scribbles tagged ‘language’

green doors

Saturday, June 18th, 2011 | tags: , , , , ,  |

The toilets in the Fine Art department of Reading University are proudly green and probably original features of the one-storey utilitarian style brick building (circa 1930). The subtle differences in styling such as the 3 vertical panels on the womens’ door imply it may be newer (circa 1950) than the more utilitarian design of the mens’.

womenThe addition of a paper sign to the womens’ door is a modern addition, an attempt to change behaviour using strong language “Important, Under no circumstances should…” clear identification  of the people who should attend to this notice “...fine arts students…” and their unacceptable behaviour “…clean their brushes in these toilets

EWE!  I always use the sink to clean my brushes – easier and less whiffy.

green door

green doors
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can’t say how

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

“It’s a little-known fact that the world’s best chicken sexers come almost exclusively
from Japan”

For some reason psychologists and philosophers investigate chicken sexing. Psychologists lured me into reading obscure articles on chicken sexing because, amongst other things, it is a skilled human activity that cannot be articulated. Just one mention in my undergraduate course, carefully juxtapositioned with a reference to how wine tasting is a similarly non-articulatable skill.

Chicken sexing? Chicken sexing! Maybe the idea stayed with me so long and in preference to wine tasting because of the word sex. Maybe its that the act of labelling a chicken with a predicted sex is called ‘sexing’. From one comment in a 1985 class on cognitive psychology, I developed an interest in reading about chicken sexing. So it was, so it is.

“If I went for more than four days without chick sexing work I started to have ‘withdrawal symptoms”


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check your pocket contents

Saturday, May 7th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Our correspondent from Barcelona recently provided this little tid-bit:

Most modern English place names have their origins in Old English, the Anglo-Saxon language; most of the other contributions are either oddities or window dressing. Recurring elements that help us to do our own detective work include the endings “-ham” and “-ton“, ancestors of “home” and “town“; Hampton is a combination of the two and Hampstead means, more or less, “homestead“. The “-ing” generally means a place was founded by the followers of a certain chieftain: Reading is called after an otherwise forgotten man, Reada, whose name suggests that he had red hair, and Hastings after Haesta, who was probably quick-tempered.

thatched pub and post van

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downmarket residential area

Thursday, April 21st, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

Dallas Laundry at DawnBBC Radio 2 described the shooting of two British students in Sarasota Florida as happening Several miles from a recognised tourist area in a Downmaket residential area where it is very unusual to find tourists

Apart from an exta 8 syllables what are the main differences between Downmarket residential area and Ghetto? Why do you think the BBC chose the longer phrase?

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Diesel Particle Filter Malfunction (part 1)

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

I love it when my car talks sexy to me like this. Really Thomas is saying, phone those nice boys at the Mini Service centre, you know you want to. And he’s right, I do want to and I do call them. On the phone I slowly, precisely say to the service centre chappy

I’ve got a Diesel Particle Filter Malfunction, Yeah, really, I have

He giggles

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little my

Monday, March 28th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

If you were at a Swedish speaking school you would swear in Finnish or German. Often the language at school was different from the language at home. At home you could have a conversation where one sentence would switch between languages, Finnish, Swedish German (Dad)

Dad had a multilingual upbringing in Finland, Sweden and  Hull (England). I had a monolingual upbringing, English was the only language spoken at home.

Dad did make sure we had many connections with his family history through music (Sibelius), decorations such as Dalacarlian horses, personal and published stories. Dad arranged the weekly trip to the Library to swap our story books. A big family event, such fun. Noggin the Nog and Tove Jannsen‘s Moomin’s (Muumi in original Finnish) were fond favourites of my early life. Like Dad, Tove was a Swedish speaking Finn. Little my is an occassional character in the Moomins, based on Tove.

The soundtrack for the TV series sounds almost Cajun….

Watch and listen to a Moomin episode in original musical Finnish

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ways of describing the vernal equinox

Sunday, March 20th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Ostara, in the form of a hare is cohorting around the garden today, delighting the local adult children (Sampo and I) celebrating the shift from more than 12 hours of night to more than 12 hours of daylight.

With a clear view of the sky, in the Wendy House orangerie, the circular dining table has taken the role of an altar dressed in green cloth, laid with candles, flowers, seeds, pen and paper. Drinking large mugs of hot spiced apple juice from the caldron on the woodburner. Yummy. In a small celebration we’ve danced a clockwise circle round the table, written our hopes and desires on the paper, burnt the paper. Tomorrow I’ll put the ashes in the garden, plant the seeds where the growing daylight will nourish and draw them towards the sky

That’s the vernal equinox described in story form. The focus is on the people words that draw images and emotions, describing what people do and how they do it. This writing style is traditionally the domain  and humanities.

I find the scientific style of writing which often deliberately excludes explicit reference to people and beliefs fascinating in itself. Some ‘social sciences’ have included people by treating them as the objects to be studied, for example psychology that conducts research with human participants (not called people) and produces research papers written in the scientific tradition of the passive 3rd person. Wikipedia articles are examples of writing in the 3rd person passive, which I understand as core to the current scientific style. Wikipedia describes the vernal equinox in detail.

Here’s a few things I found out written in a more scientific style:

The word “vernal” is of Latin origin and refers to the season – spring. The word “equinox” is another word of Latin origin that means “equal night”. The vernal Equinox is a time when day and night are of nearly equal length, 12 hours, across the world. Today is the March equinox, which is the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere and the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere.

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despairing present participle of diffīdere

Saturday, March 19th, 2011 | tags: ,  |

miss typing ‘different’ as ‘diffident’ can add a sad twist to a sentence

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Sunday, March 13th, 2011 | tags: ,  |

Each runic symbol has a sound and meaning often conveyed through a poem


We give the gift
to us, beautiful thereby.
The exiles miss this

Name Gefu, Gyfu, Gifu
Number 7
Sound (hard) G
Colour red
Traditional meaning Gift

This rune refers to agreements, settlements, legal matters, honouring of contracts and betrothal. Often used to sign contracts, in place of a signature by those who could not write. It is often used to indicate a ‘kiss’ in writing, text. Two strokes of the ‘pen’ me and you making a cross, each equal and leaning towards each other. It reminds me of Yin and Yan. Two distinct individuals meeting, giving, receiving, balanced.

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Butlers from Belfast

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 | tags: ,  |

Butler sink

This is my Butler sink. The Butler sink got its name from the role of the main user. The Butler of the household would use the Butler sink. As I talked to kitchen suppliers they all corrected me when I called this a Butler sink, no, its a Belfast sink. A quick online search tells me that Butler is the generic word for the sinks and Belfast describes more specific features, in this case a ‘wier’ style water overflow. This website describes how city names became associated with the design, and why different cities had different designs:

This is because, when butler sinks were first made in the late 17th century, each major city had a sanitation officer autonomously responsible for the ordering of pipes, basins, sinks, and decreeing sizes, styles etc. Different patterns were evolved and gave rise to specific types. Hence the Belfast butler sink was different from, say, the London butler sink.

Belfast, with access to plentiful water housed sinks with overflows, but London , built on clay where deep wells had to be drilled to reach water, discouraged water wastage and no overflows were accommodated. Therefore, the Belfast butler sink has what is known as a Weir overflow built into it, whereas a standard Butler Sink doesn’t

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Tuesday, December 7th, 2010 | tags: , ,  |

wendy: have you been watching the Ashes?

German: I’m waiting for them to start, at the moment they’re still playing tests

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Bob’s your uncle

Saturday, November 20th, 2010 | tags: ,  |

‘Bob’s your uncle’ is a phrase tagged onto the end of a set of instructions or a succesful demonstration – to indicate successful completion. According to World Wide Word’s the phrase is mainly used in the British Commonwealth and probably derives from political nepotism when the Prime Minister Lord Robert Salisbury gave his nephew Arthur Balfour some senior political positions for no clear reason other than Arthur was his nephew. Arthur was good at the jobs so ‘Bob’s your uncle’ appears to mean, dont worry, it will work…

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multifunctional interaction

Monday, November 8th, 2010 | tags: , ,  |

talking to a Microsoft customersoftware developer: do you interact with the customer?

wendy: I talk to people while I watch them use our stuff and give them tips on how to get the most out of using it

My ability to liberally apply single syllable words at work, when multisyllable jargon will do,  is outrageouss. In the photo you see me demostrating how to use the ‘hunt and peck’ keyboard technique. I also have a compulsion to think of people as people rather than income sources (customers)

Naughty me

multifunctional interaction
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who’s the cat’s mother?

Sunday, October 17th, 2010 | tags: , ,  |

Using a ‘quick and dirty’  survey of all the British staff (n=3)  in the office at lunch time revealed the reliable result that

she is the cat’s mother

being watchedaccording to all of our mothers. Apparantly the phrase is meant to illustrate the imprecision of the use of ‘she’ to refer to a person, the listener might not be able to work out who is being referred to.  We all agreed that we were taught that it was rude to refer to a person who is present during the conversation as ‘she’ or ‘he’.  The phrase is a rhetorical technique used to point this out because presumably we know the name of the cat, but we don’t know the name of the cat’s mother, who is unlikely to be present. When a person is present you should use thier name as a reference point for example  ‘wendy spilt tea in your keyboard’ as oppose to pointing and saying ‘she spilt tea on your keyboard’.

Though I need to make it VERY clear that I was no actually the culprit, I drank all my tea, all 6 large mugs of it.

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how to make a grown man blush

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

wendy: Norfolk and Norwich

The Canadian’s face instantly flushed red as he smiled, then catuiously asked

Did you just say no fücking nor witch?

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hide your bum

Thursday, October 7th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Lord Hutton’s use of the English language when interviewed on radio 4 this morning was most entertaining. I won’t provide English translations unless requested because the actual meanings were a tad more dull than

  • race for the bottom
  • push problems under the cup


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mixing my imperatives

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 | tags: ,  |


before tell

ending in need

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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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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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Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 | tags: ,  |

tramatic = the dramatic expression of a traumatic event.    

Examples of the word in use

  • It was the tantrum in Sainsubury’s female hygiene isle that made the whole event tramatic
  • Texas chainsaw massacre was a tramatic film
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high pressure

Sunday, February 28th, 2010 | tags: , ,  |

Please turn on the taps with care as the pressure is quite high

high pressure:   lots of complicated concepts in this message. Do children have a concept of ‘water pressure’ do they know what ‘high’ and ‘low’ water pressure are?   By contrast a message like “Water comes out of the tap fast” is much more descriptive of the experience of turning the tap.  

with care:   what does it mean to turn on a tap with care?   should I use a cloth incase the handle falls off?    Do they mean that the tap is greased up and turns really fast?   Because  I know what high water pressure can do from experience and from physics classes  I know that the best strategy is to ‘turn the tap slowly’.   Maybe they mean that if you turn the tap on using normal torque the water will spray all over you and the bathroom floor.   What fun!

To prompt the desired user behaviour the sign could become

Please turn the tap on slowly

With the possible explanation of the consequence.   Though addition of this is an invitation to people who like splasshing, YAY, to turn the tap fast for fun. Hoorah!   Can you guess what I did?

to stop water from splashing outside the sink


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Thursday, February 18th, 2010 | tags: ,  |

Before the Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) their was nuisance.  

Along with murder, marriage and adultary (not necessarily in that order) people would commit nuisance.   They still do.  

commit no nuisance.

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Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 | tags: ,  |

drinker: how much is that?

publican: a nicker

drinker: how much is that?

publican: a nicker (giggles), a pound to you

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relief road

Friday, January 8th, 2010 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Here in the UK we have roads who’s whole purpose is to provide relief,   relief Roads.  

The  pleasingly named Rose Kiln Lane is a Berkshire relief road.   Roads that provide relief.   A ver pleasing idea.  

Having a stressful day at work? Then visit Rose Kiln Lane to find relief.

Judging by this web camera picture very few people  have been using Rose Kiln Lane for relief    during this cold snap.   No yellow snow, cars, or people to be seen.  

Relief Road

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coptic Cairo

Sunday, December 6th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

hanging church wall decorationThe word ‘Coptic’ appears to refer to an Egyptian language spoken in Pharonic times  and currently written with the Greek alphabet

The language is now used in the Coptic church,   a christian church with it’s own Pope (not the  Catholic one).    The apostle Mark reputedly bought christianity to Egypt  in the first century AD when Egypt was governed by Rome, Emperor Nero

The Copts seceded from the other Christian churches in the 5th century  because they rejected the decision of the Council of Chalcedon (451)  that Christ had a dual nature, both human and divine, believing instead that he had a single, divine nature

Christianity is now the largest minority Religion in Egypt.   About 95% of Egyptians are Muslim.   The christains have a difficult relationship with the state, government and some Muslims

hanging church wall paintingThe external architecture of the christain churches was such that I found them difficult to spot.   The give-away sign was a cross,   normally on a dome

I visited the 7th century St. Mary’s hanging church in Coptic Ciaro.   Called the ‘hanging’ church because it  is built overhanging the Roman gatehouse of old Cairo.    This church was increadibly beautiful.   Painted walls with motif’s that often looked celtic, arabic writing, gold-leaf

Wall panels were delicately carved wood inlaid with ivory in regular geometric designs.   Often straight lines constructed to enable you to see circles and curves.    The colours created a warm celebratory atmosphere,   very different from the white-washed  walls of many Church of England churches.   This celebration in art appeals to me.

Mary and Jesus - Coptic churchI was suprised to find the paintings of people (Mary, Jesus, Saints) depicted very pale-skinned people that looked like North Europeans,    an over-emphasis on pale skins given the likely colouring of the people portrayed.   They were at least portrayed with brown-eyes and dark hair

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Thursday, October 29th, 2009 | tags: , , ,  |

animadversions is not a creative pastiche  of

  • animal
  • advert
  • versions

Animadversions is used by the Foriegn Office (FO)  to describe the contents of the last despatch (message) by the British Ambassador to Oslo in 1975, Ralph Selby.   For Ralph, being a diplomat was a family business, his father and wife’s grandfather were ambassadors.   The style of expression within the despatch is rather fun,   I particularly liked this phrase

‘I agree with the gentleman who’s signature resembles a trombone’

In honour of this outstanding phrase I am considering changing my signature to resemble a swan.

Ralph’s animadversions  included

  • Newer diplomats did not put sufficient time and effort into studying languages
  • Diplomats circulate way too much paper “the flood of paper which has grown in a single generation is fantastic”
  • Diplomat’s wives are not paid for their valuable contributions – this disadvantages diplomats who’s wives choose to have a career.
  • Domestic staff are exensive and time-demanding ‘I do not nowadays find it easy to recruit staff who are willing to lick other people’s boots’
  • Retirement provisions are insufficient
  • There is a temptation to eat and drink well – exercise is needed “our specific calling’s snare is drink; and it is profoundly depressing to see the number of members of the service who are engaged in the process of destroying themselves by it
  • Not enough freedom of thought  
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racey internet

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 | tags: ,  |

the email said:

“The Internet is now up and running

and included this little bundle of politeness

we thank you all for your patience and apologise for the inconvenience this has caused

The internet is often used to let me know whether  the internet is, or  isn’t, taking pat in the race today.

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Friday, August 21st, 2009 | tags: ,  |

I am marked by a stubborn unwillingness to obey figures of authority such as dictionaries, alarm clocks, and flatware.

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EXtreme apologies

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 | tags: , , , , ,  |


Delivering apologies is a local (English)  fine-art form.   The 90 second video above was  filmed exclusively by the Wendy House Audio-wideo Team (WHAT!)  before the arrival of Thomas (soppy SIGH).     It includes a First Great Western (FGW) Reading platform announcer delivering  ordinary apologies followed by the first of what turned out to be multiple extreme aoplogies.   Lisen for the stylish use of a contemporary xylophone solo ‘bing-bong-BING’ .   I had literally hours of fun that morning on Reading train station.

Well done FGW,   a fine example of extreme apologies.

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