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2010-01-21 19:53

Everything you always suspected about Danish but never dared assert


[Tusen liters melk to David]

2010-01-13 19:19

Words for canals, we has them

Anyway, it turns out that the sn that covers the canals insulates them into the bargain, so the Elfstedentocht skating marathon on frozen canals is not getting especially more likely.

So instead of skating on canals, we propose to discuss words for them. (We haven't looked up any of the following, since we are interested in usage rather than prescriptivisme and we do not trust the dictionaries we have access to to respect this choice).

Firstly, you have kanaal, which is for long straight shipping canals used at one time for transport.

Secondly, you have gracht, which seems to be the canals around the cities. The most irritating kind of Amsterdammer, even by Amsterdam's irritating standards, is generally agreed to be the grachtengordel type, found living within the grachten.

Then last and pretty much least there is the common-or-garden sloot, which is a glorified ditch. But it is also the reason that Dutch children have to learn to swim before they can excurse from school: sloten are everywhere, tempting the feckles or gravitationally-challenged to fall in. Dutch for "let's let bygones be bygones" is "laten we geen oude kooien uit de sloot halen" (let's not pull any old cows out of the sloot, which always seems a bit harsh on the cow to us.)

They are also apparently full of delicious frogs, if you believe the cats and herons that sit by them all day in the summer.

Bonus factoid: Dutch for "all hands on deck" is "alle hens aan dek". We don't actually know what a hen is, but we do know that the Dutch persons - and they are many, if not various - who insist that the langwidge is certainly very hard for English-speakers have got another think coming.

2010-01-11 13:00

Moondag Review of Stuff

The Superseded Penguin Atlas of Medieval History , Colin McEvedy.

In principal we spent Christmas is smelly old Londontown. In practice we spent it rather in the suburb of Edgware, where our ancestral seat is located.

Edgware has two(2) claims to fame: first, it is a terminus of the Northern Line on the Tube; and everyone you tell you lived there thinks it is near Edgware Road tube station. (The Edgware Road itself runs from there to Edgware proper, having - as is in fact typical of line segments - two(2) ends.)

Oh and everyone spells it "Edgeware". Bah!

But while this geographical quirk tends to mean that we spend less of our occasional visits than is sometimes suspected in the bustling heart of Londontown's many bustling thoroughfares and byways, we do make a point of visiting Two Jays fine second-hand bookshop. And if, Varied Reader, you are ever stuck in Edgware, for whatever reason, so should you. They sold us our first heady volumes of Michael Moorcock in our early teens (thus innoculating us, for all time and not a moment too soon, against Tolkein), and they have gone on selling us battered old phrasebooks and history books into our middle-age.

This one in particular is a good one. McEvedy's historical atlases are always fine things: each double page spread has a full-page map on the right and accompanying text on the left, and both are models of succintness. (Which is just as well, given that it checks out at less than 100 pages and covers more than 1000 years.)

Best of all, it quite correctly insists that North Africa, Anatolia and Central Asia and Russia are all part of the story, and there are plenty of medieval histories which (quite incorrectly) don't.

There's plenty here about the fortunes of the Black Sheep Turks (mixed) and the Armenians (unrelentingly wretched), but also all the applicable ins and outs of the Byzantine empire, assorted Sultanates, Caliphates and Khans.

Also, it is just the sort of thing we found ourself wishing to read over Twinkletree, at moments (of which there were many) when there was nothing much on TV.

(Do they really no longer have Bond films and the Sound of Music in Blighty? If we'd ever liked such things we'd be outraged.)

2010-01-11 12:51

Moondag Review of Stuff

The New Kindaichi Files, Yozaburo Kanari and Fumiya Sato, Kondasha Bilingual Comics.

The point of this bilingual manga, such as it is, is presumably to help Japanese persons better their English.

Since our English is already noticeably better than that of Yuriko Tamaki (the translator) and our grasp of Japanese is scheduled to remain negligible in the medium-term, we're only concerned with the volume as an entertainment.

Which by and large it isn't. The art is dull to look at and clumsy in its storytelling; the dialogue reads like it was translated from the Japanese by a non-native speaker of English; there are entirely too many "fan-service" pictures of the view up recently-murdered teenage girls' skirts for our taste.

Most charmless of all, the book ends with the detective-hero on the cusp of unravelling the mystery. Presumably the denoueing is fulfilled in volume 2 but somehow we lack any desire to seek it out.

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