95: Venimently perplexed

Some of you might have heard about a recent by-election in my parliamentary constituency, Copeland. Propelled by the sense of civic responsibility, I duly attended a local hustings, at which our independent candidate revealed his impeccable Europhobic credentials with the rhetorical question “A million Poles enough for you?” No sooner had I regained composure than I was assaulted with his campaign leaflet, in which the wannabe MP regaled us with the following pronouncement:

The Green Party are being venimently [sic] against nuclear energy.

Are they really? In an obvious attempt to be even-handed, the leaflet proceeded to castigate other political parties:

The farming community has been hit by this present governments [sic] stopping of subsidies.

Predictably, the Labour Party, currently presided over by Jeremy Corbyn, did not escape unscathed either.

The same can be said of Labour supporters who vote for Jeremy Corbyns [sic] Labour Party.

In an attempt to hit us hard with his anti-global-warming message, the campaigner chided us thus:

How many times does Keswick have to flood before the resident’s [sic] get the message. [sic]

The environmental theme needed to be reinforced, so the leaflet contained the following imploration:

We all need to change our behaviour now to slow down global warming to ensure our ancestors [sic] have a planet to inhabit.

But of course! It also appeared as if our independent candidate felt that a wee threat could go a long way.

To the people who disagree with me, I have bad news for you, but you will dislike global warming and increased sea levels even less [sic]!

Will we really? And the campaigner had other gripes:

Recent cost cutting decisions such as the demolition of the public toilets in Whitehaven is [sic] disgraceful.

But, hearteningly, the leaflet wasn’t all negative:

Land based wind turbines can produce energy much cheaper and more accessible [sic] than their off-shore counterparts.

The publication finished on an uncharacteristically literate, if a tad contradictory, note:

We have the 27th best education system in the world and every year it seems to get worse. The state education system has failed to produce results, so a drastic rethink is required to improve results.

It was rather hard to resist the conclusion that the leaflet had been produced by the very embodiment of this failure.

 

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94: The Demise of a Publisher – and the Rise of a Phoenix

Grammar and punctuation book cover 2.jpg

It was ten months ago that I proudly announced the impending publication of my linguistic opus, Grammar and Punctuation for Key Stages 3 & 4 with Handy Usage Notes, by First and Best in Education. Well, maybe not quite an opus: I had, in fact, lopped nearly a third off an earlier incarnation of the textbook, which was targeted mainly at the British Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14). But, while the book had been shortened and, I hope, improved, its scope had been widened to include also older students. So all that was left for me to do was to sit back and wait for the royalties to start rolling in. Alas, a few months later I found myself a bewildered recipient of a notification of the demise of my book’s publishing house. How come: they had been going for years! Sadly, it appeared as if they were now going straight into administration.

But what is it they say about doors closing: when one door closes, another slams in your face? No, perhaps not that one, for I definitely wasn’t going to let this setback deflate me. After all, I am now a fully-fledged publisher myself. So my phoenix-like textbook is again in the public domain, as a shiny A4 paperback, elegantly bound, as well as an e-book, both available worldwide. And the best thing is that, with no middlemen to take their cut, I was able to slash the book’s price considerably. The book can be accessed via the links below, via the books page on my website or by Googling its title and author (i.e. me).

Paperback

http://www.lulu.com/shop/anna-nolan/grammar-and-punctuation-for-key-stages-3-4/paperback/product-22988266.html

 E-book

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N1QVWHD

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N1QVWHD

 For those interested, here’s a brief description of my textbook. The book gives an introduction to the grammar and punctuation of present-day Standard English in the context of their relevance to communication. Its up-to-date grammatical and punctuation content, rooted in British national literacy strategies, is particularly relevant to Key Stages 3 and 4 (ages 11-16), but the book can be used also for, and by, older students. Its unique selling points include concise notes addressing a range of relevant usage points, a spotlight on the areas which writers tend to find troublesome and authentic examples helping to bring the content to life. While focusing on British English, the book does point out some differences with American English – particularly in the area of grammar. Its main aims are to improve students’ communication skills (particularly written), to constitute an accessible reference source and to serve as an editing handbook.

I hope the book will serve its users well.

 

 

93 – Mini-rant: Dead survivors?

Having been greatly distracted by two momentous events, Brexit and the American election, I’ve been very remiss with this blog. And, let’s face it, language misdemeanours, however diverting, pale into insignificance with what’s going on in the world. But having stumbled across this snippet, widely broadcast by the British media, I’m unable to resist a mini-rant. The revelation came courtesy of an eminent foreign correspondent, who commented on a catastrophic plane crash thus.

There is little hope of finding survivors alive.

Although overcome with an overwhelming sadness, I nevertheless wondered whether there might be some dead survivors – an obvious (to me, at least) interpretation of this tautological statement. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, tautology – saying the same thing twice in different words – is a stylistic fault which is quite common, but the venerable BBC and its reporters might be expected to be above such lapses. What the correspondent should have said is, of course, this.

 There is little hope of finding anybody alive.

Or this.

 There is little hope of finding any survivors.

Mini-rant 91: Freedoms and opposites

Isn’t freedom of speech an absolute marvel? We in the United (at least for now) Kingdom flaunt our delight in it at every opportunity, and our press barons make great play of allowing readers to have their say. One of our quality broadsheets, The Sunday Times, regularly invites culture vultures onto the pages of one of its supplements, Culture. There, in the column entitled You Say, they are offered an opportunity to vent their spleen, or otherwise, about our TV fare. And so, in this week’s edition, we stumbled on the following, rather indignant, pronouncement.

Whatever has happened to BBC Breakfast? Its decline in standards and quality is dropping like an express elevator. Whatever happened to high-quality professional journalists/ broadcasters?

The thing is, whenever one exercises one’s right to this cherished freedom it might be an idea to engage one’s cerebral cortex first. If something is dropping – albeit metaphorically – it diminishes, of course. So the viewers of BBC Breakfast can, in fact, rejoice: the decline is slowing down. Alas, the incensed reader said the exact opposite of what he was attempting to say, which was this.

  Its standards and quality are dropping like an express elevator (rather than their decline).

Or this.

Its decline in standards and quality is accelerating like an express elevator.

And whatever happened to newspaper sub-editors?

85 – About my book: Who’s Put Rat into Bureaucrat? (Please see the next post)

Being a perfectionist can be a genuine curse – not that perfection will ever be within my grasp. But whatever I write I always find severely wanting and can’t resist tinkering with. I have thus completely revised not one but two books, the second being An Alien in a Madhouse, which has now become a much shorter Who’s Put Rat Into Bureaucrat?

Like its predecessor, the book pokes fun at officialdom, officialese, political correctness gone mad and the vagaries of office life. It also ponders some of the usage booby-traps strewn across English, detonating a few of them with irreverent jocularity. This is why the book can also be seen as a reference source addressing several troublesome points of grammar, punctuation and spelling – albeit humorously. And it is a short extract from this book that is given in the next post, its subject being tautology – a very common stylistic lapse.

The reason why it’s posted separately is the text’s categorical refusal to fit underneath this introduction – don’t ask me why!

 

83 – A Different Frolic: Beyond the Misty Fells

I have been quite busy contributing to, as well as copy editing, typesetting and publishing, a book by Skiddaw Writers, of whom I am one. The book, entitled Beyond the Misty Fells, is a kaleidoscope of travels and personal journeys; it explores landscapes, adventures, discoveries – and language, the last bit reflecting my own contribution. The paperback is out now (link below); the e-book will be published next week. Below is quoted one of my humorous chapters.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/skiddaw-writers/beyond-the-misty-fells/paperback/product-22321984.html

An alien’s English odyssey

“I’ll pay for the cruise if it’s the last thing I do!” declared my mother, an ardent Anglophile, rather effusively. The cold war was on, the iron curtain was down, communism was in full swing and the free world was out of reach to us Poles. But she was head over heels in passion with the English language and worshipped a small island hanging off the western edge of Europe and, somewhat confusingly, concealing its greatness behind the white cliffs of Dover. Seeing as we were firmly in the grip of communism’s tentacles and couldn’t wriggle free to travel to the West, my mother hatched a cunning plan: she would send me on a cruise taking in the English Channel so that I would at least be able to catch a glimpse of the famous cliffs, which, to her, symbolised Britain. Granted, I wouldn’t be allowed to disembark, but my simply feasting on the sight of the island so revered by her would, she decided, be enough.

Although I never did go on that cruise, I nevertheless studiously devoured English and its grammar and, like my mother, fell hopelessly in love with the language, which would become the great passion of my life that would eventually lead me to Britain – and to this book.

Getting to this juncture had been a long, circuitous and bumpy ride, though. The English textbooks of yore, which were a veritable font of knowledge about those faraway islands, depicted a baffling but oh-so-tantalising world inhabited by moustachioed gentlemen invariably called Mr Black or Mr Brown, who always wore bowler-hats and pinstripe suits and carried umbrellas. I remember wondering whether these umbrellas offered adequate protection against the cats and dogs which were apparently always raining down on them. The sugar-coated ladies in frilly pinnies were continually rustling up heavenly delights, and the beaming and well-scrubbed kiddies at their knee were, without exception, referred to as ‘merry and gay’. I couldn’t quite understand why, when I finally made it to Britain in the early Eighties, I’d get filthy looks off blithe young gentlemen, otherwise perfectly agreeable, whenever I complimented them on their exuberance with the entirely fitting – or so I thought – “My, you are so gay!”, but that’s by the by.

But even such wholesome-looking people as those depicted in my English textbooks would evidently get peeved from time to time, and I formed the impression that they would then let off steam by kicking either the bucket or themselves. Oh, and they’d also kick the habit. I wasn’t thus in the least surprised that their dialogue was peppered with the interjections “My foot!”, as foot injury must have been an inevitable consequence of such outbursts. If you discounted those who didn’t have a leg to stand on, that is. And, judging by how often they would spill the beans, they seemed to me rather clumsy. On the other hand, they’d get on their high horse without falling off, so I failed to reach a definite conclusion one way or the other.

I also wondered why they were so fond of expressing themselves cryptically: you see, while they would say “Come through”, they would never explain through what exactly. Or whenever they announced they had fallen over, they kept you guessing as to over what exactly they had fallen. And why did they never give you a straight answer to “How do you do?” Such a perfectly straightforward question, you would think, yet they never actually explained how they did. But that’s not all – far from it.

Apparently, everybody in Britain always talked about the weather. And they had some very interesting national dishes incorporating cool cucumbers, keen mustard and red herring. Why, when they had such delicacies, they’d also eat their hats seemed entirely unfathomable. Then again, they appeared to harbour a strange dislike of the old hat, so maybe that’s why. And, of course, they drove on the wrong side of the road, which – to them – was right, although it was actually left. Another unsolved mystery was why they would stuff their fish into kettles. Confronted by such eccentricities, I felt I had no option but to try to read between the lines. Imagine my relief when I realised that, despite their frequent references to pet hate, they didn’t really hate pets all that much – certainly not the top dog or mother hen. On the other hand, they did chase wild geese and seem strangely reluctant to be sold a pup. And I must admit that their practice of skinning the cat appeared to me thoroughly repugnant, but they made up for that somehow by organising parties for stags and hens.

Their eccentricity notwithstanding, most of them seemed kindly, polite (it was only their health that was rude) and beguiling, so I grew up with the notion of a genial, though decidedly quirky, people who spoke a difficult but fascinating language which was hard to write and even harder to pronounce and where every rule had umpteen exceptions. Little wonder that, to me, Britain was mysterious, intriguing and alluring; it was also tantalisingly out of reach.

But, finally, when your border guards happened to be on a fag break, I managed to sneak into this great country (that your border controls were lax even then is incontrovertible). Imagine my delight when, at long last, I was able to delve deeply into the British psyche. Take the writing on the wall, for example. Since the lovely natives always uttered this phrase in grave tones, I was able to deduce that, like me, they didn’t approve of graffiti. And when you heard that they were always getting a third degree, you couldn’t help but be awed by their putting such great store by higher education. Needless to say, I was deeply touched by their enthusiastic “You can say that again”, with which they were always letting me know that they simply couldn’t get enough of my exotic accent. Charming people! And very, very helpful when it came to giving directions: they were always telling you where to get off. And what amazing generosity: they would even lend you their ear!

Anyway, lady luck had undoubtedly smiled on me, allowing me to put down roots in this wonderful country and to indulge my all-consuming passion for English with utter abandon. After a spell as a teacher of English and broadcaster at the Polish Section of the BBC, I enjoyed many adrenaline-charged years running public examinations, developing different types of qualifications for both English and Scottish authorities, carrying out linguistic research, copy editing and penning articles and books on English grammar, punctuation and usage. The sketches which form my section of this book are representative of my frolicsome style, offering a glimpse into my weird inner world, where humour and grammar blend into a whimsical mix.

In case you are unaware, the seemingly inexorable plan to diminish our democracy forges ahead…

Cumbria Trust

URGENT ACTION REQUIRED!!!

38degrees petition

On Wednesday the House of Lords under the Chair of Baroness Verma will be discussing  in Grand Committee in the Moses Room at 3.45pm the plan to push  through legislation that will remove our right, and the right of Cumbria County Council, to object to burying radioactive waste underground.

They hope to do this as soon as practically possible by adding GDFs (Geological Disposal Facilities) to the list of NSIPs (Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects).   An NSIP would force through the what we believe to be the government’s plans to return to Cumbria in the search for a site for a GDF. This would of course deny communities the voice usually afforded to them via public enquiries.

The government hoped the Nuclear waste ‘problem’ was going to be solved by communities coming forward to volunteer to take the waste, now that plan has fallen by…

View original post 135 more words

No 61 – Misc – The Liebster Award

NOTE: This post is a departure from the language theme running through my blog

 image001

The Liebster Award

 I am delighted and honoured to have been nominated for the Liebster award by the talented Sean at http://theplight2write.com/ Sean had himself been nominated by Fourth Generation Farm Girl. The nomination came as a wonderful surprise, and I accept it with gratitude.

Although I have been blogging for a relatively short period, I have already established a rapport with some lovely people. I would now like to draw others’ attention to some blogs which I have found engaging by nominating them for the Liebster Award; those blogs are listed below.

My nominees for the Liebster Award

A.PROMPTreply

https://apromptreply.wordpress.com/

 What of was thought

http://whatoftwasthought.wordpress.com/

 Jennie’s Journals

http://jenniesjournals.blogspot.co.uk/

 Proofreading London

http://www.proofreadinglondon.com/

 Hablando Sola/ Talking to Myself

http://dianarenee.com/

 Dark Office Humour

http://darkofficehumour.wordpress.com/

What the nominees have to do if they accept the Liebster Award

The main rules associated with the Liebster Award are as follows:

1: Acknowledge and accept the Liebster Award by leaving a comment on the blog where you were nominated;

2: Copy the Liebster logo and paste it onto your own blog;

3: Inform your nominees by leaving a comment on their respective blogs;

4: In your blog post about the Liebster Award:

  • Link back to the blogger who nominated you

  • Answer the 11 questions put to you by the person who nominated you

  • List 11 random facts about yourself

  • Nominate, and link to, three–11 other blogs which you enjoy and which have fewer than 3,000 followers

  • List 11 questions for your nominees.

Below are the answers to the 11 questions I was asked

1. Why did you start to blog?

To share with others both my all-consuming passion for the English language and my exasperation whenever I see it mugged. And, of course, to reach out to other bloggers – whether they share my passion or not. Sincere thanks to all who have taken the time to visit my blog!

2. What is your earliest memory?

Clutching a large (well, most things seemed large to me then) live fish, dripping wet, at the fishmonger’s. In Poland in those days, shops would take delivery of live fish, and one of the delivery guys thrust this slippery specimen at me – probably for fun. I can’t remember my Mum’s reaction, but we can safely guess what it was.

3. Who has been your greatest influence?

My fabulous Mum – with her great love of English, which I have inherited from her. My posthumous tribute to her has been translating, editing and publishing her war-time memoir, Between Black Death and Red Plague.

4. What is your favourite film?

Some Like it Hot

5. Which phrase do you most overuse?

‘Millions of thanks’

6. What makes you happy?

People close to me, mountains, English, reading, writing and, generally, being alive

7. What disturbs you?

Hatred, violence and conflict

8. Who would you most like to come to dinner?

Alexander McCall Smith, the author of The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series – provided he doesn’t mind eating ready-made meals (I have no interest in cooking and simply steam everything)

9. What is your favourite book?

A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Professors Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik

10. What is your most treasured possession?

The 20 volumes of my Oxford English Dictionary

11. What would most improve the quality of your life?

Not hankering after what is unlikely to happen

Eleven Random Facts About Me

  1. I am a Pole married to an Irishman and completely mad about English.

  2. I am an extroverted introvert: while I’m effervescent around (nice) people, I need quite a bit of personal space and value solitude.

  3. I have NEVER bothered to learn to drive.

  4. I have NEVER cooked a turkey (well, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and traditional Polish Christmas fare is carp; plus, I hate cooking – as per no 8 above).

  5. I have climbed all of the Lakeland fells (both the main and the outlying ones) – mostly relying on public transport (which, out in the sticks, is no mean feat).

  6. In January 2009, I had to call Mountain Rescue to rescue me from Skiddaw (one of England’s highest mountains)

  7. I am addicted to apples, of which I consume industrial quantities. (By the way, don’t let anybody tell you that you may eat limitless fruit with impunity – you may not, not if you want to lose weight!)

  8. My extremities are always cold (but my heart is warm).

  9. I love animals and used to have three pussy-cats (with hubby).

  10. I am a digital immigrant desperately struggling to keep up with modern technology.

  11. I have been cutting my own hair for over 30 years (and it shows, but I don’t care).

Below are the 11 questions to my nominees

  1. What would you like to get out of blogging?

  2. What is your claim to fame?

  3. What matters to you most?

  4. What is your guilty pleasure?

  5. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

  6. How do you like spending your free time?

  7. What is your most abiding memory?

  8. Who is your favourite writer?

  9. What type of music do you like?

  10. What tends to annoy you?

  11. What quality do you most admire in people?

If you accept the nomination, I hope that complying with the conditions above won’t be too onerous; if you are too busy, I apologise for having bothered you.

Millions of thanks (oops, I mean thank you very much) for the nomination, Sean.

Anna