Some time ago I read one of those ‘motivational quotes’ to the effect that you shouldn’t laugh at someone who pronounces a word wrongly, as the chances are it means they learned it through reading, rather than hearing it spoken, and no one should be mocked for trying to better themselves.
It’s true that I am still likely to laugh when I hear an American say someone made a “fox paw” when they mean a faux pas but, essentially, I think there is a lot of truth in the sentiment.
Continue reading “worrying about stress”
I mentioned recently that I sometimes need to ‘top up’ my supply of words by reading voraciously just about anything I can get my hands on. It doesn’t have to be anything of any great literary value; indeed, I think what I’m really looking for is not so much words as such, it’s colloquial and fluent usage and phrasing that can perhaps be repurposed so that not all the clients I work for in a particular sector end up with the same wording on their websites and marketing collateral.
Since then, I’ve been wondering generally about vocabulary knowledge and learning: how many words do we know? Do adults continue to learn new words and, if so, how many?
Continue reading “words and birds”
On a visit to south Wales this week, when I stepped outside the back door, I found the iridescent creature pictured above sunning itself on the rosemary bush. Without doubt, it was one of the most eye-catching beetles I’ve ever seen.
I don’t claim to recognise all the insect life of the UK, but I was surprised just how unfamiliar this one seemed: I was pretty sure that even if my Observer’s Book of Common Insects and Spiders were not stuffed in a box at the back of a storage locker somewhere in rural Spain, it would not help me to identify it.
Continue reading “naming memories”
They say that language shapes our view of the world: if we use sexist and bigoted language, it is difficult to avoid becoming sexist bigots and if we don’t have the words for a concept, we find it hard to understand.
Certainly my own experience of learning a second language revealed a different personality: I was free to say things I could never have said in my native English because the words and the grammar permitted it and because I came fresh to the new language with the opinions and ideas of an adult but with no personal attachment or aversion to the words.
Continue reading “the words we use”
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.
They definitely aren’t coelacanths.
And I’m fairly sure they have nothing to do with Clytemnestra.
Continue reading “word association”
Well, not really in a pickle, as the spices in the picture are not yet even tied up in muslin. And, anyway, they were to be used to make chutney.
Which leads me on to wonder what the difference between chutney and pickle actually is. The top results in Google don’t help much; I think they are biased towards the States, where things like gherkins, which are preserved without cooking, are classed as pickles, while vegetables and fruits cooked in vinegar with spices are called chutney or relish.
Continue reading “in a pickle”
Some people say that God is in the details. Others say it’s the Devil. Whichever it is, and whatever kind of writer you are, details matter.
Continue reading “sheep droppings and other details”