We Don’t Speak Much English

Oh, we all speak English.  Compulsive, competitive, conversationalists like me speak/write more than most – but, how many words are there in the English language?

Many people estimate that there are more than a million words in the English language. In fact, during a project looking at words in digitized books, researchers from Harvard University and Google in 2010 estimated a total of 1,022,000 words, and that the number would grow by several thousand each year. The Oxford English dictionary expands every year to keep up with new words that are invented to describe the world around us, or to include new meanings for words that already exist in English. A more useful number from the Oxford English Dictionary would be the 171,476 words that are in current use, and about 45,000 which are archaic, and are not used in modern English..

That’s still a lot of words, though, and doesn’t reflect the number of words that individual English speakers actually use. For that number, let’s look at a recent study by the people at testyourvocab.com who say that adult native-speakers of English have a vocabulary that ranges from the McJob-holder’s 5000-10,000, most people’s 20,000-35,000, and smarty-pants show-off word-jugglers like me, who keep 50,00 to 70,000 words in the air at all times.

Obviously, these are not the same words and everyone’s vocabulary will include different words, according to their career, education and interests.  Every line of work has its own specialized ‘Jargon.’  The language, especially the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group:  The word pneumothorax isn’t going to show up, except at a Reno convention of surgeons.

There are three key numbers to remember: more than a million total words, about 170,000 words in current use, and 20,000-30,000 words used by each individual person.  No matter how many each of us use – we don’t speak MUCH English.

Truth be told, there is no “English language.”  Other languages are cohesive and logical.  English is like the Lost and Found at an international airport.  It (kinda) started with Briton Celtic, then the Romans added Latin, and words they dragged in from Greek.  The Jutes, Angles, and Saxons moved in to rule the island, and brought lots of Germanic words, and more Latin from their Roman occupation.

The Vikings brought fire and sword, and Norse words with them.  Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh, had their way with the tongue, and then the French invaded, bringing lots more Latin-based terms.  The “English” language, and those who speak it, continue to drag back words everywhere, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe – from Aleut to Zulu.

Many times the kidnapped words are not used as they were in the host language.  In English, we sing the little song, Frère Jacques as ‘Brother John,’ but ‘Jacques’ in French, does not mean Jack = John in English.  It means Jacob = James.  We should be singing about Brother Jim.

I started this post because I found the word, ”matutinal” – meaning: pertaining to or occurring in the morning; early in the day, From the French word, Matin = morning.  When the French have a matineé, it occurs in the morning.  When we have a matineé, it happens in the afternoon.

Words become part of the accepted English language, the same way immigrants become citizens of a country – by naturalization.  If it’s used often enough, and for long enough – it’s English.  Some words/phrases just aren’t used enough, or they remain trapped in some jargon, and never become naturalized.

Cri de Coeur and voir dire, are heard, but remain French.  Ad Populum, actus reus and mens rea, remain Latin.  Pizza and Pizzazz have become part of English, but the musical word, pizzicato, remains Italian.

Even though I might only employ 5% of the English vocabulary, I’m happy to have more than enough words to interest, entertain and amuse you.  There’ll be another random offering in a couple of days.  😀

Flash Fiction #262

PHOTO PROMPT© Ted Strutz

CANON LAW

…. But the Contessa’s brother is left-handed – I showed that in chapter III, when I had him defend Uncle Auggie from that footpad.

She can’t approach the Duke, because I had her in Milan when the robbery occurred.

I could have Rodrigo, the valet, carry the message, but I’ve already showed that Duke Milburn refuses to converse with other noble’s servants.

Could my cook tell his cook?

Writing this historical fiction isn’t as easy as it seemed.  I should have put up that story-board when Bob suggested it.

Where’s a really good Deus ex Machina, when I truly need one?

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

I Feel Great

I have been ‘Grand’ for decades, but I just found out that I’ll soon be getting a promotion to ‘Great.’

After getting everyone’s forehead blasted with a phaser infrared thermometer, we had the daughter, and her son and wife over for a long overdue, COVID-prevented family meal and visit.

The grandson and his wife provided the dessert – warm, soft, deep-dish brownies, with either French Vanilla ice cream, or coconut-flavored whipped cream.  Before they brought that out, they served up something much sweeter.  They had news that they’d held for almost four months, until they were sure, and had the chance to reveal it to the two older generations, all at the same time.  They are pregnant (Well, she is.) with their first.

The Grandson married a bonnie lass with a good Scottish heritage.  She doesn’t so much have a bun in the oven, as a solid serving of haggis.  Here is an image of their wee bairn, a Scotch egg, building up power to burst forth and amaze the world, as the first in the next generation of the NSFW Clan.

The kilt is still a bit long.  It will be a few more months before we know whether we will get a bagpiper or a Scottish dancer.  You just know that I will keep you informed.

The wife says that she is willing to start being called Gigi – GGGreat-Grandmother.  I think I’ll just stick with Archon, or G.O.D.   😀  😀

‘18 A To Z Challenge – C

Challenge '18 Letter C

Druid

My Scottish ancestors were doing just fine, until the Christians came along with fire and sword.

Caim – (n.) Sanctuary. An invisible circle of protection drawn around the body with the hand, to remind one of being safe and loved even in the darkest times.  The index finger of the right hand was to be extended and pointed at the ground to do this.  It was to be drawn clockwise, as God has made the sun and moon rise and set.

The Irish and my Scottish Celtic ancestors lived a naturalistic existence, close to the earth, the plants and the wildlife.  Then along came the Christians.  They would have none of this mystical hand-waving.  They wanted their own brand of mystical hand-waving.

First, the spelling and pronunciation was slurred to ‘Cain.’  In their mythology, Cain was the first murderer, and an evil person, a servant of Satan.  No-one was allowed to be saved or protected by such an evil spirit.  Union rules said that all such work went to Jesus.  The word ‘Caim’ still exists in the Scottish language, but it now describes a Christian prayer for protection.

The Celts were already well aware of the motions of the sun and the moon, but the Christian ‘God’ even creeps into the historical definition, by making them do so.  I noted that the definition is Northern-centric.  In the Northern hemisphere, the apparent movements of the sun and moon are clockwise, from left to right.

When this word was born, the Christians had not yet invaded the Southern Hemisphere, where the counter-clockwise, widdershins, motion of the Heavenly bodies was obvious, and correct.  I wonder what the Christians would think of that??  (Oops, I used the words ‘think’ and ‘Christian’ in the same sentence.)  😯

Click here http://branawen.blogspot.ca/2011/09/celtic-symbolism-casting-ring-of.html caim, if you’d like to have a look at the research for this.

I’ll have a little bit of lighter humor in a week.  Hope to see you there.

 

WOW #23

Dictionary

I have a

DILEMMA

The other day, I merely had a lemma. I’m pleased, because almost no-one else knows when they’ve got one.  A lemma is a spikelet of grass or other plant.

Linguaphiles speak of words which are positive, which have no negatives, or negative, but have no positives. Poor ‘dilemma’ is a bit of an orphan – one parent, and no-one knows what it is.

The phrase ‘caught in a cleft stick’ means that someone is jammed between two options, unable to make a choice for either one. The prefix ‘di’ also means two.  The word ‘dilemma’ is a situation where you are already impaled on two sharp, contradictory choices, and getting off is going to be intellectually or emotionally painful, and adopting and sticking yourself with either single option will hurt even more.  See lose/lose, or zero-sum-gain situation.

Reprogramming the Star Fleet computer so that you can win the Kobyashi Maru mission test is not a dilemma. If only we were able to reprogram more of life’s double-edged predicaments.  Things would go so much more smoothly.

Finding your way back here for more exciting, informative blog-posts should not be a dilemma.  If you haven’t already, lose your mind and just click on ‘Follow’ above, and leave some nice, but not pointed, comments.

A To Z Challenge – S

april-challenge

UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS

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I want to discuss my ancestors, but the above title is a lie. Upstairs/Downstairs was a British TV series dealing with the various goings-on of the upper-crust, upper-floor rich folk in a mansion, and the serving class below them, both physically and socially, who provided their every whim and wish.

My forebears didn’t live in no stinkin’ mansion, making tea, and cucumber sandwiches for effete dilettantes.   My folks have been industrious, productive people for hundreds of years.  They were ‘blue-collar’ long before blue collars existed.  A more accurate title might be Manor-House/Mill-house – and never the twain shall meet.

My father’s name (and mine) was Smith.  His progenitors originally were productive German artisans named Schmied.  Over many years, the name changed to Schmidt, and was carried to the newly-born United States of America by a Hessian mercenary, paid by the British.  After another hundred years, it got Anglicized to Smith.

Smith is a proud name, and a proud profession. It originally meant, one who produces, makes or manufactures something. Then the language changed so that it meant, a worker in metal.  Finally, the meaning narrowed to just the blacksmith, who pounds hot iron and steel.

I like to think of myself as a wordsmith.  I received blacksmith training in my high school shop class.  (Yes, I lived that far out in the sticks, and back in the mists of time.)  Blacksmith is making a comeback, both through the custom knife and sword makers, and artisans who supply millennial hipsters with hand-made gate latches, coat-racks, porch rails and coffee tables.

My mother’s side of the family supplied the name Stewart.  This is a Scottish name from the English word steward, meaning, one who takes take of something.  The spelling of this name also slipped a bit, to Stuart, and a branch of the clan became the Royal Stuarts, ruling, and ‘taking care of’, Scotland.

Before he emigrated from Glasgow to Canada, my maternal grandfather became the ‘Keeper of the Tartans’ at the fabric mill where he worked. He was the steward of the patterns of the plaids which clothed a good portion of the country.

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All in all, I think maybe this is the S that I should have chosen for this post.  I’m impressed with my family history.  How about you?  😎

HASH

About a year ago, I published a post titled Leftovers, where I showed and described some of the odd knives I had accumulated over the years. To get rid of leftovers, you chop them up fine, and turn them into hash.  This is a hash of some of the other edged and pointed tools and toys infesting our home.

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The son’s knife made of glass c/w a skull in the butt.

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The skull’s a bit hazy, but then, so is the photographer.

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The wife’s letter openers;
$1.49 Wal-Mart special
steel blade with cast pewter hummingbird/flower handle
antique Victorian sterling silver, which someone ruined by grinding it ‘sharp’
$30 handmade c/w rosewood handles

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My letter opener.  A birthday gift from daughter/grandson.  Miniature Eragon sword.

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A grandson gift.  This letter opener is banded agate stone, with Scottish thistle pommel.  Blurry, as usual.  😳

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The son’s excess work knives.  Numbers 1 and 2 were found in ’empty’ parts cases, returned from customers.  3, 4 and 5, he purchased, #3, at a Detroit knife show, #4 in Toronto, and #5 from Amazon….’cause he doesn’t have enough knives.

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My EDC, (every day carry)  $100 Gerber in nylon/Velcro belt sheath.

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The son’s assault knife, called the “Feral Siamese”.  More of a short sword c/w skull-breaker pommel & formed Kydex sheath.  Needs a big, strong hand/arm.

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The son’s $2000 Katana, which he won for $20.  Shown with Kydex scabbard and the winning ticket.

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The son’s ‘utility’ Katana, called the “2014 TiKat”.  A little less fancy, built by the same maker who produced the blade for the one above.  This one is made of titanium rather than stainless steel – half the weight, with twice the strength and edge-holding, with a snug wooden scabbard.  I really need to get someone else to take these photos.

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A decorative skinner/caper with a cast pewter wolf’s-head counterbalance and wolf scene on the handle.

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My dragon kriss, gift from the daughter.

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A replica German officer’s dagger with cast/moulded metal scabbard.

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One of the son’s titanium belt buckles, this one with a single skull motif.

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Another titanium belt buckle, this one with a dragon surmounting the Earth.

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A matching titanium folding knife and belt buckle combo, this one with multiple, smaller skulls.  (And my hands and camera sneaking in via reflection)
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Not the son’s ‘falling star pendant’,  this one is a Maltese Cross, made of Damascus steel.  A knife with this patterning is awesome.

That’s about all the knife-related stuff we’ve got.  See you again (or you’ll see me) in a couple of days.

Flash Fiction #68

Chivalry

CHIVALRY

It was a dark and stormy night when Sir Lilliput, King Arthur’s smallest knight requested shelter at the country inn, though he admitted “I fear I have no coin to pay.”

Being a dwarf, he’d had the blacksmith forge a child-sized suit of armor, but was too small for a charger. Instead, he saddled and rode a huge Flemish Mastiff.

A regular customer asked why the innkeeper fed him and his mount, and complained that he always demanded cash on the barrelhead of them.

“Look at the weather outside. I wouldn’t send a Knight out on a dog like that.”

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Blade Runners

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On Saturday, Aug. 23, the son, grandson and I attended another Art Knife Show at a fancy hotel in downtown Toronto. We took along with us, the Katana sword shown above, which the son won in a door-prize raffle in 2011. Tickets were $5/ea, or 5 for $20. The son risked the twenty bucks, and the lady at the door gave him six tickets. Being honest, he returned the extra ticket, and insists that it was the karma from this act which won him the sword.

We carefully wrapped it in a large towel, so that it could ride the subway with us, incognito. It was a collaboration effort. One skilled bladesmith created the blade, and then handed it over to another maker, more skilled in adding the fittings – handle, guard, wrap, and sheath – and assembling the final product.

While finished, at the show, it took another 10 months for it to be shipped to us. We emailed photos to the blade maker, but he was very interested in actually seeing and handling the finished product. He had to miss the 2012 show. In 2013, the son forgot to bring it, but promised, “Next year in Jerusalem Toronto.” In 2014, we were 60 miles from home when the son finally thought of it. We weren’t going back! This year, finally, the blade guy was overjoyed and impressed, and took several shots of it for his catalogue.

Below are several photos of blades I felt were interesting and well made, along with a few comments. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, and I’ll try to answer.

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See final picture at bottom.

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The knife on the right is one version of a sub-hilt fighter.  I paid a maker $700 to produce a cheaper model with a white handle that I could have scrimshawed.  He played around for over two years before deciding that he wanted to make American Civil War replicas.  It took another year, and urging from influential members of the Guild, to get him to return my money.  I’d have been much happier to have the knife instead.

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This Damascus double ulu started off as a joke by a maker with a young son who didn’t want to eat the crusts on his toast.

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Double-ended jackknives used to be common.  Some cutlery companies still make a few from $20 to $100.  I believe this beauty was going for $850.

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Not quite an ‘art knife’, this hay-bale cutter contained $200 worth of material and labor.  The maker built it for experience and practice.  It was going to a Mennonite in my area in exchange for some Damascus steel that he had made, and a small blower forge.

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My little digital camera really does not do some of these knives justice.  Click on the photos for more detail.

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The photos above and below are of knives produced by the maker of the blade of the katana at the top.  Again, my lack of detail does not show the high quality of his blades, but amateurish finish on his handles.

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Knife Collector's Prayer

The photo at the top shows a small portion of a collection that the owner of this sign had on display.  The ‘Art Knife Makers’ were all dressed in suits and upscale clothing.  They usually built one knife at a time.  While they charged $500 to $5000 a knife, they often had it sold, and money in hand before it was finished.

This unassuming guy dressed like me – black jeans and a polo shirt, but his display contained dozens of these expensive toys.  I need to ask him next year what he does for a living.  The cost of his collection could buy a small country.

Flash Fiction #66

Widdershins

PHOTO PROMPT © The Reclining Gentleman

WIDDERSHINS

He must be late! Everybody was coming back. Bloody British, they don’t know if they’re coming or going, but do it on the wrong side of the road. Everyone else had passed to the right on medieval trails, to keep the sword-arm free.

Not the English! No Sirree! At least they hadn’t passed this aberration on to Canada or the USA, although they’d led 50 other countries astray – if you didn’t look too hard at the definition of the term ‘country.’ Turks and Caicos Islands, and Vendu. Vendu?? There were sunglass kiosks in the malls that were larger than Vendu.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple website and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.