Monday, November 22, 2010

Verbal Ineptitude

I like simple prepositions: "on peak" and "off peak" are clear and simple. Most switches have an "on" position and an "off" position.

For some reason, many Americans add "of" after the word "off". I don't know why this was started, but I dislike adding another redundant preposition.

I also dislike hearing "unbelievable" or "incredible", instead of "amazing" or "spectacular", or other adjective to express appreciation or surprise, rather than disbelief.

t not disbelief.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


There's a family further up our street, appropriately named "Rose". (We don't live on Rose Street, but the usual way to our home on Spruce Street is to drive up Rose Street. However, the appropriateness arises because this is about various colors, including rose.) The parents are unable to have children of their own, and adopted a daughter, who recently celebrated her second birthday.

By a happy coincidence, there was a young single mother, not a blood relation, but related through a "blended marriage", who couldn't afford to give up her forty-hour-a-week job if she were to be a "stay at home mom". When she is old enough, the little girl will be told that the loving woman she knows as a family friend is, in fact, her birth mother. We were lucky enough to get to know both adoptive and birth mother at this happy birthday party.

The little girl has already developed a color sense, and is particularly fond of pink and purple. Her home was decorated with approximately those two colors, mainly with balloons. All guests were asked to wear, if possible, those two colors, and I changed into a pink shirt. Barbara wore a beautiful top which incorporated a variety of colors, including those requested.

Looking around the room, I saw many variants, ranging from violet to crimson. The word "purple" is in fashion, for those states that are neither as blue as California or as red as Texas. No doubt some of you have read Alice Walker's best-seller The Color Purple, or seen the movie: purple is in fashion.

In the Episcopal Church, where we elect our bishops, we use the expression, "will be wearing a purple shirt", for someone who has been elected bishop. You will see bishops wearing that same variety of colors, from violet to crimson. There is no strict rule about this, but I do wonder why the various outfitters that specialize in clerical clothing don't get together and decide one consistent shade.

Rose is a pretty color. The Episcopal Church has a "penitential" season (Lent), when purple vestments are usual-- or (as my parish prefers) "Lenten Array", a "natural" off-white. In many places, including my parish, the Fourth Sunday in Lent sees vestments in rose, denoting the relaxing of the strict (or not so strict!) rules of fasting still complied with by many Christians.

The Season of Advent is properly not considered one of penitence, although one may see purple vestments in many churches. Rather, it should be a time of patient, watchful, waiting for Christmas. The Third Sunday in Advent is the Rose Sunday in Advent.

I am looking forward to Rose Sunday next month, as for the first time the Presider and the Assisting Priest will be wearing rose stoles (the long scarves they wear).

All this reminds me: next summer I must serve some of the Rosé wine that isn't very popular--although some that isn't sweet is much to my taste. I have about a dozen bottles in my cellar, great for quaffing on a hot day.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I began this on a Thursday morning. I had just ordered the restart of a newspaper that has been on "vacation hold", with the first restarted issue to arrive in nine days' time, on the Saturday of next week. I would call that "Saturday week". The clerk who was responding told me that the paper would arrive "next Saturday". I resisted the temptation to say "No, the following Saturday".That highlights another cause for confusion between "Brits" and what those Brits would call "Yanks". By now, after more than fifty years in the US, I have learned that "Next (anyday)" doesn't mean literally the next Monday, Tuesday, etc., but is shorthand for (anyday) in next week.

In both cultures, there's no ambiguity when folk say "this (anyday)". So the very next Saturday is "this Saturday", or perhaps "this coming Saturday". Also clear is to give the date: "I'll be there on Saturday the 13th" avoids any ambiguity.

I wonder how many Brits have decided they were being "stood up" when an American friend who'd agreed to meet for lunch "next Friday" didn't show up? Or how many Americans visiting the UK appeared at a rendezvous seven days late? The sentimentalist in me feels sorry for those who fail to connect because of this misunderstanding. It is a less tragic happening than the unnecessary deaths of Romeo & Juliet, but equally illustrates the importance of timing.

Then again, the romantic in me (don't look so surprised!) imagines arriving solo, to find a beautiful maiden staring into her empty glass, deciding she never wants to see that other guy again, and I "seize the day"...

Something similar happened to me over forty years ago, when I first met Barbara--but that's another story...

Monday, November 1, 2010


In the U.K., "holidays" in the plural usually refers to what we would call a vacation. There are School Holidays, Summer Holidays, Winter Holidays, and so forth. Here in the US, the meaning is usually narrower. When you ask someone if they have plans for the holidays, it tends to mean Christmastide, maybe the period up to and including New Year's Eve, and possibly even Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November).

Public Holidays in the UK are called "Bank Holidays". As Wikipedia notes, "There is no automatic right to time off on these days, although the
majority of the population not employed in essential services receive them as holidays; those employed in essential services
usually receive extra pay for working on these days."

Originally, a "holiday" was indeed a "Holy Day", commemorating a religious feast day. Few of these remain as secular "days off" ; in the UK, until relatively recently, "Whit Monday" was a Bank Holiday, being the day after Whit Sunday (Pentecost). .

Good Friday is a holiday for most folk in the UK. Generally, it is used to make a four-day break, with Easter Monday being a Bank Holiday.

In the US, Good Friday is a working day for most employed people. I remember my surprise in 1958, when I spent my first Good Friday in San Francisco. One could take three hours off in the middle of the working day, because many churches, particularly (but not exclusively) RC places of worship, offered a Three Hour Service, from noon to three p.m., the traditional hours when Jesus is said to have been nailed to the Cross. We were not released until the hour of twelve, so office workers who went to church arrived late and left early, to be back at their desks by three. It was evident that not everyone fasted or went to church: the bars did a roaring trade, and not much work was done between three and the hour of release. It has always seemed to me a defective system.

My parish church has three services on Good Friday: usually at 7 a.m., the three-hour service at noon, and an evening liturgy at 7:30 p.m. A Frequently Asked Question is "Why Good Friday? What was good about the day of crucifixion?" Far-fetched explanations point out that it was ultimately good for humankind that Jesus died for our transgressions, but English is the only major language to use the adjective "good". It has probably arisen from confusion with "God". (We say "goodbye" when friends leave, but most folk don't realize that this is a corruption of the pious "God be with ye".)

Most offices now close on the day after Thanksgiving, making it more feasible to turn it into a time to visit out-of-town family. There is a tradition that one takes children to "Grandma's House" for the Thanksgiving meal. I attend church on Thanksgiving, knowing that it was originally a harvest festival, to give thanks to the Almighty for successful crops, though now a largely secular occasion.

American children, adolescents, and adults young in years or spirits, treat Halloween as a holiday, although it isn't usually a day off work. I remember how shocked the parents of my best friend were, when they visited the US one autumn in the forties, and hordes of children came to their hosts' home, shouting gleefully "Trick or Treat!", and demanding candy.  Most revelers don't realize that the name comes from it being the day before November 1, and thus the eve of All Saints' Day: All Hallows' Eve.

An important "non-holiday" in the UK is November 5, "Guy Fawkes Day",
when fireworks and "bonfires" (where permitted) celebrate, to the
delight of young and not-so-young.

November 2 is All Souls' Day; as "The Day of the Dead", it is a major celebration for Latinos.It is a Lesser Feast in my Church's calendar, whereas All Saints' Day is a Major Feast. It isn't moveable, but in our current Book of Common Prayer, there's the very practical rule that the day can also be celebrated on the Sunday following. That will happen this year at St. Mark's, when we shall also be baptizing the newest family member, Holden James Clifford, son of Justine Lewis and Joe Clifford.