January 11th, 2006

Fishy Circumstances

Always Winter, Never Christmas

"Always Winter, Never Christmas." It had been that way in Narnia for over a hundred years, as long as the White Witch reigned there.*

In Ontario, Iowa, and Massachusetts, the northerly province and states I've lived in, Christmas was just the beginning of winter. In Iowa, the first snowflakes fell the week of Halloween, and we were sometimes snowed in at Thanksgiving; yet there might still be substantial amounts of snow on the ground come March. In Toronto, winter hardly began before Christmas. The worst of it was in January and February, trailing off through March and usually gone by early April. In Massachusetts, even if winter was usually well over by then, late-season storms could dump down heaps in April; piles of residual snow often still stood in the shadows of buildings come spring semester finals.

Britain, in contrast, has clement weather. That there was snow at all this year shows that winter was worse than usual. Yet here it is, not even mid-January, and the prospect of spring hangs in the air. Tips of new-grown grass show green after the past few days' chill rain. It's not a mid-winter thaw, not here. Within the next few weeks, there will be daffodils. Here, spring follows shortly after Christmas**, just as the Beavers promised the Pevensies.

* If I remember correctly. I don't have the books in this country.
** And oh, have we had Christmas. We're still not done with it - we'll have more of it this weekend in D.C.

For those dictionary junkies among you, the OED is free for two days a week for the next month, thanks to the BBC's etymology show, Balderdash and Piffle! More precisely, the whole resource will be available for 48 hours after each episode broadcasts. (from 22:00 GMT on Mondays to 22:00 GMT on Wednesdays), until February 13th. The whole thing, available online, for your delectation. The OED is one of the things I use most through U of T's e-resources. I will miss my login. (Thanks to juniperus for reminding me what the tv show promised and I didn't quite believe when I heard it.)
Vanitas desk

ȝ-related items

Yesterday, the BBC posted an article on why "Menzies" is pronounced "MING-iss". The answer is tied up in the death of a letter of the English alphabet, the yogh (ȝ), and its typographic re-identification with the letter Z.

The member of the BBC Pronunciation Service quoted in the article is a friend of mine, from all the way back when I took Syntax at UMass and she was doing a year abroad there. I am endlessly delighted that that the BBC has a dedicated pronunciation service. Last I knew, they had three dedicated staff members to support the enormity of the BBC's pronunciation needs.

Also on the subject of yoghs, or at least Old English, Mark Sundaram, over at Allitera.tive (allitera_tive) has been posting again recently. Some of you may know him from times past at Toronto or elsewhere in the world of medievalia.