Never you mind all this tedious foopball malarkey, tomorrow it's time
once again for Proper Sport: Le tour de France is back!
Dozens of diminutive men with huge thighs and surprising blood
chemistry will be belting around France on pushbikes for the
honour of wearing a yellow
The official French site is, as is traditional, utter pants, and this
year we are proud to announce that Norwegish
TV2 has won the contract to supply TdF coverage to this 'bladet.
Everyone (i.e., no one) knows that sports as mass entertainment is an
essentially 20th century phenomenon, by way of pacifying the urban
proletariat. The great thing about cycling is precisely that it has
not attempted to construct for itself an origin myth steeped in the
glorious deeds of our glorious ancestors, since our ancestors,
although unquestionably very glorious, had not invented the bicycle.
I'm currently trying my beloved old bike back on the road, also, after a five year gap
inspired by the realisation that Bristol, unlike Southampton, has
hills in. (Bad Count von Bladet! No prikkete klatretrøya
Isobars are used by meteorologistes to illustrate the geographical
distribution of pressure. Isoglosses are used by linguists to
illustrate the geographical distribution of pronunciation.
Today, and quite possibly today only, I wish to see the isovegetation
line that bounds the regions of Europe where olive trees grow.
Today, though, and I sincerely hope it is today only, my Google Fu is
unequal to this task.
2004-07-02 morning (utc+1)
It isn't easy
being a journaliste in Burma ("Myanmar"), as Aftonbladet reports:
I ett mejl berättar gruppens ordförande Åke Sintring om den
burmesiske sportjournalisten Zaw Thet Htwe. Han arbetade på en
sporttidning i Burma som heter First Eleven. I en artikel förra året
ifrågasatte han hur det burmesiska fotbollsförbundet använde de pengar
som den internationella fotbollsrörelsen skänkt till hans land.
Generalerna i den burmesiska militärjuntan ansåg att artikeln var att
jämföra med högförräderi och i november 2003 dömdes Zaw Thet Htwe till
In an email [local Amnesty group]'s spokesperson Åke Sintring told about the
Burmese sports-journalist Zaw Thet Htwe. He worked for a sport
newspaper in Burma called First Eleven. In an article last year he
questioned how the Burmese football associaton used the money that the
international football movement gave his country. The generals in the
Burmese military junta took the view that the article amounted to high
treason and in November 2003 Zaw Thet Htwe was sentenced to death.
Commuted, after an international outcry, to a three (3) year prison
sentence. That crazy Burmese military junta, isn't it? You just
never know what it's going to do next!
Hoorah, though, for Aftonbladet - the prosthetic social conscience you
can wrap your yummy sustainable Norwegish fish and chips in!
You will observe, of course, that while the bad Burmese military junta
sentences journalistes to death, we in the civilised and democratique
west content ourselves with journalistique incitement
to lynchings or assassinations:
THE Swiss referee who disallowed a last-minute goal to send England
crashing out of Euro 2004 has spoken about the death threats made
against him in the aftermath of the match against Portugal.
Meier said he had received more than 16,000 e-mails after his address
was printed in a newspaper [The Sun, as if you couldn't guess] and
read out on ITV's news programme.
Ha ha ha, such merry fun is foopball!
2004-07-01 later (utc+1)
I have established with some certainty the proto-Slavic for "Do you
take credit cards?"!
Also, I suspect that Polish mleko, Serbian mleko, Czech
mléko ("milk") may be a lead. I'm conjecturing a Proto-Slavic
form something like *yummy moo cow squirtlings but
frustratingly I can't quite get all the pieces to fit.
[Update: David adds that Slovene has mleko. Now I'm totally stumped! Oh, well. Back to the drawing board...]
2004-07-01 samwidge (utc+1)
I'm not up-to-date on the linguistique literature on syllables, but
the last I heard of the state of the art is that while no one knows
how to detect syllables in a lab, there are some dazzlingly elaborate
theoretical models of them. (Hey, linguisticians! Why not let's make
syllables 10 dimensional and be as rigorously scientic as string
theoristes!) In the quote below I have IPA'ed up the transcription
from its original ("native") Americaniste:
[Syllables in some languages] show quite complex structures, even allowing
sentences without vowels, such as Bella Coola (Salishan)
`then he had had in his possession a bunchberry plant' (Bagemihl
1991a:16). Bagemihl notes that there are no epenthetic vowels in such
These structures raise interesting questions about syllabic
structures. A word like
`he arrived' could be analyzed as having no syllables (since it has no
vowels), or up to 5 or 6, depending on whether obstruents are
considered syllabic and whether all consonants are analyzed as part of
The Languages of North America, Mithun (CUP, 1999)
A more pressing question, to my mind, is this: when you've analysed
it into zero (0) or six (6) syllables, what have you accomplished that
is distinguishable from not having accomplished anything?
Syllables are important, partly because they are suspected to account
for much of the "missing matter" of the universe, and partly because
they are part of the intuitive sense persons have of their language,
as evidenced in poetry and other such word-play.
Personally I'd much rather someone told me how Bella Coola (Salishan)
poetry and word games are organised than listen to them explain the
analytical foundations of their syllable-counting strategy.
And (as with all phonological questions) I feel compelled to ask what
the alleged accounts of syllables currently circulating (without
consulting the literature, I predict with certainty that there are
several rival theories whose proponents engage in bitter polemics with
each other) make of sign languages.
2004-07-01 morning (utc+1)
Wouldn't it be nice if there were tasty
fishes also in the future? There will be in Norway:
Norway is another place in Europe where fishing has long played a
vital role in the economy and the way of life. Norway polices its
exclusive 200-mile zone with vigour.
It single-handedly saved the cod in the northern waters of the Barents
Sea with an uncompromising fishing ban. It has done the same with
another key stock, the herring, which spawns along its west coast.
The country's fishermen paid a heavy price in the 70s, when the
herring ban was in place and they simply had to go after other species
or go out of business.
One of the core constituency's for the coalition of the wretched that
is the UK "Independence" party is fisherpersons, in Cornwall and
elsewhere. Fisherpersons, in Cornwall and elsewhere, are invariably
vigorous proponents of the theory that the reason that fish stocks are
declining is the perfidious over-fishing of yer dastardly foreigner,
what can't be trusted.
The UK "Conservative" party is forever stomping around saying it would
renogociate fishing treaties to safeguard "our" fish.
It would be a very good thing if the EU's act became sufficiently
together on the fishy-wishies that these such slimy sjöodjur
(sea-monsters) of nationalisme could no longer make political capital
out of the issue.
Now is good.
2004-06-30 hometime (utc+1)
The EU's Commission's General Direktorate for Training and
Culture's magazine "Magasinet. Utbildning
och kultur. Europa får folk att tala" (Swedish pdf. Change "sv"
to "en", "dk" or whatever else you fancy) has much to say about the
merits of speaking two (2) foreign langwidges in addition to one's
But the things they say are in it for me have not especially been in
it for me to date. What they need to do, I feel, is offer an
incentive scheme using cold hard cash, focusing with laser precision
on native speakers of langwidges which traditionally lag behind the
average on this: there's clearly no point encouraging Danishes to
learn Swedish or English, since they all already know both - and don't
get me started on the Luxembourgians - so their share of the incentive
gravy can reasonably be splashed into my charmingly Engleesh
gravy-boat. (Eurocrats are cordially invited to contact me for
details of my off-shore banking arrangements.)
A brand new feature! I have a copy of Miss Freda White's West
of the Rhone: Languedoc, Roussillon, the Massif Central (Mr Faber
Mr Faber, 1964); do you have, Varied Reader, a copy of Miss Freda
White's West of the Rhone: Languedoc, Roussillon, the Massif
Central (Mr Faber Mr Faber, 1964)?
On the steep road up from Royat to the Dôme my car gave up the ghost.
A local garagist got it to go, but I thought that here, in the
metropolis of automobilism, I might find real help, and went to a big
motor-works. The foreman's face might have belonged to a Jesuit
missionary, or to the secretary of a communist branch - or to the
foreman of a motor-works; in fact, a dedicated man. He gave my car
one look and said, "There is only one thing to do with that car."
"What?" I asked. "Put it in the garbage-can - la poubelle,"
said he. "I know; I had it myself." "Monsier," I said, "I must drive
this car 3,000 miles; and you must enable me to do so, if you please."
"Well, I can help you. Go and buy a small sponge." I meekly obeyed
and returned with a small blue spontex sponge. The foreman wired this
to the top of the petrol-cambre. "You will take a thermos of cold
water," he commanded. "From time to time on an ascent, you will endue
the sponge with water. Thus you may arrive." The effect was comic but
it worked. I scaled the Puy-de-Dôme and many another Puy
successfully. But I did not forgive the lunatic who designed that
engine, putting the petrol feed tube alongside the exhaust.
The conversations throughout have been Engleeshed in this style, which
meets with my firm approval.
But 1964! After the end of the Chatterly ban and the
Beatles' first LP!
2004-06-30 morning (utc+1)
§1. Prinsess Peekaboo!
You have to make your own entertainment
När hon under middagen fick syn på Aftonbladets fotograf glimtade det
till i hennes ögon. Kronprinsessan viskade skämtsamt något i sin
väninna Josephine Genetays öra. Sekunderna senare satte tjejerna sin
plan i verket.
- Plötsligt hade Victoria en servett på
huvudet. Hon såg ut som en riktig påskkärring, berättar P-O Sännås som
tog en bild. Väninnorna tjöt av skratt när de såg den paffe
When she caught sight of Aftonbladet's fotografer there was a glint in
her eye. The kronprinsess playfully whispered something in her friend
Josephin Genetay's ear. Seconds later the wimmins put their plan in
"Suddenly Vickan had a serviette on her head", recounts P-O Sännås,
who took the picture. How they laughed to see the flabberghasted
§2. Peekaboo Prinsess 2!
Kronprinsess Mette-Marit of Norway is in Iceland on an official visit.
Kronprinsess Mette-Marit has a five-month old daughter,
kronkronprinsess Ingrid Alexandra. The li'l prinsess is in Iceland
with her mummy, for sure, but she is not on a state visit; she has
come purely in a private and
unofficial capacity as a baby:
Den fem måneder gamle arveprinsessen er ikke en del av det offisielle
norske følget - og er formelt med fordi kronprinsesse Mette-Marit
- Prinsessen inngår ikke i noen av de offisielle delene i programmet,
bekrefter informasjonsrådgiver Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen på Slottet overfor
The five month hold kronkronprinsess is not a part of the official
Norwegish entourage - and is formally there because kronprinsess
Mette-Marit is nursing her.
"The prinsess will not participate in the official parts of the
programme," exposterated Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen for the palace to VG.
There but not officially there! A lifetimes ligging begins with a
magnificently paradoxical manoeuvre, and this blog salutes -
unofficially! - the tiny freeloading bundle.
§3. Gunting, with dogs
up in a nice sealskin and gone for a gunting, with dogs and the
Mary lignede mest af alt en snedronning, som hun sad dér smilende,
Knudella looked most of all like a snöqueen, as she sat there smiling.
and the kronprinsess, disguised in her knitted cap, sizes
up a hundehvalp or puppy. It's not a yummy seal, Knudella,
it's an innocent little furry thing! Have mercy!
m'a dit, Carla Bruni.
The zeroth thing to know about Carla Bruni, by journalistique
consensus, is that she is very beautiful. Beautiful enough to have
had a career as a supermodel, which indeed she has had. (If Google
images is to be believed she specialises particularly in nouveau-imperial couture,
but that may just be sample bias - those googlebots!)
We will get to the music in due course, for sure, but not just yet,
not just quite yet. Come!
Let us instead mock journalistes some more!
With hindsight, the clue was there all along in track eight, in which
Carla admits to be being the prettiest girl on the block:
'Regardez-moi. Je suis le plus beau du quartier.'
Is there an annual award for most egregious "Romanes eunt
domum" moment in a serious national newspaper? There should be.
And this would be a candidate. Wimmins, you see, are not "le" in the
Frenchy-French, and they are not "beau", so even the title is a give
away. It is a song from the perspective of a someone who loves
themselves very much, for sure, but said someone is a someone of
maleness, who exults in his status as object of desire for all the
wimmins and also - oh, those naughty Frenchy-French! - their husbands:
Mais prenez garde à ma beauté
A mon exquise ambiguïté
Je suis le roi ["king"]
Et je suis l'indéshabillable
Observez-moi, hum, hum, hum
Observez-moi de haut en bas
Vous n'en verrez pas deux comme ça
Le bel ami
De toutes ces dames
Et d'leurs maris
Anyway. She sings in a studiedly seductive just-above-whisper, and
her songs are for the most part constructed around rhythmique vamps -
students also of Swedish pop are likely to be put in mind of Lisa
Eckdahl - and it is really all very pleasant, even if the two (2)
songs that have proper tunes are written by others; "La noyée" by
Lucien (=Serge) Gainsbourg is by far the stand-out track.
2004-06-29 samwidge (utc+1)
Will the beautiful Cinderalla of Croatian cheese 'n' cream go to the
EU ball? Or will the ugly
step-sisters of bureaucratique red-tape thwart true love?
Many generations of Croats have grown up on cream and cheese, a
homemade delicacy from the north of the country. They despise its
factory-made commercial equivalents and would rather stick to the
fatty full-bodied cream and light fresh-made cheese they call "the
("The real thing"? Have Mr Coca Mr Cola's lawyers been alerted?)
More strict EU hygiene controls on farms would add to an existing
bureaucracy with which farmers are already struggling. The government
has done little to explain future reforms, leaving farmers perplexed.
Bad fairy god-mother ("government" - they are cognate, you know!)!
"We regularly check our cows and have been producing cream and cheese
for decades," says Marija Ivankovic. "Nobody has died of it. This is
healthy stuff and we don't understand why we would need to adopt any
Neither will you, because the Beeb is in rampant - rampant! -
human-interest mode and is therefore quite entitled to engage in
scurrilous scaremongering at the expense of any facts.
Hjelmslev's Le langage is a funny sort of book. Written in the
40's, but not published until the 60's, it opens with a treatment of
historical linguistics that operates in terms of cross-language
correlations (which he calls functions) of "éléments d'expression" and
doesn't mention phonemes at all. This, it later turns out, is quite
On constate les fonctions des éléments, nous l'avons vu, sans égard à
la façon dont les éléments sont nommés ou désignés dans les langues
considérées (par exemple par des lettres ou par les sons); les
formules d'éléments seront donc d'un charactère également abstrait.
Les hypothèses qu'on peut former possèdent un degré plus ou moins
grand de probabilité, mais il ne s'agit toujours que de probabilité,
jamais de certitude; que i-e *m ait été prononcé à peu près
comme notre m, possède un degré très fort de probabilité; que
i-e *A ait été prononcé à peu près comme le premier e de
proprement (ainsi qu'on l'a supposé entre autre chose), possède
un degré minime de probabilité. En consequence il est fâcheux que la
languistique classique ait désigné les fonctions des éléments commes
les lois phonétiques et ait par exempel désigné les fonctions
des consonnes pour le germanique et pour le haut-allemand trouvées par
Rask, comme le mutation consonantique respectivement germanique
et haut allemande (Rask lui-même les a appelées mutations des
lettres, ce qui est une désignation bien plus honnête et plus sobre.)
[We state the functions of the elements, as we have seen, without
regard for the way elements are named or designated within the
languages considered (for example by letters or sounds); the formulas
of elements will thus be of an equally abstract character.
The hypotheses one can form have a greater or lesser degree of
probability, but it is always a question of probability, never of
certainty; that I-E [Indo-European] *m was pronounced like our
m is highly probable; that I-E *A was pronounced like
the e in absent (which has been proposed among other
things) has a low degree of probability. As a result it is
regrettable that classical linguistiques termed the functions of
elements phonetic laws and gave the functions Rask discovered
consonants for Germanic and High German the names Germanic and High
German consonant mutation respectively (Rask himself called
them letter mutations which is a much more honest and sobre
Hjelmslev, Le Langage
Since I collect opinions of Golden Age linguists on the ontological
status of phonemes, I very much enjoyed the celebrated
glossematician's robust "we don't need no stinkin' phonemes" routine.
Besides, in historical linguistics we often don't know how words where
pronounced, and claiming reconstructions deal with phonological but not
phonetic information doesn't entirely get us off the hook: it is not
guaranteed a priori that scripts are reliably phonological
(English and Danish, ho ho ho) and the claim that they were surely
phonological when they were invented is open to question. It isn't
hard to have a sneaking sympathy with Hjelmslev's view that it is an
To celebrate, I am currently trying to reconstruct proto-Slavic from
Planet Eastern Europe Phrasebook. I've been wanting to have a go
for a while, but concern that it didn't really include phonological
information had prevented me. (The less said about the pronunciation
guides, the better. I will say, by way of proving so, this: the Czech
section observes that Czech stress is regular, and invariably falls on
the first syllable of the word, and the bogophonetic "transcription"
duly marks it there, every single time. The Slovenian section
observes that stress is irregular and needs to be learned on a case by
case basis; the corresponding bogotranscription duly leaves it out.
As a book on linguistics in general, this is nowhere near the
mainstream, and I can't really recommend it for the casual reader.
My agenda being what it is, which it certainly is, I'm glad I read
2004-06-28 post-samwidge (utc+1)
I've spent Estonian kroons ("zloties") like water, and burned holes in
my pockets with Lithuanian litas ("zloties"), although I am not
acquainted first-hand with the local zloties of Slovenia.
And now look at them:
Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia have fixed the value of their
currencies against the euro as the first step in adopting the single
Man! Way back when the Tories were in power and I was looking for an
escape hatch, one of my key goals was adopting the International
Eurozloty as my own personal zloty. And then, seduced by the rugged
beauty of the tall, blonde Norwegish fjords, I opted to learn
Since then, the Swedishes and the Danishes have referended their
continued abstention from the Interzloty in favour of their various
krone, kronor and crowns ("zlotys"); the UK hasn't even bothered to
put to itself the question since the deep love and reverence the silly
UKish have for the zloty sterling is well known; and now that upstart
Central Yoorpean sliver Slovenia is ahead of us in the queue!
Portugal has the Interzloty, as do Spain, Italy and France, but I am
constitutionally indisposed to talking as much or as loudly as their
ancient and noble civilisations require. (Also I am allergic to
ostentatiously patterned trousers.)
And yet I yearn if anything more than ever to conduct my many
currencings in the glorious Interzloty! Is it nice in Åbo ("Turku"),
does anyone know?
* There was a time when this made sense, if only to me.
2004-06-28 samwidge (utc+1)
Tu feras pleurer les anges
En leur racontant tes souffrances.
You'll make the angels cry
To hear what you've been through
"Chanson Bleue", Edith Piaf
Bad Bleus! No biscuit!
L'échec de la France est celui d'une équipe qui n'a jamais vraiment
joué "ensemble", tiraillée entre les différents niveaux de forme et de
jeu de ses individualités.
No teamwork! No unity! No cohesion! Bad, bad, bad Bleus!
And now Swederlund and Denmerlund out also as well! Bah! Foopball is a
My nice belt broke weeks ago and the only other belt I could find at
home was some random horrible one that probably came as a freebie with
some trousers, because it was cheap and vair vair nasty.
So I wore the horrible one until Thursday when that broke too. Having
become persuaded, during Friday, that beltlessness was not an
acceptable alternative, I set out on Saturday to get a new belt.
But I went belt-shopping with a friend, on his behalf, a while back
and I can tell you that in the UK the belt situation is a mess. Belts
have splintered so that each covers a teensy fragment of the waistage
spectrum, and they all have like three (3) holes and leave no tail. I
I grew up when belts were more-or-less one size fits all and I was
skinny, and my belts used to always wrap half-way round again, and
that was the way I like it and I still do. And belts are mostly sold
in clothes shops, into which I prefer not to go if I can avoid it, and
I'm pretty good at avoiding it if I say so myself.
So I went to a charity shop, and they had a proper belt, even if it is
browner than I really like them and not quite as long as I'd like.
(In the belt's defence, I'm not quite as skinny as I'd like, either.)
Then on the way back I may have called into the Amnesty bookshop, and
it's possible they may have been having a sale, and conceivable that
they had in this sale a three (3) volume set of Montaigne's essays in
the original Frenchy-French, and if they did, and the three of them
were going for a marked price of 0.50 GBP each, which comes to 0.75
GBP for the whole set at sale price, then I don't think anyone could
really reproach me for being unable to resist.
I tell you what, though, that Montaigne couldn't spell for toffee.
I'm not surprised they couldn't shift his stuff. Get an editor, mate!