Dona eis requiem

Sign me up for some of that, abbot!

As I was walking down the corridor at school this morning, I passed one of the illuminated manuscripts noticeboards as I normally do, but today the words

A-level volunteer and postulant organisation

caught my eye because here we have a.) some obvious Chinglish and b.) a word I’ve never seen before. According to my dictionary, a postulant is a person seeking admission to a religious order. Lisa the Librarian knew the word, but she admits to reading too much historical fiction.

Obviously the next question is what the Chinese says.

A-level 义工与志愿者协会 (Yìgōng yǔ Zhìyuànzhě Xiéhuì)

My little dictionary at school wasn’t all that helpful, but from further research when I got home, it appears that it means “A-level Volunteer Work and Volunteer Association” although 义工 and 志愿 can both mean “volunteer”. The former seems to be referring to work and the latter specifically to the person (志愿者 is an agent noun).

So where do the postulants come into all this? 志愿 can also mean “aspiration, wish, ideal”, which suggests that the translator (human or otherwise) took 志愿者 to mean “someone who aspires to do something”.

Finally my little darlings had an English exam, and while I waited for the rain to ease (which it didn’t and still hasn’t), I marked PAL 2’s listening. They have the reading and writing exam tomorrow, and right now I have PAL 1’s listening to mark. Pray for me, abbot.


The advanced nation

Irony or necessity?

To spare my ears from being stuffed full of earphones while I’m listening to music on my Walkman, I went in search of the speaker dock which my Mum and Dad have, but to no avail. In spite of visiting several places (mainly the computer centres), there was nothing to be had.

I’ve since checked the Sony China website and find the only speakers they have are the NWD-100, which is a waterproof speaker system for the Walkman. Sony HK doesn’t even have that much, but the Sony UK and New Zealand websites both have the SRS-NWGU50.

What I did find here was some battery-powered Sony speakers which date from about four or five years ago, which are over twice the current price (through Amazon US or Walmart), and which have been long since superseded. This is further confirmation of my suspicion that all the old kit gets offloaded on the Empire. My monitor at home was never the latest model when I bought it although it may have been the latest one available here.

Why would the speaker docks for the Walkman be unavailable in China? Is it because a Walkman is regarded almost solely as a portable device? Is it because the dock requires space and Chinese flats have none? Now if there was no bed in the study, I could move the small table beside the fridge in there and put something on it. But the amount of room in the study is very limited and if there was no bed, I would’ve frozen to death in the unheatable bedroom.

At the moment, I’m compromising. I’ve brought my old speakers out of mothballs (well, dust) and can run the Walkman through them using the cable from my portable DVD player which is meant to be used to connect that to a TV. The balance on the speakers is a bit wonky because the socket in the back is loose, but it seems to be less temperamental with the Walkman than it is with the DVD player.

Language Log » Parrot phrasing

Language Log » Parrot phrasing.

One of the things which intermediate-level users of English don’t do well, and Chinese students do even less well because of their inability to think originally, is paraphrasing. The eggcorn (as Language Log calls words which are misunderstood in some way and then retransmitted in more familiar terms) parrot phrasing sums the abilities of my little darlings up quite neatly.

Paraphrasing not only tests breadth of vocabulary, but also competence in syntax because the process is not just a matter of substituting one word for another (which is typically how students paraphrase if they understand the concept) or omitting a word here or there (again, another technique which some students use, usually rendering the sentence ungrammatical). Although it is all right for students to reuse words, especially technical terms, they are supposed to restate an idea in their own words.

I’m not sure that successful paraphrasing can be taught. It is a matter of practice and increasing competence in English. As I said above, Chinese students are hampered by their inability to think laterally and also by the absence of cultural taboos against simply copying.

I still wonder what happens to our little darlings when they toddle off to various foreign universities, get their first essay topic, and then stir up all manner of difficulties for themselves by doing what they would’ve done at school for the previous three years.

Watch where you’re sticking your best

And not up my retum.

Electric bikes and scooters often have some English words or phrases on them. When I was outside Buy Now (the computer centre), I spotted

We will do our best for you in retum.

My eyes started watering when I read that – until I realised that it wasn’t a matter of a missing “c”, but of “rn” being misread as “m”. I uncrossed my legs and proceeded on my way.

The Decline and Fall of the Veneer

by Mr Bamboo.

The weather continued to be <insert adjective here> last night. The wind came up, and as I was chatting to Linda on qq, a crash, which sounded like thunder, came from outside. On my initial investigations, I couldn’t see anything, but while I was having a shower I heard another crash and realised what had fallen off the side of the building.

Opposite the annex, the veneer on the outer wall has been bowing outwards ever since I’ve been in the building. Last night it lost the will to live, and cast itself into the void.

This morning the world was grey, but the rain seemed to have stopped. I could see no visible sign of precipitation, but the ground was wet. I stuck my arm out of the window, but could feel nothing. It was only when I got outside that I found it was drizzling.

Since then, the world has dried out. The forecast is for cloud tomorrow, but I suspect the forecast doesn’t know what’s going on because it was meant to have reached 19° today according to earlier prognostications.

At the start of lunchtime, our conversation was interrupted by the sound of drilling and I stepped out of the door to the office to find a pile of evacuation maps (with a garnish of Chinglish) leaning against the wall. This will be being done as part of the run-up to the final visit by the people from the IB programme, which will determine whether the school gets accredited or not. Most of that seems to depend on adhering to some rather finicky regulations.

On its side, the school has dragged its feet about implementing the requirements of the IB programme. The library is a bit of a fiasco with the school desperately trying not to spend money on the book that it needs. (You try writing a 4,000 word essay based solely on a couple of wikipedia entries.) There’s a computer room in the old classroom that has generally been part of the school museum, but I can’t see anyone being fooled by some tacky red velvet table cloths covering ratty old wooden desks.

I suppose the school will probably get its accreditation and then like the aftermath of the Beijing Olympics, everything will be blocked again and the pollution will start rolling back in. Well, it’s all about the money.

The week of promise

Or, No god did not piss through a sieve.

The week started so well – clear skies, sunshine, rising temperatures. Spring had finally arrived after weeks of predominantly crap weather. Or had it?

Initially, the forecast for today was promising, but then it was for rain. I hoped that meant it’d rain later in the day, but by lunchtime it was fairly horrible (well, all right, horribly horrible), and this afternoon it turned even worse and has remained even worse.

To add insult to injury (an old Inuit proverb which would be better known if they didn’t have 30 words for “insult” and 46 for “injury” [admittedly about 30 of those are for snow-related injuries]; ironically, they have one word for snow, but no one knows what it is), it was advisable for me to do a little shopping at Carrefour. I could’ve put it off until tomorrow, but the forecast is for more of the same.

I was at KFC for lunch yesterday and happened to look across 五爱路 which is mostly blocked by the work being done on the Metro system. There on the other side of the street was a shop called 芒可 (mángkě; if I remember the characters correctly; they might’ve been 杧可). Unfortunately, the transliterated form of the name was Mangoo. Slower readers will get that one in a moment. Wait for it… There you go.

The big news from the Empire today is the fall of Bo Xilai, the former chief party boy of Chongqing. The savvy punters are saying that he’s been removed so that he can’t turn up at a Politburo meeting, remove his mask, and reveal himself to be Chairman Mao. “Ha! You dumb bastards thought I was selling pizza out of Tiananmen Square!”

That 2Gb Aigo MP3 player left me with a mess to untangle. Because it organised its library by file name, I had to go through and rename sound files so that they would cluster together correctly instead of being listed alphanumerically regardless of their source. But this led to splitting up files into separate folders, and now that I have a Walkman, which supports its own playlists, I no longer need to organise things in this way.

I bought the third volume of Vivaldi’s concertos for strings played by Collegium Musicum 90, which again mostly added completely new material to my collection. I’ve been enjoying listening to Rameau’s complete harpsichord works played by Trevor Pinnock. Rameau’s style seems a little lighter than Couperin’s, which has always struck me as being like Black Forest Gateau with extra-thick icing.

Mr Bamboo and another public service announcement

I have my uses.

I updated the software for my Walkman last night, which got me thinking about the Playlist category. I’ve found such things to be quite useful in the past, but Sony seem to be determined to be vexatious. The software has the option for allowing users to delete playlists, but it doesn’t list any, and there are no hints about how to make one or where to transfer them from. Obviously the playlists for Windows Media Player won’t work.

The solution, as with just about everything on the Walkman, is to use Windows Explorer. It’s all a matter of selecting all the tracks in some folder under the Music directory (e.g. Telemann, Tafelmusik, Production I), and righting-clicking and selecting Create playlist. The file will appear and can be given a suitable name such as Telemann, Tafelmusik, Production I.

The cunning thing is that it’s possible to add tracks by right-clicking on the the playlist file and opening it. Then from Windows Explorer, tracks can be dragged across from other folders, which is useful where, for example, Corelli Op. 5 spans two discs and mixing the file names would result in confusion.

The irony is that the transfer software still can’t find any of the playlists, and there doesn’t seem to be a particular folder where they need to be clustered.

I must try an experiment the next time I plug the Walkman into the computer by copying the playlists to the laptop and then dragging them to the transfer software to see what happens to them. Also, because I’m constantly adding and deleting tracks, it would be a good idea to save the playlists permanently so that I’m not having to make them anew each time.

I’ve been looking at Morris Jones’s (1913) outline of the history of Welsh. He had some inkling of laryngeals even although he was just a bit early for their confirmation. I also get a little uncomfortable with how he handles anaptyctic vowels, which seem to be such a nebulous part of IE linguistics. These things would not appear to be phonemic, but the question would be, what did the speakers of IE hear? What were the principles?

For example, Welsh adanedd “wings” comes from *peteníjās, but this suggests the speakers probably heard themselves saying *ptníjās. Are we looking at right-to-left syllabification? If I go from left-to-right, I’d expect *pVtníjās since there’s no obvious prohibition on VC syllables. Same with *īweriejnos “of Ireland”, Irish Érenn. Of course, I’d have to know much more about directional syllabification before I could say this for certain.

I also note that the syllabic resonants in IE (m̥, n̥, l̥, r̥) often, but not always become VR in the IE languages, but in some they become RV. The Celtic languages end up being mixed. m̥ and n̥ become am and an in Brithonic, but l̥ and r̥ become li and ri. However, this doesn’t prove anything about the direction in which words were syllabified, and sonority may play a role with Cl and Cr far more likely to form (onset) clusters than Cm and Cn.

Bah! A pox on’t!

Damn’d weather.

We actually saw the sun today for the first time in a couple of weeks or so. It was unexpected because the forecast was for the usual.

Rain, rain, rain, rain,

Rain, rain, rain, rain,

Wonderful rain! Glorious rain!

And the wonderfully glorious rain returned this afternoon just in time for me to come home.

Nor is there any end in sight to this vile weather, which has me predicting a cool, wet spring until sometime in April. It is possible I should be blaming La Niña for the current situation, but I’ll blame the Imperial government instead for their lack of human decency in the vote on Syria. That’s why it’s raining.

I did a search this afternoon for Bach’s English Suites and have run into a wall of pianos. The only harpsichord recording I’ve been able to find so far is by Christiane Jaccottet. I have an album of hers on which she plays Bach’s Inventions, Symphonies, and Preludes, but it’s never been a favourite of mine. I’ve never really liked the sound of the instrument and I have doubts about the quality of the recording. I’m surprised that Trevor Pinnock or Christopher Hogwood or Bob van Asperen or some other better-known harpsichordist hasn’t had a crack at these along with the Partitas (again, a set of pieces which don’t appear on my radar at all), and various others such as the Art of Fugue and the Well-Tempered Clavier. (Really. Neither the Art of Fugue nor the WTC have ever crossed my path as far as I can recall.)