Archive | November, 2013

In, on and at

26 Nov

In, on and at.

In, on and at

26 Nov

In, on and at.

In, on and at

26 Nov

I have realised that the majority of my blogs are prompted by badly written signs – and here’s another one.

The latest sign that irritated me stated, “Smoking is forbidden in these premises”. No, that should be “…on these premises”, or “…in this building”. Why? It’s hard to say; I think it’s one of those bits of English that “just is”!

You travel on a bus, on a train, on an airplane, on a boat – even though you are travelling in them – but in a car. Alternatively, you are going by bus/train/air/car/boat.

To add to the complications, when you arrive, you will be in a country, but at a place although it is rare, nowadays, for someone to say that they are at London in the UK, rather than in London in the UK.

Today’s picture

I loved this sign at a construction site in New York.

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22 November 1963

22 Nov

22 November 1963.

22 November 1963

22 Nov

Many people say they can remember exactly where they were when they heard that President Kennedy had been shot. I certainly can – and, yes, I can picture my surroundings precisely.

My first husband, Martin, and I were living in two attics and a landing/kitchen in Maida Vale, London. We had arranged to meet a friend for dinner in South Kensington at 7.30. Strange as it was in those days, neither of us owned a watch nor did we own a clock, so to check the time I turned the radio on: “President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas, Texas”.

That was so incredible I thought it must be a joke. To check, I quickly turned the TV on and, no, it wasn’t a joke. We waited to find out more before we had to leave to meet our friend (whose name, oddly enough, I can’t remember).

We were late. We hurried down the stairs to the basement restaurant, which was quite dark (it probably had candles on the tables) and had red-and-white checked tablecloths. Everyone in the restaurant was asking about the “rumour” that Kennedy had been shot; we were, unfortunately, able to tell them that it was true.

When I visited north Texas in 1980 and was asked what I wanted to see, I said Dealey Plaza in Dallas and the Kennedy Museum. Although my rather right-wing Republican hosts were not enthusiastic, they did agree to take me.

People talk about the 1960s as if they were halcyon days. They really were quite the opposite: it was the height of the cold war – including the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the 1967 Arab-Israeli six-day war, and the 1968 Soviet Union invasion of Czechoslovakia – and Jack Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. My memories of those years were that we lived on a knife-edge. Somehow we survived.

Hyphens

20 Nov

Hyphens.

Hyphens

20 Nov

Hyphens, in common with all punctuation, exist to make copy easier to understand.

I saw a sign on a building site today, “Mini Crane Hire Company Ltd”. Now is that a small company that hires cranes, or is it a company that hires small cranes? Undoubtedly the later (few companies would want to admit to being small, and there was a small crane right under the sign!) The addition of a hyphen – Mini-crane Hire Company Ltd – would have made it perfectly clear.

In addition to being used to avoid this type of ambiguity, use hyphens:
in adjectives formed from two or more words, for example, left-wing parties, public-sector pensions, 20-year-old bride;
in adverbs that are linked with another word to create an adjective – ill-equipped revolutionaries, much-liked lecturer, well-established business (as a general rule, however, do not add a hyphen when the adverb ends -ly – poorly equipped revolutionaries, genuinely liked lecturer);
in nouns formed from prepositional verbs, for example, buy-out, start-up, round-up;
in quarters of the compass, for example, north-east, south-east, north-west; and
in some titles, for example, vice-president, field-marshal, secretary-general.

Today’s picture

On a recent visit to New York, I saw this sign outside a church coffee shop on Fifth Avenue. I thought it was clever.

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