approach is to simply lay back and enjoy the language. What wondrous language it is though, a beautiful river of descriptive and colourful English in which a lexicon of over 30,000 words are employed in a novel only 265,000 words long. Joyce constantly switches between writing styles while presenting a vivid picture of life in Dublin in 1904.

It was also interesting to find out that the novel had been twice adapted into a film. Interesting, because I can’t think of a novel that would be less well suited to such an adaptation. The beautiful of Ulysses is in the language and in the picture painted in the mind of the reader – filling in the gaps surely could only damage the experience.



Friday, August 31st, 2012 | Books, Distractions

Being in Dublin and going round the generically tourist bits, you can’t help but notice there is a lot of stuff about James Joyce – he is one of the major literary figures in the country’s history after all.

So having some time to kill while we waited for our flight back, I decided to attempt to read Ulysses. I use the word attempt not to suggest I was trying to read it all in one sitting, but to suggest I was seeing if I could read it at all. After all, Elina had said she struggled, and her language skills are significantly beyond my own.

I’ve so far made it through the first part, of which there are three, but the first is much shorter. Even that has been hard going – I had to head over to Wikipedia at regular intervals to check my understanding matched up with theirs! I seem to be roughly following though, so all is well.