rugged v ragged

One of the choirs I sing in is rehearsing a setting of Dorothea Mackellar’s poem ‘My country’. On the first few times through, I stumbled on one word, which I then realised was “ragged mountain ranges”, not “rugged mountain ranges” as I vaguely remembered. When I got home, I looked online. Wikipedia has an image of Mackellar’s original notebook, which clearly has ragged. Many sources, printed and digital, have rugged, though. Two rehearsals ago, our accompanist said she’d always thought it was rugged, and at the rehearsal this week, one singer brought a book of Australian poems for school children, which has rugged. The accompanist said there is a recording of Mackellar reciting it, which I found (one of the available videos). She clearly says ragged. Very noticeable is her Sottish-tinged accent* (her grandparents had come to Australia almost 50 years before she was born). Continue reading

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‘The Bells’

In 1849, the American poet Edgar Allan Poe died and his poem ‘The Bells’ was published.

Sometime around the turn of the 20th century, the Russian poet and translator Konstantin Balmont “very freely” translated it into Russian.

In 1913, the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote a setting for soprano, tenor and baritone soloists, choir and orchestra, originally titled (in Russian) Колокола, Kolokola (Russian WikipediaEnglish Wikipedia).

Some years ago (first guess 2001-2003) I bought a CD of this work. The booklet calls Balmont’s translation “more precisely, a re-interpretation” and includes his text transliterated into the Latin/‘English’ alphabet and translated into German, English and French. Whether the unnamed translator was equally free in translating Balmont’s Russian back into English or not, the result is very different from Poe’s original. Continue reading

qualified and unqualified

Today I edited an article featuring a pharmacy that offers its customers, among other things “qualified advice”.

Qualified has developed two almost opposite meanings, for reasons none of the dictionaries I’ve looked at explains: “1a) officially recognised as being trained to perform a particular job; certified; 1b) competent or knowledgeable; capable” and “2) not complete or absolute; limited.” (Oxford Living Dictionaries Online)

A qualified pharmacist would usually give unqualified advice, while an unqualified one would give qualified advice.

I assume that the advice given in this pharmacy is “of or pertaining to someone who is qualified”. I can’t really change it to “this pharmacy offers unqualified advice”.

Google Ngrams shows that qualified advice (in whatever meaning(s)) is more common than unqualified advice, while unqualified opinion (likewise) is more common than qualified opinion.

Never said before

A sentence never said or written in the history of English. The husband of a former colleague posted on Facebook rhapsodically describing their young daughter. He concludes:

Her laugh is constant and sounds like a million angels tinkling in a pond of liquid happiness.

every single day

I try to avoid ‘celebrity’ ‘news’, but this headline was right there on the newspaper’s website:

Khloé Kardashian thinks about having a nose job every single day

I suspect this means she thinks about (having a nose job) (every single day), but I can’t help get the feeling it means she thinks about (having a nose job every single day). The latter scenario would keep her out of the public eye, though, which could only be a good thing.

이민자

My wife has a very good friend named Min-ja Lee (이민자). I was suprised to see her name on the front page of one of Sydney’s Korean-language community newspapers. Except it wasn’t. 이민자 (i-min-ja) is also the Korean word for immigration, and the story was about how the number of visa holders to coming to Australia has fallen in the wake of new regulations brought in by the Australian government recently.

I asked my wife about this, and she said that all Koreans are aware that this rather common name is a real Korean word. I am trying to think of a real English name which is a real English word. This Buzzfeed article (your sensitivity and sense of humour may vary) doesn’t provide any, and joke names like Amanda Hugginkiss aren’t ‘a’ word.

I previously knew the related Korean word 이민 (immigrant), which is often used to advertise migration services; they are immigrant agents rather than immigration agents. Although the surname 이 is pronounced Lee in English, it is pronounced ee in Korean, for reasons I’ve never been able to discover. Continue reading

“Who’s left?”

Today several of my colleagues were away, then one left early. I looked around the office exaggeratedly, then said “Who’s left?”, meaning “Who is still here?”. “Who’s left?” might also mean “Who has gone?”, but I would be unlikely to mean that given that I’d just said goodbye to the colleague who was leaving.

Our colleague left, and we were left.