Quafftide

quaffing viking

Well my dears, another day and another word. This time it’s “quafftide”, from 1881, in “A supplementary English glossary” by T Lewis O Davies, and referring to a time for drinking.

Quaftyde approacheth, and showts in nighttyme doo ringe in loftye Cithaeron

So not as in a “tide of drink,” pleasing as that image may be; more like eventide or yuletide. I am particularly pleased that it therefore derives from Old English tid, meaning  period or division of time, as Bosworth-Toller , the on-line dictionary of Anglo-Saxon, explains:

tíd e; f. Tide (as in Shrove-tide, etc.), time, hour; tempus, Wrt. Voc. i. 52, 39: hora, 53, 17. I. marking time when, time at which anything happens, time or date of an event, time, hour Be ðam dæge and ðære tíde nán mann nát . . . Gé nyton hwænne seó tíd ys, Mk. Skt. 13, 32, 33.Ðá com his tíd ðæt hé sceolde of middangearde tó Drihtne féran, Bd. 4, 3; S. 567, 13: 4, 9; S

http://bosworth.ff.cuni.cz/finder/3/tid

My Chambers dictionary says that “quaff” means to drink or drain in large draughts, and that its origin is obscure. I would have liked to think of the old Saxons or even Vikings celebrating quafftide after gathering on a harvest or putting the Picts to rout, or whatever.

Nevertheless, it seemed highly appropriate for a Friday.

However, it did start me thinking, always a dangerous event, about how malleable the language is. I am quite a fan of neologisms, and anticipate the shocking revelations of new words included in the dictionary each year with keen interest. I was very taken with “omnishambles” back in 2012, for example.

What it actually made me think was that people have forever made language fit the occasion, and then reinvented terms in later generations. I need a term for having a bout of drinking so I will reconfigure two relevant words and Bob’s your aunty’s live-in lover. There are lots of terms for  this in English: pub-crawl, out on the lash, painting the town red, having a bevy, booze-up, bash, or piss-up to name a few. In fact there is a whole sub-language relating to the consumption of alcohol: getting a round in, or having one for the road, a swift jar, a tipple, nightcap or nip. It must be a minefield for foreigners. Meanwhile, my grandparents used completely different words for describing similar activities. In this sense language unites and divides us. I celebrate the notion that we are so alike in our habits, and yet confused by the strangeness of each other’s words. It’s like remembering that, for example, Iron Age people were just as clever as us but didn’t yet have the tech to live like us; the distinction matters.

Anyway, I muse enough.

Your homework is to tell me your terms for quafftiding like it’s 2015, and ideally also to relate an anecdote about such a party. It may involve Pan-Galactic Gargleblasters if you wish, and be purely hypothetical. No photocopiers should be harmed in the production of your story.

Post a link to any such tales in the comments below, and/or tag with EBLWords.

Bottoms up and Namaste!

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WOTW: Baubosking

I was given a calendar of old forgotten words for Christmas, and this was the first one in it. It seemed oddly appropriate in the circumstances, as I shall explain momentarily.

Rosedale

Baubosking is an old Yorkshire dialect term for wandering about instead of staying at home, as in

“Sho war er reeight baubosker.”

“Sho’s awlus bauboskin aboot.”

https://archive.org/stream/mymoorlandpatien00bishiala/mymoorlandpatien00bishiala_djvu.txt

The reason this has resonance for me at present is that since my mother died just before Christmas, I have felt a tremendous sense of release from worry. I even went into the travel agent the other day to pick up some brochures, because I feel sufficiently free to be able to think about jetting away somewhere foreign. There are so many options: the Taj Mahal; the Northern Lights; the Icelandic volcanoes; the Rockies; the Alhambra; Casablanca….

Then I saw the prices, my dears, and thought again!

So what to do with this lovely, evocative word?

Well, how about this? Some people may remember Rarasaur’s series of Prompts for the Promptless, where she provided an unusual word or phrase to use as a prompt to write a blog. I wondered if anyone out there fancied doing some more, based on some of the words I anticipate discovering as my calendar shrivels the year away?

Assume no constraints of time, money, family, friends or phobias! Are you a baubosker, or a homebody? If you could travel anywhere, where would it be? (I may take notes here.) If you prefer to stay at home, regale me with the joys of that decision. Would you choose the blazing crater of Eyjafjallajökull or the blazing logs of an open fire in the living room? Another country, continent or world? Time and space is yours. Police boxes are optional.

Take me somewhere thrilling, my dears. It is cold, grey, January here and I yearn for something bright and shining.

And wherever you travel or rest, may it be beautiful to you.

Namaste.

Random Acts of Strangers

The news last night ran a story about a blogger who is performing random acts of kindness each day for a year. Apparently he is an Internet Sensation. Apparently he is pretty well off too, because it all seemed to be about giving away luxury goods or paying for other people’s dinner. I admit I sighed a bit, although I am sure he intends well, and I am glad he is doing it, if weary that such activity is seen as newsworthy (a bit like the recent naked selfies craze – honestly, is it so brave for women not to wear make-up? Mutter, mumble, snarl…)

Meanwhile, casting abut for a topic to inflict upon my loyal but battered readers, I came across the following in WordPress’s 365 Days of Writing Prompts:

Have you ever had a random encounter or fleeting moment with a stranger that stuck with you?

Well, I have certainly had lots of weird and wonderful encounters, usually on long train journeys or waiting for trains or sitting in hotel lobbies. It occurs to me that much of my job is taken up with waiting.

Most of them have been reasonably pleasant, some a bit creepy and some very profound. The most profound were not really fleeting if you call an entire morning substantial. When I was commuting weekly from London to Yorkshire and back I had several interesting and useful conversations on the train with various other people doing the same thing. It usually started with me trying to read a book about configuring Exchange Servers or how to do sub-net masking or the intricacies of Project Management (in summary, use wax crayons and post-it notes. I see now that Agile is flavour of the month we back to that again, except now it has some “cool” jargon to go with it; and yes, that does deserve quotation marks. Plus ça change…)

Anyway, the train people: they often told me things. Many of the commuters were senior manager types who were happy to share their wisdom to someone who showed an interest, so I had long conversations about Deming and Open Source and Servant Leadership and all kinds of groovy things. It made the railway coffee drinkable at least.

That’s a handy tip for you, gratis. If you want to have an interesting conversation on a long journey carry a prop, such as an inconveniently heavy textbook to signal your credentials as a person worth engaging. It’s amazing how often this works, but then train journeys are mind-numbingly boring and being able to talk to someone who doesn’t have their eyes on video games and their ears leaking bass lines is a real treat. Try and make it one that can lead to an introductory question and then you are away. Do not, however, try the trick I came across last week.

I usually book a seat for my journeys so that I don’t have to scuffle for one and can relax getting on the train. I am more than happy to move anyone on who has sat in my place, either in error, or hope, or stupidity. Last week I found a young female in my seat and asked her to move, but she claimed to have a reservation. She was clearly wrong, but as the seat next to her was free anyway, I sat in it. I don’t need to sit in the exact seat; any will do.

A besuited gentleman sat down opposite. She had put her suitcase on his seat, and he was going to move it but then realised he could sit opposite me as that was free as well. We all settled down and the inconvenient miss burbled on about how crowded the trains were and how she had just been to a wedding and it was totes amazeballs (well, she actually said “amazing,” but she said it quite a lot and she meant totes amazeballs; you could tell) and she had held a 6 day old baby and he was totes amazeballs too and now she was going home and that was, well, you get the picture.

The suited man and I nodded and agreed that things were, in general, totes amazeballs, and wasn’t it nice to see the sun after such a dull winter. If we were being a little condescending, forgive us. Speaking for myself at least, I was envious of her joy in small things and wide-eyed optimism about life. That’s because I am a curmudgeonly old Baglady, and if I mock her idiom it’s at least with some affection. Every generation has its new formula for speaking the English as they feel she should be spoke. For myself, I am intrigued: I was fascinated to meet a woman once who had left England for the heady excitement of Switzerland in her twenties and not lived here since the 1950s. As a result she did not know what some basic words meant in her alleged mother tongue, including “roundabout” as an example. How amazeballls is that?

She kept on prattling gaily like a butterfly on acid, but once she learned I worked in IT (which is apparently like, not at all amazeballs, duh) she turned her attention to the gent. They always do, in my experience. It’s probably hard-coded in the DNA or something: here is a successful provider who could ensure she and potential future children were kept fed and warm.

Then she blew it.

“That’s a totes amazeballs pen,” she chirruped as he made some notes in his important manager’s leather-bound diary.

“Thank you.”

“Can I take a photo?” and she whipped out her mobile and snapped the instrument before he could blink.

“Wait, what? You’re not putting that on-line are you?” he gurgled, a bit panicky. Maybe he thought she was conducting industrial espionage on his calendar. Maybe she was. Damn good disguise Amazeballs in fact, like totally.

“I just want a picture so I can find it in a shop and get one.”

Pull the other one, love, it’s got bells on. How much writing do you actually do? Even I hardly use a pen and I write all the time.

The damage was done. He huffed a bit and stopped talking to her. I snorted a bit and sent coffee through my nose, in an attractive and ladylike way I’m sure. She realised she had gone too far and staggered off the train at York apologising for existing. I could have told her: watch your boundaries, especially in the nebulous confines of a public space. Try not to come across all paparazzi.

That is why a passive book is a good prop for conversation and a mobile phone-camera is not. Unless you are a secret agent, in which case, either is a good choice.

Weird travellers, I’ve seen a few. What are your brief encounters like?

Namaste.

 

Pilgrimages

canterbury tales

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open eye-

(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

 

Geoffrey Chaucer, Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

http://www.librarius.com/cantales.htm

The past is another country, and certainly the medieval period is a very foreign one indeed. Not only did they talk funny, a strange mix of Old English and Norman French which eventually became our beloved mother tongue, but they also seem to have had different weather. A droghte of March, I ask thee! It has not been very droghty at all, although it has been quite draughty at times. That naughty Zephirus.

It is true that I woke up this morning to hear the rain pouring steadily outside: it was proper rain, unrelenting, but not associated with Zephyrs of gales or sleet, just plain rain. So naturally my first thought was “oh, April showers” followed somewhat inevitably by “nice day for a poisson d’avril” because I’m sorry but my mind works like that – even at 5.30 in the morning.

Of course, my mind did turn next to pilgrimages. I have to pack this evening to chug away for work across the borders into West Yorkshire. It will be a pigrimage alone, but at least I will have some little chums to eat with during the evening at the The Tabard, or whatever equivalent we can find. I anticipate a jolly evening when we get the real work done, along with some long hard hours in meeting rooms during the day with less productivity. There may even be tales, and some of them may be a bit ripe, although not as ripe as old Geoffrey’s, which were very ripe indeed.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying I am unlikely to be troubling your in-boxes/reader feed over the next few days. My gift to you. Instead I shall be slogging away in project initiation hell, which is a very special kind of hell I can assure you, and trying to keep my calm. In this regard I am thankful for listening to Thich Nhat Hanh yesterday reminding me of the value of mindfulness. I even tried the telephone meditation at work today which meant I was reasonably courteous to the annoying sales rep who was client-bothering. And by “reasonably courteous” I mean I told him to ring someone else and not bother me again, but fairly politely.

If you were a-travelling, my dears, who would you travel with and what tales would you tell?

Meanwhile, may your journeys be sweet.

Namaste

 

Eventfulness, thankfulness and creativeness

OK I made that last -ness up. The Rule of Threes demanded I did so, and I can only apologise for any unintended damages caused to the English language. It’s a robust little chap though, the English language, so I am sure it will recover. It’s one of the things I like about it, that you can put words in pretty much any order, or invent new ones, and still be understood. That, and the fact that loads of people in other countries have made the effort to learn it so I can relax when I go on holiday. It’s really very considerate of them.

I suppose I am fixating on language because I have been doing some Anglo-Saxon revision today. This week I have been on holiday so that obviously meant I got to rush about doing jobs instead of sitting about sunning myself. It was just as well, because there has been precious little to see of the old currant bun. Anyway today, Thursday, was the first day I was able to spend at home, so I decided it was time to break out the inks and start practising my penwomanship for a little project I have in mind. It involved cataloguing three shelves of books and sorting out the drawer under the bed before I could begin. Isn’t it always the way? I needed to find some books and they have all got themselves rather higgledly-piggledy of late, so I had to tidy up. That meant I discovered I had two copies of a book because I had forgotten I had already bought it and bought it again. So I created a spreadsheet which I can check on my phone when I am out to try and prevent me doing that again. That also led me to discover that a particular book I was looking for had gone AWOL so I ended up searching under the bed, and tidying that up too. It was two hours before I had the items I needed on the desk.

Beowulf manuscript

First page of Beowulf, from WikiCommons

Then I spent a happy hour getting all smudgy and blotting ink all over the paper and generally providing evidence that I am not really very good at calligraphy, although I certainly enjoy playing at it.

After that I thought it was time to sit down in front of the fire with my Anglo Saxon language course and refresh my memory of how the wretched thing actually works. Naturally I also messed about on Project Gutenberg finding a copy of Beowulf and downloading it to my Kindle so I can read it on the train, or rather, stare blankly at it on the train. That reminded me to pre-order the new Tolkien translation which is due out in May. Of course then I had to check my emails and figure out how to put audio files on the Kindle as well.

All of this went fairly smoothly though because of my great good fortune yesterday, which is the thankfulness part of this post.

I had an appointment at the eye clinic at the hospital because my left eye has been getting rather blurry. Last year I had cataract surgery on both eyes which resulted in the miracle of sight for the first time in my life. To celebrate I had a special ceremony where I burnt my contact lenses in a miniature Viking dragon ship on our pond.

However, back in the Autumn I noticed that I was having a bit of trouble reading sub-titles on the television, and car number plates and so on. Eventually I went to the optician who told me I needed to go back to the clinic because the membrane in my eye was growing over places it should not grow over and obscuring my sight. Yesterday I went to the clinic.

Snellen chart

They are such nice people at the clinic. They tested my eyes and I was unable to read even the letter at the top of the chart with my left eye. It was a bit of a shock. I almost started reading the furniture by mistake and wondered if I had inadvertently slipped into a Two Ronnies sketch.

After the failure of the eye test, the consultant explained to me what was happening with the aid of a little model of the eye, and that I needed laser treatment to get rid of the membrane otherwise I would lose my sight completely. Then he said if I would wait he would try and fit me in that afternoon as they were doing laser treatments that day anyway.

Sigoth and I sat and waited. The place was packed and there weren’t enough seats and I felt a bit of a fraud for taking up everyone’s time. Then I saw the man in charge, who had also performed the operation on my eyes last year. He explained it was important to do it as soon as possible and that although risky, the alternatives were not much better. Then he clamped a special lens on my eye and within ten minutes I had my vision restored. Another miracle! I was completely wiped out by it all, both emotionally and physically.

I am being cautious for the next few days as I am at quite high risk (1 in 40) of a detached retina, but hopefully I will be OK. It’s fantastic being able to see so well again; it had really crept up on me, like the frog in the pan of water.

Today as I have worked on my Anglo-Saxon writing and reading I have been untroubled by eyesight problems. As I type this post I am able to see the screen more clearly than for a long time. I have no idea why I waited so long.

I love science and medics and the miracles that are possible. I know that often we are let down by them, or they fail to live up to our expectations, or the side-effects are worse than the symptoms. But just for once it all worked out and I feel so lucky. Sometimes it can turn out OK.

I hope you have a miracle of some kind this week too, large or small. Perhaps even sight of the old currant bun – who knows?

Share your good fortune when you do to give us all a boost.

Namaste

 

What’s in a word?

wordcloud

Do the words we use matter?

In my world they do quite often because there are a number of technical terms which have to be used correctly or else Chaos Will Ensue. A recent example was a colleague who kept asking for a “radio buttons” on a web page. What she actually meant was just a plain button you click for “Next” but she had in her head the term. I don’t expect people to know all the technical lingo but it needed correcting before the developer got hold of it otherwise instead of this:

nextbutton

 

 

she would have got this:

radiobutton

and that would not have worked at all. Oh dear me, no, it was not what she was after.

Anyway, that’s how I earn my crust. I catch those kind of misunderstandings. I need to pay my mortgage.

Jargon has a role to play. It’s a valuable shorthand for people working in the same field (by which I do not mean agricultural labourers, or “ag labs,” as genealogists call them). It is useful and it only gets a bad reputation because people use it inappropriately, often to try and seem superior, or because they have no communication skills.

I work in IT and I use jargon when I am talking to technical people. I once made the mistake, some years ago , of doing it in front of someone from HR. I was going over a server issue with an engineer and we started talking about dirty cache buffers and hot fixes until my colleague spluttered a bit. So we took our dirty caching outside. Never wash your dirty caches in public.

Jargon has a special place and should be used correctly. For the rest of the time there’s just language.

Do we need to be careful of language? What I have in mind is the kind of language which doesn’t fit the rules but nevertheless communicates its meaning quite clearly, at least to those involved.

Teenagers are best at this. They invent new language all the time and I think it’s great. I love that language is squishy. In this I am quite schizophrenic. I am a complete grammar nazi about all kinds of things including the greengrocers’ apostrophe. I also enjoy the use of a good Oxford comma, which is a little controversial in some circles. Yet I love playing with language. If you understand me then it has achieved its purpose, and it really doesn’t matter if my sentences wobble all over the place like a drunken hen party at 2 am on a Friday night in the West End.

I write long and cumbersome sentences quite frequently. My brain just rambles on and my fingers scramble over the keyboard trying to keep up. I’m not great at editing, particularly for blog posts, so you are subjected to the end result without warning or immediate access to pain relief. I suspect anyone who visits regularly keeps their painkiller of choice close to hand. Admit it, the best way to read this stuff is after a large glug or several of vino or a couple of Mother’s Little Helpers, or both.

I admire compressed communication. It’s so efficient and clever. Again, teens are the experts here. Those coded grunts that teenage boys emit are incredible. You know the conversations I mean:

“A’right?”
“Gnnh. Urgh?”
“Eh.”

The girls achieve a similar level of data exchange in a slightly different format, let’s call it Venusian Chat. It’s a little more physical than Martian Grunt.

“Yeah, like.”
“Y’know?”
“Totes.”
“Eek.”
* eye roll *
* elbows *

If we could capture that level of data compression for IT we would be able to stream HD video over 14.4k modems. It’s absolutely awesome.

The Offspring process information so differently from me and Sigoth that it makes our brains ache. They work in multiple streams simultaneously with little attention to detail but an overall grasp of the whole that is utterly impressive. The problem is that I am culturally unprepared for this, so often it appears they are being rude because they split their attention across the streams. Well, EBL, what an old fogey you are and no mistake. Lawks.

Our means of communication across generations is unpredictable. Blogging can seem like a way of imprinting ourselves upon eternity, or at least upon the lifespan of collective human intelligence. Hello, future, lok at me! Yet we only have to read Shakespeare or Chaucer, or even Dickens or Hardy, to know that words and meanings are as fluid as the dunes of the Sahara, ceaselessly shifting in the winds of change. What then is the point of worrying about Oxford commas or misplaced apostrophes? I can only catch glimpses of meaning in Anglo-Saxon poetry, and even less in cave paintings. Broad concepts are possibly understood, but usually imposed by my own cultural and time-bound perspectives.

I am therefore determined to enjoy being present at the birth of new languages, celebrating new words (“Selfie,” anyone? Omnishambles? Simples?).
While language lives and evolves and flows into new meanings, we are also alive and evolving which gives me hope. The alternative: Orwell’s MiniTruth and the shrinking dictionary.

Words matter, more than I can say.

Namaste.

D is for Difficult, Distress and Diplomacy

Well, this wasn’t the post I was going to write for the letter D in our Alphabet Soup of Quaker blogs. As a result I may yet complete the other one I was considering. Double D-licious postings!

This post though is a more difficult one, so I ask you to bear with me. Indeed, for those not familiar with British Quakers it may not make a huge amount of sense. It talks about Concern, and that is a bit of jargon that needs a lot of explanation. If you do care to read more, you can do so at the on-line version of Quaker Faith & Practice.

As Quakers we like to think we do our bit. We serve on committees, both Quaker ones and for other good causes; we campaign; we write letters; we hold vigils and prayer meetings; we try to practise what we preach as far as we are able. Some of us are very active physically in the community, others spiritually. Some of us just try to hold the daily grind together and support the rest with tea, sympathy, a chat or call, a hug or smile. We each do the best we can.

I have posted before in this series about the demands on meetings and their members.

Meanwhile, picture a Friend with a Concern. It’s obviously an important one. Friends don’t take these things up lightly. A Quaker Concern is a fearful burden. It means that we have been led to see that we must act, and this leading is directly from God. “No” is not an option. Quakers distinguish between a Concern in this sense, and being “concerned about” ie things that are important and necessary but lack the dynamic spiritual directive of a personal Concern.

There are Quaker Testimonies to some of these Concerns, formed early in the life of the organisation, such as Simplicity and Peace. More recently British Quakers have picked up at a national level a commitment to sustainable living, and not so long ago were challenging the payment of that part of tax which funded military endeavours as a breach of our right to conscientious objection.

They are not absolute rules, but in general if they don’t fit broadly with your view of the right ordering of the world, it is likely British Quakerism is not for you.

But back to the Ds of Difficulty, Distress and Diplomacy.

How do we present an issue about which we are passionate, driven, almost out of control in the fervour of our leading, in such a way that the rest of the meeting is not frightened, humiliated, or intimidated? When we start to speak we are emotional, feverish, excitable. We are unlikely to be in control of our language or aware of the reactions around us. Ministry is hard enough in the normal course of events. Under the force of a nascent Concern it is likely to be wild and dangerous.

Meanwhile the peaceful meeting for worship has been ruminating on various issues. Ministry of Concern may come like a bolt of lightning, out of the blue, and strike with emphatic force. We didn’t expect this when we had breakfast this morning. We didn’t know that our lovely, quiet, meditative hour was going to be shattered.

It’s unlikely the individual quite knew either, but they will probably have been thinking around the subject already, and of course they now have the direct and personal experience of the message. Unfortunately the rest of the meeting may not. The individual has to convince their disrupted audience of the validity of what they have felt.

But when you are not thinking quite straight, when you have had the kind of kick this leading can give you, you might not be entirely aware of the impact of your words. As a result you can cause real and prolonged distress to anyone vulnerable to the particular message you have to give. Are you talking about mental health? Don’t forget the Friend whose child killed herself. Is the leading about abuse in care for the elderly? Remember the Friend who cares for a challenging and disabled parent. Are you called to act on some injustice of the penal system? Consider the Friend whose son was convicted of X or Y. Is it racism? Beware white privilege (if you are white), or similar distortions.

In other words, in presenting our dramatic new message how can we speak in words that can be heard without inflaming resentment or guilt or genuine anger because we blunder in? The point is that acting under this kind of imperative may rob us sometimes of our empathy. Yet in some cases hard truths need to be acknowledged and we cannot shy away from facing up to unpleasant facts just to avoid hurt feelings.

I don’t have answers of course. But there are times when going to meeting for worship can feel like sitting on a keg of dynamite with a fuse fizzing away for an hour as we seek to know how we can make the world a better place. Most of the time those routine and recognised activities of committees, kindnesses and small deeds are enough. But for those other times, the rarer, wilder, over-whelming times, then small deeds have to expand and kindness has to amplify exponentially and committees may have to reconsider or be forgotten, because the meeting is there to handle the powder keg as best it can.

That is the strength of a Quaker meeting.

Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.

Isaac Penington, 1667

Namaste