Sunday, August 28, 2005

The History of the English Language

In the beginning there was an island off the coast of Europe. It had no name, for the natives had no language, only a collection of grunts and gestures that roughly translated to "Hey!", "Gimme!", and "Pardon me, but would you happen to have any woad?"
Then the Romans (who had a pretty decent language) invaded the island and called it Britain, because the natives were "blue, nasty, br(u->i)tish and short." This was the start of the importance of u (and its mispronounciation)to the language. After building some roads, killing off some of the nasty little blue people and walling up the rest, the Romans left, taking the language instruction manual with them.
The British were bored so they invited the barbarians to come over (under Hengist) and "Horsa" 'round a bit. The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes brought with them slightly more refined vocal noises.
All of the vocal sounds of this primitive language were onomatapoedic, being derived from the sounds of battle. Consonants came from the sounds of weapons striking a foe. ("Sss" and "th" for example are the sounds of a draw cut, "k" is the sound of a solidly landed axe blow, "b", "d", are the sounds of a head dropping onto rock and sod respectively, and "gl" is the sound of a body splashing into a bog. Vowels (which were either gargles in the back of the throat or sharp exhalations) were derived from the sounds the foe himself made when struck: AAY! EEEEE! III! OH! OOH! and sometimes, "Why?"
The barbarians had so much fun that they decided to stay for post-revel. The British, finding they had lost future use of the site, moved into the hills to the west and called themselves Welsh.
The Irish, having heard about language from Patrick, came over to investigate. When they saw the shiny vowels, they pried them loose and took them home. They then raided Wales and stole both their cattle and their vowels, so the poor Welsh had to make do with sheep and consonants. ("Old Ap Ivor hadde a farm, L Y L Y W! And on that farm he hadde somme gees. With a dd ddhere and a dd dd there...")
To prevent future raids, the Welsh started calling themselves "Cymry" and gave even longer names to their villages. They figured if no one could pronounce the name of their people or the names of their towns, then no one would visit them. (The success of the tactic is demonstrated still today. How many travel agents have YOU heard suggest a visit to scenic Llyddumlmunnyddthllywddu?)
Meanwhile, the Irish brought all the shiny new vowels home to Erin. But of course they didn't know that there was once an instruction manual for them, so they scattered the vowels throughout the language purely as ornaments. Most of the new vowels were not pronounced, and those that were were pronounced differently depending on which kind of consonant they were either preceding or following.
The Danes came over and saw the pretty vowels bedecking all the Irish words. "Ooooh!" they said. They raided Ireland and brought the vowels back home with them. But the Vikings couldn't keep track of all the Irish rules so they simply pronounced all the vowels "oouuoo."
In the meantime, the French had invaded Britain, which was populated by descendants of the Germanic Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. After a generation or two, the people were speaking German with a French accent and calling it English. Then the Danes invaded again, crying "Oouuoo! Oouuoo!," burning abbeys, and trading with the townspeople.
The Britons that the Romans hadn't killed intermarried with visiting Irish and became Scots. Against the advice of their travel agents, they decided to visit Wales. (The Scots couldn't read the signposts that said, "This way to LLyddyllwwyddymmllwylldd," but they could smell sheep a league away.) The Scots took the sheep home with them and made some of them into haggis. What they made with the others we won't say, but Scots are known to this day for having hairy legs.
The former Welsh, being totally bereft, moved down out of the hills and into London. Because they were the only people in the Islands who played flutes instead of bagpipes, they were called Tooters. This made them very popular. In short order, Henry Tooter got elected King and begin popularizing ornate, unflattering clothing.
Soon, everybody was wearing ornate, unflattering clothing, playing the flute, speaking German with a French accent, pronouncing all their vowels "oouuoo" (which was fairly easy given the French accent), and making lots of money in the wool trade. Because they were rich, people smiled more (remember, at this time, "Beowulf" and "Canterbury Tales" were the only tabloids, and gave generally favorable reviews even to Danes). And since it is next to impossible to keep your vowels in the back of your throat (even if you do speak German with a French accent) while smiling and saying "oouuoo" (try it, you'll see what I mean), the Great Vowel Shift came about and transformed the English language.
The very richest had their vowels shifted right out in front of their teeth. They settled in Manchester and later in Boston.
There were a few poor souls who, cut off from the economic prosperity of the wool trade, continued to swallow their vowels. They wandered the countryside in misery and despair until they came to the docks of London, where their dialect devolved into the incomprehensible language known as Cockney. Later, it was taken overseas and further brutalized by merging it with Dutch and Italian to create Brooklynese.
That's what happened, you can check for yourself. But we advise you to just take our word for it.

Taken from here. It's wonderful what you can find on the Internet.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

So True

Today is the absolute day,
the only day in the eternity of time.
Everyday is fresh and new
just as one's life is new everyday.


From yesterday's Meditation Tip of the Day

The Library That Lends Out People

A public library in Holland has been swamped with queries after unveiling plans to "lend out" living people, including homosexuals, drug addicts, asylum seekers, gipsies and the physically handicapped.
The volunteers will be borrowed by users of the library, in Almelo, who can take them to a cafeteria, and ask them any questions they like for up to an hour, in a scheme designed to break down barriers and combat prejudice.
The library's director, Jan Krol, said yesterday he had been deluged with requests from prospective borrowers after his project was reported in the Dutch media.
Almelo, a prosperous town of 72,000 people in the Twente region of east Holland, is not known as a hotbed of Amsterdam-style liberalism.
The people-lending scheme was conceived as a local project, designed to encourage the solid burghers of Almelo to make contact with members of ethnic minorities and other marginalised members of society but caught the imagination of the Dutch press.
"It has caused a lot of interest, a lot of people have already called with questions like: do I need a library card?" said Mr Krol.
Borrowers of people will not need a card, he said, though one will remain necessary for more prosaic items, such as books.
There will be no fines for returning people late, he added. "Most meetings will last 45 minutes, we imagine. You can ask anything you like, but racist or strong language is not allowed. To avoid unpleasantness, all meetings must take place in the library café."
Mr Krol, who said he was inspired by a similar scheme in Sweden, has already filled many of his volunteer slots, and hopes to launch the project next month.
He said: "I've got several gay men, a couple of lesbian women, a couple of Islamic volunteers, I've got a physically handicapped woman, and a woman who has been living on social security benefits for many years in real poverty. "
Mr Krol said he was especially keen to find members of Holland's small Roma gipsy community after a recent attack on two gipsy families in the city of Enschede.
Under the scheme, photographs and short biographies of the volunteers will appear in the library, and on its website. Library users who wish to take a person out can apply for an appointment. Mr Krol said he had not cleared the scheme with his municipal bosses.
"Oh, I never ask the council before I do anything," he said. "And there are no costs at all, only two cups of coffee."

Absolutely true and from today's Telegraph

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My version of Minestrone Soup

2 ounces of steaky bacon, de-rinded and chopped into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
6 oz carrots, chopped
tin chopped tomatoes
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
4-5 leeks, chopped
about 6 oz green cabbage, shredded
1 oz butter
1 tablespoon oil
2.5 pints vegetable stock
1.2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped, or 0.5 teaspoon dried basil
3-4 oz macaroni
1 tablespoon tomato puree
salt & freshly ground pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat butter and oil in a big saucepan, add the bacon and cook for a minute or two. Then add the onion, cook that for a minute or so then add the celery, carrots, tomato pulp, garlic and season with salt & pepper. Put the lid on the pan and let the veg sweat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the stock, the juice from the tin of tomatoes and the basil. Simmer gently (covered) for about an hour. Then add the leeks, cabbage and macaroni and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Stir in the tomato puree, cook for another 10 minutes and check seasoning. Serve with the parmesan on top of each serving of soup.

My Comments:

Although it might seem to take a while to make it is very economical, healthy and has few calories.

You can change the amounts of veg/garlic/seasoning used, depending on taste and what you have available.

Sometimes when I make it I find that because I've added more veg than above it gets very thick indeed. Fine, I just treat it like a condensed soup and let it down with some more stock.

I find one lot of soup lasts the Husband and I several days. The soup lasts well in a (big) bowl in the fridge and I just take out a couple of portions and add some stock to make it go further and last longer. So, although it takes a while to make it is well worth it in the long run.

To save time I tend to chop/shred all of the vegetables in the food processor.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Oh Nimrod!

Nimrod the Mighty Hunter is feeling better. And as a result I am feeling absolutely shattered. I was worken out of a deep sleep at 2.30 in the morning by him bellowing outside the bedroom door. His Mightiness had caught a bird and laid it, like an offering, outside the door. He clearly wanted my approbation. SIGH.

Obviously the antibiotics are working. Only two more days to go.

Fascinating Idea

There is an absolutely fascinating idea in the news today of a proposal, by a professor at Cornell University and published in Nature, to repopulate the open spaces of North America and Canada with a variety of endangered species from other countries. Animals like lions, cheetahs and elephants could fill gaps in the ecosystem which could have major environmental benefits. The idea is to fill the continent with large mammals similar to those wiped out 13,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene era, when human beings reached North America. The full story can be found in The Times and the BBC.

I find this an absolutely fascinating idea, well worth investigating further. What comes to my mind is that over here wild boar were hunted to extinction a couple of centuries or more ago. Since then wild boars, which had been bred in captivity have escaped from farms and have now established themselves in Great Britain. I understand that they are absolutely thriving in certain areas. It would be wonderful if some endangered species could be established in the wild areas of the US/Canada - provided, of couse, that the whole thing is properly managed and the creatures protected.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

There are times when you wonder what part of the year you are actually in. The last few days were a case in point. This weekend saw the start of the football (soccer) season. I know this because I am the wife of a third generation Arsenal supporter (he was born within walking and listening distance of the Gunners’ grounds) and Arsenal won their first match 2-0. Now the fact that I have no idea who they were playing gives you some idea of my interest in the game. All I do is to listen to what he says - it goes in one ear and out the other without sticking in my memory at all – and make comments which I always think of as intelligent but turn out to prove my absolute ignorance of the game. But then I just do not understand why, if there is a whole generation of young lads who would like to be a professional footballer that Arsene Wenger (the Manager) is looking for decent players. Anyway, to get back to the point the Football season to me is supposed to be in Winter.

Then yesterday (Monday) our house reverberated with shrieks and bellows on the last day of the latest Ashes. England versus Australia and England could have won (I was told) up to the last ball bowled. Cricket is a game with a huge number of abtruse names and points, none of which I understand. Only an Englishman could. Anyway, at least Cricket is supposed to be played in the Summer, although there seem to be matches most of the year and in all parts of the world.

The shrieks were coming from the sitting room (Husband) and the Stepson’s bedroom. He telephoned at 7.00 pm on Friday to announce that he was turning up at 8.00 to stay for a week. My immediate reaction when I had put the phone down was a panicked mental inventory of what was in the fridge – he drinks vats of milk daily and we were a bit short – but then to realise that it is good that he feels comfortable enough with us to do that. He is an undergraduate, of course, and they all make decisions on what they are going to do at the last minute. He’ll learn.

We had to have to plumbers in yesterday to sort out a leak that was coming through the main bedroom ceiling. The Husband had traced the problem before he rang the plumber – whoever had lived in the house before us had been an absolutely terrible DIYer and this was one of a number of botched jobs we have discovered over the years. I had to keep away from our plumber because she is young and has a couple of school-age kids and, of course, I am still infectious. For the same reason I am not going up to London tomorrow with the Husband and the Stepson when they visit a couple of exhibitions at Tate Britain and the go on to the Proms. I am sorry to be missing the exhibitions but not really to miss the Prom – Berg isn’t really my thing.

Nimrod has been limping around the house for several days. I kept an eye on him in the hope that it would clear up of his own accord but when he was still being a brave little soldier (Ha!) on Monday I gave up and took him to the Vets. It turns out that he has a puncture wound in one of the pads of his left front foot and that it has become infected. So I have to give him antibiotics twice a day for the next five days. Fortunately he is good about taking pills, or perhaps it is that after a lifetime of keeping cats I have developed some experience of putting pills down their throats.

We are not sure how he got the puncture wound but I have a pretty good idea. We have an old climbing rose on a wall in the back garden which has a trunk that is hard and wood like. Nim will keep on trying to climb up it or to sharpen his claws on it despite the many ferocious thorns. Nimrod may be a Mighty Hunter but he is hardly the sharpest of moggies.

Shingles isn't much fun. Apart from its very obvious presence on the face and the pain it also makes you feel very washed out. A deadheading session in the backgarden today was enough to make me very puffed. But then we have a lot of white Cosmos which look wonderful but need deadheading virtually daily and I haven't done any since last week. Oh well, what I've done today should keep them going for a bit. Now I am going to rest.

Thought of the Week

If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you will be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life.

Abraham Maslow

From Meditation Tip of the Day

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

At times I know how they feel

From The Idler:-

Researchers in Gruenau, Austria have provided a flock of lazy birds with a car and driver because they are incapable of migrating on their own.

Ornithologists from the Konrad Lorenz research centre have spent more than two years breeding the Northern Bald Ibis species.

The birds were escorted to their winter quarters in the Maremma region in northern Italy by car because they simply couldn’t be bothered to make the 500 mile trip. If they’d flown, the birds (which are about 80 centimetres tall with slimy black feathers) would have taken about a fortnight to complete the journey.

Dr Kurt Kotrschal from the Zoology Department at Vienna University said: ‘The birds are used to the all-inclusive treatment at the research centre. So we had to pack the lazy birds into the car and drive them.’

The species had once been widespread in Austria but was entirely wiped out in the Middle Ages. Experts claimed that the idle things had lost their natural sense of orientation and are now being retrained in hang gliders.

Monday, August 08, 2005

And three times is... Unlucky?

I am not a superstitious person, never have been. Let’s face it when you are owned by a big black cat (Nimrod the Mighty Hunter) who is constantly wending his way around your ankles it is difficult to be superstitious about such creatures. Horrorscopes is another thing I don’t believe in. I was born on the cusp – literally – between Aquarius and Pisces and it all depends on what time I was born which I belong to. However my mother can’t remember what time of the day I was born… and neither horoscope ever seems to match up to me.

Many people have another superstition, that if something (usually bad) happens twice it will happen a third time. This is yet another superstition I usually don’t espouse to either. However…

The Husband developed shingles about three months ago and suffered (quite loudly) for the two months that it was a real problem for him.

Buffy, a friend of mine, is looking after her 88 year old mother who has developed shingles and is really uncomfortable with it at the moment.

Do you see where I am going with this…

I went to the doctors this morning to find out why (a) I feel as if I have been kicked in the face; and (b) why I have a large and very obvious group of swellings, blisters, etc on the left side of my mouth. Yes, I have shingles too.

The blisters, etc, first showed their ugly heads a couple of weeks ago but were not too bad. However, on Friday I took a day trip from the town in Essex, where I live, to the outskirts of Cardiff, to visit my mother in the nursing home where she lives. An exhausting trip and visit. By Saturday I felt horrible and the problems with my face were about four times as bad as before. Hence the visit to the Doctor today.

I am trying to avoid painkillers if I can. I do feel a bit drained, I must admit, and after spending the rest of the morning making a huge bowl of Scotch Broth have spent the afternoon listening to Classic FM for a bit of relaxation.

This too shall pass.

Friday, August 05, 2005


Off to Wales in a minute to visit my mother. Just some thoughts before I set out....

A man walked into the ladies department of a department store and shyly walked up to the woman behind the counter and said, "I'd like to buy a bra for my wife."
"What type of bra?" asked the clerk.
"Type?" inquires the man, "There's more than one type?
"Look around," said the saleslady, as she showed a sea of bras in every shape, size, color and material imaginable.
"Actually, even with all of this variety, there are really only four types of bras to choose from."

Relieved, the man asked about the types. The saleslady replied: "There are the Catholic, the Salvation Army, the Presbyterian, and the Baptist types. Which one would you prefer?"

Now totally befuddled, the man asked about the differences between them. The Saleslady responded, "It is all really quite simple...
The Catholic type supports the masses.
The Salvation Army type lifts the fallen,
The Presbyterian type keeps them staunch and upright, and
The Baptist makes mountains out of mole hills.

Have you ever wondered why A, B, C, D, DD, E, F, G, and H are the letters used to define bra sizes? If you have wondered why, but couldn't figure out what the letters stood for, it is about time you became informed!

(A} Almost Boobs...
{B} Barely there.
{C} Can't Complain!
{D} Dang!
{DD} Double dang!
{E} Enormous!
{F} Fake.
{G} Get a Reduction.
{H} Help me, I've fallen and I can't get up !

They forgot the German bra....Holtzemfromfloppen!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Slow Cooked Lamb Casserole

1 kg/2lb beef/ Lamb cut into 0.5cm/1inch pieces
Seasoned flour for dusting
2 tbsp vegetable oil or beef dripping
175g/6oz smoked bacon, diced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sprigs thyme
2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
275ml/10fl oz of red wine
500ml/1 pint beef stock
150ml/5fl oz port
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
12 stoned prunes
100g/2oz dried cranberries
115g/4oz button mushrooms
2 bay leaves
1 orange, zest only
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp rough chopped parsley
freshly black ground pepper

1. Toss the lamb in the seasoned flour. Heat the oil in an ovenproof casserole dish and brown the lamb all over.
2. Add the bacon, celery, onion, garlic and thyme, the redcurrant jelly, red wine, beef stock, port and Worcestershire sauce along with the dried cranberries, button mushrooms, bay leaves, orange zest and tomato purée.
3. Bring slowly to simmering point then cover and cook in the oven at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 2 ½ hours or until the lamb is tender.
4. Remove the casserole from the oven and allow to rest for five minutes. Skim off any fat that has risen to the surface.
5. Serve with mashed potato.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Su Doku

Cop Car was asking what is Su Doku. Well, it's an absolute craze over here and totally addictive. Su Doku puzzles can be found in many of the UK daily newspapers and from the many books of compilations of puzzles currently being published, some of which are now in the UK's bestseller list for books.

Su Doku is a challenge for logic and common sense. There is a grid, 9 squares across and 9 squares down and the challenge is to fill each square with a number between 1 and 9 so that every number appears once in each line whether across or down. Some of the numbers are given and you have to deduce the rest through reasoning and deductuion. It is simple to learn, requires no mathematical calculations and provides a surprisingly wide number of logic situations. It appeals to all ages and, as I have already said, is totally addictive.

Su Doku originated in an American puzzle book in the 1980s and was originally called Number Place. Somehow it migrated to Japan and slightly adapted when it was called "Suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru" and became the most popular number puzzle in Japan.

One thing I have read about Su Doku in a crafting magazine thought that Su Doku had probably originated from a quilting block. I understand that the 9 patch grid is well known in quilting circles.

For access to Su Doku (and a source for puzzles on a weekly basis) try virtually every UK newspaper. I read the Times and so I suggest you try here which also gives hints and tips on how to solve the puzzles. But, as I have already said, once you start the puzzles you get totally addicted. I know I am, as is the Stepson.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Sewing Machine Frustrations

I am feeling really exasperated. For some time I wanted to start sewing properly. I decided to dust down my sewing machine and to start to use it again. Also I have enrolled in a year course of evening classes in soft furnishings.

My Singer sewing machine is over 30 years old and so I took it into the local sewing machine shop to have a full service done. I picked up the machine today. The service cost me over £60 plus £5 worth of bobbins. Once I had paid the manager of the shop, who had also done the servicing, he told me that he could not guarantee the life of the machine and that it was probably nearing the end of its life (I bought it new in 1973/74). He then showed me an identical machine, the same make and model, and told me that he was about to throw it in the dustbin because it was broken (something to do with the bobbin holder) and it could not be mended, a common problem with that particular machine.

What really gets me is that when we took the machine to the shop the Husband offered to buy me a new machine and I told him that it wasn't necessary, I would prefer to keep on using the machine I was used to.

Anyway, I've brought my old machine home and will keep on using it. But in the back of my mind will now be the thought that it could break down at any minute. Sigh.