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Three terrific tongue twisters

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 11 Dec 2015, 01:49

As I stumbled along the beach of life I came across an accidental tongue-twister, a sort of object trouvé, like the pebbles beachcombers collect.

Every day the Times of London has a Quick Cryptic Crossword.

Try saying the phrase out loud 10 times in rapid succession.

I've always adored tongue-twisters. My favorite is one I heard many years back on the radio. I don't know who invented it but I'm very grateful to them. It comes with a little backdrop story.

The late Queen Mother was going round a saucepan factory. Pausing by a workman she asked what he was doing, which lead to the following noblesse oblige conversation:

"Are you aluminiuming them my man?" "No, I'm copper-bottoming 'em Mum."

I've often wondered whether there is a theory of tongue-twisters. Could a computer design phenomenally hard ones? There must be some kind of analysis possible that would let us understand what makes a phrase hard to say repeatedly.

Step forward MIT. In 2013 a research team collected and analyzed a collection of speech errors made by experimental subjects. Based on this they devised a fiendishly difficult tongue-twister. Are you ready? Do you want to fetch a glass of water for safety's sake? OK here we go.

pad kid poured curd pulled cod

Call that tongue-twisting? Feeble, isn't it?

Science, successful in so many ways, flunked here. And commentators were too lazy to say so — or couldn't — or wouldn't.

In contrast, here is a real killer I was taught by a Polish friend. For background, Lola is a woman's name; loyola means 'is loyal'; 'nie' pronounced 'knee-ay' means not. But the meaning doesn't matter really. Just remember how 'nie' should be said. 10 times out loud remember.

Lola loyola. Lola nie loyola.

The word tongue-twister is fairly recent it seems. The Oxford English Dictionary only records it from 1898, and in 1904 the Speaker offered this, which ain't bad

Miss Smith's fish-sauce shop

Favorite tongue-twisters anybody?

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Richard Walker

One Liner

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 10 Dec 2015, 11:21

He told me he was a futures trader. I was like wow, yes let's swap.

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Richard Walker

The Magnetism Of Light

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Each night
I glimpse a gable light
And so I come
Safe home.
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Richard Walker

Winter Walk Berries

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 9 Dec 2015, 01:32


I've been reading The Idler's Companion and came across a Chinese poem that begins

Reply to Chang Yin

I have a cottage in the Chungnan foothills
The Chungnan mountains face it.
All year long no guests.
And the gate remains shut.

This a genre I've always found appealing: a person of letters and action retires to a place of seclusion; there to live in quiet contemplation; and seek wisdom. 

It's by Wang Wei, who lived in the 8c: a painter, poet, and high official in the imperial administration. I looked Wang Wei up and found another celebrated poem.

When those red berries come in springtime, 
Flushing on your southland branches, 
Take home an armful, for my sake, 
As a symbol of our love. 

On a winter walk I found the striking red berries at the top of this post. They reminded me irresistibly of this poem, even though spring has passed, and no-one will be gathering them for my sake.
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Richard Walker

The Power of Eagles

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 6 Dec 2015, 15:52

Last night in my local, the Moon Under Water, talk turned to how the Roman road known as Ermine Street, which runs near here, got its name.

One theory was that it was called after the animal, the stoat in its white winter coat with a black-tipped tail, and derived from this a heraldic 'tincture' which is a background of white with black tail tips arranged in a pattern .

Few saw easily what the connection could be though, and in fact the explanation is totally different.

Ermine street is a corruption of an Anglo-Saxon name Earninga Straete, which would mean "the Roman road of Earn's people", Earn presumably being a tribal leader.

The word earn is the Anglo-Saxon for eagle and survives today in the form erne, meaning the sea eagle (or possibly the golden eagle too). Probably the tribal leader wasn't actually called Earn, because Anglo-Saxon names tended to be dithematic — composed from two parts, such as Alfred, "elf counsel" or Mathilda, "mighty battle".

However these names often got shortened. To any Maddys reading: did you realize you were warlike? Alfs, did you think of yourself as guided by supernatural beings?

In a similar way Earn was perhaps short for Earnwald, "eagle power". In forms such as Arnold it remains a common name today. Arnie?

And where did Earnwald's people live? Probably somewhere near the Cambridgeshire village of Arrington, which lies on Ermine Street. In the Domesday book it is Erningtone, "Ern's people's farmstead", which lends support to this idea.

I wondered what the Romans called this road. We have no idea. It seems we know the Latin names of few, or no, Roman roads in Britannia, although names were certainly given to roads elsewhere.

To end on a Roman note: here is an example of true eagle power. Jupiter was supposed to ride a chariot pulled by eagles, as shown in this spirited engraving. Sorry it is a bit dark but there was a bit of weather about as you can tell.

Picture credit

Welcome images, via Wikimedia commons


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Richard Walker

I'm Just a Verse That Can't Say No.

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 4 Dec 2015, 00:17
Little verse
I launch you into the world.
If they try plagiarize you
Always say yes.
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Richard Walker

Lovers

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Did Lancelot
Use his lance a lot
Or not?

Guinevere
Would whisper in our ear
If she were here.

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Richard Walker

One Liner

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All these government watchdogs are toothless. Just take the one meant to stop us being overcharged by dentists.

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Richard Walker

Demotive Conjugations

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 29 Nov 2015, 02:35

These are the converse of Bertrand Russell's linguistic invention of the emotive conjugation, but still drawing attention to the way that language is both denotative and connotative (the meaning and the feeling) and how loaded language stops us thinking clearly. Plus they help you feel bad about yourself. To illustrate:

I am a worm.
Compared with me you are cool
She is a diva.

Here are some more I thought up, in my poor way.

I do not have a Phd
You do.
She is a professor.

I am no longer even moderately attractive
You have retained your appearance quite well, considering
She is photographed for the Daily Mail whenever she appears on a beach.

I am lazy.
You relax regularly, so you are fresh enough to maintain high standards
She has progressed beyond the workload illusion and founded a ground-breaking consultancy
.

None of these are very good. You must be able to do better.

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Richard Walker

Untitled Haiku

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In a dark and empty street
Your window glowed under the moon again.
An old man is dreaming.


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Richard Walker

Emotive Conjugations

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 26 Nov 2015, 20:52

This form of word play is reputed to have been introduced first by Betrand Russell on the radio program The Brains Trust. One of his examples was

I am firm, You are obstinate, He is a pig-headed fool.

Russell seems to have been (at least partly) making a serious point about loaded language but these "emotive conjugations" have since been popular for their humorous content. The New Statesman featured emotive conjugations in one of its weekly competitions. My favorite entry was

I am beautiful; you have quite good features; she isn't bad-looking, if you like that type.

Inspired by these I had a go at writing some, with the following results.

        I pay attention to detail; you are a little finicky, if you don't mind my saying; she is a pedantic monster.

        I employ a light touch; you are occasionally rather lax; she is negligent.

        I enjoy social drinking; have you ever thought of talking to your doctor? She is an alcohol abuser.

        I am a scholar; you have read widely; she will believe anything.


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Richard Walker

The Mock Turtle's Tale (continued)

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 26 Nov 2015, 00:55

'Then I went to the Geology master,' the Mock Turtle said: 'he WAS an old fossil. But he taught us the three types of rock -- Sedentary, Metaphorical, and Ingenious.'

'What was THAT like?" said Alice.

"Pretty foul," the Mock Turtle replied in a depressed manner.

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Richard Walker

Los minerales

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 25 Nov 2015, 03:45

 Some underground definitions

Basalt = Character in Fawlty Towers
Cinnabar = Similar to ASBO
Corundum = A riddle
Fluorite = Elevation of floor
Gneiss = Gnot gnasty
Granite = Pullover made by mature female relative
Lias = Untruthful people
Quartz =  Units of 2 pintz
Slate = Time for bed
Zircon = It's a scam

Any more? ...




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Richard Walker

Dido's Lament

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Aeneas you bastard.

No better than

A police spy.

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Richard Walker

Autumn walking

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Our feet
Crush the dead.
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Richard Walker

Another Love Story

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Did Troilus troil
Did Cressida cress?
My guess
Is yes.
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Richard Walker

Camelot Romaunce on the Rokkis

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 22 Nov 2015, 19:18

Eftsoons the Lady Guinevere bethought her

That Lancelot hadde much ex kaliber.

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Richard Walker

Clerihew

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 22 Nov 2015, 01:39
Sir Lancelot
Didn't romance a lot.
He lived in fear
Of Guinevere.
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Richard Walker

New blog post

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Listen how

Each breath we take

Advances and retreats.

Breaking on a fragile shore—

The heart.

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Richard Walker

Issa's Autumn Haiku

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There's a haiku, I think by Issa, that means approximately

Autumn's arrived—
Just hearing that
I'm cold already.

A memorable thought.

It's been translated into several (more likely many) languages and I wondred how it turned out in French. I was surprised: in one translation I read the poet felt old already, not cold. But old makes perfect sense.

So who is right, or neither? I don't know Japanese, so I turned to Google translate. The Japanese is

aki tatsu to iu bakari demo
samusa kana

Google gives

autumn... stand ..when... say... only... but... cold... wonder (or feel)

So it looks like the English version is more accurate.

Why is the French different then? My theory is that the translator did not go Japanese -> French but Japanese -> English -> French, and either decided 'old' was better poetry, or just typed 'cold' as 'old' by mistake.

Going through an intermediate (I think it's called 'vehicular') language is very common, in fact it's the basis of most translation. If (say) a news report originates in Tamil and is broadcast on Faroese TV it's unlikely anyone who speaks both languages is involved. It was first translated into English, then from into Farosese.

Incidentally the haiku reminds me a bit of those psychological experiments where half the participants were exposed to words associated with youth and vigor and the other half to words associated with age and decrepitude. The researchers (as psychological researchers tend to) gave the participants an explanation of the experiment (for example that they were testing word recall) that concealed the real investigation, which was to find out if hearing words about old age makes you act more like someone old.

And it does. Although the age profile of each group was the same, as the subjects left the room where the dummy experiment had been held, experimenters surreptitiously measured how long it took them to exit the building. The group exposed to words to do with old aged moved significantly slower.

It probably works with cold as well. Try this

Frozen, icy, frigid, winter, hail, cold, wind, glacial, blizzard, frost, snow, skating, chilblains, sleet

You might not consciously feel chilly but if you went to the shops now you'd be more likely to put a coat on!






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Richard Walker

Expanded Clerihew

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 18 Nov 2015, 01:11
Charles the First
Thought kings were appointed by God.
Or so he said.

When he came off worst
He must have felt it extremely odd
To lose his head.
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Richard Walker

Cheese and Wheeze Riddle

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 17 Nov 2015, 00:55

What cheese manufactory sounds like a person succumbing to a respiratory complaint?

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Richard Walker

An Angel

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 17 Nov 2015, 01:36

An Angel caught me by the throat.

"Is this in the rules?", I cried.

"No, but it's quicker", she replied.


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Richard Walker

Streetlight Hailku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 16 Nov 2015, 00:24
Last night where the lanes meet
I saw a couple parting under the streetlight
Old they were
But still loving.
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Richard Walker

Career Choice

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Until the spellchecker intervened Bach had intended to be a composer.


Image credits

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Johann_Sebastian_Bach#/media/File:Johann_Sebastian_Bach.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lucy's_choc-chile_fudge.jpg


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