A Netflix Error

I decided to watch a film on Netflix to take my mind off of feeling ill. It is a new version of ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’. I have read that book, watched the 1930 film adaptation, and the later 1979 remake. This new version is a German language film, starrring mainly German actors. I settled down to watch it one afternoon, only to be greatly surprised that it was dubbed into English.

The story is not the same as in the book, far from it. But what we do get is a loosely-based version that delivers a powerful anti-war film with some outstanding special effects and cinematography. I stuck with it, but I was left feeling short-changed that it was not shown in the original language.

Looking online, I read that Netflix shows this film in German by default, with English subtitles. So I have no idea why I was shown a dubbed version. I rarely use Netflix, so I suspect I missed a ‘click’ on something.

Maybe I will watch it again, and be more careful before pressing ‘Play’.

I Don’t Want To Hear It

After the heavy rain yesterday, I went out with Ollie. It was still drizzling a little, and looking dark and cloudy. Wandering around our usual haunts, I met a few dog-walkers. Being English, we naturally discussed the weather.

I mentioned to one lady that the weather was miserable, and she replied.
“But it’s good for the garden”.

Sometime later I saw a man I see every day. He mentioned that I was carrying an umbrella, and reminded me that more heavy rain was forecast to arrive later.
As he walked off, he turned and said,
“It’s good for the garden though”.

With the clouds descending again, and the temperature dropping, I walked one more circuit, before heading for home. On the way I saw a lady with two dogs. She also noted my umbrella, and looked up at the sky. In my mind, I was pleading ‘Don’t say it!’ But she did.
“Good for the garden at least”.

It has been raining heavily all night, and later this morning I have to take Ollie out, with more rain forecast.

If you happen to see me over on Beetley Meadows, please, please do not say “It’s good for the garden”.

I don’t care if it’s good for the garden. It is June, and I want some summer!

The Complexities Of English Spelling

I found an article online that explores the reasons why English has such confusing and inconsistent spellings, making it one of the hardest languages to learn.

This may be of interest to writers, and to those studying English as a foreign language.


Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Not a Brit.

If you come from the UK, it is very common to be called ‘A Brit’, especially by Americans and Canadians. But it is easy to overlook the fact that Great Britain is made up of four very different countries. England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have different cultures and traditions, varied histories, and also languages other than English.

It may say ‘British Citizen’ on my (expired) passport, and I have to state my nationality as ‘British’ on many official forms and documents. But as anyone born and raised here will tell you, I am English. If I travel to any of those other three countries, I would be regarded as such too.

The United Kingdom is far from being united.

At least half the people in Scotland would like that country to be independent, and to rejoin the EU. Wales also has a Nationalist political party advocating independence and the use of the Welsh language, though it has moderate influence there. Northern Ireland has a complex and tragic history, intertwined with religion and over one hundred years of struggle in the modern era.

Those other three countries also have their own devolved governments. Their powers are different in each one, but generally allow them to make many of their own rules and laws with having to refer to the national government in London. Scotland and Northern Ireland also have different banknotes, though the currency is still The Pound.

We don’t have a ‘Great Britain’ football team either. Each of the four nations has its own team, with dedicated fans and followers. The national Cricket tean is the ‘England’ team, not British. Playing any of the home nations (as they are called) in any sport carries the same rivalry and nationalistic fervour as if we were playing Brazil or Germany.

I am not able to state my nationality as ‘English’ in any offcial capacity, but I have never thought of myself as anything else. In the same way, someone from Scotland or Wales would call themselves Scottish or Welsh, wherever they happened to live.

In my remaining lifetime, I am unlikely to see a total break-up of Great Britain. Even if Scotland voted for- and was granted – independence, Wales and Northern Ireland are unlikely to follow. But given the choice, I would advocate that.

Because we are different, so it makes sense to me to be separate countries.

The Difficulties of English Pronunciation

My blogging friend David Miller of  https://millerswindmill.wordpress.com/ sent me this amazing poem that highlights the problems of learning how to pronounce words in English. It is a wonder that anyone is able to master it as a foreign language, and that’s even before you add regional accents into the mix. It is very long, but I hope you enjoy it.

The Chaos (by G. Nolst Trenité, a.k.a. “Charivarius”; 1870 – 1946)

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,

I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.

Tear in eye your dress you’ll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!

Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,

Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written).

Made has not the sound of bade,
Say said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,

But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,

Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,

Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles.
Exiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing.
Thames, examining, combining

Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war, and far.

From “desire”: desirable–admirable from “admire.”
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier.

Chatham, brougham, renown, but known.
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,

One, anemone. Balmoral.
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel,

Gertrude, German, wind, and mind.
Scene, Melpomene, mankind,

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, reading, heathen, heather.

This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;

Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rime with “darky.”

Viscous, Viscount, load, and broad.
Toward, to forward, to reward.

And your pronunciation’s O.K.,
When you say correctly: croquet.

Rounded, wounded, grieve, and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive, and live,

Liberty, library, heave, and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven,

We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,

Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police, and lice.

Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label,

Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.

Suit, suite, ruin, circuit, conduit,
Rime with “shirk it” and “beyond it.”

But it is not hard to tell,
Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,

Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, and chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,

Ivy, privy, famous, clamour
And enamour rime with hammer.

Pussy, hussy, and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.

River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.

Stranger does not rime with anger.
Neither does devour with clangour.

Soul, but foul and gaunt but aunt.
Font, front, won’t, want, grand, and grant.

Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger.
And then: singer, ginger, linger,

Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.

Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.

Dost, lost, post; and doth, cloth, loth;
Job, Job; blossom, bosom, oath.

Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual.

Seat, sweat; chaste, caste.; Leigh, eight, height;
Put, nut; granite, and unite.

Reefer does not rime with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.

Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, Senate, but sedate.

Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific,

Tour, but our and succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria,

Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.

Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay.

Say aver, but ever, fever.
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.

Never guess–it is not safe:
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralph.

Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie,

Face but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust, and scour, but scourging,

Ear but earn, and wear and bear
Do not rime with here, but ere.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,

Monkey, donkey, clerk, and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation–think of psyche–!
Is a paling, stout and spikey,

Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing “groats” and saying “grits”?

It’s a dark abyss or tunnel,
Strewn with stones, like rowlock, gunwale,

Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict, and indict!

Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?

Finally: which rimes with “enough”
Though, through, plough, cough, hough, or tough?

Hiccough has the sound of “cup.”
My advice is–give it up!

Untranslatable Words

I found this article online about words in foreign languages that cannot be tranlated into English. I had heard of some of them, but most were new to me. It is something that might be very useful for fiction writers, as well of being of general interest to people like me. 🙂


Social Media: Grammar and Spelling

I should have known better than to try to spend some time on Twitter earlier.

After seeing at least 200 glaring spelling and grammatical errors, I became so exhausted, I logged off.

How many times?

Please, please stop writing ‘YOUR’. STOP IT, STOP IT, STOP IT!

I want to slap your stupid legs until they sting all night, then make you stand in the corner with no dinner, like the irritating fools you are.

I really have to stop looking at this rubbish, I really do.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Speaking English.

I watched a report on the news yesterday. It was about an Irish girl who has gone missing in Malaysia. The local police chief made a statement, and he made it in English. Admittedly, he had a strong accent, but I could easily understand everything he said. It occurred to me that if a Malaysian girl had gone missing in England, or Ireland, then our respective police chiefs would have been highly unlikely to have been able to present a report in her language, and would have almost certainly used an interpreter, or not bothered to refer to her native language in any way.

Not for the first time in my life, I thought how lucky I am to have been born as an English-speaker. For as long as I can remember, English has been widely-spoken, all over the world. It is very unusual for someone to be interviewed, and for them not to be replying in English, whatever their first language might be. Actors and actresses, film stars, sports stars, famous writers, and even some politicians, all managed to communicate in English, wherever they were born and brought up.

I have travelled to many countries where English is not the first language. But I never once failed to make myself understood, or find someone who could speak to me in English, however rudimentary their knowledge of the language. I learned French at school, and by the age of 18, I could speak it quite well. But when I visited countries where that was the language, I hardly needed to use it. As soon as they realised I was from England, people would happily converse with me in my language. I have even met people in Holland and Belgium who spoke English with such a good accent, they could have passed for British, Canadian, or American quite easily.

Yet so few people in this country can understand another language, let alone speak one. Yes, we are lazy, and with good reason. People speak English everywhere, so we don’t have to bother to try. Unless we really want to.

Then I discovered blogging, in 2012. So much good writing, and the majority of it in English. I have blogging friends who live in The Philippines, Vietnam, Holland, Italy, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Iceland, Scandinavia, Pakistan, Germany, Greece, France, Portugal, and even all over Africa. Yet they all blog in English. They understand everything I write in my posts and comments, and reply in perfect English too. I installed the ‘Translate’ widget, and almost never have to use it. (With some rare exceptions for Chinese and Japanese characters)

Those of us born in countries where English is the ‘first language’ are very fortunate, and we should be grateful.

I know I am.

Kate Bush: An appreciation

I have included songs from Kate Bush on this blog before. But when I was writing about David Bowie’s album ‘Hunky Dory’ recently, I started thinking about his many changes of style, his clear diction, and his use of mime, dance, and striking outfits in his excellent promotional videos. Then Kate Bush came to mind, for exactly the same reasons.

Few female singers in Britain have enjoyed such a long career, or been so highly regarded by critics as well as fans. Her songwriting skills are self-evident, and her changes of style and appearance have guaranteed to keep our interest, despite her signature long absences from the music scene. Like Bowie, Madonna, and a few others, she recognised the power of the pop video from the early days, and used it to tremendous affect when promoting her songs. In many examples, we didn’t see Kate just singing the song, we saw a small feature film, with the music as background.

Kate will be 60 years old this summer, and she had her first big hit as long ago as 1978. When she was only 13 years old, she wrote the wonderful song ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’, which featured on her debut album, and was the second single to make the charts. And that’s not a typo. She was just 13. This was not a childhood prodigy, but an example of the musical genius that was to follow.

In all that time, she has only released ten albums. By some standards, that is not much of a legacy for such a long and continuing career. But the quality of the songs is timeless, and many are still breathtaking to hear, (and to watch) even after forty years.

Kate also made appearances in some films, and provided vocals for other artists, including Peter Gabriel. In 1986, she performed a duet with Gabriel for his album ‘So’. That amazing song, ‘Don’t Give Up’ has gone on to inspire many people, and the causes that support them.

Since her last album release in 2011, she has returned to the touring circuit for the first time in 35 years, with sell-out performances in 2014, and rumours of more tours to come. She is still working, still writing songs, and sounds as good as ever. An English treasure, undoubtedly.