I spent rather too long last night thinking about making alphabetical lists of things rather than, you know, actually going to sleep. I thought about making a list of interesting cities/towns I’ve been to, but decided to start with the biggest cities/towns. I got about halfway through last night, then had to do a some extra searching (for cities/towns and populations) this morning. From this list, it’s obvious where I’ve lived or travelled. In some cases the ‘going to’ has been quite brief – a matter of hours.
Busan (SK) (or Bangkok, Thailand if you count one hour at the airport)
Christchurch (NZ) (367,000), honourable mention to Canberra (Aus) (356,000) and Cardiff (Wales, UK) (341,000) – I thought they might be similar sizes. (Our overnight stop was at a motorway motel outside Cologne, Germany but we didn’t even see the city in the distance, so I won’t count that.)
Elizabeth (SA, Aus) – there are very few cities and towns starting with E, so I had to choose a suburb (of Adelaide)
Hong Kong (SAR of PRC)
Kalgoorlie (WA, Aus)
London (Eng, UK)
Melbourne (Vic, Aus)
Newcastle (NSW, Aus)
Orange (NSW, Aus)
Queanbeyan (NSW, Aus)
Rockhampton (Qld, Aus)
Townsville (Qld, Aus)
Victor Harbor (SA, Aus)
Wollongong (NSW, Aus)
X – none. There is one place name in Australia – Xantippe, WA, which is 300 km north-west of Perth and which Google Maps shows is located in the general vicinity of Rabbit Proof Fence Rd and Struggle St. Either I plan a trip there, or central China.
Z none. There’s about 20 place names in Australia, the most notable of which are Zetland (Syd, NSW (I’ve been under it – Green Square railway station is located in one corner)), Zillmere (Bris, Qld) (located off the major arterial roads, so I haven’t even passed through it) and Zeehan (I haven’t been to Tasmania at all). Maybe I can stop off at Zhengzhou on my way to Xi’an.
When I was 4 years and 5 months old, my younger sister (then 1 year and 11 months) and I stayed for three weeks with our grandparents while our mother was in hospital and recovering. They were inveterate letter-writers and our mother kept (?many ?most ?all) of their letters from all times, and all of the letters from that time. Some years ago she photocopied the ones from that time and gave them to me in a plastic folder. I knew I had it, but found it while tidying up recently and have been reading them. There are comments relevant to first language acquisityion and use, but my first extract is about something not related to me.
In one of his letters, my grandfather suddenly broke off talking about my mother’s health and my sister’s and my doings to talk about a birth notice my grandmother had seen in the Melbourne newspaper. After the obvious details of names, place and date was ‘Birth by psychoprophylaxis’. He commented ‘It is the first time we have seen the final word in a notice’.
One of my dreams last night was that an Eminent Linguist (a real person, but I’m not telling you his name) was visiting Australia, and was staying in a big house with a big garden. I was hiding in his garden hoping to catch a glimpse of him. I summoned up the courage to knock on the door. He was delighted to see me – apparently I’d been assigned by the Australian Linguistics Society (I’m not a member) to be his assistant while he was here. (He looked way different, including about 30 years younger, than the photo on his blog, but you know how people (and places) in dreams just are.) The rest of the dream was more about getting from place to place by a confusing sequence of transport and routes than actually talking about linguistics.
A few months ago I asked on an online forum whether people’s dreams match their extrovert v introvert type. I think I asked because I’d just had an unusually extroverted dream. In most of my dreams, I am either alone or with people but not interacting with them.
One dream last night involved a choir rehearsal (one of my former choirs, but in an unfamiliar church building). During our supper in the foyer, someone miraculous quickly totally decorated the main part of the building in bright red tinsel. Almost everyone else oohed and aahed and rushed to take photos, but I sat down on a couch in the foyer, marking up my choral scores, assisted by another chorister. I like taking photos, but I don’t like scrambling among other people to take them, and I really don’t like bright red tinsel anywhere, let alone in church buildings. The chorister who was helping me is also a keen photographer.
Another dream involved being caught up in a James Bond story, but not interacting with the characters, just ducking out of the way whenever they came by. James Bond got shot and killed for real.
On a wet weekend, while recovering from a perfectly ordinary but nonetheless annoying cold, I was catching up on some language and linguistics blogs I rarely read, possibly because those bloggers are far less active these days than previously. One of those is David Crystal. One of his posts relates the story of Gerard Manley Hopkins contributing Irish words and phrases for the English Dialect Dictionary, published between 1898 and 1905. Some of the items don’t sound dialectal at all, some are amply attested elsewhere, and some were new to me.
My eye was caught by
bodach, sb, an old man; a churl
Ireland. GMH [no example]
I immediately flashed back 40 years to my last year or two of primary school in country Victoria, when and where the word bodack (however spelled – it was rarely written) was used as a one-word reply to express disbelief or derision at someone else’s statement. (The exact level of disbelief or derision depended on the exact amount of inflection in the pronunciation.) Are the two words connected? It’s impossible to say now.
Just before I woke up this morning, I had a long, vivid, fragmented dream. In the last scene, ‘dream I’ was standing in a licenced club next to a man who was looking at the front cover of a gambling magazine, featuring a photo of an apparent famous professional gambler. The man said ‘I want to study his – mercy’ (obviously not sure about the last word). ‘Dream I’ said ‘The word you want is mertique’, at which point I woke up.
‘Real I’ lay there befuddled, trying to decide whether mertique was a real but very rare word, with the meaning ‘another word for technique, most often used about sales staff and gamblers’ or whether my sub-conscious had simply made it up, and if so, why?
After some time, I came downstairs, searched Dictionary.com (my default resource) and got no result. I did a general Google search and got ‘About 1,460 results’, including user names on various social media, business names (Mertique Spa), ‘sirloin mertique’ and sentences which look like Latin (one of which turns out to be a mis-OCR-ing of ‘mortique’ (morti(s)+que is identifiably Latin)). Setting Google Translate to ‘detect language’ detects Latin, but then translates it as mertique. None of which explains why my sub-conscious brain chose to use it.
Mertique could be an English word – it fits the sounds and syllable patterns. But apparently it’s not.
It is an ending-in-5 number of years since I started university. (For some reason, ending-in-0 and ending-in-5 anniversaries seem to be more significant.) I don’t remember the exact date, but the 1st of March is an arbitrary day to commemorate it. The first week was/still is Orientation Week (or O-Week). Among other activities, the student societies set up booths on the main lawn and students can inquire and join. As I wandered around, I bumped into a friend from a nearby city who I knew from regional music camps. One of the booths we saw was that of the Gay and Lesbian Society. Its banner read ‘Are you hung up about being gay?’. I said to my friend, ‘I’m not hung up about being gay!’, which is true but ambiguous. I found out several years later that he’d taken the meaning ‘I’m gay but I’m not hung up about it’, rather than my actual meaning of ‘I’m not gay so I’m not hung up about it’. Fortunately he hadn’t said or done anything homophobic in the meantime. I was/am, in fact, about as straight as it is possible to be.
All these years later, with a qualification in linguistics, I still can’t figure out just where the ambiguity arises. Either I am gay or not. Either I am hung up about it or not. Whatever else I am hung up about, I’m not hung up about being gay. (By the way, I’m not sure what students who were gay and not hung up about it were meant to do.)