The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

31 Dec 2009


Looking for something to mark the end of the year in a blog post, I've come across this video clip. As I have not seen the film summarised in it before, I've found it amazing the way in wich a story can be told in less than five minutes and with no words.

I'd like to wish a HAPPY NEW YEAR to all the regular or occasional readers of this blog.

22 Dec 2009


A través de esta entrada del blog de, tengo noticia de Cosmolema, una utilidad para explorar, aprender y jugar con el léxico del castellano. Cito a continuación el listado de posibilidades que ofrece:

"Cosmolema permite explorar las relaciones entre las palabras por medio de estos operadores:

- Bifronte. Cuando una palabra es igual a la otra leída en sentido contrario: raza-azar.
- Anagrama. Cuando dos palabras usan las mismas letras en diferente orden: bestializar- estabilizar
- Letra cambiada. Cuando dos palabras se diferencian en una única letra: casar-cantar.
- Añade letra: casar-cansar.
- Elimina letra: cansar casar.
- Contenedor: norma-paranormal.
- Contenido: paranormal-norma."

11 Dec 2009


Author Jonathan Littell has won the 17th annual Bad Sex In Fiction Award, for his novel The Kindly Ones.
The book, which was originally published in French, won the Prix Goncourt in 2006 and has sold over a million copies in Europe.
Judges at The Literary Review gave him the bad sex prize for a passage that begins: "This sex was watching at me, spying on me, like a Gorgon's head".
In one excerpt, the author describes a sexual encounter as "a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg".
The Literary Review said Littell's book was "in part a work of genius", adding they hoped the author would take their dishonour "in good humour".
The shortlist for the prize also included works by Paul Theroux and musician Nick Cave

4 Dec 2009


The other day I read this post by David Crystal in which he commented a project led by hip-hop artist Akala to work on Shakespeare with young people.

After watching the video below, I also think that the activity can be really positive to approach classic literature to the youth apart from the opportunity to practise reading, pronunciation, rhythm... in a fun way.

By chance, I have also come across a video recording where two Secondary students recite "Lo que puede el dinero" written by Juan Ruiz, Arcipreste de Hita. The video can be watched from the bottom of website.

29 Nov 2009


I knew almost nothing about Robert de Beaugrande until today. He was just a name related to different linguistic concepts in a book of Análisis del discurso that I studied a couple of years ago. Today I came across this post in Vanity Fea blog that led me to browse through Beaugrande's website. The site collects many of this linguist's works and I'm sure it can allow the reader to discover lots of interesting studies and reflections on language.Just to illustrate this post, I have chosen the three quotations he included in his introduction to A Friendly Grammar of English:

Grammarians would perhaps differ less, if they read more.
-- Goold Brown, 1851

As the grammarians […] began quarrelling, they lost the power of discovering.
-- Charles Kingsley, 1854

It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data.
-- Sherlock Holmes, 1892

21 Nov 2009


Una amiga me envía una serie de referencias sobre micropoemas, entre ellas este video que recoge unos cuantos, adecuado para pausas breves cuando no hay mucho tiempo para la poesía.

13 Nov 2009


A friend has sent me the following references to websites that include recorded poetry:

Lyrikline website collects poems recorded by their authors. They are organised according to language or author. Poems can be listened to and read at the same time. Many of them include translations to other languages.

PennSound is a project developed at the University of Pennsylvania, "committed to producing new audio recordings and preserving existing audio archives". The section about Classics helps us recall the works and authors we studied in the first years of English Philology.

Poetry Foundation also displays an organised array of recordings both through podcasts and videos.

Photo source:


When reading about kinds of dictionaries, I have come across the term "catch phrase" and had to look it up. I read in Wikipedia that a catchphrase "is a phrase or expression recognized by its repeated utterance. Such phrases often originate in popular culture and in the arts, and typically spread through a variety of mass media (such as literature and publishing, motion pictures, television and radio), as well as word of mouth".

This entry also includes a link to a list of political catch phrases. I have found a good number of familiar expressions, especially in the Spain and United States sections.

8 Nov 2009


After reading today's Quote of the Day (see below), I followed the recommended link and read about Kazuo Ishiguro having worked "as a as a grouse-beater for the Queen Mother at Balmoral before enrolling at the University of Kent". I had no idea about the meaning of that word and tried to look it up by googling the expression.

It has not been an easy task. I can find what a grouse and I understand the general meaning of beater but I have to rely on my "knowledge of the world" to imagine that a grouse-beater's job is to harass birds so someone hunts them easier when moving. Is it like that? Anyway, a curious job for a future writer and a curious employer for the activity.

" I couldn't speak Japanese very well, passport regulations were changing, I felt British, and my future was in Britain. And it would also make me eligible for literary awards. But I still think I'm regarded as one of their own in Japan."

Kazuo Ishiguro

3 Nov 2009


From this post in Palabras Tendidas blog, I learn about Free Rice, a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Program together with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

The programme works like this: you choose a topic from a selection of subjects (Geograhy, Art, English, Spanish, etc...) and start to answer questions in a quiz. For every right answer, ten grains of rice are donated by the UN World Food Program to help fight hunger in the world.

Why not try the English Grammar or the English Vocabulary sections and practise language while participating in this project.

13 Oct 2009


Via this post from David Crystal's Blog, I get to know about an incipient initiative to celebrate the English Language Day. The focus for this year is legal English. Among other things, the organisers suggest a set of ideas for celebrating this event. One of them is to find instances of legal gobbledegook.

The Plain English Campaign fosters the identification of bad examples of language use by issuing awards on various categories, e.g. the Golden Bulls, given for the year's 'best' examples of gobbledygook. Let's choose this example to celebrate the event!

Eastleigh Borough Council
for a Notice given under the Building Act 1984

'Hereby in accordance with the provision of the Building Act 1984, Section 32 declares that the said plans shall be of no effect and accordingly the said Act and the said Building Regulations shall as respects the proposed work have effect as if no plan had been deposited.'

10 Oct 2009


Author Hilary Mantel has been named 2009 Man Booker Prize winner for her historical novel Wolf Hall, based on Henry VIII's adviser Thomas Cromwell.
Chairman of judges James Naughtie said: "Our decision was based on the sheer bigness of the book. The boldness of its narrative, its scene setting".
"The extraordinary way that Hilary Mantel has created what one of the judges has said was a contemporary novel, a modern novel, which happens to be set in the 16th Century.We thought it was an extraordinary piece of story-telling.”,added Naughtie.
Mantel saw her first novel, Every Day is Mother's Day, published in 1985.
Its sequel, Vacant Possession, followed a year later.
In 1989 she won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for Fludd. Then A Place of Greater Safety scooped the Sunday Express Book Of The Year award in 1993.
Three years later Mantel was presented with the Hawthornden Prize for An Experiment in Love.She was also shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Orange Prize for Fiction, both in 2006, for the novel Beyond Black.

4 Oct 2009


Los noticiarios de los últimos días nos informan que el Silbo Gomero, practicado por algunos de los habitantes de la isla canaria La Gomera, ha obtenido el reconocimiento de Patrimonio Inmaterial de la Humanidad, por la UNESCO. Una buena noticia, sin duda, pues ayudará a que se reconozca su valor cultural, se extienda su uso y evite su desaparición. Sin embargo, y tras leer varios artículos referidos al mismo, no he conseguido hacerme una idea clara de su mecánica. En muchos escritos se refieren al Silbo Gomero calificándolo de ‘lenguaje’, mientras que al mismo tiempo se transmite la idea de que mediante este sistema de comunicación es posible transmitir frases del español ‘traducidas’, por así decir, al Silbo. Si este es el caso, no se trataría de un auténtico lenguaje, sino de un ‘código’ que permite transmitir (o incluso encriptar) cualquier idioma, francés, inglés, alemán…

Agradecería que algún lector me ayude a aclarar esta cuestión.

Y mi enhorabuena a todos los silbadores gomeros, por supuesto.

3 Oct 2009


Benjamin Franklin used the following strategy to improve his writing: when he liked how a text was written, he noted down several words from each sentence. Next, he mixed them and set them aside for a time. Some weeks later, he tried to reorganise the text by placing the words in the logical order and completing it.

Similar ideas lie under the design of exercises used in language learning. They are particularly useful to practise logical order, coherence and cohesion in a text.

This website collects some activities of the kind.

Other types of text reconstruction exercises are based on the learner’s capacity to guess the words in a text and test their knowledge about word frequency, collocations and vocabulary.
We can see some examples here.

1 Oct 2009


Just a few months ago, the 7th edition of the International Olympiads in Linguistics was held in the beautiful city of Wroclaw, Poland. This competition belongs to the International Science Olympiads that is composed by twelve disciplines, such as physics, biology, astronomy, mathematics and the like.

In the International Linguistics Olympiad, the competitors, all of them students of secondary school, must face problems in theoretical and descriptive linguistics (phonetics, morphology, semantics, etc.) The young competitors must try to figure out the inherent patterns and structures of languages that they don´t know. For example, in last edition, they were given ten short texts in Vietnamese and a short list of the most frequent words in such idiom. Then, they had three hours to translate the texts, without a dictionary, of course. In other problem, they were given a list of words in a certain language and asked to find patterns of how endings work and what the endings might mean. That is, they had to figure out how verb inflections or plurals are formed in such a language.

This kind of problems is very good for developing the sense of logic and analytical skills.

The aim of the organizers of these competitions is to promote a career in science and to challenge the brightest students from around the world. And the competition is really hard; actually, in several countries, those who achieve a high ranking in any ISO are granted access to a university of choice. Most of countries sent a team of three of four children, but this year India took part with a very special competitor. One of the organizers, Dominique Estival, trainer of the Australian team explains it: “The Indian team had three students, but one of them was quite an extraordinary girl. She went out by herself to study the past International Linguistic Olympiad (ILO) problems, and told her mother that she wanted to participate in the ILO. But there is no organisation in India comparable to ours where we foster the competition, so the mother wrote to the organisers of the ILO and asked whether they could bring a team without the competition in India. And the organisers allowed her to bring a team, and so she came with her brother and her friend and the mother was coming with them. The others did okay, but she won a silver medal. She's a very determined student.”
This year, the USA team came in first place, Korea won the second price and Russia came third.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering: No, our country has never been represented in this Olympiads. Funny, isn´t it?

29 Sep 2009


Los seres humanos compartimos ideas, conceptos y experiencias, sin embargo comunicarlas es mucho más difícil de lo que podría parecer a simple vista. Al menos comunicarlas de forma comprensible e inequívoca.

En los Estados Unidos de América un grupo de expertos en antropología, lingüística, astronomía y otras ciencias han pasado años intentando en vano encontrar la forma de transmitir un concepto simple y universal: ‘peligro’. El gobierno de este país les asignó la tarea de encontrar la forma de señalizar una zona que alberga desechos nucleares, pero teniendo en cuenta que estos desechos permanecerán activos al menos durante 10.000 años y que estas señales deberían ser comprensibles para quienes se acerquen al lugar por ese entonces. Los expertos, divididos en dos grupos que han trabajado independientemente, no solo no han sido capaces de encontrar un símbolo con el que transmitir esta idea, sino que ni siquiera han coincidido en sus conclusiones. Mientras que unos proponen una serie de ‘señales’ o ‘inscripciones’ informativas, otros consideran que los símbolos empleados deber producir ‘horror’, de forma que disuadan a quien se acerque al lugar de excavar o tontear en la zona. Finalmente, han optado por recomendar que diversos paneles escritos en distintos idiomas transmitan la naturaleza del peligro, con la esperanza de que puedan ser así descifrados y entendidos claramente.

En cualquier caso, lo que parece claro es que, si bien una serie de conceptos elementales comunes se encuentran presentes en la mente de todo ser humano, la forma de expresarlos varía en función de las distintas culturas, sin que sea posible encontrar ningún símbolo cuyo significado trascienda el tiempo y el espacio.

27 Sep 2009


These days I’m reading George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and I’ve found it interesting the author’s criticism of political manipulation of language. To do so, he admits the power of language to shape ideas and thought by creating a fictional situation where a totalitarian regime fosters lexical impoverishment. These are a couple of quotes from Chapter 5:

'It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well. It isn't only the synonyms; there are also the antonyms. After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take "good", for instance. If you have a word like "good", what need is there for a word like "bad"? "Ungood" will do just as well -- better, because it's an exact opposite, which the other is not.

'Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.

But the work of Orwellian lexicographers does not limit itself to reduction. New words still emerge as new concepts gain protagonism.

The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself -- anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.

In fact Orwell had often shown his concern about the use of language. In his essay 'Politics and the English Language', he criticises inflated and rhetorical discourse as a kind of euphemism to conceal truth. He also contributed to broaden the English lexicon in an involuntary way: expressions such as “Big Brother”, “doublethink” or “Orwellian” itself are part of current usage.

22 Sep 2009


The Booker Prize organizers published last week the shortlist for this year’s awards. You can find it in a previous post in this blog. In the way to this shortlist seven other books have fallen from the initial longlist where 13 books were initially chosen. Here you have the seven that never arrived to the shortlist:

Me Cheeta by James Lever
The ‘autobiography’ of the chimpanzee who co-starred with Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan films.

Heliopolis by James Scudamore
The book is told from the perspective of a 27-year-old who was born in a Sao Paolo shantytown but now lives on the other side of the city’s social divide.

The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey
It is the story of a man in his early 60s who is struggling with the onset of Alzheimers and trying to keep his memories and identity as the debilitating disease takes hold.

Love and Summer by William Trevor
This story is set in a small Irish town over the course of one long summer, when a stranger arrives on his bicycle and falls for a young married girl.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
A young Irish woman leaves 1950s Ireland for a life in Brooklyn.

Not Untrue & Not Unkind by Ed O’Loughlin
The book follows the story of journalist Owen Simmons who finds a dossier on the desk of his dead newspaper editor which leads him to Africa and a woman he once loved.

How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall
This book weaves together four stories spanning half a century, from an elderly Italian painter to the young blind girl he teaches.

20 Sep 2009


Today I participated in a first session of a book club in English. It's been a kind of introductory meeting where the participants have commented on one or more books that we've read and enjoyed sufficiently as to recommend them to others.

These are some of the titles mentioned in the evening:

Possession by A.S. Byatt.
Experience by Martin Amis.
Bleak House by Dickens.
The Queen of Whale Cay by Kate Summerscale.
Dreams and Shadows by Robin Wright.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.
A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry.
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry.
Deaf Sentence by David Lodge.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
Why Men Want Sex and Women Need Love by Allan Pease & Barbara Pease.
Some books by Laurie Graham.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.
Wild Nights by Joyce Carol Oates.

12 Sep 2009


9 Sep 2009


A S Byatt, J M Coetzee, Adam Foulds, Hilary Mantel, Simon Mawer and Sarah Waters have been announced as the shortlisted authors for the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
The six books are: A S Byatt The Cildren's Book; J M Coetzee Summertime ; Adam Foulds The Quickening Maze ; Hilary Mantel Wolf Hall ; Simon Mawer The Glass Room and Sarah Waters The Little Stranger.
Having previously won in 1999 with Disgrace and 1983 with Life & Times of Michael K, South African writer J.M. Coetzee would be the first author to win the Man Booker Prize three times if successful this year. A.S. Byatt is in the running for a second win - her novel Possession won the Booker Prize in 1990. Hilary Mantel's Beyond Black was longlisted in 2005. Sarah Waters has been shortlisted twice for Fingersmith (2002) and The Night Watch (2006). The youngest on the list, at 34, is Adam Foulds and Simon Mawer is shortlisted for his eighth novel, The Glass Room.
The winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction will be revealed on Tuesday 6 October 2009 at a dinner at London's Guildhall and will be broadcast on BBC News across television, radio and online. The winning author will receive £50,000 and can look forward to greatly increased sales and worldwide recognition.

7 Sep 2009


Stefan Gatward, un jubilado inglés de Tunbridge Wells, ha comenzado una campaña particular en contra de la ausencia de apóstrofos en los carteles de su localidad. Esta acción ha provocado tanto apoyo como rechazo. El Daily Mail lo califica de 'héroe de la puntuación' y el Telegraph de 'apostrofista', mientras algunos de sus vecinos lo consideran simplemente un vándalo.

Asimismo me entero a través de la entrada GUERRILLA ORTOGRÁFICA del blog Palabras Tendidas de la iniciativa de Pablo Zulaica, que consiste en añadir en carteles y rótulos públicos unas grandes tildes de papel en aquellas palabras en las que faltan. Pablo tiene además un blog, Acentos perdidos, en el que explica, desarrolla y anima a expandir esta campaña.

Inserto aquí también este vídeo de la televisión argentina que ilustra la actuación de Pablo:

17 Aug 2009


I’m back from a recent trip to the United States. Although it was my first stay in that country, it was really easy to find familiar places and names. While visiting different buildings, I came across different quotations by well known American writers and politicians. These are some examples:

The cathedral of Saint John the Divine displays a set of American writers’ quotes in its Poets’ Corner
Both in the Franklin Institute and the Underground museum at Franklin Court in Philadelphia, lots of wise and witty sentences by Benjamin Franklin were displayed. These are just a few of the many I read:

"An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest"
"God heals, and the doctor takes the fees"
"You may delay, but time will not"
"Fish and visitors smell in three days"

I'll finish this post with an inscription shown in big letters at the Entrance hall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. It displays a piece of advice addressed by Theodore Roosevelt to young male people. I think it reflects well the ideal that underlies in many fields of the United States society.


"I want to see you game, boys, I want to see you brave and manly, and I also want to see you gentle and tender.

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground.

Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life.

Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike".

Further quotes in the same room

23 Jul 2009


Quizicon web site offers a collection of more than one hundred quizzes about a variety of topics.

Some of them are related to language and literature:
- 10 most common English words.
- 10 most common Spanish words.
- Authors of classic novels.
- Punctuation symbols.
- Cockney alphabet.
- Shakespeare's plays.

Why not try one of them as a means of revision, a mental challenge or just for fun?

Image source: Flickrcc

19 Jul 2009


It had to happen, sooner or later. The classics revisited by the most disrespectful writers. Are these versions right? Or should literary classics be untouchable? Maybe they should, but then, which classics exactly? How we would tell which one should remain unblemished by these blasphemous versions? This time have been Austen´s Pride and Prejudice (now Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and Sense and Sensibility (Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters), but what comes next?
Anyway, I dare to predict a wave of weird versions of classics for the next months. Or maybe it´ll be a tsunami.

10 Jul 2009


From this post in Lexiophiles we can access the four sections of a language blog competition (language learning, language teaching, language technology and language professionals). It is still possible to vote for your favourite one in each category by marking your choice among selections of one hundred blogs.

1 Jul 2009


The term Dog Days refer to the period between July and September when the hottest days of the year usually occur in the northern hemisphere. It also extends its meaning to a period of stagnation and inactivity.

The term "Dog Days" was used by the ancient Romans, who called these days caniculares dies after Sirius, "the dog star", which rose just before or at the same time as sunrise and was believed to increase the heating power of the Sun.

Summer days are an invitation to go strolling, to travel... and, especially, to lazy around. I know that this blog has not as many readers as we liked but I still think that it is worth it, a friendly place for practising English writing a bit, for jotting down interesting resources related to language and literature, for sharing thoughts, news, selected quotes, etc. Summer holidays are near and I will probably keep quiet regarding this blog for the coming two 'dog' months.

Some English idioms related to summer:

An Indian summer
1. A period of warm weather which sometimes happens in early autumn Both the UK and Ireland have been enjoying an Indian summer over the past few weeks.
2. A successful or pleasant period in someone's life, especially towards the end of their life

One swallow doesn't make a summer.
You cannot be certain that more good things will happen and the whole situation will improve just because on good thing has happened.

To make hay while the sun shines.
To do something right away while the situation or conditions are right, with no delay.

25 Jun 2009


La profesora Gabriela Zayas incluye en su blog Arte y Literatura una sección sobre lecturas y comentarios acerca de personajes y eventos de la Inglaterra isabelina. Merece la pena echar un vistazo a alguna de estas entradas o a otras muchas que tienen relación directa con autores de la literatura anglosajona.

22 Jun 2009


Today I came across this post in one of the blogs I follow, showing a slide presentation of the process and some productions in a sequence of class activities on the narrative aspects of The Secret Garden, a film based on the homonymous novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I’ve never read the original work but I still have an abridged version of this story in a book for children I bought in England many years ago. I liked the story regardless a certain sentimentality characteristic of the Victorian period because of its positive and encouraging message, with Nature, friendship and perseverance as healing factors of both body and mind.

The novel has been transferred to the cinema screen on several occasions. This is a trailer for the 1993 adaptation directed by Agnieszka Holland.

17 Jun 2009


El pasado domingo Eduardo Punset entrevistó a Gary Marcus en un programa de la serie Redes, titulado El cerebro es una chapuza. Entre otras reflexiones acerca de la imperfección del cerebro, se trató el tema de los problemas de comunicación por limitaciones propias del lenguaje al final del programa. Para ello se aludió a la cuestión de la ambigüedad.

La ambigüedad lingüística puede tener su origen en estructuras sintácticas que admiten más de un agrupamiento de sus elementos para formar sintagmas, así como en cuestiones de otro tipo, generalmente semánticas, a menudo relacionadas con la polisemia o la homonimia. La reducción de fonemas en el habla de una comunidad determinada puede aumentar considerablemente el número de términos homófonos, aumentando con ello la necesidad de contexto para entender qué se quiere realmente decir.

He aquí un ejemplo de situación cómica que basa su componente humorístico en malentendidos provocados por variantes fonéticas entre hablantes de la misma lengua:

9 Jun 2009


I´ve always wanted to know how to get more comments to my submissions. Sadly, only recently I found the key:

6 Jun 2009


Como siempre me estoy quejando de que los usuarios de lengua inglesa disponen de más y mejores sitios en internet, es una satisfacción meter este vínculo con la página Wikilengua del español. Para los interesados en el estudio, análisis o simplemente en el uso correcto del idioma en que escribo estas líneas resultará útil y provechoso darse un vuelta por esta amena página, en la que colaboran, entre otros organismos, la RAE, el Instituto Cervantes o la Fundación San Millán de la Cogolla.

4 Jun 2009


dotSUB is a tool that allows anyone to translate and subtitle video content into multiple languages. It can be helpful and fun for those who may like to practise translation while creating something useful for others at the same time.

The example below shows Claude Piron making a spirited defense of Esperanto as the best international language:

3 Jun 2009


Por favor, que alguien le explique a los redactores de las bases de los concursos literarios que la mejor forma de medir la extensión de un texto es contando el número de palabras que contiene. Así de simple.
Pues no. En este país, en el 99% de los casos, al llegar al apartado de la extensión que deben tener los relatos, cuentos o novelas siempre aparece algo así como: “Los relatos tendrán una extensión mínima de 5 páginas y máxima de 10, escritos en letra Times o similar, por una sola cara y en hojas A4, cuerpo 12, a doble espacio y no más de 32 líneas por página ni 70 caracteres por línea.” (ejemplo tomado de la Convocatoria II Premio BizkaIdatz, de la Diputación Foral de Bizkaia). Señores: eso son “entre 3.000 y 6.000 palabras”. Así de simple. Que ya solo les falta indicar también la marca del papel en que deben estar impresos los relatos…

1 Jun 2009


Looking for something related to June and linked with the English language or literature, I’ve come across this quote by Shakespeare:

"Was but as the cuckoo is in June,
Heard not regarded". [1st Henry IV – III, 2]

According to Archibald Geikie in his book The Birds of Shakespeare, this is the context and meaning of this sentence:

"As summer advances, the cuckoo’s note, having grown familiar, no longer attracts the notice of the country-folk, as it did when the bird first appeared in April. King Henry IV avails himself of this common observation when he lectures his son on his misdoings, and compares the Prince’s career to that of “the skipping king” of the previous reign, who lost the respect of the people".

THIS BLOG displays Lord Archibald Geike’s text in a clear and orderly manner.


28 May 2009


Canadian short story writer Alice Munro is the new winner of the Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work.
Munro is one of Canada’s most famous writers, well known for her short stories.
The judging panel for the Man Booker International Prize made the following comment on the winner:
“Alice Munro is mostly known as a short story writer and yet she brings as much depth, wisdom and precision to every story as most novelists bring to a lifetime of novels. To read Alice Munro is to learn something every time that you never thought of before”.
Alice Munro's first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), was highly acclaimed and won that year’s Governor General’s Award, Canada’s highest literary prize. This success was followed by Lives of Girls and Women (1971), a collection of interlinked stories that was published as a novel.
Many of Munro's stories are set in Huron County, Ontario. Her strong regional focus is one of the features of her fiction. Another is the all-knowing narrator who serves to make sense of the world. Many compare Munro's small-town settings to writers of the U.S. rural south. As in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, her characters often confront deep-rooted customs and traditions.
A frequent theme of her work—particularly evident in her early stories—has been the dilemmas of a girl coming of age and coming to terms with her family and the small town she grew up in. In recent work such as Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001) and Runaway (2004) she has shifted her focus to the travails of middle age, of women alone and of the elderly.
Other recent works are: No Love Lost (2003), Vintage Munro (2004), and The View from Castle Rock (2006). Her latest collection of short stories, Too Much Happiness, will be published in October 2009.

17 May 2009


Echando un vistazo a la oferta de grados y másteres de la UNED para el próximo curso 2009-2010, he llegado a la Propuesta de Plan de Estudios de Grado en Estudios Ingleses: Lengua, Literatura y Cultura y me he parado un momento para comparar cuáles serán los cambios en relación al currículo que ha conformado estos años (se implantó en el curso 2001-2002, creo) la licenciatura de Filología Inglesa en esta universidad.
A primera vista, llama la atención el reparto de tiempo que favorece la organización en asignaturas cuatrimestrales. Al dejar los estudios en cuatro años y leer tantos nombres de materias, parece todo más condensado. Sin embargo, es fácil establecer paralelismos entre las nuevas denominaciones y las antiguas.

Estos son algunos ejemplos: Inglés Instrumental, por Lengua Inglesa; Comunicación oral y escrita en lengua española, por Lengua Española; Mundos anglófonos en perspectiva histórica y cultural, por Historia y Cultura de los Países de Habla Inglesa; o Pronunciación de la lengua inglesa, por Fonética Inglesa.

Desaparece el término ‘troncal’ aplicado a las asignaturas obligatorias comunes a todas las universidades españolas y se añade el de ‘básica’, que supongo será su equivalente.

La segunda lengua extranjera (francés, alemán o italiano) puede sustituirse por una clásica (latín o griego) y se reduce a un año académico.

Hay también cambios en la obligatoriedad de cursar algunas asignaturas: Pragmática y Sociolingüística dejan de ser optativas y se unen a la hasta ahora preceptiva Análisis del Discurso que se queda en un cuatrimestre. También sube de estatus Traducción de textos generales y literarios inglés-español, que supongo reemplaza a Análisis Contrastivo de Textos.

No termino de hacerme idea de qué supondrá en la práctica la adecuación de la Universidad a los requisitos del Plan Bolonia. Tanto desde mi experiencia personal (en universidad presencial y a distancia) como de lo que percibo en los estudios actuales de mi hija o de gente conocida, creo que la Universidad necesita reformas en varios aspectos. Así, en general, se me ocurre mencionar la metodología y los medios de evaluación.

12 May 2009


Practicing English is a nice excuse to listen to Neil Young. Although to be true, who needs excuses to listen to Neil Young (others than remember the Golden Years)?

Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleeping
We could dream this night away.

But there`s a full moon rising
Lets go dancing in the light
We know where the music`s playing
Lets go out and feel the night.

Because I´m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I´m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

When we were strangers
I watched you from afar
When we were lovers
I loved you with all my heart.

But now it`s getting late
And the moon is climbing high
I want to celebrate
See it shining in your eye.

Because I´m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I´m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

9 May 2009


Wait! There is another peculiar literary genre (genre? Maybe ‘variety’ fits better) in English language literature. The creator it is said to be Ernest Hemingway. It seems that, back in 1920, Hemingway´s friends bet him that he couldn´t write a complete story in just six words. He won and the legend says that Hemingway considered it his best work. Here is the result:

“For sale: baby shoes, never used”

There exists another version of the story that goes like this:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”

I couldn´t find relevant information that confirm any of them as the original one, but it would be interesting to know the opinion of the scholars of Hemingway´s work.

Anyhow, I´ll post here a bunch of samples of six words stories:

“Computer, did we bring batteries? Computer?” William Shatner

“Longed for him. Got him. Shit.” Margaret Atwood

“Starlet sex scandal. Giant squid involved.” Margaret Atwood

“With bloody hands, I say good-bye.” Frank Miller

“The baby´s blood type? Human, mostly.” Orson Scott Card

“TIME MACHINE REACHES FUTURE!!! …nobody there…” Harry Harrison

“Easy. Just touch the match to” Ursula K. Le Guinn

And I´ve left my favorite for last:

“Five zombies. Four bullets. Two zombies.” Brian

7 May 2009


Las elaboradas ceremonias y rituales se extendieron a lo largo de toda una semana. La ciudad se llenó de visitantes llegados de los más remotos confines del continente y las calles se convirtieron en un abigarrado arcoíris de rasgos, ropas y animales exóticos. El bullicio no disminuía ni siquiera por las noches, cuando se encendían los fuegos sagrados, y la gente se mantenía despierta masticando hojas de khat. La mayoría ignoraba que en el último día, el día del solsticio de verano, tendría lugar la inmolación comunal.

(Flash Fiction: a complete story in one thousand or fewer words. See Hobart, Jucked, SmokeLong)

6 May 2009


When reading about this week’s phrase, la-di-da, I’ve followed the link to reduplicated expressions, i.e. those which are usually made up of two words, “one that supplies the meaning and a secondary rhyming word, which is added for emphasis”.

According to the kind of sound repetition, these expressions are categorised in three groups: rhyming (e.g. willy-nilly), exact (e.g. chop-chop), and ablaut, that is, when there happens a vowel alternation (e.g. knick-knack).


A funny poem using quite a lot of reduplicated expressions can be read in this blog entry.

1 May 2009


I could have chosen May Day traditions and celebrations on this first day of May as the topic for a first post in this new month, but I will write about the origins of its homophone, the distress expression ‘mayday’, and other similar signals, instead.

According to the Wikipedia entry on this term, “Mayday is an emergency code word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It derives from the French venez m'aider, meaning 'come help me'. It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency by many groups, such as police forces, pilots, firefighters, and transportation organizations. The call is always given three times in a row ("Mayday Mayday Mayday") to prevent mistaking it for some similar-sounding phrase under noisy conditions, and to distinguish an actual Mayday call from a message about a Mayday call.”

But mayday is not the only alert signal of that kind. In fact, that is the one which indicates closer danger and biggest urgency. Pan-pan (from the French: panne - a breakdown) is used for urgent situations of a lower order , such as a mechanical breakdown. Finally, Securite (from French sécurité — safety) introduces an important safety information, such as navigational warnings or the approaching of meteorological adverse conditions.

These three signals have Morse equivalents in SOS (• • • — — — • • •), XXX (— —••— — — —••— — — —••— — ) TTT ( — — —)

Regarding SOS, I read that its association with phrases such as "Save Our Souls" were developed after the signal, most likely as a means to help remember the correct letters (something known as a backronym).

28 Apr 2009


The author JG Ballard, famed for novels such as Crash and Empire of the Sun, passed away last 19 April in London after a long illness. James Graham Ballard (1930 – 2009) was an English novelist and short story writer who was one the most famous members of the science fiction New Wave movement.
His best-known novels are the controversial Crash (1973), an exploration of sexual fetishism connected to traffic accidents, and the autobiographical Empire of the Sun (1984) based on his childhood in a Japanese prison camp in China during World War II.
Both books were adapted into films, by David Cronenberg and Stephen Spielberg.
His early novels include The Drowned World (1962), The Wind from Nowhere (1962), The Drought (1965) and The Crystal World (1966). These were followed by more experimental novels, such as The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), Concrete Island (1974) and High-Rise (1975).
More recently he has published novels like Cocaine Nights (1996), shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award, Super-Cannes (2000), Commonwealth Writers Prize and Millennium People (2003), a tale of violent political protest and social change.
J. G. Ballard's last novel was Kingdom Come (2006). In 2008, his autobiography, Miracles of Life, was published.
His friend and fellow author, Iain Sinclair, said Ballard had developed into a major literary figure:
"He was one of the first to take up the whole idea of ecological catastrophe. He was fascinated by celebrity early on, the cult of the star and suicides of cars, motorways, edge lands of cities. All of these things he was one of the first to create almost a philosophy of. And I think as time has gone on, he's become a major, major figure."
His work had such a strong personality that the adjective "Ballardian" entered the language, defined by the Collins English Dictionary as "resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard's novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments."

26 Apr 2009


Un paseo reciente por los cañones del Ebro y Rudrón me llevó a leer esta inscripción en la pared de una casa en Valdelateja.

"Tú sola eres mi casa, Cintia,
tú sola mis padres;
tú, todos los instantes de mi dicha"

Recordaba poco de Propercio, apenas lo suficiente para situarlo en la poesía amorosa de la época de Augusto, y he decidido hacer un repaso rápido a base de algunas páginas de Internet.

Se sabe poco de la vida de este poeta latino aunque su nacimiento se sitúa alrededor del 45 a.C. en Asís y su muerte en el año 15 a.C. Estudió en Roma y participó en la vida social de la gran ciudad, aunque sin comprometerse en la vida pública. A los 19 años conoció a la cortesana Hostia, la Cynthia de una buena parte de sus elegías, con quien vivió una relación apasionada y tortuosa. Perteneció al círculo de Mecenas y quizás por ello apoya la política del Imperio públicamente a través de su cuarto libro, dedicado a celebrar la Roma de Augusto.

Entre otros documentos, me he encontrado con Las elegías de Propercio y sus lectores áureos
un estudio de Lía Schwartz Lerner, sobre la influencia de la poesía de Propercio en poetas posteriores, en especial Garcilaso, Herrera, Lope de Vega, Quevedo y Góngora. Curiosamente la autora introduce el tema a partir de una obra de teatro inglés contemporáneo, The Invention of Love, de Tom Stoppard, donde este dramaturgo reúne en escena al ensayista Walter Pater, el crítico de arte John Ruskin, el escritor Oscar Wilde, profesores de lenguas clásicas de la universidad de Oxford y varios periodistas y escritores contemporáneos de aquellos. Las siguientes citas dan idea de la presencia de Propercio en la obra:

“Su protagonista es el filólogo inglés Alfred E. Housman, que aparece desdoblado literalmente en dos personajes: un Housman ya muerto a los 77 años, al que se designa con sus iniciales: AEH, y el mismo Housman, cuando entre sus 18 y 26 años estudiaba en Oxford”.

“Cuando se inicia la obra, Housman está de pie en la ribera de la laguna Estigia esperando la llegada de la barca de Carón (…) En el acto I, Housman se enfrenta con su alter ego, que llega cargado de libros: son diversas ediciones de Propercio, que el joven alumno critica. Su intención es volver a editar las elegías, resolver los problemas de un texto corrupto que resultaba aun incomprensible en esos años. Gran parte del diálogo entre AEH y Housman gira en torno a cuestiones textuales o a los problemas que suscita la traducción de la poesía de Propercio, de Catulo o de otros autores latinos y griegos”.

“A pesar de este tema tan poco propicio en apariencia, la obra tuvo un éxito notable en Londres y en Nueva York. No poco debe haber contribuido a ello la dramatización de un caso de frustrado amor homosexual en la Inglaterra victoriana. Sin embargo, el texto de Stoppard es atrevidamente culto y está construido en torno a citas latinas y griegas que permiten también leerlo como reivindicación del valor e interés de la cultura clásica en estos tiempos que parecen serle tan hostiles”.

21 Apr 2009


Last week I attended some talks, readings and other events related to poetry within the programm of Cosmopoética in Córdoba. There, I had the opportunity to listen to Alan Sillitoe and his wife, Ruth Fainlight. Up until then I had little knowledge about Sillitoe, just an association of his name with the story The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.

When talking about his approach to poetry, he told us that he started to write due to an 18-month-long convalescence when hospitalised with tuberculosis at the age of 19. After that experience, he decided to read what he considered important such as the Bible or Shakespeare in order to fill a gap in his literary knowledge. He stressed the importance of reading previous to writing.

His first volume of poetry, Without Beer or Bread was published in 1957. He also published Poems (1971), with Ted Hughes and Ruth Fainlight, Storm and Other Poems (1974) and Barbarians and Other Poems (1973).

Regarding his fiction works, Alan Sillitoe is grouped among the "angry young men" of the 1950s, with John Osborne, John Braine, John Wain, Arnold Wesker, and Kingsley Amis.

Among some other few poems, he read ‘The Morse Machine’. A recording of that reading can be seen at the end of this video.

In fact, Sillitoe trained as a wireless operator in World War II and still practises taking Morse code.

“I keep up my skill with Morse by taking messages from the radio now and again. It's a kind of therapy. When I can't write I tap out a few words to get me going, or sometimes as a plea to the gods to send another poem or novel”

19 Apr 2009

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in Madrid

Francis Bacon is not the only opportunity the Museo del Prado is offering this season to those interested in British arts and culture.
In a smaller format, the exhibition Sleeping Beauty (open until 31 may of 2009), features seventeen works by major artists of Victorian Britain, a little represented school in Spanish museums. They have been lent by the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico.
The exhibition includes works by artists such as John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Coley Burne-Jones, dating from different phases of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais in an attempt to rediscover the authenticity they felt painting had lost since the time of Raphael. Their works were often inspired by literary and historical themes, approached with a high degree of seriousness and representing moments of intense emotion.
Among the paintings featured in this exhibition I would like to underline The last sleep of Arthur in Avalon by Edward Coley Burne-Jones, a painting of big dimensions, inspired by the last scene of Thomas Malory's Morte d’Arthur.
The encounter with the Arthurian cycle, in Thomas Malory’s version of Morte d’Arthur, proved a real revelation for the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and it impressed its literary and romantic seal on many of their works.