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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The grammar rule know one knows but everyone knows

English is a funny language. As author Bill Bryson put in his excellent book "The Mother Tongue," "Any language where the unassuming word fly signifies an annoying insect, a means of travel, and a critical part of a gentleman's apparel is clearly asking to be mangled."

When I was studying French back in high school, I was relieved to learn every expression of affirmation following a statement (termed a "tag question") was a simple, single phrase: "N'est-ce pas?" In English, however, every tag question differs depending on the preceding statement: "Isn't it?" "Aren't you?" "Haven't they?" "Wouldn't it?" "Don't they?" -- and so on through dozens of variations.

This alone must drive non-native English speakers nuts. Imagine trying to teach just the different expressions of affirmation in a classroom setting in, say, China.

Now imagine how comical it sounds to the ears of English-speakers when those tag questions get mangled: "It's a beautiful morning, aren't you?"

Consider another absurd diktat of the English language: ending a sentence with a preposition (in, at, to, for, etc.). Accordingly to Grammarly, "Grammar snobs love to tell anyone who will listen: You should NEVER end a sentence with a preposition! Luckily for those poor, persecuted prepositions, that just isn’t true." -- and goes on to give a few preposition guidelines, often distinguishing between formal and casual statements.

This English decree of never ending a sentence with a preposition is left over from the days when Latin ruled. Latin was considered the purest "and most admirable" language at the time, though imposing Latin rules on English structure "is a little like trying to play baseball in ice skates." Apparently because ending a sentence with a preposition in Latin is impossible, somehow that carried over into English, resulting in the contorted statement famously attributed to Winston Churchill: "This is the kind of thing up with which we shall not put!"

(Incidentally, the same Latin mandate is why it's considered improper to split an infinitive, the most well-known example of which is found in Star Trek's original opening: "To boldly go where no man has gone before." Splitting an infinitive is impossible in Latin, but it's easily done -- or should that be "easily it's done"? -- in English. But I digress.)

One of the reasons English is so odd is because modern English is a mishmash of influences -- notably Old German (and its derivatives) and Latin, but with enormous contributions from French (a Latin derivative), Celtic, and endless other influences. English took on not just vocabulary words from other languages, but also syntax and structure. Today we unthinkingly use words as far-flung as Icelandic ("saga"), Indonesian ("guru"), and Polynesian ("taboo"). Amazing, n'est-ce pas?

Anyway, this little excursion into orthography is to introduce a fascinating article I came across entitled "This is the most bizarre grammar rule you probably never heard of." (Oooh, ending a sentence with a preposition!)

Apparently native English speakers instinctively order their adjectives preceding a noun as follows: opinion-size-age-shape-color-origin-material-purpose-noun:


This blew me away when I read it because it's true. Mess with that order, and you're talking gibberish. (Now imagine trying to teach that tenet in, say, a Chinese classroom!)

Again when I was learning French, there were rules about the grouping of adjectives around a noun. You couldn't say "a pretty yellow dress" ("une jolie jaune robe"), you had to say "a pretty dress yellow" ("une jolie robe jaune"). To native French speakers, it was just the natural way to order adjectives.

I literally never (or should that be "Literally I never") gave this a moment's thought, but the same thing occurs in English. Who knew?

This order of adjectives was spelled out in a book by Mark Forsyth entitled "The Elements of Eloquence." Quoting the article:
"Forsyth says there are eight types of adjectives, which should be used in this order:
      1. Opinion
      2. Size
      3. Age
      4. Shape
      5. Color
      6. Origin
      7. Material
      8. Purpose

But then, the Cambridge Dictionary -- which certainly seems like an authoritative source -- offers a list of ten types of adjectives in a slightly different order:
      1. Opinion
      2. Size
      3. Physical quality
      4. Shape
      5. Age
      6. Color
      7. Origin
      8. Material
      9. Type
      10. Purpose

So, according to Cambridge, it should be a "lovely little rectangular old green French silver whittling knife," which seems completely wrong to me. My instincts say "old" should come before "rectangular," not the other way around. To further complicate matters, Cambridge lists "U-shaped" as an example of type, rather than shape as you might have expected.

In other words, even this supposedly ironclad rule that we all seem to know by instinct is tangled up and subject to debate. And don't even get me started on what to do if you have two adjectives of the same type, say a "lovely valuable little old green French silver whittling knife." Or when and whether you should use a comma, or the word "and."

As someone with an advanced degree in English, an amateur linguist, and a lifelong professional writer, my best advice is this: When it comes to adjective order, you should probably follow your instincts. And you should definitely not have ten, eight, or even four adjectives piled up ahead of a noun. Adding adjectives to your sentences should be like adding spices to your cooking: Use them thoughtfully, sparingly, and when they'll have the most impact. Not only will that make your writing better, it will save you from having to worry so much about putting adjectives in the right order."
Phew. A lot to take in, n'est-ce pas?

The interesting thing about grammar is I don't understand it at all. My eyes glaze over whenever someone delves into its intricacies. I attended high school in the late 70s, when grammar was being phased out in favor of more politically correct subjects, so my grasp is tenuous at best and purely instinctive (instinctual?). I am forever making blunders ... though that hasn't stopped me from becoming a writer.

But I find linguistics and etymology, including the origin of English, fascinating ... even if I do regularly mangle the details. Or regularly do mangle the details. Whatever.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Last day for the Off-the-Grid Superstack bundle

This is the last day for the Off-the-grid Superstack bundle.


It's a heckuva bargain, folks. Don't miss out. Click here to see what's included.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Friday, September 13, 2019

Don't forget about the preparedness bundle

As a reminder, the Off-the-grid Superstack bundle is still available.


There's a lot of great info included, but it's only available for four more days. Don't miss out. Click here to see what's in the bundle.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Itty bitty apple pie filling

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned I had harvested a bunch of itty bitty but delicious apples from our trees. I never got around to weighing them, but I'm guessing I got 25 lbs. or so.


I wanted to get these processed into apple pie filling but was daunted by the task of peeling about 150 itty bitty apples (they were too small for my apple peeler). You, dear readers, made the very intelligent observation that apples don't have to be peeled to be made into pie filling.

So I sat down (note: about 12:20 in the afternoon) and started slicing itty bitty apples.


I cut them in quarters, cored them, then sliced the quarters into thin slices.


Since the apples had the skin still on, I kept the slices thin.


I sliced about a dozen apples at a time, then dumped the slices in a pot with lemon water to keep them from getting too brown.


It was a long afternoon -- one of those days when I was "multi-tasking" on various projects -- but I finally got 'em done. Then it was time to can them.

I blanched the slices in small batches at a time.


Meanwhile I made the pie filling.


I used fruit pie filling directions I got years ago from the county extension service.



Typical canning chaos.




By the time I got the jars packed and filled and into the canners, it was getting late and I was pooped. Notice the kitchen timers clipped in front of each canner and the glass of wine in the background.


In fact, some might argue this was the most important ingredient of all.


By the time the last jar came out of the water bath, it was nearly my bedtime. A long afternoon of processing itty bitty apples!


But I slept with the satisfaction of knowing I had 13 quarts of itty bitty apple pie filling for our pantry.


A job well done, in my opinion.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Never forget

On this day in 2001, we know very well it wasn't a matter of "some people who did something." We know precisely who did what ... and why.


Never forget.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

What a rain

This afternoon, literally just as we were about to take Mr. Darcy out for his evening walk, it started pelting rain.


This caught us by surprise because the sun was shining brightly. A quick check of the weather radar showed a small but heavy cell moving in from the east -- a highly unusual direction for our area.


Well it rained. We had thunder and lightning. And more rain.





And a rainbow, because the sun was shining so beautifully from the west.


Darcy gave a sigh of frustration that his evening promenade was being delayed, but neither Don nor I felt like promanading in a thunderstorm.


A neighbor snapped a shot of the end of the rainbow smack on top our house. Where's the gold?


When the heaviest rain had passed, we took umbrellas and booted up to take Darcy out.



Everything was fresh and wet, a most welcome development.




We saw a family of young quail.


Darcy saw them too.


The autumn rains are just starting to move in after a summer of dryness, so we're not complaining in the slightest.

Except perhaps Mr. Darcy.

Preparedness bundle now available

As I mentioned last week, this year I'm participating in a bundle called "Off-the-grid Superstack."


It's one of those collections where the organizers pull together a bunch of spiffy information on the subject of preparedness.

They've gotten some high-profile names to include in this bundle. They have nine e-courses, 15 ebooks or workbooks, a private prepper community membership, access to premium software, steep discounts on all kinds of goods and services, a food-storage master class, an intro to permaculture design, urban survival, and the classic preparedness read "Holding Your Ground" (among much else). For a full list of what's included, click here.

Individually purchased, the contents would cost around $700, but they're selling the bundle for $49, which I have to admit is a pretty good deal. It will be available for one week, so I'll send reminders through the next few days.


Hop over and take a look at the contents and tell me what you think.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Bwahahaha!

I received an email from "Bria" as follows:
Hello!

I am a hacker who has access to your operating system.
I also have full access to your account.

I've been watching you for a few months now.
The fact is that you were infected with malware through an adult site that you visited.

If you are not familiar with this, I will explain.
Trojan Virus gives me full access and control over a computer or other device.
This means that I can see everything on your screen, turn on the camera and microphone, but you do not know about it.

I also have access to all your contacts and all your correspondence.

Why your antivirus did not detect malware?
Answer: My malware uses the driver, I update its signatures every 4 hours so that your antivirus is silent.

I made a video showing how you satisfy yourself in the left half of the screen, and in the right half you see the video that you watched.
With one click of the mouse, I can send this video to all your emails and contacts on social networks.
I can also post access to all your e-mail correspondence and messengers that you use.

If you want to prevent this, transfer the amount of $500 to my bitcoin address (if you do not know how to do this, write to Google: "Buy Bitcoin").

My bitcoin address (BTC Wallet) is: [deleted]

After receiving the payment, I will delete the video and you will never hear me again.
I give you 50 hours (more than 2 days) to pay.
I have a notice reading this letter, and the timer will work when you see this letter.

Filing a complaint somewhere does not make sense because this email cannot be tracked like my bitcoin address.
I do not make any mistakes.

If I find that you have shared this message with someone else, the video will be immediately distributed.

Best regards!
So you "infected me" with a malware through an "adult site" that I visited?

Oh, and you "do not make any mistakes"?

Bwahahaha. Wrong on both counts. Try harder, sweetie.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Found the froggie

For weeks, we've had a frog in our pantry.


He wasn't a particularly quiet frog, either. Three or four times a day, he'd let lose a belly-ful of loud croaks. Each time he belted out, I took a flashlight, crept up to the pantry, and tried to find the little fella. No luck.

Until this morning. Aha! There he is, crouched in the fold of a plastic bag holding some dog biscuits (with some great big frog-sized turds next to him).


I pressed a plastic cup over the bag and carried the frog, bag and dog biscuits and all, outside and released him near the (now-empty) chicken coop.


A few years ago, we had a frog live the entire winter in our canning closet, surviving on heaven-knows-what. I didn't want this to happen again to our latest visitor.


He seemed happy to be outside, though perhaps I'm ascribing too much emotion to an amphibian.


Regardless, now he's free to start preparing for winter. Au revoir, little froggie.