Saturday, 29 June 2013

Aboriginal words and Flinders Island

Words are powerful. Yesterday, at The Ian Potter Gallery, I looked at a video artwork by Julie Gough. I was so entranced by the words she used that I stood through two viewings of the seventeen minute presentation
The contrast of the words against the idyllic video clips made a strong impression on the viewer. Here are two sets of photos from the display:
********************************************************************************** Other Aboriginal words featured in the artwork - for instance, the words for flour, tobacco, musket, sheep, blanket. (I've posted on my other blog about the word for 'kangaroo dog'.) However, the ones that made the most vivid impression on me were two concepts that must have been new to the indigenous inhabitants - flagellate and hang by rope. What terrible ideas the Europeans brought with them.
I hope you get a chance to see this artwork. It will make an impression on you.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

plural of the word 'nemesis'

Dark Currents, by Jacqueline Carey, is a great read. The plot is exciting and the heroine gutsy but conflicted. I'm enjoying the light tone of the story.

Jacqueline Carey allows Daisy to use delightfully complex words. Why would a young woman who's a part-time file clerk in a local police station, and grew up in a trailer park, know and use this vocabulary? Because she remembers the lessons taught her by her favorite high school teacher, Mr Leary, in his myth and literature classes. (As a teacher myself, I have to love the thought that we can make a difference!)

Here's an example of the way Carey slides complex vocabulary into the narrative:
"Nothing germane to the case," I said firmly. And yes, I was a bit pleased with myself for remembering the word germane and using it correctly in context. My old teacher Mr. Leary would have been proud.

And here's another part where Daisy visits Mr Leary:
He had a drink in hand, but he was  steady on his feet and he sounded lucid. "How is my favorite little eschatological time bomb?"
For the record, no, I don't know exactly what that means. It happens a lot with Mr. Leary. But I always appreciated the fact that he never, ever talked down to his students. 

Eschatological was a new word to me. At Merriam-Webster, I found it is:

1. a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind;         2. a belief concerning the Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, or the Last Judgment.

The word that really got our household talking was nemeses.

What a great plural. Here's the context:

...she'd hired her daughter Stacey, who happened to be one of my high school nemeses...

This got us talking about the plural of nouns ending in 'is'. For instance, axis becomes axes; crisis becomes crises; and diagnosis becomes diagnoses. So I suppose nemeses is logical as the plural of nemesis.

On the other hand, one family member argued that Nemesis is a name - of the Greek goddess of retribution - and therefore the plural should be Nemesises as in the plural of Jonases. Hmmm... a look around the internet doesn't support her theory.

And, strangely, there's a bike trail in British columbia called Plural of Nemesis. A quick look at some footage of people riding down it gives a hint about how it was  named.

Friday, 7 June 2013

misspelling of the words stationary and stationery

I've posted previously about how I remember the difference between the words stationery and stationary. My sister does it by thinking of the word car, and the fact that a car moves and is spelled with ar. Something that is stationary doesn't move. Hmm...I sort of see the logic of this one.

My method is to say that in a stationery shop there will be envelopes, and envelope begins with the letter 'e'.

I was in a great little store at Westfield Doncaster today,  called daiso. I love this store, with its huge range of bits and pieces to make life easy. It's a bit like the Tardis, small on the outside but enormous on the inside.

I was with a group of teachers, and needless to say we're nit-pickers when it comes to spelling, so of course I pointed out this sign:

Loved the immediate quip by one of my friends. 'Well, the stock on that  display's not going to move fast.'

Monday, 3 June 2013

Thomas Jefferson said then and not than about his slaves

Recently, when I received a daily bulletin from, I was interested to see that Thomas Jefferson had used the word then where we nowadays would use the word than.

Here's the link to the particular article in the archive:

In a chilling assessment of the economic value of slave ownership, Jefferson said:
A child raised every 2. years is of more profit then the crop of the best laboring man.
I wondered if the word 'then' was a typo, so I looked around the internet and found what I take to be a reliable article, on the Smithsonian website. The article, The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson, was a revelation to me about the disgusting practice of slavery. Whippings; selling of children 'down the river', never to be seen again; hypocrisy; brutal overseers doing the work Jefferson professed to detest - all these were part of a gripping article that I felt compelled to read to the end.

I've posted previously about the mixed history of these two spellings. I still think it's likely that in the future we will spell both words as 'then'.