Archive for Language

Glaswegian interpreter required…

The idea is to help folk whose ‘business English’ isn’t up to managing the local accent. BBC Scotland has the details.

Richard is not thinking of applying, he assures me. At least I think that’s what he said….

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More subtitles

A couple more gems from the Beeb this weekend. BBC News channel, reporting from Africa, referred to a region where “the cheese hold sway”. The big ones, presumably. And on Match of the Day, a commentator querying a possible offside was reported as asking “Is it his fiancée?”. WAGS rule.

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Saturday subtitles

Sophie Grigson on Saturday Kitchen announces that she is cooking ‘airport shop on creamed leeks’. Heston, eat your heart out.

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What a numpty

The Mail on Sunday reports on the embarrassing time Harriet Harman and Labour General Secretary Ray Collins had at the Scottish Labour Conference.

Apparently, after several vain attempts by Ms Harman to make head or tail of what one of the Glaswegian delegates was saying, Mr Collins asked a Scottish party official to join them on the platform, ‘to translate’. Unsurprisingly this went down badly.

This episode tells you so much about the careless arrogance of the Labour leadership. They could have spent some time listening to their colleagues and tuning in to the local accents. It’s not as if they are short of Scots in leading roles in the party. Or they could have approached the situation with humility and booked a local chair from the start. After all, having the chair repeat questions so the whole audience can hear is good practice. And having Scottish accents in Scotland should not be a surprise. Instead, Labour preferred to act out the worst arrogant stereotype of the English abroad, snapping their fingers for some flunky to ‘translate’.

As the English partner of a Glaswegian, when I’m visiting Scotland I see it as my role to make the effort, to tune in, concentrate, listen and learn. And thanks to Richard I’ve acquired some useful vocabulary to describe Mr Collins. Of which the most polite is numpty.

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Proverbial origins

I blogged before about the proverb ‘the grass is always greener’.

Since then I’ve come across this article in the Electronic Journal of International Proverb Studies (no, me neither).

Apparently the Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs traces this to a 1545 proverb, “The corne in an other mans ground semeth euer more fertyll and plentifull then doth oure owne”, itself based on the snappier Latin proverb “Fertilior seges est alieno semper in arvo”.

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Counterpoint on R4

I had lunch with Paul Gambacini today.

Well, kind of. I was eating lunch. He was on BBC R4, compering the first in the new season of Counterpoint the classical-ish music quiz.

One of the questions was: Who composed the Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes (the answer BTW was Grace Williams. No, me neither).

Now I may not have heard of that work before (my O level Music is a bit dusty) but I thought I’d heard the word ‘Fantasia’. And if you’re still reading this, by now you will have heard the word twice in your head: how do you say it?

I’ve always assumed it was fantayzia; but Paul Gambaccini called it fantasseea.

Anyway, I enjoyed the music – everything from Purcell to Puffing Billy via Wagner. Cue Paul G quoting Woody Allen: “I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.”

I enjoyed the quiz but did feel a pang for the poor bloke who got the question “Who played Sky Masterson in the film of Guys and Dolls?” and could remember everything about Marlon Brando – at length – except his name.

Talking of names, I can’t think of a more perfect title for a music quiz than Counterpoint. It’ll be another fantassee lunch date with Paul G next week.

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Death of handwriting?

There was an interesting article by Melanie McDonagh in last week’s Telegraph.

Her piece prompts some typical Telegraph reader comments, such as “Everyone should learn the basics first, reading, writing and arithmetic, te [sic] old fashioned way.”

She argues that we are in the keyboard age and that therefore the art of handwriting is dying out.
The former is indisuptable: but I’m not sure about the latter. There will always be somethings people need to write, if only their signature on cards, whether of the greetings or credit variety.

Arguably, the less often we write things, the better our handwriting could be. Writing ‘Happy Birthday’ gets my best efforts. It’s the pages of longhand notes from meetings where my script becomes a scrawl.

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