scribbles tagged ‘English evolution’


Monday, December 31st, 2012 | tags: ,  |

silly name,  or is it?I’m thrilled that the Oxford English Dictionary names the ‘word of the year’.  The thought of a group of word specialists discussing the merits of different new words they’ve heard this year has kept me entertained for months. Omnishambles is this year’s UK word. It is defined as:

a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations

Here are example situations where I might use this word in everyday converstion:

  • even an omnishambles could not have produced a lasagne of such disastrous proportions
  • climate change was blamed for the public transport omnishambles
  • we christen this baby ‘omnishambles’

The Oxford dictionary chooses a different new word for American English.  This year they chose GIF (Graphics Interchange Format).  A much more sensible word that’s a tad less fun. I can’t imagine actually using GIF’s creatively in my normal conversation (though I have some fun GIF’s on Sparkle).

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I’ve been inboxed!

Friday, April 6th, 2012 | tags: , ,  |

Bellevue Starbucks WirelessPhrases used to publically declare that people will follow-up on something in a more private conversation:

  • I’ll inbox you later”  (On Facebook)
  • let’s take this offline”  (In an email thread)
  • let’s take this offline”  (During a group meeting)
  • “Can you give me a hand carrying the drinks” (In a pub)
  • “Let’s freshen-up” (In a restaurant)


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Jackson’s knitwear department

Saturday, March 31st, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

Wendy in Jacksons Corner  ShopTwo mature ladies perusing the various wool brands:

I’m cold

It was colder last week, it’s not like we live in the Arctic, you’ll just have to man-up

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Thursday, December 29th, 2011 | tags: ,  |

As we approach Camborne train station the announcer says:

Coaches A and B will not be platformed, passengers in coaches A and B will have to move along the train to alight at Camborne

The platform at Camborne is shorter than the length of the train, so the last 2 train coaches are not ‘platformed’

Train ride to St Ives

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New Yorkan

Friday, September 23rd, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

With bubbly enthusiasm Tracey describes the people she met in Geneva when representing the UK at a Proctor and Gamble hosted international conference:

His parents were from Naples in Italy, they moved to New York before he was born, so even though he looks Italian he’s a real New Yorkan

He was a bit of a scientist boffin from Germany, his name was “Yo!-harn” or something like that, I had trouble with it so I called him Yogi Bear, how we laughed!

Tracey’s exhuberance was captivating, she quickly built a picture of people from all over the world enjoying each other’s company, sharing a passion…

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in a fortnight

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

less than 2 weeks after arriving in the USA I’m in a project meeting with 10 Americans mostly wearing the pants (UK = shorts) of the khaki cargo variety

programme manager: wendy, can we get a time on that deliverable?

wendy: a fortnight


more silence, I have no idea what’s happening

team leader: did you say 4 days?

wendy: errrr, no! a bit longer, more like 2 weeks or 10 days if my weekend goes for a burton

programme manager: lets touch base after the meeting

This prompted much giggling from the team. I knew they wouldn’t understand ‘go for a burton’, I hadn’t anticipated that they also wouldn’t understand ‘bit’. Most British English speakers understand American English, many American English speakers do not understand  quirks of British English.

Hometown cafe tabletopI picked up and started using American English phrases while mostly maintaining my British accent. The Hispanic American staff in the canteen couldn’t understand my accent unless I used an American pronunciation.  I started imitating American English to get tomatoes with my burger. Thinking about how to pronounce my vowels made my fake American accent delivery rather slow. Amused people in the canteen line (UK = Queue) commented that I sounded like a Texan, because of my  drawl.

Since returning to England I have maintained many Americanisms, they are understood.

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no hangers for cloaks

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

Toilets!In these cloak rooms

My secondary school used to have a cloak room, rows of hooks for coats, jackets and gym bags. No cloaks. But if we wore cloaks we would have been able to hang them there. Unlike the cloak room signed here. In these cloakrooms  there is a sink, toilet, towell and one of those plastic-bag lined bins.

A TOILET! I’m gradualy getting acclimated to the UK where toilet is not a naughty word. Love it!

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said chattels herein

Monday, August 23rd, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

said chattels hereinA paper printed sign in the groundfloor window of a small redbrick terraced house who’s door opens directly onto the street. The house has probably beeen reposessed, the people who lived there evicted. The notice probably fulfills a legal requirement. 

The notice says that there are things in the house that will be chucked out if their owners don’t pick them up within 7 days of the date on the notice.   It says this in a language that is no longer spoken by lay people in England – using words like chattels and herein. If I suspect that the people evicted from this house have a literacy level below average then the wording is difficult, if not impossible, to understand. Almost as if the ‘Agent’ doesn’t care whether the person who’s belonging are in the house understands that they need to promptly pick-up their stuff.


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Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 | tags: ,  |

In the US it is an exclamation of disappointment.

In the UK it is a noun describing someone’s sexual proclivities. 

It still makes me laugh when a US friend writes bummer on my facebook status giving my English friends something to snigger and smirk about.

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Sunday, August 15th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Thomas’s turning was accompanied by a squeak. Not a mousy squeak but an evil squeal. It’s possible he may be unsafe to drive. We trundled off to the garage where I left him with the mechanics for diagnostic tests.

Both Gordon Ramsay and my niece are well known for the liberal use of anglo saxon swear words and tantrums. In an attempt to be safe and not gay I’ve made several excursions into emultating their trendy linguistic, emotive, style.  For example

wendy: when can I have my mini back?

mechanic: are you missing your mini? (wry smile)

wendy: Fuċk, am I?! (stamps foot)

The mechanic understood, but 

I went on to fuċking fail

to maintain a modern fuċking focus

on using one fuċking word

Fuċking fuċk. Fuċked (fuċk)

Meanwhile,  Thomas pootled out onto the garage forecourt with the stone that caused all the squeaking surgically removed from his disc brakes. Phew!

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para graphical sentences

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 | tags: , ,  |

when writing blog posts I sometimes find it difficult to percieve where the sentence ends and the paragraph starts

the difference between a sentence and a paragraph

its a para normal experience

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apostrophe annihilation

Saturday, September 5th, 2009 | tags: , , , ,  |

Local councils are phasing out the use of apostrophes because they are complicated, confusing (to GPS units), messy and generate too many complaints.

  1. In   January 2009 the Daily Telegraph reports that Birmingham city council has updated their street name signs to remove apostrophes.   From now on, no sign produced by Birmingham City Council will contain the punctuation mark.   Debates over whether Kings Norton really should be King’s – or even Kings’ – Norton may rage on, but they will be useless.   And nearby Druids Heath – which was never actually home to one, let alone many, druids – will never take on the possessive, no matter how furious local apostrophe advocates become
  2. In February 2009 the Yorkshire evening post reported that Wakefield council dropped apostrophies from its roadsigns.
  3. In March 2009 the BBC reported that Bristol City is removing apostrophes from public road signs.   “Bristol City Council says the ban makes the road signs look “neater” and argues that if capitals are used then apostrophes should not be…       …Roger Mortimer, from the Cotham and Redland Amenities Society, says residents are keen to keep the threatened apostrophes.   “I think it is an example of just ignoring the English language. Punctuation is extremely important and the apostrophe is very valuable – it gives you a sense of place.”

The founder of the apostrophy protection society is quite upset.   He mentiones that ‘this could be the first step towards linguistic anarchy’  .   I wonder whether he knows about text messaging?  

The colonies find this a bit amusing.   3 News (New Zealand) wittily reports that:    “the Queen’s English is now the Queens English.   England’s second-largest city has decided to drop apostrophes from all its street signs, saying they are confusing and old-fashioned.   But some purists are downright possessive about the punctuation mark.”

Imagine  a Monty Python sketch with the team in suits and ties passionately discussing the value of the apostrophy in avoiding linguistic anarchy. Lots of arm and leg waving, diagrams and charts.    Terry Jones demonstrating what total linguistic anarchy sounds like…. …and its impact on your sense of place…     which probably involves falling over.

Meanwhile the Times reports that councils are publishing crib sheets to help their staff work-out where to put apostrophes for the rare occassions when they are allowed.  

This post  is dedicated to my many tolerant readers who refrain from correcting my spelling, typing  and gramatical aberations despite the irritation and distress this causes  them.
apostrophe annihilation
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get orf moi land

Sunday, June 14th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

get orf moi land,

or  in regionally more accurate terms    ‘OI!   git orrrf my lahnd with the optional extra ‘OAR isle shoooooot yew” is often creatively  used by Bristolians to deal with all sorts of naughty intrusiveness.

Twigletssomeone hogging the twiglets?     ‘OI! git orrrf my lahnd…’

Seattle symphony stealing your artwork? ‘OI git orrrf my lahnd OAR else….

Seattle symphony orchestra is (allegedly) stamping on your emotions:   ‘OI git orrrf my lahnd OAR isle shoooooot yew

A birdy around the Wendy House garden has a reasonable variation on this call,   here she goes,   sat in the neighbours Rowan tree:

(18 seconds of chirpy   & wobbly camerawork warning)

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not OK

Sunday, April 19th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Microsoft Visual C + + Runtime Library (MVCRL) kindly burst this  little message onto Neverland which left me

SCARED:    an  exclamation mark,   a red circle with white cross and   the word ‘error’.   This looks serious.   Something is broken.


  • application?   do I need to rub lanolin on my computer?
  • runtime?   do I need to run somewhere and time it?   what does this mean?   Why am I being told it?
  • Did it get stuck in the stack overflow?
  • Why tell me?

INSTRUCTED:   to contact IE7 and, or, MVCRL support teams for more information looks like I should  know more.

UNINFORMED: how do I contact them,   how do I find out how to contact them?

IE 7 runtime errorIf the Microsoft IE7 team’s program (application?)  is going to make unusual requests to the Microsoft VCRL team’s program (application?) it should do it directly without hassling me to learn technical jargon and find out how to contact them then PAY for the pleasure of talking to them because they can’t be bothered to talk to each other before shipping software that produces errors and causes me emotional distress.


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Gardening leave

Thursday, March 19th, 2009 | tags: , , , ,  |

Brushfields Yellow Chamelia

  sun drenched crociDuring a week littered with  uncharacteristically fabulous sunshine I’ve been wrecklessly wandering out without a coat or a vest.  

Wandering nowhere in particular.   Directionless in the garden.    

Planting bulbs and border-blooming plants  for the summer, digging-up weeds, drinking gallons of well brewed  tea and generally admiring the arrival of spring blooms from bulbs and bushes  planted last Autumn.  

It’s leave from normal work.   It’s in my garden.

Its not technically gardening leave.

How silly is that?

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pen shifting to key

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 | tags: , ,  |

Yesterday a BBC article posited the influences contributing to the ‘slow death’ of  handwriting.  

A  gradual metamorphosis, not necessarily death.  Scrawl and scribble can convey a message without well formed, legible words,  as many a toddlers parent and their fridge postings will attest.   That a message is penned is a message of significance in itself.     The significance may change with time, but it will remain significant.   Keys on boards can convey  a clear and consistent letter form reducing the variety of messages conveyed by the personal and environmental quirks of pen-personship.   My own  left-handed scrawl gets worse in cold weather and when I get a tad over-excited,   these things are not conveyed by the clear system of key-strokes.   Pen or keys will always imply different messages and the messages with change with time.   Just as the messages of  ‘hand made’ and ‘factory made’ have changed from the initial high value associated with the consistent quality of factory made to the subsequent high value associated with the craft-skill required for  hand made.

The art of pen wielding will be maintained by people who take the care to love and use and explore it well, and I may shift from these keys to further pen a wobbly  thing or two for your merry bemusement and befuddlement.   Consider yourselves warned.

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what does a full apology mean?

Thursday, February 12th, 2009 | tags: , ,  |


According to  the Gaurdian:


Former HBOS chief executive Andy Hornby, who is receiving £60,000 a month as a consultant to the Lloyds Banking Group, issued a “full apology”.

Merium Webster suggests there are three distinct meanings of apologies  without citing whether they are empty,   half-empty, half-full or full:


  1. a formal justification
    1. defense
    2. excuse
  2. an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret
  3. a poor substitute : makeshift  


I wonder how the RBS, Lloyds group and HBOS  banking executives meant their apologies  to the tax paying people while they arranged


  • executive bonuses on top of annual salaries ( £4 million)  that are so far beyond my comprehension  even stilton can’t produce them.
  • employee  job cuts.  



The  same tax paying  people are

  • suffering job losses due to the  irresponsibility of banking processes.
  • paying outlandish banking executive salaries and bonuses.    



Maybe a full apology is a composite of all 3 meanings,   including defense, excuse, admission of error and a poor substitute for genuine humility.

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Saturday, January 3rd, 2009 | tags: ,  |


A gongfarmer removes night soil.   Every home should have one,   especially homes that are challenged by moles.   I will be looking for opportunities to use this spendid word in normal conversation.   Please feel free to construct your own sentences using gongfarmer to full effect.

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Saturday, November 1st, 2008 | tags: , , , ,  |

The Wendy House Sambucus nigra,  or Elderberry (flickr photoshare)After consulting with the experts (mum, friend, their books, the internet) I thought that the nobly, noble, small tree in my garden was a ‘Sambucus nigra’ more commonly known as an Elderberry and before that as aeld.  

Like many trees the Mythical history of the Elderberry  proposes, or describes its traditional uses.  The name may come from the Anglo-Saxon term ellaern or aeld which means “fire” or “to kindle a fire“.   It was associated with female-centric goddess systems then over time gradually perverted to represent ‘mischievious faeries’  by both the celts of  Ireland and England.   Traditionally the Elder is placed by the back door of a home, where mine grows, to keep evil spirits from influencing or entering the home and used to pin the thatch to a roof.   The runic association is with Feh,  the first rune, indicating where one sequence ends and another begins,   the cusp of transition,   renewal.

 British Christians gave the Elder a more sinister press,   claiming that Judas committed suicide by hanging himself from this tree.   He must have been short or the tree leaning over a decent drop.   Along with many other trees it is claimed Jesus was crucified on an cross made of Elder.

Then a garden specialist happened to wander by saying  that’s a Viburnum tinus

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northern man invasion 1066

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

Today is the anniversary of a day when the darned Normans (French of viking origins) defeated the Anglo Saxon’s (English of German and Danish origins).   The English were led  by the recently elected (Witenagemot, Witan) Danish Saxon king of England, Harold Godwinson, the nick-namesake of one of our current princes,  just outside a holiday resort called Hastings on the English south coast.

The  invading Norman team  were lead by William the bastard who had allegedly been promised the English throne by  King Edward the confessor  (Saxon).   King Harry’s team had  just hiked from York (241 miles, 386 kilometres) in a remarkable 4 – 7  days after fending-off an invasion  by  the Norwegian King  Harald the hard  who may have been promised  the English throne by a Danish  King Canute the hardy.

The basic plot is that William the bastards’ team  kills most of  Harry Godwinson’s team.

William the bastard, Duke of Normandy, became William I of England,   namesake of the current heir to the English throne, 2nd in line.   Most histories subsequently refer to William the bastard fellow as ‘William the Conqueror’ or ‘Guillaume le Conquérant’  .    Apparantly Londoners don’t acknowledge or use the ‘conqueror’ part of his rather convincing political spin, they  politely refer to him as William Duke of Normandy.

William’s arrival appears to have marked the end of  the system of elected monarchy in England, though the Witan remained in name their role changed to that of the Norman feudally based system where membership was based on gifts of land originating from the King,   effectively  a King’s court,   this system  later evolved into the current Parliment.

On a linguistic note,   according to Jonathan Stern:

Anglo-Saxon and Norman French wouldn’t agree what gender some noun or other was… so they’d just forget about it and call it “it”.This has created a very flexible language (once referred to as “a lot of foreign words mispronounced”) which often has two subtly different words for things (e.g. compare our “come” and “arrive” with the German “kommen” and the French “arriver” – remember Anglo-Saxon would have been very like German; Norman French was closely related to Parisian French).

Reading Town HallThe small and yet pleasingly formed Reading Museum within the versataile town hall  has its very own hand embroidered  1885 copy of the 70 metre long Bayeux Tapestry.

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cop some flack

Saturday, October 4th, 2008 | tags: ,  |

I thought I knew what this idiom meant until I tried to verify it online.   This is what I believed:

  • cop. To view,  gather or recieve.
  • flack.    Tiny metalised paper strips dropped from World War II aircraft as a means of interferring with enemy radar that is attempting to identify their position to relay to the anti-aircraft guns.  

In Wendy’s world,   to cop some flack is to be on the recieving end of lots of small irritations that together add up to major disruption.   This interpretation is consistent with  usage of the phrase in forums, blogs and news item titles.

Merriam-Websters 4th and last definition of flack is ‘anti aircraft guns’ or  ‘the bursting shells fired from flak’.   It cites the origin of the main meaning of flack ‘one who provides publicity’  as ‘unknown,   1939’  .   During WW2.      WW2 airplanes also used to drop publicity (propaganda) leaflets,   Dropping  flack and dropping small leaflets have remarkable behavioural,  if not intended funtional, similarity.’s 6th entry for flack cites the meaning of flack that looks most similar to my current understanding of its use

  • Antiaircraft artillery.
  • The bursting shells fired from such artillery.
  • Excessive or abusive criticism.
  • Dissension; opposition.
  • Informal:   Excessive or abusive criticism.
  • Informal:   Dissension; opposition.
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Wednesday, October 1st, 2008 | tags: ,  |

Millenium bridge & st Pauls CathedralThe biological term ‘cell’ was coined by Robert Hook,  most famous for the eponymous Hooks law  and working as Sir Christopher Wren’s colleage on  St. Pauls Cathedral and a substantial proportion of London after the great fire.   Evidently  Robert Hook meant to leverage the connotations of a monks cell, one of many defined spaces with an identical yet  sparse functional content.

disguised cell phone towercell phones are named after the cellular network  that supplies the signal,   possibly the term cell has the same root in a monks cell.   Two very diverse current-use meanings (phone, biological component)  stemming from one original use.   Possibly…

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pursuance of entertainment

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 | tags: ,  |

In the UK buildings can be licenced to pursue music, dancing, and entertainment of the  like kind, they also enjoy throwing several large dollops of befuddlement into the mix, just in case
Entertainment of the Like Kind

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Sunday, September 21st, 2008 | tags: , ,  |

Westminster HallAccording to a Westminster tour guide and the world wide words  website:

Our parliament comes from the old French parlement, which at first meant only a “talk, consultation, conference” (it derives from the same French word parler, “to speak” as parlance, parley and parlour, the last of which, etymologically, is a “room set aside for conversation”). Later parlement evolved to the sense “formal consultative body” and so to “legislative body”.

Now that was  interesting,   wasn’t it?  

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Dr. Slang

Sunday, June 1st, 2008 | tags: ,  |

The BBC reports that ‘Dr.’s slang is a dying art’.     Evidently,   Dr.’s slang was a creative way of insulting their patients and each other.   I do like a good insult,   its the basis for bringing entertainment into otherwise dull parliamentary debate.   Aparantly Dr.s used ‘acronyms designed to spell out the unsayable truth about their patients’.   Why unsayable?   Doctors should have a skill for being concise, frank, honest.    The exmaples provided in the article may be ‘creative’ but they are also based on stereotypes many of which may be prejudicial and lead to inappropriate treatment decisions.   Cited exceptions to prejudicial stereotyping  included TTR (Tea Time Review), PFO (Patient Fell Over) PGT (Patient Got Thumped).   These all seem fair game for saying out loud or acronyms.   But instead of saying or writing NFN (Normal for Norfolk),   why not list the actual behaviours that lead to the application of that prejudice,   for example,   ‘Observed Talking To Treestump’ (OT3).

If the slang perpetuates prejudices then it (not patients)  should die.

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Monday, April 21st, 2008 | tags:  |

Ask describes the origins of the English term ‘POSH’ in a way that aligns with the folk myth I somehow acquired:

The story goes that the more well-to-do passengers travelling to and from India used to have POSH written against their bookings, standing for ‘Port Out, Starboard Home’ (indicating the more desirable cabins, on the shady side of the ship).

A website that explains English phrases considers the above explanation as being popular over accurate and lists other,   less well known,  plausible alternatives such as:

Posh is also the Romany word for money and this was current throughout the 19th century.

The Romany  word for halfpenny is  a popularly web-cited explanation,  the true origin may now be lost with old buffers

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Sunday, April 13th, 2008 | tags: ,  |

a buffer is a description applicable to an  old man according to my folk memory and:

But not according to the majority of current online English-language dictionaries and encyclopedia, including:    

  • Wiktionary doesn’t (yet) list buffer as an old man, neither does wikipedia.
  • Encarta defintitions 1,  and 2  (Microsoft).

 I suspect that age is killing-off old buffers…

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Quiet Zone

Saturday, February 9th, 2008 | tags: ,  |

In the quiet zone a
baby cries
phone sings
headset treble-beat twangs
A couple of work colleagues converse flirtatiously
Wendy wonders at the shift in the meaning of quiet….

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small press

Monday, February 4th, 2008 | tags: , , , ,  |

Not an affectionate hand gesture,   a book press.

Small press’ such as Reading’s own ‘Two Rivers Press’  can  target selling their publications to interest groups,   niche markets.    Two Rivers probably refers to   the river Kennet and Thames that meet in downtown Reading.  

It publishes works that  have general intereast and  local significance,  for example,  Adam Sowan’s history of street names ‘Abbatoirs Road  to Zinzan Street’,   the works of the Reading local, international, performance poet (AFH),   and historical treasures such as history and analysis of  what is thought to be the  oldest written song in English (circa 13th century).   The  manuscript of the song, a ‘rota’,  was found in Reading Abbey and now lives in the British Museum.  

A wonderful pocket-sized book with many thematic  block-prints and ebulant multilayered interpretations of the meanings of the rota.   A rota is a song intended to be sung in a round of several people….     Wikipedia describes the Reading Rota in a rather dull descriptive manner,   the author of the Two Rivers book explores possibilities with a cheeky enthusiasm and passion that makes the book a pleasure to read,   its style is  pixie-years  beyond Wikipedia.

Sumer is icumin in….     there has been much singing in a broad Bristolian burr in the Wendy House recently,   though I haven’t managed to do the minimum 2 or three voices required for a rota.   I am,   at least,   not scaring the cats who defintiely prefer me not to sing in their presence.

 How apt that a small press based in Reading should publish a book about a hand written document found in Reading long ago.

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not for drawing

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008 | tags:  |

Writing Instruments

including pens and pencils

excluding typewriters,   keyboards or other electronic writing instruments.    

Instruments just for writing.    No drawing incase the writing instruments revolt, explode or splat all over your bestest jumper.   I think they’re planning to ambush my clothes.

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