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”
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?
Continue reading “pitching & sticking”
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:
Continue reading “glory all around”
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.
Continue reading “roost, rooster, roostest”
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”