Posts Tagged ‘Greek’

From bolt cutters to the Bible

Good morning everyone. Today is Wednesday so I’m handing over to my guest blogger for a recap on his Bank Holiday activities…


I’m writing this week’s post at the end of a brilliantly sunny Bank Holiday Monday here in the UK. These holidays have a reputation for two things: getting bad weather and long traffic jams. The latter because so many people decide it would be a good idea to go out for the day. They do seem to decide this en masse and so end up travelling out in queues of traffic and then, as if by mass telepathy, they travel home at the same time as everyone else causing big queues on the return journey. Our day was good but will fill you in on that next week.

I checked to see what happened on the day I am writing this (6th May) back in history. It seems to have been quite an eventful date. Thanks to Chambers Book of Days for the following info:

In 1954 Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in under 4 minutes – his time was 3m 59.4s.

A number of important people were born on this date (6th May):

French Revolutionary politician Maximillian Robespierre (1758), Psychoanalyst (& neurologist) Sigmund Freud (1856), Film actor Rudolph Valentino (1895), former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair (1953), American actor George Clooney (1961)

Other May 6th events:

In 1642 the Canadian city of Montreal was founded (as Ville Marie)

In 1937 the Hindenburg airship crashed while it was attempting to dock with its mooring mast at Lakehurst, New Jersey. 97 were on board and 35 were killed.

In 1994 the Channel Tunnel (between the UK & France) was opened.

So you can see it has been quite a date for important things to happen.

Interestingly on this date, in 1536, Henry VIII ordered that a copy of the Bible was to be placed in every English church and what I did last Saturday relates to this indirectly.

However, before I tell you about Saturday, Friday kicked off my week-end with something rather bizarre. It was time to give the grass its first cut this year. Out I went to the shed which had been padlocked through the winter. This year our winter seems to have dragged on rather along time and everyone (here in the UK) has commented on how long the cold weather has continued for. (Up to last week our nights were still hitting temps close to freezing!) Anyway I thought I could do a whizz round with the mower before Saturday which was going to be a really busy day (which we’ll come to).

I put the key in the lock and tried to turn it – nothing. I waggled it about and bashed it with a hammer a bit – still nothing. It seems that I’d now found out the reason why the lock I’d bought last summer had been such a bargain – it was rubbishy and just one winter had caused it to rust up. I now felt like a contestant on a new game show – no, not Who Wants To Be A Millionaire but Who Wants To Be A Grasscutter!

Question 1: You have come to get your mower out of the shed but the lock is rusted up. What do you do?

A – Sit down & cry

B – Try some 3-in-1 oil

C – Use a sledgehammer

D – Use bolt cutters

I was struggling at this point so I decided to phone a friend. “I think it’s D he said.” He also said he had some bolt cutters. Well that was good enough for me. I leapt out of the chair and drove to his place and picked them up. Now I have used bolt cutters in my work on occasion so when he said his were big I’d said not to worry I could handle them.

Here’s the picture of them


They weigh 21lbs (1 stone & a half); they are nearly 43” (109 cm) long. I managed to get them home but trying to lift them into a horizontal position so I could snip the lock off was quite a feat. Anyway I managed it. Now you’re probably wondering just how big the padlock was. Well take a look at this next picture. It shows the cutters, the padlock – it’s that tiny thing up at the top left of the cutters, and as an indication of size I put a wooden broom handle (without the brush head) alongside the cutters.


Oh well they did the job even if a slight case of overkill.

Saturday dawned. I was booked for a whole day of lectures at one of the halls in the University in Liverpool city centre. I had planned the journey starting with a mere 10 min train journey a couple of stops along the line towards the city centre. How hard could that be? I knew the time of the train as it was from my local station; they’re every half hour. I just needed to make sure I wasn’t late as the next one would get me there too late. I walked and got to the station with about 7 mins to spare to be greeted by a notice: “Due to engineering work on the line a bus replacement service is in operation”. I went outside – no bus. I went back inside and asked when the bus replacement service was due. “It’s already left”, the man said. When I pointed out that the train was scheduled to leave at 8.50 and it was still only 8.47 how could it be a replacement. It was then he told me that the buses don’t keep the same time as the trains. That meant that if I waited for the next one it would get me there too late for the start time. So off back home I walked and then drove to a station on a different train line; this line has a 15 min service and more importantly they weren’t digging it up on a Bank Holiday week-end! I parked the car and sped in. The train arrived a couple of mins later and when I got out in the town centre and walked to the lecture hall I actually arrived 30 mins early!

The lectures were on the subject of Archaeology & the Bible. There are many who believe the Bible stories and accounts of past events are a kind of made up mythology. This view is easy to understand when you see the way the popular press and the film industry have treated certain areas: think of the recent series (1981-2008) of Indiana Jones and the ark (as in a chest, not Noah’s Ark), the Temple of Doom, the Last Crusade, etc as well as many down the years that have not followed the Bible’s version of a particular event.

The first speaker highlighted just how many books had been written on the sensationalising of various “Quests” to find articles related to ancient Israel & Egypt. He also drew attention to the fact that they were thin on factual detail themselves while criticising traditional views for the same thing.

The main speaker was from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois and he tackled two other contentious areas: that of the time the Israelites spent in Egypt and then their route back to their home, which we call “The Exodus”. Again a fascinating look at the facts and how to interpret them.

The day was closed by a look at the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible which has been dated to the reign of the Greek speaking Egyptian king Ptolemy II in the early 3rd C BC. Its Egyptian features were analysed and briefly its impact on the New Testament.

When you listen to guys who have studied in their field for a long time (one guy over 40 years) you need to give their views a fair hearing and there was a lot to take away and ponder.

And finally, on a more light-hearted note:

On a recent visit to a bird sanctuary, I was in the part where they keep the kestrels. It was late and the sun had gone down. I thought I could hear one of the keepers singing these words:

“Enola gay, you should have stayed at home yesterday
Aha words can’t describe the feeling and the way you lied.”

There was a lot of noise like a vacuum cleaner also as he sang. I asked the receptionist about it and she said,

“Oh, that’s our kestrel man – hoovers in the dark” (say it quickly!)


A-Z is for alphabet

It’s Wednesday and it’s over to my guest blogger, Rambler5319, to sum up the last month’s blogging challenge with a fascinating look at the alphabet as we know it….

Given that LLM has been doing the letters from A to Z through April, I thought it might be an idea to close the whole thing with a look at the alphabet as a concept. How many letters do you think are in the English Alphabet? I’ll tell you – it’s 18. Now before you start shooting me down…. Think about it!

How did we get our letters? Who said eventually there should be only 26? Why 26 anyway as opposed to 25 or 27? Were there more or less at any time during its history?

Even the word alphabet itself, as you know, is made from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: “Alpha” & “Beta”. (I do wonder why we don’t use a term like A-Z to represent it as they are the first and last letters and kind of encompass what the whole thing is. What about the revolutionary phonetic 8-2-Z or just 82Z? Following the Greek it would of course come over to us as the “Alpha-ome” or “Alpha-omeg” as “Omega” is their last letter not “Z”.

I suppose one thing is difficult to comprehend is how do you think outside of this set of letters which we have all known since we learnt them in primary school and from early reading books at home. We can express all our thoughts using these 26 so why would there be more? What use would they be anyway?

Of course it does make a difference which country’s alphabet you are referring to. Think of Germany where they have 30 letters in their alphabet; Albania has 36; Greece 24 and so on. It’s interesting to ponder how all the different alphabets developed and how time has changed what is deemed useful and what not.

Apparently it all goes back to an alphabet from around 1600BC from ancient Phoenicia from which many of our modern day alphabets derive. It was made up of consonants and didn’t have any vowels. Now already, if you’re like me, you’re thinking how can you write without vowels? It can’t make sense. However if you grow up never using vowels in their written form you don’t have a problem. You learn the way to write that the culture you’re in writes. Put simply, it means you make a sound with the letters which is taught to you. So if, for example you learn the word dg but you hear it as “dog” when spoken by others you will simply say “dog” when you see the letters dg and so the “o” is not needed. The problem comes if you need to represent “dig”. It might be “dg” again but you would have to tell correct pronunciation by the context. Just think of “refuse” and “refuse” in English: one sound is “reff use” for rubbish, one is “re fuse” for turn down or deny. I remember years ago I did write a number of letters to various people and did just that – missed out all the vowels. Surprisingly there was very little problem. The most issues came when using the short words like an which would appear as just “n” (so could also be an, in, on or even one and so on) but often the context would enable correct interpretation. The single letters I and a were just not shown so would require a bit of reasoning to see if they should be in at a particular point. Try this paragraph below – each group of letters is actually one word so single letters need something adding in front/behind or both:

Th s f twnty-sx lphbt lttrs n r nglsh systm nbls s t rprsnt ds, cncpts nd snds sng wrds md p frm ths

dffrnt lttrs. Ths s why lrnng t rd s s mprtnt s t nbls cmmnctn; t nbls s t ndrstnd wht smn ls s syng nd

wht thy wnt. t s ssntl fr s t b bl t pss n nfrmtn frm gnrtn t gnrtn, frm tchr t ppl, frm mnngr t shp flr

wrkr nd s n. f w mss t th vwls t shrtns ll r wrds (s lss ffrt nvlvd sm wld sy) bt ls my prdc msndrstndngs.

I’ll give you the full version at the end but, seriously, just stop for a moment and see what you can make of it.

English didn’t really standardise until printing came along (late 15th century) which required people to use a particular method of spelling for the presses. There are a number of letters (symbols?) now defunct but which explain some of the oddities in English pronunciation.

As an example, one letter pronounced “yog” but written “yogh” looks like a number 3 but is actually like a copperplate “z” with a tail. One of our current Liberal Democrat MPs is called Sir Menzies Campbell. Hands up everyone who thinks his name is pronounced “Men-zees” (and yes that was me when I first saw it). When he appeared on TV he was introduced or mentioned in the news as Sir “Ming-iss” Campbell. How did that happen? Well apparently it’s all down to this letter “yogh” which is written like the “z” but pronounced with a “g” sound; it’s a bit more complicated than that but I reckon the detailed phonetics explanation may bore you. You have the same with the surname “Dalziel”. (There was a UK detective prog called “Dalziel & Pascoe”.) Again you want to say “Dal-zeel” or “Dal-zee-ell” but it’s pronounced “Dee-ell”. In my youth I visited a place spelt Cholmondeley and I said “Chol-mon-dell-ee” to the telephone operator and she said “Oh, you mean “Chum-lee”? Think of the surname “Featherstonehough” – Feather-stone-huff? Nope – It’s “Fanshaw”.

And finally a gem from the John Menzies own website (

Can you read this correctly:

A lively young damsel named Menzies

Inquired: “Do you know what this thenzies?”

Her aunt, with a gasp,

Replied: “It’s a wasp,

And you’re holding the end where the stenzies.”

Remember the Menzies to Ming-iss and do the same for the other “enzies” endings. Got it?

The other area which is already producing additional letters to our alphabet is the whole text-speak thing. Think of some of the abbreviations which are replacing phonetic sounds from our words: gr8 for great mean 8 = ”eat”, 4 means “for” or “four” (context to decide) and so on. I even thought of one which I don’t think is out there yet (and probably not likely to be) –


Have you got it? It’s lol written as capital LOL: move O left into L and flip the other L through 180⁰ and move left to make the square and there you have it. I’ve invented a new letter! You saw it first here, you are looking at the future.

And, of course, if you want to finish a message an “x”, you could maybe get


Now back to that paragraph with the challenge. Here’s how the full version reads:

The use of twenty-six alphabet letters in our English system enables us to represent ideas, concepts and sounds using words made up from those different letters. This is why learning to read is so important as it enables communication; it enables us to understand what someone else is saying and what they want. It is essential for us to be able to pass on information from generation to generation, from teacher to pupil, from mananger to shop floor worker and so on. If we miss out the vowels it shortens all our words (so less effort involved some would say) but also may produce misunderstandings.

Hope you got it ok.

PS I’m standing by for some tricky replies/comments as I’m sure some of you will want to have a go at me.