February 24th, 2015

In my garden.

To Drive the Cold Winter Away

February 20th, 2015

From my garden.


February 14th, 2015

Photo credit: Mark O’Donald.
Used under this licence.

The woman in the picture is Lyse Doucet. She is a wholly admirable, and I think, a very brave person. She appears fequently on the BBC News, reporting from dangerous places such as Homs in Syria. She is often seen in heavy body armour.

Although I think the work she does is important, I have always found her accent somewhat strange. According to Wikipedia she was born into an English-speaking family in Bathurst, New Brunswick, Canada. However, her family is of Acadian descent. She also has Irish and Mi’kmaq ancestors.

I have never been able to put my finger on what is odd about her pronunciation, but a couple of nights ago I did notice one surprising thing. She pronounced the phrase last chance as lɑːst tʃæns. One would expect both vowels to be of the TRAP set, or possibly both of the BATH set. I shall be listening carefully next time she appears.

CLICK HERE to hear a short clip of Lyse Doucet.


February 11th, 2015

JDL has pointed out to me what I think is a rather strange OED entry. The word involved is cockerel and of this the OED says:

1. A young cock. arch. or dial.

The word certainly has never struck me as being archaic, nor do I think it is restricted to non-standard varieties of English. However, the OED entry is marked as one that has not been fully updated. Maybe it was once thought of as archaic, but then underwent a revival.

What do people think?

There, there

February 2nd, 2015

Why, when someone is upset, do we say ‘There, there’? How is that going to help anyone? There is a scene in Mel Brooks’s marvelous film The Producers in which a character is upset, and someone says ‘There, there’. The character quite reasonably asks ‘Where? Where?’.

By the way, the usual way of saying the phrase in General British is to have a highish level pitch on the first word and a low rising pitch on the second. Why this intonation is used for sympathetic utterances I have no idea.

While we’re at it, what on earth has butter not melting in someone’s mouth got to do with them looking innocent?