Featured post

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

More Sex , please : we're English speakers

The English language is infinitely variable and adaptable. That’s what makes it so useful for speakers and writers in the twenty-first century when language has to work hard to keep up with an ever changing world. However, there have to be some agreed principles and definitions otherwise there would be an almost instant meltdown of understanding. Communication would no longer be possible as the language became balkanised, just as in the aftermath of the Tower of Babel incident. That’s why old gits like me try to keep some of the old rules alive. Not out of some outmoded colonial or imperial yearning but in the spirit of true universal communication. Let me illustrate: The word “gender” has a particular meaning to us oldies. It is a grammatical term to do with the grouping of nouns and for many languages it prescribes the endings that follow on adjectives. Languages may have two or more genders (French has two, German has three). These genders have little to do with sex. Thus Table in French is feminine, Madchen in German (a little girl) is neuter. Recently, however, the word “gender” has been appropriated for use in place of “sex”. Sex is a good old word and it certainly hasn’t gone out of fashion. Sex is what distinguishes men from women not gender. And yet gender is everywhere. Gender studies, gender awareness, the gender gap. I remember gender studies - hot afternoons in ancient stuffy classrooms wrestling with Latin nouns and adjectives. Lack of gender awareness meant a clip round the ear in Latin translation. It seems to be another example of using a longer, pseudo scientific word when a plain simple one will do perfectly well. So please, for my sake, use the word sex when you mean sex and release me from memories of the gender gap in the Lower Fifth.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Jasper Fforde

I’ve been enjoying reading Jasper Fforde’s novels - The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, and The Well of the Lost Plots. He starts out somewhere East of Michael Moorcock and west of Terry Pratchett but heads south through Lewis Caroll’s tulgey wood with distant views of sixties cult writers like Richard Brautigan. He emerges on the Marlborough Downs somewhere above Swindon from whence the reader can see the plot unfolding through a fog of allusion and obscure references . Probably best appreciated by those who like words and writing but terrific fun. I expect Jasper Fforde is a cult already but I’m always last to catch up with these things. Let me know what you think.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Revenge of the Squish

My family were surprised and horrified when I elected not to go to the first night showing of Star Wars episode XXVllCl. The tickets had been booked months ago and were for the very best Pullman seats with waiter service. (They had no problem finding someone more interesting to accompany them) The fact is: I’m bored with Star Wars. I loved it when it first came out because the whole concept was completely daft. And we love silly stuff. The idea of remaking a Saturday Morning serial for the 1970s when the rest of the world seemed so grim was inspired. We fought enormous duels with our lightsabres during coffee breaks. We were kids again. (Actually those of my generation never grew up in the first place but that’s another story.) The first Star Wars was an adventure yarn, a space western but as the series progressed (or regressed, rather) the idea grew thinner and the scripts clunkier. By episode l there was a distinct sense that George Lucas was beginning to take himself seriously. (There also seems to be a rule that the fatter the CGl budget the thinner the film. cf Troy, Titanic).
Anyway, the Family were happy enough when they got back. I waited up and made them hot drinks after their gruelling night out and they were full of it. So I’m not going to share my thoughts with them at this time. I pass them on to you for your comments. Are my advancing years telling? Have I finally become a curmudgeonly old git? Should I have attended the screening just to be able to discuss the matter fully and in depth from a position of knowledge and authority?

Monday, May 16, 2005

GQT Again

That damn programme keeps nagging away at me like a broken tooth. Can anybody explain this entry I found on Google at the University of Bolton (?) philosophy Research Seminar (??) list for 2001:
December 1st : Dr Nicholas McAdoo: (Open University) “'Gardeners' Question Time' Comes to K√∂nigsberg: Kant on Dependent Beauty”

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Guardian Short Stories

An old and dear friend of mine has pointed out the work of Dave Egger and the Guardian short story writing competition. Read and enjoy.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Italian Rhyme Schemes

I must be stupid or something. I've been writing libretti and poetry for years and I've never been able to fathom how the great opera librettists of the eighteenth century working with composers like Handel and Mozart could churn out yards of the stuff at the drop of a tricorn hat. It didn't occur to me that there was something specific about the Italian language that made this possible. I found this on several sites (original on Wikipaedia, I think):
"In English, highly repetitive rhyme schemes are unusual. English has more vowel sounds than Italian, for example, meaning that such a scheme would be far more restrictive for an English writer than an Italian one - there are fewer suitable words to match a given pattern. Even such schemes as the terza rima verse form with a rhyme scheme: ("aba bcb cdc ded..."), used by Dante Alighieri to write The Divine Comedy, have been considered too difficult for English."
There you go, the Italian librettists had it easy.