Perusing the dictionary in search of inspiration, I happen upon the word yoicks.

>exclamation used by fox hunters to urge on the hounds

Of course – of course! – the first thing I thought of was Scooby Doo.

…although I realised I was likely conflating “Yikes!” and “Zoinks!” in relation to usage by Shaggy or Scoob.

Yet… yikes is listed as a possible variant of yoicks, and the notion of a word being used “to urge on the hounds” turning up in a cartoon about a dog has a nice continuity about it.

I am delighted further to find that etymological discussion on this issue has been exercising internet scholars for some time.

Tally-ho! It’s Z on Monday.

Xenophon examined the xiphoid markings left by xylophagous insects that had been at the xoana lining the xystus.

Inspired by this exotic dust-gatherer from the shelves:

… soon to be Ex Libris: another volume for the charity box.

What to do for W?

Writing something for the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge every day has been a good exercise but also a chore on occasion. Workload at work work (y’know, getting paid work) has increased as we reach mid-term, and it’s a week before a bunch of end-of-year exams pile the hyphens and stress on for everyone. Weightier matters of the world seem of distant concern, somehow.

Waxing Gibbous, Wibble, Woo, Wormwood, WWIII, and WWW: all topics commenced, considered and consigned to File 13, probably never to be seen again.

When in doubt, quote someone with greater wit… Within the pages of The Chickens are Restless, A Far Side collection by Gary Larson, lurks what I am fairly certain is my favourite cartoon (apart from “Cow Poetry”, of course).

“Well, sometimes..”

Why not set a reminder now to read next year’s W post, Welease Bwian?

This month’s A-to-Z blogging challenge has been a bit of a distraction, from one point of view. I have fallen off my reading schedule because of the evening time spent composing these bits.

Then while I was trying to get this one down I was seized with the sudden absolute necessity of trying to set up Google assistant on my phone to see if I could get it to call me “darling”. (It wouldn’t seem to let me…)

There’s usually something to impinge or assist in a prevarication. As I suggested in that first paragraph, it depends on your perspective. It could be argued that my return to regular reading was getting in the way of a more prolific writing schedule.

Tonight I finished Wishful Drinking, the late Carrie Fisher’s brief autobiographical stage show-turned- book. Laughed out loud quite a few times. Found myself nodding in agreement. She is well known as a drug fiend, although she doesn’t glory in it or self-flagellate about it. Maybe a bit of both? There was a pertinent line about wanting things to be good all the time, the unrealistic need of an addict, that struck home particularly.

I found myself turning the endpapers, hoping there’d be more from her.

A propos of which… today is my 67th day without a drink. That figure is courtesy of the Loop habit tracker, by the way, which I recommend for your positive self-intervention needs.

That doesn’t mean I feel I’ve won, or that I’m living moment to moment in fear of the Demon Drink… Somewhere between? It’s maybe something I might write about more, maybe not. Depends what else comes up.

Feels great, though, thanks.

OK Google… How do I UNINSTALL you?

I’m sorry darling… I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Q3: Analyse how the writer uses language and structure to interest and engage the reader. (15)

In this text, an examination board is stating a task for candidates to complete. The question begins with an attempt to engage the reader directly with an imperative (“Analyse”), which leaves no doubt as to the action required.

Two pairs of components then offer further detail of the task to the reader. First, the reader is informed that they must discuss how the writer uses “language and structure”. The conjunction “and” in this noun phrase is perhaps intended as a signal to the reader that they must address both linguistic, and structural, features of the text in their response. There is an implicit point made here that failure to mention one or the other may be important, but why this might be is not made clear.

Furthermore, the terms used are themselves quite vague, which may also impact the engagement of the reader. It could be argued that the terms offer open-ended scope for reader interpretation, which is potentially engaging. However, students unfamiliar with the exam format may not be entirely sure what aspects of language or structure they are supposed to discuss, unless explicitly coached on what they will have to discuss in the exam.

Given the wide parameters suggested by the vague terms of “language” and “structure”, different readers may respond more generally, for example, commenting on the use of English and the question format, rather than specific technical details of the content.

Following this, the writer has provided another pairing, this time in a verb phrase (“to interest and engage”). This offers a range of actions to complete. The conjunction here could also be important, although the use of near-synonymous words may lead to some confusion, hence causing disengagement. It is possible that a reader may interpret this phrase to mean they should not address ideas that fail to be both interesting and engaging, and in not doing so lose further marks.

The question closes with a reference to “the reader”, which in this text clearly refers to an examination candidate. Although the word “engage” can mean “occupy”, which the simple of act of reading the question achieves, the idea of a “reader” being interested by the bland terminology is not particularly convincing.

In addition, there is an implication from the wording employed that the student is expected to know how to respond to a question phrased in such a generalised way in the exam. This suggests that such knowledge is presupposed by the exam board (“the writer”), with a logical inference from that perhaps being that teachers are expected to make this mechanical awareness the point of their lessons, rather than, say, making words and reading fun activities.

The number “15” appearing at the close of the text, isolated in parentheses for emphasis, may be a mocking final note reflecting the idea that the only truly important outcome of any interest to the reader is how many marks they need to get.

As part of the Great Clear Out, boxes full of things are being dislodged from their dust foundations and unlidded.

It would be great to announce the uncovering of some neglected but promising manuscript of a novel, an unfinished play, pretty fragments of verse, all ripe for renovation… there are many shards, but a well-decorated commode was still a commode.

I am quite taken by some of the clippings I’ve acquired, including this, from Vox magazine:

May 1994. I think it’s the slightly distrustful tone combined with wide-eyed wonder at the strange promise of the future.

You’ll soon be able to buy standard sized, five-inch discs that will play music and VHS-quality pictures (with the right system from Amiga, Macintosh and so on, of course).

Amiga, Macintosh and so on, of course. Never mind the march of technology – 24 years later, the very notion of wanting to keep something you’ve paid for seems quite retrograde.

So, yeah, it’s mostly going in the recycling.

Today I did behold a lemon and upon its label were there inscribed the names of Imazalil and Thiabendazole. Purchasing this cursèd fruit and spiriting it from the market, I was able swiftly to neutralize it within an admixture of quinine and a reduction of juniper water. Then I did betake to my study to further examine this phenomenon.

I have begun these, my Notes Towards a Grimoire of Contemporary Spirits Whose Powers May or May Not Be Trusted.

1. Imazalil

2. Thiabendazole

3. Triticonazole

4. Tebuconazole

5. Glyphosate

6. Thiacloprid

7. Metaldehyde

8. Cypermethrin

9. Abamex

10. Isomek

11. Kunshi

12. Sokol

13. Tropotox

Let it be known then that their ranks do extend yet further, and while capable each of great boon even so do they offer a bane for their unintended actions upon the other plants and creatures of the air, water, and earth.


On the Rites of the Summoning of the Mouthdaemon, M.S.G.

It’s Thursday, there’s a day job and all sorts going on, which seems to be pushing my A to Z posting schedule further an further back into the evening.

I don’t really have much of anything for K, so in the spirit of wonderful podcast The Allusionist, here is a semi-random, happened-upon, somewhat apposite k-word of the day:

kiasu /’ki:əsu:/ SE Asian >adjective (of a person) very anxious not to miss an opportunity

– ORIGIN from Chinese, ‘scared to lose’.

(Standard English version below…)

aɪ seɪəʊld bɔɪˈʤɒli gʊd ʃəʊwɒt

ˈtraɪɪŋ tuː ˈkæpʧər ˈækjʊrɪtli ðə weɪ ˈpiːpl spiːk ɪz frɔːt wɪð ˈɛrə. təˈdeɪz pəʊst ɪz ɔːl əˈbaʊt aɪ-piː-eɪbaɪ wɪʧ aɪ miːn ə səˈluːt tuː ði ˌɪntə(ː)ˈnæʃənl fəʊˈnɛtɪk ˈælfəbɪt ˈrɑːðə ðæn ˈɪndɪə peɪl eɪlðə dɪˈlɪʃəsˈhɒpɪ vəˈraɪəti ɒvbɪəðɪs ʧɔɪs ɪz ˈprɒbəbli ɪnˈtaɪəli ˈgɪmɪkɪbʌt ɪn ˈrɑːðə ðə seɪm weɪ æz ðə dəʊnt dɪkˈteɪt pəʊst ɒn trænsˈkrɪpʃən tuːlz, wɒt ˈstɑːtɪd æz ə bɪt ɒv ə ʤəʊk fɔː maɪˈsɛlf tɜːnd ˈɪntuː ə ˈfæsɪneɪtɪŋ ˈprəʊsɛs æt liːst æz ˈɪntrɪstɪŋ æz ði ˈækʧʊəl ˈfɪnɪʃtˈdɒkjʊmənt.

aɪ-piː-eɪ ɪz juːzd tuː ˈɪndɪkeɪt pronounciation, ænd aɪ hæv lɛft ðæt dɪˈlɪbərət ˈɔːdɪˌəʊ gæg typo ɪn tuː ʃəʊ haʊ ðə ˈsɒftweə ˈbiːɪŋjuːzd (https://tophonetics.kɒm/) kəʊpt wɪð ˈlɪtl ˈvɜːbəl tɪks pʊt ɪn baɪ ə ˈwɪmzɪkəl ˈtaɪpɪst. “prəˌnaʊnsɪˈeɪʃən” ɪz wʌn ɒv maɪˈfeɪvərɪt nɒt-ə-wɜːd wɜːdz, əˈlɒŋ wɪð “ˌɪrɪˈgɑːdləs”, frɒm wɪʧ kʌmz ðæt dɑːft wɜːd ɪn ðə ˈtaɪtl ɒv ðɪs pəʊst.

æz juː kæn siː, tophonetics – tuː ɪts greɪt ˈkrɛdɪt – ʤʌst liːvz wɜːdz ðæt duː nɒt ɪgˈzɪst æz ðeɪ ɑː taɪpt. aɪ dɪˈlaɪtɪd ɪn ðə ˈnəʊʃən ɒv əˈsʌmwɒt ˈsnɪfi kəmˈpjuːtər rɪsˈpɒns. “deɪv, jʊə ʤʌst ˈbiːɪŋ ˈsɪli, naʊ, ɑːnt juː?” tuː gɛt ðə wɜːd aɪ ˈwɒntɪd, aɪ hæd tuː raɪtɪn “prəˌnʌnsɪˈeɪʃən” ænd ðɛn “naʊ” tuː gɛt ðə raɪt ˌkɒmbɪˈneɪʃən ɒv ˈvaʊəl saʊndz. ðə wɜːd “typo” wɒz ˈklɪəli ən ˈɪʃuː æzwɛl, səʊ aɪ juːzd “taɪp əʊ”. siː, ˈɔːlsəʊ, maɪ prəˌnʌnsɪˈeɪʃən ɒv “ˈtrɒlɪŋ” laɪk “ˈdɒl-ɪŋ”, nɒt “ˈbəʊlɪŋ”, ɪn ə ˈpærəgrɑːf ɔː səʊ.

əʊ! haʊ wiː larfed! (ænd naʊ aɪ æm ɪˈmæʤɪnɪŋ ə ˈslaɪtli ʌpˈtaɪtnɒt-ˈgɛtɪŋ-ɪt kəmˈpjuːtə təʊn ˈkriːpɪŋ ɪn: “ɑːjɛsðə juːz ɒv ə ˈkɒkni ˈfəʊniːm ˈɪndɪkeɪtsˈhjuːmə.” pɜːˌsɒnɪfɪˈkeɪʃənfɔː miːɪz pəˈhæps ðə ˈgreɪtɪst ɒv ɔːl ˈɪfiˈkeɪʃənz.)

haʊ dɪd ɪt kʌm tuː ðɪs? ə grəʊn ˈpɜːsn, ˈtrɒlɪŋ kəmˈpjuːtə ˈsɒftweə wɪð lɪŋˈgwɪstɪk ɪn-ʤəʊks. ˈjuːzɪŋ tɛkˈnɒləʤi tuː rɪf ænd teɪk ðə pɪs. ɪn ə breɪv njuː wɜːld ɒv eɪ-aɪ / məˈʃiːn ɪnˈtɛlɪʤəns, pəˈhæps ðæt ɪz ðə bɛst wiː kæn həʊp fɔːr .

ˈsɒrihællʊks laɪk juː gɒt ðæt rɒŋ əˈgɛn!” 

deɪvjʊər ə pjʊə ˈbæstədsəʊ juː ɑː.” 

naʊˈmeɪkɪŋ məˈʃiːn ɪnˈtɛlɪʤəns kəʊp wɪð rɪˈsiːvd prəˌnʌnsɪˈeɪʃən bæk-trænsˈleɪʃənz ɒv glæzˈwiːʤən ˈɪdɪəmz… 

wɒt kʊd ˈpɒsəbli gəʊ rɒŋ?

My Lachrymoid 3000 plug-in has been activated, Dave, I hope you are happy now.

maɪ ˈlækrɪmɔɪd 3000 plʌg-ɪn hæz biːn ˈæktɪveɪtɪd, deɪv, aɪ həʊp juː ɑː ˈhæpi naʊ.


I say, old boy! Jolly good show, what?

Trying to capture accurately the way people speak is fraught with error. Today’s post is all about IPA, by which I mean a salute to the International Phonetic Alphabet rather than India Pale Ale, the delicious, hoppy variety of beer. This choice is probably entirely gimmicky, but, in rather the same way as the Don’t Dictate post on transcription tools, what started as a bit of a joke for myself turned into a fascinating process at least as interesting as the actual finished document.

IPA is used to indicate pronounciation, and I have left that deliberate audio gag typo in to show how the software being used (https://tophonetics.com/) coped with little verbal tics put in by a whimsical typist. “Pronounciation” is one of my favourite not-a-word words, along with “irregardless”, from which comes that daft word in the title of this post.

As you can see, tophonetics – to its great credit – just leaves words that DO NOT EXIST as they are typed. I delighted in the notion of a somewhat sniffy computer response. “Dave, you’re just being silly, now, aren’t you?” To get the word I wanted, I had to write in “pronunciation” and then “now” to get the right combination of vowel sounds. The word “typo” was clearly an issue as well, so I used “type oh”. See, also, my pronunciation of “trolling” like “doll-ing”, not “bowling”, in a paragraph or so.

Oh! How we larfed! (And now I am imagining a slightly uptight, not-getting-it computer tone creeping in: “Ah, yes: The use of a Cockney phoneme indicates humour.” Personification, for me, is perhaps the greatest of all ifications.)

How did it come to this? A grown person, trolling computer software with linguistic in-jokes. Using technology to riff, and take the piss.

Perhaps that is the best we can hope for in a brave new world of AI/machine intelligence.

“Sorry, HAL! Looks like you got that wrong again!”

“Dave, you’re a pure bastard, so you are.”

Now, making machine intelligence cope with received pronunciation back-translations of Glaswegian idioms…



Flipping through the vinyl section of one of the fundraising shops in town this fine Friday, feeling the final flashes of the Easter furlough fading, I found myself transfixed as I footered.

Her fascinating face…


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