Archive for January 8th, 2006

Descent Into Bad Spelling

In this post the other day, I translated the Spanish noun ‘descendiente’ as ‘descendent’. A reader pointed out to me that the translation ought to have read descendant, because descendent is the adjective, whereas descendant is the noun.

I duly made the correction, because I realised that I would normally spell the word descendant, and that I must have translated the Spanish word into its direct cognate, like one would translate ‘comandante’ to ‘commandant’. Indeed, I began to think that my ability to spell had deteriorated a bit.

However, after checking on internet dictionary sites, (not before checking how these guys spelt their name) it turns out that the two words are interchangeable in common usage.

English is full of such idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies, and it is for this reason that you have spelling bees and programmes such as Hard Spell. To do well at the Hard Spell programme, presented by Eamonn-with-two-n’s Holmes, the young cleve- clogs contestants need to have prior recognition of the word that gets pronounced by the woman behind the scenes. This is because pronunciation in English is often based on tradition rather than the way the word appears written down.

Hard Spell in a lot of other languages wouldn’t be very hard at all. In the case of Spanish, for instance, you spell words as you hear them. The only real doubts are when to use a ‘v’ or a ‘b’, or if a word beginning with an ‘a’ vowel sound starts with a silent ‘h’ or not.

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The Filth and The Fury

‘Clart’, as far as I know, is an old, pejorative Hiberno-English word meaning a dirty person. The existence of the word indicates that people in black-and-white times thought that dirt, or rather cleanliness, was important. This is reassuring, as it means that Irish people are indeed capable of giving consideration to the matter.

Living in the Republic of Ireland, a cultural tradition of keeping things clean and tidy is not immediately apparent. For instance, this morning I went out for a run along some country lanes, and it seemed as though every hole in the hedge was filled with a television, a mattress, a computer keyboard or some Man United curtains.

Some might argue that it is the prohibitively high price of dumping that causes people to dump illegally, thus ruining many a pleasant country jaunt and needlessly upsetting farmers. For instance, to bring your car to my local dump, the county council will charge you €15, but I think that if you can afford a car, which you need in order to dump illegally, you can afford to stump up the price of 3 pints to pay for access to the council dump.

It is not only rural areas that are despoiled by the unwillingness of the Irish citizen to take personal responsibility for the waste he or she generates. Urban areas can also be pigging.

Walking from Pearse Street to Lansdowne Road the other day, along Fenian Street and Grand Canal Street, I required the nimbleness of Gene Kelly to avoid treading on the dogshit smeared along the pavement. This stretch of footpath has to have the highest concentration of dog excrement per square metre in Europe. The vile spread is not only the result of the dog owners’ indifference, but of the unsuspecting victims’ subsequent humiliation and indignation at stepping in the mess. Enraged, they exact their punishment on the pavement itself, making sure that they cover as much ground as possible in their attempts to clean their shoes.
Filthy clarts, the lot of them.


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