Archive for the ‘Word Words’ Category

Handy News

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Apparently I’m not the only person who needs help conjugating French verbs. I was reading the Le Monde newspaper online this morning and discovered that they have a section next to the classifieds and job opportunities that shows you how to conjugate verbs! Brilliant. I think The West Australian should pick that idea up because plenty of Australians need help with the English language. They may need to extend it beyond verb endings though. It’s about time people became aware that “Can I help youse?” is NOT a sentence.

I did particularly enough learning how to conjugate the verb “Estérifier,” which, according to my French/English dictionary, means to esterify. According to my English dictionary, to Esterify means to create an organic compound by replacing the hydrogen of an acid by analkyl or other organic group. Many naturally occurring fats and essential oils are esters of fatty acids. Now that’s a handy verb! You, too, can learn such verbs and how to conjugate them in French! Won’t that be fun.

How Rude!

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Over the past few weeks I have been having various discussions with people about swear words. Usually people look at my hair and general complexion, assume I am angelic and fear that my heart may explode if explicit language is used with a 500 metre radius of me. They find it genuinely difficult to associate vulgar language with me but I find swear words and explicit phrases fascinating. And while I may not be one to regularly curse in my native language having a few derogatory terms up your sleeve is quite handy when it comes to dealing with sleazy French men. Swearing in a foreign language is so much easier because the words hold no meaning – they’re just sounds that come out of your mouth and you haven’t grown up being told never to say them. It surprises me that despite living in France for seven months AND working at a school full of naughty teenagers I don’t know many swear words. So some of my French-speaking friends have been kind enough to teach me a few.

My Dad even got on board and bought me a book for Christmas entitled “Talk Dirty French” that is full of cursory terms and slang that may just come in handy one day. I thought I might share a few so that if I swear at you in French, you know what I am saying.

Ma Porsche, c’est un vrai aimant à femmes. – My porsche, it’s a total chick magnet.

J’vais pas chanter pour ces blaireaux. – I won’t sing for these morons.

Ce pécno n’a même pas de voiture. – That country bumpkin doesn’t even have a car.

I think that will do for now. We don’t want to get too nasty.

Stories From the Past

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I was trying to think of a non-cheesy title for this entry but appear to have failed miserably. Damn. Oh well, I can always go back when I think of something better and change it.

Anyhoo, here’s a story for you. In 2006, my dad received a letter from a long lost ‘cousin’. I use the term cousin loosely as he is the grandson of my Dad’s grandfather’s sister. Follow that? Anyway, we have since met a whole bunch of distant family members who live in England near Manchester and who are apparently my relatives. I can’t exactly deny it having met them and discovering that the ‘cousin’ who sent the original letter looks and acts EXACTLY like my grandfather (my Dad’s dad). Very spooky. It turns out, my great grandfather (William Davies) came to Australia from England and started the Australian blood line that I am now part of. So the point of my ramblings is to tell you about the diary that William wrote in 1918 and that my Dad and I have been attempting to read and copy out so that we can send electronic copies to family members on the other side of the world.

It has been a fascinating read. The diary is a day-to-a-page diary that William has written brief accounts of his activities over an entire year. During the year he joined the army and went by ship to England where he worked in the arsenal fixing guns. We follow him to France where he describes “Fritzy” dropping bombs on Australian and British troops nearby and then the end of the First World War on 11 November. It is amazing to read his story – a young man, having left his lady back in Australia, is out enjoying himself with his army-buddies while also going through some very tough living conditions. His mood shifts from excited to bored to frustrated to chipper to flirtatious as he undertakes various activities throughout the year. Some of my favourite entries include:

Thursday 14 February, 1918 – On a ship headed for England, currently mored at Sierra Leone.

Still at anchor & the heat is very oppressive. The sun is not near so hot as it is in W.A. but there seems to be an oppressive sticky heat all the time which makes one feel very dull.  The officers & nurses went ashore again today but their impressions of Sierra Leone are not much. Seven of the war workers went ashore last night on one of the lighters without permission, two of them got arrested on shore & sent back to the boat & the other five got back on the boat quietly this morning. The two who were arrested were sent back this morning by the police & they have been put in the cells. I am orderly sergeant today & I have been going around the boat all day on detective work trying to find the other five who were ashore. I have arrested three so far & they are now in the cells.

Sunday 19 May, 1918

A beautiful sunshiney day.

A memorable day today. Stan Reeve & I went to London this morning arriving about noon. After a stroll around to see the places of interest we went into a place in Fleet St for dinner & for an ordinary dinner we had to pay 5/6 each. After dinner we visited Buckingham Palace, the Palace gardens, Hyde Park & Rotten Row. Sat & heard the band in the Park for an hour or so, had tea & after tea took a bus ride out to Richmond. Arrived back at Hyde Park corner about 10.45 & was strolling through the Park to the bus to come home when the air raid alarm went. It was a beautiful moonlight night. We walked about after the alarm until the firing commenced & then took shelter in the Regents Palace Annex where there was about three hundred girls living. Saw girls of all sorts & sizes in all sorts of array. We had heavy incessant firing & the bombs were dropping frequently until about 1.30 AM about that time the raiders were driven off & the all clear signal given. About ten minutes afterwards the alarm was again sounded & this time we were near Leicester Square & we took refuge in the tube station. Nothing came of this however we got the all clear again about 2.20 AM. We came out & we could not find a trace of any damage although from the heavy & constant firing and bomb dropping one would have expected to see the place in ruins. We walked about until three in the morning & as we could not get home we managed to get a bed at the Australian Aldwich Rest hut. This morning it is again a beautiful day & one would never imagine there had been anything the matter. We started for home by tram & our first glimpse of the result of the raid was about a mile or so out where two or three houses were wrecked at a place called Avondale Square & windows were smashed all around the place & several people killed. Arrived home at 11.0AM & there does not appear to have been any damage done at Woolwich.

Friday 11 October, 1918

Spent a day straightening up our shops, pitching tents etc, raining all day. Tonight half a dozen of us visited the tunnel again & the Scheldt Canal which runs through it. The Canal was built in Napoleans time about 1802 & it is filled with barges which are packed with rough bunks where the German troops have been quartered. The Canal is six miles long & comes out at St Quentin. We explored a good part of it & got one or two small souvenirs & saw the place which the Germans are supposed to have used for a corpse factory at the entrance of the tunnel. There was plenty of vats of fat about & the stench was horrible but I rather doubt it being a corpse factory. Ammunition is strewn all about the tow path & bombs are scattered everywhere & there is one or two machine gun emplacements, a most interesting experience.

Monday 11 November, 1918

Germany accepted our armistice terms today & I think this puts “finni” to him.

Hard to Accept

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

There is a word in the english language that stumps me. I have difficulty using it mostly because I forget if it is negative or positive. It scares me and I don’t like it but quite frankly I’m not entirely sure why I find it so challenging. The word?

Condone.

Say it aloud and tell me it doesn’t sound negative. If Zaumist rules applied (meaning of a word is created through the sound rather than the meaning associated with it) then it would most definitely be a negative, bad, bad word. But in fact, it means to approve of something that is morally wrong. But then why do I struggle with it? I start a sentence, approach the position where the word should fit and then squirm away like a worm from an attacking bird, fearful my head will be removed for incorrect usage. I think I find it the most challenging when it is used in a negative form – Eg. I cannot condone your use of illicit drugs, son.

According to my little computer dictionary (which I trust whole-heartedly) it is latin in origin – from condonare ‘refrain from punishing’. Con means ‘altogether’ and donare is ‘to give’. Thinking about other ‘con’ words you have concede, conceive and concession (good words) but you also have conceited and conceal (evil words). So basically that’s no help. Normally words and I get along but not this one. Perhaps the solution lies in Con the Fruiterer. Cheery man, cheery word?

Con the Fruiterer

Dat's a joosy woird!

Learn More Than Just Your A, B, Cs

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

I am taking French lessons with a young Parisian woman and she gives me one-on-one tuition once a week. It has been quite refreshing to learn French in this way – I have always meant to sign up for French classes with Alliance but the idea of learning it in a classroom with a workbook and homework just doesn’t appeal. This has been the perfect solution. Today in the midst of a discussion about verb conjugation, she stopped, threw down her pen and said in a lovely French accent, “I wont yoo too explain somefink too me.”

She continued on to explain her exasperation about adult Australians not understanding or being able to point out what the subjects and verbs in sentences are. “Why is dis??!!”

I had to apologise on behalf of the Australian education system and explain that this is no longer taught in schools. I do not recall ever being told about subjects and objects and it was only through my own investigation and through learning French that I have learnt these concepts. It is terrifying to think about how rapidly the English language is deteriorating within Australia. As each generation passes through school, teachers know less and less about how to teach these basic concepts. I am so often horrified to read texts written by people who are supposedly intelligent, well educated folk and they don’t know how to form simple sentences. If you’re reading this and don’t know what an adjective is, please go and find yourself a dictionary and look it up. Or click here.

Word of the Week

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

In response to a request from a regular reader (thank you!) I am initiating a new section in this blog where I will discuss a word and all its wordiness. I feel it appropriate to start off with my favourite word:

Conundrum.

Don’t you just want to eat it? The way it rolls around in your mouth and then rolls your tongue in a final flourish… Delicious! I’m not entirely sure why I like it so much. I think it is the general sound and feel of the word and the fact that not many people use it. It looks/sounds so good when it is thrown into a sentence!

A brief glance at wiktionary (the source of all knowledge) says it has two meanings:

  1. A difficult question or riddle, particularly one that uses a play on words, or
  2. A difficult choice or decision that has to be made.

I particularly enjoy the fact that the two examples provided by wiktionary come from Jane Austen in 1816 and Martha Stewart in 2004. My choice of conundrum as my first word to satisfy my reader’s desires is perfect as she is a morphed version of Jane and Martha!

Anyway, conundrum. Having to choose between 70% and 80% cocoa – that’s a conundrum. Being told both Nate AND Dan from Gossip Girl like you but you can only go out with one – that’s a conundrum. Realising this blog entry didn’t really have a point isn’t so much a conundrum as a disappointment but hopefully through writing a long winded sentence that just goes and on and on and on you will forget that this is the case, become extraordinarily confused and pass this off as a piece of pure genius.

The conundrum ends.