Tag Archives: Dragons Rule OK

How to use collective nouns correctly

I have recently been a little irritated by people’s use of collective nouns, or rather the use of the verb with them. Many people seem to think that it should always be a plural verb.

Now, collective nouns do refer to a number of things, but these things are ‘collected’ into one, hence the name ‘collective nouns.’

When I was a little girl at school, we learned a lot of collective nouns:

a FLOCK of sheep
a HERD of cows
a MURDER of crows (I particularly liked this one.)
a CHARM of larks

There are also a great many more. They all refer to a GROUP of people or things. Here are some more examples.

army
team
choir
committee
array
council
school
class
pack
shoal
family

You get the idea? Each of those things are made up of a number of people, animals or things. The problem arises as to whether the verb that is with it should be singular or plural.

What has been annoying me recently is that many people, and educated ones too, are using the plural all the time with these nouns when they should be using the singular.

The rule is that if they are acting as a group, all doing the same thing, then the noun takes the singular verb, but if they are acting as individuals, then the verb should be plural.

I’ll give you some examples.

One is in a song for Manchester United Football Club. The fans sing ‘United ARE the team for me.’ now, they are all playing a game of football, and all the players are acting together (one would hope) in order to wim that game. The team is acting as a unit. Therefore the song should be ‘United IS the team for me.’

When the match is over, the players are no longer acting together. They are going home to their separate families and so now we say ‘The team are all going home.’

Here is another. When a flock of sheep sees the sheepdogs coming, they bunch together and run in the same direction to try to get away from them. They are all acting together to try to escape this perceived threat. This time it is correct to say ‘The flock WAS driven towards the gate by the sheepdogs so that it could eat the new grass.’ Note the use of the singular pronoun too.

When they are through the gate and in the pasture, the sheep will spread around, each one grazing, but not acting as a unit. Therefore we use the plural and say ‘The flock are now eating the new grass and they seem to be enjoying it.’ Here the verb and pronoun are plural because the sheep are acting as individuals.

I hope this has helped you to sort out these problems. Grammar can be a bit tricky at times, but I think it is important. People generally do not complain about correct grammar, but incorrect grammar can make a reader stop reading a book, and not buy any others by that author. They also tell other people not to bother. I know, I have done it myself.

Another downside of poor grammar is when applying for jobs. If your grammar is poor, your letter will go straight in the bin.

Please leave a comment by clicking on the comment button. I love reading what you have to say, and answering you.

Thoughts on entertainment for young people.

 

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This is the fifth Tuesday in the month and so I will be digressing a bit. I think I want to be a bit controversial. Not too much though, and I risk sounding my age, but here goes.

Today, on the radio, I heard something about a group of young people in Cornwall who want to make music. They have been practising in a garage. I assume it’s the garage of one of their parents. Needless to say, there have been complaints about the noise.

The council has told them to cut the noise level. Now in the discussion on the radio the following was said (predictably). ‘There is nowhere for the young people to go and nothing for them to do.’ (This is probably not a direct quote, but that was the essence of it.)

Firstly, why do people think that something should be provided for them? What’s wrong with sorting something out for themselves?

Secondly, this has been the cry for donkey’s years. I heard it when my own children were growing up. It is often an excuse for the bad behaviour of the said young people. I dispute this.
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When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, we had a youth club to go to once a week on a Friday evening. That was IT. Nothing else. We had to find our own entertainment. What did we do? Well, I remember going for bike rides at the weekend and in the school holidays. I expect someone will say that it was different then. The roads are too busy now, but there were no dedicated cycle ways made from old railway lines then. We had to ride on the road.

We also went round to each others’ homes and played records (as they were then). We went into the woods and built camps. We went for walks in the countryside. OK. All young people don’t have access to the countryside, but they have parks. We walked the dog too. Where I live, I rarely see a young person out with the family dog. It’s always the parents.

My own children did many of these things, and my son was in a band too. They rehearsed in our house or the garage of one of his friends. My daughter went to youth club, like me, once a week, and my son was in the scouts. He went camping with them. These things still exist.

So why the constant moaning about ‘nothing to do?’ I argue that there is more for the youngsters nowadays than in the past, and middle class parents seem to think that they must provide something for their kids every day, taking them here there and everywhere–swimming, riding, judo, dancing, etc etc.

The result of this is that youngsters today don’t know how to entertain themselves and can’t cope with boredom. As I said to my own granddaughter the other day,  ‘There’s nothing wrong with being bored.’ It’s from boredom that ideas spring. If we are constantly entertained, we have no time to think for ourselves and to come up with new innovations.

Thank you for putting up with this little rant. Please leave a comment as to what you think.

Jovinda and Noni part 3

Here is part 3 of the story of Jovinda and Noni, Carthinal’s parents. Since I missed last week’s post entirely in the end, I am continuing with my normal schedule with the third week of the month.

 

Jovinda went about her chores humming to herself. That afternoon she was going to see Noni again. It had been a week since she had last seen him. It was not always easy for them to arrange their meetings. Noni had his work to do and also they had to keep their meetings secret from their parents.

Salor helped the lovers. She thought it was exciting and romantic. She gave Jovinda alibis whenever the pair were to meet, and if the girls seemed to be meeting more frequently than previously, Jovinda’s parents did not seem to notice.

Noni could not get away as often as he would have liked, but every time he had any time to himself he and Jovinda would meet. Usually they went to the woods out of town. It was quiet there and there were many places they could be totally alone with little fear of discovery. The summer passed and the trees began to put on their autumn colours.

‘What are we going to do when winter is here?’ Jovinda asked one day. ‘It’ll be cold and wet. We won’t be able to sit on the ground then.’

Noni looked at her and stroked her auburn hair. ‘Something will turn up, darling,’ he said. ‘We’re meant to be together. I feel it deep inside my soul. Nothing will part us, not even winter.’

He was right, of course. As the last leaves fell from the trees and the summer warmth left the land, Jovinda came to a terrible realisation. She had missed her monthly bleeding. It was now time for the next one but still nothing happened. She had been in such ecstasy that she had not thought about anything other than Noni. Now she realised she was pregnant.

How could she tell her parents? What would they do? Would they disown her? How would Noni react? Would he stand by her or would he abandon her? Oh why had she been so foolish. She had not thought about possible consequences when they had made love in their glade in the wood. Now she was suffering the results of that lack of forethought.

‘I’m going to see Salor,’ she told her mother after she had finished her chores. She left the house and hurried to her friend’s home. Salor had become engaged to a young man during the months that had passed and was due to be married in the spring. He was the son of a friend of theirs and they were delighted with the engagement. They had been going to suggest the pair get married when the young people themselves said they wanted to get married.

It was so different from Jovinda and Noli’s experience that Jovinda was a little jealous. She would not change Noli in any way, though, even for approval by her parents.

She arrived at Salor’s house and was admitted. Salor took her to her room where she burst into tears.

‘Jovinda, what’s wrong? It’s not a problem with Noli, is it?’

Jovinda dried her eyes and sighed.

‘Well, it is and it isn’t. Oh, Salor, I’m in so much trouble. I’ve missed two monthly bleedings.’

Salor put her hand to her mouth.’That means…’

‘Yes. I’m pregnant.’

Salor looked at her friend with eyes opened wide. ‘I didn’t think you’d be so foolish, Jo,’ she said. ‘How did you not think this might happen?’

Jovinda’s eyes began to leak tears again as she tried to push them back. ‘I didn’t think. Oh, Salor, it seemed so right. We love one another and soon kisses weren’t enough to show our love. What am I to do?’

‘Does he know?’

Jovinda shook her head. ‘I’ve not seen him since I realised.’

‘Will he marry you? Or do you want to go to a witch woman and get rid of it?’

‘I don’t know,’ wailed Jovinda, crying again.

Eventually the girls decided that Jovinda must tell Noli. He was as much to blame as Jovinda for the predicament she was in. Salor privately hoped that Noli was not one of those men who ran away from responsibility. She had seen young women left with an unwanted baby when the father decided he did not want a wife and child. He had his fun then ran. The girl concerned never regained her reputation. It was different if the man married the girl. Oh, there was scandal at first, but later people either forgot the child was born rather early or deliberately forgot when the wedding had been.

Salor helped Jovinda get a message to Noli and the pair met at their usual place the next day.

It was cold. The fallen leaves made a multicoloured carpet on the ground in the glade where Noli waited. He pulled his cloak round him as he wondered what Jovinda wanted to see him about so urgently. He heard a crackle in the leaves and turned to see Jovinda crossing the glade. He opened his arms and she ran into them. They kissed passionately before saying a word.

He looked into his lover’s eyes and saw they were red. She had been crying. Had her parents found out about them? He held her close and waited for her to speak.

‘Noli,’ she said through her tears, ‘I’m pregnant. I am thinking of going to a witch woman to get rid of it though.’

For the first time since they met, Noli became angry.

‘You will not kill this child,’ he said, and he stalked to the opposite side of the glade.

‘It is a new life beginning. Who knows what great deeds it could do, or how important its decendants could be. We elves will never destroy a life, even an unborn one.’

‘But, Noli, what are we to do?’

He came back to her side and put his arms round her again. ‘We’ll get married, sweetheart. It’s what I would like and I hope you would like it too.’

‘Of course I would like that. We can have this baby and then lots more.’

Noli laughed. ‘I hope so. Elves aren’t very fertile as a rule. I suppose it’s because we live so long. If we had too many children we’d soon overrun the world. But an elf and a human…who knows?’

They parted after discussing whether Noli should go with Jovinda when she told her parents. He wanted to be there to support her, but she said she thought it would be better if she told them alone.

Jovinda walked slowly back home having resolved to tell her parents the very next day.

How will Jovinda’s parents react to her news? The next installment will be on the third Tuesday of April.

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8 Over-used Words and Phrases

I am going to take a rest from my usual second Tuesday subject of Commonly Confused Words to talk about a few words and phrases that I think are very overused in today’s world. The unfortunate thing is that the overuse dilutes the meaning and/or impact of the words.

 I am talking from a UK point of view, here, of course. These words and phrases may not be in common use in other parts of the English speaking world. They may interest some of you. though.

1.  ICONIC or ICON.

Everything nowadays seems to be iconic. An icon was originally a religious picture. They were used in the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches and were usually pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, saints or angels and were used as aids to worship.

Another meaning of the word is a small picture or symbol that links to a program in computing.

Neither of these seem to fit the use of it as used commonly these days. It has come to mean something that represents something else.
‘The Eiffel tower is an iconic building.’ It represents Paris.
There are so many icons around these days! Nearly everythibng and everyone is an icon.

2. AWESOME.

I’m afraid our American friends are largely responsible for this one. While there are some truly awesome sights and events in the world, much of the time this word is used, the users mean something really good. It won’t fill them with awe and wonder, just make them feel excited and possibly surprised.

Having used the word ‘wonder’ above, it occurs to me that the word ‘awesome’ is going the same way as ‘wonderful’ and having its meaning diluted. What are we going to say to something truly awesome?

3. AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME.

As opposed to a moment out of time? where else is a moment except in time?

What’s wrong with ‘NOW’?

4. One beloved by football commentators. I’m still not sure how it came about.

EARLY DOORS.

This means that someone is going to do something , well, early! Why the ‘doors’ has been added, your guess is as good as mine. Are doors early? How are doors early? It irritates me.

5. VARIOUS DIFFERENT.

As opposed to various the same? Tortology, I think. Can you have a variety of things that are the same?

6. There are a couple of variations on this one.

THE REAL TRUTH, or THE TRUE FACTS.

You can’t have either an unreal truth or untrue facts. It’s either true or not, or it’s a fact or not.

7. UNIQUE.

‘Unique’ means there is only one. It does NOT mean that something is unusual or rare. You cannot have things that are ‘fairly unique’, ‘very unique’ or any other modifier. Something is either unique or it’s not. Period!

8. EPIC.

This word has come to mean some large event. We, in the UK have apparently been having floods of epic proportions. (Or else, if not epic, then of Biblical proportions!)

Epic is supposed to mean a monumental struggle of some kind, or something monstrously huge.

It originally meant a heroic story.

It is another use of a word being downgraded.

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English National Anthem

 

englishflag

I’ve posted on this before, but I want to be more specific this time.

The British Government has recently debated whether there should be a National Anthem for England, specifically to be sung at sporting events. Scotland has Flower of Scotland, Wales has Hen Wlad fy Nhadau and Northern Ireland uses Londonderry Air. England has used the UK National Anthem, God Save the Queen but does not have one of its own.

Many people have asked for England to have its own Anthem for events when England competes alone. There have been three main ones and one other that does not seem to have many in favour, although personally, I think it would be the best. These contenders are: Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem. The unfavoured one is I Vow to Thee My Country.

1. Rule Britannia is not good because it is not England. It’s Britain. The name itself implies Britain. Also, most people don’t know the words except for the two-line chorus. (Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves, Britons {Not English, note} never, never, never shall be slaves.) Not a good anthem for England as it refers to Britons, which includes Irish, Scots and Welsh.

2. Land of Hope and Glory is a little better. It is very patriotic and a brilliant tune, but also very much of the 19th century. Can we, in all honesty, in the 21st century sing ‘Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set’? Imperalism gone mad!

3. The seemingly favoured one and one that has already been used at some sporting events. It was sung at the Commonwealth games, I believe, and I have heard it myself being sung at the current series of cricket matches against South Africa.

This is Jerusalem, of course. Brilliant tune, but what about the words?
Well, as I see it the title of the song is suspect. It’s Jerusalem, for goodness sake. Not London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, etc All good English cities, but Jerusalem, a city in the Middle East. Yes, it is important worldwide as the birthplace and holy city of 3 great religions, but it’s NOT ENGLISH. It’s a national Anthem for England we’re talking about here.

Then there are its religious connotations. It is quite unashamedly Christian.
‘And did those feet in ancient times…’ Whose feet? Jesus’ feet.
‘And was t he Holy Lamb of God…’ Who is the lamb of God? Jesus.
‘And did the countenace divine…’ Whose countenance was divine? Jesus’ countenance.

There are many people in the UK who do not subscribe to Chrisitianity. There are, of course, Hindus, Muslims, Buddists, Sikhs, Jews and many others who won’t be represented by this song, but also the atheists and agnostics and other non-church-going people. We are constantly being told about how the ethnic groups (specifically Muslims) should be encouraged to integrate, and yet a national anthem that will not include them is being seriously discussed.

Finally, on Jerusalem, it is associated with the Womens’ Institute. They sing it at all their meetings.

No, Jerusalem ought to be scrapped as an idea for an English National Anthem, as should any other with overt Christian overtones.

I Vow to Thee My Country is a hymn, yes, but the first verse certainly has no religious implications, just talking about loyalty to one’s country, which is what a National Anthem ought to be about. not vague wishes that Jesus may or may not have come to England, and a wish to build Jerusalem, a city torn apart by religious strife, in our country.

5 more commonly confused words.

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Since I started writing about these words, more and more are coming to my notice. I suppose it’s because I’m now looking out for them. Some can be quite amusing, like in a previous blog when I talked about vicious and viscous.
A pupil wanted to say that a liquid became more VISCOUS, i.e. thicker and less runny. In fact, he said it became more VICIOUS.

Here are this week’s words.

 Advise/Advice.

Advise is a verb. It is what you do. You advise someone.
e.g. I would advise you not to put all your money in the same shares.

Advice is a noun. It is what you give.
e.g. My advice to you is not to put all your money in the same shares.

 Comprise/Compose

Comprise means to include.
e.g. The house comprised five bedrooms.

Compose means to make up.
e.g The hamper was composed of a bottle of wine, a ham, a box of dates and a goose.

 Lie/lay

Lie is to recline.
e.g. My back hurts when I lie down.

Lay is to put an object down.
e.g. The man came to lay the carpet in the hall, or Lay the book on that table, please.

 Defective/Deficient

Defective means that something does not work.
e.g. When I tried the new camera I had bought, I found it to be defective.

Deficient means that something is missing.
e.g. When the doctor analysed the results of the girl’s blood test he found she was deficient in iron.

Oh, here is one that is always got wrong.

 Hung/Hanged

Hung refers to an object.
e.g. He hung his coat in the cloakroom.

Hanged refers to a person or other living thing.
e.g. One argument against capital punishment is that if a person is found to be innocent after they have been hanged it’s too late to do anything about it.

7 more commonly confused words

 

 

wolf1

I first of all apologise to everyone for being late with my blog this week. You can blame NaNo in part, but also I had to go out Monday and yesterday.

Anyway, here are another 7 commonly confused words.

PRACTICE/PRACTISE.

Practice. This is a verb. It is what you do when learning to play the piano. Your teacher would say:

‘You must PRACTICE for half an hour every day’

Practise. This is a noun. It is where the doctor or lawyer practices his/her calling.

e.g.  I hear there is a new doctors’ PRACTISE opening in the town.

CONFIDENT/CONFIDANT

Confident. When you are CONFIDENT you are sure of yourself.

e.g. I am confident that I will pass my driving test this time.

Confidant. This is someone you confide in.

e.g. I have always told my best friend my secrets. She is my CONFIDANT.

UNCONSCIOUS/SUBCONSCIOUS
The second of these two words is almost always substituted by unconscious. It really irritates me!

Unconscious. This is what happens when you get a blow to the head.

e.g. When the piano fell from the second floor, the man walking beneath was knocked UNCONSCIOUS

Subconscious. This is a word used in psychology. It means the part of the mind that you are unaware of, yet it still acts to bear on your actions.

e.g. The doctor said that it was Mary’s SUBCONSCIOUS that was making her afraid of snakes.

UNIQUE/RARE

Unique. When something is unique, there is only one of it. It does not mean very uncommon Thus you cannot have grades of uniqueness.

e.g. I am told that this is the last dodo on Earth. It is UNIQUE.

Rare. Something that is uncommon. You can have gradations of rareness.

e.g. The hedgehog is becoming increasingly RARE in the United Kingdom. There numbers are decreasing rapidly.

THEORY/THEOREM

This one I came across in a book I was reading only the other day. It was not one I would have thought to put in otherwise.

Theory. This is an idea that explains something. It is usually based on some evidence.

e.g. Isaac Newton saw an apple fall from a tree and reasoned out the THEORY of gravity.

Theorem. This is a mathematical term whereby a proposition is shown to be true by a chain of logical reasoning, based on accepted truths.

e.g. Pythagoras managed to prove the THEOREM that now bears his name.

LIBEL/SCANDAL

Libel. This is bringing someone’s reputation into disrepute by something you’ve written.

e.g. The journalist was accused of LIBEL by the man she had reported to be the thief.

Scandal. The gossips in the village were accused of spreading scandal about the vicar and his housekeeper.

VISCOUS/VICIOUS

This one I saw in a thread I was following the other day. It was another that I hadn’t though of before.

Viscous. A thick, slow-flowing liquid.

e.g. In order to get syrup to drop easily from the spoon you need to make it less VISCOUS. You can do this by heating it up by dipping the spoon into hot water before getting the syrup.   (This is quite a good tip.)

Vicious. It actually means addicted  to vice, but nowadays it has come to mean more along the lines of vicious.

e.g. The growling of the dog behind  the door sounded vicious.

Those are this week’s commonly confused words. I hope you enjoyed them. If you did, please leave a comment, and if you didn’t, please leave a comment too explaining what you thought was wrong with them.

5 more commonly confused words.

gloriosarothchildiana

One of my paintings.

Gloriana Rothchildiana

Tuesday again. It’s the last Tuesday of the month and so here are some more commonly confused words. Some of these words are confusions of meaning and some are confusions of spelling, while some are both.

I know I said I’d have a particular plan for when I was going to post what, but I’ve forgotten it! How stupid can you get? I’ve even forgotten where I put the note that I wrote to myself. I can remember that the first Tuesday was an extract from The Wolf Pack and the third some of my other writing or that of another writer I like. (This includes my Mum’s poems, of course.) Now the third Tuesday seems to be grammar.

Anyway, here it is.

Here are a few more words that are often confused.

Council/counsel

‘Council’ is some sort of ruling body, as in the local town council or the General Medical Council.
e.g. The Council passed a new by-law to prevent dog fouling in the local parks.

‘Counsel’ is to give advice, or to act as a lawyer.
e.g. He gave me some good counsel about my problems.

Imply/Infer

‘Imply’ is what the speaker hints at without actually saying it in so many words.
e.g. Are you implying that Jack was the thief?

‘Infer’ is that which is deduced from the implication.
e.g. From what you say, I infer that you think Jack was the thief.

Literal/Virtual

‘Literal’ means that it actually happened, or that something is ACTUALLY the thing referred to.
e.g. The bird flew past me, its wings literally brushing my face.

‘Virtual’ means that it was AS IF the thing were happening.
e.g. The footballer virtually flew down the wing before putting the ball in the back of the net.
(the winger literally flying would be an awesome sight, as would, as we sometimes here when a player is playing well, ‘He’s literally on fire this afternoon.’ Poor lad!)

Convex/Concave

‘Convex’ is protruding outwards. A magnifying glass has a convex lens, one that is thicker in the centre than at the edges.
e.g. There was a convex protuberance on the wall that had to be sorted out before Harry could paint it.

‘Concave’ is going inwards, like a cave. Glasses for short sight are concave. They are thinner in the middle than on the outside.
e.g. Breathe out so that your stomach is concave.

There/Their

‘There’ is denoting a place.
e.g. Put the parcel down over there please.

‘Their’ is donating ownership. Something that belongs to them.
e.g. Is that their car in the car park?

A poem in answer to a challenge.

roman centuryA Roman Century

This poem was difficult to write. The challenge was to take the seventh book on your bookshelf, look at t he seventh chapter and take the seventh sentence in that chapter.  At least I think it was that. It was close anyway. The you used that sentence to start a poem.

The book I found to be the seventh book was one on the Roman Empire and the seventh sentence in the seventh chapter was ‘The Roman Legion also had other skills.’ Not and easy thing to write a poem about. (I was tempted to cheat, but then thought that it was a good exercise anyway.)

 

Here is my attempt.

 

A ROMAN LEGION

A Roman legion also had other skills
As well as its ability in war.
As builders, Roman soldiers were not poor
And built a wall for Hadrian ’cross the hills.

When soldiers met a river, wide and deep
A bridge they built to get across the flow.
The soldiers toiled in sun of rain or snow
And if some died, well OK life was cheap.

Vercingetorix was a Celt from Gaul
Who won a massive battle, but in vain.
They soon lost all that they had gained
And Roman soldiers camped outside the wall.

The siege engines the Roman soldiers built
Bombarded all the walls around the town.
Their engineering capabilities shown
And Vercingetorix’s strength did wilt.

The soldiers built the roads so straight and true
Joining all their governed lands to Rome.
Where the Emperor did sit upon his throne
And that is why the empire grew and grew.

The soldiers sewed their clothing, built the roads,
And bridges, walls and siege engines as well.
They fought and conquered as the stories tell
And beat the Celtic peoples in their woad.

The legions helped the Empire last so long.
Fighters, engineers and builders, they
Worked hard and long, they toiled throughout the day
To make the Roman Empire wide and strong.