Posts Tagged ‘Romans’

Things that blow my mind

Space. It is literally mindblowing. There so much of it. There are so many universes and planets and stars and it goes on and on. When that guy skydived from space to earth… My mind EXPLODED! Sometimes I can’t even watch space programmes on TV because there is SO much to understand, I don’t even know where to start. It’s so epic.

Telescopes. Same as space, sort of. I just can’t believe how I can look in a little tube thing in my garden and see something quite clearly that is a billion billion hundred million miles away in the sky. (Don’t quote me on that figure.)

Bees. Of the last ten days on my blog, I think four have been about bees. They’re so amazing.

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The Romans. The fact that so much of what they made survives today. The fact that they got to so many places around the world. The systems they invented which still exist today, eg the rule of law.

The people at Pompeii. Because that’s real actual people who were actually alive two thousand actual years ago. And actually had lives and walked around Pompeii as real people and lived there. Actually lived there. Mind blowing.

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I asked Danda what he thought I should write next and he said, “Danda.”

I asked, “Cause you drive a taxi so well?”

He said, “No, because I just blow your mind. I’m just amazing. I’m just. Amazing. And I make a good cup of tea.”

Now, this is true. He does make a good cup of tea. So he is allowed on the list.

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X is for…

X MARKS THE SPOT. (From Indiana Jones, although I think the quote is “X never marks the spot”. It’s a very vague connection but I’m a bit like Indiana Jones in this post, hence the quote.)

And so to my last day in Italy… sniffle sniffle.

Two days previously, we had tried to visit the amphitheatre in Pozzuoli and it had been closed but we really wanted to see it. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we set out again, hoping it would be second time lucky.

And it was! Woop woop! It was so quiet. Apart from a group of school children when we first entered, we saw no other people while we there. And it was amazing. We were allowed under the stage and into all the corridors once used by the gladiators to enter the stage from underneath through trap doors.

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The cut out sections in the second floor up were used to keep cages with animals in to be released onto the stage too.

After a little while, we found a section where the corridors and stairways were accessible, although they were blocked off elsewhere. It was dark and cold and silent and I felt like I was an archaeologist, discovering it all for the first time. The Indiana Jones of the Roman world, if you will. Minus the baddies.

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By the time, we came up by the stage and seating area, it became clear that the section downstairs had never meant to be left open. It was too quiet, too secretive. But we were in by then and it was like a heady mix of discovery and disobedience. Being so quiet, there was no-one to tell us off so we kept exploring.

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We found rooms under the seating area where statues and other bits and pieces had been stored during excavations.

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Eventually, creeping about amongst all these amazing discoveries, we suddenly emerged into sunlight and were in the seating area.

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(I’m cheering an imaginary gladiator, in case you were wondering.)

After all this merriment, we were on a high and, even though we only had a few hours til we needed to be back in Naples to check out of our hotel, we went on a search for the seafront and some coffee. It took us far longer than we realised it would and by the time we got there, we barely had time to sit down before we had to start trekking back up the hill to find the station.

We asked directions at a roundabout and sped off in the direction we were told.

Now, one of two things must have happened here.

1. We were told the wrong direction.
2. We didn’t understand the directions properly.

As we walked down the road, it suddenly became really countrified. We were surrounded by greenery, there was no sound of traffic, only birds singing and we seemed to be walking out of town, not towards it. After fifteen minutes, we admitted defeat and turned back but the diversion had added half an hour on. We now had forty minutes to find the station, get a train back to Naples, get back from the station to our hotel, grab our bags and check out! We were up against it.

We ended up doing it in 43 minutes and burst through the door to reception, panting and apologising and explaining that we had been lost in Pozzuoli and we’re really sorry! Thankfully, they were horrified enough by our sweaty faces and profuse apologies that they gave us an extra hour on the room without charging.

We spent our last few hours after checking out, wandering around a nearby castle and taking photos looking over to Vesuvius…

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…before getting a taxi to the airport where, annoyingly enough, there was a problem with our plane and they had to fly a new one out from London, which meant we took off at 22.20 instead of 19.35. Airports are boring when you’ve just had three hours added onto your departure time!

Anyway, we got home without any more hiccups and have spent the last two days lying around letting our stomachs recover from the carb-and-icecream-onslaught that is Italian food! Mmmm….

W is for…

WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE?

…my constant request whilst in Pompeii earlier this week. I had seen a programme about Pompeii a few weeks before going and the historian lady, strolling around looking at things, stopped behind some of the now-famous plaster casts of Pompeian people who were found when excavating the town. She said something like “This is the first thing that greets you when you enter Pompeii.”

Well, thought I, this will be excellent. I shall see the actual people. I will see their faces and can imagine what their lives must have been like and imagine them in these grand homes.

I find it fascinating, imagining the people going about their daily lives. It suddenly makes history a really alive subject that I can connect with because I can start to imagine myself in the past and how different my life would have been from the one I am now leading.

So we entered Pompeii, my eyes scanned for the Pompeians lying on the ground….

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Eventually, walking into the Stabian Baths, we saw a few in glass boxes…

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…and it was so strange. On the TV programme, they had talked about pyroclastic flows and ash falling and four different flows of something, which had meant that people had died almost immediately. There was no long drawn-out choking to death or disease or anything. They had been caught unawares and had barely any time to try and escape. So when I looked at the man in the top case, I imagined him seeing the ash falling and lying down and covering his face and being immortalised that way, forever. How strange, that the smallest action has defined his life forever. Of all the other things he did in his life here at Pompeii, he is forever defined by covering his face from the approaching disaster.

We kept walking but it was a long time before we saw any more people, which had become my obsession at Pompeii, a little bit.

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Danda walking across the stones set high up in the road so people could still cross the road when it was raining.

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Me ‘working’ in the Pompeian version of a deli.

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Wall paintings

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Floor mosaics

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More people! The lady on the programme said that this position with the arms is typical of someone going into rigor mortis after a shock.

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This one is strange in a totally different way. His exposed skull and two thousand year old teeth poking out from the plaster made me feel odd, like I’d accidentally seen someone undressing.

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You can even see the shape of the belt he was wearing when Vesuvius decimated the town.

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We found some more people in an area which seemed to be blocked off for archaeologists to work in, although there were none there at the time. In between all the wine jars and other artefacts, there were some more people.

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The lady on the programme talked about how this person had probably crouched down and put their hands to their face to stop the ash going on it.

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This person, it seems, dived on the floor and hid their face.

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O and here’s one we found. Just in amongst the wine jugs on the shelf. Have you spotted him yet?

After looking at loads more buildings and reading in my little guidebook about what it used to be and who used to live there, we were back near the entrance, we had been there for five hours and were both knackered.

“But I didn’t see the people from the programme…” I said sadly.

Danda insisted we go and find them, even though I was tired and said it was ok. He reminded me that we don’t know if we’ll ever come back here so we mustn’t go home disappointed. So off we went, back into Pompeii, not much time to spare before closing, the tourists almost all gone, to find “the people.”

We trekked right back to the other end, near to the vineyards which, by the way, they have replanted and turned back into working vineyards (the wine produced there is called Villa dei Misteri) and eventually we found them! The people! The people lying on the floor! Hurrah!

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And it was so interesting. I was enthralled, standing up against the glass case imagining who’s children they were, which house had been theirs, whether they had worked in the vineyards, as that is where these 13 were found during excavations or whether they had lived close by and just run there together to shelter.

Eventually, time and daylight were running out so we made our way back to the entrance, having added an hour on for “the people” and left, among the last few.

What a brilliant brilliant day. Damn planes and trains and the history of the automobile, give me some real people’s faces and clothes and lives to look at and I’m planning my future as an archaeologist/historian.

That’s inbetween my full time job as a farmer, my part time job as the world’s best baker, my hobby as an internationally renowned pianist and my ongoing project as a human rights lawyer.

I can fit it all in, don’t you worry.

Off on a day out!

Today, Danda and I are going to Bath. I’m not just informing you of my plan to stay clean. For those of you not based in the UK and perhaps unaware of this fact, there is in fact a town called Bath Spa in England. It is where the Romans built lots of baths, once upon a time. Hence the name. (The Romans called it aqua sulis. Don’t ask me what that means.) There are also, predictably, lots of spa retreat type places to visit.

The plan for the day is as follows:

Arrive
Have breakfast
Find some Roman bath ruins to look at
Have lunch
Find the thermal spa place we looked up online and spent some time swimming and lolling about in the warm spring water plunge pools
Have dinner
Get the train home

So as you can see, it is a day of baths in Bath. The weather is chilly and I probably don’t have enough layers on. I have a chai latte warming my cold fingers and Danda is looking out the window all hyped cause he loves trains and planes and engines and boys things. He’s just said, “They’re amazing, trains. Aren’t they? Absolutely amazing.”

And so, to Bath! I will report back tomorrow. 

Walking into history

It’s Wednesday again and time for Rambler5319, my guest blogger, to take over….

Last week’s pics from my holiday were really mostly about signs. I did take some others (and a few more signs). These are from the walks I did in an area which is steeped in history. Parts of it go back to the time of the Romans and beyond.
As you approach the village from one direction, you see this magnificent hand-crafted sign. (It took over 8 months to make.)
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Each element in the sign has some local significance and I was curious to find out what they all represented. Local village history gave me the answer:
The cross-keys representing St Peter’s Church (now ruined).
The white cross (blue background) represents the existing St Andrew’s Church.
The beige area represents the main cereal crop – barley.
The green area represents the other main crop – sugar beet.
The white pathway between them represents an old footpath called Peddars Way which passes through the village.
The black symbols on the left middle represent churches & chapel. To the right middle, the tree is Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Tree and the windmill is also local to the area. A lot of thought definitely went into this impressive creation.
As you approach from another side of the village you are greeted by this one
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They definitely like you to feel welcome.
I found this next structure in a garden in the main street of the village. Talk about plush multi-storey avian apartments!! Ever seen one of these before?
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WALK NO.1
This was about 6 miles round, mostly on paths away from the roads. The route I travelled, to the next village (Sedgeford), is a small part of what is a much longer (46 miles!) ancient path called Peddars Way. Some believe its existence actually pre-dates the Romans and that they just extended and improved it. So here I was walking on a path that Roman soldiers probably marched along almost 2,000 years ago! I’m glad I wasn’t wearing armour and carrying a heavy shield as the sun was very warm and my brow was wiped many times on this walk. Here’s a section of it but can you tell which direction my compass needle was pointing if I tell you it was about 11.00am?

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I came across this notice just half a mile along the path.
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In case text in pic too small to read, at the bottom it says: “This roadside verge is being positively managed to conserve wild plants and animals in a joint project between Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Note it’s just the “verge”; it was only a metre or so wide.
Just before joining the main road, leading into Sedgeford, the path emerged from its agrarian setting into a narrow road called Magazine Lane; also nearby were Magazine Farm & Magazine Wood. Seemed to me like an odd name to find out in the countryside. The mystery was solved a bit further along when I found this building
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It is called Magazine Cottage and is believed to have been used as a store for gunpowder during the Civil War. It was built by the LeStrange family who we will find out more about next week. As I walked past the village pub (King William IV), and down a side road, I saw a sign for a local archaeological project:
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I was intrigued. I decided to visit. As well as the actual dig site there were a number of displays and talks about the finds and other general info about life in Anglo Saxon times. Volunteer diggers camp in the next field to the excavation site:
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And some site facilities are what might be termed primitive. Note, in the pic below, only one tap can be used for drinking water:
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Here are some of the displays, starting with the skulls:
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And here are three Action Men but each item they are wearing has been hand made by a guy who is very interested in the period. He’d also made models of some of the “machines” (e.g. boulder launching catapults) the Romans used in sieges and attacks in battle.
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Next was a display of what they believe may have been types of food from Anglo Saxon times. The front page of the booklet to the right of pic (sorry chopped off due to trying to get all the food dishes in) says “Dishes made on the day course – Cooking up an Anglo-Saxon feast”:
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I also attended one of the 20 minute talks in a side tent. Time to put thinking cap on! Amongst other things, I learnt that an analysis of the chemicals in bones can suggest an area of the country where the individual lived. How? This is because the mix of certain elements in the water in different parts of the country can be quite specific to that area. Apparently, if you live in an area for 10 years or more, your bones will have levels of certain chemicals that have been absorbed from drinking the water in that area that will be the same as the water itself. The archaeologists compare the levels of two particular chemicals, strontium & oxygen, in the water, with the levels in the bones they find. They can then tell whether the people had lived in that area for about 10 years before their death or had moved to it from another part of the country.
Soon it was off to retrace the 3 miles back to the cottage and give my brain, as well as my legs, a rest; it had been a fascinating and very instructive time at the site. As I made my way across the field behind the site, to begin the trek home, I came across this unusual sight:
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Starting with the standing white horse look left to the brown standing horse and then to, what seems to be, a brown “blob” on the floor. This “blob” really was a horse lying on its side. Every so often its tail would flick up and down but it remained in this position the whole time I was crossing the field. Was it tired or maybe sunbathing? Do horses lie down if they’re tired? Do horses sunbathe?
The following day I did a short walk, along the sea front, in the nearby town of Hunstanton. Apparently it is the only resort on the East Coast of England which actually faces west! (You’d have to look at a map to see why.) The town motto (in Latin of course) is Alios delectare iuvat, which translates to “It is our pleasure to please”. I was pleased after my visit so I suppose they succeeded. I sat down on a bench for a quick sandwich and drink. I found it was one of those which had been erected in memory of someone who’d died. Here’s the plaque:
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Paul Richard Moore was not famous; I, you and lots of other people, will have never heard of him but clearly he was, and still is, VERY special to those who’d put the bench there in his memory. We don’t know how he died but look at his age – just under 30 years old. Now pause for a moment and think about that. Perhaps many readers of this post are younger or just coming up to it or some maybe past that age. Imagine if that was to be all time you would have. It’s always a great sadness when parents outlive their children as it’s one of those things, like this lad’s parents, you just don’t expect to happen. I spent a few minutes in quiet reflection: each moment we’re alive we’re making withdrawals from “The Bank of Time” but without knowing the balance left in our account! Of course, no deposits are possible and you can’t be overdrawn – but your account will be closed at some point! How we “spend” our time is important.
Walking just a short distance from the bench, I saw this. It was time to put that thinking cap on again.
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Closer inspection of the info board revealed some interesting stuff.
The wall in the pic is what is left of a chapel built in 1272AD in memory of King Edmund. Apparently he’d landed, from Germany, in 855AD and, a few years later, was crowned King of East Anglia whilst still only a boy. There was peace for a while but then invaders came from Denmark. The king was captured and, when pressed, refused to give up his Christian faith. He was tied to a tree and shot by Danish archers in 870AD aged about 29. He was interred at a place called Beodericsworth which later became known as St Edmunds Bury and finally the town we know today as Bury St Edmunds. He became the first patron saint of England and remained so for about 400 years. The current patron saint (George) was not adopted until the end of the 14th cent. Not a lot of people know that!
I came across this (Latin) motto: Alis Aptar Scientis. It means “Ready for the wings of knowing”. Well are you?

Can I have a word? Part 4

Our regular guest blogger tackles the subject of ‘Portmanteau Words’ today.

It’s back to that subject of words and, in this case, some very special words. As you’re probably aware English is a kind of “made up” or mongrel type of language. The purity of whatever language the inhabitants of our island spoke has been watered down (improved?) over the centuries in a number of ways. It’s become a mixture of so many words that have come to us from other cultures and languages around the world. Since the Romans invaded brining their Latin words, more influences have come in from a number of other conquerors: Danes, Vikings, Angles, Saxons, Normans have all been responsible for changes in our language (and place names in particular) over hundreds of years. Immigration has provided more foreign flavours to the mix. Other words have come from the days of the British Empire and the countries it traded with. Some words we’ve taken in without modification (e.g. précis & fiancée from French, apartheid & trek from Afrikaans, ashram from Sanskrit and hundreds more); others have a kind of anglicised version but betray foreign roots. It’s estimated, for example, that 30% of English words have a French origin & 60% have a Latin origin; some duplication because of the Latin origin of some French words. A recent arrival into English (late 19th cent.) is the word safari which comes directly from Swahili where it means “long journey”; more recently Wiki (as in Wikipedia) from the Hawaiian “wiki wiki” meaning fast; Baboushka (also a 1980 song by Kate Bush) from the Russian for grandmother and Gulag which is actually an acronym in Russian for Glavnoye Upravleniye Ispravitelno-trudovykh Lagerey i koloniimoped from the Swedish and short for motor and pedal. And there are, of course, hundreds more.

One of the things you might not have realised is that a word like moped is actually called a “portmanteau” word because it is made up of two other words or shortened versions of them. In fact, if you think about it, the French word porte-manteau is itself made up from two other French words: “porter” (meaning to carry) and “manteau” (meaning cloak). Apparently it was first used, in the context of joined words, by Lewis Carroll in 1871 (Alice Through the Looking Glass). Remember Freedom Literature, when I quoted, from Jabberwocky, these words “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves, Did gyre and gimble in the wabe” – I wonder did you know that “slithy” means lithe & slimy? LC was also responsible for the following portmanteaux: chortled a combination of chuckled & snort; frabjous for fair, fabulous & joyous; mimsy for flimsy & miserable. In 1964, when the country of Tanganika joined with the islands of Zanzibar the new nation was called Tanzania, a portmanteau of the two original names; similarly when Europe and Asia are combined to describe the whole land mass they become the portmanteau Eurasia. If you look back to LLM’s blog, Z is for, you will see the word zonkey – a portmanteau of zebra & donkey; also there is a zorse, a zebra/horse crossbreed and her very own, but rather difficult to conceive (think about it), catterpony. LLM’s blog, Attempting ‘sporty‘, mentioned having started NaNoWriMo which looks very “portmanteau-ish” to me. There was the interesting quidnunc from the K is for knowledge blog: that’s actually a Latin portmanteau taken directly into English. There are, of course, many others along these lines. (Btw, the French though, in their own language, don’t use the word porte-manteau this ‘joined-up words’ way).

Older residents of the UK will remember ‘O level’ exams called G.C.E.s; later came the exams for those not as academically clever – they called them C.S.E.s. Then in the rush to get everyone “on a level playing field” both exams went in the dustbin and the first portmanteau exams arrived in 1988 – the G.C.S.E.s

Probably one of the most recent – anyone heard of a turducken? (Not me!) It apparently arrived into the English language officially in 2010. It’s made by inserting a chicken into a duck, and then into a turkey. (Why would you do that?).

One of the most useless portmanteaux has to be guesstimate – it simply doesn’t help. When would you use it instead of estimate or guess both of which do the job of saying something or some figure is not exact? If you can help me out – please do.
As an aside, I suppose you could call this whole process LLW – lazylanguagewords. Why? Because it means the language (i.e. me & you) doesn’t have to come up with an original new word as such. You need a new word? Just grab a few existing ones and with a bit of welding & a few twiddles – hey presto! (You want to drive and travel – you dravel or drivel.)

The more you look into our language the more examples you can see. It got me thinking about how economical these words are: as I mentioned before, instead of saying something “is a cross between a zebra and a donkey” you just say “it’s a zonkey” – neat eh? Now I think we could use some more of these to save space and time when either speaking or writing. What next? ………Yes, you’ve guessed, I’ve been working on a few.

I was thinking of transport and how easy it would be to describe your journey with some new portmanteau words. Take this sentence for example (when you arrive at a friend’s house and they ask how you did you get here?) – “I came by bus, train and taxi.” This can be “portmanteau-ed” (see how I made a noun/adjective into a verb there?) into “I came bybutratax”. Do you see what I did there? A triple portmanteau! But it’s also very adaptable because if the journey was by train, bus & taxi it becomes trabutax. Switch it round for any combo of the words. If you wanted to include the walk to the bus stop (so walk, bus, train, taxi) you could make wabutratax (a quad portmanteau). If you’re a cyclist and you ride then travel on the train and ride again you could make bitrabi and so on. If you’re going abroad you could add the flight by plane into the mix – so taxi, plane, taxi would be taxplatax.

Now you may want to say how each leg of the journey went: good, bad, rough or whatever. I’ve had some thoughts on this too. So, for example, “I came by trabutax and the journey was gobaro. Did you get it? The journey was good, bad & rough on each of the corresponding legs by train, bus & taxi. If all three legs were good or bad you’d getgogogo or bababa.

Suppose someone serves in a café (or deli) and a customer could ask for alatchesanchoca which is a latte, cheese sandwich & chocolate cake. (Imaginary scenario: Customer to LLM – Can I have a latchesanchoca without the sandwich? LLM grits teeth & thinks: “But then it’s not a latchesanchoca!”) When four friends, each wanting a different drink, come in they could ask for an escaplatam – you got it didn’t you? An espresso, a cappuccino, a latte & an Americano. (Eseseslat = three espressos and a latte and so on.) Easy eh? Imagine the questions you’d get if those were on the menu on the wall: what’s that? Why is an escaplatam so expensive? Are they all mixed together in one cup? Are they definitely all separate? We’re definitely in LLM nightmare territory here? Where was that café again? …..Oh yes, ELM St!

Now, strictly speaking of course, the grammar-savvy among you will know that these words of mine are actually neologisms (that is words that may be in the process of entering common use) rather than actual portmanteaux (plural as per French not portmanteaus as would be in English) because they haven’t actually entered the language yet. (Therefore, to be precise, you can say that I’m making some speculative forays into the world of neologisms rather than inventing actual portmanteaux.) However just as it’s a fine line between genius and madness so it’s also a fine line between neologism and portmanteau! A definitely blurred, but possible, final frontier between invention and reality.

I wonder if you’ve thought of portmanteaux as a kind of ‘final frontier’? Out there on the edge? Are you ready to boldly go where no blogger (linguist?) has gone before? Such an ‘enterprise’ would be quite a trek wouldn’t it? Lots of stuff to Chekov the list and some old stuff to Klingon to. Also you’d need to make sure with the doctor that your “bones” are the real McCoy. Still, no space to go into all that here. (See what I did there?) Remember, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard said to his daughter, “Seize the time, Meribor. Live now; makenow always the most precious time. Now will never come again” — (from the episode calledThe Inner Light). I’m just off to scan those transport suggestions again – “beam me up, Scotty!” (To the Starship Bloggerprise – of course).

But you can see how the language could develop? It’s exciting isn’t it? (Perhaps LLM could revisit her “Things to get excited about” mood before becoming too sporty? New items on menu in café perhaps?) And it’s happening right here! And you read it first here!

Now it’s over to you – perhaps you could have a think and post some of your suggestions in the comments. It would be great to see some readers’ inventions. I’m sure you can come up with some better efforts than mine. (I can speak to Messrs Chambers, Oxford, & Collins once we’ve collected our suggestions.) Let’s get on board the E.S.S. Bloggerpriseand take our language forward to that final frontier– together! (This entry – using the most recent calculation method – is from the Captain’s Log: Stardate 2012.178)