Archive | November, 2011

Untranslatable words of love and longing

22 Nov

The English language sure has a lot of nifty words. For example: Sandwich. Muleskinner. Iguana. Those are just three random words – they were the first that came to mind. I don’t know what that might mean, and frankly I don’t want to know.

But I recently read an article over at bigthink.com that pointed out some of the shortcomings in our language. The author listed 10 relationship words that have no equivalent in English – or that at least need more than one word to be explained. There’s mamihlapinatapei, a Yagan word for “the wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to start”, through to ya’aburnee, Arabic for “You bury me” (not an order of assisted suicide, funnily enough, but a statement of wanting to die before one’s beloved does, so life doesn’t have to be experienced without them).

I was also really interested in the almost throwaway line referencing the Chinese proverb meaning “have fate without destiny”. The author pointed out the differentiation between fate and destiny, which are often seen as being interchangeable in our language. This proverb is said to describe “couples who meet, but who don’t stay together, for whatever reason”. Aww, bittersweet.

You can read the full list of words and their meanings over at Big Think.

And let’s start making up some of these words ourselves – it’s like a love-only version of Balderdash! I’ll start. Transchell: a fellow passenger on your regular public transport route that you have a crush on, but you don’t want to ask them out in case they say no and you’ll be so embarrassed you’ll have to change your public transport routine and it would be all really inconvenient, so it’s probably just better to keep quiet and dream from afar.

Catchy, no?

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LIFE’s worst covers (featuring a rooster!)

18 Nov

Poultry in the news! Well, this was in the news a while ago… 74 years ago, to be exact.

That's one great lookin' rooster.LIFE magazine (which has a great website, by the way) recently published a gallery of the 20 worst covers in their 75-year history. This handsome fellow was featured with the following caption:

In LIFE’s 75 years, this is the only cover not to feature the distinctive logo in the upper left corner. Not surprising: If your cover story was as newsy, sexy, and controversial as “White Leghorn Rooster,” you’d hide your logo, too.

I can only imagine what wondrous content was included in the accompanying article. What was happening in the world of the white leghorn rooster in 1937? Will we ever know?

You can check out the rest of the questionable covers; if you’re really interested, you can also browse their 75 favourite covers.

For Richer, for Poorer

14 Nov

For Richer, for Poorer: A Million-Dollar Love Affair with Poker, by Victoria Coren 2009

Jan flat calls. I know at once he has a small pair … The flop comes 9♠ 10♥ 10. If I move all-in and Jan calls with his pair of fives – this is what I’m putting him on – I am in reasonable shape with two overcards. I can hit a jack or an ace, the board could pair again, plus there is the glimmer of a backdoor straight draw.

When I first started For Richer, for Poorer, this kind of passage made almost no sense to me. And when I’d finished the book, I still had little idea of what the hell it all meant. Poker for Dummies this ain’t.

So what is For Richer, for Poorer? Well, it’s an entertaining memoir of a poker player climbing the ranks, and a short history of poker in the past couple of decades in England. It also looks at what it’s like to be a female player, starting with the time the author was one of only two female visitors to the local mini casino, to the dawn of poker TV shows where she was the token girl player, and on to her eventual win at an international tournament.

Yes, there are descriptions of poker games that go for pages and pages – and I was so worried I’d miss a vital plot point that I read them all (spoiler: I really could have skipped them). But the book also features some fantastic characterisation – Victoria Cohen has a great eye for the quirky people that populate the all-night games in back rooms and casino dens, the celebs who got in on the action early, and the big superstars (including Australia’s own Joe Hachem, winner of the 2005 World Series of Poker).

But the book isn’t just all poker, all the time. When Victoria’s father falls ill she’s very honest about her feelings, leading to some very emotional scenes, and when a major relationship fails she touches on her resulting depression. Being a Female of a Certain Age, she also writes about the idea of starting a family – or not:

I’m still free from domestic responsibility. I have no idea whether I haven’t got round to starting a family because I play poker all the time, or whether I play poker all the time because I haven’t got round to starting a family. But I do and I haven’t.

Among all this, there were some things that didn’t quite work for me. The most grating was the repeated use of Alice in Wonderland imagery as Victoria paints herself as Alice down the rabbithole. Yes, she’s a fish out of water as she plays poker with dodgy old men in the early hours of the morning, but I didn’t need the repeated analogy. There was enough in the story without it.

Overall though, For Richer, for Poorer was an interesting read. I may still know very little about how to play the game itself, but I met some very interesting characters along the way – including a pretty cool chick who kicked some male poker ass along the way. Good for her.

This was the last book in my MS Novel Challenge… I just took forever to review it.