Archive | June, 2012

Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language

24 Jun

Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language.

Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language

24 Jun

I arrived back today from five days in New York – the land of the split infinitive – where there was a record-breaking heatwave. (It was rather a shock to land in rain and cold, at 6.45am, this morning.)

There was a brilliant exhibition, Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language – seemingly tailor-made for me – at the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibits, which are all based on “the material qualities of language – visual, aural and beyond” include work by painters, sculptors, etc, from the DaDa and Futurist periods to the modern day. My favourite, modern, artists were Tauba Auerbach and Karl Homqvist.

Today’s picture is of one of Homqvist’s works. I shot it on a compact camera and in difficult conditions, so I apologise for the quality. It was an entire wall in a side gallery – and the background is actually white!

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Adjectives and adverbs

15 Jun

Adjectives qualify nouns and precede the noun they are qualifying – cold weather, bright sunshine, torrential rain (and you see how my examples are affected by the dreadful weather we’re having).

No-one would say “weather cold”, “sunshine bright”, but there’s an increasing tendency for people to write/say “minority ethnic” instead of “ethnic [adjective] minority [noun]”. Minority ethnic not only sounds weird, it’s wrong and I can only imagine that, as usual, it’s an attempt at being politically correct. It doesn’t work: the words are the same; they’re stating a fact; putting them in a different order does nothing but mangle the language.

Adverbs modify verbs. They follow verbs – to go quickly, to sleep soundly (although Americans tend to put them before the verb, which explains why they split infinitives so often), but they don’t always have to follow the verb immediately. “She went up the stairs quickly”, for example, sounds better than “She went quickly up the stairs”; and “Follow the verb immediately” is obviously better than “Follow immediately the verb”.

I was sad to see that the Queen’s English Society, which “has railed against the misuse and deterioration of the language” has given up the ghost (and my Dictionary of Idioms doesn’t tell me the origin of that). “Former Tory MP, Gyles Brandreth, the society’s patron”, The Guardian reported, “was nevertheless optimistic: ‘The Queen’s English isn’t under threat. Her Majesty can sleep easy.’ ” I realise “sleep easy” is a colloquialism, but as patron of the society, Brandreth should take care to modify a verb with an adverb, “easily”, not an adjective, “easy”.

Today’s picture

So far, June has been wet and cold. Here’s some sunshine: this is the sea seller’s shelter on the beach at Trinidad del Mar, Cuba.

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