What the world wants to know about Britain, part sixish

The search questions that lead people to Notes have been killingly dull lately, but I did find a few with some spark. So let’s visit to the minds of those good folks who, day after day, search the internet for answers to life’s most improbable questions.

Language

A search asked about “british places ignored syllables.” Well, silly me. I thought it was people who ignored the syllables, not the places. But no. The way it works is that Derby gets bored with being Derby after a century or ten and decides to be Darby. But all those road signs are already in place, and do you have any idea how expensive they are? So the spelling stays Derby but now we all have to say Darby or we’ll piss the place off.

And Woolfardisworthy? It can’t be bothered to mumble anything longer than “Woolsery” these days. It’s old. It’s tired. Show some respect, people: Call it Woolsery.

C’mon, that’s at least as sensible an explanation as the truth. If you want something marginally more sensible, try looking here.

Irrelevant photo: I have no idea what this is. Other than a flower, of course.

A related search read, “pronunciation of geography.”

Ooh, I know the answer to that. It’s pronounced almost the way it’s spelled, which makes it unusual in our language: gee-OGG-ruh-fee.

Someone asked, “what would be the british dialect for ‘tube of toothpaste.’ ”

Um. that would be “tube of toothpaste.”

I can’t comment on how well or awkwardly English dialects other than American match up with British, but I can tell you this: If you’re American, you’ll get by as long as you stick to dental hygiene. It’s when you get to clothing and the casual words for a few significant body parts that you should start worrying.

Someone wanted to know about the pronunciation of the Stone of Scone. Here’s what you need to know: The thing you eat rhymes with either cone or con, and which one you rhyme it with depends on where you live, where you grew up, what color your hair is, whether you’re wearing earrings today, what class you belong to or want people to think you belong to, and a variety of other factors too complicated for a mere foreigner (and remember, I am one) to understand. The Stone of Scone, though, is not edible and I wrote about it once already, so I’m going to hide behind myself and refer anyone who’s interested to my earlier post.

I’m not actually going through my search questions so I can refer you back to earlier posts. Blogging experts tell us to find excuses to do that because it bumps up your stats (translation: makes it look like you have more readers), but I check my search questions and write about them because they’re absurd. And what’s life without absurdity? Linking to earlier posts keeps me from boring either myself or those of you strange enough to have stuck around here for a while.

Someone wanted to know the British name for the semibreve. It’s the semibreve.

Since I’m reduced to helpless giggles anytime I’m around someone British discussing musical notes, I thought I’d better check with with Dr. Google before I went any further. Dr. G. says a semibreve is “a note having the time value of two minims or four crotchets, represented by a ring with no stem. It is the longest note now in common use.”

Sorry. It’s not just the names, although I find them hysterical. It’s the act of defining something incomprehensible by comparing it to something equally incomprehensible–something you’d only understand if you didn’t need to ask the meaning of the first word–that finishes me off.

But to go back to the question: It’s the Americans who call the semibreve something else—a whole note.

What’s a full breve? An antiquated note with the value of what I learned to call two whole notes.

Google, as it so often does, offered to translate semibreve into French. It’s semibreve. (Somehow or other, I left it set to French, but it has a whole list of languages it can mangle a word into.) The semibreve is also a semibreve in Spanish. No translation is available for Amharic, but in Russian it’s целая нота. Which, even though my Russian’s minimal at best, I understand better than “semibreve,” because if you take the words apart it translates to English as whole note.

Excuse me for a few minutes. I’m going to hide in the corner and giggle helplessly while I repeat “minim,” “crotchet,” and “quaver.” Why don’t you go ahead and read about wigs until I pull myself together?

Wigs

As always, a bunch of people asked about wigs: “why british lawyers still wear those wigs in court” is typical enough to stand in for almost all of them. Short answer? Because they have to. They’re bald. Men, women, and everyone in between—even the very few dogs who passed the bar exam. Every last one of them is bald. And they don’t want to talk about it.

Another query asked, “what do british lawyers wear to court.” (Almost no search question arrives with a question mark in tow. Or a capital letter. No one can be bothered using a question mark or a cap these days. They know they can get away without them so they don’t even pretend to make an effort. The ox cart of civilization, my friends, is rattling itself into little pieces on the bumpy roads of modern communication.)

Where were we. (See? No question mark. I tell you. Kids these days!) What British lawyers wear to court—other than wigs, of course. Why, swimwear. The men wear budgie smugglers, the women wear two-pieces, and the dogs wear water wings. Any lawyer who doesn’t fall into one of those basic categories can mix and match any old which way.

You’d think people would know these things by now.

The judges wear robes (no, not the bath type; the Harry Potter type) and haven’t been able to stop laughing since the new rules were introduced. They don’t find quavers and crotchets amusing, they don’t crack a smile at the wigs, but the swimwear? They’ve lost all dignity over it.

Someone else wanted to know if British solicitors wear wigs in court. I’m fairly sure the answer’s no, because solicitors are responsible for the out-of-court half of the lawyer business. It’s the barristers who appear in court.

Since the topic of wigs comes up so often, I guess it’s time to say that Britain makes an odd connection between the law and funny headgear. I mean, can we forget the wigs for a minute? Have you looked at the hats cops wear? The strategy, I think, is to disable the criminals (or villains, as they—yes, really—say here). Have you ever tried to start a football riot when you’re doubled over laughing?

Another question was about British legal wigs, and it’s a relief not to have to write about the illegal ones, because sooner or later, you know, we were going to get caught.

Okay, I’m faking my way through this. I don’t know anything about the legal wigs. Dangerous as it was, I was on firmer ground when we were out there on the edge with the illegal ones, so let’s move on, okay?

Manners

Someone asked about “tutting in a queue.” This is a well-informed search question. The writer knows what tutting is: the almost inaudible sound of someone British disapproving (violently, in their opinion) of whatever you just did. If you were raised to know the power of a tut, you will crumble to dust when tutted. It’s the modern version of banishment or outlawing. It shoves you—the tuttee—outside of the human community, where you will no longer receive friendship, sympathy, or the protection of law.

And if you weren’t raised to know its power? You’ll never know it happened.

So that’s the what, now let’s get to the rest of the question. A queue is what Americans call a line, and the British create one in all situations involving more than one person: Then they wait their turn, without shoving, elbowing, or behaving badly.

So what happens if you find two people waiting (in a queue) for a bus and you stand off to one side till the bus comes and then get on first? You will be tutted within an inch of your life. And while you’re busy pushing your way in, the two people will still be in their line—you didn’t expect them to step out of it, did you?—so the tutting will be from the queue if not exactly in the queue.

That was the search question, remember: “tutting in a queue.”

It gets messy, wandering onto the shaky ground where prepositions build their homes. You know prepositions, right? Anything you can do with a cloud—be in it, on it, with it, of it, around it, near it. They’ve got to be one of the messiest elements of any language, because either they follow no logic or they follow a different logic in each language.

A few of quick examples: 1, Are you on a chair or in a chair? It depends on the language you’re sitting in. 2, The Yiddish-speaking immigrant garment workers in New York bequeathed to my generation a sentence that made, I’m sure, perfect sense in Yiddish: I work by buttons. I’m seventy and still haven’t quite figured it out. 3, Look up the overlapping (to an English speaker) meanings of the Spanish por and para and you’ll get a sense of why prepositions are one of the things a second-language speaker consistently mangles.

But back to our search question. If the tutter is in the queue, can we also say that the tut in the queue? Or is it the act of tutting that’s in the queue? Actually, can anything as insubstantial as a tut be in anything physical?

Well, yes. A room.

I’m going to stop before I combust. The best I can do is leave you with those questions to ruin your weekend, because I’m moving on.

Another question was about road courtesy, and I have to say, the roads in Britain are extremely courteous. As are the drivers, although I’ll never convince anyone British of that. They tell me that today’s drivers have lost all respect for other people and for common decency. They’ll use the phrase road rage, which in this country tends to mean yelling at someone, not shooting them.

To be clear, it does occasionally mean someone gets punched, which can take the fun out of a trip to the beach, but by American standards? That’s not road rage, just bad temper.

What today’s drivers need is a serious tut.

Several people wanted to know about British profanity and one asked about “british swear insults.” They’re imaginative, which is why a couple of queries about cockwombles found their way to me, since it’s a question I did address.

I just love being an expert on something.

Great Britain

Invariably, a raft of people want to know why Britain’s called Great Britain. (Is a raft of people plural or singular? What a messed-up language we have. The more I know, the less I’m sure of anything.) I’ve written about why it’s called that and I’m bored with it. The more interesting questions ask things like “why is Britain Britain,” so let’s talk about that instead.

It’s because Britain’s stuck being Britain, the same way I’m stuck being Ellen Hawley. I could change my name—I thought about it at one point, and if you’re interested I’ll tell the tale, probably in the comments since it’s not worth a whole post—but even if I had, I’d still be me. Only the packaging would have changed.

That leads me to ask what a Britain is. You can’t deal with why it’s something until you figure out what you’re talking about.

Britain’s not—surprise, surprise—a country. The country is the United Kingdom. Britain’s a geographical term (I’m still bored with it; go see the earlier post if you want something marginally sensible). It’s also not a nation. The nations in the U.K. are Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England. And Cornish nationalists would add Cornwall to the list.

So I’m going to assert—in the absence of any audible opposition—that I’m not being asked about Britain’s culture (nation) or history (country) but about its location (geography). Therefore, the answer to the question is as follows:

Britain is where it is because the British can’t move it. Most British people believe they’d like to live in a different climate (most of them, one that’s drier and warmer), so if towing were possible they’d have moved it somewhere else by now. Being human, they’d have spent their travel time arguing over whether this was the best direction to tow it in and when to drop anchor, but they would have moved it somewhere.

The problem is, or was, that it’s glued down. It’s not going anywhere.

Have I clarified that? I thought so.

Strange questions

Someone typed “little lamb and dog disappeared in u.k.” And they found me. Why? Well, I use the word dog in a heading, and U.K.’s in the title. So “What the hell,” the algorithm said to itself. “Where else am I going to send this? Dump it on that Hawley woman. It’ll keep her out of trouble for a while.”

As it happens, my partner and I have found lambs out wandering, but they were with their mother, not with a dog, and it was a while ago, so it would’ve been a different lamb. I’ll keep an eye out, though, if it’ll help.

Could someone let me know who to contact if I find them?

Someone else was—well, looking for something. All I can say for sure is that someone typed in “who use 6ish.” I probably did. I’m an –ish kind of person where numbers are involved, but I suspect I wasn’t what they were looking for. I did, though, in honor of whoever was looking, use sixish in the title of this post. One of these days I’ll figure out how many of them them there are in this category.

The fact that the question came to me probably means I claimed an earlier post in this category was also the sixthish. Sorry.

And finally, someone asked, “what do brits think of disney world.”

Wild Thing—my partner, who I haven’t written about in ages, not because I’ve forgotten about her but because the blog’s taken a less personal turn lately—was in Orlando, Florida, for a conference a hundred years ago, and she swore the place was full of British tourists wearing mouse ears and moaning about how they couldn’t find a decent cup of tea and what kind of motel/hotel doesn’t have a kettle in every room anyway?

For years, whenever someone in Britain told us they’d been to the U.S. she’d ask where they’d been. If they said Orlando—and they often did—she’d say, “We really don’t all wear mouse ears.”

I’m not at all sure they got the joke. Or recognized that they’d heard one. She got tired of finding out how many people go to Orlando and doesn’t usually ask these days.

Anyway, I think the answer is that the Brits who like it are happy to wear mouse ears. And the ones who don’t? They aren’t.

Does that help?

98 thoughts on “What the world wants to know about Britain, part sixish

  1. I am moved to leave a comment, if only because such a wonderful meander deserves recognition. But where to start? And end? Evidently, I need to pay more attention to my search terms (I find ‘what does Britain mean’ and ‘anniversaries 2017’ have cropped up a lot lately). But I would like to add that in the West Midlands it’s often tuthpaste, not toothpaste (not that I’m from the West Midlands), that many Polish place names are as easy to pronounce as some Welsh ones and that some Scottish ones make the speaker sounds as though s/he is sneezing. All of which makes me very proud indeed. Oh – and I think loi-yers wear wigs 1) in order to terrify the ***t out of the opposition and 2) because everyone likes to be in a tribe – it’s like wearing football shirts when you’re having a day out.

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    • Why, oh why, didn’t I think about the British love of (a) uniforms and (b) fancy dress when I tackled the question about wigs? What was(n’t) I thinking? I may have to go back and do that all over again soon. Thanks for shoving me in that direction. But terrifying the ***t out of the opposition? I’d worry about the opposition laughing too hard to be terrified–either at the wig or at the asterisks.

      Some (actually, many) years ago, the satirical U.S. paper The Onion published an article about an emergency airlift of vowels to some Eastern European country whose language was dangerously short of them. It was a masterpiece. So I’m going to have to agree that English isn’t the only language that gives foreigners pronunciation problems. The impressive thing is that we give English speakers exactly the same problems we give foreigners.

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  2. Do let me be one of the first, if not the first to point out the UK is not a country. It is a union, as is Great Britain. But not workers’ union heaven forbid. Got rid of those evil conspiratorial things years ago. Besides we don’t have any workers left. Anyway the union primarily refers to Scotland joining England and Wales in the early C18, between 1704 and 1713. I know this because the Anglo Dutch fleet took Gibraltar in 1704 but by 1713 when the Treaty of Utrecht was signed, Gib was ceded to GB in perpetuity.

    If you look at a UK passport it refers to GB and NI. Both GB and UK are political descriptions. The geographical one is the British Isles. We learnt this in junior school geography.

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    • …and generations of students (and the people who used to be students) are still dizzy from trying to keep track of the distinctions.

      A British friend passed on the formulation that the U.K. is one country, four nations. I do get your point about it being a union–and a messy one, what with devolved powers and no written constitution, but I’ll shut up and stop editorializing–but it does seem to function, mostly, as a country, don’t you think? One parliament, one foreign policy, one military, one–well, we’ll get back to devolution any minute here, so I’ll stop while I’m still almost sure of what I’m saying.

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  3. I may offer a possible origin of “Britain” as a name . The most ancient name we have about the place comes from a VIth century BC explorer from Marseilles (a Phocean Greek city by then), who called Ireland Ierne and Britain Alien (funny hey ?). In this period Carthage was buying tin from Cornwall, because tin was rare in the Mediterranean .
    In the IVth century a very famous explorer and geograph named Pytheas of Massalia (Marseilles again) ventured in the northern unknown islands . In the dialect he used, a mix of Gaulish and Phocean Greek, tin was something like “pretanos” . He named the island from this and the name stuck .
    Why Britain was called “Great” is well known . When the barbaric Germanic tribes invaded the island a lot of Britons left to Armorica (modern Brittany) who soon took the name of Britannia . But there already was a Britannia, so the island became Britannia Maior (Great Britannia) .
    (I won’t extrapolate about this funny place whose inhabitants were long ago recognized as made of tin and definitely Alien to anything else by civilized people, and who received their successive names from Marseilles, hence the perennial attraction the Brits felt for the French Riviera ) .

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    • Treat this explanation with a bit of suspicion, but as far as I understand it, both barristers and solicitors are lawyers, but the barristers appear in court (“the bar,” not to be confused with the kind of bar where you drink alcohol–what a mess this language is) and solicitors don’t. They do the preliminary work and refer clients to barristers. When we went to court to appeal a Home Office decision that we had no right to stay in Britain, we tried going directly to a barrister and were told we had to find a solicitor first, who then referred us to the barrister we wanted and worked with him.

      Solicitors also do the kind of lawyerly work that never goes to court, such as the paperwork that goes into buying or selling a house.

      I don’t think there are any others. Two flavors is more than most of us can comprehend.

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        • Only–mercifully–the informal edges of it. When we appealed for the right to stay in the country, the judge and barristers were wigless, which our barrister counted as informality. As immigrants, we try to stay away from the legal system, since even though we’re citizens, our citizenship can be yanked anytime the Home Office gets mad at us It’s not an entirely easy way to live.

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  4. ‘Britain’s not—surprise, surprise—a country. The country is the United Kingdom. Britain’s a geographical term (I’m still bored with it; go see the earlier post if you want something marginally sensible). It’s also not a nation. The nations in the U.K. are Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England.’

    It often frustrates me, though not enough to resort to tutting in a manner reserved only for the bestial deviants amongst us, how few people are aware of this.

    Well done Ellen, Queen of Witty Clarification.

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  5. Just when I thought I was getting to grips with the Britain-UK-nation-thingy, you come along and inject a whole load of confusion into my veins. (It wouldn’t be so shaming if I wasn’t British/English/Mad.) But you also injected a whole load of laughter for which much thanks!

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  6. Solicitors have audience rights these days…and they even make some of them judges. Country is going to the dogs…
    In my part of France the British were referred to as the `goddons`…supposedly from the swearing habits of its medieval soldiery…almost made one proud to be British…
    Almost.

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  7. My soul will never rest before you put it out of its misery: should it not be “tuttet *at*”? (And all that punctution has me nervous as a bowl of jello, or jelly, as we call it in South Africa. Does one merely get tutted? Not tutted at?

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  8. Most enjoyable – your thoughts on us Brits. Here’s a variation on tutting, rather a wild one I’d say..
    Just picture this, I’m stood in a long boring queue in the post office, in fact a sub-queue for passport renewers. Only one staff member on passports- she tells me : go to that desk, fill that section & return to me – come straight to the front of this queue. Such unfairness is too much for the queue tutting to contain, so a woman shouts : “this is ridiculous, ridiculous…”.maybe there’s no turning back now ?

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  9. So many questions. I will say that I knew you had answered some, so I pass the easing comprehension part of this blog’s final exam. And yes, it’s the blog’s exam, not yours because I doubt you’ll bother. No offense intended.

    As for: “The ox cart of civilization, my friends, is rattling itself into little pieces on the bumpy roads of modern communication.)” – I love the expression, but as long as my wife is alive and reading my stuff, my road will be well paved.

    Grest post. It’s a crummy Friday here and this was a welcome bright spot.

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  10. OH yes, very helpful. For instance, I had no idea solicitor and barrister were not interchangeable words, let alone duties.
    Nations inside a country? I never can get that right. Same with Mexico. See, when you’re an outsider, you know there are all these regions inside the UK, but really, they’re all UK-y, maybe because weather and landscape…but prolly just cause ignorant American. And the same goes for Mexico. Yes, there’s Chihuahua and Sonora and what, 10 or 12 more? — but they’re all just Mexican to outsiders, even though the people inside those states are CERTAIN they’re no more the same than Wales and Ireland, we outsiders just aren’t convinced. But then to the ignorant American, there is no U.S. state that exemplifies all, and so we realize this turnabout is fair play. I encounter foreigners who’ve only been east of the Mississippi and they have no idea that things are a bit different in Texas…
    Very few people from elsewhere seem to understand HOW BIG the U.S. is. Always nagging about how we don’t travel. Well pardon me, but it takes more than a day on our non-existent bullet train to get from Indianapolis to Phoenix, and they are, essentially, two different planets.
    It’s all so regional and dialect-ish and charming, despite the tuttutters.
    I have a question, due to my recent, all to quick obsession with Broadchurch. Excuse me, but why doesn’t the grass grow 4 feet high in England? People are always walking through beautiful green fields and yet, there cannot possibly be someone trimming back the grasses to 18″ like a man trims his beard to five o’clock shadow. And pardon me again, but are there no ticks in England, either? I marvel over this.
    Scones, meh.

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    • 1. The really ignorant people are the ones who think they know everything. People who think they’re ignorant? They’re smart.

      2. Scones: I have to defend them. They’re not meh. Okay, not all of them are meh. (And any reader who isn’t American, along with let’s say 70% of Americans, are wondering, What’s meh? Never mind. Just go with the sound and it’ll bring you close enough.) Anyway, butter, or clotted cream and jam. They’re wonderful–or the good ones are.

      3. Grass. The secret is sheep. And cows. If you’re looking at a field and the grass is short, it’s grazed. They don’t consider it work. But, no, they don’t trim it to 18″–and if they did they’d trim it to some damn thing in centimeters. If it’s that height, I’d guess some location scout found a field that was going to be mowed for what they call silage here and paid the farmer to let them mess around in it.

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  11. To me ‘crochet’ is something I do with a hook and yarn, not music…. Brit ‘tyoob of toothpaste’ vs American ‘toob of toothpaste’… I used to wonder about policeman’s (policemens?) helmets and shall stick to what I thought as a child, that they help the air circulate round their heads (one head per cop, you understand). Fun post, of a kind I used to write myself in an earlier and very different blog from my present one! I particularly like the beachwear… but, er… ‘budgie smugglers’? *Grins*.

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    • Budgie smuggler is, I think, a New Zealandism, although it could be Australian as well. Once you hear (or read) the phrase, life is never the same, although whether it’s better or worse it up for discussion.

      You’re right about crochet. The musical note has a T–crotchet, like a crotchety old man. I think the traditional police helmets were meant as a bit of head protection. I haven’t tried to whack one–I’m way too short–but as I understand it they’re pretty solid. I do like your explanation, though. Kids’ minds are so strange.

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      • I’d not noticed the ‘t’ in crotchet… how strange! There were always lots of cartoons in the 1950s of kids knocking the helmets off policemans heads, but it’s not something I’d want to try! (And in those days kids would just get a clip around the ear from the cops and be sent on their way. Have you heard the expression ‘clip around the ear’? That might be one to add to your blog some time. Colloquialisms. (Though it might be location specific yet again. If it is, then it’s London and/or South East England.

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        • I heard the expression before I moved here, but strictly as British English. As far as I know, it’s not used in the U.S. We don’t focus on the ear, for one thing. We might say someone got hit in the head–or upside the head in black, and possibly a southern white, English, although I’m not sure of the southern white part. But that kind of implies a harder hit that a clip around the ear.

          Odd, isn’t it?

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          • Yep. Not only that but a clip around the ear wasn’t always a hit, sometimes it was a pull on the ear. I’ve heard ‘uspide the head’ from many Americans over the years, always makes me laugh. There was a blog I read many years ago (that’s no longer updated) in which the writer – a guy from the Bronx (like yourself? Apart from the ‘guy’ bit, I mean) complained about it and wondered how anyone got to the upside of the head!

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            • Yeah, it’s one of those phrases that’ll tear your head apart if you tear it apart too carefully. I always saw it not landing on the upside but moving from down to up. But maybe that’s my height affecting things again.

              I’m not from the Bronx. I was born and lived in Manhattan till I was eleven, when we moved to Yonkers, a first-ring suburb just north of the Bronx (we lived one block outside the city), so I sort of made a sandwich of the guy you’re talking about.

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            • Ah. See, I have the (I think typically) British thing of regarding distances as much greater than they really are – here in the UK everything being so much smaller. I was talking to someone recently who’s from what he calls the suburbs of New York and when I said which part, he said Long Island. I then had a look at Long Island on a map and thought, wow that’s big! I’ll have to take another look at the map and see which suburbs are next to which others. I’m spatially-challenged (literally not metaphorically) so it takes me rather a while for things to ‘fit’ together in my brain!

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            • Okay, defining a suburb in the U.S. get complicated. We have sprawl. We love sprawl–almost as much as we hate it. People move further and further out and spend more and more of their time getting to work and back. I used to work with a guy who lived an hour from work. That was 14 hours a week in his car, on top of 40 hours of work. I couldn’t say if he lived in the suburbs or a small town–it all gets hazy out there toward the edges.

              Long Island is a big place. Brooklyn and Queens are actually on Long Island, although we’d never call them Long Island, so parts of L.I. bump right up against the city. Definitely suburbs. Out at the end of it, though? I’d say not, although admittedly it’s been a hundred years since I was out that way.

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  12. It’s Saturday now. And a lovely sunny one at that. I committed a blogger’s crime yesterday and liked this before I even finished it. Have just read it all now, sitting in the garden. Neighbours must have heard the guffaws. I think I even heard them tutting at me. Definitely at. But maybe not because they’re French and the French do a lot worse than tut.
    Thanks for all this clarification. And as one Australian friend likes to say – it was as clear as mud.
    Have a happy Cornish Day.
    Juliet

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    • “Clear as mud” is an Americanism as well. Thanks for the reminder–I may have to drop the phrase in the vicinity of someone around here who objects to them. I’m sure I’ll get tutted, although probably silently. (We haven’t discussed the silent tut, have we? I’m sure it exists.) I’m glad to know the correct form, but I’ll probably continue to drop the at here and there because it strikes me as funnier that way.

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    • My best guess–and keep in mind that my musical background’s somewhere between limited and disastrous–is that they’d call the breve What’s that? I never heard of anything longer than a whole note until–oh, probably a few weeks ago. Although calling something a semibreve would normally push a person to ask what a full one is, the question never crossed my mind. It was only when I looked up a bit of information about the value of the notes that I ran into it.

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        • I never heard of one, but that only proves that I never heard of one, not that no one else has. I’d have thought they’d simply link two whole notes with those sideways parentheses thingies (to use the technical term) and call them two linked whole notes.

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          • Sadly, it’s the breve that’s the whole note. It looks a bit like this ||O||. It was very common in Renaissance music where the moving notes were usually minims. I could go on, but that’s probably already more that you want to know.

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            • It’s not more than I want to know, but I suspect it’s more than I can absorb. I’d run out of words trying to explain how hard a time I have with this.

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            • I mentioned this conversation to a friend who’s a music teacher and he said that the American way makes more sense. It makes less sense to me, because I would always think ‘what’s it a quarter of?’, whereas a crotchet has an identity of its own.

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            • My best guess is that whatever we grew up with makes most sense to us, but in defense of the quarter note, it’s a quarter of a whole note, which becomes the standard. Everything else derives from that.

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          • I must say that these designations, either the UK or the US ones,puzzle me . I didn’t know them until now, thank you . How different languages create different realities never ceases to fascinate me . You see, French language triggered a reality in which the basis of note figures is made on one beat and not on four as in the US (whole note) or on eight ! as in the UK – yes a semibreve is logically only a half of something .
            So the French basis is on one beat and it is called “une noire” (a black one) while two beats is called “une blanche” (a white one) . Four beats is called “une ronde” (a round one) . All these names come from the aspect of the note figures and they are feminine adjectives because “une note” is feminine .
            The English “crotchet” puzzles me even more because there is no “crochet” (hook) in its shape . But a half-beat, a quaver, is logically called “une croche” in French because of its shape . The following shows one more time that English and French think everything reverse . English terminology divides ever more, semiquaver, etc… while the French one multiplies : double croche, triple croche, quadruple croche . All this gives much to think for those who are in this sort of investigations .

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            • The problem–okay, one of the problems–I have with the British terminology is that I’d expect a minim to be brief, but it’s longer than a crotchet–it’s what I’d call a half note. I had to look that up, because although I’ve looked it up recently it refuses to take up residence in my head. (I don’t blame it. It’s like a rummage sale in there.)

              A half note’s a fairly long note, so why a minim? And why, while we’re at it, a quaver? It sounds like a wobbly tenor trying to hold his voice steady.

              And then there’s the hysteria factor. In the process of checking the translation of minim, I found not just my old friend the hemidemisemiquaver, but the the demisemihemidemisemiquaver. Having read that, it’s going to be hours before I can do any sort of sensible work.

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            • Have some weed and it will roll . Your shock with a minim is half of mine with a semibreve . “Brève” is the feminine form of the adjective “bref” which means short, brief . Calling the longest note figure “half of a short one” is stunning for a French speaker ! Like calling “crotchet” a figure with no hook at all . Obelix was right ;”These Britons are crazy” .

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            • Ah, the wisdom of Obelix. I’d forgotten to mention the breve. I hadn’t put the name together with the French (I read French better than I read music, but that’s not what you’d call a high compliment), but even so the sound of it did call brief to mind.

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  13. READER, BEWARE! Ellen is on a real roll today!!

    (And of course, now my tuts are all queuing up to be the first to try on the latest fashion in courtside budgie smugglers. The ones who aren’t already tricked out in illegal semibreves. They’re going be insufferable after this, I hope you realize. #lookwhatyoudidnow)

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    • I don’t like laws that regulate what people can wear, but even so I don’t think semibreves should be allowed on the beach.

      And on that note: Men, let those budgies out for air or I’m calling the ASPCA, the RSPCA, and any other animal welfare group I can find initials for.

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  14. These are all interesting facts about Great Britain, her people, and their habits. Thanks for the information. Thank you for linking up at The Blogger’s Pit Stop. I’m sharing your link on social media.
    Carol (“Mimi”) from Home with Mimi

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  15. For everything you probably didn’t want to know about tutting (apart from the use of ‘tutting at’ or ‘being tutted at’ (and yes, the ‘at’ is the ‘proper’ form but hey, if we don’t make changes as we go our language would never develop!) there’s this, um… gem…. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dental_clicks

    and to that I say tsk tsk… (a sound I’ve never mastered.)

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    • Those are some scary looking symbols they use to write the sounds. The kind that make me think, Did I fall asleep in class? Because I’ve never seen these before.

      I’m with you on making changes in the languages. Next time I’m tutted at, I’ll insist on being tutted. That should derail the situation enough that the tutter will leave wondering what the hell happened.

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  16. I have some clip in pink cat ears… I am not sure where they fit in the Disney universe as I don’t really do Disney… but they were handy on the Women’s March in January…

    I just spent more time than is necessary trying to work out why you get on a train but in a car… I came up with nothing useful!

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  17. This blog post really made me smile! When I moved to Cornwall I learnt lots of new words and phrases and I’m always surprised when after 2 years of being here I catch myself using such phrases too!

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