A trip to the Lakes

Stanborough Lakes, that is, in Welwyn Garden City. I thought the Lotus was looking restive and needed an outing, so we burbled cheerfully through Hertfordshire on a wildlife noticing expedition. I had a super walk around Stanborough Park and noticed various different types of wildlife, eg a swan, some coots, cormorants, two moorhens having a punch-up outside a pub, some massive mallards tucking into the buffet lunch provided at the boating lake, and a lot of rabbits.

Also some trains, this is not technically wildlife, but quite interesting if you like trains.

So it was a lovely sunny day out, and that is the best type of thing to do on a Sunday. Except for going for one or two reflective pints at the local pub, which I will do now. It does not get better than that I am thinking!

Whoever or whomever

I did one of those online quizzes, in the usual drunken flurry of angst and craving validation. It is called the Commonly Confused Words Test and I scored the result “English Genius”, which is overstating the case. You don’t need to be a genius to know the difference between “there” and “their” (although clearly the author of the quiz thinks so).

I didn’t score 100% though, so I was curious to know what was the one question I got wrong. Here it is:

35. She complains to __________ will listen.
a. whoever
b. whomever
c. Either a or b
d. Neither a nor b

I answered A, “whoever”. If you are a writer of any kind, the rhythm and flow of a sentence outvotes the dictionary, and even if whomever were technically correct in terms of a prescriptivist, 1950s-schoolteacher approach to syntax, it is ugly. You might write it in a letter to the 1950s, but otherwise it seems prissy, archaic and unnecessary, like wearing driving gloves.

The quiz author says:

Whom is always used when it is the object of a preposition. Who is used as a subject and when a pronoun such as I or he could replace who. Here is an easy little trick to differentiate between who and whom: Replace the questionable word with he or him. If you would replace it with he, use who. If you would replace it with him, use whom.

Quite true, but unfortunately she used the wrong example in the question. Whomever is correct when the person described is the object of the clause (“she complained to whomever she could find”). In this case, though, the person is the subject of an internal clause (“whoever will listen”) and so whoever is right.

Wiktionary says:

If an internal clause is the object of an external clause, the case of who(m)ever is still determined by its role in the internal clause, for example: “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone”. Here, the external clause is “Let X cast the first stone” and the internal clause is “whoever is without sin”. Whoever is the subject of the internal clause, so it is in the nominative case. Even though X in the external clause is the object (compare “Let him cast the first stone), it is the internal clause that decides whether whoever or whomever is correct. “Let whomever is without sin cast the first stone” is thus strictly speaking incorrect (although such constructions are widely encountered).

I didn’t know that, but I was sure I was right, if only because in any case whomever is becoming rapidly obsolete and is not usable in most contemporary writing registers (“In this week’s Take A Break: Jordan says ‘I’ll sleep with whomever I want’”). Needless to say, I had the last laugh.

I think this demonstrates the essential uselessness of such quizzes, or books such as Lynne Truss’s “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” which empower people to gratify themselves by “correcting” what they see as the verbal mistakes of others. Language is fluid and democratic, and dictionaries and grammar books can only fossilise a more or less representative snapshot of usage which is by definition already out of date.

Some people are upset by the idea that there is no One True English (or any other human language). They feel instinctively that there must be some government department where these things are solemnly legislated (France actually has one, for all the good it does). I think this just betrays a lack of understanding of how language arose in the first place, and is forever reinventing and renewing itself. Or perhaps it manifests a deep insecurity of the kind targeted by the old “Shamed By Your English?” advertisements. “What I say may be trite, dull and inelegant,” they reason, “but at least it is syntactically correct”.

Unless it isn’t, of course.

Lunch in Nepal

I had an exciting day out today in the pulsing conurbation of Reading, meeting my grate friend Steve for lunch. We went to a Nepalese buffet. How many of you can say the same, I wonder? Still the food was delicious and there was a lamb curry which kept jumping onto my plate by mistake.

Basically I ate a whole Nepalese lamb, so I had to be carefully wedged into my seat on the train home like some cheerful space hopper. Man that Nepal must be a great place. I do not think there can be too many all you can eat buffet restaurants though, otherwise the Sherpas would only get halfway up Mount Everest before rolling down again.

keithlard activity update

It’s time for another highly concentrated information pellet, predigested for you by Montmorency the Internet Owl. I’ve been doing lots of web site work - with my Mum on HuntTheArtist.com and Cornish Ceremonies, and I just set up a new Go blog where I can waffle about my favourite game in peace, without interference, or readers.

I gave up Twitter and Facebook for Lent, which was surprisingly easy, and leaves me with a lot more free time to spend on things like polishing the car, sitting on the sofa, compiling my list of the best thousand Simpsons episodes, crisp research, walks investergating local ducks and coots, picking locks, drinking intresting beers, and looking out of the window to see if the car’s been stolen yet.

It also gives me more time for reading. Right now I’m enjoying Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen’s Figments of Reality: The Evolution of the Curious Mind and George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1).

Man I am glad I do not live in a dystopic faux-feudal land of ice, war, incest, murder and betrayal. Finchley is exciting enough for me, especially if you try to get into Tescos on a Friday teatime, or the big kids who hang around outside the fried chicken shop mug you for your dinner money.

Hunt the Artist

It sounds like some cruel future bloodsport, where mild-mannered painters in smocks and pince-nez are harried across open country by flying robots with machine guns. Sadly it is not that, because that would be awesome. Instead it is a web site me and my Mum made about my stepdad’s art:

Paintings and prints of Cornwall by Raymond Hunt

I do not know why people bother with paintings though as it is a very time consuming process. I can see why cameras have caught on. Imagine if every time you went on holiday you had to lug an easel, brushes, oils, palette ekcetera and spend ages painting your mate’s smiling drunk face in a bar. The holiday would be over by the time you’d done the snapshots.

keithlard, ruthlessly weeding out inefficient activities.

The Man of La Muncher

Well here I am at my country castle, nestling next to the stove and warming my hands on a traditional MacBook. Luckily I am getting used to the castle-dweller’s lifestyle and always lay in supplies of wood and beer before I leave. Then when I come down I can immediately stuff wood into the stove and beer into my mouth. One time I got that mixed up and I can only describe the results as ‘disappointing’.

I cruised down to Cornwall this afternoon in the two-seater, enjoying an audiobook about Jesus and the Gospels. There was not much other traffic on the A303 so much of the journey was spent in hyperspace, although I did see a little yellow Mini. Man that Mini must have been modified in some way, as it was nearly keeping up with the Elan. Do the new Minis have nitro? (Memo: investergate this.)

Well I must go and have dinner now. Burger and chips! According to the governmint this can help you lose weight as part of a burger-controlled diet.

GTA San Andreas

I normally get very bored by computer games. The only ones I like really are ‘sandbox’ type games where you can wander around a world choosing what you want to do. I used to love Elite for this reason. Clever programming gave the illusion of a huge and detailed world full of other people going about their business independently of you. You could genuinely choose how you wanted to play the game: as a trader, pirate, bounty hunter, or just explorer.

The only other game I’ve any time for is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Even though this is quite an old game and the graphics are not all that, it still impresses due to its vast and lovingly detailed world, with three very different cities spread across a landscape of deserts, forests and mountains, and its rich and varied gameplay.

Because you can go anywhere you like and do almost anything, it’s hard to get bored. Although there are some semi-linear storyline missions you need to complete to unlock the whole world, there are plenty of side missions you can do or just explore. You can steal and drive any cars, motorbikes or boats you find, and there are also helicopters, stunt planes, airliners and military jump jets to fly. You can be a pimp or a vigilante or a taxi driver, or export stolen cars for cash, or gamble in the casino, or take part in race tournaments or lowrider contests.

Mostly, though, I find it comforting because it’s a complete fantasy world that you control and that you can go to any time you like and do anything you want with no real consequences. If you die, you just wake up again outside hospital, minus your medical expenses. If you get arrested, you just get released again straight away.

If things in the real world are not going very well, I can always go to San Andreas and blow some people up with heat-seeking missiles and machine guns, and then steal their car and crash it into the police. I find this immensely cheering.

The gospel according to keithlard

The nation of Keithlard declares its independence from LiveJournal! It is nice to have things on your own server (powered by Bitfield Consulting, who kindly provided free hosting seeing as I own the company) and hopefully this will encourage me to write more!

Cryptic Crossword No. 2 (set by Keithlard)

Well thousands of you solved the previous crossword so it is obviously too easy! I have made a special fiendish extra-difficult one! Answers behind the cut.

Across
1. Shout in pain? That’s cowardly (6)
4. He decides barber must cut head off and swallow it (7)
9. Keeps things ticking over? (9)
10. Irrational numbers in absurd sums (5)
11. I chew mule intestine, partly (5)
12. Explain train’s delayed and I’m lost (9)
13. Con artist creates split in railway company (7)
15. Concerned with lip, the French bail out (6)
17. Peter’s worried about unknown key again (6)
19. Quoted Indo-European backwards: such a retentive memory! (7)
22. English chaps enter race after a degree of decline (9)
24. Where actor may win repute? (2,3)
26. Beg deputy leader to go into prison (5)
27. Girl picked first piece of furniture, but may be flexible (9)
28. Conservative leader dunked in acid; initially, I expect apathy (7)
29. A no-good trainee journalist’s crooked (6)

Down
1. Payback: radar pulse may indicate presence of dog (7)
2. Cruel, unusual, possibly filthy? (5)
3. Thus came back confusing memo: “Go for analysis of solution” (9)
4. Expose Lima’s corrupt postal system (7)
5. Foundation’s the start of building in its current state (5)
6. Confuse rat man, get shrew (9)
7. Less cautious pig could end up this way (6)
8. Queen’s after game of cards, like Torvill & Dean, for example (6)
14. I spy chief antelope in charge of Björk, for example (9)
16. Doctor and sailor back into northern game (9)
18. Two-thirds of cricket team fed up (7)
19. Accomplice nearly turned trick into crime (6)
20. Cycling star Lance: pheromone extract identified (7)
21. Football body’s CIA front (6)
23. Some men do improve (5)
25. Beer may foment student revolt (5)

Answers to Crossword No. 1

Here are the answers to extra-fiendish Crossword No. 1.