23 April 2014

Precision Scribblings

I just got a second-hand copy of one of my textbooks, Max Lüthi's Es war einmal: Vom Wesen des Volksmärchen (Once Upon a Time: On the Nature of Fairy Tales). I bought it via AbeBooks, and it was mailed out from Germany (gotta love AbeBooks). Unfortunately, when you're buying a second-hand book online, you're buying a pig in a poke; there's no telling in advance what kind of shape it's in. The vendor's comment of "Condition: good" might mean almost anything. More than once I've been disappointed at all the scribblings and underlinings and highlightings in the book, and this one is no exception.

However, you've got to say this for Germans: they're tidy scribblers. This book is marked all over, but all the underlining has been done with a ruler. So at least, we've got precision scribblings here. It amuses me.

Incidentally, don't ever let me catch you scribbling in library books. The university library books I've got out right now are, in a lot of cases, a right mess. What is it with uni students? I don't care if you do it with a ruler or while holding the pen between your toes, marking up a library book is vandalism.

Life, the Universe, and Scribblings in Books. Enough with the rant, and on to reading Lüthi.

16 April 2014


"Pedant: a person who is excessively concerned with minor details and rules or with displaying academic learning", Google Dictionary says. And here's what's at the head of the Wikipedia article on the same topic: "This article is about a person who is excessively concerned with formalism and precision. For the piece of jewellery, see pendant."

Hehe - now that cracks me up. I suppose only a true pedant would appreciate it - somebody who's picky about detail. No, I'm not a pendant; I'm not wont to dangle off pretty necklaces. And as for being a pedant - who, me? Naaah.  I never show off academic learning, do I? The fact that I tend to feel smug about being able to use grammar properly, down to the correct use of the apostrophe in the possessive case, has nothing to do with any of this. (This all sounds better when you say it with your mouth pursed and your nose elevated just ever-so-slightly.)

What got me thinking of this was that I just wrote this sentence, referring to the country of Bordavia (in Christopher Bunn's latest novella, Rosamonde): "…it's famed for its roses." Hah, get it? Two i-t+s words, one with apostrophe, one without. It's not so hard, is it? Its rules are quite simple: when it's a contraction, you use the apostrophe; when it's a possessive, you don't. Huh, you say? The apostrophe is there to replace a letter (or two) you've left out, in the case of "it's", the space and i of "it is". When it's a possessive, the "s" is part of the word itself, just like in "his" or "hers". Think of it this way: if the country of Bordavia was a "he" instead of an "it", you'd say: "…he's famed for his roses", not "hes famed for hi's roses". See? Same thing for the itses. "He's/it's" and "his/its". Simple, no? My inner pedant is purring right now.

Now, as for pendants, I'm quite fond of those, too. I have some lovely pieces in my jewellery drawer - a silver locket, a jade maple leaf (I think that was a gift from Canadian relatives when I was a kid in Germany), a silver-and-tiger-eye teardrop, a small brass goblet (made by one of my sons in art metal shop), my mother's silver cross with a small blue stone in it (an aquamarine, perhaps? I wore it at my wedding.). In fact, my favourite pendants all have meaning - they've got provenance, i.e. I remember where they came from.

There, and that's the penultimate piece of pedantry for today, explaining to you what "provenance" means, as if you didn't already know or couldn't figure it out for yourself. Pedants of the World, Unite! You have Nothing to Lose But Misplaced Apostrophes! And the really funny thing is that I just mistyped "pedantry" as "pendantry".

Life, the Universe, Pedants and Pendants. Maybe we should stick with the latter, they're prettier.

09 April 2014

Social Realism

Steve got a book! Well, okay, I got a book. A friend found it for me at a second-hand store, and at first I wondered why - I mean, I love kids' books, but why this particular one? Then I cracked open the cover, and all became clear: it's not for me, it's for Steve. Obviously.

It's called Teddy Edward in the Country, by Patrick and Mollie Matthews (published by Golden Pleasure Books in London in 1962), and it's the story of a stuffed bear, Teddy Edward, on a visit to the country with his human, Sarah (they normally live in London), as chronicled by lots of interesting photos. You don't see much of Sarah in the pictures, but lots of cows, swans, rabbits, and even some hedgehogs. And Teddy Edward, of course.

Steve considers it the best thing in Social Realism he's read in a long time; it's very true to life, he says. At least to life in England in the early 1960s.
It kind of threw him for a loop when I told him that the Sarah-girl in the picture is well over fifty now and probably has grandchildren; a bear's lifespan is very different from a human's - some only make it a few years before their plush is loved off, others last decades. For all we know, Teddy Edward is still alive and kicking somewhere in the home counties, and conversing with calves and kittens every summer. Maybe we should try to look him up if we ever make it to England.

Life, the Universe, and Social Realism for Bears. It's all in how you look at it.