“And the award for Most Ironic Book Purchase goes to…”
With the sports days starting this afternoon, I thought I’d use the free time to go DVD shopping. Actually, I was only shopping for one DVD, but because I only had ¥100 notes on me, I bought several besides.
I also went to the Foreign Languages Bookshop at the north end of 科华北路 [in Chengdu] because I was trying to find an English dictionary of the normal variety. I know I can use English dictionaries online. Firefox comes with a link to Chambers, but I’m not always online or necessarily in a position to go there. Perhaps I’m just being nostalgic for the days when my copy of the Concise Oxford was handy on the bookshelf for those occasions when I’d forgotten how to spell a word. Yes, such occasions exist in my world.
But I didn’t find a suitable dictionary. Those which are of the common or garden variety are usually learner’s dictionaries of a sort – beginner; intermediate; advanced. There are, after that, few choices for native speakers, and having surveyed the dictionaries, I went and had a look through the IELTS section where I spotted Mark Morgan’s Writing Skills for the IELTS Test.
When I first started teaching IELTS about four years ago, I had his IELTS reading book, which was definitely the best book of its kind I had. But his writing book was out of print, and in spite of periodic searches, I’ve never seen it in all this time – until today. I bought it because I may have a use for it in the future, but I probably won’t during the course of this academic year; hence, the purchase was ironic if, as it seems, I’m not going to be working for the programme beyond June next year. Also ironic was the absence of Morgan’s IELTS reading book from the shelves. I bet it’s out of print.
I also went to the other Foreign Languages Bookshop, but their selection of dictionaries was even more limited than the first place. I did buy The Collected Short Stories of Saki by H.H. Munro as some light relief from all the horror I’ve read recently, and I continue to note the inflated prices of some of the Wordsworth Classics volumes. ¥60 (£5.45) for a volume as thin as Thomas More’s Utopia is utterly ridiculous at a time when the exchange rate is just below ¥11 to £1.
1. That hasn’t happened to me in a while, but it’s annoying when it does. You either have ¥100 notes or mere 角 and nothing in between for minor purchases.
Compare these examples. The first is in the passive, the second active:
- There were riots in several towns in Northern England last night, in which police clashed with stone-throwing youths.
- Youths throwing stones clashed with police during riots in several towns in Northern England last night.
Youths threw stones in clashes with police during riots etc. (active)
Stones were thrown (by youths) in clashes with police during riots etc. (passive)
passive voice strive for active verbs, especially in headlines:
compare “the mat was sat upon by the cat” with “the cat sat on the mat”
The thief ran through the park → The park was run through by the thief. (=traversed)
The pigeons were standing on the ledge → The ledge was being stood on by the pigeons. (=occupied)
The same people waited at the bus stop every day → ??The bus stop was waited at by the same people every day. (=?)
The teacher was waiting for the pupils → The pupils were being waited for by the teacher. (=awaited)
Selected and arranged by John Grafton.
This is an anthology with ten short ghost stories from the latter half of the 19th century and first decade of the 20th published by Dover. Three of them I’ve already read. The other seven are Dickon the Devil by Sheridan le Fanu about a man who’s frightened witless by an evil ghost; The Judge’s House by Bram Stoker in which a student trying to find a quiet place to study has a fatal encounter with the spirit of a hanging judge; in Jerome K. Jerome’s Ghost Story, a scientist is murdered by the skeleton of a wronged man who died in a cathedral; The Moonlit Road is, I believe, the second story I’ve read by Ambrose Bierce, and the second one I didn’t like the style of; The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs (which I know from one of those green-covered bilingual readers you can get here in China) is a tale about being careful what you wish for; Bone to his Bone by E.G. Swain is about the ghost of a priest who directs the current occupant of his former residence to find and reunite a missing bone with the rest of his skeleton; the final story is The Confession of Charles Linkworth by E.F. Benson, which is about the spirit of a man who was executed for murdering his mother confessing to his crime after death.
Petty criminal: Finally, my parole’s over.
Petty criminal’s brother: I’ve got a job for you.
Petty criminal: No thanks. I’ve already got a job.
Petty criminal’s boss: You’re fired for being a former petty criminal.
Petty criminal: OK, I’ll do the job.
During the crime, there’s a shoot-out, although the Petty Criminal didn’t kill anyone. Unfortunately, this is Texas.
Judge: You’ll be executed after a fair trial.
After the execution, the Petty Criminal has somehow survived.
Psycho criminal: You’re just like me!
Petty criminal: Something’s not right.
Evil priest: You’re making things up to cope with your tragic past.
Petty criminal: Hang on a mo’. Here’s my frisbee; here’s my dog. You guys are rubbish at covering things up. And your computer security is lame. I managed to get all the evidence from your computer without raising a sweat. I’m going home.
The Petty Criminal leaves.
Petty criminal’s wife: What were you doing there?
Petty criminal: F_cked if I know.
We see, in all grammars, that [speech] is sufficient to establish a rule, even contrary to the strongest analogies of the language with itself. (1772:ix; my italics)
If I have done any essential service to my native tongue, I think it will arise from my detecting a great number of gallicisims, which have insinuated themselves into the style of many of our most justly admired writers. (1772:x; Priestley’s italics)
It is not from the writings of the grammarians and the critics that we can form a judgment of the real present state of any language, even as it is spoken in polite conversation. (1772:xii)
[N]o body can read [Apostolo Zeno’s] dramas without wishing that his gift of invention had been the lot of a man furnished with an harmonious soul. (p. 106)
These verses Rolli called Catullian endecasyllables. A pox on them! (p. 109)