Sunday, 15 June 2014

Farewell to Gitte Christensen

Farewell, Gitte, my inspiration.

I write with great sadness that Australian writer Gitte Christensen has passed away.

It's been about four years that I've been visiting her blog each day. At first I lurked, shy to comment, until eventually I gathered my courage to tell her how inspirational I found her professionalism as a writer, and her determination to make a name for herself in the world of speculative fiction.

Invariably she took the time to reply to me.

I've read many of her stories, and enjoyed each one. Here's a list of some of her publications, and you can read an interview with her here.

I will miss her.

But her stories live on.

Here is a tribute to her from a fellow Australian writer.

words with a soft c or g sound after a or u

proud womon's comment on my previous post about the pronunciation of the word gaol has given me food for thought. I'm wondering what other words there are in English that don't follow the 'rule' that a soft g or c precede the letters i, e and y.

I looked at and found some words:
gear, get, gelding, give, girl, gift, tiger, celt

Now, of course, I wonder why they are pronounced the way they are.
Celt interested me, because my mother was from Edinburgh, and I seem to remember she said Celtic (the Glascow football team) with a soft c. There's a discussion about this issue at and Calum Mac Neill has written what I think is a really informative response
So, I looked at the words give, girl, gift. What's the story there? As part of a discussion by J Robert Lennon about the word gif, I found:
GIF comprises the first three letters of "gift", which has a hard G. In fact, most words in English that begin with a G and are followed by a vowel and another consonant are pronounced with a hard G. Gibbon, gilt, give, gimme, gum, gelding, gun. There are a few that are pronounced with a soft G - gym, gibbet - but they're few and far between. Instinct invites us to go with the hard G.
Now I'm starting to get a headache. How fortunate it is that most people who learn English as their native language don't have to figure out the 'rules'. I'm not sure I could ever work it out. But don't get me started on how hard it is to learn Danish...

gaol or jail?

I'm pleased that one of my stories has been published online at World City Stories. It's set in  a museum in  a former prison in central Melbourne in Australia.
The museum is called The Old Melbourne Gaol.

When I was a child, 'gaol' was the accepted spelling for this word, but it's been many a year since I've seen it written this way in any other Australian context.
I've always wondered why it's pronounced like 'jail', when it's a g followed by an a, and a Google search using the terms 'etymology gaol' clears up the mystery. It used to be pronounced with a hard g.
Middle English; based on Latin cavea (see cage). The word came into English in two forms, jaiole from Old French and gayole from Anglo-Norman French gaole (surviving in the spelling gaol), originally pronounced with a hard g, as in goat.
 An article from 5 April 2014 in The Spectator gives a more in-depth look at the history of these two spellings. I particularly enjoyed the passing references to such interesting linguistic oddities as 'Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200'; gaggia (as in the coffee machines); and rage.

Linguistic change over time is fascinating.