Monday, August 22, 2011

Last Word: Home

Interestingly, the place where I usually get my etymologies only offers this sense of home: O.E. ham "dwelling, house, estate, village." In that sense, anywhere I have a roof over my head is home. The OED (the word-lover's bible) captures exactly the sense I was looking for: 

"The place of one's dwelling or nurturing, with the conditions, circumstances, and feelings which naturally and properly attach to it, and are associated with it."

The part I like is "feelings which naturally and properly attach to it." You don't force your feelings on a place and you can't create feelings about somewhere. They naturally form, and it's only after you've been somewhere a while or when can pull yourself outside of your surroundings that you realize certain feelings have formed. It's strange that the writer of the definition would include the word "proper." They felt it important to emphasize that no matter what the feelings are, they are not wrong. They are right and proper feelings.

Getting attached to Edinburgh and Scotland does have a lot to do with the city-scape and countryside and looking out my window at castle everyday. But, really, I didn't realize how much home was attached to the people I've gotten to know until two of my best friends moved 2 1/2 hours up north. It really signified the beginning of the end. Sharing experiences is part of what makes a life. I've been so fortunate to have friends and family visit so at least when Alex and I reminisce, some of them will know what we are talking about.

It's really strange assessing the length of a year at this point (*starts singing "525,600 minutes....."* not really though). I remember when we had such an ordeal getting our internet and banking set up last September. We didn't even have a phone yet. Oddly, those things do make you feel like you belong once you have them. It's weird to think there was a point when we didn't have them. Things have also changed around town. Scaffolding goes up. Scaffolding comes down. Buildings get finished. Mosque Kitchen is now a legitimate restaurant protected from the elements!

But there's so much we've missed in GR too: a new nephew, Sarah and Mike's and Dylan and Hannah's engagements, many weddings, friends moving away... When I talk about GR and when I talk about Edinburgh, I refer to both of them as "home." And they are both home in the OED's sense of the word too. Unless you've lived in another place, you don't understand how two places can be home. It's especially strange here because it's even two different cultures. I like it though. I like having home here and home back in GR.

It's easy to think this is the end, but things have a way of coming back to you. In 2008 when I visited Edinburgh, I loved this city and always wanted to come back. Three years later and here we are. Ben and Rachel left three weeks ago and we didn't think we'd see them for a few years, but we had the chance to visit them spontaneously this weekend. You never know if it's the end or not. That's really encouraging.

I really didn't know what this blog post was going to be when I started but I'd like to share with you some of the lists I've compiled of the new things we've experienced or gotten into since we've been here. They can't really capture our time here but they have added to my life and I am taking these experiences with me. I'm sure the lists are not entirely comprehensive as I've only thought to write them in the past month or so...

New games we've learned:
Up and Down
Pass the Pigs
Angry Birds
and a card game with a bad name that Rachel taught us that's really fun :)

New foods we tried:
Venison (I'd never had it but Al had)
and several delicious cheeses from the cheesemonger

Some fun events we've taken part in:
Christmas at the Forsyths'
Scottish Beer Festival
Fire Festival on Calton Hill
Hogmanay-New Year's torch walk
Being Mary and Joseph in the Christmas pageant at church
urban foraging at Greyfriar's Kirkyard
Farmer's market on Saturday mornings
Christmas Market
I guess there's quite a lot to list!

Places we've been while here:
Stirling, Fort William, Dunfermline, Linlithgow, Glasgow, Isle of Skye, North Berwick, Inverness, Melrose, Cramond Island, London, Bamburgh (England), York, Bruges (Belgium), Brussels, Tallinn (Estonia)

I want to thank you readers for encouraging and supporting Alex and I while we've been here. Thank you for being interested in us and what we are doing. We appreciate it so much.

Well, I've got to finish cleaning and packing before we sit down to our last mutton meal. It's strange to be leaving home and yet going home too. I know though, a new home will be somewhere around the corner again and I can't wait for it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Twenty-Second Word: Excursion

excursion- from Latin, noun of action from pp. stem of excurrere "run out, run forth, hasten," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + currere "to run". Sense of "journey" recorded in English by 1660s.

This week Jordan, Alex and I took a "last hurrah" trip to Estonia's capital, Tallinn. After working long and hard to get 13,000 words on my dissertation before our travels, I almost felt as if this excursion was my act of "running out" of Edinburgh to get as far away from my laptop as possible. While we were planning this trip, friends and family kept asking, "Why Tallinn?". Here's why:

I forgot what it was like to be hot. 

When you are used to 50-60F weather ALL. YEAR. ROUND. in Edinburgh, 80F and humid is pretty shocking. In Michigan, you build up a desire for heat and humidity during the long, cold winter months. I secretly enjoyed sweating for once and I already miss my shorts and flip-flops now that we're home.

Anyway, here's a brief synopsis of our three days in Estonia:

The night we arrived:
-we ate dinner at an underground German pub/restaurant, more of an experience than we thought. It was completely empty except for us. We had great and inexpensive food. The appetizer we ordered was brought to us without the accompanying small plates so we opened our napkins and ate off of those. Some translator for the menu decided that "Additives" would be the heading for the list of side dishes. And instead of playing typical pub music what was playing? yes, it was polka. oddly, this was not our only encounter with polka on this trip...
-we meandered through Old Town after dinner and found a pub called Hell Hunt ("affectionate wolf" or basically "good doggie"). This became our staple pub while we were in Tallinn.

Day 1
-Food is always a cultural experience wherever you go. The night before we bought decent looking cereal and some milk for the next morning. Well, we bought tasteless Cardboard Crunchies or something because it was terrible. And the milk actually had yogurt cultures in it so it was soured and thick. eeewww
-We headed up Toompea Hill where the Russian orthodox cathedral and the parliament buildings are located. It was full of tourists but sickeningly cute. Great views out over the city.
-On our way to lunch in a neighborhood of Tallinn we walked through Balti Jaar market, which was a cultural experience to say the least. This open-air market was selling anything from bras to russian baked goods and rotting produce.
-The 3.50 Euro lunch we had was fabulous though. That translates to about $5 (drinks included) so we wound up paying about 12 euro for the three of us.
-We walked through a shady area (which means awesome pictures of rust and erosion) on our way to a former Soviet prison on the coast. We walked along the Baltic Sea a bit until we got to a behemoth concert hall/part-time Soviet fortress that we wandered around.
-We had amazing crepes at Kompressor restaurant and then went to Krug Inn for beer. Krug Inn is a medieval pub selling "Worthy elk soup full of taste" and 6 kinds of pies, all for 1 euro each. "Every drink calls for 2 euro money" so it was really cheap! You could also "catch your own pickles" out of a barrel :) Awesome, we stopped by every day for a pie, they were so good!

Day 2
-Being so hot and so near water we had to head to the beach. We, of course, got off at the wrong bus stop but got to walk down a woodland trail to find our way back. The boys swam and I sun-bathed. The water was a bit too cold for my taste. There were jellyfish everywhere! I love the ocean :)
-After a hot afternoon we went back for showers and went to dinner at yet another underground pub and guess what they were playing? polka! Halfway through our meals, what should come on the radio but, oh my gosh, Old MacDonald Had a Farm. yes, in German. All I understood was the E-I-E-I-O. I don't know which was worse though, that that song was playing in a pub or that neither Jordan nor Alex could remember how the song goes in English!
-We walked around parts of Old Town we hadn't been to after dinner and got some drinks to bring up to the hill in Vabaduse (Freedom) Square where we wound up most evenings for sunset.

Day 3
-We took a tram to Kadriorg Gardens where the Kadriorg Palace and the President's Palace are. We saw both. At the President's Palace we got to see the changing of the guard. It's weird how we could just walk down the driveway and stand in front of the Palace (house) because you certainly can't in Washington, DC or even here in Edinburgh.
-We thrift-shopped our way back into Old Town and headed to a neighborhood south of where we were staying to get lunch at a cool cafe. The area of town we were in left something to be desired though so after about an hour of meandering we made it back to Hell Hunt for final beers. We went to a really fancy dinner of duck, rabbit, and mutton only to top it off with (of course) soup and pies from Krug Inn :)

Tallinn is a must for anyone travelling to eastern Europe. It was as charming, if not more so, than Bruges, and bigger. It was cleaner and more "western" than Budapest, but it was quite touristy in Old Town. Also, for being on the Euro it was really inexpensive!  I wouldn't recommend Estonia for their beer culture (or lack there of) though.There are quick hops to Helsinki and Stockholm by ferry. We had such a good time and it was great going with one of our best friends, Jordan. If this is the last excursion we take before we come home in less than a month then it was a really great one.

Say What?
As three linguists, we really enjoyed trying to figure out Estonian as best we could with what little we knew ahead of time. You can figure out a surprising amount if you try. Like laim is...lime. Easy, right? Ok, now you try:
yea, ok.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Twenty-First Word: Appetite

appetite: c.1300, "craving for food," from Anglo-Fr. appetit, O.Fr. apetit (13c.) "appetite, desire, eagerness," from L. appetitus "appetite," lit. "desire toward," from appetitus, pp. of appetere"to long for, desire; strive for, grasp at,"

This blog is dedicated to my culinary lifestyle guru Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef and host of the inspiring show River Cottage. Haha, this picture captures Hugh in more ways than you could know :)

Lunch today was a tribute to Hugh:

pan fried mackerel (a sustainable species) stuffed with bread crumbs, parmesan, and chopped wet garlic stalks (wet garlic is what it is when you pull it out of the ground before you dry it). We pan fried the left-over stuffing so it got crispy and sprinkled it on the fish.

pasta salad with rocket (arugula), crumbled feta, broad beans (same as fava, I think), and the chopped bulb of the wet garlic, drizzled with olive oil and a dash of cracked black pepper.

oh my goodness. Talk about summer in your mouth. And for dessert I made gooseberry cheesecake in a glass with strawberries and raspberries on top (here, lots of people make cheesecake that sets in the fridge which you don't have to bake because there are no eggs in it).

All of the produce and the fish were from our farmer's market. Everyone should try mackerel. It was amazing. I don't know if you can get it fresh in the US, though. It's one of the most sustainable fish you can eat. I wish I could make this meal for all my loved ones.

That was last Saturday's lunch. This Saturday (yesterday) was rosemary-stuffed mackerel with asparagus. It's not only local seafood we've been trying. We also really like mutton after having made delicious mutton kebabs for our cookout in the meadows a few weeks ago. I actually like it better than lamb!

As another tribute to Hugh, Alex and I have become urban foragers. Don't worry, there's no illegal trespassing involved. Greyfriar's Church near us has planted several community herb gardens and we visited today. They were madly overflowing with fresh herbs that begged to be picked. We nibbled on their delicious wild strawberries while we sniffed out the different herbs. Here is our yield from today's forage:

These pix are also on facebook but I'll label them again anyways. From top to bottom, left to right: chamomile, tri-colored sage, spearmint, lemon verbena, oregano, thyme, variegated thyme, peppermint, and ginger mint. I think I'm gonna make some great tea :)

I hope we can find delicious things like mackerel and mutton back home or some new interesting thing we haven't tried before. Honestly though, if you want to enhance your culinary repertoire, you must travel to another country. I didn't think any of my tastes would change or any culinary adventures would come my way (besides haggis) in Scotland, the land of meat and potatoes. I was so wrong. When you have an amazing farmer's market, half of which is devoted to consciously raised and caught meat it's easy. You just have to be daring enough to try!

Hugh has taught us that you don't have to be a vegetarian to be serious about animal welfare. His holistic approach to meat (breeding, raising, butchering, and using the whole animal: a process from start to finish) gives animals the respect they deserve for providing us with their meat. I haven't tried brains or headcheese, but haggis is made of some offal things (teehee) that don't actually taste too bad. I enjoy supporting the local farmers who come to Edinburgh every Saturday with their goods. The meat is so much better than the stuff in the grocery store and I know I am supporting their efforts to produce humanely-raised and eco-friendly food. I'm really going to miss all the meats and fish local to Scotland so with my four farmer's markets left until I leave, I'll be eating as much mackerel, mutton, turkey mince, and venison as I can!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Matching Game!

Here's a vocabulary matching game. Some are easy and I've mentioned them before. Match the British word on the left with the correct definition on the right:

ice lolly                                    tired
bin                                           pacifier
neep                                        eraser
tattie                                        eggplant
banger                                     underwear
chips                                        Sprite
crisps                                       sidewalk
pudding                                    undershirt                               
biscuit                                      popsicle
crackers                                  flashlight
boot                                         amazed
knackered                                french fries
courgette                                  potato
aubergine                                 diaper
lemonade                                 procrastinate
lorry                                        sausage
dummy                                    trashcan
jumper                                     dessert
pants                                        rutabaga
pavement                                 cookie
vest                                         zucchini
torch                                        trunk
rubber                                      sweater
nappy                                       potato chips
faff                                          Christmas party favor
gobsmacked                              truck

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Twentieth Word: halcyon

halcyon- 1540s,  in halcyon dayes (L. alcyonei dies, Gk. alkyonides hemerai)14 days of calm weather at the winter solstice, when a mythical bird (identified with the kingfisher) was said to breed in a nest floating on calm seas. From halcyon (n.), late 14c., from L. halcyon, from Gk. halkyon, variant (perhaps a misspelling) of alkyon "kingfisher"

This word is fitting for two reasons. One, the album by Deerhunter that we listened to a lot on our trip is called Halcyon Digest. Two, halcyon means happy, joyful, carefree. Welcome to Skye.

The Isle of Skye was beautiful. My impressions of it from GoogleMaps street view were that it was mildly hilly but this couldn't be further from reality. From Glen Coe through Glen Shiel and up to Kyle of Lochalsh the highlands kept growing and Skye burst up from the waters to tower over the horizon. The first thing that greeted us was the Cuillin range. Beautiful, red-tipped cones that wind around the southern portion of the island. We had beautiful weather for the drive up but rain welcomed us onto Skye. We took a one lane road from Broadford along the southern fringe of the Cuillins to Elgol, hardly a town, to view the craggy mountains beyond the bay. See facebook for pix.

The first day consisted of our drive up, the drive to Elgol and back, and winding our way through the rain to our wonderful hostel on the western coast. After dinner the weather cleared up and we drove to Talisker Bay. Gorgeous cliffs, lots of sheep, and salty sea air. and a waterfall :)

We expected rain the entire time we were on Skye but Wednesday morning I woke up early to glorious sun and warm weather. While the others slept in, I took a walk down the lane our hostel was on just to catch views of the peninsula we were on. Living in the city, with the constant din of traffic, sea gulls and drunks shouting,makes me appreciate walks like this. Stillness, the glassy waters of the bay, sheep munching on grass, walking down the middle of the road the only person awake.

Excited by the prospect of sunny weather, the four of us packed into our tiny 2-door and we drove off to Portree, the largest, um, village in Skye. We took in the scenery while listening to great music like Beirut, Fleet Foxes, and Mumford & Sons. Portree is a charming harbor town with great views of the Isle of Raasay. We got coffees and delicious and cheap baked goods and strolled around town. Tummies satisfied, we headed to the Old Man of Storr. I expected this rock formation to be one of those where you pull off the road into a car park and you lean against the railing to take pictures of the monolith beyond. Nope. We parked on the side of the road and took the 2 mile trail up and up and up through the woods until we came out at the base of the Storr. As Sarah's blog will attest, we said "only a little further" about five different times and wound up spending a good two hours pretending to be mountain goats. The views were beyond words. They were beyond my picture-taking abilities too. I kept being struck by how mountainous everything I could see was. I don't know why I expected the mountains to flatten out as you get further from Fort William.

We drove up to Kilt Rock and the Quirraing which is stunning in it's own right but we were all needing bathrooms and were tired out from our previous hike. We continued our drive around the northern tip of the Totternish peninsula and decided on heading back to the hostel for dinner and resting. We spent our evening playing cards and listening to the live folk music provided by our hostel owners and some guests. It made me miss Scotland already.

Thursday morning we headed through a dreary Skye to Dunvegan castle. We didn't go in- it was so cold and wet outside and at that point we were so sick of driving. We took a beautiful drive on our way back to the bridge to Skye and headed home. Alex managed driving a stick shift with his left hand and driving on the left side of the road very well. Don't tell the rental company but I tried my hand at it too and it wasn't too bad.

Scotland is plain gorgeous. That's it. I feel so blessed to have been to places like Hungary, Romania, and Scotland- places that people often overlook. As any of our guests can tell you, Scotland is wonderful. It's hard not to think about our time winding down here but I am so glad we went to Skye. I am trying to make this place as much my own as I can before we go. It's gotten under my skin and I don't think it will let me go without a fight (heck, I'll be fighting too!). So that's all for now. Enjoy the facebook pictures.

Say What?
So far as I've heard, "Gaelic" is pronounced ga-lik (a as in apple) when it's referring to Scottish Gaelic and it's pronounced gay-lik when it's referring to Irish Gaelic.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Nineteenth Word: Dissertation

dissertation: 1610s "discussion, debate," from L. dissertationem, from dis- "apart"  + serere "to arrange words"

I suppose it's time to introduce you to my new on-again-off-again friend Dissertation. We met a while back, mid-April I believe. My professor introduced us. She's obsessed with compound words. Not any old compound words, mind you, but the kind you find in newspaper headlines. Things like 'Greek Debt Talks Widen Euro-Zone Divisions'. I think she's collecting them. You know, when I met her I thought we had a lot in common: a shared interest in words, linguistic persuasions of the lexicalist kind - I mean, I had just finished up a course on English Word Formation. Loved it! So I thought, sure, I'll give her a chance. Well, she dropped a bomb on me a few days later. I thought she was a Lexicalist but I come to find out over a nice cup of tea that she is kind of against that. She said she has onomasiological tendencies. Tendencies, ha! That's like the president of the NRA saying he has "conservative tendencies"! I was really mad that she had been lying to me this whole time. In hindsight though, there were signs. She kept hinting at it, giving me new "reading material". 

You should be glad to know she hasn't converted me. But I'm giving her side a chance. Truly, I like wrestling with her assertions and coming up with counter examples. But really, that's not my tendency as a linguist. I tend to hear a new theory and try and work with it (although this one's a toughie). We've been working through our differences for over a month now and while her theory is pretty progressive, it's still relatively new and there are definitely some holes. What's interesting to me though is she still hasn't given me any good reasons to think her collection of newspaper headline compounds actually work within the framework of her theory. So I've decided to take that task on and run a study, with the help of all of you, to see if we can make some headway. 

Let me explain a few terms you came across in the above paragraphs (if you're still reading, that is). Lexicalism is a theory of word formation (you know...forming words...) in which there are distinct processes like compounding (sailboat), attaching suffixes and prefixes (industrialize, restart), and several others. Lexicalism, the name, comes from the idea of the mental lexicon, which is just the dictionary we have in our heads of all the words we know. My word formation class focused on this school of thought. 

Onomasiologists, however, don't believe that compounding and suffixation etc are separate processes. Semantically (semantic has to do with meaning), all these processes have the same relationships. In other words, the words are related in the same way whether or not you compound or attach a suffix. For example, driver is "someone (the -er suffix) who drives" while a chairman is "someone (man) who chairs". both man and -er mean "someone who does something (a verb usually)". driver is formed adding a suffix while chairman is a compound. It seems the processes aren't different semantically. 

It seems that onomasiology makes sense from this standpoint and it would be pretty complicated to explain why I still hold the Lexicalist view. But I am trying to see how far Onomasiology can stretch as a theory to account for data that hasn't been studied - compounds that consist of 3 or more words (one of my favorites comes from The Atlantic: 'Russian Robot Collie Patent Sketches'. yes, Russian patent sketches for a robot dog. or is it patent sketches for a Russian robot dog? or is it sketches for a Russian patent of a robot dog?) See, the semantics -relationship between words- gets a little weird when you have so many parts.... So that's where you come in. I'm going to test your instincts as to what compounds like 'Russian Robot Collie Patent Sketches' mean. And then I'm going to see how well this Onomasiology Theory stands up to my data. 

Bless you for sticking with this til the end. I promise I won't make you read my dissertation ;)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Eighteenth Word: London

London - 
Chief city and capital of England, L. Londinium (c.115), often explained as "place belonging to a man named Londinos," a supposed Celtic personal name meaning "the wild one" (

So, like a guest ale on at the local pub that you've never tried, here am I, Alex, to treat you to tales of shenanigans and misadventures of the trip that Adam, Mike and I had in Longdong. Adam and I traveled all day by plane, train and automobile to get to London where we met Mike. It was like we had the band the back together again. We looked it too, what with our stylish facial hair and their hip black glasses. We said our yo mans, hugged, did our secret handshakes etc. and started walking to the hostel. Thus commenced the walking of the trip. We did a lot of walking.

We got to the hostel and napped a bit before heading out and exploring our area. We were in the Southwark borough, pretty close to London Bridge. We found a pub with a good happy hour special and drank some real ales (slightly chilled, lightly carbonated English brews, cask conditioned and served. Oh, okay, I won't steer off course yet.), had some dinner and ended our Thursday night at a place called the Trinity, an empty-ish pub next to our hostel. It was there that we ran into Dana, a "short-blonde-druggie-hipster-chick" as Adam described her. She was an American that had studied there a couple of years and so knew the city, and was returning to visit some friends. She was super talkative and excited to give us a local's guide to the city. She gave us her map and circled a bunch of places that we should go, for example: Holland Park, an adult playground, with a zipline and a huge tire swing where peacocks run free; Primrose Hill, where we can see great views of the city; Fabric, a pub/club six stories underground with an amazing laser light show. Okay, I guess I don't remember any other place she told us to go, because those were the only places we were really interested in. 

Friday was our big day. We wanted to hit Holland Park for the zipline and peacocks, and since it was past Hyde Park we'd go through that too. After that would be Primrose Hill, and after that we'd grab a drink with Audrey and her boyfriend Lee at near Victoria Station, where they were coming in to London to visit with Lee's aunt for a few days. So. We started walking from our hostel to Westminster Bridge to see that and Parliament Square and Big Ben. Beautiful. Tons of people. From there we walked through St. James's Park and Green Park, then into Hyde Park. On the way we got a frisbee and played next to a lake. It was a beautiful day. We found this tree that was like a house, and we hung out in it for a while before we kept going. So many monuments to writers, important philosophers, Albert, King whats-his-name, the war, yer mom, you name it. We finally got to Holland Park, after going through I don't know how many neighborhoods and parks and stuff, and it seemed like basically a normal park. We found a map of it on a sign and found where the "adventure playground" was, and headed that way. On the way there was an orangery, which I'm still not sure what that is, but it looked cool - old buildings, modern sculptures, giant chess board, you know, normal orangery stuff,  I'm sure. 

Finally, after walking for probably 4 hours,  we arrived at the playground. It was a bit of - okay, a big - letdown. Tons of toddlers with their late 20s early 30somethings mums. Yeah, there was a zipline. Yeah, a big tire swing. But we were hoping to bring beers here and laugh at peacocks fighting while playing on giant adult-sized seesaws. Me and Mike made the best of the tarzan swing while trying to glance away from all of the moms' stares before we said bye-bye. Looking back, we maybe shouldn't have trusted Dana so much. What with all the talk of acid and ecstasy, I'm pretty sure the peacocks must've been a hallucination. Oh well. We saw a lot of London we'd probably never see otherwise. We made it to Primrose Hill (by bus) and that was pretty. At least that wasn't a hallucination. 

Friday night (ha! and you thought our day was over! shhyeah, right!) we wanted to visit the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) Pub of the Year 2010-11, The Harp. It was near Covent Gardens, and we couldn't really find it. We had gone to another pub before that and we were kind of lost as to which direction the pub was in. I was on the phone with Julia and she was on the computer figuring out where we were in relation to the pub ("wait, so you're still on Long Acre?!") and so eventually we just gave up. Continuing down the wrong street, we found this little tiny alley (only about two feet wide) and walked down that, just because. It opened up eventually and there were people drinking in the alley and a door that was propped open. We went in and found the coolest little pub, with 10 or so real ales on and sweet decor. We went out front to see what pub we were in, and of course, you guessed it. The Harp. *Brrrriiinggg!* We stayed there for some nice Sambrooks ales, but because we couldn't find it, it was almost closing time, and couldn't stay long. We left to have a beer on a footbridge over the Thames. "Epic," as one passerby commented.  On the way back, we were taking photos of Mike doing embarrassing things like jumping off of things and stuff, and Adam took the camera and ran off down some stairs. He said he thought we were following him, but we went around to meet him at the bottom. When we got there, he wasn't. We called, and waited, and got mad, and worried, and eventually after an hour or so, took a bus back to our hostel. When we got back to the hostel around 2:30, he wasn't there. We started really worrying then, like what if he got mugged, etc? There were some bikes you could rent by the hostel, and we jumped on them and headed down the route we thought he probably took, maybe down London Bridge, and around that vicinity. No luck. After an hour or so we decided Mike would head back to the hostel and text me if Adam was there. He was. Asleep. Awesome. What a sweet Friday, huh? 

Saturday. Since I've already written an entire book and you stopped reading up before the Harp, I'll put this in nice easy bullets.
-Westminster Abbey costs £16 per person to get into. Plus a really long line, not worth it, for us.
- I saw a zombie dwarf running down London Bridge. Freaky.
- We walked a ton again, this time down Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street, and Oxford Circus, just kind of shopping and seeing things. Got some cheap stuff at Primark. Busiest, scariest Primark ever. 
-We went back to the Harp Saturday night and saw Matthew Fox (from LOST) there. Cool.
- I guess that's it.

Overall, London was awesome. By Sunday we were limping like senior citizens from all the walking, but I think for the most part, that was okay. We saw a lot of London for how short a time we were there, and we had a lot of fun. London's got so many different parts to it - an old, majestic part, a cool hipster part (though we never did make it to Fabric), a modern business-y part, a super commercial part with tons of street performers swallowing balloon animals and stuff. And there's tons of cool parks. But you know, any city remotely like that I think is gonna be cool when you're with guys like Adam and Mike. You can't help but have fun, even when your feet feel like they're gonna fall off. 

Say What?
London : Longdong, Fundon... anyone got any other good ones?  

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sixteenth Word: York

York-a city in northern England, O.Eng Eoforwic, earlier Eborakon (c.150), an ancient Celtic name, probably meaning "Yew-Tree Estate"

My family spent Saturday through Wednesday in Edinburgh. We saw all the typical sights: the castle, the palace, the parliament, Calton Hill, the Meadows, Arthur's Seat, Craigmillar Castle, the Royal Mile and Princes Street Gardens. We had tea at cute little Clarinda's on the Royal Mile after visiting the palace. This place is your grandma's house with pencil sketches of dogs, pictures of girls with dolls, and doilies everywhere. We all discovered "cream tea" which is actually a scone with butter jam and whipped cream served with a cup of tea. Delish! We met up with Sarah over the weekend because her group from Calvin was visiting. We had birthday dinner Saturday night. Linnea and Alex made chicken risotto.

Monday we went to North Berwick for my birthday. It's this adorable seaside town with the National Seabird Center. We got to see puffins and all kinds of seabirds that nest out on the rocks in the Firth of Forth. Bass Rock is 3 miles off the coast and is 300 feet tall. It was huge! and so beautiful. It was a rather grey day but eventually cleared up and we beach combed and hunted for seashells in the afternoon. Whereas the Highlands reminded me of the Pacific northwest in a way, North Berwick reminded me a lot of Cape Cod and the east coast. Tuesday we went to the place where Alex cooks, David Bann, for dinner before going to see Alex perform in Rent.

Thursday, we took the train to Newcastle, rented a car, and drove to Housesteads, a Roman fort built in 124AD. We walked along Hadrian's wall, the wall dividing the Roman south from the Scottish/Pictish (?) north. Alex went back to Edinburgh because he had performances all weekend and the rest of us took the train to York to meet up with Sarah and  Mike.

York is so cute! It has a charming little old town, a beautiful minster, and the flowers and trees were all in bloom. Sarah showed us all the typical sights. We visited the minster and it's crypt and walked through the Shambles (a street on which all the buildings are droopy, saggy, falling apart and yet remaining upright-apparently Diagon Alley in the HP books was modeled after it). We rented a river boat and cruised down the Ouse for an hour. We got gelato and ate Yorkshire puddings the size of dinner plates. It was quite a charming town.

On my favorite day in York, we rented a car and drove north to the Yorkshire Moors. We stopped at Rievaulx Abbey which is set in an idyllic valley with sheep, rolling hills, and only about five cottages nearby. The abbey is a huge ruin, the largest I've seen yet and by far the best I've been to. I LOVED it. It was so beautiful (made better by the 65 degree weather!). We traveled through the villages of Helmsley and Hutton-le-Hole. We eventually ended up at Castle Howard (not actually a castle but a grand country estate). It had beautiful grounds that we enjoyed in the warm weather! Back to York for dinner.

Our last day, we stayed in town. Mom and dad went to the Yorkshire museum while Sarah, Nene, Mike, and I got gelato (yes at 10am). We visited the Minster and its crypt, ate at Sarah's favorite cafe Middleton's, and walked the city walls. Another glorious day. To escape all of the Saturday crowds, we rented a river boat for an hour and cruised down the Ouse. York is definitely a place to visit when in the UK. It is very charming and  cute. Made all the better because we could see where Sarah has spent the semester.

I know this blog is way past due but my life after my parents left Edinburgh has consisted of papers, papers, papers. Then Laura, my cousin, visited last week (much fun!) and Adam is here this week and next. I've got an exam Tuesday and my dissertation proposal due a week from Monday ("Meaning Predictability in Compounding and Phrasal Attribution"). We're on the final leg of our journey now but I'm sure we'll make the most of it this summer :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fifteenth Word: Caledonia

Caledonia Roman name of part of northern Britain, taken from the name of former inhabitants, of unknown origin, perhaps Celtic; since 18c, applied poetically to Scotland or the Scottish Highlands.

Edinburgh never fails to greet my guests with terrible weather. For a lucky few, the weather has only misbehaved for the first day. My family happens to be some of the lucky few. Fort William, however, knew we were coming to visit before seeing Edinburgh and put on a spectacular display of whipping wind and rain.  The family arrived two Thursdays ago and Alex and I met them at the airport where we rented a van to drive up to Fort William for two days.

The drive up was gorgeous: full of "oohs" and "ahhs" and one giddy "Oh, run!" from Linnea about the first frolicking lamb she saw (we don't get much of those in the US). Sadly, it is lambing season and the lambs received a majority of the "ooh look!"s from my family (they were really cute though....).

The highlands were huge. The mountains were at least twice the size I expected them to be. Their foreboding immensity was not only accentuated by the driving rains, whipping wind, and menacing grey clouds but by their treelessness. No one cared about the weather when it came to taking pictures. Too gorgeous for words! I've seen a lot of the world but the Scottish highlands would be part of my top recommendations. Something about this place resonates with me. I guess mountains always do....

Around late afternoon the weather quieted down and we reached Fort William. We drove to Inverlochy Castle, a ruin, which we romped around in and on and through. Quite fun and, I believe, the first castle experience for the family. We drove to our chalet next which had a great view of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. The air was humid but thick with the smell of campfires. We were in our element! After unpacking, we walked around the horse farm that the chalet owners run. Beautiful horses and an idyllic setting for a farm. Alex and Dad cooked us a "gorgeous" dinner of local mussels, scallops, and monk fish which we had picked up in Glencoe.

The next day we took a train over the Glenfinnan viaduct which made its debut in the second Harry Potter film. So what if it was raining. Harry Potter beats rain, always. It was so much fun. We walked around Glenfinnan and up to the viaduct. It was a fun but soggy morning. After getting lunch in Fort William, we drove through the Great Glen (gorgeous again!) as the skies cleared up. We hiked to a distant waterfall tucked back in the mountains. It was a wonderful and challenging hike up through the mountains. Unfortunately, my camera decided not to save about half my pictures from this hike and then it died entirely. Bah. At least I have memories! Such a fun two days. Blogs about the week in Edinburgh and the trip to York yet to come.

Say What?

A' Ghàidhealtachd which means Highlands in Scottish Gaelic. It's pronounced (I think) geh-uhl-dechg where the 'ch' is like the one in Scottish "loch"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fourteenth Word: Outwith

As a sort of "Say What?" substitute, the title of this blog is for my dad who recently had an encounter with this word. Outwith means 'beyond' or 'outside of.' You will hear it used especially if you call any businesses outwith their normal business hours. It's mostly found in Northern England and Scotland.

Jordan, Alex, and I took advantage of this 55-degree sunny day (and as a celebratory end to classes and some papers) by going to the Pentland hills to the southwest of the city. We took a 45 minute bus ride out and promptly got ourselves lost. After a quick GoogleMaps search, Jordan (and Al's intuition) got us back on track. We wandered through the neighborhoods of Balerno Village, passed through a neighborhood woodland walk, and meandered past farmland to finally arrive at the trail head towards Harlaw Reservoir at the base of some of the hills. I was struck by how much of our walk thus far reminded me of Michigan. The trail we took looked like the one you would take to Hoffmaster beach in MI. The roads we wandered down reminded me of Lowell. I feel so at home in the countryside because it is so familiar to me.

The reservoir walk was a beautiful trek around the waters with trees on one side and sheep-grazing fields on the other. I will admit I can't help taking pictures of stone walls. Probably because they are less common back home. But the texture, color, moss, lichen, shape, how they settle right into the landscape, make them such good subjects for photographs. We found some strange ruins that seemed to still be in use for something but they looked so cool against the hills that we had to walk through them. We wanted to climb some hills but Alex had to be to work so we just enjoyed our walk around the waters. The day was indescribably beautiful (especially for Scotland). Don't get me wrong, Scotland can provide some beautiful days but a long, dark, and dreary winter makes these days even more beautiful.

Getting out into the countryside adds so much depth to my experience here. Not even the countryside, a different neighborhood will do. Just knowing places. Getting out of my immediate experience so I can really experience. I am so looking forward to going to Fort William next week with my family. The highlands are beautiful. I've posted some pictures on facebook of our day. I hope they make you want to come to Scotland some day. It seems like such a forgotten place to the rest of the world, but it is so beautiful!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thirteenth Word: Luck

Luck 15c. from Mid. Du. luc, shortening of gheluc "happiness, good fortune," of unknown origin. Related to Mid. High Ger. g(e)lücke, Ger. Glück "fortune, good luck."

Brittany came to visit this week and the week started out on the wrong foot. It was actually our feet that led to the problems. I went to pick Britt up from the bus stop. Since she didn't have a cell I decided to just wait for her about an hour after her (early morning) flight landed. So I was out at the bus stop around 8 am. Bus after bus passed and Britt wasn't on any of them. After an hour, I decided to walk around the block (the bus only comes every 10 mins so I figured I had some time). As I was coming back around the corner I saw an Airport Bus at the stop and ran ahead in case Britt was waiting there. When I got there though she wasn't there. So I waited another 45 minutes at the stop. I was getting worried because I didn't know where she was and I figured she would have been on the bus by now. I decided to walk home and check my facebook because she had been leaving me updates on her travelling through fb. I don't know why but halfway home I had a change of heart and turned around. I crossed the street and almost right away heard someone call my name. Yep, Britt. She was standing right there where I crossed to, not really near the bus stop she was supposed to be at. Turns out, she got off the very bus I had missed because of my little venture around the block. She had panicked when she didn't see me waiting for her and walked all the way down Princes Street (almost a mile). We had 2 phone messages from her ("Please find me!") and for some reason she just thought she'd wait for me on the street that happened to be the way to my flat. oh. and it was raining the whole time.

But since then we've been to the palace, up Arthur's Seat, to an American football game, to Glasgow for a day of shopping, down the Royal Mile, and through Princes Street Gardens. And the weather has been gorgeous! It's been really fun having her visit. Hopefully we'll get to Calton Hill tomorrow and that should pretty much round out our touristy activities.

Say What?

A few nights ago we had our British friends over (always perfect fodder for Say What?. I happened to use the phrase "thick as a brick" and they both started laughing at me. So I asked what they would say instead: Thick as two short planks ("you know, stacked on top of each other.")

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Twelfth Word: Scot

Scot: O.Eng Scottas (pl.) "inhabitants of Ireland, Irishmen," from Late Latin Scotti (c.400), of uncertain origin, perhaps from Celtic (but answering to no known tribal name; Ir. Scots appears to be a Latin borrowing). The name followed the Irish tribe which invaded Scotland after the Romans withdrew from Britain in 423 C.E., and after the time of Alfred the Great the O.Eng word described Irish who had settled in the northwest of Britain.

Rain. Gah. Sarah and Mike came for the weekend, and their trip coincided perfectly with the only rainy weekend in 2011. We had a marvelous time though and the rain just gave us an excuse to make homemade pizza and play a bunch of games. Of the touristy things, we did go to Calton Hill, the Parliament, the ruins on Arthur's Seat, through Princes Street Gardens and along Princes Street. It was wonderful to see family from home.

The previous week Alex and I went to a Robert Burns' dinner. Rabbie Burns is Scotland's national poet (a "Great Scot!" if there ever was one). Basically, the dinner is haggis, neeps, and tatties. But before digging in, the haggis must be addressed. Yes, you must address the haggis. Rabbie wrote a poem called "To a Haggis" which was sung before (for?) the haggis:

I have to add the first stanza here because it's just so funny:
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,  (sonsie means pleasant)
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race! 
Aboon them a' yet tak your place, (aboon is above)
Painch, tripe, or thairm: 
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace (wordy is worthy)
As lang's my arm. 

This haggis was the mother of all haggises. Holy cow! (or whatever it's made of). It was over a foot long!

For reference, normal haggises are about 5 inches long and 3ish inches wide. It was very tasty though. Alex and I thought it would be funny if instead of saying there was an elephant in the room (something no one wants to talk about) that we would say, "Maybe we should address the haggis." :) I love language!

This week I attended proofreading training and am now a volunteer proofreader for the school. Undergraduates who aren't native English speakers can send in their essays to be proofread by one of us. Also, we've gotten the first round of essay assignments. I should be working on them but blogging is more fun. (oh yes, I've chopped about 6 inches off my hair too).

Finally, yesterday Jordan and I went on the trip with the International Student Center to Bamburgh Castle in England and Melrose Abbey in Scotland. The bus ride was through beautiful farmland lined by hedgerows and filled with sheep. The route hugged the coast so we had beautiful views of headlands and crashing waves. Bamburgh Castle is the last inhabited castle in the UK (I think). The inside wasn't as beautiful as the outside. I really enjoyed going down to the beach and smelling the refreshing sea breeze. It made me miss Lake Michigan! We had only a short amount of time at Melrose Abbey. As a result, there were 117 of us scrambling around taking pictures. The Abbey ruins were beautiful (check out the facebook pix)! The area around was so hilly and green. We passed manor houses set into the hills with four smoking chimneys and circular drives. Man, to be born into wealth in this country! It was a lovely escape for a day.

Say What?
I don't think I've told this story yet.
The background info is that Alex worked at The West Room for a week or so with Rory before he decided to take the job at Pierre Victoire. Well, Alex quit Pierre Victoire after having a terrible time with the other kitchen staff and after a confrontation arose one day. He sort of stormed out. Well, Al had mentioned quitting to his former boss at The West Room and that boss told Rory that Alex came to work drunk when he quit. We couldn't figure out why that guy would lie about Alex like that. That's when Al realized he told the boss that he was really pissed and decided to quit. We had a good laugh because over here pissed means drunk but in America it means really angry.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Eleventh Word: Dandelion

This etymology has nothing to do with anything but it's an interesting one!
dandelion: early 15c., from M.Fr. dent de lion, lit. "lion's tooth" (from its toothed leaves), translation of M.L. dens leonis. Other folk names refer to the plant's more authentic diuretic qualities, preserved in M.E. piss-a-bed and Fr. pissenlit "piss in bed".

It's a new year and a new semester, and life is passing every more quickly. I can't believe January is almost at an end! I have so many things to look forward to this semester and hardly any of them are school related! My sister and her fiance will be arriving in the UK this upcoming week to begin their semesters abroad in York and London, respectively. Sarah and Mike are planning to visit in the beginning of February. Our first guests from home! My friend Brittany is coming in the end of February, and then my family is coming the first week of April (the same week that the musical Al is in is opening!). Our friend Adam will be visiting in May sometime. I can't wait to show off this city!

This week has been busy catching up with everyone who was gone over the holidays. We celebrated our friend Jason West's birthday last night with some rounds of poker and a game of Huggermugger (a dorky linguists' game that we love). Tonight we are going to see our friend John Green's band play in Grassmarket. A few of our friends from church are in his band so it should be a good time! Al is going to Glasgow with some friends for a Sleigh Bells concert tomorrow night, too. (Bonus points to the English nerd who can tell me how to properly "possessify" the phrase "my friend x's" which I attempted twice in this paragraph! ahem, Sarah VanderMolen and Emily Cutter...)

Now for the nitty-gritty. I'm taking only three classes this semester: English Word Formation, Dialectology of the British Isles, and Optimality Theory (yuck). I'm enjoying having so much free time because I'm in denial about having to select a research topic in the next few months (meaning, I should be in the library trying to find a topic). Still haven't gotten marks back from last semester's work :(

When you're immersed in a field for so long, it's easy to take for granted that other people might have no idea what that field is about. Linguistics is definitely one of those fields because it is so small (relatively speaking). What I love about linguistics, though, is that everyone is a linguist in a way, they just don't know it. Everyone (with veeery rare exceptions) has a mastery of language. Everyone speaks grammatically. Everyone can control and manipulate language according to rules in their brains that they aren't even aware of at a conscious level. The more I learn about linguistics, the more the human brain amazes me. Babies are geniuses! More so than adults, at least when it comes to language. But the sheer amount of linguistic information that our brains process in mere nanoseconds is ridiculous! Computers don't even compare! Linguistics is at the same time, foreign language learning, history, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, metacognition, and mathematics. It is not a field for the faint of heart.

It's hard to convince people why I am in a field that won't make me a lot of money and has limited job possibilities. Those people are very practically minded (and their is nothing wrong with that). But everyday I learn more amazing things about how God made our brains work so we can communicate with others. How can I not want to stand in amazement everyday after a great class or after reading books on language? Money is not as enticing to me as the fulfillment I get from being engulfed in wonderment on a daily basis. If you still don't understand, that's ok. I hope you have something that gets you excited about life and humbles you at the amazing-ness of it. Language is that for me.

Say What?

Ok, this is not a British thing, but Al and I are reading Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct and this is an excerpt (1994: 209):

"One of the first computer parsers [a computer that derives the different meanings of ambiguous sentences], developed at Harvard in the 1960s, provides a famous example [of computers getting it all wrong]. The sentence Time flies like an arrow is surely unambiguous...(ignoring the difference between literal and metaphorical meaning). But to the surprise of the programmers, the sharp-eyed computer found it to have five different [meanings]! (It helps if you re-read the initial sentence after you read each sentence below in order to get how the computer could have rendered that meaning)

1. Time proceeds as quickly as an arrow proceeds. (The intended meaning)
2. Measure the speed of flies in the same way that you measure the speed of an arrow.
3. Measure the speed of flies in the same way that an arrow measures the speed of flies.
4. Measure the speed of flies that resemble an arrow.
5. Flies of a particular kind, time-flies, are fond of an arrow.

Among computer scientists the discovery has been summed up in the aphorism 'Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.'" :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tenth Word: Fond

fond Instead of giving you an etymology, this word has an interesting syntactical usage. It is something called a "transitive adjective." Most adjectives don't take an object (like, "he is mad.") but fond must always take an object. No one can be fond. "I am fond" sounds weird. You must be fond of something. Well, these are things I am fond of.

I don't want to forget these things about Edinburgh. I don't think I will, and I'm sure I'll add to this list, but this is just to share with you pieces of the city that make me sigh, chuckle, or even drool.

1) If you look at a satellite view of Grand Rapids on GoogleMaps you'll notice the all too famous grid pattern of streets and city blocks, houses just far apart enough to keep out of your neighbor's personal bubble, backyards and front yards, space. In Edinburgh (especially Edinburgh), people literally live on top of each other. The city planners must have decided that just because a building was in a certain spot didn't mean they couldn't build something right on top of it, and not in the same style necessarily. There's even two hotels on a street near us that share a wall. Every building is squished together. I love it. It makes for that cute postcard look. But the twisty streets and bridges also make for a complex and photogenic Old Town. Victoria Street (West Bow) is my favorite curved street. It winds up a hill and at the top is another street that basically sits on top of all the roofs of the buildings lining Victoria Street. Plus, it's where the cheese monger has a shop.
The next two streets over are streets running under huge archways on top of which are other streets. The fourth street is another bowed street called Candlemaker Row. It's not only a maze, it's amazing! hardy har.

2) The Mosque Kitchen is this awesome (and inexpensive)outdoor....can you call it a restaurant? You walk in a door to get your (amazing!....or should I say "gorgeous"?) food from the two men serving it and walk back to the covered courtyard to eat the steaming hot curried chicken and rice with a huge, larger-than-a-plate, piece of naan. With all the pigeons, leaves, and the cold, it really has a feel of an outdoor soup kitchen. Everyone is bundled up and eat with plastic utensils. And of course, the delightful sign beckoning you to dispose of your trash is a proud and adorably ignorant display of linguistic ambiguity: "Please clear your dishes when finished in the bins provided." As if one may be having so much fun in the bins provided that they forget to clear their plastic "dishes."

3) The way our apartment faces, Alex and I can never see the sun, but I see the effects of it on the castle out our window. It reminds me of Monet and how he painted the Rouen Cathedral in different lighting. I wake up with that castle and go to sleep with it. It stands out orange against a darkening blue sky; tinges of pink speckle the bricks in the early morning when the sun is in the east; the upward shafts of light illuminate this monument through the long hours of darkness. Sometimes lights are on all night and I pretend a princesses is in a fit of sleepless insomnia as her lover battles the British with William Wallace's army. Ok, maybe I don't go that far, but I do wish I could wear pretty Jane Austen dresses all the time and run around palace grounds like a princess shirking her royal obligation to poise and reputation. You try having a castle out your window sometime and see how your thoughts wander!

4) Edinburgh is rife with fodder for "Say What?". Some of our favorite examples are:

-Bin your litter.
-No dog fouling.
-Beware of pedestrians.
-Park and display ("Have you paid and displayed?")

I guess I should save some examples for "Say What?" shouldn't I?

Say What?

Oregano. No, not o-RE-gah-no. It's o-re-GAH-no. No lie. It's weird.
Shallots. No, not SHA-lots. It's sha-LOTS. Where do they come up with this?
Basil is not BAY-zil, but BAA-zil (like the a in apple).
Corriander is what we call cilantro, both swede ("sweed") and turnip are names for what we call rutabaga, and pudding is any kind of dessert here (but mostly cakes). Our pudding is their custard.
Also, food can be for "eat in or take away" instead of for "here or to go."