Many years ago I had a colleague who told me that she was concerned about her daughter’s English, as the family didn’t speak English at home. Without a second thought, I told her she should encourage the girl to read.
I didn’t think it mattered whether she was reading Jane Austen, Dickens, Woman’s Weekly, or simply the next Mills and Boone bodice ripper: my idea was that she’d learn grammar and assimilate new vocabulary from seeing language in context. Continue reading “trains, travel & terminology”
Somewhere, during the last couple of weeks, I saw or heard the word “ample” and it stuck in my mind.
It’s not what I’d call an uncommon word; in fact, I’m sure I used to use it and come across it relatively frequently. But, try as I might, I really couldn’t remember when I last had occasion to describe something as ample.
I spent about a quarter of a century living in Spain, not among ex-pats, but among Spanish speakers. So I was mostly either speaking in Spanish, or speaking to non-native speakers. Continue reading “enough said”
If you ask for advice about writing a presentation, one recommendation is likely to come up time and again:
Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
Tell them what you’ve told them.
This three-part cyclical format is far more likely to get your message through to your audience than a simple linear thread.
I’ve long been an advocate of the idea of poetry as “the art of patterning”, but the more I think about it, the more I see that patterns play a part in effective communication in general, not just poetry. Continue reading “round in circles”
Memory is an odd thing. And linguistic memory is perhaps as odd as any.
I know I should remember the name of the flowers in the photo as I’ve grown plenty over the years, but every time I see them I have to sort through and reject a few other words that come to mind first.
When I’ve quoted Sandburg – “poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits” – in the past, I have always felt the biscuits were there to represent the everyday, functional side of life: I’ve always assumed he meant Rich Tea, not Hobnobs.
But apparently yesterday was National Biscuit Day, which set me thinking: as I am not really sure which nation was celebrating, I don’t know whether the biscuits in question are the ones you eat with morning coffee or with gravy. And even if it were definitely a British celebration, they might be cheesy biscuits rather than gingersnaps.
Now I am wondering whether Sandberg was thinking of American biscuits – the plain scones eaten with thick sausage gravy – with all the social and regional connotations that they bring to bear. Suddenly hyacinths have become the clear and unambiguous aspect of the quote: a natural Truth alongside the unnecessarily complex human view of things. Continue reading “biscuits and other ambiguities”