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.

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).