words and birds

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?
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distracted by details

Sometimes it seems that my work involves so much talking and so many emails that I run out of words and need to top up the supply by reading. At such times I revert to my childhood habit of reading indiscriminately and almost compulsively.

My tastes in fiction are fairly catholic and it’s definitely a question of quantity not quality for these binges: I don’t really care what the genre is, I just want words and more words.
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naming memories

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.
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the words we use

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.
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pitching & sticking

This past week, presumably like most of the population of the UK, I’ve been thinking about snow.

Sitting with a friend, watching the white flakes whirl in the wind the other day prompted the inevitable conversation about whether the snow would…

And then we were stuck. What question were we trying to ask?
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glory all around

I have occasionally wondered why children seem to instinctively draw the sun as a yellow circle with straight lines radiating from it, but looking at the glorious sunrise in the photo above, it certainly makes some sense.

Yes, I know: I overuse the words glory and glorious, but surely it’s justified here?

That can no doubt be seen as a purely subjective opinion but, when referring to the next picture, which I personally consider rather less impressive, I gather glory would be the technically correct term:
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roost, rooster, roostest

I first came across the word “palimpsest” years ago, when I was training to teach English as a foreign language: in one of the classes we were given a list of words that we were not expected to know and asked to chat with a partner and guess their meanings.

Presumably, the idea was to simulate the stress suffered by the students we would encounter once we qualified, but, of course, our situation was vastly different as we were all native speakers and there was really no great pressure to get the answers right, anyway.
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