Monday, January 25, 2021

Whoa! Snow!


We turned into a Winter Wonderland yesterday morning -- and quite suddenly, too. I'd just finished watering the orchids and was vacuuming the house when I noticed snow coming down outside. And it kept coming, and coming.

I'd heard it might snow but I didn't expect this. I thought we'd get flurries like we've already had a few times this winter.


Here's some action footage of the garden and the patio, including our poor beleaguered primroses valiantly blooming in the winter chill.

It diminished in the early afternoon and I tried to take Olga for a walk, but she wanted no part of it. I did get her to go out into the back garden a few times, and she'd run through the snow and nip at it with her teeth. She clearly found it very confusing.


Our upstairs neighbors, the Russians, made a pretty respectable snowman in their parking space in front of the house. I think that's about the biggest snowman I've ever seen on our street! (If there's one thing Russians know, it's snow.)

Anyway, since Olga wouldn't go out, we wound up staying indoors all day. I finished Patrick Ness's book "Release," which was billed as a sort of gay version of Judy Blume's "Forever" -- remember that book? It was quite scandalous when I was in high school. I remember checking it out of the library and feeling like I needed to keep it hidden. Anyway, "Release" was interesting -- it featured two plotlines, one about a gay teenager coping with his already quite active love life and his conservative Christian family, and another about a girl who'd been murdered and was now wandering the town as a spirit. Just as he was struggling for release from his constricting home environment, she was struggling for release from this life. I'm not sure that second plotline was entirely successful -- I found it very weird and I was always happy to get back to the main story. But it did give the book added dimension, I suppose.

Here's something interesting I learned yesterday about English grammar. (Aren't you excited?)

Dave, writing a lesson plan, asked me whether he should use the indefinite article "a" or "an" in front of the noun "1-4-5 chord progression." I told him I'd always learned that "an" is used in front of a word beginning with a vowel -- but even though 1 or "one" begins with a vowel, it clearly didn't sound correct to say "an 1-4-5 chord progression." I got to thinking that actually, there are many words beginning with a vowel that call for "a" -- a university, a uvula, a one-time surprise, a eunuch.

Well, I did some research, and it turns out that the use of "a" versus "an" depends more on the sound of the following word than on its spelling. University and eunuch sound like they begin with a Y -- a consonant. So they take an "a"! Likewise, "1-4-5 chord progression" sounds like it begins with a W -- a consonant. So it takes an "a" as well. (On the flipside, "historic" can take "an" because the H is sometimes silent, although that usage is a bit old-fashioned: "an historic victory.")

I found this fascinating (as you can tell, since I've burdened you with two paragraphs of explanation). I would have known to choose the correct article, but before yesterday I couldn't have told you why.

In more sobering coronavirus news, it now looks like the British government might lengthen our lockdown and keep schools closed through Easter. Apparently there's some evidence that our new virus variant is, in fact, more dangerous as well as more contagious, and infection rates aren't diminishing fast enough. Argh!

52 comments:

  1. That grammar. Lesion is one of the few I remember from school ,,enjoy the snow

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    1. I have pretty good grammatical sense, but I couldn't tell you why I know certain things are right or wrong.

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  2. Thanks for that peaceful recording, Steve. I love snow. Grew up with the stuff. Ask the Russians why they are so stingy on the nose (carrot) - otherwise great effort.

    As to vowels: I recently had a stern talking to (possibly by YP, can't remember) that in WRITTEN English it's "an historic" yet, as we all know, when talking you'd say a historic . . . whatever. On the other hand, and it does make me laugh, affectionately, Americans use "erbs" in their cooking. I'll leave you and the French to battle that one out.

    Sweet touch how you uncovered the primroses from their blanket.

    U

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    1. I don't know why Americans say "erbs," but we do! (And I would say "AN herb," not "A herb.")

      I think both writing and saying "an historic" is antiquated. Or "an hotel," which sounds even weirder but was considered correct at one time.

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  3. Such beautiful scenes of your street and your garden. Sending "an hug" from Spain. (I know. I know.) My grammar and pronunciation skills are pretty good. I know how to say things but I mostly couldn't tell you why.

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  4. Spookily, the snowman looks just like Vladimir Putin who is also an indefinite article.

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  5. 'Qualifying with', I suppose is a def negative.

    I know it is nothing to do with climate change but it is great to snow in London, a city a few decades ago covered with winter snow and with the Thames iced over. I don't think that happens now, and as I said, it is nothing to do with climate change, is it?

    If the Ruskies know snow, why is it such an ugly snowman?

    When you wonder about our language and don't know what is correct, go for what sounds natural by saying it out loud and think of what people you know would say. I usually say and write 'an history' because I don't really express the aitch letter. But if I was a public speaker, I may well say 'In our country's history', I would emphasise the aitch and the recorders of my speech would type history. Very interesting. Now after writing that, I am not so sure. Maybe I pronounce the aitch normally so I would not use an, but I do when I am writing.

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    1. I've never seen the Thames iced over, but then again there's a lot of boat traffic on the Thames these days so even if it got cold enough I'm not sure it would happen. It IS a rather ugly snowman, I agree.

      This is the first I've heard of using "an historic" in writing but perhaps not in speech, but both you and Ursula mentioned it, so maybe it's a thing. I suspect Britain and Australia may be more likely to use "an historic" than North Americans -- I would write "a historic" just as I'd say it.

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  6. Enjoy your snow, Steve! I am jealous. No snow here and I go back to work in person today....despite Covid numbers being worse than ever. Sigh.

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    1. Take care of yourself! I'm still going in to work but at least I don't have any kids around.

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  7. My favourite is the contrast between a uniformed man and an uninformed man.

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  8. It is beginning to seem like a race between vaccination and the virus.
    The history thing has bothered me for some time. Of course, I am/was an English teacher and we think too much about these things. In speaking, I've always said "an historic event" but I'd also say "a history book" Not sure I'm right about the first, since I'm not from the East End with a Cockney accent and no "haitches."

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    1. It's funny how language evolves, isn't it? I hadn't thought about the difference between "an historic" and "a history" -- that's an interesting contrast. But I agree -- we'd never say "an history book."

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  9. I think of Lawrence Welk- "And a one, and a two..."
    Also, the word "progression" is really the word taking the article, isn't it? Oh dear. All I really know is that yes, it does not sound right at all to use "an" in front of that phrase.
    Oh, your lovely primroses! And the snow, so calming and pristine. It's warm here today and it looks like we might see the sun.
    Stay safe, dear friend. Stay safe.

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    1. We used to watch Lawrence Welk every week! I think the article is guided by the following word, whether it's a noun or an adjective. For example, we'd say "an expensive restaurant." (I considered "1-4-5 chord progression" a compound noun, but I suppose "progression" could be the noun and "1-4-5 chord" the modifier? Or is "chord progression" the noun? Hmmm...)

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  10. Have you seen the Netflix: 'The Half of It'? I thought that was so very well done. Congratulations on your snow. I'm no longer all that excited by it. Come on, March!

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    1. I have not seen that, and we're in the market for a new show. I'll look for it!

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  11. Love the snow there. It's so pretty especially when it doesn't stay very long.
    You might be entering a longer lockdown there, while our crazy governor announced lifting the stay at home orders here. Such a stupid, bad idea here in California where the numbers are soaring and San Francisco has its own new variant. We need to be more careful than we need to be more free and stupid.
    Interesting grammatical questions.

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    1. I heard about that! I don't know why Newsome is doing that, except that he's under pressure from business groups. It sounds foolhardy to me.

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  12. I don't know why, but I have always said "an historic ..." and people have looked at me like I was nuts. I'm still nuts but I wasn't wrong!!

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    1. PS Love the snow scenes!

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    2. But as Marty pointed out above, you wouldn't say "an history." Isn't that interesting? You definitely weren't wrong about "an historic," though.

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  13. I LOVE seeing your snow shots. I actually went over to the Abbey Road webcam to see if any snow remains and there was a small bit sticking to the lawn across the street. We actually have some roads closed in AZ today because of snow. Not here in the Phoenix area but in the north. My sister has a snow covered yard.
    Your frosted primroses reminded my that I watched an episode of Great British Baking Show Masterclass where Mary Berry showed how to crystalize primrose blooms with egg whites and sugar so you can use them to decorate a cake. They look very pretty with a sugar coating.

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    1. Yeah, a lot of the snow has melted away already. We still have some on the grass in the back garden. I didn't realize primroses were edible!

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  14. Interesting two paragraphs on a and an. I didn't know that. It takes a good journalist to find that one.

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  15. I love that snow scene. It's great as long as I am not in it. (lol) I grew up in North Louisiana and went through ice if we didn't have snow. They had snow 2 weeks ago and all the North West Texas cities and counties. We had people leaving here to take their kids there to play in the snow. I am not good with all the ice although I grew up in it. So glad to be where I am now.

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    1. I don't mind a little bit of snow but I don't think I could live in a place where it was snowy all winter.

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  16. Snow is beautiful and always surprising where I live. It sounds like you don't usually get much either. I loved the grammar explanation; I've wondered the same thing. As a retired language teacher, I'm a grammarian through and through.

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    1. We usually get snow a couple of times in the winter, and it usually melts fairly quickly. London doesn't stay frozen for long periods of time. It's mostly just muddy!

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  17. I think we have more snow than you but even though I have the background, having grown up in North Dakota, I ain't venturing out to build no snowman!

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    1. I didn't build one either -- just enjoyed the neighbor's! LOL

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  18. The snow is beautiful! As for the grammer rule, I knew the correct answer to Dave's question, but really hadn't delved into the why of it as you explain with such clarity. When I got to college, I realized that I knew no grammer rules, but knew correct usage because growing up my parents always corrected me when I misspoke (also because in the Caribbean, all exams require essay answers; i think it's why there are so many strong writers there). I finally learned grammar rules when I had to teach it to high school students for a summer job one year. The best way to learn a thing is to teach it, they say. Still cant diagram a sentence to save my life, though.

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    1. Oh, Lord, I'm not sure I could diagram a sentence even now. I was never good with official grammar rules and naming all the parts of speech and that kind of thing, but like you, I know when something is right and when it's not. I always liked essay questions when I took a test!

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  19. I knew the reason for "a" or "an" but that doesn't explain "an historic" which I also say. Weird!

    Snow is so pretty! I would like to have some - until I get out in it & then I'm more like Olga. Ha!

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    1. I think "an historic" is a holdover -- a relic of earlier spoken and written English. It's interesting that some people still say it.

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  20. Could Watch The Snow Fall All Day Long - So Peaceful - Also, I Did Follow Through And Googled The Spaceship Earth Trailer - Not At All What I Was Expecting - And The Cult Leader Guy, Was That Hollywood Or For Real?? Kind Of A Depressing Trailer After Just Walking Through The Biosphere And Hearing From The Educators Point Of View.

    Anyway, Slip Olga Girl Two Treats For Tuesday From Uncle T
    Cheers

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    1. You should watch the film! It definitely shows another side to the biosphere experiment, but I didn't find it depressing. I don't remember the "cult leader" guy, though, so maybe I blocked that part out. :)

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  21. I love the snow scene. I have always loved snow. I guess it is my northern upbringing. I haven't seen snow here in Virginia for quite sometime. Thanks for the grammar lesson. I have always wondered about words like historic. I have always said an historic event vs a historic event and I thought I was wrong.

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    1. Interesting that you say "an historic" as well! I wonder if this tendency has to do with where in the states a person grows up? I've always said "a historic." I would think Virginia would get snow!

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  22. yet another reason to stay home.

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    1. Ha! True, and yet I had to go to work yesterday! Argh!

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  23. It looks so very nice. Although I must say, I don't get excited at all about the snow falling here.

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    1. I guess if you see enough of it there's nothing special about it. We only get snow a couple of times each winter, and this was the first truly wintry weather we've had this season.

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  24. I learned about the sound of the word in a high school English class, and it's stayed with me all these years. When my daughter went to Cambridge, she was amused by the English attitude toward snow. 1. People carried umbrellas when it snowed. 2. The post office closed because of a little snow that melted by noon.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Oh, London falls into a PANIC when there's snow. Like, everything stops. (Of course, we're stopped anyway at the moment, so there was less news about disruption with this snowfall.)

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  25. I sincerely enjoyed your snow video. I miss those moments, alone with the cold winter snow.

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  26. Snow is fun as long as it's gone by the end of the day otherwise I like it is in pictures.

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