Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I Have No Idea What to Title This Blog

Well, dearies, time to blog again, though I have no topic in mind. Well, toilets, perhaps. You can never go wrong with toilets as a conversation piece, after all.

Work is underway on our bathrooms this week. The subfloors have been replaced by contractor Scott and flooring-layer Ron is here today doing the lino installation. (Everyone is so specialized! And male! And sweaty! Oh, never mind. Grammar's just having an inappropriate moment.) While this goes on, the toilets have been off their moorings and sitting out in the open, which makes it inadvisable to use them. It did enter my head that I should try sitting on one of the thrones whilst it sat in the public hallway so that I might better empathize with how it was for poor Paris in her jail cell. But then I thought, nah. I'm just never going to be an airhead socialite heiress breaking probation conditions. Why should I have to know what it feels like?

Do you know, Blog People, that Retired Husband does not read my blog? This is because he is militantly opposed to blogs in general. The idea that just any crackhead crazyperson on the planet can read personal stuff about other people makes him insane. He is appalled that I blog, no matter how strongly I assure him I am not putting any personal information into the ether. He has advised me that if I ever used his full name or other identifying feature on my blog, he would have to take drastic action. I am left to imagine what form this action might take, but prefer not to find out. Those quiet ones are always the scariest when they blow (our children will vouch for that!)

Oh, dear. I do hope saying that he's quiet is not an identifying feature. A quiet man somewhere on the planet having his bathroom floors fixed by persons named Scott and Ron. Well, it may be too much information, but I think I'll take the risk.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Granny Path

Today, blog people, we're going to discuss linguistics from a different point of view. We're going to discuss it as an aspect of the granny path.

Yesterday, you see, I found myself taking another step down this granny path. I don't hold with the saying that age is only a number. The minute I turned 50, some sort of switch in my brain flipped and I was set upon a new linguistic byway. It's inevitable. It's inexorable. It's embarrassing.

It started very shortly after the half-centenary birthday, when suddenly, and quite naturally, I began calling everybody "dear". It rolls off my tongue without conscious thought, and no one ever looks taken aback or insulted by it. Because, you see, I appear an appropriate sort of personage to be calling people "dear". It suits me now. Also, twice in the last month I have actually blessed someone's heart.

Sorry. My shawl just slipped off my shoulders and got caught on the rocker of the chair. Where was I?

Oh, yesterday's step on the path. I was at a friend's house doing some bookkeeping sort of work, and I looked up from some frustrating ciphering efforts and inquired, "Do you have an adding machine?"

Yes. An ADDING MACHINE. A device that was invented in the 17th century and phased out by modern things known as "calculators" shortly thereafter. This is apparently what I was hoping to be brought to me.

(Excuse me, but could you also bring me a slide rule?)

I have also begun noticing that I am telling the same stories to people over and over. It turns out, now that I'm the granny doing this, that this behaviour, too, is a trick of the brain. It's not that I've forgotten telling the story, but that I somehow believe that the particular person I'm regaling with it has never had the pleasure. Never mind that my circle of family and friends consists of approximately 7.3 people and that therefore the likelihood that any given one of them has heard my story before is in the realm of, well, certainty. Like the anorexic who looks at a skeleton in the mirror and sees a fat person, I look at my sister of 47 years and see someone who knows nothing about me.

Gee, I wish when I looked in the mirror, I saw a skeleton. But no, that doesn't happen. I see my grandma. Bless her heart, dear.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Big Words Manifesto

Now, class, sit up and pay attention. I am going to tell you about the great Linguist versus Logophile war about which my fiancé Ian Brown recently wrote so eloquently. I have a unique perspective in this contretemps because, trained as a linguist but a logophile at heart, I can be a little of both. I am not wishy-washy about this; I don't run from one camp to the other on a whim. I proudly straddle.

Linguists believe that living language is all about flux and change and this should be observed and respected and never interfered with. I agree with this, primarily because it's moot. No one has any control over the evolution of a language. No one ever has. If you try too hard, the living language dies. (see: Latin.) To the diehards who bemoan natural linguistic change as "the bastardization of the language", I say, "Hrotha besagt as maines infalgar." If English had never changed, you'd understand that.

Because of the vocabulary young people are exposed to on TV, on Instant Messaging, in emails, and especially given the huge proportion of ESL students in many Canadian city schools, many linguists believe that trying to teach a standardized vocabulary is not just ineffective, but undemocratic and limiting. The contemporary anti-vocabulary linguist values a word only in terms of its usefulness to a target audience.

Conrad Black's lawyer is on record as saying one of the reasons he does not want to put his client on the stand is that he uses too many Big Words and thus would alienate the jury. How sad is that?

Clive Beck, a professor of education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, relishes the collapse of the standard Western vocabulary. He believes, for example, that teachers have a closer relationship with their students if they "talk on the same level". He believes that when using Big Words, if you don't explain what they mean, you're wasting everyone's time. You're also wasting it if you stop and explain the words, so just don't. I can't begin to tell you how strongly I disagree with this, and that's where the logophile part of me comes in.

Logophiles are the word nerds. They are the purists who love words for their own sake, however useless. Logophiles read dictionaries for pleasure. They wait for the ecstatic moment when a particular obscure word is perfectly apt in the conversation (even if no one else knows what the hell they're talking about). When they use their huge vocabularies, they are not showing off but genuinely excited.

I have also entered into unrequited, polygamous betrothal with one Thomas Delworth, senior ambassador in the Canadian Foreign Service. Verbal precision matters to diplomats, even when they have to be intentionally imprecise. When asked how many dictionaries he owns, Delworth replied, "You mean just the ones in English?" He means this in all sincerity and is not trying to be pretentious. He is a genuine logophile.

Some examples of how I am a logophile (as if you needed any) are that I did indeed spend many hours in grade 7 reading my classroom dictionary. Also, I like to enjoy as many wonderful words in other languages as possible. Rejoice with me, for example, in the Scots Gaelic word sgriob, which means "the itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whiskey". Aren't you just dying for an occasion to use that word? "Ah, thank you, barkeep. This sgriob has been driving me crazy."

However, I fall short of true logophilism in that I am not a fan of the truly obscure word. I hate Scrabble as played at competition level, where at least half the words on the board are ones that no one other than competitive Scrabble players would know or have any earthly reason to know. Who gets to decide, though, where the line is between a big enough vocabulary so that you will always have the mot juste on all occasions, a vocabulary big enough to be able to enjoy good literature without having to resort to a dictionary, and words that are "useless"?

The editor of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary says they let a new word marinate for five years before it gets the nod to be included in the next edition. She says decisions on inclusion are at least partially based how likely a person is to ever run across the word. Many lexicographers feel there are "too many damn words" in the language and it needs to be beaten into manageability. Although it hurts my heart to do so, I do agree with this to a certain extent. The Oxford English Dictionary contains well over half a million words, many of which will not be used or encountered by a single person on this planet in their lifetime.

The younger generation is extremely fond of the word "fuck". They use it as all parts of speech. It's possible that future editions of dictionaries edited by this generation will have many pages dedicated to variations of meaning in the word "fuck" and will be able to delete all sorts of other words it has replaced. Is this a good thing? Linguists would say it is neither good nor bad but no one should attempt to stop this from happening. Logophiles will clutch their antique dictionaries and tell the philistines to coitus off.

So here's what I think:

The more words you have, the more ideas you have.

Why bother to go fancy when plain would suffice? Because you can. If you don't understand some of the words I use, that's your problem.

"Because this is the solid thing about words, long or short: They wait for anyone who wants them, and cost nothing." Reporter Ian said that, but I'll give the last word to diplomat Tommy:

"I don't think there is any goal in having a vocabulary. I think it is its own reward. I can't give you a cost-effectiveness breakdown. You simply have a somewhat larger grasp of this vast empire you might command."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Graduation, Part II

This is further to my blog on graduation from May 21.

In my time and place back in The Day, elementary school ran through grade seven and you began high school in grade eight. We had a graduation event of sorts to mark this transition, and the junior misses of my class were abuzz with the wardrobe possibilities.

I did not buzz. For one thing, I was petrified that asking any questions would unmask me as a rank loser. For a 12-year-old girl, there is nothing on the planet scarier than the possibility that other 12- and 13-year-old girls might laugh at you. This is not a groundless or irrational fear. Girls between 11 and 14 are probably the most horrible human beings you will ever meet.

Secondly, though, I was convinced that my family was dirt poor. Now, my father was a tenured full professor at UBC and we lived in Kerrisdale, probably one of the three or four most upscale neighbourhoods in the entire country. No matter. I was in my mid-teens before I really had any idea that we were not, in fact, dirt poor. This conviction came from a lifetime of watching my mother be exceedingly careful with money, and from the fact that I was a first-born, who are always the ones who fret about such things. So although my mother did offer to buy me a new dress for graduation, I was convinced we couldn't afford it.

Earlier that year I had been confirmed in the Anglican church. A lovely dress had been purchased for this event, and I'd been feeling guilty about it having been worn only once. (First born! Such a burden!) I determined that I would wear this to my grade seven graduation.

Here is the dress, as worn on confirmation day. For graduation, I thought I would appear much more sophisticated without the white tights. So instead I appeared with dry, hairy bare legs, nearly as white as the dress itself.

This is the sort of thing the other girls wore. With stockings. And makeup.

Now, the sidebar of this blog tells you that I am writing my memoirs despite having an exceedingly uneventful life to write about. This is the saddest story of my childhood. Can you see where I'd have difficulty creating any sort of dramatic story arc?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I May be Remarrying

Retired Husband and I attended a wedding in Kelowna on Saturday. We drove up Friday and returned this afternoon. Unfortunately the weather there was no better than it was here, and there was a disturbing tendency for mawkish tears during the (many!) speeches at the reception, but it was a pleasant event and wonderful to get away for a few days.

I have to say that one of the highlights of Grammar's entire weekend occurred early Saturday morning. Tired from the drive up, I had fallen asleep by 9:30 the night before, and consequently was irreversibly awake at the crack of dawn. As RH slept peacefully on, I managed to dress myself in the dark and headed to the lobby to partake of the continental breakfast therein, gathering up the Globe and Mail from outside our door en route.

No, none of this is the highlight yet, but we're nearly there.

Having collected a coffee and warm cinnamon bun, I settled onto a couch in the quiet early-morning lobby and opened the newspaper. At the top of the front page was a banner alerting us tersely as to what sort of things we might be pleased to encounter in the various sections of the paper within. And here was Grammar's moment.

ZEUGMA. This is what I was promised in the Focus section. Well, naturally I was beside myself. Wouldn't you be?

Perhaps not. I am probably one of the few people in this world peculiar enough to actually know what a zeugma is. Because, you see, it is a grammatical term.

I scrambled to the Focus section and there, o bliss divine, o heab'n indeed, was a full three-page article headlined "Big words". Blog people, it took me an hour to read this article. It took me that long because it was erudite and precisely on point (the point being Things that Interest Grammar Moses Exceedingly) and therefore I read it several times. I dug a pencil out of my purse and underlined some things. Other things I circled, and some I even put a star beside. I annotated it with excited comments of my own, which no one will ever read and will soon become pulpy goo at a recycling plant. Yes, blog people. I am, in fact, exactly this strange.

The byline for the article suggested the writer, being one Ian Brown, was likely a male person, and I sat for several moments contemplating the plausibility of my being able to convince this man to marry me and if so, would I really be willing to divorce RH, who after all is a perfectly good spouse other than his complete inability (not to mention utter indifference) to write a beautifully articulate 7,000-word article about Big Words.

One day soon I will, in my own inimitable way, give you the gist of the article so that you may share my excitement. It will be considerably shorter than 7,000 words. But some of them may be Big.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My World Today

It has been a busy day around the Moses house. Lots of comings and goings. A tad grand central stationish, really, for a woman of reclusive tendencies.

My cleaning lady was here for a few hours, always working in whatever room one of us would like to have been in. Hungry? Sorry, washing the kitchen floor. Need a shower? Sorry, cleaning that bathroom right now. I'm sure she doesn't do it on purpose. Would she?

Then there was the man who came to install on my computer the magic software that will allow me to pick up my work from the office without actually going there. I will begin doing this next week. The virtual world has arrived chez Moses!

This afternoon my piano tuner came. Paul has been tuning my piano faithfully every June since I moved to North Vancouver 23 years ago. Oddly enough, even though North Van has a small-community feel, and even though especially in the music world one tends to encounter the same people all the time, I never run across Paul other than his annual arrival on my doorstep with his battered tuning-man kit and warm smile. He's a small man, is Paul, and I feel as if he must disappear into a hobbit-hole or leprechaun eyrie in Brigadoon except for that one day a year he appears here. A little older, a little greyer, but always the same warm smile. And I think the same shoes, actually.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Shop Talk

I have no idea if the following story is funny only to fellow transcribers or in general, but I'm going to share, anyway.

Y'all know I'm training Katie as a transcriber. It's not as easy as those who haven't done it might think. When transcribing for the legal system, each transcript must be perfect not only as in no typos, which in this day and age of computers is not much of an issue, but no spelling errors, and pretty much grammatically and punctuatically perfect. (Obviously, therefore, a great job for Grammar Moses.) You have to have at least some sort of a brain to be able to produce acceptable court transcripts. And of course there are the many, many rules for how the transcripts are set up, and legal terminology to learn and so on.

Katie is doing very well. However, the other day she ran across a line in a hearing which quite bewildered her. She puzzled and puzzled over it, listening to it over and over, and this is what she finally came up with:

I will be presenting Mr. Prentice, Periculam Weetie.

The only sense she could make of it was that Mr. Prentice must belong to the improbably-named law firm Periculam Weetie.

Well, not so much. You see, although Katie has a university degree, she somehow had never run across a certain very important term for a person's credentials. The sentence, of course, was:

I will be presenting Mr. Prentice's curriculum vitae.

In the same hearing, there was a potential witness mentioned by the name of Mr. Beverage. In correcting this transcript, I suggested to Katie that the person's name might be more likely spelled Beveridge. She was most disappointed. She had this image of jolly Mr. Beverage enlivening the proceedings.

So now I can't get out of my head the image of the law firm of Periculam Weetie and Jolly Mr. Beverage, its coffee cart man.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Still here

Hello, Blogworld! Sorry I haven't been posting much in awhile but my work continues crazily busy, and when I'm done for the day the last thing I feel like doing is typing some more. I did try and post a blog with some of my thoughts on this graduation time of year, but the site refused to post it. Oh, it said it posted it. It assured me it had every time I tried, which was several and in various ways. But alas, it has not actually appeared. I have graduation on my mind because my wonderful niece Emily is about to take that step. Can't wait to see some pics of her in her dress!

Katie, my blogmaster, might be able to figure out the problem, but as she is also my work trainee, she's as busy as I am with that and we have no time for frivolities. She did take time last week to help me choose my new lino for the bathrooms and laundry room, being that she is also my decorator. We wear a lot of hats with each other. It's all a bit inbred, isn't it?

I'm excited about the lino. Once that's installed the primary indoor home improvements will be done. Outdoors we're nearly ready; with all the sunny weather of late Rob's almost got the deck repairs completed.

We're still going out looking at houses from time to time. Looked at one last night that was pretty close, and if it were a year from now and I was getting more desperate, we might have considered it more seriously. But at this point I don't want to buy a house that's "close". I want The One. I want to step in and know that I'm home. I haven't felt that way about any we've seen to date.

So not too much else new around here. Retired Husband has had absolutely no trouble relearning how to sleep in after all those years of getting up at 5:30 a.m. It's 8:20 in the morning as I'm writing this and he's still happily lazing in bed. I think retirement is the best thing that's ever happened to him! Broken Boy is still a bit gloomy of spirits and painful of leg, but working as many recording hours as he can. Redcar Girl continues to enjoy working at the gym and she's made some nice -- and extremely fit! -- new friends. She's been out on the Grouse Grind a few times since it opened for the season recently and is working hard at getting her time down. Anything under an hour is considered admirable and she's down to 50 minutes. If anyone wants to come and try it out, I'm sure she'd love to be your guide!

And me? I type. I type and type and type and type and type. And sometimes I stop for a cup of tea and a stretch. And then I type some more.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Broken Leg Update

Broken Boy is feeling a bit better today. He received much poor-babying from a lady friend last night, and got some good news upon seeing the doc this morning. The break is called, for those of you seeking definitive terminology, a spiral fracture. He also has a badly sprained ankle, but that will heal faster than the fracture. I guess if he had to break his leg, this sort of fracture of the fibula is a pretty good one to have.

Although the healing process is expected to take six weeks, he will not need to have the full-bore plaster cast, but instead something called a "Moon Boot" (which I thought sounded cool but Jamie thinks sounds a tad gay). He is to acquire this item this afternoon, and can remove it for showers and sleeping. He will not have to use crutches with the Moon Boot.

He was also pleased to be issued with a prescription for Percocet to get him through the first rough nights (he didn't really sleep at all last night). Apparently when the pharmacist (a young lady) asked him if he'd had Percocet before and he replied in the negative, she just smiled. "Good stuff, huh?" Jamie asked. "No comment," the pharmacist replied, still smiling.

And at least this will not keep him from his beloved recording work. He has a session this afternoon which he looks forward to wearing his gay Moon Boot to!