Category Archives: language generally

A holding pattern

Last week marked the fourth full week of mandatory telework and social distancing; it had been preceded by a week of encouraged but not required.  It has not become more comfortable or routine to me.  We are busier than usual, and everyone is stretched thin between work and home schooling and worry (even as we know we are luck to be able to telework).

I’ve taken to putting an hour on my calendar in the middle of the day in an attempt to schedule a break for lunch and a walk around the block, but more than half the time it doesn’t happen.

Sacrificed a t-shirt to make a series of tie-able face masks.  Not ideal but better than nothing.  Wear them whenever I go for a walk now, even as I cross the street or walk in the street to avoid people on the sidewalk.

Hadn’t been to the grocery store in three weeks, and was out of fresh vegetables, meat, and dairy, so I went yesterday evening.  It was incredibly disturbing, mostly due to people’s behavior.  Still no toilet paper or cleaning products.  No flour of any kind at all. No eggs.  I’m not sure if that is because everyone had descended like locusts earlier in the day or if it is habitual.  Store patrons completely ignored social distancing.  They didn’t have lists and lingered or meandered.  No one (other than me) had a mask.

The nice weather this weekend meant a lot of people were out.  Most of them didn’t seem concerned about social distancing.  Very few of them had masks, and none of the runners did (still).  Very few moved to avoid contact with strangers.  Maybe we really are too stupid to live.

The seasonal farmers’ market should have started last Sunday but has been postponed indefinitely.  The city office that coordinates has some websites for the farms, so I poked around to see about delivery/pickup.  A few have CSAs, but most don’t do half shares; my experience with CSAs in the past is that a full share is WAY too much.  But I do want to help support, so I’ll see if maybe a neighbor wants to share.

Watched the second episode of ST:P.  Started reading Sharon Kay Penman’s Lionheart, but am kind of disinterested in Alicia as MC or potential narrator.  Have been enjoying the #recipesforthepeople videos posted by Chef José Andrés with his daughters.  The recipes aren’t necessarily things I would cook, but I love his delight in cooking/food, and his admonishment to respect the garlic.  (If I lived closer, I would absolutely be ordering takeout from his Jaleo – my two favorite dishes are the espinacas a la catalana and patatas bravas, which I do not share, sorrynotsorry.)

I need to learn about Duolingo’s theory of language learning.  I’ve been using the app to learn a little Portuguese for the last couple of weeks, and I’m utterly bemused by the vocabulary that they introduce early on and their sentence construction.  Is armadillo really an important word for a new language learner, relative to others?  The dog cuts the steak? Seems a little Noam Chomsky to me.  Having said that, my favorite words learned so far, based entirely on how they feel in my mouth and how they sound, are borboleta (butterfly) and tubarão (shark).  Some of it is strikingly similar to Spanish (tiburón) and some is not (mariposa).  And I find the app’s lack of explanation of rules of pronunciation and grammar a little frustrating.  For instance, for the difference in the pronunciation of the letter O –  as I understand it, O gets more of U sound when it is not in the stressed syllable, but that isn’t articulated anywhere.

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March reading

March was kind of meh for reading in the early part of the month.

As mentioned, I was less than impressed by the portion of the Captive Prince trilogy that I read.

Patricia Briggs’ Fire Touched came out early in the month as well.  I’ve given up on her Omega books set in the same world; as I mentioned when I read the last book, Anna’s dismissal of Charles’ desire to not have children Seriously Pissed Me Off and struck me as profoundly offensive in a way that would’ve had readers up in arms if their positions had been swapped.  Mercy…eh, I have mentioned before that her acquisition of a new power  or tool of power or conveniently powered/talented friend whenever one is needed seems lazy.  And it happens again here. Plus, Mercy’s internal monologing in which she knows better than Adam about how he feels about god/religion strikes me as profoundly patronizing in much the same way Anna “knowing best” about whether Charles should want to have kids did.    Yeah, stick a fork in me, I’m done.

I’m almost finished Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies (non-fiction), which I’m really enjoying.

And I’ve got the first installment of Ms. Marvel to read next.  And the web comic Check Please.

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Random:  I was reading an NPR piece on “Boston Chinese” food and ran across one of my language pet peeves, the use of cache for cachet.  They are spelled differently; pronounced differently; and have completely different meanings.  How freaking difficult is it to use the right word.  Boston Chinese does not have “a certain cache”; it has a certain cachet.  FFS.

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Random babble

I keep seeing Chrysler commercials lauding the heroes of the revolution in The Hunger Games.  They make me profoundly uncomfortable, but I can’t articulate why exactly.  They made me actually cringe last weekend, when they were running during coverage of the Paris terrorist attacks.

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Hockey announcers and the way they mangle the names of players that are not Anglo or French really bother me.  Semin is not pronounced like semen; I’m confused why the diacritical isn’t used or why it isn’t Syomin in the NHL the way it was on his jersey in Sochi.  Pietrangelo is not Peter-Angelo.  How hard is it to ask a player how to pronounce their name and then write it down phonetically so it can be pronounced properly?

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On the reading front, not much going on.  I liked JCP’s short PsyCop, Memento.  It’s from Jacob’s POV, and gives an interesting glimpse into his view of Vic.  Since Vic narrates all the other PsyCop books, it’s a novel perspective.

I bought a couple of Patricia Veryan’s older books when they were release in ebooks.  Eh, I tried reading Sanguinet’s Crown but find the characters to be caricatures and the writing to be not very good.  Oh well.

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Happy Turkey Day to any who celebrate it.  I shall be off to Chicago to cling to The Biochemist.

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But followed by comma?

Why?  Why am I seeing “But,” everywhere?  Are writers following the pause = comma rule?

Stop.

Just stop.

Also, prey does not mean the same thing as pray.

Name checks so characters’ names are consistently spelled would be nice.  One character in the $0.99 book I wasted time and money on — yes, I resent both, given how crappy the book was — is both Alisha and Alicia.

Uncomfort is not a word.  Discomfort is.

“Civil law” is not an area of specialization.  Calling it one is like calling biology a specialization in the field of research; it’s still a very broad category.

Direct address commas really do matter.

Consistent use of dashes for compound words would be nice; doing it right for one word right next to another that is ignored is jarring.

“Really” contributes no value to sentences in professional writing and should be cut every time.

 

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Maybe now that’s out of my system I’ll be able to settle into a good book?

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SBD: a publisher I’m going to avoid

I missed SBD last week, so even though Beth hasn’t posted for this week, here it is.

I’m adding an epublisher to my list of epubs to avoid.  It hurts, because there are several authors I like who publish via this company.  It’s one that has been around for a while, comparatively speaking.  But it’s publishing P2P fan fiction now.  And its editing is just…not good, particularly in light of the extremely high prices it charges for books:  $8.99 for an ebook the equivalent of a mass market paperback, which I’m leery enough about in paper, forget the transient nature of ebooks.

Despite my better judgment, over the weekend I bought a new release by an author I’ve enjoyed in past from this press.  I should have known better on two counts.  First, in this series by the author, the POV character talks in dialect with heinously bad grammar with the kind of incorrect verb conjugations of very common irregular and regular verbs that gives the impression (to me) that the character must have scraped through school by the skin of his teeth and had parents who placed no value on literacy.  Yet that is clearly not the backstory created.  Add in the dropped “g” for anything ending in “ing”, should of for should have, the misuse of me/I in plural nouns and objects, and it made my brain hurt.  The cherry on top of the bad-editing sundae was the complete lack of direct address commas and random typos, and the misuse of commas following “but”, and I was highlighting all over the place.

The kicker is that the storytelling, once I got past the grammar, was good, and I like the characters.

But no.  Finished with this press.

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SBD: word selection

I think I’m turning into one of those crotchety older people who let little things get under their skin. I can’t remember being so easily put off by cover blurbs and word selection in the past. Or maybe I was but let the memory blur?

After running errands an doing chores today, I went to B&N with a 20% off coupon in hand. Ended up buying an urban fantasy novel after discarding a dozen possibles in genre romance proper. Why did I discard them? They used words or cliches I hate.

Spitfire. Feisty. Both are used to excuse TSTL heroines. The heroes were strong, silent, rugged, blah blah blah. Back on the shelf immediately.

Then there was the “heavy dram”. *sigh* A dram measures volume, not weight, and the mismatch was jarring and awkward.

Also, before an author starts to write dialogue in dialect, they should probably listen to an actual person speak in that dialect before scattering the generic “ye” through conversations.

ETA:  And the tag line “what to read after Fifty Shades” is an absolute guarantee that I won’t be buying or reading a book.  If I wanted to read fan fiction, I can find better stuff online that ripoffs of bad teen fiction with worse-written BDSM.

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Subject vs. object pronouns

Okay, look, the proper usage of “Name and I” versus “me and Name” or “myself and Name” is not that difficult.  Every time I see an author, aspiring, self-published, or otherwise published, use “Name and I” inappropriately, I cross that writer off my list of potential authors-to-try.  Because if they can’t figure that out, what other grammar butchery will I encounter in their writing?

Yes, it sounds more formal and “correct” than “me and Name” but that’s not the point and sounding correct isn’t the same as being the correct usage.  That’s called hyper-correction, I believe.  They are different parts of speech, and the usage is not a function of being or sounding more formal.

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My name is Inigo Montoya

My name is Inigo Montoya…

Oh, wait, wrong quote.  Instead:  I do not think that word means what you think it means.

I ran across this in a review in The Stranger, the Seattle weekly:  [Y]ou walk down a long corridor before countenancing the 1300 square foot main dance floor…

???  I don’t understand what this sentence means.  Countenance a dance floor?  The transitive verb means to extend tolerance or approval to; one definition of the noun is face or visage.  But the definitions of the parts of speech are not interchangeable.  It’s disappointing but not hugely surprising to see sloppy word usage like that from a legitimate news weekly.  (I assume legitimacy since the paper won a Pulitzer this year.)

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Word selection

Reading random selections and samples from my Kindle this evening, trying to settle on something new to read, I had a random thought:  there are some words that have a disproportionate impact on me as a reader.  It’s utterly irrational.

  • Vital — Nora Roberts especially likes to use “vital” as an adjective to describe goals, objects, ideas that are extremely important to her characters.  There’s nothing wrong or inappropriate about the usage, but she’s used it enough that I notice the usage.  It’s a Thing that I associate with her now.
  • Lavish — Many, many authors like this word, especially during love scenes, when attention is lavished on one body part or another.  Usually  a body part that is not a particular erogenous zone for me, so I roll my eyes and move on.
  • Lave — Again with the laving during love scenes.  Or the “lathing”, which seems to be a common substitution…probably by people who have never used a lathe?
  • Moist — This is not used by any particular author or in a specific context, it’s just a word whose sound and mouth-feel during pronunciation bothers me; I get a visceral image of spittle, damp, and mold, which is not always the intended image.

Like I said:  utterly irrational reader association and reaction to perfectly innocent words.  Well, except for that lathe, which can do a lot of damage to tender body parts if used in lieu of laving.

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Bookstores in Barcelona and Madrid

It’s an unhealthy compulsion, I’m sure, but I have to check out bookstores whenever I encounter them on vacation.  This trip, I justified my browsing by either reading or discarding the three books I packed, and also by finishing all the back issues of The Economist I took.  (Thank you, USAirways and Philadelphia International Airport, for the poor time and runway management! It caused missed connections, wasted 10+ hours of my time, delayed my luggage for two additional days, and cost a fair amount to reschedule other travel, but on the bright side I managed to get through the back issues while fuming in PHL, Heathrow, and Barajas.  I’m fairly confident that if I’d arrived on time, those hours would have been spent doing frivolous, fun touristy things instead.)

Barcelona has several nice independent bookstores located in the La Ribera neighborhood (near the cathedral), as well as Casa del Libro on the Passeig de Grácia (think high end retail like Fifth Avenue), the book section in the El Corte Inglés department store on the Avinguda del Portal de l’Àngel, and FNAC (a French media chain) on the Plaça de Catalunya.   Altaïr on Gran Via specializes in travel books and materials, ranging from maps and guides to fiction about travel.  There’s also an English language bookstore up on Carrer de Roger de Lluria, but I didn’t have time to check it out. (And really, English language books for ex-pats wasn’t really what I was looking for.)  Madrid has a fair number of independent booksellers, too, along with the same chain bookshops.

At Altaïr I bought Andalus by Jason Webster, which I read and then left for another reader at the hotel.  I lusted for several books on the history of southern Spain and planning guides for doing all or parts of the camino de Santiago (on my bucket list) but managed to restrain myself.  The other purchase I made at Altaïr was the in-house travel magazine featuring Peru.  Twin and The Chemist are tentatively planning a trip there (Machu Picchu! The Camino Inca!), and I thought they’d appreciate the photography and information…forgetting that they don’t read Spanish.  I’m an idiot.  The plan is to translate all the captions and articles between now and when I see them next (late March).  Just need to be careful about damaging the magazine as I do so.

Meant to go back to the independent near the city museum for a book on Barcelona’s Roman history but got distracted and never made it back.  Was tempted by children’s books, which I thought might suit some children of my acquaintance.  Popping in to the El Corte Inglés, I intended just to see what the popular fiction available in Catalan and/or Castilian might be but ended up leaving with a translation of Naked in Death (Desnuda antes la muerte).  Did manage to avoid the temptation of Ferran Adria’s El Bulli cookbook.

FNAC had a *huge* graphic novel section, as well as manga.  The YA, unsurprisingly, was also fairly large and dominated by paranormal fiction.  Saw stacks of translations of the Hunger Games series, and of Amanda Hocking’s books (are they YA? that’s where they were shelved).  Lots of fantasy, urban and otherwise, and I was sorry to see zombie/classic mashups prominently shelved. (Meh.) In terms of general fiction, Nordic mystery writers appear to be as popular in Barcelona and Madrid as they are in the US.  Translations into Spanish, Catalan, and English were available for many of the authors Keishon has reviewed.  I was tempted to buy a translation of Ilona Andrews’ Magic Strikes (La magia golpea) but it was ridiculously expensive at €17.50.  Instead, I left with a copy of Camilla Lackberg’s The Stone Cutter and Peter Ackroyd’s translation into modern English of The Canterbury Tales.

Other books on my wishlist now:  El vasco que no comía demasiado by Óscar Terol; Las siete llaves de Balabad by Paul Haven; and Memorias de Idhún by Laura Gallego Garcia.  I’ll probably regret not buying them when I had the chance and wind up paying some insane amount of money to have a copy shipped from Europe if/when I can’t find a copy in the US, which is what happened with Yo, Juan de Austria.

 

ETA:  Bought a little book about the Palau de Música Catalana from the Palau’s giftshop.  And was seriously tempted by books about the art of Velazquez and Goya and the history of the Prado while browsing there.

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