Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bugger structure. I never really liked the idea of it anyway

So… blah. Blah, blah, blah...

(alert: fearful navel-gazing of blogger with existentialist crisis ahead)

For the first time in absolutely ages, I’ve got working internet, laptop, and nothing pressing to do apart from creatively dodge the guilt-driven instinct to alphabetise my books or something. What better time to catch up on all those must-visit websites? The ones I used to go by every day. The ones I would post at. Or (shock! horror!) perhaps even write a post or two here, to stiffen the sinews of this rather weedy-looking blog.

Except I can’t. Somehow, the vim has gone. It left months ago, slamming the door and leaving behind nothing but a lump of wet laundry in the washing machine.

Since this blog and my old internetovating haunts have or had a lot to do with books, perhaps it’s not surprising. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come to the hardly earth-shattering realisation that it has been absolutely bloody ages since I last read a book that got me really excited. They’re all, sort of… blah. Neither dreadful, suck-your-brains out, pound-your-eyeballs into mush crap that forces me to keep reading just to stagger, reeling at its sheer awfulness, nor oh-my-god-i-love-this-oh-my-god-yeeeesss wonderfulness that leaves me blissed out and re-reading my favourite bits for days on end.

Nope. They just sort of all hover in this middle ground of bland, boring, blah. Okay to pass the time between metro stops, but instantly forgettable to the extent that TWICE now this year, I’ve bought a second copy of a book because I forgot that I had already read it.

Anyhow, I know it’s time to worry now, because after pretty much a day of on-and-off surfing through romance etc., websites, blogs and so on, the book reviews that have me most fired up (at least to the extent of looking up the delivery charges on Amazon) are two from the Fortean Times: Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction, and an anthropological study of the history of cannibalism written by the daughter of a paleoanthropologist and a master chef.

I think if I had to put my finger on what’s made the books I’ve read recently so unexciting, it’s perhaps that they take themselves too seriously. They’re just not as much fun as they used to be. Same thing for a lot of the sites I used to frequent. The humour seems just a tad forced, the reactions and posts a tad predictable. The joins seem to show. It’s like there’s less joy in it now. And I don't feel like writing because I can't help worrying that the same applies here. Sigh.

Is this a consequence of the last few years of looming doom and gloom? Or even that I'm realising this now because of the current doom and gloom? Or is the change in my own attitude and outlook? Are these the first symptoms of conservatism-with-a-small-c that strikes so many as middle age approaches? As the new austerity creeps in this deadly pace, will I develop preferences in reading and blogging that are serious, earnest and meaningful? Okay, maybe not the cannibals. But they could be leading me in a merry dance towards an inclination to seriousness. Who knows where this could all lead to? Discussing oven cleaning? grammar? central heating? (patience, my lovelies) *blushes*

I should never have done that course in economics.

Monday, September 08, 2008

More structure...kinda

And now, for the next exciting, czechtastic piece of vocabulary...









There is no other similar word alas. Unless you count "Februaryish". But this particular bit of vocab does start us down the long and winding road of Czech diacritics, with its extra-special "ú". meaning a long "u". Or ooooooooo.

Sometimes you can see the long "u" written with a little circle above it, like this: "ů". It sounds the same, but harkens back to a dim and distant past, in which the letter "o" was mysteriously involved in the word, before something, possibly angry diacritics or vengeful graphemes, ate it. Or maybe just the top bit.


Sometimes... sometimes... the "o" comes back.


But not in ůnor, because it's not spelled with the little "o", but with an acute and rather dashing accent, as in únor. How can you tell when to make your ooooo with dash not dot? Well, the dash happens when "u" comes at the beginning of the word.

In 1848 (count 'em, baby) some madmen decided that no Czech national renaissance could possibly be complete without an orthographical overhaul and decided that the "ou" (oh-ooo) dipthong at the beginning of the roots of words should be changed to "ú". Because that's how it was pronounced.

But somewhen around the same time, the long "o" ("ó") was being pronounced, "uo" (ooo-ohh - I like it when the beat goes -), and so to save paper in a time of wood-pulp and vellum scarcity, they decided to write the "o" part of the dipthong (-thong, -thong, -thong, -thong) much, much smaller above the "u". And then, the pronounciation changed, and the rest is history... er... orthography.