Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ponters pensées

Only in Spain?: An organisation called Manos Limpios(Clean Hands) has brought many, if not most, of the suits for corruption against politicians and civil servants but, needless to say, is now is under investigation itself. The action may even be non-frivolous. Or even just vexatious.

Desperate Times: Desperate measures. Perhaps not surprisingly - given the huge size of the underground economy here - the Spanish Tax authorities have powers unknown in the Anglo world. For example, they can embargo your current account. Or even simply take money from it, I suspect. And now they've given themselves the power to do the same with deposit accounts. You've been warned. Don't cross them!

Galician Airports: We have 3 small, (minimally) international facilities. Yesterday the local paper reminded us of what we've known for years – that you can't get either a bus or train from Pontevedra (the provincial capital) to any of them. But you can to Oporto airport in nearby North Portugal. Guess which airport is growing most rapidly. Truly astonishing but symptomatic of the stupid 'localism' - and pathetic politics - that hold back development in Spain.

Galician Weather: When the weather changes here, it really can change. I like to think we actually live in the Atlantic. And when the wind shifts from the warm, wet south west to the cold, dry north, the temperature can drop rapidly by 10 degrees or more. Which explains why I nearly froze to death walking across the bridge from town yesterday. Midst a northern, hail-laden gale.

ECT: Or electro convulsive therapy. I have reason to be grateful this is still permitted in cases of depression resistant to drugs, in the UK at least. So, I was fascinated to read that it enables dyslexic kids to read faster. I wonder how they found out. Maybe I should read the Times article that I can't link you to. But here's a Telegraph article to be going on with.

The UK Property Market: House prices in Britain seem to have been rising for ever, though I know this isn't true, as I've lived through 2 eras of decline. But, in one city in the UK, prices have actually fallen in the last 15 years, against an general increase of 172%. Poor bloody Bolton. Or the centre of it, to be specific. The second worst performer was Leicester, the Curry Capital of Britain, I believe.

The UK Establishment: The EU Referendum blogger, Richard North, is not very impressed by this. Witness: The one thing you can guarantee about the establishment is that they look after their own. Arguably, that is one of the reasons why they are the establishment – they have that insiders' willingness to defend themselves against all comers. Even allowing for that, though, the affection being shown for a son of the establishment, millionaire Boris Johnson seems to transcend even the loyalty of the clan. For a man whose full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, this affection approaches a level of morbid pathology that is close to disease, defying any imaginable logic. [X is one] of the seemingly helpless establishment patsies who have fallen under the spell of this man. Besotted with him, they seem prepared to forgive any amount of abuse and professional misconduct.  More here. Dr North is on the verge of despair at this situation. See here for details.

Donald Trump: I was going to write that his latest astonishing act was to revoke his pledge not to stand against the official Republican presidential candidate, if he's not selected. But then he opened his gob on abortion and pronounced that women who'd had an illegal abortion should be punished 'somehow'. You couldn't make it up.

Finally . . . As a liberal user of English, I enjoyed these bits of a review of a new book Horrible Words by Rebecca Gowers: It is the latest attack on those awful, unholy “gripers” in our midst (John Humphrys, Simon Heffer, Kingsley Amis, Peter 'Dutch' Missler) who dare to lay down the law about English for the general reader, and thereby attract the ire of all those who work on language in an academic capacity. Such “naysayers”, you see, are too quick to cry, “Non-word! Horrible word! Do not use this word!” when they see something new that offends them. 

Thanks to Rebecca, we can see that in 1926, the great philologist Henry Watson Fowler described the word “optimism” as “repulsive”. In 1935, AP Herbert said that “personalise” was “obscene”. And in 2010, Simon Heffer not only pronounced against the word “onto” but claimed (against all visible evidence to the contrary) that it “does not exist”. Obviously, all these chaps look ridiculous for taking such stands. But at the same time, I can’t help feeling that someone here is missing the point slightly. Isn’t reading style guides meant to be a source of entertainment as well as enlightenment? Also, doesn’t the reader have the right to disagree? I rejoiced in all Partridge’s strictures and pronouncements. I still do, while doubtless breaking most of his rules every time I sit down at my keyboard.

In a more general way, though, one must defend the style guide for the simple reason that many [inadequate] people desire everyday guidance on sticky issues. There is no authority governing the English language: we all know this. There is no academy. No wonder we turn to the “naysayers”, because at least they understand what we are crying out for, which is a bit of certainty, for pity’s sake.

You might think you can trust in dictionaries, but no: dictionaries keep apace with usage, so as to have relevance — and also to keep selling new ones. You ask them for bread: they give you stones. So I think we should be very grateful to all those chaps (it’s usually chaps) who are willing to draw a line in the sand. Yes, they can end up looking absurd; yes, they invariably over-reach themselves. But at the same time, those of us who want to know what the hell to do when pluralising spokesperson, shouldn’t we have somewhere to turn? I have to admit I have no sympathy for this view, based on my experience of Peter 'Dutch' Missler.

So, what's odd about this foto?

Well, in 15 years, this is the only person, apart from me, I've seen reading a book in public in Ponters. And I can't see myself, of course. So, unique.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

For someone who attacks and sneers at every innocent neologism I perpetrate, you surely have tremendous cheek to present yourself as a linguistic liberal!!

If Queen Victoria were to pride herself on being a life long admirer of Havelock Ellis, it would be less blatant!

Yours, LiberAl

Colin Davies said...

But that's only because yours are beyond ugly. Time will tell!

It's true that I'm not sufficiently liberal to appreciate your solecisms . . .

Lucy Watson said...

I read a book all the way home on a flight from LGW-MAD last night and people took pictures of me too. My ten year old daughter, however, was playing games on her Ipad for three solid hours. Perhaps I'll be arrested.

Perry said...

Books on subjects that interest me are usually out of date by the time they are published. Look what I found; from my modelling days.

I think I've still got his book archived away in the loft!

Anthea said...

In the airport at Oporto there is a huge sign hat says: El aeropuerto de todos los gallegos/ That says it all, I think.