Author Archives: Alan Paterson

Your health!

While reading group’s on hold, I’ve been reading a few books too long to get on the list – Anna Karenina currently. Never having read Tolstoy, I can immediately see why he’s so revered. Wonderful writing. He’s even given me a new word I hadn’t come across:  arbeitskur.

From one brother to another, after the latter returns from a day labouring in the field with the peasants. But what does it actually mean?

In other words, the idea that there is some health/therapeutic benefit to be had from a programme of honest physical toil. Which strikes me as eminently plausible.

Long as it’s clear

How long can a sentence be? The Gunning Fog Index gives this bit of Tolstoy…

…a rating of 17.73 – the number representing the number of years’ education a person would typically need to understand a given piece of text – yet in truth, this would be perfectly clear for anyone with even a basic grasp of written English. Showing yet again, if there was ever any doubt, that if the writing’s good enough, length really isn’t an issue.

Do wot mate?

Re-reading Stella Gibbons’s masterly Cold Comfort Farm, I was struck by the richness, not to say  ‘foreignness’ – of the English spoken down in darkest Sussex:

Gibbons is enjoying herself! Nevertheless, it seems likely that the English she captures was actually prevalent in parts of rural England as recently as the ’30s (when the story is set). I think it extremely unlikely that much of it survives today, after nearly a century of the levelling powers of radio and, more particularly, television.

Arguably communication will be the gainer – clarity and character are often, sadly, at odds – but it does seem rather a shame. You can’t help but wonder how much regional dialect will survive, say another century, or whether we will all, by 2120, be conversing (if not in Mandarin) in a flavourless if functional mid-Atlantic commodity-English. Or, to put it another way, American.

(Staggering typo-count, in passing – three in just that one para, for example – so much so, that I was moved to make a little YouTube vid about it.)

Come again?

This is getting to be a habit: coming across ads whose promise is entirely hidden from me.

I could google, of course, and find out what a 3D scan is (for starters), but as it stands the only message this banner conveys to me is my own cultural obsolescence. Oh well, whatever a 3D scan is, I’m pretty sure I don’t need one, and I’m sure the assets will continue to trend with or without my comprehension.

Nasty, brutish and short

Stella Gibbons, in her intro to Cold Comfort Farm (highly recommended, by the by, if you feel you could use a bit of cheering up in these days of gloom):

Must confess I do tend to focus on saying exactly what needs saying in short sentences. Then again, business copy is pretty much journalism-in-spades by Gibbons’s definition: words with a job to do.