Monday, February 25, 2013

New words

I learned a new word. It's isogloss.

I like words. I've been a professional writer for most of my working life: journalist, public relations officer, communications manager. They are my talent, so it's quite rare when I learn a new one. I've already added it to my 26 words A-Z page .

One of the things about being a professional wordsmith is that I pride myself on being able to dissect words to work out what they might mean. I had no idea with this one.

The first part of the word, iso-, is derived from the Greek isos. It means 'equal'. It's sort of like the stem of isobar (a line on a map that shows connected points of equal pressure).  Or isomer (a compound with an identical chemical formula to another substance, but with differently-shaped molecules, like diamond and graphite).

The second part, -gloss, escaped me at first. It wasn't until I knew what the word meant that I made the connection. Like glossary, it's to do with language. In fact -gloss also derives from Greek, from the word glossa, meaning language.

So an isogloss is a line that defines the limit of a language, or more accurately in the study of linguistics, the limit of a dialect. It's the point at which "our 'ouse" (the way I pronounce the word) becomes "are 'arse" (the way they pronounce it in South Yorkshire).  Or similar boundaries in other parts of the country.

If you read my other blogs you'll know that this kind of thing fascinates me. I recently wrote a post about how different accents affect people's perception of the speaker. I discovered this word in a radio broadcast by the poet Ian McMillan called The 'Arse that Jack Built. It's still available online. Take a listen.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Thinking 10 again

There are Thinking 10 challenges every day but I don't get time to do them all. Today's was to write something with the word 'fork' in the second sentence.

The shiny, green slab bore no resemblance to any food I had encountered before, but I knew I would have to overcome my revulsion and eat it, for the sake of politeness. I picked up a fork and gave the offending square a hesitant push. Nothing moved. I would have had more response from a piece of concrete. Unhelpfully, my mind jumped to the idea of miniature gardens, and I could imagine tiny flowers and a small pond populating the rest of the dish.

Looking up I saw every set of eyes around the table focused me; the faces smiling, with a few helpful nods toward the plated paving stone in front of me. One of my hosts even let out a long ‘mmm’ as if to reassure me I had a treat in store.

I knew about foreign treats: sheep’s eyeballs, bulls’ testicles, dogs’ penises. But I could think of no animal that yielded small, green, geometric shapes. My mind suddenly leapt to the idea of cows, and the regurgitated grass they chew on all day. Please, don’t let it be cow cud. I couldn’t stomach something that had already been through a bovine digestive system. No-one else at the table had touched their share of the delicacy. Clearly I had priority, as the honoured guest.

Then one of the women took pity on me. She reached across, lifted a small jug from beside my plate, and poured its contents over the miniature lawn. Immediately, its corners began to crumble and a small piece fell away into the pooling sauce. I just had to brave it out and eat the fragment. Lifting the crumb to my mouth I hastily threw it as far back on my tongue as I could and swallowed.

Coconut! Sweet coconut, and some sort of honey syrup. To my surprise it tasted delicious. The rest of my companions let out an assortment of small cheers and giggles. One or two even clapped, then they all began to eat their own dessert, happy with my reaction.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Not just for Valentine's Day

Perhaps love is like a resting place
A shelter from the storm
It exists to give you comfort
It is there to keep you warm
And in those times of trouble
When you are most alone
The memory of love will bring you home

Perhaps love is like a window
Perhaps an open door
It invites you to come closer
It wants you to show you more
And even when you lose yourself
And don't know what to do
The memory of love will see you through

Oh, love to some is like cloud
To some as strong as steel
For some a way of living
For some a way to feel
And some say love is holding on
And some say letting go
And some love is everything
Others, they don't know

Perhaps love is like the ocean
Full of conflict full of pain
Like a fire when its cold outside
Or thunder when it rains
If I should live forever
And all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thursday extracts: cormorant

The common cormorant or shag
Lays eggs inside a paper bag.
The reason you will see, no doubt,
It is to keep the lightning out.
But what these unobservant birds
Have failed to notice is that herds
Of wandering bears may come with buns
And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Another Thinking Ten

In case you don't know about Thinking Ten it's an online workshop for writers. Every day there's a prompt and you have ten minutres to write something inspired by it. Monday's location day, and today it's The Theatre (Although it's an American site, so it says 'theater', but I refuse to miss out the U in colour, the E in axe or eat 'oregganno'.) Here's my offering for today.

It's his birthday soon and I really had no idea what to get him. Neither of us actually needs anything, and he's so soppy about presents that whatever I do he'll say he loves it. So I never know if he's truly happy with my gifts, or just being his wonderful, kind, considerate, polite self. When I saw the advert for the exhibition I desperately wanted to go, but it's hardly his sort of event. I offered him an opening by saying we could head London-wards for the weekend, see my museum piece and spend the rest of the time doing what he wants. I thought he'd say dinner and a bottle of good wine, but no. "Great," he enthused,"Let's see a West End show." How should I know he'd always wanted to see The Mousetrap? He never mentioned it before. I found myself nodding and smiling and agreeing and wondering just how I could afford all that. So now we're staying In Town at a plush but expensive hotel, seeing the exhibition, going to the theatre, as well as dinner and wine. He's even mentioned bagels and lox in Golders Green on Sunday. I wonder what I can sell to pay for everything.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Thursday extracts: today's Thinking Ten contribution

When the alarm went off this morning I really didn't want to leave my bed. I knew it would backfire, but I craved just another ten minutes in the warm, soft, duvet coccoon. Well of course I dozed off again and had to rush my normal routine. Made sure of the essentials: not quite a shit, shave and shower; more teeth, tablets and toast. And then out of the house. There was no time to sort out my day over a leisurely coffee like I usually do. I catapulted from the front door, still buttoning my jacket, because it was so bitingly cold outside. Forgotten scarf. And where were my gloves? Underdone bread gripped between my incisors after being ripped from the toaster before it was truly browned. No time to wait for it to pop. Looking back I suppose I could have saved a few minutes by skipping breakfast, but I really couldn't afford to be hungry today because of the presentation. I'm unlikely to make an impression if my belly's rumbling. Of course I'm even less likely to make one when I try to give the speech without notes. Papers I took home last night to rehearse, and left beside the coffee pot to remind me to bring them back today.