Thursday, 31 October 2013

"I like quotes"

I like quotes. I always seem to stumble across ones that say the things I want to say, so much better than I could ever say them.

And dear reader, I'll probably use this blog to share some of them with with you. Ones that mean something to me, or just make me smile. Or ones that may mean something to you, or make you smile...

Recently I stumbled across this great philosophical thinker, and was moved by some of his quotes. I wanted to share some of them with my blog-reading audience (*cough*), but, following yesterday's post, I think I'll pick just this one.

But I've bought a big bat.
I'm all ready, you see.
Now my troubles are going
To have troubles with me!”

― Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Just a passenger on the road to hell

Life has a funny way of throwing a spanner in the works.

You think you’re cruising and everything’s going the right way. And then life bites you on the ass, and you find yourself in a place you hoped you’d never find yourself.

I’ve been there. You’ve probably been there. Or maybe you’re there right now. You know, the place where your world is turned upside down and you struggle to see how you’re going to get out of it.

It’s usually when you arrive at that place, or at least while you’re travelling through it, that you need your friends and loved ones to help you keep going and get you moving to the next, better place.

I’m writing this because right now, THREE different sets of people I know and love are in that place.

And while I know I haven’t got the roadmap to help guide them out of that place, remembering what it was like to visit it myself I know I have to be there as much as I can for each of them, and keep them company on the journey.

Friday, 18 October 2013

I'm quite big in China...

No, this is not a post about how much taller I am than the majority of people in Asia (although, at 6 foot 4 inches/193cms tall, and having spent some time in Singapore, I suspect this really may be the case...)

I was amazed to see that with only four posts, the number of times my blog has been viewed is approaching 170. This is quite surprising as my old blog, with 47 posts, only ever had 195 views. Also, given that I haven't even promoted this new blog anywhere (I've not written anything worthy of promoting to my friends on Facebook yet!) I was intrigued as to who was finding it (and how!)

According to the viewer stats, most of my "readers" are in the UK. No shock there, most of these posts will be written in British English, I hope.

But the second country in the list is China. And there have been quite a lot of views from there. I started to think that maybe my site had appeared on a blogging website there, and people were accidentally clicking on it. But more recently, I've started to think that maybe it's actually something to do with spammers.

For this reason, and because I'm always happy to hear from visitors from around the world (and there are some other great, far-flung nations in my list of page views), I want to invite anyone who's actually reading this to leave a comment. Even if it's just to say hi (and maybe say where you're reading it from?) You can tell me your height too while your at it, if you like.

I suspect I'll eventually get a whole two comments...from Mr. and Mrs. Stu (hi guys!)in the outer reaches of Yorkshire...

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Literally the most annoying thing in the world, metaphorically speaking

As one of my Linguistics professors at university once said, “English is a dynamic language”. And you know what? I get this, and I appreciate it. If it wasn’t, we’d struggle to communicate in an ever-changing world - we need neologisms and semantic shift is unavoidable. People will always start to use a word in a different way, and inevitably, in time, it will become a part of the language.

For example, “meat” used to mean all food, but now its meaning has narrowed. “Wicked” meant evil, not excellent or wonderful as the kids claim today. And we all know how “gay” came out…

But sometimes, just sometimes, I think we should say “No. That’s just stupid” and fight against the change. And certainly not add some ridiculous new meanings to the dictionary.

The reason for this linguistic ramble? Today, somebody reminded me that of one of my bugbears, the egregious* use of the word “literally”, had made it into the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). I’d heard a rumour of this a while ago, and dismissed it as being just plain ridiculous. So this morning I looked it up…and it seems the word “literally”, meaning “metaphorically”, was added to the OED in 2011. It’s just that no one seemed to have noticed.

Basically, it looks like they’ve added a new meaning because so many idiotic people don’t know the old meaning. No! That’s just stupid! Now you (Jamie Redknapp) can legitimately get away with saying “Wayne Rooney was literally on fire!” when you actually mean “he performed quite well”.

Not only is this just mildly annoying (as opposed to being “literally the most annoying thing in the world”), what it really does is rob us of a pretty useful word. I mean, how do I now emphasise to someone that I mean literally in the previous sense of the word?

“Did you see that Tibetan monk’s protest? He was literally on fire!”
“You mean he performed well?”
“Er, no. I mean he was actually on fire. You know what, never mind.”

*Interestingly (well, to me anyway) “egregious” itself has shifted semantically – originally this word described something that was remarkably good (from the Latin egregius: "illustrious, select", or literally, "standing out from the flock". Now it means something that is remarkably bad or flagrant.

Monday, 7 October 2013

First World Problems

Recently, a friend of mine, Shadeh, moved to Croatia.

I say ‘a friend’, but what I really mean is one of the most inspiring people I have ever had the privilege to meet. And I say ‘meet’, but really I mean that I was lucky enough to share a house, too many laughs to remember and too many unforgettable chats with her.

Now, for some time I’ve believed that you can learn something from everyone, and that you should never underestimate this. It doesn’t matter how old they are either. This friend is a good ten years younger than me, but has a wiser, kinder, more positive head on her shoulders than almost anyone I’ve encountered.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, I’m sure I’m going to mention this person over time, and I intend to pass on some of the things we discussed, and some of the thoughts I’ve developed as a result. I don’t wish to preach, but if just one person reads this and thinks “Hmmm, interesting thought”, well then that’d be just grand.

So I’ll start with this one: First World Problems.

I regularly work long hours, and I’d often come home tired and just a little grumpy. Sometimes I’d complain about something that in the scheme of things really wasn’t that important…and Shadeh would simply laugh and say “first world problems!”

You may know this concept, or you may not. Others may be like me - you’ve heard it said, but you’ve never really thought about what it means. Basically, it’s a kick up the bum to remember how lucky we are, and how good most of us have it. Most of the ‘problems’ we have are just mildly annoying, and somewhere in the world there is someone (if not a million other people) who would give anything to have this as their only concern.

And do you know what? Slowly, I started to catch myself saying it as I was about to complain about something. And then I’d think, “Ah, maybe things are not so bad!” Next I’d find myself saying it to others when they complained about their own problems. Probably to their great annoyance, but whatever.

So maybe, just maybe, next time you or someone near you complains about something, you know, really terrible such as “the water from the cold filter tap tastes funny”, “my hotel room isn’t big enough” or “the sandwich lady didn’t bring a big enough variety”, maybe you’ll think of those three small words. Maybe you’ll think of those less fortunate than us.

Or maybe you’ll just think, “I read something boring about this in a blog once. Ah well, looks like I’m going to have to have a cheese and pickle baguette for two days running”.