Monthly Archives: July 2019

Chautauqua

Chautauqua. The ideal combination of chat and aqua (no, no, say it like “sha talk wa”). A landscape of ideas and memories, words and images, trees and water, kitchens and roads.

Hear me out. Continue reading

The Honourable Member for the 18th Century?

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new Leader of the House of Commons in England, has lately been the subject of remark for his questionable sense of style. And I don’t mean his unfortunate sartorial choices. I mean his directives on English usage. He has, we learn, given his staff a style guide that is just not what a style guide should be.

Many people chalk up his preferences to traditionalism and preferring the old ways. But Rees-Mogg, often called “the Honourable Member for the 18th Century,” is not actually expressing preferences supported by tradition. Like most modern grammar numpties, he’s fancying himself more traditional than tradition. The point is not to hold back the march to modernity; it is to enforce an entirely recent invention of the past for the sake of maintaining a certain sense of superiority. A sort of Disneyification, if Disney were run by ghastly snobby boys. Continue reading

This fragile earth, our island home

190725_TO_720

I wrote this as a guest post for my dad’s column in the Cochrane Eagle.

I can see it out my window, but it’s another world. Continue reading

Pronunciation tip: Southern Tier

I was in the Southern Tier of Western New York this past weekend – that’s where a lot of my ancestors over the past century and a half lived. You may wonder why you should care; the answer is that it’s really beautiful there. And it’s a big area, three times the size of Rhode Island. Most of the place names there aren’t too difficult to figure out (Portville, Jamestown, Dunkirk), but there are a few that might trip you up. So here’s a run-down of 16 of them that you might like to know before you go.

Jimmy’s (107 Portland)

Look at me, workin’ with the green matcha latte in the perfect space

As you walk up Portland Street from King, you will have a choice of coffice spaces: on your left, Jimmy’s; on your right, Jimmy’s. You can sit in one and look across at the other.

The Jimmy’s on the left, at 100 Portland, is the original. It has multiple storeys and a pocket patio in the front. If you are like me, you will go in, look, see that it is too busy, and come out and cross the street. Every time so far.

The Jimmy’s on the right, at 107 Portland, is the newer of the two. Newer to Jimmy’s, that is. It’s not a new building. And it, too, offers you multiple choices. If you’re lucky and there’s room in the room you want. Continue reading

nyctinasty

Nyctinasties, according to John Ben Hill (in 1936), “are the most common nasties.” Like all nasties, they don’t care where what they’re reacting to comes from – that’s what sets them apart from tropics.

Ah, tropics! Who – or what – doesn’t love following the sun? I’ll tell you: these nasties don’t. They don’t care which direction the sun goes, as long as it goes away. That’s why they’re nyctinasty. During the day, everything’s lain flat, basking in the sun, but when night comes, the blades flip up. As Peter V. Minorsky said (just last year), “the vertical orientation of the blades … would be especially beneficial to flying nocturnal predators … whose modus operandi is death from above.” Continue reading

nesh

What would you do if you looked down on your page and saw hnecxian looking back up at you?

Would you sneeze? Would you flinch? Would you soften and fade back? Or would you be fascinated by this ink-insect?

You needn’t fear. Although you have just seen it looking back at you, snuffing and snorting and crisp and vexing, whether or not you softened, it has. Hnecxian is the Old English version of the word – in its infinitive verb form. The modern English form, verb, adjective, noun, and adverb, is nesh.

Which is more reminiscent of a bug after it has been squished. Or any other soft and perhaps unwelcome thing. Continue reading