28 October, 2006

Cockney Rhyming Slang

The true definition of a Cockney is someone born within the sound of Bow Bells. That specifically refers to the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow church in the East End of London, however it’s a term generally applied to indigenous working-class east enders and sometimes, loosely, to any working-class Londoner. The word itself originates from fourteenth century English meaning a cock’s egg; a term used by country folk to refer to town’s people. I imagine the implication was that town-dwellers, being unwise to country ways, would not know that hens, not cocks, lay the eggs!
Cockney Rhyming Slang (CRS) is not a language because all of the words used are clearly English, neither can it be called a dialect because those who use it are perfectly capable of not using it. Here’s how it works: Words, usually nouns, are substituted by a pair of words, the second of which rhymes with the original word – but, usually, only the first word of the pair is used. Confused? Read on.
The best way to illustrate the above is by example. The CRS for stairs is ‘apples and pears’, so the word used is ‘apples’. “I’m just going upstairs” becomes “I’m just going up the apples”!
Here are some other CRS words that are still in common use:
Arse= Khyber (Khyber Pass) so “Stick it up your khyber.”
Mate= China (China Plate) so “ How are yer, me old china?”
Phone= Dog (Dog and Bone) so “ I’ll give him a dog tonight.”
Look= Butchers (Butcher’s Hook) so “Take a butchers at Tom’s new jam jar [=car].”
Things can get really obscure sometimes when a double link is used. For example, Arse (again!) can sometimes be Aris. This is from Aris being short for Aristotle, which rhymes with bottle for which the rhyming slang is ‘Bottle and Glass’ and glass rhymes with arse! There are no rules!
If you are new to this try translating the following and I will post the answers in a couple of days:
1) She’s got beautiful minces.
2) She may be his skin and blister but she’s nothing like him.
3) I can’t see. Where’s me gregs?
4) I bought a new whistle for me wedding.
5) What a lovely pair of bristols she’s got!
It’s a living culture and new slang for modern words appear all of the time.

22 October, 2006

My Heroes (20) E. Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx (pronounced 'Proo') is a writer of wonderful fiction. Her densely written, observational style is packed with lots of detail and a very strong sense of place, such as the unfashionable parts of Newfoundland, Wyoming and Texas. Her descriptive writing always reminds me of John Steinbeck's work due to her obvious affection for the places and kinds of people who are not usually the heroes of modern fiction. She has a Dickensian knack of naming her characters in an outlandish way that very soon seems to be perfectly natural.
For example “That Old Ace in The Hole” (2002) features, among others, Jerky Baum, Pecan Flagg, Blowy Cluck, Coolbroth Fronk, and Waldo Beautyrooms. It’s the story of Bob Dollar, hired by Global Pork Rind to buy up small farms, in the Texas panhandle town of Woolybucket, so that they can be turned into hog farms under the guise of buying land for luxury housing. The book touches on the larger issue of pollution and depletion of the water table as a background. The story is fairly thin on plot but rich in character and anecdote.
“Accordion Crimes” (1996) lovingly tells the story of a succession of owners of an accordion. Annie Proulx is a dispassionate observer of life but she does not shy away from unpleasant scenes and can be brutally honest in her depiction of those who are the losers in life’s lottery.
“The Shipping News” (1993) is a magnificent novel that demands a lot from the reader, whose attentiveness will be richly rewarded. At the start of each chapter a picture of a different type of knot is shown and this turns out to have a metaphorical reference to the content of that chapter. It was turned into a successful movie with Kevin Spacey in 2001. In a similar way “Postcards”(1992) showed a drawing of a postcard at the start of each chapter with a message that was sometimes directly relevant to the story and sometimes just added background colour. In 1997 she wrote a short story which was published in a collection of her work called "Close Range: Wyoming Stories" (1999) which was filmed in 2005. That was the very successful "Brokeback Mountain", in which she typically tackled a subject that had hitherto been taboo in mainstream literature.

19 October, 2006

Marwell Zoological Park, Hampshire, UK

Zebra and Ibex share a large open space together

Marwell Zoological Park is near Winchester, Hampshire in southern England. It is run by a Charitable Trust and is especially concerned with animal conservation and is involved with the protection of British species as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The park is laid out over a very large open area with great access to all of the animals.

The meerkats are always popular with small children.

A beautiful eighteen month old tiger

An unco-operative rhino who wouldn't look in the direction of my camera.

16 October, 2006

American vs. British English. Part, the second

The huge number of words, phrases and expressions that differ between US, British, Canadian, Australian and Indian English can lead to misunderstanding, confusion and, best of all, lots of humour. Some common words that differ are (US first): faucet=tap, sidewalk=pavement, pavement=road-surface, broil=grill, diaper=nappy, soccer=football, apartment=flat, elevator=lift, fries=chips, chips=crisps, jello=jelly, jelly=jam. This list could go on for many more words; it's a wonder we can understand each other at all!
Here are some common spelling differences: favorite/favourite, color/colour, analyze/analyse, memorize/memorise, enrollment/enrolment, catalog/catalogue, check/cheque, plow/plough, tire/tyre, leaped/leapt, strove/strived.
Also in the US it is common to say "You have gotten much better at doing that" while in British English you would say "You have got much better at doing that". (Also what they were actually doing would probably be different too!)
I would be interested in hearing from other English speaking nations about their own differences.

14 October, 2006

Quiz Question (3)

The name of which famous literary work is contained in the completion of this short item. It was originally a prose piece but is now usually presented as verse:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know......

11 October, 2006

Bournemouth, Dorset, UK

The pier houses amusements and a theatre

What a surprise! Bournemouth turned out to be warm and sunny all weekend. It’s full of leafy avenues lined with tall pine trees which allow dappled sunlight on to the streets below and good quality hotels staffed by enthusiastic young people from various European countries such as Poland, Lithuania and Spain. The houses are mainly Edwardian and make creative use of red brick as a building material. It’s a classy seaside resort with the minimum necessary amount of the usual blights of the English coast-line such as ice-cream parlours and tea-rooms. The demographic profile of England’s south coast always used to be that of a disproportionately aged community, full of retirement homes, convalescent homes, residential nursing homes and sedate, expensive hotels. But that has changed considerably in recent years and, in Bournemouth at least, there is a university, an Art college and lots of language schools which attract thousands of young foreign students. Consequently there is a thriving night-life with lots of restaurants, bars and entertainment.

These tiny beach huts, facing the sea, fetch a premium price and there is a long waiting list to obtain them. The road in front of them is free of all traffic.

05 October, 2006

In Bournemouth For The Weekend

I am going to Bournemouth, on England's windswept and rain-battered south coast, with a big family group for a long weekend. I hope to be posting again by next Tuesday. I wish everyone who stops by here a peaceful weekend!
My cowboy friend is going away too!

03 October, 2006

My Heroes (19) Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins is the author of 'The Selfish Gene' and 'The Blind Watchmaker'. The subjects of his books are evolution and genetics and he is a devout atheist, which is not the reason he is one of my heroes. He makes the list because of the way he writes and manages to make a difficult subject accessible. For example, it has long been a staple arguement of creationists that something as complex as the human eye could not have 'evolved'. Dawkins meticulously and patiently explains how some lowly life form would have, by chance genetic mutation, have created a single cell that was slightly light-sensitive and this gave it a tiny 'edge' over it's competitors because it could hide from predators when it detected their presence via the light-sensitive cell. Thousands of generations later this advantage would have spread through the population and then a second mutation would have produced another light-sensitive dot on an animals surface and two light-sensitive spots gives you a knowledge of direction of light source through stereoscopic 'vision'. It's a slow, bit by bit, progress over millions of years but eventually - the eye!
Dawkins was also the originator of the idea of the meme a kind of cutural gene that passes through the population and grows if successful and dies if not in an exacly parallel way to the gene.
Most genetic mutations kill their host but the very rare ones that benefit the host are passed on through DNA to the next generation and slowing spreads through the gene pool if it is advantageous.