Thursday, 24 February 2005
The Importance of Punctuation
Written language is nothing without punctuation. I like punctuation - it adds a punch(!) to the written word. (Perhaps I overdo it?) I once learnt an extremely humbling lesson: I was involved in the production of a Newsletter for a club I belonged to. When articles were handed in, I typed them out ready for printing and, at the same time, took the liberty of correcting the few grammar and spelling errors I spotted. Although, I must admit that my own spelling is far from perfect (I always have to look in the freezer when I want to add `broccoli' to the shopping list!).
One day, an article was handed in: it was really awful - yet, had the author read it aloud, it would have been very good. It was written in pencil, there were no capital letters for proper nouns, the spelling was another language (he was obviously dyslexic) and, even though he was quoting speech, punctuation was completely non-existent. I got to work. First, I corrected the spelling and the grammar. Then, without changing the order of his words, I inserted punctuation - lots and lots of it! I was very pleased with the result - it was as it would have been had the author read it aloud. With my extreme self-conceit, I'm afraid it didn't even occur to me that my `improvements' might embarrass him or land him in deep water. Well, that is just what happened - I landed him in deep water, very deep water.
At the next club meeting, nominations were invited for committee members. "Simon," (name changed) "Your article in the Newsletter was excellent. Absolutely, top class! How about taking on the position of Press Officer?" I cringed in my seat; what had I done? The poor chap, not knowing what to say, accepted the job. I don't think he lasted in the position very long and, certainly, I could never look him in the eye again!
That story apart, it seems that the use of punctuation on the Internet, particularly on personal websites and Blogs, is on the decline. Well, most people use the full stop, the comma and question marks, but colons and semi-colons are used less and less and apostrophes hardly at all - especially the ones used to denote the omission of a letter. That leads to errors of grammar such as the note once left in my old office: "Will someone whose here tomorrow please ring ..." instead of "Will someone who's here tomorrow ...". Even the use of capital letters seems to be going out of fashion, particularly in Blogs, with 'i' instead of 'I' ( I'm sorry, but I do find that really ugly).
Do you use punctuation marks? They really do add so much to the meaning of phrases and sentences. Have you ever thought that what you meant to say, and thought you were writing down, just might be interpreted by your reader as something quite different - just because of your punctuation or lack of it?
Here is a slightly tongue in cheek example of the effect of punctuation, which I found on the Internet.
Have a go at punctuating it:
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 were apart i can be forever happy will you let me be yours gloria
Done it? To see the answer, View Pop Up
for the full-size page.
Tuesday, 22 February 2005
World Thinking Day
Topic: Special Days
Today, the anniversary of the double birthday of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, is the day when Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world remember each other and reaffirm their commitment to international friendship and understanding. My daughter used to be a Girl Guide - it is a wonderful organisation providing opportunities for all sorts of adventure and experiences. Camping holidays, for instance. Something I never did as a child but which my daughter and her family often enjoy today. Her best camping holiday was to the United States and she still keeps in contact with some of the friends she made over there. Now my granddaughter is following in her footsteps and has recently joined her local Rainbow Group, the youngest section of the Girl Guide movement.
The Thinking Day theme in the United Kingdom for 2005 is 'One World, One Love'. A great way to teach youngsters about customs in other countries and about tolerance and understanding of the global community. Something we could all benefit from!
To all Guiders everywhere: Have a Great Day! And a very big `Thank You' to all the volunteers who give their time to this worthwhile organisation. Without them, there would be no Rainbow, Brownies, Girl Guides, or Girl Scouts.
Monday, 21 February 2005
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Days
Topic: Special Days
Today is International Mother Language Day
and it has been observed every year since February 2000 in all UNESCO Member States. `What on earth is that all about?' I hear you say. Well, it recognises the need to improve understanding and communication among peoples and also stresses the importance of safeguarding the linguistic and cultural heritage of all of humanity and to promote multilingualism.
I talked about Language in one of my earlier posts: The Language of the Future
in which I wondered what was happening to the World's languages, how many were about to die out and what would be the prevalent language in 2100. Sadly, there is now a serious threat to linguistic diversity due to global communication and the tendency to use a single language. Visit the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages
website to find out just how many languages are threatened with extinction. You will be amazed.
International Mother Language Day is also about teaching young children - who have a remarkable ability to acquire language skills at an extremely early age - to communicate in at least two languages. At one time, the teaching of French in some British primary schools was discontinued. Now I am pleased to see that my grandchildren are learning some French words at their primary school. However, to teach children a second language, they really do need to be totally immersed in that language for at least one day a week. To do this successfully, ALL lessons on that day need to be conducted in the chosen language and all other activities, in the playground, on the sports field or even in the school canteen, should also be conducted in the chosen language. Hopefully, a future goal for our educational system? (I believe this language immersion already happens in numerous schools around the world).
Of course, many children learn to speak one language at home and another one in the community at large. This means that in all multi-ethnic communities, children should by right receive tuition in their mother language as well as in their adopted language if they are to be truly bilingual. Often young children in particular will learn better in their mother tongue instead of struggling, falling behind, being labelled "educationally challenged", sent to remedial classes and going through life disadvantaged. Too often in the past children have been actively encouraged to forget their mother tongue.
English people in particular seem to have very poor language skills. We travel to Europe and to other continents and expect every one else to speak English - and mostly everyone does. I often see reporters on television interviewing `the person on the street' in some other country and I am greatly impressed by their command of English. If a German, Spanish or Greek camera crew tried to interview us "Brits" in their respective languages they would probably stand all day on our local `High Street' and be extremely lucky to find one person, other than a foreign tourist, able to string together enough words to form a sentence. We do have our linguists, of course, but they seem to be a rare breed compared with our European cousins. Although I must say, that to his great credit, our Prime Minister, Tony Blair, can converse extremely well in French.
Many years ago, my late sister, Pauline, decided to learn some Arabic before going on holiday to Lebanon and the Holy Land. In Beirut, she noticed a marked difference in the attitude of shop keepers in particular who were impressed by her few words in their language and who seemed to greatly appreciate her courtesy in making the attempt. Why don't you enrol in a language class this year? Learning another language is rewarding and will greatly enrich your appreciation of another country or culture particularly if you plan to visit that country on your holidays.
Saturday, 19 February 2005
Boys and Their Toys
Well, my husband is really over the moon with his early birthday present, the Hitachi Portable DVD Player! We went out today to buy some little external speakers for it and now it sounds really good. He is still playing with it upstairs trying out music CDs and film DVDs.
I would never have thought of getting him that if we hadn't gone shopping together in Portsmouth last Thursday. It is a brand new model out this year and I saved about £75 in Allders closing down sale (don't bother going there, it was the only one). Even the chap who sold us the little speakers today commented on how nice it was!
Thursday, 17 February 2005
Hey Ho - Off to the Shops We Go
Topic: Family Days Out
It's half-term week and my daughter and son-in-law took have taken some time off work to do some much needed decorating - they are sprucing up the small spare room for Elliot to move into. Originally, it was the twins' nursery room, with just enough space for two cots and a little chest of drawers, until they moved into the bigger bedroom next door and into large bunk beds. Only, before that happened, two rather naughty little people had enjoyed themselves tearing at and peeling away the lovely nursery wallpaper!
So, for a change, we went over last Tuesday evening so that Mum and Dad could go out for a meal and see a film at the cinema and today, our usual `baby-sitting' afternoon and evening, we had the whole day to ourselves. Decided to go shopping in Portsmouth, about twenty miles away from where we live. It was a dullish, slightly damp day but really quite mild for the time of the year. My, aren't the shops hot - hotter than we keep our house! All the shop assistants in their thin blouses or shirts and us with our tongues hanging out! Had to remove our coats and carry them about plus all our bags of shopping.
Still, can't grumble - we got some very good bargains in the sales, including an early birthday present for my husband (a little portable DVD player). We also bought two music cd's, jazz, of course - a difficult feat as we already have a huge collection - and I found a very interesting book on "People of the Past", reduced from £25 to £9.99. It covers the pre-history of human kind and early hunter-gatherers to the end of the Stone Age - should keep me quiet for a while. It was only yesterday that I got round to watching a video recording of last week's Horizon programme on Neanderthals. Did you see it? It was very interesting; especially the compound Neanderthal skeleton that was put together using all the various skeletal remains from numerous archaeological finds. It seems that no complete Neanderthal skeleton has ever been found and that we really do not know exactly what they looked like. They are often depicted as very hairy beings with huge beards but many races of humans adapted to extreme cold, such as the Inuit, have very little facial hair. Perhaps one day, a frozen Neanderthal will emerge from some glacier. Now, that would be an exciting find!
Have you noticed that Ladies' washrooms in public places often seem to have the automatic hand dryer situated too high up on the wall? Perhaps I am beginning to shrink with age but it is annoying to find water running up your sleeves because of the angle of your arms. They must all have been installed by 6ft tall plumbers!
Sunday, 13 February 2005
The Bombing of Dresden
Today is the 60th Anniversary of the Bombing of Dresden. On the night of 13th February, RAF Bombers dropped their bomb loads over Dresden in two bombing waves. Later the next day, American bombers dropped yet more bombs on Dresden's railways and bridges. In the resulting firestorms, between 35,000 and 135,000 civilians died (there is much controversy over the exact number) and the city was razed to the ground.
Sir Arthur Travers Harris, who was Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command from 1942 to 1945, ordered the obliteration of this historic city. With hindsight, it is indeed easy to condemn the wholesale bombing of German cities as immoral and as a 'war crime'. Nevertheless, one should remember that, at the time of the Dresden raid, the action was fully supported by the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and by the Allies. Shortly afterwards, Winston Churchill did have second thoughts about the policy of bombing cities purely for the sake of terrorising the population and disrupting communication and, within a few weeks, the Allies halted all area bombing. Churchill distanced himself from Bomber Command - the debate about the morality of bombing raids was already under way.
Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris was convinced that air power would be the decisive factor in winning the war and that strategic bombing would help to prevent the whole scale slaughter of forces on the ground as had happened in the First World War. In 1942, he instigated huge waves of bomber raids on big cities such as Cologne or Hamburg in the belief that he could bring about the swift collapse of the German Reich. Later on in the war, the selective targeting of Hitler's V rocket sites and attacks on oil targets was hugely successful.
However, the collective guilt over the bombing of defenceless civilians remains. One result of all this controversy was that Bomber Command was refused their request for a special campaign medal after the war. This is also an injustice. An injustice to the extremely brave men of RAF Bomber Command, many who died for their country. Did you know that Bomber Command actually suffered a higher casualty rate than any other part of the British military with some 57, 000 to 58,000 aircrew lost? The sacrifice these young men made should be recognised. The surviving veterans also deserve recognition for their extreme bravery and patriotism. The Americans got a campaign medal, why not Bomber Command? After sixty years, isn't it time that the British Government redressed this injustice to a heroic group of men who followed orders, who believed they were assisting the war effort and who undoubtedly made it possible for the Allies to win the war?
Wednesday, 9 February 2005
That Tooth Fairy Again
Poor Elliot! My daughter and the twins all went to see the Dentist on Monday for their check-ups. Monday evening, I received a fancy email missive from my daughter cataloguing Elliot's toothy problems. She explained that, Paul, (the Dentist) had been worried about one of Elliot's new teeth, which wasn't coming through properly. He took an x-ray and discovered that Elliot had a supernumerary tooth which was blocking the proper tooth from coming through. Paul said that it needed to come out as soon as possible and that Elliot would have to come back in a couple of weeks or go to the hospital. At this point, Elliot spoke up and said that he wanted Paul to do it - so Paul gave him the option of coming back or doing it there and then. Courageous little Elliot (he is six and a half) opted for NOW. He was very, very brave and had to suffer two injections - one in the roof of his mouth, which made him yell out. Out came the tooth after a bit of a struggle! At bedtime, the tooth, safely in a special Tooth Fairy envelope, was put by Elliot's bed for the Tooth Fairy to collect. Apparently, Paul had also given him 50p in another tooth fairy envelope for being so plucky!
I thought that all this bravery deserved something special! So, Tuesday morning, I put on my Tooth Fairy crown (pun, intended!), found some lovely clipart at clipart.com and got to work. Phew! Not very good at making email stationery. Had two attempts at stripping two different stationeries and putting my backgrounds and pictures in before I got more or less what I wanted. Took me ages but the Bravery Shield had a nice `blur' effect, which I was pleased with. Funny, when you write HTML on a web page, you put <br /> for a line return. On stationery, it seems you have to put <div> </div> or it doesn't work. (divs force a line return and is a space). Finally sent the email off mid afternoon
Telephoned Elliot later on to find out how he was and if his gum was still sore. He told me the Tooth Fairy had left him ONE POUND for his tooth! He also said he had dribbled some blood onto his pillow during the night but he didn't seem to be upset about his experience or put off from going to the dentist. He even thought to ask me if I had got my tooth fixed after my filling came out last Thursday. "Love you - see you on Thursday" - bless his little soul.
Much later in the evening, I received a reply to the Tooth Fairy:
Dear Tooth Fairy, thank you for the letter. The dentist took a photo of my mouth and saw that there was a tooth in the way so he pulled it out. One of the injections hurt lots. Thank you for my bravery award. Thank you for my #1. Love from Elliotxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Well, as usual, this Tooth Fairy is up very late but feeling very contented. I am so lucky to have such lovely grandchildren!
Sunday, 6 February 2005
May Your Tribe Increase
Topic: In the News
Can you imagine having eighteen children? Possibly - lots of people had very large families in the not so distant past. In Spain in the Sixties, General Franco used to give an annual present of a house to a poor family with the most children. I stayed with my sister in Madrid helping in her English Nursery Class in 1961/62 and I can remember a winner with twenty-four children! It must have been very hard for the runners-up who were persuaded to try for one more child in the hopes of gaining that coveted prize.
So, now you have eighteen children, can you imagine having one hundred grandchildren? And eighteen great-grandchildren? Well, this is the family of a Norwegian couple, Randi and Filip Bekkevold, who have just celebrated the birth of their 100th grandchild. [See this article on the BBC World News
]. And they say they know all their names! I know I wouldn't, for sure!
That reminds me of a much-loved teacher in my primary days at the Manor House Convent School in Finchley, North London, who called everyone "Girlie". One day, she was surrounded in the playground by a mass of lassies clamouring for her attention (including me) when the school's Groundsman approached to ask her a question. She turned to him and, without thinking, said, "Yes, Girlie?". She never did quite live that one down!
Friday, 4 February 2005
A Tale of Woe!
Oh, dear! I have been so very good and careful not to use naughty words in front of the Grandchildren until yesterday - and, they just slipped out.
Stephanie and Elliot were eating their supper and we were drinking coffee and eating a biscuit when I crunched on something in my mouth. A stone in my biscuit? No, it looked like a piece of tooth filling, and a second piece. I prodded my teeth with my tongue - it felt like a huge hole. "Oh, dear. A filling's come out", I lamented. "That will cost a bit!" Poke again with my tongue. "What a nuisance!", I said resignedly. Then, out they came, two sad sounding naughty words attributing my woes to a gory hades. OOOPS. (My husband told me later that Elliot's hand shot up to his mouth!) I did apologise straight away and said 'sorry, I shouldn't have said that' or words to that effect but, what is said is said. Naughty Grandma! (Perhaps I'll say that next time I feel like using an imprecation: "Oh, Gory Hades" - I must practise that!)
I had only seen the Dentist four weeks ago for my six-monthly check-up and he had replaced a lost filling then. Now yet another tooth falling to bits. My tongue was getting quite sore rubbing on this one so I rang the Dentist's Surgery this morning to make an appointment and got one 50 minutes later! Friday is his 'emergency' day - one piece of good luck. Got my bike out and pedalled off down the town.
Half an hour or so later and £55.00 poorer, I stepped out of his door feeling much more comfortable. A 'robust, intermediate filling' he called it. I will have to make a decision next June whether to continue with it and hope it lasts, have the whole tooth filling removed and redone, or go for a nice new crown. Better start saving up!
Wednesday, 2 February 2005
On Getting Old
Topic: Poetry and Poets
I am sure I have aged at least a month over the past ten days! Far too many late nights sitting at my computer well into the early hours. The trouble is that I have been sitting down at my keyboard around 11:00 or 11:30pm, with a mug of coffee by my side (I know, coffee late at night is very
bad!) and, two or three hours later, I suddenly noticed the time. Then, when I did go to bed, I couldn't get to sleep!
Someone once said that it is a sign of age if you feel like the morning after the night before and you haven't been anywhere. Perhaps, I should go 'somewhere' and see how I feel? My memory's failing - my head's in a spin... Well, this poem says it all! Someone had bought one of those fun laminated cards and had pinned it on the wall in the corridor of my old office many years ago. I liked the poem so much I took it down and photocopied it. It was printed without any verses so that it could all fit on an A4 card but I think it looks better like this. The author is unknown but I suspect it must have been written by a Senior Citizen! Only a revered elder from the elite club of the retired would know how we feel and how to put it all into words! Hope you enjoy it!
I'm Very Well Thank You
There is nothing the matter with me,
I'm as healthy as I can be,
I have arthritis in both my knees,
And when I talk - I talk with a wheeze.
My pulse is weak, and my blood is thin,
But - I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.
Arch supports I have for my feet,
Or I wouldn't be able to be out on the street,
Sleep is denied me night after night,
But every morning I find I'm alright.
My memory is failing, my head's in a spin,
But - I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.
The moral is this - as my tale I unfold,
That for you and me who are getting old,
It's better to say 'I'm fine' with a grin,
Than to let folks know the shape we are in.
How do I know that my youth is all spent?
Well, my 'get up and go' has got up and went.
But I really don't mind when I think with a grin,
Of all the grand places my 'got up' has bin.
Old age is golden I've heard it said,
But sometimes I wonder as I get into bed,
With my ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup,
My specs on a table until I get up.
'Ere sleep overtakes me I say to myself,
Is there anything else I could lay on the shelf?
When I was young my slippers were red,
I could kick my heels right over my head,
When I was older my slippers were blue,
But I still could dance the whole night through.
Now I am old my slippers are black,
I walk to the shop and puff my way back,
I get up each morning and dust off my wits,
And pick up the paper to read the 'obits',
If my name is still missing I know I'm not dead;
And so I have breakfast and - go back to bed.
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