Aardvark by Jean


Double-A in English ? That can’t be right.
What are we to do with this alpha-oversight ?
A whiff of the exotic, though who knows from which address ?
So how do we pronounce it ? I guess we’ll have to guess.
It looks a bit Old-Testament, like Balaam the Canaanite,
Though surely ancient Hebrews had a diff’rent way to write ?
Diff’rent letter-forms, and not-a vowel included –
Whoever chose the spellings in the Roman was deluded !
With a single-A long and a double-A short,
Spelling things in English shouldn’t be a tricky sport…
Our batteries are flat and our gearboxes stall –
We need to gain sobriety, but who can we call ?

Infact, the double A in Hebrew loaners are probably a relic of a slight ‘h’ sound between them, splitting them into two separate syllables. The Greeks, when translating the Bible, had little use for mid-word H’s, and eventually the sounds merged (though not the letters because as everyone knows spelling must remain fossilised). See also Aaron.

And yes, I am aware that Aardvaark is usually spelled with only three A’s, and I’ve decided I don’t give a toss. Maybe Afrikaans pronounces ‘aar’ and ‘ar’ differently, but nobody in English does. So if you are happy being silly in the front half, then I see no reason to get serious with the aarse-end.

Trigger Warning

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Trigger Warning

Ev’rybody, get an offence to take,
You too can be just as special –
Your very identity’s at stake,
And now you are such a delicate vessel.
All the cool kids are getting upset,
While words are being redefined.
Remember, the world owes you respect
To spare your innocent mind.

It’s all Greek to me

It’s all Greek to me

Ev’ryone thinks of Alpha,
Alpha waves and alpha dogs –
Beta has its beta blockers,
Beta tests and beta logs –
Gamma gives us gamma rays,
And tennis gives us Gamma strings –
And Delta – so much Delta !
With its rivers and its wings
But no-one thinks of Omicron,
As obscure as you get,
What excitement could there be
In the bowels of the alphabet…?

Drop the Tittles

Drop the Tittles

Its time to ditch the postrophe,
Its use is a catastrophe –
A snare for those who cant decide
Just how these ticks should be applied.
Theyre deathly silent in our speech,
Beyond the pedants overreach,
Yet still weer well and understood –
Just cos theyre there dont mean we should.



I never understood loopholes,
I mean understood it as an actual thing –
I get that they’re escapes from laws –
But are we then fenced-in by string ?
They might have referred to arrow-slits,
But they only fit an arrow’s stem.
They might be thinking of knotholes,
But only secrets can pass through them.
The breach in the wall of the castle of law
Would have to be a backdoor, or overhanging beams.
So I never understood why ‘loopholes’ –
Their meaning escapes my logic, it seems.

Tick – Homonym

Tick by Ryszard


A tick is a bug that sucks up meaning,
A tiny check-mark on the skin
That no amount of language-cleaning
Will ever dislodge now it’s sunk its snout in.
A facial tic on our pristine tongue
Of too many meanings from a single noun –
Oh for a language that’s regular and young
Before the parasites invaded the town.
We use words on tick, to be paid for later,
Like the stuffing in a tick-case that is already frayed,
Or the ticks on a rule till the namesakes are greater
And we’ve spewed-out enough for a tickertape parade.
It ticks us off that such gaudy schlocks lurk,
But they’ve plagued us forever, siphoning their fraction –
Older than moments, older than clockwork,
The tick is as ancient as Anglo-Saxon.

‘Tick’ is also a Middle English word for goat (whose latter name is even older), and though thoroughly out-of-use can still be found in placenames such as Tickenhurst.

Incidentally, what does a twitcher call the first whinchat of the year ?  A tick tick.

What ? Dang !

Unicode 203D

What ?  Dang !

Okay, hands up, gang
If you’ve ever used
Or even heard of an ‘interrobang’ ?
You all look confused at the word,
And I’m not surprised –
Of all the useless punctuation,
This abomination ought to be the most despised.
But no !, the lumpy little toad
Is honoured with a Unicode
While decent, necessary marks
Are offered no abode.
These silly lexographic larks
With so little help to bring
Are only ever seen in fun –
I mean, has anyone
The slightest need to use the bloody thing ?
And meanwhile, I cannot succeed
To get the Question-Comma recognised –
Now there’s a boy whose time has come,
Who should be common, should be prized,
Instead of all this tweedle-dum,
Mine shows our queries raised at root,
Mid-flow, when the clauses overshoot, –
Not waiting till the line has passed
And a full-stop hoves in view at last,
To plonk our squiggle over, when the matter’s all-but moot.
Yet ev’ry font is pleading ignorance,
And claiming that they’re full –
Such bull !
So now my hybrid glyph won’t stand a chance.
But why ?, when they’d gladly welcome-in the clang
Of that bastard offspring runt, the Interrobang !?
Oh…oh yeah…
I guess I kinda coulda have used one there…

And yes, I did use ‘to hove’ in the present tense, and I’m not even sorry.

That said, Wiktionary suggests that it was a separate Middle English verb roughly meaning ‘to linger’ which became conflated with the past tense of ‘to heave’, and which also spun-off ‘to hover’.

Meanwhile, here are a few examples of what we we’re missing. Sort it out, Times New Roman !

War of Words

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War of Words

Our Z’s are zeds, our maths is plural,
Routs are rooted, herbs are heard,
And Y’s are added to news and mural,
Post and petrol are preferred.
And then, we spell things diff’rently,
Like U’s in colour, E’s in grey,
We favour biscuits with our tea,
And get our chips from a takeaway,

The trouble is, we’re losing.
These days, all the art we get,
The culture and the etiquette
Is blowing to our shores
And when we make our own, we’re choosing
Ways to make it more like yours.
We’ve lost our national confidence, I guess,
We seem to export less,
As our markets flood with Yankee slang
And though we tut and though we chide,
Our countrymen will each decide
To stop the war and join your gang.

These are the Beasts upon the Earth

Birds of the Bible by Catherine McClung

These are the Beasts upon the Earth

The Bible lumps the bats in with the birds,
And oh, how we sneer.
“A mammal is no more a fowl
Than a dragonfly is like an owl.”
But hang-on, none of those are Hebrew words,
So none of those appear
In the ancient texts – they’re our translations,
Sent back in time to new vocations.

Maybe what we think meant ‘bird’ to them
Meant simply ‘thing that flies’ –
And likewise whales are fish that swim,
And snakes are worms for lacking limbs.
It’s unscientific, so we condemn,
But that don’t mean it’s lies.
Their names did the job they were assigned –
So each to their own, hey, after their kind.

Sonic Screwdrivers

Sonic Screwdrivers

The English tongue is a toolkit
To unlock those very English sounds
In a well-oiled perfect fit.
The Scots and Welsh have tongues that sit
At a slightly diff’rent angle each
So’s not to mangle all those subtle bits of brogue
That abound within their speech.
Americans are yet more rogue,
Dismissing our metric metre
For their own iambic feet and inches –
They prefer their rhotic burr to ring,
With a tongue that sounds the sweeter
And a throat that swells and pinches
Fine enough to let it sing.
But none of we Anglophones are great
At sounding French, or Japanese –
We haven’t the tools we need for these.
And that’s okay – we still can try,
And even if we’re second-rate,
There’s no need to be shy.
The thing is, no two individual tongues
Are contoured quite the same
They vary how they’re ribbed and strung,
And where they set their aim.
So if we were to slur your foreign name next time we call,
It’s just because our tongues are curled the other way, that’s all.