Tag Archives: Language

Robert Louis Stevenson “Talks Like a Pirate”

Robert Louise Stevenson is the official spokesman for “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” celebrated on September 19, but enjoyed every day. https://catherinesherman.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/official-spokesman-for-talk-like-a-pirate-day/

Catherine Sherman

A portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson by John Singer Sargent. A portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson by John Singer Sargent.

Yes, it’s that time of year again — Talk Like a Pirate Day is coming soon. Brush up on your sailor slang, pirate patois and buccaneer bravado.

My first thought when I saw the 1950 movie “Treasure Island” wasn’t “Hey, me hearties, I love how those pirates talk.” I had a school girl crush on one of the actors — Bobby Driscoll, the boy who plays Jim Hawkins, and I swooned over his more upper crust accent. (By the way, I’m not that old. The 1950 movie was many years old when I saw it.) I became smitten with the fantasy of finding treasure, of treasure maps, of being a stole-away.

I have Robert Louis Stevenson to thank for my adventure fantasies. Stevenson published “Treasure Island” in 1883. Since then, more than fifty movies and television shows have been made…

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Fancy Foods Word Quiz — How much do you know?

Crab Cakes in Tasmania.25 FANCY FOOD WORDS USED ON ‘TOP CHEF’ (Do You Know What They Mean?)
See how many of these food words you can correctly match with their definitions. 

1. Ganache (GAHN-ahsh)

2. Ceviche (seh-VEE-chay)

3. Risotto (rih-SO-toh)

4. Carpaccio (kahr-PAH-chee-oh)

5. Hamachi (hah-MAH-chee)

6. Rémoulade (ray-muh-LAHD)

7. Chiffonade (shihf-uh-NAHD)

8. Panna cotta (PAHN-nah KOH-tah)

9. Hearts of palm

10. Geoduck (GOO-ee duhk)

11. Aioli (ay-OH-lee)

12. Pain perdu (pahn pehr-DOO)

13. Frisee (free-ZAY)

14. Tostones (tohs-TOH-nays)

15. Roulade (roo-LAHD)

16. Pancetta (pan-CHEH-tuh)

17. Paella (pi-AY-yuh)

18. Pommes dauphin (pom doh-FEEN)

19. Halloumi (hah-LOO-me)

20. Fleur de sel (flur-duh-SELL)

21. Cavolo nero (KAH-voh-loh NEH-roh)

22. Amuse-bouche (ah-mewz-BOOSH)

23. Radicchio (rah-DEE-kee-oh)Octopus Salad in Sydney.

24. Sweetbreads

25. Sashimi (sah-SHEE-mee)

B. A mayonnaise flavored with garlic or other ingredients

C. Short-grained arborio rice cooked in meat or seafood stock, then seasoned (with Parmesan, saffron, etc.)

D. Tender inner portion of a palm tree; eaten as a vegetable or used as a garnish for salads

E. A large edible clam typically weighing 2 to 3 pounds

F. French toast

G. Fried plantains, smashed and served with garlic sauce

H. Deep-fried crispy potato puffs

I. Unsmoked Italian bacon

J. Thinly sliced raw meat or fish served with a sauce

K. Traditional Greek cheese from Cyprus made with sheep’s milk, or goat’s milk

L. Delicate and fluffy hand-harvested French sea salt

M. A sweet, creamy chocolate mixture, typically used as a filling or a frosting

N. A saffron-flavored dish containing rice, meat, seafood and vegetables

O. A thin slice of meat rolled around a filling

P. Yellowtail fish, often used for sushi

Q. A strong flavored cabbage with dark green leaves

R. Pungent sauce or dressing resembling mayonnaise

U. Shredded or finely cut vegetables or herbs, sometimes used as a garnish

V. The edible glands of an animal, often thymus glands of veal, young beef, lamb and pork

W. Very thinly sliced raw fish

X. Raw fish marinated (or “cooked”) in lime or lemon juice, often with oil, onion, peppers and seasonings and served as an appetizer

 

QUIZ ANSWERS —  1 M , 2 X, 3 C, 4 J, 5 P, 6 R, 7 U, 8 A, 9 D, 10 E, 11 B, 12 F, 13 Y, 14 G, 15 O, 16 I, 17 N, 18 H, 19 K, 20 L, 21 Q, 22 S, 23 T, 24V, 25 W.Shrimp Salad in Roeland Park.

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Kiwi Bloke

Kiwi Bloke’s father, Turoa Kiniwe Royal, received a doctorate in literature recently at Massey University in New Zealand.  The YouTube video showing the ceremony is in Maori, which is beautiful even if I don’t understand it. (The video might be slow to load.)  The five men performing the haka in the audience at the ceremony are Kiwi Bloke’s brothers.   I watched the Maori language channel a little every day while we were in New Zealand, so it was fun to see it again.  Dr. Royal is a pioneer in advancing Maori language and education.

I met Kiwi Bloke online through my post about the hilarious musical duo “Flight of the Conchords”.  Kiwi Bloke is an expert on all things Kiwi, and I’ve learned a lot about beautiful New Zealand from reading his blog.  I fell in love with the country after my all-too-brief visit there in February.

Here are Kiwi Bloke’s posts about his father’s doctorate, beginning with the post announcing the honor. (We’re switching between spelling “honor” the Kiwi way and the North American way.)  The last two links are articles about the award.

Well Deserved Honor, I Might Say.

Pioneer Receives Highest Honour. 

 Maori Educationalist to Receive Doctorate.

Pioneer to Receive Highest Honour.

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Aussie Speak

It's the Bar of Babel as speakers from all nations attempt conversation at the Sydney Opera House Bar.

It's the Bar of Babel as speakers from all nations attempt conversation at the Sydney Opera House Bar.

I laughed when I read my friend Anita’s recent facebook status report: “having fun using words like kerfluffle, bungle (as a noun), shambolic (as in shambles), rectitudiness, verballing, and of course tradies, unis, bikies, footies. . .”

Anita, an American, moved to Australia last summer. As a journalist, part of her job is communicating with government officials and other journalists, so she is an interpreter of the various kinds of English, too. In her last position, she spoke Spanish, so she’s up to the challenge.
When we arrived to visit them, Anita and her husband began translating for us.  For example, they advised that “You don’t root for teams, you barrack for them.”  Rooting means something quite different from our definition and is probably not mentioned in polite society…….But we’re all friends here. Most Aussie words and phrases do make sense (sometimes you have to think about it), even if they aren’t the words we normally use.  Sometimes it’s the pronunciation that throws me.
We in the U.S.A. yield, but the Australians give way.  Their signs needs more letters, but it's easier to spell.  Also, not the one lane bridge. We found a lot of those.

We in the U.S.A. yield, but the Australians give way. Their signs require more letters to get their message across, but it's easier to spell. (Don't we just look at the shape anyway?) Also, note the one lane bridge. We found a lot of those.

I’ve been reading letters and later emails from Aussies for years and thought I knew what they were saying, but hearing it in person I found myself saying or at least thinking “What?”  I need a hearing aid of a different kind.
The people I most easily understood were transplanted English people.  Maybe it’s from my years of watching Masterpiece Theater.
Two of my favorite words are “brilliant” for everything wonderful and “shocking” for terrible, which I heard from my friend Monica when we were stopped in a massive traffic jam in Sydney.  Another good word is “chuffed,” which seems to mean excited, proud or happy, which I’ve heard Down Under and even from fellow English blogger Paula who writes beautiful posts.  She’s on my blogroll as Locks Park Farm.
A “good on you!” to Janelle of What Makes Me Laugh for her funny post on Aussie-isms.  Click here: It’s Not Weird, It’s Not Wrong, It’s Just Different.  She wrote several funny, insightful posts on her recent trip to Australia.  Don’t miss them!
Here's an Aussie mailman on a motorbike with mail saddlebags. Love the orange!

Here's an Aussie mailman on a motorbike with mail saddlebags. Love the orange!

Jan of Planetjan had fun with the language and other differences when her English friends came to visit her in Los Angeles.  Here’s one of her funny posts on the subject: Back to Reality.

  
In New Zealand…well, let’s not go there right now, except to say that egg is pronounced eeg, as in eek, and left as leeft.  Instead, I’ll hand you over to native New Zealander Kiwi Bloke, who has lived in Australia, Canada and even Texas, for all things Kiwi.  He’s Kiwi Bloke on my blogroll and is multi-lingual in the English language.  
Why don’t you tell me your favorite language choices?  Cheers!

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Filed under Australia, Friendship, Humor, Language, Life, New Zealand, Personal, Travel

Round the Town from Down Under

When guests come to town, I usually take them to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, especially when it's below freezing and there's snow on the ground. Here two of my Australian guests check out the acoustic furniture in a special exhibition in the Bloch Building.

Sure, snow is pretty, but the thrill quickly wears off when frost bite sets in. When it's snowy, sleety and frigid, what are you going to do with guests who don't know what real winter is? I took them to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where the temperatures are balmy. Here two of my Australian guests check out the acoustic furniture on a curving floor in a special exhibition in the Bloch Building. In the foreground is Michael Cross' work, "Flood," which features light bulbs and brightly colored cables in vases of water. (Kids, don't try this at home!)

It was a dreary, cold, snowy night when we picked up our Australian guests from the airport in late December. To us locals, the snow was a nuisance, but our guests thought it was beautiful, like fairy dust, fluffy and bright.   (It was soon dirty and crusty…)

The first night, the boys raced through the snow in the dark with a flashlight, making tracks.   We’d gotten rid of our sleds long ago (probably in some garage sale for nothing!), but the next morning, the youngest boy found a piece of cardboard and “snowboarded” down a hill several times.  

Squirrels were fascinating creatures. Cardinals and woodpeckers were exotic.   It was wonderful to see the world with a new perspective.   When I drove them around, I pointed out what I knew.  They also asked me plenty of questions I didn’t know the answer to, so I spent some time online when we got home learning more about my own city.

We spoke the same language, yet we didn’t quite.  Jumper, biscuit, council, fringe, bum.  Familiar words, but with different meanings from American English. I’ve watched enough Masterpiece Theater that I knew what they were talking about, though.   Thanks, PBS!  New to me is bushwalking, which means hiking.

In Australia, they are surrounded by birds we only see in cages, such as lorikeets and parrots.  There are marsupials everywhere, while we have only one — the opossum.  They have mandatory voting and are fined if they don’t vote.

The Liberty Memorial is so tall you can't see the top!

The Liberty Memorial is so tall you can't see the top!

They checked regularly online for the cricket scores.  There was a  big game in Perth, Australia, against South Africa.  Australia’s national cricket team is the highest ranked in the world.  Cricket is played in a hundred countries.  High-level “Test cricket” games can last up to five days with time outs for lunch and tea. I still don’t understand American football, so I can’t begin to explain cricket.  All I know is that they use bats and wickets, and that one of the incarnations of Dr. Who wore a cricket uniform.

We visited the National World War I Museum underneath the Liberty Memorial.  Again, I saw the world through a different perspective.   Their visit lasted too short a time. The next time I hope they can see our city in the summer.   Soon I’ll be seeing the world from their point of view (and be a lot warmer, too) when we visit them in January.

What is Cricket?

What is Australian English?

National World War I Museum

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

Our young guest from Sydney, Australia, contemplates the snowy view.   Beyond, Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" ponders the giant shuttlecocks that seemed to have landed on the snow in front of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.

Our young guest from Sydney, Australia, contemplates the snowy view. Beyond, Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" ponders the giant shuttlecocks that seemed to have landed on the snow in front of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.

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Avast, Me Hearty! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Robert Newton as Long John Silver.

Robert Newton as Long John Silver.

Arrgh!  Get ready to walk the plank if you don’t talk like a pirate on September 19 — the  annual International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

No one talked more like a pirate than Robert Newton in his role as Long John Silver in the Walt Disney production of “Treasure Island” (1950).  The scene in the video above is when Jim Hawkins first meets Long John Silver.  Of course, Robert Louis Stevenson put these words into Newton’s mouth.  (See “Shiver My Timbers” link at the bottom of this post.)

Newton created the theatrical Pirate patois and is considered the “patron saint” of International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  Because of Newton’s iconic performance as Long John Silver, nearly every actor playing a pirate has adopted some version of the same faux Cornish accent that Newton invented.  Even the voice of Captain McAllister in the cartoon series “The Simpsons” is based on Newton’s portrayal of Long John Silver.  Newton successfully used his pirate persona in several later movies, too, such “Blackbeard, the Pirate,” “Return to Treasure Island” and “Long John Silver.”  The Who drummer Keith Moon considered Newton a role model. (Not a very good role model, I’m afraid.  Both Newton and Moon died early.)

Walk the Plank!

“Walk the Plank!” if you don’t want to talk like a pirate.

Johnny Depp with his swishy pirate stylings as Captain Jack Sparrow in “The Pirates of the Caribbean” may be one actor who strayed from the Newton mold and fold.  Depp credited Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards as his muse, but you can see a little of Newton in Depp’s version of a comically genial pirate hiding a devious heart.

The Walt Disney version of “Treasure Island” was one of my favorite childhood movies.  It was one of the first Disney movies to be shown on television when it was first broadcast in 1955.  I saw the movie when “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” re-broadcast it in the 1960s.  I remember it best, though, when it was one of the free movies shown on Friday nights during the summer at our small town’s football stadium.  I fell in love with Bobby Driscoll, the young boy who played Jim Hawkins.  I think I was more in love with the idea of adventure and tropical islands and hidden treasure.

I’m a committed landlubber, but there’s something insanely exciting about jumping on a creaking, swaying little ship and heading off into the unknown on the vast and treacherous ocean.  I can live vicariously through the sailors’ adventures without the risks and claustrophia.   I’ve gone into a replica of The Mayflower and can’t even imagine being trapped below deck for months. I’m getting off topic here…..

Shiver My Timbers!  It's fun to play a pirate.

Shiver My Timbers! It’s fun to play a pirate!

I did get over my sailing ship phobia long enough to sail on the wooden sailing ship, Lavengro, off of Maui to watch humpback whales and snorkel near the sunken volcano Molokini.  I learned a little sailor lingo there, like “lowering the boom” and what that actually means. “Watch out or you’ll get knocked overboard!”

International Talk Like a Pirate Day was started in 1995 by John Baur (Ol’ Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (Cap’n Slappy) to be celebrated on September 19, the birthday of Summers’ ex-wife so it would be easier for him to remember.   To find out more go to International Talk Like A Pirate Day which has links to everywhere you could possible want to go in the Pirate realm, including the official site, Robert Newton’s sites, Treasure Island.

Ol' Chumbucket and Cap'n Slappy, founders of International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy, founders of International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

The link also provides some tongue-twisting Pirate jargon, some of which comes from Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, “Treasure Island.”  Stevenson invented many so-called pirate sayings, such as “Shiver My Timbers,” so that they would sound menacing but wouldn’t actually be obscene to his young readers.

Other seafaring movies I liked were “The Bounty” starring Mel Gibson (1984) and “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003) starring Russell Crowe.  I also enjoyed the eight Horatio Hornblower made-for-television movies (1998-2003).

About “Shiver my timbers.”

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Filed under Entertainment, History, Humor, Language, Life, Literature, Movies, Novels, Personal, Random, Sailing, Uncategorized

Newspeak

George Orwell

George Orwell

Since this current United States presidential campaign began, trillions of words have been spoken, written, blogged….

I won’t add to the cacophony with my take on the candidates, their followers, the media, the voters and the onlookers.  Instead, I’ll point to the master political wordsmith, George Orwell.  

George Orwell was the pen name of Eric Blair, a British novelist, literary critic and essayist who was passionate about the importance of honest and clear language.  He warned that misleading and vague language could be used to manipulate thought and politics.  He railed against “vagueness and sheer incompetence” and criticized his contemporary political writers for preferring the abstract to the concrete.  Doesn’t that ring particularly true today?

The language and ideas of Orwell’s dark, satirical novels, Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) have become part of our culture.  Who hasn’t heard of “Big Brother is Watching You” and “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”?

His Down and Out in Paris and London was very moving.  He was fiercely anti-totalitarian, anti-Communist and anti-imperialist.  He described himself as a democratic socialist.  

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the main character Winston Smith recognized that he had to live as if the “Thought Police” were tuned into his and everyone else’s every movement and sound.  The Ministry of Truth developed “Newspeak,” a very limiting and restrictive language, which included “doublethink,” in which you hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time, passionately believing both.   This is epitomized in the party slogans: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength.

I’ll paraphrase Orwell’s six rules for writing:

1.) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you commonly see in print.

2.) Never use a long word when a short one will do.

3.) If it is possible to delete a word, always delete it.

4.) Never use the passive voice, where you can use the active.

5.) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

6.) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

 In typing this list, I thought of my college editing professor, John B. Bremner, who was formidable in pounding the rules of grammar and usage into my head. I can still hear him bellowing the rules whenever I struggle to keep my writing clear and concise.  In fact, he would have barked at me for using “formidable.” Couldn’t I find a shorter word?  His rule was “never use a Latin-based word, when a nice, short Anglo-Saxon word would work.”  As an example, I could have used “suffice,” rather than “work,” but his ghost wouldn’t let me — this time.  I do think a little variety is good. (I used “cacophony” above instead of “noise.” I like the way it sounds as if something’s stuck in your craw.)  I studied (very inadequately) Latin and French, so it’s too easy to incorporate (more Latin) those languages into my writing — probably badly and inappropriately!

Back to Orwell.  He was a prolific writer. Some of Orwell’s everyday observations in his diary are now being made available in blog form at www.orwelldiaries.wordpress.com  I’ve added Orwell’s blog to my blogroll, too. Orwell’s blog has a lot of interesting sites on his blogroll, so don’t miss it.

A link to an article in the New York Times about Orwell’s “blog” is What George Orwell Wrote, 70 Years Later to the Day  A link to my post about two other essayists about contemporary life, Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe, is There Will Be Blog. When you jump there, you have to click on the title to get the story.  I’m trying to get more use out of that post!

John B. Bremner wrote a great book on writing, “Words on Words,” which is still available.  I also like the new “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty tips for Better Writing” by Mignon Fogarty. She helps me with pesky punctuation questions, among other writing problems I face.

UPDATE: George Orwell is in the news again! (Along with Evelyn Waugh.)  He’s in a new book, reviewed here Two of a Kind in the New York Times.

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