2017 has got off to a rainy start. We spent New Year's Eve at a friend's house as usual, the same friend as usual, sharing good food and reminiscing. Above all toasting absent friends. At midnight we looked out over the town. Our friend's house is at one of the highest points in the town and we have often seen spectacular firework displays from there. This time we could hear a good deal of noise but could see very little. Too wet and cloudy.
It has become our tradition to walk home after the New Year's celebration. We have walked through crisp, cold nights, sometimes over lying snow, sometimes battling the wind but always walking. Last night we gave in and accepted a lift home. Too wet altogether. And this morning the rain continues.
A gloomy start but are we downhearted? Not at all! Here are some thoughts on words.
Someone called Gary Nunn was writing in the Guardian about how the meanings of certain words have changed, or perhaps not quite so much the meaning as the status of the word.
Experts, he tells us, used to be highly-regarded professionals at the top of their niche field. It was good to be an expert. "Now, the geek-bullying of the playground has festered into adulthood and “expert” is almost a pejorative, sneered at by the likes of Michael Gove and Donald Trump."
“Emotion” is no longer an important feeling to be taken into account but something to be dismissed because we should look only at "objective fact".
And then there is "disruptive": “Once, children might get told off for being loud or unruly or, as we called it then, “disruptive”... In 2016, it’s cool to be disruptive. It’s what every startup in Silicon Valley is straining to do.”
"Disruption has happened on a grand scale: to politics, to democracy and to language itself. Disruption to the point of dystopia. Or, perhaps, to the point of melodrama. Depends on what you believe is true."
The Washington Post has a yearly competition where they ask for new definitions of already existing words. Here is a selection:
Coffee (n) - a person on whom one coughs.
Flabbergasted (adj) - appalled over how much weight you have gained.
Abdicate (v) - to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
Gargoyle (n) - gross olive-flavoured mouthwash.
Flatulance (n) - an emergency vehicle that picks you up after you have been run over by a steam roller.
Balderdash (n) - a rapidly receding hairline.
Frisbeetarianism (n) - the belief that when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
(I am pretty sure that last one is a totally invented word but I like it.)
Four five pound notes with a tiny picture of Jane Austen and a quotation from her work are a project by the Tony Huggins-Haig Gallery in Kelso. Graham Short, a micro-engraver from Birmingham had the idea. He engraved a 5mm portrait of Jane Austen on the transparent part of the new plastic fivers as next will be a celebration of the hundredth anniversary of her death. The gallery people said each note could be worth tens of thousands of pounds. Graham Short engraved a portrait of the queen on a pinhead and it sold for £100,000. Not bad!
Graham Short himself spent the first of the special fivers in Caerphilly in early December, choosing that town as his mother was born there. It was found about two weeks ago. Now a second one has turned up in a Christmas card in the Scottish Borders. Both the finders say they want to keep the notes and have them framed. Not me! I am pretty sure I would arrange to have it sold for large amounts of money. I could find a use for it and I have no great hankering for a portrait of Jane Austen. Her writing is more interesting.
Now all I need to do is examine carefully every new plastic fiver that comes into my hands. It's a bit like looking for Willy Wonka's golden tickets! Happy New Year!