Thursday, 14 December 2017

Is it all right to use alright?

Is it all right to use alright?

Or is it another English/American thing.

American English prefers – all right.  British English accepts both – all right or alright

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (3/e, Houghton Mifflin, 1996) has this in its usage notes:

All right, usually pronounced as if it were a single word, probably should have followed the same orthographic development as already and altogether. But despite its use by a number of reputable authors, the spelling alright has never been accepted as a standard variant, and the writer who chooses to risk that spelling had best be confident that readers will acknowledge it as a token of wilful unconventionality rather than as a mark of ignorance.

Michael Swan, in Practical English Usage (2/e, Oxford University Press, 1995), says:

The standard spelling is all right. Alright is common, but many people consider it incorrect.

Brian A. Garner, in The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style (Oxford University Press, 2000), comments:

All right. So spelled. The one-word spelling (alright) has never been accepted as standard in American English.

4. The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage (Random House, 1999) states succinctly:
"all right (never alright)."

5. Ann Raimes, in Keys for Writers (Houghton Mifflin, 1996), says:

"Alright is nonstandard. All right is standard."

 The Collins COBUILD English Dictionary (HarperCollins, 1995):

Under “alright” - alright. See all right

Under “all right” - all right; also spelled alright

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A new Word

Revisiting a new word

At around age 15, sitting on a train, I understood that if I died at that moment the train would not stop. Busses would still run and airplanes would still fly and the people in this transport would go about their daily lives as if nothing had happened.  In fact, almost nothing in the world would change.  My leaving would be noticed only by the people who knew me.

This understanding was intriguing. I don’t remember feeling grief but at age 14 you think you will live forever.

Sometimes I wondered about other things like;
What if I was the only real person on earth and everyone else was a prop for my life?  They were all fake.
What if the entire world was here and everyone who travelled overseas and came back told invented stories, about the rest-of-the-world, which didn’t exist?
What if I was not real?  I was a fake person, a prop in the lives of other people.

At other times I felt panic at the thought of all the lives being lived and all the stories that could be told and wondering who had been given the task of knowing them all.

But, I’ve always been a people watcher – wondering what was behind the 2 minutes I saw of someone’s life, so when I stumbled over the word sonder - I liked it.

n. the realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Definition shared from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows  - a website and YouTube channel, created by John Koenig, that defines neologisms for emotions that do not have a descriptive term. The dictionary includes verbal entries on the website with paragraph-length descriptions and videos on YouTube for individual entries). 

Definition Related: I heard about a book called 'Historia transversal de Floreal Menendez, which apparently means something life - Cross-sectional history of Floreal Menendez, by Leo Masliah - who is a musician.

I can only find the book in Spanish, but have been told it follows a chain of people who tough the lives of each other briefly.  I have a feeling that I've seen a short film on the same subject that was not in English but I can't find any reference to it ... seems like I'm the only person who's every seen it.
What I'm talking about is not like the movies 'Crash' (2003) or 'A Long Way Down' (2014), about several people who all meet up at the end.  No, this is a chain that follows the contact, not the person, and touches on the surface of several live - the camera follows me as I walk down the road and pass a boy, then the camera follows the boy, to his home, where he stops to talk to a neighbour and then the camera follows that man and what he is doing. He waves at a girl cycling by and the camera follows the girl.  That is a simplified person.

This animated movie called Sonder, is something different.


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Stalking Hippeastrum

When I was a child we seemed to have lots of elderly female relatives - my grandmother’s sisters or cousins mostly born before 1900.  
These old ladies had things in common. They made pikelets and jam, had open fireplaces surrounded by dark green or grey tiles and ornate fire guards.  Their tablecloths were lace and they used teapots. They lived in old brick houses and liked to talk about their gardens and borders using big words like agapanthus and hydrangea.

Agapanthus and hydrangeas

 For most of my life I avoided these old lady symbols, though at an age under 12 my sister and I won a prize for fancy dress, as Cinderella’s ugly sisters wearing agapanthus on top of our heads. But now I have become the elderly female relative in my family, owning three tea pots and growing agapanthus in my garden - next to daylilies and hippeastrums.


I had never heard of, or noticed, a hippeastrum until we moved to Queensland. For two years we lived in an old house with the remains of an old world garden. I had a push mower for the grass and  didn’t cut the grass as often as I should have but was usually prompted to do the job by finding a snake in the laundry or under the washing line.  One day I noticed a tall green leaf – like a tongue – growing from the short grass in a shady corner. A few weeks later the one green tongue had turned into a four long leaves and a thick straight stem (or scape) held two pink trumpet shaped flowers. I called it the pretty lady. I was very busy during those years and something like a flower in the lawn faded from my mind as it faded from sight. 

But the following summer it was back ... and then we moved to another house.

Around that time, a part time job took me to a local hippeastrum farm once a month.  I couldn’t pronounce hippeastrum and never remembered it between visits. For the first seven months I didn’t even see the flowers because it was their dormant season. But, one day, at the end of spring, I stepped from the car to find I was surrounded by strange shaped flowers in every possible tone of pink, red or orange. They were stunning. 

Over the next 25 years I often drove past the farm, and at times I went in to visit. It never occurred to me to actually buy any plants. Friends were always offering to give me plants and cuttings but pawpaw trees and pots of parsley was all I could manage. 

My children, two jobs, extra activities like sewing, craft and writing took up my time until I retired.  Then I picked up a lifelong goal to learn about and grow herbs - especially those with healing properties.  There is no end to the list of plants that are good for us, to nourish and to heal. I was fascinated by the cycle of growth, fruit, seed, growth, but I never considered myself a gardener because I was not interested in flowers - until I realised how important they were to attract bees to the herbs.  I was successful at growing rocket and the bees love the little white flowers that precede the seed pods but that was not really enough.  
Rocket flowers - edible

When we had to remove a large gum tree at front of our house, it left a noticeable gap in the landscape we were used to.  My husband bought several foxtail palms to fill the area and I was to choose something to grow under the palms, at least as ground cover. Weeding is not fun.

My first attempts failed. A native flower garden would have been wonderful - desert pea, kangaroo paw, flannel flowers, boronia and more. But none of these liked my patch of dirt with the type of drainage and sunshine I had on offer. 
Day lily, bright as the sun

Then, a friend decided to become a grey nomad and moved from a house with a garden to a mobile home. One day she brought me a bucket of bare rooted bulbs, hippeastrums, and clumps of straggly things called agapanthus and daylilies.  She thought I’d like them for my garden.  I had no idea what to do with them, but felt I owed them a home.  I had heard of daylilies but did not know what they looked like. I had forgotten what agapanthus were.

The hippiastrum bulbs went into pots and I filled black bags for the agapanthus and daylilies, which is where they stayed, for two years before we had designed and built up that garden area and I was able to make a permanent place for them.  

I started to notice hippiastrums wherever I went in early summer. It seemed everyone had a few or more.  I had imagined a carpet of flowers around the foxtails - but not these divas. They all do their own thing, blooming unexpectedly, one at a time. 
Over three years later we have a population of Hippis that get three and four flowers on a stem – they thrive on neglect. They have reproduced beyond the pots now. My day lilies are an amazing bright yellow but only last two days at the most.  The aggies take their time forming flower balls that stay around for a week or two but they are busy, busy, busy producing new plants all year long.

I thought I might start a hippeastrum collection. I went back to the Hippeastrum Farm to actually buy some.  It just happened to be the last day of the year for their open season (when the flowers are in bloom) and it was the last day of the farm as it had been sold and they were moving out the next day.  I became the very last customer and drove away, sadly, with four lovely blooming hippeastrums in the car.

I could see this could become an expensive interest, so rather than collecting I might go for the lucky dips. Online I purchased a budget pack of hippi bulbs that will surprise me next summer, I hope,

When we find something special we like to share it and I did, buying a flowering hippi as a birthday gift for a friend. I turns out she loves them too. I’m now daydreaming about having my own hippeastrum farm ……….  la la la.


I will however, continue to resist the hydrangea bush so I have not quite turned into Aunty Mabel or Aunty Flo yet but when I do it will be my version of an old lady gardener.

Hippiastrums in flower among agapanthus leaves

Origin: subtropical regions, from Brazil to Peru, Argentina, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Propagation: by seed or offset bulbils.
Climate: subtropical or can be grown in pots inside.

I love these delicate ladies - thank you Jennifer L

Monday, 4 December 2017

What is a hobby?

While filling out a form I came to a section asking about hobbies/interests/sport. I ticked the box. 
Then it wanted details.
Scrambling for the answer in my head was like looking for a handful of pins in the storage area at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark - my brain was overwhelmed by the task. Obviously the author of the form did not know me.

Interest? I have many of those - should I organise them into groups or rate them from highest interest down?   How do I tell what is an interest and what is a necessary part of my life and what is a hobby? There are some things that we do just because that is what we do.

I looked for definitions.
‘A hobby is an activity regularly carried out for pleasure in one's leisure time.   
The word hobby was also found in Middle English as a description of a small horse as in hobi or hobby horse - which could have come from the surname Hobin, Hobert or Robert, Hobbi and Robbie being nicknames for Robert.
And it was also a migratory Old World falcon with long narrow wings but that is another story.  So....’

I found a list of 50 most popular hobbies. 
More than half were what I would call sport or physical activities so I crossed them off as not hobbies. 
I don't count eating, cooking, walking or shopping because they are things we do to live ... how could they be hobbies?  
Travelling, listening to music, sleeping and computing were on the list too - I'm surprised that breathing wasn't there.

Reading and writing ... we do those everyday and sometimes we extend them to reading or writing whole books, but they are both daily activities.

Sewing, taking photos, watching TV and movies, computing and socialising - all part-of-my-normal-daily-life.

I like crossword puzzles,but not the cryptic ones, and I love solving the whole puzzle so prefer it to be easy. This activity is a really good for brain function - so not a hobby, more of a medicine.

Craft can be anything you make yourself from knitting to woodwork and most crafts have a practical or decorative use or give us a sense of achievement so they are necessary to our quality of life. But it's not a matter of thinking, hmmmm, I think I'll do some craft now – for me it's more of an extension of other things I'm involved in or thinking about.

Of course if the craft is sticking paddle pop sticks together or gluing pasta to paper then that is an exercise in fine motor skills to help with more necessary activities later on – so it’s training.

Gardening can be a hobby or an activity. Growing food or herbs or plants add value to the landscape, soil or wildlife, and that's not a hobby. If it's growing flowers then that's therapy and necessary to our wellbeing.

Finally at the bottom of the list was volunteer work. Is that a hobby? I think it's a necessary survival activity for our society and an act of caring that benefits the giver and the receiver. Good for mental health – so not a hobby.

It’s back to eating and sleeping – that’s what I do for pleasure during the time I have left over from my interests and activities and my daily life.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Lest We Forget


ANZAC DAY 2017:  So much upset this year, caused by the thoughtless use of the phrase ‘Lest we Forget’.   And I am not comfortable with the use of this now sacred phrase to promote a political point of view – and yet, when I asked around, in person and on-line, no one could tell me the origin or the deeper meaning apart from a ‘reminder to remember’.

I think it’s a warning, even a veiled threat – and with good reason. We need warnings and we need to understand consequences – that does not stop when you grow up.

I like to look at origins when I am interested in a subject, to help me understand the meaning even if it has changed from the original. I was not surprised to find that the phrase comes from the words of Moses, in the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 6:12 (KJV)  Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

-        It is a reminder, a warning that when we come into a time of ease and plenty our attention can slip so that it focuses only on the good things we have and not on where they came from.

Inspired by this verse, Rudyard Kipling wrote his poem/hymn, ‘Recession’ in 1897.

A recessional is music or a hymn that is played at the end of a religious service. Kipling wrote this as a reminder of the fragility of wealth and power (of the British Empire) – a warning that if we forget how we achieved success, where it came from, we may find we are lacking when we need extra. It was not written as a memorial to those fallen in war.

God of our fathers, known of old,
  Lord of our far-flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
  Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!


As these words were heard again and again, at the end of five verses, and the close of the church service, it is easy to see that the words and meaning would be applied to other areas as a reminder of great loss.  

There are a number of modern ‘lest we forget’ quotes but the meaning is not always the same.  It seems that, if a passage begins with Lest we forget and then states what we should remember, or lest we forget pops up in the middle of a sentence, the meaning is not the same as the simple, lone warning at the end of the text.  Lest we Forget.

After WWI the phrase came into common usage through the British Commonwealth, appearing on war memorials, headstones and in epitaphs as a plea to not forget the sacrifice made by so many.

In Australia 'Lest we Forget' is a registered trademark, owned by the RSL on behalf of our returned service men and women.

The first Anzac commemorations were held on 25th April 1916, a year after Australian and New Zealand soldiers set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula. By the 1920's it had been established as a National day and now, sadly, it goes beyond that single anniversary and we honour all who have died in war or conflict since.  We hear words such as honour, courage, mateship and sacrifice linked with national identity and Australian spirit. All this is good and true and an important part of our culture, but the phrase we have attached to the day is still a warning that we must heed and we must pass down the generations - because we do forget.