Naming your Etymology,

Having a spare hour or so in my local town I decided to do something quite out of the ordinary for me and many thousands even in our own country. I went to our library. But this was not a whimsical visit I had a purpose. For a few days I was wondering why we use our most common word ‘the’. Now I know every word is just a sound but ‘the’ is quite a weird one. Many of our words have come from our varied ancestral languages that now make up English.  But ‘the’ is a weird sound it has a guttural sound to it, but we use the very front of our mouth to form the start of the sound and then the deepest part of our throat to finish it. It is basically just a pronounced grunt.

 

I struggled through high school French, and my few weeks attempt at German became laughable. But one thing always intrigued me, was the gendering of objects. This I always found wrong, she is a table he is a door etc. Why didn’t every body just do away with gendering and do as we do and make it inanimate? So after almost 40 years of belief in our superior system, you can imagine my shock at the discovery that we once gendered our furniture.

 

But as I thought about it a little deeper, we do still gender some items don’t we. For hundreds of people out there their car is female, and many carry names. I grew up with a tree in the garden we affectionately knew as ‘the old man.’  It is if not captivating it is at least thought provoking to ponder the beginnings of words.

 

It’s a  testament to our language that there is no defining figure to how many words there are. Arguments are in the region of 1.2 million words, why are we using the words we are speaking now.

I love words, I love this amazing English language. The rolling beauty, of a poem. The rising euphoria created by a speech before war. The linguistic skills of a rapper.  Even the basic answer of a child

 

Sadly my command of the language and its punctuation eludes me. I have tried to tame the ordered world of the comma and full stop. The split infinitive and third person commentary are secret codes that I can not crack. I was once told that my mind races on over the horizon and my thoughts don’t wait for comprehension to catch up. A mind that creates good grammar is likened to a pack of lions hunting; each knows its place and role, where as mine is more like a herd of springbok evading capture.

 

Thankfully programmes written by those who do understand such things are available for me to use and I can make somewhat understandable sense of my thoughts. This brings me onto the meaning of Names.

 

 

This is where our language lets us down. Many of our names have lost their ancestral homes. Do Mr. and Mrs Fletcher still make arrows? Does young David Walker still trudge daily in vats of urine soaked clothes setting the dye?

Mr Baker, Smith, Carpenter, Weaver. All these names are now carried by people who have forgotten the feel of the tools that gave them their name.

 

Then there are our first names, my own is carried by both genders but with different meanings as a male like my self it means ‘supplanter’ for the female ‘conqueror’. I have never asked my parents why they called me ‘Jamie’ it was probably due to it being a derivative of my fathers ‘James’. When we named our own children, my wife and I used names that connected with us in different ways. Our oldest was after a song, my only boy after a character in a book who we admired, the next girl down was another derivative, this time after my wife’s name then the last one because well we were running out of ideas and we liked the sound of it.

 

But what if our names were to truly reflect our personalities, like they once did? Would our names sound smooth and gentle, caring or protective? Or would they sound harsh, bitter, angry, even jealous?

 

If someone close to you were to name you to a stranger with one word what would they name you? Would you like to be named for your looks, or your wealth? Would you to prefer them to name you after your personality, or you intellect? Imagine a world where all females looked exactly the same and all men were perfect copies, yet that was the only change. Would your character shine bright enough to stand out? Would your name be; Joy, Kindness, Love, Patience. Or would it be Vapid, bitter, jealous, angry?

 

So what is your name?

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Bite sized Life!

My oldest daughter has a friend over the other day, who mentioned that she did not like reading. I would have been surprised but only a few days before I read that National Literacy Trust released info that 17% of children and teenagers would admit to be embarrassed if found reading.

As an avid reader a husband to an avid reader and thankfully a father to four children who enjoy reading. This study I actually find to be very sad. A little delving and I started to understand her statement. It wasn’t that she didn’t read or that she was embarrassed to read it was just that she found that concentrating long enough and holding the information in her head about different characters was difficult.

Now I am sure that if we threw Shakespeare at any fourteen year old, they would balk at the weight of the book let alone at the words used between the covers. But we do have thousands of children who are now in their mid teens, who have never had to concentrate on anything for longer than thirty minutes.

As very small children we teach them to read by giving them a book with ten maybe fifteen words on a page explaining the whole story. (I am not knocking this it is the best way to learn to read). The problem is everything is now aimed a the most base level of understanding. Television programmes are interrupted four maybe five times an hour for advertising. The story is stopped people can think over the last ten minutes of viewing and digest it then continue on with the next ten minutes. You can watch the first two minutes of the ‘Ten o’clock news’ get the bulletin and then walk out of the room with just enough info to ensure the world isn’t going to end before Saturday.

Even the scourge of this decade ‘Social Media’ everything is delivered instantly and quickly as possible. I am not going to go on for ages about our language becoming despoiled as I believe that language itself is a living thing and adapts to its time. Don’t forget it wasn’t that long ago we used ‘fall’ instead of ‘autumn’ even our most common word ‘the’ is relatively new to our language.

Back on track sorry. Instant gratification is almost now seen as a human right. We want everything now! Instant food has become the norm rather than a once a month treat. Credit, and not just money but everything tangible, clothes, tech, even cars.

We can wake up in the morning with nothing and by the time we go to bed we can have a wardrobe full of clothes, enough tech to fly to the moon and back a very nice car on the drive outside and a holiday booked to South of France. But none of it is paid for.

Or instant life has set our culture on a downward spiral. There are a few that try to buck the trend, cooking everything from scratch, making their own clothes. This should be the way forward but it is always going to be a struggle as our whole country is against it. The economy isn’t made for slow cook lamb. It is cheaper to but a pair of jeans, made for almost slave labour in a far flung country, have it driven to the port, put on a container ship, sailed from the other side of the world to Rotterdam, driven through three countries put on another ship driven to a depot then delivered to a store where they then sell them for £14.99 and still make a profit. If you try buying enough denim to make a pair of jeans it will cost you. at £7.85 per metre. nearly £40.  Also no school teaches enough of the original sowing, or for that matter cooking skills.

What does this have to do with not enjoying reading I hear you say! Well it’s just that our culture doesn’t encourage anybody to think for them selves anymore. Having to work out a problem in your head is not something even children have to do. When I was a child back in the 70’s and 80’s I played out side (on a small holding) we used sticks as guns, or swords two sticks became ski poles. When it snowed we used plastic coal bags as sledges. A piece of string had a thousand of imaginative uses. If you look through a toy magazine there is a toy for every conceivable situation.

The imagination has been taken out of our children’s well childhood. So when they come to read a book, their imagination just can’t keep up. They can’t imagine a world behind a wardrobe, or rafting down the Mississippi river. The one exception to our Children’s world is about a boy who escapes our world and is included into an imaginative magical one. Kudos to J K Rowling. Let’s not forget that the 12 year old who read that first book is in their late twenties now.

I encourage my children to read but even more importantly I encourage them to write.

Macchiato Anthropology

People watching, or to give it its proper title ‘anthropology’. Unlike many proper anthropologists I am not keen on spending hours hidden a jungle eating rice and gnat testicles, to study the behaviour of a tribe hidden from the modern world.

No I much prefer to sit down in a comfortable chair sipping a macchiato, and perusing those who pass the plate glass windows of my local ‘Café Nero’. (yes I know my dear wife has written about this subject in her blog, but we were there together and the subject interested us both).

While we both like to give the passing persons a fictional life back story, normally becoming more extreme as the time goes by, (and the caffeine takes hold of our neurone receptors). I also like to look a little deeper at the behaviour of the individuals and groups.

I am a keen walker and enjoy heading of to the hills and spending time hiking through the wilder areas of this small island we call Britain. While walking over yet another rise on my way to the journeys end, if anyone else passes there is always a few spoken words of greeting, nothing probing, nothing personal just general niceties to pass those fleeting moments.

But here the as concrete, bricks, and shop displays shout for attention our willingness to acknowledge each other disappear. I am sure that many will argue that there are far too many people to say hello to, and that we have nothing in common, unlike the ramblers who are all doing the same thing hence have a connection. And yes I will agree with you that even in our small Welsh town as you walk from one end to the other, you could pass hundreds of people and to say hello to each would be a laborious task at best.

It is the fact that most people just seem to ignore each other as they pass within a few feet. Being British we hold our faces with composure and no emotion showing. But what if that person you are just about to walk past is about to get hit by a bus, and yours is the last face they see, do they see a face of indifference? We all dream that we will die on our beds with our families beside us peacefully going to sleep for the final time.

Looking back at those people who pass by the windows (it really is a good place to people watch by the way). You can divide them into many groups. You have the old widows that pull a trolley behind them, looking at windows full of ‘things’ that they could not even dream of when they were children in war torn Britain.

Then there are the retired couples, whose clothes slowly start matching as both start wearing beige slacks with elastic waist bands for comfort, enjoying their shopping day.

Next you have the business type. Now we don’t have the city type here, but there are the suited and booted who are glued to there phones and looking harassed.

As transport is getting better and technology is now so cheap we have an abundance of the ‘rich young and hip’. They can not afford to buy a house so they live at home still, and spend their money on clothes and fashion.

Then there are the young mothers, who prowl around with their pushchairs in packs. This is the most diverse group as the backgrounds are separated from each mother/child coupling. The wealth of each can be seen in the clothes of the coupling. One will be wearing ‘Baby Gap’ and ‘Boden’ while the other a sports top paired ‘Primark’ Jeans, and an all in one baby-grow with slogans printed on it.

Then you have the Parental group, those old enough to have children in school or college. Not quite old enough to look forward to retirement but a little too old to be going out Saturday nights. This group spends its time in town not out of necessity but to enjoy window shopping for a new ‘thing’ to replace the old ‘thing’ that has finally given up the ghost after fifteen years of faithful service. To while away the time they will sit down and sip a macchiato and watch people go by.

With an observant eye you can see within these circles they do acknowledge each other in their own manner. The young mothers steer towards each other start talking from twenty yards away and don’t pause in stride as messages about toddler groups are given. The business types will raise their hands in greeting and use a simple form of sign language to communicate to each other that they should phone, while still on their phones to other business types arranging meetings. The old widows will stop and discuss the latest ailment affecting them or their neighbour then continue on holding their coats around them even tighter. The retired couples are the ones that stop and will have lengthy discourses about the state of the world and how it was so much better way back when. The ‘rich young hip’ will greet by giving a smile and one will always give an astonished look at the others news. But the parental group don’t make much effort they will pass each other and give a small nod.

It is almost never that these groups will acknowledge each other, as they pass each other in a chaotic ballet played out for time immemorial. Passing etiquette between groups are passed down from generation to generation. Younger shall always take the higher pass, pushchairs have right of way through crowds and if you pass within three feet of each other you must move you arm out of the way and twist slightly at the waist.

If you have to squeeze through a gap the uttered sentence ‘I am so sorry can I just squee…’ must never be completed before the manoeuvre, and the ‘thank-you’ has to be louder than the question.

But the one group that has the highest authority are the elderly widows. They will plough on head down.

Woe betide you if you are caught between an ‘elderly widow’ and ‘pushchair toting young mother’. You know you are going to upset one and you have to choose quickly.

Within that two hundredth of a second you judge your opponents. First the old widow she is four feet nothing and weilds a four wheeled trolley full of tinned cat food and fresh bread, then the young mother the child is asleep and there are no piles of shopping falling of the pushchair, then with an apologetic smile you side step the pushchair and hop over the back wheel twisting in mid air and apologising for there not being enough room. If the pushchair contains an awake baby that is grubby from sweets the mother has used as blackmail just to keep it from screaming, and there are enough bags hanging of the back of the pushchair to keep the local landfill site busy for the next six weeks. A quick look at the mother whose hair is now auditioning for the next yeti film and there is look of exasperation on her face and her eyes are wet from tears of frustration then, you flatten yourself along the wall wishing you could become like the chalky emulsion that you know has just covered your coat. And pray that the two passing will leave you enough room not to loose you toes.

Of course watching this from the comfort of a heated coffee shop, only weakens your resolve to go out and join the fray, and that third cup of coffee already beckons, besides the chores will always be there later.

Jamie

Carpe diem

Carpe Diem.

Seize the day or something like that.

Don’t you just hate those people who are so happy all the time. Nothing seems to get them down No matter how often you see them they are always perfectly dressed and have smile on their face. There lives seem to be a perfectly organised operation that never ever goes wrong. They attend all the right school functions, their kids are always clean and shine in the umpteen extra curricular activities they take part in. You look at their lives and then you own. Your smile is due to the copious amounts of coffee consumed, your children are always running out the door last second to school after yanking the school jumper out of the tumble dryer still slightly damp, trying to eat toast do up shoe laces and run at the same time so they are not late. My younger children have trouble trying to find matching shoes let alone socks. We are always at the school gate as it is about to close and forget the important bit of home work in the car or it is still on the window sill in the hall at home.

I always look at these other people and think ‘how do you do it’? You must collapse into bed every night shattered. But then as time goes by you listen to their conversations on how their children don’t talk to them, or the fact they never see them over the weekend.

There lives are so busy ‘doing’ they forget the ‘being’.  Now I am not stupid enough to belive my kids can’t stand me sometimes but we thankfully all still get on really well. My mid teen daughter still enjoys hiding behind doors and jumping out on me trying to scare me. She still likes giving her old dad a hug in public. My son is about to enter his teens still likes to cuddle up with me on the sofa as we sit down to watch Top Gear re-runs or our guilty secret ‘Shaun the sheep’.  My two little girls who are so close together they are always categorised as one. We enjoy playing stupid games and are constantly climbing over me wrestling or using me as a shield from each other.

It’s the same observations I have seen in church.  ( not so much the odd socks).

There are churches that seem to have everything running perfectly. Full set of stage lights, rotating vertical screens for the words of the most recent worship songs, uniformed greeters at the door, every member of the leadership has published books. Two Sunday morning services of 600, three midweek prayer meetings,bible studies, women meetings, mother toddler groups, youth groups, the list goes on.

Then you have those churches that seem to hobble everything together at the last-minute, they sing with gusto in the praise session to hide the out of tune piano, that is held up by a pile of books and a guitar case. The sunday school class is held in the back of the Builders van, as the normal room is now knee-deep in water. And the preacher delivers his sermon with a raised voice as the microphone has sagged once more to his knees because the sellotape holding the mic stand up has decided to go elsewhere.

I always belive that you can see where somebody’s passion is by looking at three things.  Their calendar, their conversation and their wallet.

It is the same with a church.

Have a look at the notices at a church and tick of the evangelistic gospel spreading events, and then tally them against the church outing events. Then listen to the conversations after the service, Now you will always get the normal sporting talk about someones favourite team, or the house extension saga. Ignore them it’s the church talk I like listening to, it’s the two couples talking about a mutual friend and who’s turn it is to invite them to the breakfast come little gospel talk on Saturday. The conversation about the visiting the elderly this week that didn’t make it to the notices and helping Mrs Crockett with her garden pond type conversations. But the one I always listen out for is the one about the Prayer meeting, I have sadly never heard a conversation saying that they are going to have to move to a bigger place because the prayer meeting is just so well attended people are having to sit on the floor in the hall outside.

Going back to my own Family we always make a concerted effort to talk with each other and everyday. We will always ask our children about their days and their worries. We also will talk to them about things in our lives that worry us. We might have to filter some of it or put a positive spin on some things with our children ageing from 6 to 14 some subjects of conversation are easier than others but we do talk, constantly.

And that is what God wants from us. When he created Earth and mankind before the fall he spoke to us daily and we to him. We live in a social media world with instant messages and hundreds of ways of communicating with each other. Yet with God we have always had an instant communication system. We don’t have to be computer savvy, we don’t have to pay a monthly fee, we don’t even need a ny special devices. We just need to talk.

Prayer, is nothing more than talking to God. Yet we seem to shy away from doing it. we have this belief that we must talk to God in special long words. I still don’t understand after nearly 20 years of being a Christian and attending a number of different churches why the prayer meeting is always the least attended. Of a Sunday service Preaching is given 30-45 minutes singing is given 10-15 minutes and prayer is relegated to a few slots totaling 5 minutes. Of the seven churches I have attended only one has had a pre-service prayer meeting, and that was attended by 8 people out of a congregation of 150..To be Christian is to be like Christ..so why when Christ spoke so openly about prayer and we read that he prayed often and lengthy do we as a christian church pray so little..

Jamie

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