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A Vexing Problem for Lologists

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What would the union jack look like if the Scottish bit was removed?

 

Scotland’s referendum on independence is now just over 10 months away, but the question of what might happen to the union jack has been largely overlooked. An association of flag experts, or vexillologists, has created a set of designs it hopes will encourage a discussion.

Some 400 years ago when the crowns of England and Scotland were united, an argument raged about how the blue field and white saltire of St Andrew could be combined with the red cross of St George.

The Scots were eager that their flag should be laid on top of the English flag, but of course the English thought it should be the other way around. It took a Royal proclamation to determine that the English flag should take precedence.

Now, the prospect of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom throws open the question again. It’s already been suggested by the College of Arms that with the Queen still head of state of an independent Scotland there would be no need for a redesign. But there is still the possibility of renewed debate.

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The story of how the tin can nearly wasn’t

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Tin cans have, in 200 years, changed the way the world eats. But Victorian disgust over a cheap meat scandal almost consigned the invention to rejection and failure.

Bryan Donkin left the chimney smoke of the city behind as his carriage headed south through Bermondsey, with the Duke of Kent’s letter of approval in his hand.

The smell of leather and hops receded as he came to the turnpike at Fort Place Gate, where the gatekeeper’s two-storey, brick house marked the end of the urban sprawl.

Behind him was an unhindered view of St Paul’s Cathedral while in front lay open land and his factory, where for the previous two years he had been trying to find the best ways to can food.

He could not have known that the impact from the contents of the papers he held would still be felt across the globe 200 years later.

Dated 30 June 1813, the day before, the letter explained that four distinguished members of the royal family – including Queen Charlotte, wife and consort of King George III – had tasted and enjoyed his canned beef.

Indulging such refined palates was not a matter of vanity for this modest Northumbrian engineer.

Instead, it meant he had the highest possible blessing to supply what are thought to be the world’s first commercial cans of preserved food to the Admiralty, thereby sparing British seamen thousands of miles away the monotony of salted meat.

According to his diaries, held at Derbyshire Records Office in Matlock, the can-making operation had begun to mobilise on Monday 3 May.

A network of agents was based at key seaports to tout for custom from naval ships and merchants. The patent was finally his, the meat suppliers paid and adverts placed in newspapers, while business cards were engraved with the name of the company – Donkin, Hall and Gamble.

The factory occupied a rectangular plot of about 300 sq m, dwarfed by Donkin’s larger plant for papermaking machines.

In the weeks that followed, within those four walls, sheets of tin plate were transformed by hand into tin cans filled with beef, mutton, carrots, parsnips and soup, destined for every corner of the British Empire.

And so the first faltering steps of a multi-billion-pound business were made. Today, households in Europe and the US alone get through 40 billion cans of food a year, according to the Can Manufacturers Institute in Washington DC.

But the road to success was almost derailed by a meat scandal in the 19th Century that – with echoes of today’s horsemeat crisis – involved a Romanian meat factory and rocked public faith in canned foods.

 

How the first tin cans were made

Standing on the spot of Donkin’s factory today, now a school car park on Southwark Park Road, there is little evidence of the industry which, 200 years ago, was about to spread around the globe.

Obscured by some scaffolding, a small white plaque says the first canned food was produced on this site. But it fights a losing battle for attention with the sign for Karma Supermarket’s low-price beers, spirits and ciders – some sold in four-packs that could be described as the first cans’ modern-day descendants.

Such a low-key commemoration reflects how mundane the tin can has become to us. Behind the door of a kitchen cupboard or lying discarded in the street, literally and metaphorically kicked down the road, it exists in the background of our lives.

It’s a far cry from the days when its creation occupied the thoughts of some of the leading scientific thinkers in Britain and France.

So committed were these bright minds to the technology of food preservation that they gave little thought to making a device to open their new invention, so for decades a hammer and chisel, a bayonet or a rock had to do the job.

The story of the tin can is one of ingenuity and endurance, and one that affects every one of us. It has changed the way we eat, the way we shop and the way we travel.

But its pioneers had no such lofty ambitions – they just wanted to fill the stomachs of sailors.

Read more of this fascinating history

Read more of this fascinating history

How has India affected English?

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  • Flora: “While having tiffin on the veranda of my bungalow I spilled kedgeree on my dungarees and had to go to the gymkhana in my pyjamas looking like a coolie.”
  • Nirad: “I was buying chutney in the bazaar when a thug who had escaped from the chokey ran amok and killed a box-wallah for his loot, creating a hullabaloo and landing himself in the mulligatawny.”

Source: MarginalRevolution Read more

Chaos, absolute chaos

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As an English teacher I am only too well aware of the pitfalls of English and the problems the language presents to foreign students.

English is a bastard language, it is like a stray dog, a mongrel; nobody really knows who the father was.

One of the finest demonstrations of the irregularity of the language is in a poem.

It is a long poem, but it needs to be to cope with the shear number of irregularities.

I beg your patience…

The Chaos

by Charivarius (Gerard Nolst Trenité)

I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word.
Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter, how it’s written!)
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say-said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via;
Pipe, snipe, recipe
and choir,
Cloven, oven; how and low;
Script, receipt; shoe, poem, toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoid; measles, topsails, aisles;
Exiles, similes, reviles;
Wholly, holly; signal, signing;
Thames; examining, combining;
Scholar, vicar,
and cigar,
Solar, mica, war, and far.

From “desire”: desirable–admirable from “admire”;
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier;
Chatham, brougham; renown but known,
Knowledge; done
, but gone and tone,
One, anemone; Balmoral;
Kitchen, lichen; laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German; wind
and mind;
Scene, Melpomene, mankind;

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Billet
does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;
Blood
and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rhyme with “darky.”
Viscous, viscount; load and broad;
Toward, to forward, to reward,
And your pronunciation’s OK.

Rounded, wounded; grieve and sieve;
Friend and fiend; alive and live.
Liberty, library; heave and heaven;
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven,
We say hallowed, but allowed;
People, leopard; towed, but vowed.
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,

Leeches, breeches; wise, precise;
Chalice
but police and lice.
Camel, constable, unstable;
Principle, disciple; label;
Petal, penal
, and canal;
Wait, surmise, plait, promise; pal.
Suit, suite, ruin; circuit, conduit

Rhyme with “shirk it” and “beyond it.”

But it is not hard to tell
Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.
Muscle, muscular; gaol, iron;
Timber, climber; bullion, lion,
Worm
and storm; chaise, chaos, chair;
Senator, spectator, mayor
.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rime with “hammer.”

Pussy, hussy, and possess,
Desert, but desert, address.
Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants

Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
Cow,
but Cowper, some, and home.
Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker,”
Quoth he, “than liqueur or liquor,”

Making, it is sad but true,
In bravado, much ado.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant.
Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.

Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
Paradise, rise, rose,
and dose.
Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
Mind! Meandering but mean,
Valentine and magazine.
And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,

Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
Tier
(one who ties), but tier.
Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring?
Prison, bison, treasure trove,
Treason, hover, cover, cove,
Perseverance, severance. Ribald

Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.

Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw
.
Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;
Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
Worcester, Boleyn,
to impugn.
Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
Evil, devil, mezzotint,
Mind the Z! (A gentle hint.)

Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don’t mention,
Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
Rhyming with the pronoun yours;
Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,
Funny rhymes to unicorn,
Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.
No. Yet Froude compared with proud
Is no better than McLeod.
But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
Troll
and trolley, realm and ream,
Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.

Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
But you’re not supposed to say
Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.
Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
When for Portsmouth I had booked!

Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty,
Episodes, antipodes,
Acquiesce
, and obsequies.
Please don’t monkey with the geyser,
Don’t peel ‘taters with my razor,
Rather say in accents pure:
Nature, stature and mature.

Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
Wan, sedan and artisan.
The TH will surely trouble you
More than R, CH or W.
Say then these phonetic gems:
Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget ’em-
Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,
Lighten your anxiety.
The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight-you see it;
With
and forthwith, one has voice,
One has not, you make your choice.

Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze
and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,
Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry fury, bury,
Dost, lost, post
, and doth, cloth, loth,
Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath
.

Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
Holm
you know, but noes, canoes,
Puisne, truism, use
, to use?
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,
Put, nut, granite
, and unite.

Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, senate
, but sedate.
Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;
Tour
, but our, dour, succour, four,
Gas, alas
, and Arkansas.

Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it
Bona fide, alibi
Gyrate, dowry and awry.
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria
, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine
.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
Rally with ally; yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay
!
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver
.
Never guess–it is not safe,
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.

Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice
, but device, and eyrie,
Face
, but preface, then grimace,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust
, and scour, but scourging;
Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
Do not rhyme with here but heir.

Mind the O of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
With the sound of saw and sauce;
Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.
Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
Respite, spite, consent, resent.
Liable
, but Parliament.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk
and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.
A
of valour, vapid vapour,
S
of news (compare newspaper),
G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
I
of antichrist and grist,

Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
Polish, Polish, poll and poll.
Pronunciation–think of Psyche!-
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
Won’t it make you lose your wits
Writing groats and saying ‘grits’?

It’s a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington
, and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict
and indict.
Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, bough, cough, hough,
sough, tough
?
Hiccough has the sound of ‘cup’ . . .
My advice is: give it up!

If you managed to make to this point, you will now understand, that while English has a simpler verb structure than many languages, the irregularities in pronunciation are quite horrific.

The English Language is Changing

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So many people connected in so many forms, the language changes are spreading like a virus.

Technology is changing the English language faster than ever before.

Think about it, here we are in the blogosphere, who has googled something or sent an SMS.

So many new terms and words; and they are finding themselves included in the dictionaries. It’s hard to keep up. Almost daily as I read blogs, news and visit sites I find something new, that I just take for granted as being English.

Even the grammar is changing. Look at the previous paragraph; verb association, you read a blog, but you visit a site, you don’t visit a blog nor read a site.

There is also a lot of uncertainty around. I have found many people who confuse the blog and post. “I have to write a blog,” is wrong. You have to write a post on your blog, but you can say, “I have to blog that.”

Have a read of this:

Guess Which Tech Words Are Now In the Collins Dictionary?

Is “crowdsourced” a real word? It is now, thanks to the Collins Dictionary. To help demystify the verbiage of the internet, the publisher asked readers to nominate their favorite words for inclusion on CollinsDictionary.com.

And you’ll get the picture.

UPDATE:

More info on this site: stv

Now, I must get my clothes from the floordrobe and get to work…

Collectives

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English is a colourful language. More colourful than most.

Here are some collective nouns. They are things that we mostly know, but how to describe a group of them.

 

An army of caterpillars

armada of ships
army of caterpillars, frogs, soldiers
bank of circuits
battery of tests
bed of clams, snakes
belt of asteroids
bevy of beauties
bouquet of flowers
brood of hens
caravan of camels
cete of badgers
chain of islands
clan of hyenas
class of students
cloud of gnats
clowder of cats
clutter of cats

A clutch of chicks

clutch of chicks, eggs
company of actors
colony of ants, bats, beavers, lepers, penguins
congregation of plovers, worshippers
corps of giraffes
coven of witches
crowd of onlookers
culture of bacteria
deck of cards
den of snakes, thieves
division of soldiers
drove of cattle
fleet of airplanes, ships
flock of birds, sheep
flight of swallows
flotilla of ships
forest of trees
gaggle of geese
galaxy of stars
herd of antelope, buffalo, cattle, deer, zebra
hive of bees
host of sparrows

A knot of toads

knot of toads
leap of leopards
library of books
litter of puppies, kittens
lodge of beavers
mob of kangaroos
murder of crows
nest of mice, snakes
orchard of trees
pack of dogs, hounds, wolves
panel of experts
parliament of owls
pit of snakes
platoon of soldiers
pod of whales
pride of lions, peacocks
quiver of arrows
range of mountains
school of fish
shrewdness of apes
slate of candidates
sloth of bears

A sounder of boars

sounder of boars, pigs
squad of players, soldiers
stand of flamingoes, trees
swarm of ants, bees, fkies
team of horses, oxen, players
thicket of trees
tribe of monkeys, natives
trip of goats
troop of apes, kangaroos
troupe of actors, performers
unit of soldiers
wad of bills, money
wealth of information
yoke of oxen

Many of these are terms that native speakers use without thinking, they are a part of the language, but for the ESL student, they will be of interest.

Three Little Shakespearean Pigs

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