The Axe of the Apostles

At church this morning (Easter Day), the first reading was from The Axe of the Apostles – sorry, The Acts of the Apostles. English allows final consonant clusters of two, three and four consonants, but almost everyone simplifies these in some way (natives speakers probably only the three- or four-consonant clusters; second language speakers/learners even two-syllable clusters. I have even noticed that some students tend to drop any consonant at the end of a word.). Acts = /ækts/. I suspect that most native English speakers reduce to this to /æks/ = axe most of the time, even in the very formal setting of a major historic parish church on Easter Day. (The reader was otherwise impeccably enounced.) Many second language speakers/learners, on the other hand, drop the s, especially if plural marking is optional or non-existent in their language and/or it does not allow many/any final consonant clusters and/or /s/ is not permitted at the end of those which are allowed.

goodest and baddest grammar

Most English have adjectives have comparative (-er or more/less) and superlative (-est or most/least) forms. The three major irregular adjectives are good-better-best, bad-worse-worst and far-further-furthest. One student wrote farer and farest. I said ‘Those are clear and fit the pattern, but we’ve got these special words further and further’. No-one wrote or said gooder, goodest, badder or baddest. I commented that those are clear and fit the pattern as well, but badder and baddest sound slightly better than gooder and goodest. Jim Croce calls Leroy Brown ‘The baddest man in the whole damned town / Badder than old King Kong’, not ‘The worst man … Worse than King King’. The spell-checker in Pages for Mac accepts badder and baddest, but not gooder and goodest. (It also accepts farer. I assume that’s related to fare (farer – ?a paying customer/traveller) not far. Compare wayfarer. The spell-checker in WordPress accepts badder and baddest, but not gooder, goodest or farer.) (Possibly, the regular adjective forms of far should be farrer and farrest, but it’s not necessary to decide.)

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What do I have in common with Lady Gaga?

Not a lot, I would have thought.

Yesterday, the textbook focussed on adjectives describing personality. One question for discussion was ‘Who is the most glamorous person you know?’. The students asked and answered the questions in pairs first, then I asked random students in front of the whole class. One student said ‘Teacher!’. I asked ‘Why?’. She hesitated, then said something to a classmate in Chinese. The classmate said ‘Body language’. Yes, I do tend to gesticulate and use a wide variety of facial expressions and tone of voice, as part of ‘total communication’, but I wouldn’t have called that ‘glamorous’.

I asked the second student the same question, and she said (you’ve guessed it) ‘Lady Gaga’. I asked ‘You know Lady Gaga?’, followed by a short discussion of ‘know’ in a question like this (know, know about, know of). I then asked ‘Why?’ and she said clothes, makeup, hair, lifestyle etc.

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farnarkeling

Speaking of language users’ ability to create sentences which have never before been spoken or written in that language, not everyone can do it with style of John Clarke, the New Zealand-born, Australian-based writer, actor and satirist, who died on Sunday. As part of a regular segment on The Gillies Report, a satirical tv program broadcast in 1984-85), he created the fictional sport of farnarkeling.

Farnarkeling is a sport which began in Mesopotamia, which literally means ‘between the rivers’. This would put it somewhere in Victoria or New South Wales between the Murray and the Darling. The word Farnarkeling is Icelandic in structure, Urdu in metre and Celtic in the intimacy of its relationship between meaning and tone.

Farnarkeling is engaged in by two teams whose purpose is to arkle, and to prevent the other team from arkeling, using a flukem to propel a gonad through sets of posts situated at random around the periphery of a grommet. Arkeling is not permissible, however, from any position adjacent to the phlange (or leiderkrantz) or from within 15 yards of the wiffenwacker at the point where the shifting tube abuts the centre-line on either side of the 34 metre mark, measured from the valve at the back of the defending side’s transom-housing.

On the program he would deliver passages like this in the style of a sports commentator – rapid-fire, deadpan, without hesitation and seemingly in one breath.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s headline on Monday was ‘Gone to the great farnarkeling grommet in the sky’.

the sewer of Armageddon

My fear of heights began when I climbed down the sewer of Armageddon during a thunderstorm.

Every language user has the ability to create sentences which have never before been spoken or written in that language, and every other user of that language has the ability to understand them (assuming linguistic competence, performance and cooperation by all).

Yesterday, one of my nieces, who is studying linguistics, wrote the sentence above as part of a Facebook post about the pipe organ she’s practicing on. Yes, she really did visit Israel, yes, she really did visit Tel Megiddo, yes, she really did climb down the former sewer/emergency escape route / current alternative route (with metal steps) for tourists, yes, there really was a thunderstorm at the time.

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