Why do we call the W ‘double U’ instead of ‘double V’?
For the answer to this, we need to go back to Rome, where they made no distinction V and U, nor between the letters I and J, even though one of each pair is a vowel and the other a consonant.
This means that in Roman times, these pairs of letters– U and V , and I and J –were what we call allographs. An allograph is an alternative form of the same letter, like upper and lower case letters, or the same letter in plain or italic, or in different fonts. Replacing one with the other does not change how the words are said.
Thats why you’ll see AVGVSTVS instead of AUGUSTUS or IVLIVS instead of JULIUS on old Roman coins.
The Romans did not have a letter for the /w/ sound because they didn’t really use it. In contrast, the Anglo-Saxons of early medieval England used the sound a lot in their language, so they needed a letter for it when they started writing things down using the Latin alphabet instead of the runic alphabet they had used previously. They originally wrote it as uu– which makes sense as the /w/ sound comes right at the end of the long /u/ sound– but then reverted to using the runic character wynn to represent the sound. When the Normas arrived in England in the 11th century, they brought back the usage of the conjoined uu to represent the /w/ sound, and it literally became the double U.
Even in today’s English, the previous identity of U and V is reflected in the varied spelling of similarly pronounced words such as flower and flour, guard and ward, or lour and lower.
Zarf is a word you might never have heard or used, but it relates to something with which most of us are quite familiar.
These days, the word zarf refers to that cardboard or silicone band on a portable coffee cup that insulates it and stops your fingers getting too hot while holding your drink. Some call it a cup sleeve or a cup holder: zarf is a far more evocative and interesting word.
The word zarf comes from Arabic via Turkish, and simply means ‘envelope’. Thus, its adoption for a cardboard sleeve to go around a disposable coffee cup is logical, and it soon came to be applied to anything that went around or held a cup to make it more comfortable to hold.
Many people assume that the zarf was a late 20th century invention that came about with the advent of the disposable, followed by the the reusable, takeaway coffee cup. Those people are wrong.
The zarf began as a holder for a hot coffee cup in Turkey and across the Middle East as early as the 1600s.
When the Ottoman Empire banned alcohol in the 16th century, coffee became the premier drink of the people. Within one hundred years, coffee houses became such important centres of gathering, culture and political discussion that the Empire banned coffee, too.
As any coffee lover could predict, that didn’t work. The people responded so profoundly that the Empire decided not to stand between the people and their caffeine ever again, but added a significant tax on coffee instead, in keeping with the age-old governmental proverb: if you can’t beat them, tax them.
As the traditional coffee cups had no handles, the zarf evolved as a functional holder, but soon became elaborately decorative. These are still used today.
Traditionally, the more ornate and beautiful the zarf, the higher the esteem in which the drinker is held. An ornate zarf can indicate status or affection and respect, which means that a lover, a close friend or a family member might serve coffee in a zarf as beautiful as that served to a sultan or emir.
The zarf and the coffee served in it are just two of the many wonderful things we have inherited from Eastern history and culture. Coffee houses are still cultural and social hubs in the Middle East, a legacy reflected in the popularity of coffee shops and cafes worldwide.
Anyone inclined toward prejudice against Eastern and Muslim cultures should remember that when sipping their morning cup of joe: it would be impossible to live as we do without their contributions and influence.
This morning I read a tweet that made me stop and think, “Wait.. what?”
The word that got my attention was ‘bivouacked’. Despite the fact that I am a passionate reader and a scholar and teacher of History, I had no idea what this word meant. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one: plenty of people responded that they had to look the word up.
My trusty Macquarie Dictionary gave me the definition.
Etymonline explains that the use of bivouac in English dates back to 1702, meaning an “encampment of soldiers that stays up on night watch in the open air, dressed and armed.”
It is an image of readiness to defend and protect, which was exactly the context of the tweet. These images of bivouacked soldiers in the Capitol building, Washington DC, are confronting and comforting at the same time. That it is even necessary is heartbreaking, yet in the current political climate, I am thankful they are there.
The word came from French, and before that from the 17th century Swiss/Alsatian word ‘biwacht’ which meant “night guard”.
By 1853, bivouac was also used as a noun to mean an outdoor or open-air camp.
The use of the verb ‘to bivouac’, meaning to post troops in the night dates to 1809, and meaning to camp or sleep out-of-doors without tents dates to 1814. It should be no surprise that the noun became a verb in the context of the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812, during both of which the practice would have been common.
I recently heard someone insisting that there was a difference between Christmas carols, which were all about baby Jesus and the angels, the star and the wise men, and Christmas songs, such as Jingle Bells or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
It sounded like a feasible explanation, and the guy put up what seemed like a good argument– mostly due to his confidence and the underlying implication that he knew more about it than anyone else. (See malapert and ultracrepidarian.)
That’s what triggered me to research the question. I confess it was more out of my desire to possibly prove him wrong than to actually know the answer that I took out my phone and searched Etymoline for ‘carol’. To my delight, he was wrong! It does seem to be a popular belief, but it’s not consistent with the etymology of the word carol.
Carol is a very old word that dates back to about 1300 in both its noun and verb forms.
At this time, the noun meant both a joyful song and a form of dance in a circle or ring. Both of these meanings probably came from the Old French word carole that referred to that kind of circular dance, which was sometimes accompanied by singers. The origins of the word before that are unclear, but it certainly does paint a festive picture.
It wasn’t until about 1500 AD – two centuries later – that the word had also come to refer to a hymn or song of joy sung at Christmas. Thus, the religious connotations of the word came much later than the secular meaning.
The verb form to carol first meant to dance in a ring or circular formation. The sense of the word that meant to sing with joy or celebration had developed by the late 14th century.
The verb carol did not mean to sing Christmas songs, often moving from place to place to do so, until the late 1800s. It does seem, though, that the practice of carolling is believed to be a much older tradition that was outlawed in Britain, along with the celebration of Christmas itself, by the Puritans who governed in the mid-1600s.
So, Christmas songs are called carols because of their festive and joyful nature. Given that a. the word was originally far more specific about the type of dance than the type of songs being sung, other than that they were joyful, and b. Jingle Bells and Rudolph are as festive in their own ways as Hark The Herald Angels Sing or Joy to the World, there is no reason to classify them differently. They’re all Christmas carols, and that’s that.
Doomscrolling is the act of continually updating and reading one’s social media feed for the latest news on a significant event. It is closely related to doomsurfing, which is scouring the Internet for the same kind of information.
The term has been around for a few years, but found new popularity as a hashtag earlier this year, predominantly in response to Covid-19. It is surging again on Twitter today as people try to stay updated on the results of the US election.
It may be a relatively recently coined term, but it’s fair to say the activity to which it refers has probably existed for as long as easy access to the Internet, especially via platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, has been available.
It’s an understandable behaviour – we want to stay informed, after all. These things matter. We want to know. However, it can also be a very effective self-torture device, as it compels us to focus on what is actually causing our anxiety and distress. It seems that the worse the news is, the more people tend to keep on watching or reading. Some people even become fixated on that event, to the exclusion of other things, no matter how sad or angry it makes them.
The term also hints at the subjectivity of the behaviour: what one interprets as ‘doom’ is likely to be the exact inverse of what another person interprets it to be. It all depends on what outcome one is hoping for whether the course of events is classified as doom or a reprieve.
A highly relevant and helpful Twitter account is Doomscrolling Reminder Lady, who repeatedly tells people to get off the internet and take care of themselves instead.
Octothorpe is a less-well known name for that beloved symbol we call the hash symbol. It has been used for a plethora of functions for centuries, but it has really taken on new life in the 21st century with the proliferation of hashtags on social media.
Octo comes from the Latin for eight, just as it does in words like octopus or octagon, and in October— which used to be the eighth month, but that’s another story. When you look at the hash symbol, it has eight points. That part is logical enough.
The origin of the rest of the word is much more recent and much less clear..
The popular story is that it was named after Jim Thorpe, an athlete whose Olympic medals were taken from him because he had been a professional basketballer. Workers at Bell Laboratories, who happened to be fans of his, named the symbol in his honor at some point on the 1960s or 1970s.
That’s a pretty cool story, supported by some dictionaries, but it’s not the only one. The name was almost certainly coined at Bell Laboratories, but the real story behind it is unclear.
One theory is that it comes from a team member burping while talking about the hash symbol with his co-workers. A third theory is that it comes from an Old English word for “village.” Yet another is that the Bell Laboratories workers deliberately chose something that non-English speakers would find hard to pronounce. Of all the possible options, I really hope that wasn’t it.
The practice of leaving a preposition at the end of a sentence, often referred to as preposition stranding, has long been considered to be “against the rules”. Generations of teachers and grammarians have condemned it as a grammatical taboo.
That isolated, lonely preposition, separated from its noun, is known as a terminal preposition, and may also be described as danging, hanging or stranded.
Albeit with the best of intentions, this was drummed into me as a child, so I simply accepted it and tried to avoid doing so in whatever I wrote.
As I got older, though, I came to realise that it’s something we do very naturally in speaking. In fact, avoiding it in spoken English can make what one is saying seem very formal and stilted.
When I was in high school, one of my History teachers told us a story about one of Winston Churchill’s famous comebacks. On receiving a correction about finishing a sentence with a preposition in the draft of a speech, he responded, “This is nonsense, up with which I shall not put.”
As it turned out, it probably wasn’t Churchill who first made the joke. I don’t know if he ever did, despite numerous and varied attributions. It has also been attributed to various other people, and there are variations on the line that was said to have been delivered, so it’s hard to know who said what, and when.
Either way, the story demonstrates that the rule is actually a bit ridiculous.
So where did this rule come from? And is it something we still have to abide by?
Back in the 1600s, a grammarian named Joshua Poole developed some principles about how and where in a sentence prepositions should be used, based on Latin grammar.
A few years later, the poet John Dryden, a contemporary of John Milton, took those rules one step further when he openly criticised Ben Johnson— another great poet— for ending a sentence with a preposition. Dryden decreed that this was something that should never be done. Nobody bothered to correct or oppose Dryden, and Ben Johnson certainly couldn’t because he had been dead for years, so Dryden’s strident and public protestations popularised the principle into a rule. Over time, strict grammarians and pedants began to actively oppose the practice, and the rule became widely accepted and firmly established.
Ironically, despite all the wise and clever plays, poetry and essays written by John Dryden, it was his consistent complaint about the terminal preposition that became his most enduring legacy.
Fowler’s A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, published in 1926, calls it a “cherished superstition that prepositions must, in spite of the incurable English instinct for putting them late… be kept true to their name and placed before the word they govern.” Fowler goes on to assert that even Dryden had to go back and edit all of his work to eliminate the terminal prepositions in his own writing.
In the last century or so, people have become progressively less fussy and worried about it, but some still seem determined to cling to the rule no matter what.
I advise my students that in formal writing such as essays, speeches, official letters and submissions, it is best to avoid the terminal preposition just in case their reader is someone who might judge them for it. Any other time, in keeping with standard spoken English, they are free to use their prepositions wherever they feel most natural and make the most sense.
Nobody in the 21st century is going to naturally ask someone “On which char did you sit?” rather than “Which chair did you sit on?”, nor will they say “I wonder for whom that parcel is intended” Instead of “I wonder who that parcel is for.”
In the 21st century, that really is nonsense up with which we do not have to put.
The first thing I discovered when I started researching how to prepare my memorial puzzle for framing was the amount of conflicting, and sometimes terrible, advice the internet had to offer.
Why did it all have to be so hard to find? Why couldn’t there just be one post with clear, straightforward instructions? Who even knows? I resolved then and there to write that post once I worked out what I was doing.
So, I drilled down, made notes on the approaches that seemed reasonable, and sought out some experts to guide me on the process.
On their advice, and a fair degree of holding my breath and hoping things worked as I had been told they would, this is the process I followed.
A good solid board to mount the puzzle on. I used 2mm strawboard which I bought for about $5 at my favourite office and art supply shop. It is strong and flexible, but won’t sag or warp. It is also slightly textured, which makes it less likely that things will slide around on it.
A rolling pin.
Mod Podge sealant glue. I didn’t know how much I would need, and I knew my puzzle was big, so I bought the 16oz bottle. It turned out that I only used about 2 oz of that. It’s handy stuff, so that’s okay.
A small cup to pour your glue from. This allows you to have more control over how much and where you are pouring. I used an old measure from laundry detergent.
A plastic spatula with a straight edge for spreading the glue. Some people use a credit or ATM card, but the handle on the spatula moves your hand back from the action and allows you to see right away what you’re doing.
Strong spray adhesive.
Practice Makes Perfect.
Before you go anywhere near the puzzle you want to frame with your glue, practice an old puzzle so that you develop your skills and your confidence.
A friend who runs a puzzle exchange gave me an old one that nobody was interested in. Goodwill and charity shops often have loads of them for a dollar or two each. I didn’t even make the whole puzzle. I simply completed a couple of sections to practice on.
My first attempt was not bad, but I quickly discovered how easy it was to use too much glue. It spread easily, but pooled around the edges. This gave me a better idea of how much to pour on in the first instance, and how to spread it evenly. So, the edges were messy with glue, but the effect on the puzzle was good.
My second attempt was much more even. It came up really well.
I braced myself, got my gear ready, and turned to my beautiful puzzle. It was time.
Gluing The Puzzle
Use your rolling pin to ensure the puzzle is completely flat and the pieces are evenly joined.
Pour some glue from the big bottle into the small cup. You can always add more if you need it.
Don’t panic that the glue is white. It WILL dry clear and glossy.
Pour the glue in a thin, even S shape line over your puzzle. Spread it thinly and evenly over the surface with the spatula.
Make sure all the joins between the pieces are filled with glue. Make sure you don’t have globs or spots of glue anywhere. The aim is to achieve an even coating over the surface.
Mine was a very large puzzle, so I did it in three sections. When one section was done, I poured more glue and kept going.
Allow it to dry for several hours. It will feel dry to touch after about 20 minutes, but it’s important to allow the glue in the joins between the pieces to cure and dry completely before you go any further.
Turn your puzzle over very gently. It may have been glued, but it’s important to be as careful as you can with it at every step of all times, as it is still fragile.
Repeat the gluing process on the back of your puzzle. This will both strengthen the bond between the pieces and seal the surface.
Wait at least 12 hours to ensure that everything is completely dry.
Cover the back of your puzzle evenly with spray adhesive, then cover the surface of your mounting board.
Wait a few minutes for the surface to become tacky to touch. then flip your puzzle very carefully onto the board.
Do this outside or in a well-ventilated area, and wear a mask. Remember, you don’t want spray adhesive all over your furniture OR in your lungs!
Use a rolling pin to ensure the entire surface of your puzzle is pressed onto the board.
Leave it alone to set and dry. Your puzzle will be ready for framing tomorrow.
I’m really pleased with how my puzzle turned out. The finish is beautiful, and the gloss of the glue really highlights the gold highlights and subtle colours in the puzzle.
Because my puzzle is a very special one, and because it is too big for any of the commercially available frames I have seen, I’m going to take it to a professional picture framer.
Today’s professional development day at school focused on Positive Education and how we can help our students and our communities to flourish.
One of the aspects I found most thought-provoking was the discussion about positive or comfortable emotions and negative or uncomfortable emotions. It was particularly relevant to many of the things I have been experiencing and observing about life in recent weeks, and I want to share my observations and reflections on those things with you here.
Before I go any further, though, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not a medical or psychological expert or professional. I am, however, a high school teacher of 30 years’ experience, so I have had time and opportunity to make some observations about the things that happen in life and how we deal with them.
More personally, as someone who experiences chronic physical issues and mental health challenges, and who has experienced many conflicting emotions recently due to profound personal loss, I’m confident I know at least a little bit about dealing with adversity, and I’ve learned a few things about the importance of balancing negative emotions with positive ones.
Both positive and negative emotions can be powerfully motivating. Fear of failure or embarrassment is as strong, or stronger, in some people as desire for success is in others.
Negative or uncomfortable emotions can motivate and fuel positive outcomes such as creativity, empathy, and relationship building.
Positive and negative emotions can actually be highly effective ‘companion emotions‘. I don’t expect that this is a scientific term at all, but it seems to me a useful term that describes how contrasting emotions experienced at the same time can provide some healthy balance and perspective.
I can testify from the past few weeks that gratitude can moderate grief, and enjoying a few quiet moments in the beauty of nature can transform abject misery into much gentler sadness.
In different contexts, fear can be a healthy addition to awe or wonder – think of a child at the zoo, for example, for whom interest and desire to engage with the animals should always be balanced with both respect and a little fear or mistrust, so that the child and the animals all remain safe. In yet another situation, a little anxiety or nervousness can actually heighten deliberate preparation and performance if it is paired with intentional and thoughtful preparation, because it can stop one from making rushed or careless errors, or from taking success for granted.
Life is not about always avoiding the feelings that make us uncomfortable or sad. Hoping to do so isn’t realistic at all, given that there are many situations that we can neither actually control or entirely avoid.
Instead, it’s crucial that each of us learns to manage those negative or uncomfortable feelings and use the situations in which we encounter them to develop and consolidate our personal strengths and resilience. Learning to look for the positives in life and choosing to find a balance for the negative experiences or emotions we encounter is how we grow and move forward in life.
“Whether dealing with a major lifeshattering event or a small bump in the road, we can use gratitude to help boost our happiness and change our outlook. While gratitude won’t change our circumstances, experts say gratitude can change how we feel about them.”
That’s certainly what I’m seeking to do while working through my grief. It’s okay to take the time to mourn my losses, but I can’t afford to unpack and live there. Finding a constructive way through my pain will enable me to heal, and come out stronger at the other end.
In being honest about how I feel and what I’m thinking in my posts on this blog, my hope is that my words will help and encourage someone else get through their personal challenges, whatever they are, and to deal with both their circumstances and their feelings.
I have no doubt that knowing we are not the only ones going through grief or pain or whatever trial it is that is burdening us actually helps us to start to heal. That’s why empathy and compassion are so powerful. That’s why the support and love of family and friends is what we yearn for and seek out when things are hard.
Tonight, as I reflected on these ideas and considered the fact that I had no evidence for my inexpert assertions, I did find a number of articles that show my conclusions are consistent with current science and research surrounding emotional and mental health.
Tonight, I am contemplating — somewhat anxiously — what tomorrow will bring. That’s fairly standard territory the night before returning to school for a new term, but right now it’s even more complicated than usual.
Phrases like “back into routine” and “good to keep busy” have been bandied about altogether too casually by people who don’t understand how I feel. In one sense, things may seem as though they are “returning to normal”, but I don’t feel that way at all. Instead, it feels very much like I’m stepping into the vast unknown.
The world out there is anything but normal.
The state in which I live ihas been cut off from the rest of the country by border restrictions because of the COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne. We’ve all been quarantined to an extent, and Melbourne itself is locked down much tighter than we are out here in the western region of the state.
The distance between us and Melbourne is no room for complacency, though. Just today we heard the news that Warrnambool, the regional city in which I work, has reported its first active case in months. It’s sobering news, and terrible timing for the beginning of a new school term. Honestly, it just adds a greater sense of impending doom to the craziness that is going on out there.
I’m keen to see my students, though. My hope is that they will take my mind off things through each school day and keep me motivated when I’m feeling low.
So, I’ve invested in masks and extra sanitiser. I even have sprays to disinfect any work the kids hand in. I will be even more conscientious and deliberate about social distancing, because I don’t trust other people to do the right things. At least my natural cynicism about human nature is intac which, I suppose, is something.
Life isn’t ‘normal’ on a personal level either.
I miss Dad. I miss Helen. Enormously.
I have lost two of the constant, consistent encouragers in my life. I keep thinking of things I want to tell them, and photos I want to show them, and I can’t. I want them to know about my new great-nephew. I want to tell them I love them. It’s really, really hard.
I’m trying to work through my grief, but that isn’t going to happen according to any timetable. That’s a process that will take as much time as it will take.
The past three weeks have changed me, although I can’t define exactly how.
I feel like I should be more resilient, or better at handling things, or at least better at faking an appearance of being able to manage, but I’m not.
I feel like I should look different somehow, but I probably don’t.
That is, of course, if you don’t look too closely at the dark circles under my eyes. Sleep has been evasive ever since Dad was admitted to hospital with coronary issues on June 16. During the week in which both he and Helen passed away, I barely slept at all. Last night I managed seven hours, but it was in two instalments with an hour off at half time. It’s no wonder I feel like rubbish.
My purpose in expressing my thoughts and feelings here is not to moan or whine. I know I am not the only person experiencing these things. I am not the only person experiencing grief, or lugging emotional baggage everywhere.
I want others in similar situations to understand that there is nothing wrong with feeling the way they do. All of this is part of the grieving process, and it’s crucial to be kind and patient with ourselves while we sort our various burdens out.
I want other people to understand that they can’t expect people who are grieving, or anxious, or caring any other kind of burden for that matter, to feel a certain way or simply “get over things” in any set period of time.
Grief is not a tidy and well-organised domain. Everyone experiences it differently. It brings with it a whole variety of secondary emotions that are unpredictable at best. Denying it, suppressing it, or trying to make our grief fit preconceived expectations are futile and unhealthy ways of dealing with it.
That means each of us has to deal with it in our own time, and each of us can expect to be as messy as our grief. Each of us will, at some point, have to step out into a world that has changed significantly and irreversibly.
Acceptance, kindness, patience and self-care will help to make that a healthier process for everyone.
Stepping Back Into A Changed World #grief #emotions #anxiety #personal #blogpost