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Archive for August, 2011

Use and Misuse of Language

August 26, 2011 3 comments

Following on from certain posts on this site concerning swearing and an article in yesterday’s Telegraph about the fact that students will lose marks for poor grammar, you will be delighted to know that I have decided to give my attention to the use of language in its various forms.

In broad terms, the purpose of language, I hope we can all agree, is for the communication of ideas, feelings and information. Leaving aside signing (and possibly other forms), language falls into two main categories, spoken and written. Within this context, we have several tools at our disposal that enable us to communicate more effectively.   Read more…

All the way from Syria, please welcome Bobby Darin!

August 3, 2011 13 comments

I am in England at the moment, having attended a family wedding.

During my ongoing and rather listless research of my family tree, I sometimes come across some interesting little vignettes. One of them concerns the story of an artifact that once belonged to ancestors of mine.  The “Luck of Edenhall” is a glass beaker that is thought to have been made in Syria in the 13th century, elegantly decorated in blue, green, red and white enamel with gilding.

“If this cup should break or fall
Farewell the Luck of Edenhall!”

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luck_of_Edenhall. The vessel was donated to the V&A Museum in the 1920s. As I was going to be in London, I thought it might be interesting to go and have a look.

Having tracked down and gazed upon the rather beautiful, heirless heirloom, described as being one of the most important exhibits in the V&A, I went on a wander around the museum. Eventually, I stumbled across a gallery that displayed some of the collections of Horace Walpole from his home at Strawberry Hill in Twickenham. His name had come up in conversation, a few days ago, in relation to a quiz or crossword or some such. I think the reference was to his Gothic novel, Castle of Otranto. (Walpole is thought to have coined the word, ‘serendipity’.) Anyway, I confess that I did not know much about Horace Walpole, so when I got home I googled him. Inevitably, perhaps, that took me to his father Robert Walpole.

Earlier in my visit, I had been staying with my sister and had discovered in  my room a copy of John Gay’s ‘The Beggar’s Opera’. Of course I had heard of Gay and his satirical work and I even knew that he invented the character Macheath, about whom Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill wrote the song,  “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer”. What I did not know was that the highwayman Macheath was based upon Robert Walpole. Had he been alive today, John Gay would surely have been writing for Private Eye.

Anyway, here is Bobby Darrin singing about Britain’s first and longest serving Prime Minister.