25 September, 2015

421 words for snow

I read a very interesting article the other day about  the compilation of the first Historical Thesaurus of Scots. Academics putting together the tome have discovered that there are 421 Scottish words for snow, in all its multiplicity of forms. For example, 'blin-drift' means drifting snow, while 'flindrikin' means a slight snow shower. This puts the Inuit total of only 50 worlds for snow well and truly in the shade.

In addition to weather, the thesaurus will cover sport. It turns out that there are 369 different Scottish words associated with the playing of marbles, a game that has been extremely popular with Scottish children for generations.

Despite having lived in Scotland for a number of years, I am not familiar with any of the words connected with snow or marbles that were quoted in the article. I guess this is because I am not a native Scot and because neither snow nor marbles featured high on my agenda during my time living in the country.

But this got me thinking about how easy it would be to invent words that don't exist and, if enough people were prepared to take part in the mass deception, convince others (non-natives) that these words were legitimate and had been around forever. If you did that, I imagine that people might actually start using those made-up words and, voilĂ , they would enter the language for real.

And that is exactly how vocabulary does--or can--develop. Not the mass deception bit, of course, but someone starting to use a new word or an old word in a new way, others following suit and, before you know it, that word becoming ubiquitous.

An interesting article, as I said...

12 September, 2015

Big school beckons

I can't quite believe it -- my youngest child started secondary school this week. Yet it seems like only yesterday that she was a tiny tot starting primary school.

And my oldest child is already starting on GCSE work!

Where does the time go?

04 September, 2015

Pride and Prejudice

We went to see "Pride and Prejudice" by the Pantaloons last weekend. This was an open air theatre production in the grounds of Waddesdon Manor, and it was fabulous!

The Pantaloons is a small touring theatre company which puts on a variety of plays during the course of the year. They aim to "recapture an aspect of Shakespeare's drama which the modern naturalistic theatre has lost: the riotous energy of the clown". What this means in practice is that they bring a huge amount of fun and invention to their productions. The actors clearly love their jobs and enjoy working together.They specialise in really funny and clever ad libbing, and they constantly interact with their audience.

During the performance that we saw, the actors managed to weave into the script comments about a hot air balloon that just happened to be floating past, and about the fact that the after-dark illumination of Waddesdon Manor made it look a bit like Batman's layer! They also wandered through the audience (who were picnicking on the grass), stealing bits of food and glasses of wine -- again, all at pertinent points in the plot.

We enjoyed the show so much, that we are about to book tickets for the Pantaloons' autumn production of Macbeth. I'll be very interested to see how they make that play amusing -- but I'm absolutely sure they'll manage it with great finesse!