In this blogposting…
* The Pocket Handkerchief Tree
* Clichés
* English As She Is Spoke

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Mission accomplished!

As I mentioned in posting 459, I was pleased as punch when the redoubtable Brenda told us that there was a Pocket Handkerchief Tree - a Davidia involucrata - about to blossom in the University Quadrangle.  I decided there and then that I would make it my business to investigate as soon as I could.

So I went down there today and there it was - in beautiful, bright, early June sunshine, looking for all the world as if dozens of silky white handkerchiefs were dangling from the branches.  Very striking and very strange and very rare.

At last, after several decades of hunting for a specimen that was in blossom and showing off its unique flowers, I was able to sit back under a cloudless, blue Newcastle sky and admire one in all its glory to my heart’s content.

As a matter of fact, I’d almost left it too late.  Only the topmost branches were still in flower, as you can see.  But that was enough for me.  I was finally able to tick one of the those little, unimportant boxes which, once ticked, make life a little sweeter and a little more worthwhile.

‘It is in the dew of little things that the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.’
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Many thanks to Ellie, Margaret and Brenda for sending me more hoary old clichés - you can see them in the Comments box of the last posting.

Here are some of the many others that have been emailed to me by Peter, Martin, Michael and Lesley…

Once and for all, when all’s said and done, all part of the service, pearls before swine (and, of course, age before beauty), you can’t tell a book by its cover, there’s many a slip, at the end of the day, getting down to brass tacks, everything has its price…

As if to put the cat among the pigeons, I’ve just re-read the first item, above, about the  Pocket Handkerchief Tree and have discovered to my horror another eight clichés.  Sometimes, it’s impossible to avoid them!  And I suppose that’s why they’re clichés…

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Ellie’s comment to the last blogposting also included a rap over my deeply ungrammatical knuckles; I had said ‘My friend and me’ when it ought to have been ‘My friend and I’.

It’s a fair cop, although sometimes I think that that rule can be taken so far that it leaves ordinary ‘custom and usage’ behind.  If someone asks me ‘Who’s there?’ and I reply ‘It’s me’, I am once again in technical breach of the ‘I/me’ rule.  However, to reply ‘It is I’ would surely sound stilted and arch - to say the least.

So we’ll have to agree to disagree.

Coincidentally, the other day my friend Kathy and me had an animated discussion about some other rules of grammar that get some people hot under the collar - starting a sentence with a conjunction, splitting an infinitive, and ending a sentence with a preposition.

But to be honest, I don’t really see what the big deal is with any of them.  And I’ve just started two sentences with conjunctions, to no noticeable detriment.

And if it’s all right for Star Trek ‘to boldly go’ then it’s just as all right for me ‘to boldly split’ an infinitive.

And as for the third Victorian grammarians’ rule about not ending a sentence with a preposition... well, ‘cakes, coffee and sunshine are three things I can’t do without’ sounds infinitely preferable to ‘cakes, coffee and sunshine are three things without which I cannot do.’

The innate foolishness of this rule was famously pointed up by Winston Churchill (no less) who said that ‘telling me not to end a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put’.

I discussed this with my brother this weekend and we have both been trying to remember a well-known quotation that deliberately sets out to end a sentence with as many prepositions as possible.  And we think we’ve found it…

Picture it.  A little boy is in bed but can’t sleep.  He asks his Mam to go downstairs to find a book and then read to him from it.

But she fetches a book he doesn’t like, so he asks…

‘What did you bring me that book to be read to out of up for?’

Neat, huh?

In our Barry’s version, the hated book is about Australia…

‘What did you bring me that book about down under up for?’

If you can do any better, I’d love you to bravely put finger to keyboard.  You know the address to send your messages to.

And in case you don’t, this is me...

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Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com


Kev said...

Hi folks, it's been a while but:
Let’s face it: English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant or ham in hamburger, neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

English muffins were not invented in England or french fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So, one moose, 2 meese? One index, two indices? Is cheese the plural of choose?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? How can the weather be hot as hell one day an cold as hell another?

When a house burns up, it burns down. You fill in a form by filling it out and an alarm clock goes off by going on.

When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it?

Now I know why I failed my English. It’s not my fault; the silly language doesn’t quite know whether it’s coming or going.

The Importance of Correct Punctuation

Dear John:

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy--will you let me be yours?


Only the punctuation changes:

Dear John:

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?



Vivienne said...

Good one Kev. xxx

Ian Robinson said...

Very good indeed - er, Gloria. Your letter explains a lot...