Birthday presents!


I visit the library about once a fortnight so rarely buy books unless they’re textbooks. If I do buy a book I usually hunt for a second hand version, however, my sister gave me book tokens for my birthday! Eee!

I usually dislike shopping (especially among weekend crowds), but once I was in the shelves I completely forgot about everyone else and got down to hunting out books!

After lots of deliberation (my main criterion was if a book had a waiting list at my library, but I saw so many books I just wanted) here are my spoils ­čÖé I’m saving some of the tokens in case I can’t find a second-hand textbook in September, but wanted to treat myself to some birthday fiction now.

A successful forage!


How our language affects how we see the world (to an extent!)

I recently I read Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher while on holiday. Get yourselves to your libraries and pick up a copy! After feeling sad at returning my copy, I’ve decided to buy myself one so I can read it again.

Whilst most of the studies and ideas weren’t new to me, I enjoyed the reminder and thought that the writing was perfect. The book takes us down a logical progression of entertainingly written facts and ideas about how the language we’re born with affects how we see the world. It concerns what I was taught was called the weak Sapir-Whorf hypothesis or linguistic relativism. The strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which states that language confines how we see the world, is – as the book explains – no longer respected, but a weaker version that language affects some ways of thinking is very likely.

If you’re interested in how different languages express colour and how this reflects or affects – to a degree – how we see colour, pick up this book. I was reading bits out to my dad and he seemed as interested as I first was when I learned about the difference in how Russian speakers and English speakers see different shades of blue because they call light blue and dark blue by different colour terms.

I took the book away with me on holiday and it was a suitably easy read. It assumes very little knowledge of linguistics so could be picked up happily by most people and it should be picked up. This is a perfect introduction to linguistics because it covers a topic most people can get interested in, doesn’t require the reader to have a grounding in other areas of linguistics and is easy to read.

I know that I get excited by areas of linguistics even people studying linguistics find dull (I loved analysing speech intonation, but the fact that that module only had around 10 people signed up for it speaks for itself…), but I promise that linguistic relativism is more universally interesting.


Book map!

I bought myself a present. It’s something I have had my eye on for a while: this wonderful book map!

Book Map from Dorothy

It’s from Dorothy and I absolutely love it. I like maps and love books so it’s a perfect present for me. I keep finding more books that I’ve read on it.


New year, new bookshelves

Happy New year!

I was given some books for Christmas, but I now face the challenge of shelving them. For someone who reads so much, you’d think I’d have better organised bookshelves. Luckily I mainly listen to audiobooks and get books from the library, but I have a big enough collection of books to want to organise them.

Currently my books are divided into rough sections: knitting, craft and maths (?!) books; cookery books; books about literature, architecture, grammar, spelling and style guides; chemistry textbooks for my evening course; dictionaries and academic linguistic books; poetry and books about unusual words; travel guides; books I’m currently reading; books on loan from the library or other people; annnd fiction. Just a big mess of fiction. It’s vaguely arranged with series grouped together in the same place, but really it’s a mess. I’m thinking of reordering if for the start of a new year, but I’m not sure how? Fiction is the main problem as it’s a three-deep shelf so I can only see 1/3 of the book titles at a time.

I was looking at these some suggestions on bookshelf arrangements (here and here). I remember being confused by my cousin’s colour coordinated bookshelf when I was younger and that still doesn’t make much sense to me. Genera won’t really work because I mainly just have fantasy, humour and classics. I read other generas, but usually get them from the library. I liked a┬ásuggestion about ordering books by emotional response. I think something similar might work for me: ‘Light’, ‘thought provoking’, ‘summery day’, ‘curled up with a cup of tea in winter’, ‘comfort books’, ‘sad’, etc.? Maybe not your typical library system, but could be what I want. I’m now curious about how other people arrange their bookshelves?


The importance of dialects

I’ve just finished listening to Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

I haven’t read any really enjoyable books recently so I’m so glad I ended the year with the audiobook of this one. I didn’t particularly enjoy My Fair Lady, the musical based on this play, so I didn’t have high expectations. However, I really enjoyed Pygmalion and thought it was a different entity to the musical (although I couldn’t help occasionally imagining the characters breaking into song when they said a line that some of the songs are based on!).

Great characters, nicely depicted setting and a good, humorous story. Plus it uses concepts from sociolinguistics and as a linguistics graduate I couldn’t help enjoying it! I’d certainly try to see it if there is ever a production of it at a local theatre.

I’m fascinated by accents and having lived in various places over the UK I’ve been interested to know how other people perceive my accent. I’m from South West England and although I have some identifying features, when I went to university in Scotland most people described my accent as ‘posh’. A friend later told me that when she initially met me she assumed I would be ‘stuck up’. At university, with a mix of accents from everywhere I blended in fine. However on a work placement as an Online Exhibition Assistant I felt very out of place among my Scottish work colleagues and longed to be able to tone down my ‘posh’ accent. While I’m thankful for my pretty standard accent most of the time, it would be nice to have the homeliness of non-RP accent sometimes, but maybe not quite as much of one as Eliza Dolittle’s!


Character quiz

It’s Book Week Scotland at the moment and they have a “Who in literature are you?”) quiz. Apparently I’m Elizabeth Bennet. I was thinking how silly these quizes are – even I don’t know which literary character I would say I was like – when I remembered my indignation at one quiz telling me I was like Romeo and Juliet’s Juliet. So I clearly do have ideas of which characters I share traits with.

I remember when I read Pride and Prejudice when I was a young teen and identified with Jane. However, I’ve definitely grown into more of an Elizabeth Bennet, but with an edge more shyness. A bit of Elizabeth, a little of Hermione Granger perhaps? I imagine these are two of the most identified with characters in literature! Who else might also be on a “most identified with” list?


Literary fashion icons

My boyfriend was thinking about taking part in NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) again this year and because The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was meant to have grown from Morgenstern’s writing from a previous NaNoWriMo I decided to give it a read.

The descriptions of the surroundings and clothes are absolutely beautiful and I can almost feel the fabrics. Reading it reminded me of a post I read last week on the telegraph about literary fashion icons. The first three on my list below I share with the article, but thinking about the clothes characters wear made me realise I pay more attention than I thought I did to characters’ appearances even when I can’t ‘see’ their clothes.

Elizabeth Bennet‘s practical attitude to her appearance is something I love. I walk a lot and have many a time gotten my shoes muddy because of a desire to take the scenic route though a park rather than catch a bus.

Bertie Wooster‘s dapper, yet slightly un-conservative fashion sense is a humorous point in Wodehouse’s books and I love his style.

Mildred Hubble‘s unkempt hair and long skirts were very much me growing up (and these were stories I loved!)

Hercule Poirot‘s neatness reflects his logical mind and I love his attentiveness to his appearance even if I don’t share the same attitude.

Orlando in Virginia Woolf’s book,┬ámade me think about how people often judge someone’s gender on their clothing.

Hermione Granger‘s frizzy hair always made me feel better about my own hair growing up. At school I was (and am) the girl who always did the homework and it was quite nice to share Hermione’s frizziness along with her intelligence!

Before films and TV, I imagine people were perhaps more likely to be inspired by literary characters’ fashions? It was nice to give it some thought.