Somewhere online today, I saw an ad or article about Hello Kitty Converse shoes. It probably wasn’t a targetted ad, or else whatever cookies are tracking me don’t know me at all. Curiously, for some reason, when I saw the word Converse, I pronounced it with an emphasis on the second syllable, like it was the verb to converse. Seeing the full title and accompanying picture of course made me realise that the word was Converse, the proper noun referring to the brand name, and not the verb. This was another interesting example of the difference in word stress between nouns and verbs. And of course at this stage, I’d got to thinking: why is the shoemaker named Converse, and how is that related to the verb to converse? Continue reading

So Long, Marianne

I usually listen to music while I write, and sometimes while I’m thinking about what to write (usually I know long beforehand what I want to write, but sometimes I like to sit and let the ideas come. I think the music helps, and sometimes it gives me very specific ideas. Like this evening, for example. I was listening to the album Songs of Leonard Cohen (on vinyl, for extra hipster cred), and specifically the song “So Long, Marianne,” which of course made me think: why do we (well, Americans mainly) use so long to say goodbye? Continue reading

Seal Armpit Delivers Inconvenience, Aches

You never what you’re going to find on the internet, do you? I sometimes have a look at the comments on this blog that are marked as spam. Partly because the occasional genuine comment gets thrown in there, but mainly out of curiosity.

Curiosity as to why those responsible might think I’d fall for their obvious tricks, and curiosity about how successful they are. Mostly though, curiosity about the interesting forms of English contained therein. Take this recent comment, for example: Continue reading

Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned

On Saturday afternoon, I decided I felt more like writing (this) while having a coffee in town (apparently the average noise level in a coffee shop is quite inducive to writing), rather than at home, so after wandering around a bit (I had to finish the album I was listening to, of course), I settled on a branch of Caffè Nero.

While queuing, I began thinking about the fact that I’m going to visit Rome next month. I’d always assumed the chain was named after the Roman emperor Nero, and considered that even though they seemed to use a lot of Ancient-Roman style design in their décor, the coffee shop probably doesn’t offer an authentic Ancient-Roman experience. And then I got to thinking about the famous myth that Nero sang and played the fiddle while the Great Fire of Rome raged around him (he probably didn’t: it’s more than likely propoganda spread by the Flavian dynasty that succeeded him).

And then I thought: why do we sometimes call a violin a fiddle? Continue reading

Proud Boys (Never Lose It!)

Writing about my dislike of the concept monarchy yesterday made me think that, certainly if I were British, I could label myself a republican, being someone who believes a republic centred around citizenship is a better system than a monarchy, dictatorship etc. I don’t tend to call myself a republican though, and there’s a good reason why. Continue reading