Tuesday 30 October 2007
Monday 29 October 2007
I'm very touched by the concern - thank you - it makes blogland feel rather like the sort of neighbourhood where people start to make enquiries if you don't take the milk in one morning.
Actually, I'm absolutely fine, thanks - just quite monstrously busy with work, on top of which it was half term last week and there were men in replacing the central heating boiler and all the carefully planned sequential workflow has morphed somehow into one vast mountain of urgent work. A veritable Bass Rock of piled-up deadlines and I am deep in gannet guano.
I haven't even been walking the dog - the children have been doing that through the holidays - so no beach pics, either. I did manage to spend a couple of hours with friends at their beach hut on Friday, but forgot to take the camera, which was a shame because it was an invisible horizon day - the uniformly grey sea and sky merged into one another completely in the eerie stillness.
Normal service will be resumed shortly, but meanwhile, I'd just like to announce how very much I hate the 'word' anymore!
One comes across anymore in blogs and magazines all the time, of course, but I spotted it in a novel I'm reading and it leaped out at me so forcefully that I thought it was time I checked to see whether this is an unreasonable personal loathing, or whether (should I have been the book's copy editor, which I was not), I would have been perfectly 'correct' to split it into two words.
Don't worry. This isn't going to be a rant about what's correct and incorrect in English as She is Written. I take a professional interest in such matters, naturally, but I'm not one of those apoplectic grammarians I've mentioned before who spend their lives waging war against syntactical heresy of one kind or another.
I turned, as so often, to the incomparable http://www.askoxford.com/ , which allows one to dip into the Oxford English Corpus - the fullest, most accurate picture of the language today. Comprising some two billion words of real twenty-first century English, it provides the evidence of how language is used in real situations, and it is employed by lexicographers as a basis for writing accurate and meaningful dictionary entries. It includes all types of English, from literary novels and specialist journals to everyday newspapers and magazines and from Hansard to the language of chatrooms, emails and (crucially) blogs.
Here's what it has to say about anymore:
Some day or someday?
A number of common words in English started out as two-word phrases and eventually became fused as single-word forms: forever, somebody, everyone.
The Oxford English Corpus shows the process continuing today. The chart below gives some examples. For instance, it shows that the phrase some time now appears as the fused single-word form sometime in 32% of all occurrences in American English and 19% of all occurrences in British English.
The tendency to fuse fixed expressions is more common in American than British English. In American English someday has now become more or less standard, substantially outnumbering occurrences of some day; anymore and underway look set to follow. Although the same trend is apparent in British English, it tends to lag behind.
Does the corpus suggest any patterns in the fusing of expressions in single words?
Fused forms almost always emerge first in informal English (the weblog and chatroom parts of corpus) and are much slower to spread to more formal, edited text such as newspapers and magazines; of the examples shown here, only someday is well represented across all text types.
Fused forms seem to spread more easily if there is a direct analogy with an existing word: anymore benefits from the analogy with anyone and anybody, whereas ofcourse is almost non-existent because there are no analogous of- words.
The tendency to fuse may be stronger when the phrase occurs at the end of a clause: 84% of instances of anymore occur at the end of a clause, compared with 46% of instances of any more.
So there we have it. Anymore is far more prevalent in American usage than in 'standard' English English - I think we all knew that. It will doubtless in my lifetime become universally accepted - and there's little I can do about that. And, logically, of course, if we can have anyone and anything, why not anymore? There is no logical argument against it whatever. It will happen. I'm not the copy editor of this book. It's not my concern. Why should I care?
Irrationally, I do care. It will take a lot to persuade me to like, use or endorse anymore in written English. Sorry!
Tuesday 23 October 2007
I can't recommend Shedworking highly enough. Although it's aimed primarly at those who live, work or play in sheds, it's a fascinating read for all homeworkers, gardeners, beach-hut devotees or simply anyone who fancies a glimpse into the quirky world of shed-like structures. It's updated several times every day, so there's always something new and interesting to see and read about.
Scaled some steep steps and followed the cliff path round to St Abbs – where another hardy species can be found: the diver. Apparently the water is incredibly clear a long way out, and there are underwater rock formations to swim through and scary-looking Arctic wolf-fish to view. Well, I wish them joy of it – I think I can safely predict that I will never be seen in a wet suit and flippers.
Monday 22 October 2007
The day of my visit, the light shining on the rock (white, courtesy of the 140,000 gannets residing there for ten months a year) was quite mesmerising.
Having subsequently expended a modicum of energy clambering over rocks and trudging across expanses of flat golden sand, we nipped into Tea at Tiffanys for a restorative cup of tea. Not long opened, this is a gem of a tea-room, with gorgeous magenta walls, sparkling chandeliers and friendly personal service from the owner (we ordered tea for three and two big pots arrived with a promise of as much more to follow as we cared to consume).
Slightly regretted not having time to visit The Pennyfarthing antique and book shop on Quality Street (yes, really – and no toffees in purple cellophane to be seen). But given my unfortunate inability to walk into a secondhand book shop and emerge carrying less than a half-hundredweight of must-have books, it is probably just as well. I’d have had to courier them home to myself at vast expense.
Sunday 21 October 2007
But it is now, so click here to enjoy Wild Geese
On my train journey from Berwick-upon-Tweed into Edinburgh on Wednesday, following the coast round to the west, via Dunbar and North Berwick - the Bass Rock glowing yellowy-white in the autumn sunshine as if illuminated from within, the Firth of Forth an inky blue – I remembered the words of Isabel Dalhousie: ‘The whole point of being in Scotland was that one was in Scotland’ and ‘One can love a country until it hurts’.
Top favourite shopping discovery for the day was Ragamuffin, on the corner of Canongate and the Royal Mile. A sensory treasure-house of hand-made textiles – from coats, shirts and skirts, to knitwear and accessories, including some by Hume sweet Hume (a big favourite of mine). I was in heaven – though it took me an age and a half to make a decision between the hundreds of delights on offer.
The softest imaginable, mossy knitted alpaca scarf:
Festive textures and intense, rich colour (this photo doesn’t do it justice at all):
Lunched in the justly renowned Cafe Royal Bar:
Decided to tackle the shops on Princes Street and its environs in a final desperate push for some Sensible Footwear. Eventually found a branch of Jones on George Street which stocked a pair of Timberland Nellies in my size. Not pink, not lilac, not blue or red or purple. Just boring brown. But they did the trick – my feet went ‘ahhhh, thank you’; my Visa card went ‘ouch!’, and I got a free bar of chocolate at the till for being a good girl.
Charles Jencks' prizewinning Landform Ueda - a stepped, serpentine-shaped mound and crescent-shaped pools of water in the grounds at the front of the gallery. Part artwork, part landscaping - you can climb all over it and I wish I'd had time to exploit its huge photographic potential.
Having arrived later than intended, I didn’t have time to do justice to the current Richard Long exhibition, unfortunately, though there were some interesting pieces dotted around outside the show itself – notably Cornish Slate Cross, which I was able to survey while enjoying a Nice Cup of Tea in the gallery cafe.