Category Archives: Shakespeare

Whose language is it anyway?

Last week, BBC Radio 4 had a short feature on American words that have come into common usage on this side of the pond. Although it is not quite that simple! It would flagsseem that many of us Brits are using American words without being aware we are doing it. Or believing a term is American when in fact it has a long and noble record of usage in England.

Here are some of the points made in the programme (program?) along with a few of my own

  1. Words we know are American, but like anyway: Movie, cool, cookie. A lot of words came to England in the last century via films (movies), popular music and books: concrete overcoats, taken for a ride, bump off.  Somehow the American terms seemed more glamorous, especially to teenagers, who found them ‘cool.’

2. Words we know are American and tend to dislike, often because they are verbs that started out as nouns: to diarise, to reach out, to impact. Many of these terms were associated with business, so rather ‘uncool,’ as well as being less acceptable to an older, more conservative age-group.

3. Words that are in such common usage, we never think of as being American: hangover, commuter, double-decker. (So, if you commute into work on a double-decker bus suffering from a hangover – can you fool yourself that you are living the American dream?)

4. Words we are sure, wrongly, are American: gotten, trash, wow. In fact the first two appear in Shakespeare plays, and ‘wow’ is sixteenth century Scottish. The words probably travelled to America with the Pilgrim Fathers, got forgotten in the UK, and then travelled back to the old country in the twentieth century.

5. Words that appear both sides of the Atlantic, but mean something different: baby (UK – girlfriend/ darling), pants (UK – underpants), pavement (UK – where the pedestrians go, not the cars).

6. Words that mean the same, but are spelt differently: color, honor, program. It is commonly understood that Webster (of dictionary fame) pioneered this form of spelling as he wanted to standardise written American, and thought he’d simplify it whilst he was at it. True, but a lot of such words started out in English minus the ‘u’ etc. centuries ago, and just got embellished over time.

imagesThe Oxford English Dictionary lists 26.000 Americanisms in English. These, along with all the words we’ve adopted from the Greeks and Romans, India and beyond, just add to the richness of the language (and the confusion of foreigners and natives alike).

If you have enjoyed this blog, and would like to read more of my work, go to one of my Amazon author pages. Watch out for my collection of short, Shakespeare themed, stories due out shortly.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

Thirteen Tales From Shakespeare.

Today, for my #SundayBlogShare, I am delighted to reveal the news that Solstice Publishing has accepted my collection of short stories based on plays by Shakespeare. Iwilliam_shakespeares_first_folio_1623 had intended to get the collection ready for publication in 2016, the 400th anniversary of his death. But ‘stuff happens’ and I hadn’t written enough till earlier this year. So I’m celebrating the 401st anniversary instead!

The collection is called Cast Off. Each story is between 1,000 and 5,000 words long. Each has, as the central figure, one of the bard’s female characters. The story is built around what they might have been doing, or thinking about, during the times they were not on stage – writing their diary, arguing about what lines they’ve been given, wondering whether to go back on stage for the final act …

Mostly they are light-hearted. Although they make use of the plots in the plays, they are meant to engage the general reader who does not go to the theatre often,  let alone to Shakespeare; people who enjoy the occasional trip out to see a play by Shakespeare; and even people who know his work well (so may recognise the odd quotation or reference). But they shouldn’t upset the scholars either – there is nothing too iconoclastic!

Some people may have already read one or more of the stories, as four have appeared in different anthologies, published by Solstice, in recent years: lets have fun 3-001

Chains of Magic – The Food of Love

Journey to the Fair Mountain – A Winter Holiday Anthology

The Ghost Queen – Realms of Fantastic Stories, Volume 1.

A Midsummer Day’s Dream – Let’s Have Fun, Volume Three

All these anthologies are available from the Solstice website: http://www.solsticepublishing.com

Or via my Amazon author pages:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

 

 

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA

Welcome to another #Happy Everybody reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Journey to the Fair Mountain. This is a short e-book available from Amazon and Solstice Publishing. It is based on Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Why did Gertrude marry Hamlet’s father? And why did she marry his brother so quickly after his death? No one really knows, but ….

Excerpt:

“Come brother; do not keep our cousin standing there in the cold.” I looked up and saw for the first time another man, a lighted candle in his hand, framed in the glow of a great fire at the end of the hall. A big man, regal in his bearing. Older than his brother, who was still stroking my hand, yet not old like my father or the old retainer. His short hair was sable silvered, but his beard was still black and neatly trimmed. His eyes were steel grey and piercing and his mouth firm, though he smiled kindly enough as I approached. His height was remarkable—he was taller than any man I knew—and his shoulders were broad. He seemed to me like a Hercules among men. I could tell at once that this was someone who was used giving orders, and to them being obeyed. This time, there was no mistaking who this man was: the king, my future husband.

Blurb:

A young girl’s life is changed forever when her only brother is killed in a hunting accident. Only an arranged marriage to a distant cousin will save the family home for her mother and sisters when her father dies. Love doesn’t come into it.

Links:Journey to the Fair Mountain

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B019CULSW2

 myBook.to/JourneyToTheFairMountain

 Journey to the Fair Mountain also features in the Winter Holiday Anthology, published by Solstice (www.solsticepublishing. com): http://bookgoodies.com/a/B017T6UJ8K

Homophones and Homonyms

Do you know your homophones from your homonyms? Yesterday I was relocating a book on the history of English spelling that I had bought as a student. It had been written by my tutor, David Scragg, and I had hoped that buying it might improve my grades. It didn’t – though I suppose actually reading it would have helped!

Tucked in the book was an article from a newspaper. I’m not sure which one, or the date it was published. It was written by Charles Lewis, a barrister with an interest in language. His particular interest was the ambiguities in English and the problems this can cause ordinary folk, let alone lawyers.

His discussion of homophones and homonyms brought back memories of lecture halls in the ’70s that managed to be simultaneously  stuffy and drafty, and fellow students who managed to snooze peacefully through lectures on the more arcane areas of English grammar despite the uncomfortable wooden benches.

But the two ‘H’ words are quite fun. The examples given below may not work for all English speakers because we use different dialects, but you can probably think of your own word pairings that would.

Homophones are words that are pronounced in the same way, but are spelled differently, like Rome and roam, or horse and hoarse, or wade and weighed, see or sea. Teas / tease / tees. Rain /rein / reign. Homophones are words that sound the same, but come from different language roots (Anglo-Saxon / Latin / Greek etc.)

Homonyms, on the other hand, have the same spelling and pronunciation, but mean completely different things.  For example:  seal – the animal, and seal – the means of closing something; lock – hair or bolt; mine – colliery, or possessive; saw – tool, or past of the verb to see; see, the verb and see, a bishop’s area of responsibility. Again homonyms have come into common usage via different language roots.

There are also a whole pile of words that have the same spelling, but are pronounced differently: tear, wind, does. Lewis called these biphones.

A few words can fit all categories. One such is ‘row.’

  • Homophone – row (your boat) / roe (fish eggs)
  • Homonym – row (your boat) / row (of beans)
  • Biphone – row (your boat) / row (argument).

the-ghost-queen-001If you have enjoyed this article, and would like to find out more about my work, go to the Published
work page on this blog, or my Amazon Author pages.

My most recent work is a short story, The Ghost Queen. It is based  on Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, and is part of my Shakespeare’s women project. It is published by Solstice.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

myBook.to/GhostQueen

 

 

Everybody Reads YA

Welcome to ‘Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from a short story loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. A young girl is sent from her happy home and family to fulfill her father’s dying wish that she should marry a distant cousin and thereby save the family estate as a home for her mother and younger sisters. Unfortunately, when she arrives at her destination, it is her intended husband’s younger brother who first attracts her attention. The story is called Journey to the Fair Mountain.

Excerpt:

He had deep blue eyes and gave me a lingering smile as he held my hand. I felt a tremor Journey to the Fair Mountainpass through me that was more than just the cold. He held my hand tighter and put it to his lips, but the trembling did not stop, even as I curtseyed.
“Your hand is frozen,” he said, stroking it gently, and looking straight into my eyes. “It must have been a hard journey through the snow.” I nodded, and bit my lip to stop it quivering as I lowered my eyes, shy and awkward under his probing gaze, too awed to say we had had no snow that day. Was this the one? My future husband? And was it really less than a week since I left my own home? It felt such a long, long time ago.

william_shakespeares_first_folio_1623

 

Journey to the Fair Mountain is one of a number of short stories based on Shakespeare’s heroine’s activities off stage that I have been writing. A  number have already been published in anthologies and as stand alone e-books, and are available from Solstice Publishing, or from my author page on Amazon Books.

 

 

 

Links: 

Journey to the Fair Mountain:                                                                                                 http://bookgoodies.com/a/B019CULSW2                                myBook.to/JourneyToTheFairMountain

A Midsummer Day’s Dream: myBook.to/MidsummerDaysDream          http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01I0CB1WU

The Ghost Queen: myBook.to/GhostQueen

Chains of Magic: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00YYKOOLS                       myBook.to/ChainsOfMagic

 

 

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA

Hello and welcome to another ‘Happy Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Chains of Magic, a short story that appears in The Food of Love – an anthology released by Solstice Publishing in time for Valentine’s Day in 2015. The Food of Love contains 10 short stories that are suitable for adult and YA readers. Moreover, each story is linked to a particular recipe – hence the title.

Excerpt:

Brabantio hesitated before entering his office. He had felt helpless to argue. DesdemonaChains of magic could be very persuasive when she wanted to be and, in truth, he really loved sticky fig pudding. He would have been lost without her to sort the dinner arrangements. But was it what his wife would have agreed to? Would she herself have sat down with a black man, however noble? And would she have allowed her unmarried daughter to sit next to one? He doubted it. Oh dear, what troubles had he unleashed upon himself? He was sure no good was going to come of such a break from custom. His daughter would be doomed to spinsterhood, and he would be the laughing stock of Venice.

Blurb:

A few years ago I started on a project to imagine the life and thoughts of some of Shakespeare’s heroines when they are off stage. This story about Desdemona’s plans to woo and win Othello through food – and anything else it takes – is part of this project.

Links:

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00YYKOOLS  

myBook.to/ChainsOfMagic

Is it me or is it I?

 

Rules of grammar have long been a minefield for students and writers alike. Times change, the rules change, and – if you are a bit of a pedant like me, the anxiety about getting it right only increases as we get older. So I have found it comforting recently to read ‘guides’ by people like Olive Kamm who talks about grammatical ‘conventions’ rather than rules.

Take, for example, the use of ‘I’ or ‘me.’ Traditional grammarians and established writing style guides, such as Plain Words by Sir Earnest Gowers, state that the phrase: ‘Between you and me’ is correct, and ‘between you and I’ is wrong. Various arguments about nouns and conjoined pronouns, and coordinate phrases are put forward to support this. I won’t bore you with these – I don’t properly understand them myself!

Suffice to say that, whereas my preferred phrase will remain ‘between you and me,’ I william_shakespeares_first_folio_1623should not be sniffy about anybody who uses the other phrase. Particularly as one of the greatest writers ever uses ‘… you and I’ from time to time:

“All debts are cleared between you and I.” (Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice)

And he applies it to other pronouns too:

“Yes, you have seen Cassio and she together.” (Shakespeare, Othello).

If you write, and want to get your work published, you will find that publishers have a house style that you will be expected to comply with. This will often be in line with traditional grammar guides. Moreover, as I am finding as I write this, the spelling and grammar checks in Word and for my blog share my preference (Yay!)

However I shouldn’t get too smug about this. As Kamm has reminded me, I am writing in line with a convention not a rule. It isn’t a mistake or a sign of illiteracy to choose a different convention – and if you do, you can cite the most famous wordsmith in the world to support your decision. (Mind, as history shows,  it seems he wasn’t too sure how to spell his own name – but that’s a different story.)

Chains of magic

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, you may like to read one of the short stories from my Shakespeare project. Chains of Magic, based on Othello, is suitable for teen and adult readers.

 Links:

http://amzn.com/B00YYKOOLS

 http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00YYKOOLS  

myBook.to/ChainsOfMagic