* The Pocket Handkerchief Tree
* English As She Is Spoke
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THE POCKET HANDKERCHIEF TREE
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.’
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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ENGLISH AS SHE IS SPOKE
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?’
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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