March 31, 2004

What's in a name

I saw another Quizilla quiz which I found curious. Here is my result (if you can manage to overlook the various typos and grammatical errors):

You are from the Anglo-Saxon time period. It was
a very hard time for the people - sickness,
death, barely anyone being able to read. But
the people learned to have a stoic acceptance
to these things. Truly, this is the era where
the stuff of legends are made - the most famous
one being Beowulf. You have a strong sense of
right and wrong. You never give up. Life is
sometimes hard but you learn to look on the
bright side of things. You have a strong
beleif in things that explain; religon, magic
swords, omens, etc. Sometimes, though, you
have a tendecy to make things look bigger,
better, or worse than they are.

Which Era do you belong to?
brought to you by Quizilla

First of all, I find it interesting that the time period is referred to as the “Anglo-Saxon time period”. I suppose this quiz is based on the literary time periods of England. However, another possible result from the quiz is the “medieval time period”. Is Anglo-Saxon England not part of the middle ages? At least they didn’t use the term “dark ages” (a term I find problematic) to refer to ASE.

The content of the quiz result is also intriguing. I guess it’s the usual stereotype people have of the Anglo-Saxon world. I find the use of the term stoic quite interesting. I guess it’s the closest parallel.

For the purposes of comparison, here is the result for the “medieval time period” (with humorous spelling error):

You are from the Medievil time period. If you read
any history book, it’ll tell you all about
sickness, disease, poor living conditions, and
death. But if you look into a literature book,
it will show you something more; honor and
chivalry, love and romance, conquest long
journey’s for love and family. You’re a
hopeless romantic (I remember reading that in
another quiz … ). You don’t waste time on
Earth because you know that some people don’t
have a lot. This is the time period where
people began to relize they could discover and
create something new. You always look to the

By “medieval” they mean the high middle ages or Middle English period in England. Again, these are the standard stereotypes. What particularly fascinates me is the final sentence: “You always look to the future”. Of course the common assumption is that the Anglo-Saxons were always looking to the past. While this is certainly true (as expertly pointed out by Roberta Frank), in my dissertation I argued that the future was an important concept and going concern for the Anglo-Saxons as well. So I hereby reappropriate that sentence in the name of the Anglo-Saxons.

Posted by Mark at 06:01 PM | Comments (2)

Seo wynn gearwunge metes

The Joy of Cooking doesn’t always get the credit it deserves as a cookbook. In addition to being an invaluable reference book, The Joy of Cooking is also a good collection of basic (and some not-so-basic) recipes. On Sunday night we prepared sautéed boneless chicken breasts with tomatoes, capers, and basil:


First of all, we dredged the chicken breasts in flour, salt, and pepper, and then sautéed them in butter and olive oil. The chicken breasts were then removed from the pan and kept warm in the oven.

Next we sautéed minced shallots until softened, and then added vermouth to de-glaze the pan. Once the vermouth was mostly evaporated, we added tomatoes to the pan, along with garlic, capers, and basil. This sauce was then boiled until thickened.

As a side dish, we steamed some rapini and tossed it with some extra virgin olive oil (from Tuscany), garlic, and parmesan. This was then served with the chicken breasts and rice covered with the tomato, caper, and basil sauce.

And as usual on a weekend, the dinner preparations were accompanied by a pre-dinner cocktail. Since we were cooking with vermouth I had a gin martini, which I prefer to make with a 3 to 1 ratio of gin to vermouth, garnished with 3 olives:


Posted by Mark at 05:20 PM | Comments (1)

March 29, 2004

The difference one letter can make

While I’m on the topic of dictionaries, a particular spelling convention came up in my English Writing class. The word was license/licence. I told my class the usual rule that the s spelling was for the verb, and the c spelling was for the noun, just as it is with practise/practice. I then started to wonder how universal this convention is. The OED makes the spelling distinction, pointing out that the “rule seems to have arisen from imitation of the spelling of pairs like advice sb., advise vb., which expresses a phonetic distinction of historical origin.”

As for American dictionaries, Merriam-Webster and the American Heritage Dictionary list the s spelling for both the verb and noun of license/license. M-W lists the c spelling as a variant and the AHD lists the c spelling as a “chiefly British variant.”

When it comes to Canadian spellings, which is what I’m really concerned with, the verb/noun distinction does seem to be generally accepted. Both the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and the Gage Canadian Dictionary follow the convention in their headwords (though the other spellings are accepted as variants). Is this spelling convention indeed in generally use?

Posted by Mark at 06:29 PM | Comments (1)


I’m curious to know which Canadian English dictionary most people use (at least those who need to do so). I have the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and the Gage Canadian Dictionary. I prefer the spelling conventions of the Oxford but I do admit that the ditcionary is somewhat parochial in many ways. What do others think of this dictionary? Or other Canadian dictionaries?

On the topic of dictionaries, the choice of British dictionaries is obvious, what with the unabridged OED. But what of American dictionaries? I’ve noticed that many refer to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, but I’ve always found the The Amercan Heritage Dictionary of the English Language to be far more useful, especially for etymological information. Anyone have any opinions on American English dictionaries?

Posted by Mark at 06:18 PM | Comments (5)

March 28, 2004

Æmettan climbende treow

It seems to have been a week since my last food entry, so I guess this is long overdue. It is hard to resist the appeal of food porn. And speaking of food porn, Saturday night’s repast was a traditional Chinese recipe called Ants Climbing Trees, along with bok choy in oyster sauce:


The recipes are taken from two of the books from the Essential Cookbook series published by Whitecap, The Essential Wok Cookbook and The Essential Asian Cookbook. This series, which I highly recommend, is the ultimate in food pornography, with many beautiful photos, along with fabulous recipes (visible in the background of the above photo).

First of all the Ants Climbing Trees. As The Essential Wok Cookbook says, “this Chinese dish gets its name from the pork (ants) climbing the noodles (trees).” Normally we would just buy ground pork for this recipe, but as the grocery store was out of it when we went, we had to grind the pork ourselves using our Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and meat grinding attachment. This pork was then combined with soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil and allowed to marinate.

Meanwhile, the cellophane noodles (made with mung beans) were soaked in boiling water and drained.

Then, the aromatics, consisting of green onion, garlic, ginger, sambal oelek, and black bean sauce — the recipe called for chilli bean sauce, but we had to improvise —, were stirfried briefly. Then the ground pork mixture was added to the wok. After this was stirfried for a couple of minutes, the rest of the sauce, consisting of chicken stock, sugar, salt, soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil, was added.

Finally, we added the noodles to the wok and simmered until the sauce was reduced. Once it was done done, we garnished it with some more green onion.

As a side dish, we made steamed bok choy with oyster sauce. First we briefly sautéed garlic in peanut oil. Then the other sauce ingredients, oyster sauce, sugar, water, and sesame oil, were added to the saucepan and brought to the boil. The completed sauce was then poured over the steamed bok choy.

Oh, and of course my food entry would not be complete without the before-dinner cockails:


Chinese Cockails: 1 1/2 oz rum, 1/2 oz grenadine, 3 dashes triple sec, 1 dash Angostura bitters, garnished with a Maraschino cherry.

Posted by Mark at 11:47 PM | Comments (3)

March 26, 2004

Sartorial habits

Should I be worried that my students notice and discuss what I wear? I suppose it’s not surprising that people would notice the beautiful sweaters I wear, which are hand knit by my wife (you can read about some of them and see some pictures of me wearing them on her blog here, here, and here, along with a more complete gallery here). Indeed, several of my students have complimented me on the nice sweaters I wear (several of my students being knitters themselves).

Yesterday, however, the hat I was wearing was commented on since it wasn’t the usual hand-knit black toque that I wore over the winter; with the warmer weather it was time to switch to a spring hat. I don’t know if I should be flattered or worried. I think I’ll go with flattered.

Posted by Mark at 02:49 PM | Comments (4)

March 25, 2004

Wit oððe we, unc oððe us

A student in my Old English class asked me an interesting question today. We were reading Wulf and Eadwacer and pondering the use of pronouns in the poem. In the refrain line (Ungelic is us ‘It is different with us’, or something along those lines), the speaker uses the plural pronoun us, and it is not clear who this ‘us’ is or how many people it refers to. Later in the poem the speaker refers to Uncerne earne hwelp ‘our wretched whelp’ and uncer giedd geador ‘our song together’ using the dual pronoun uncer.1 It’s still unclear who the pronoun refers to — there seems to be a love triangle in the poem, so it refers to the speaker and one of the two men, Wulf or Eadwacer — but it is clear that it refers to only two people. It has been suggested (though I don’t know if it has been universally accepted) that the plural refers to the speaker and one of the two men, and the dual refers to the speaker and the other of the two men.

My student asked me if the use of the dual pronoun implied greater intimacy. I wasn’t really sure how to answer this. Is the dual pronoun ever used to refer to two antagonists in Old English? I suppose one could say that the dual pronoun is sometimes used when the dual number of the referent is specifically regarded, not only because of intimacy. Sometimes the dual is conspicuous by its absence; for instance Adam and Eve are not refered to using dual pronouns in Ælfric’s translation of Genesis.

But what of other languages? I know that Old Norse also preserves the dual pronouns. What other languages do? Is there any special implication in the use of the dual in those languages (other than simply number)?

1 Old English has dual-number forms of the 1st and 2nd personal pronouns:
wit, unc, uncer ‘we two, us two, etc.’ and git, inc, incer ‘you two, etc.’, as opposed to the plural we, us, ure ‘we, us, our’ and ge, eow, eower ‘you, you, your’.

Posted by Mark at 03:26 PM | Comments (6)

Webbstowa be stæfcræfte

I’ve added a number of new links on the sidebar to language blogs that I read.

The first language blog I started reading was the excellent On English, which I’ve had listed on the sidebar for some time and have mentioned before.

There is an interesting discussion in Language Log (here and here) about case and military prowess in the ancient / early medieval world. As was pointed out, the actual conquerers of Rome were in fact Germanic speakers, specifically Goths, who had nearly as many cases to deal with as there are in Latin. They did, however, have a simpler tense/aspect system. Hmm…

Blinger has a useful entry on putting together a teaching dossier, a process that I’m going through at the moment.

Languagehat has a posting on the Englisc List, an e-mail discussion group about composition in Old English of which I am a lurking subscriber. There is also a review of Simon Winchester’s The Meaning of Everything that is rather more critical than my own. Languagehat makes some valid points. I guess my reaction to the book wasn’t as critical because my expectations were somewhat different; I was expecting a light, entertaining history of the OED, and that’s what it is.

Also worth a read are Tenser, said the Tensor and The X-Bar, which both have excellent titles. Click over to all of these blogs if you’re interested in peculiarities of language.

Posted by Mark at 02:00 PM | Comments (2)

March 24, 2004


Another update on what I’ve been reading lately: I just finished reading Colin Peter Field’s The Cocktails of the Ritz Paris.

As many who know me know (and as is evident from my postings on food & drink), I am a bit of a cocktail aficionado. This is due largely to the fact than my wife and I, along with our former housemate Madhava, have hosted an annual fancy-dress cocktail party (already alluded to here). Since there’s no official Cocktail Party web site yet, you can get a pretty good idea of what these parties are like by looking at the pictures in the appropriate sections of my photo album and Madhava’s photo album.

As a result of this interest, my sister and her husband gave me and my wife the book The Cocktails of the Ritz Paris for Christmas. This book, written by the head bartender of the Bar Hemingway of the Ritz Paris, is not just a list of cocktail recipes; it is in fact more of a history of cocktails at the Ritz Paris.

The book starts off with a brief history of the bar and then moves into a more philosophical discussion of cocktails: the psychology of mixing drinks and the practical techniques involved. Field certainly has his own well-established views on the subject. Then Field gives not only the recipes of cocktails invented at Ritz Paris but also the stories behind their creation. It’s really quite an entertaining read. The focus in mainly on the cocktails invented by Field himself, but also listed are some of the classic cocktails invented at the Ritz Paris, including the Mimosa. I haven’t tried any new cocktails from the book yet, but they look quite good. And the book itself is quite fun and beautifully illustrated.

If you’re interested in more classic cocktails, I would recommend Vintage Cocktails: Authentic Recipes and Illustrations from 1920-1960 by Susan Waggoner and Robert Markel. The classic recipes in this book are accompanied by the history of drinks and illustrations and poster art. Also a good read.

Next up on my list of readings is another book given to me as a gift, Kevin Jackson’s Invisible Forms, which was given to me and my wife ages ago by my sister-in-law. My wife read it right away, but I’m only now getting around to reading it. One of the nice things about being finished my dissertation is that I’m finally able to catch up on my pleasure reading!

Posted by Mark at 04:24 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2004

Se geonges elpendes stæpe

As proof that anything can be played on a ukulele, Brook Adams has put online a number of mp3s of himself playing songs ranging from James Bond theme songs to Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze, from various Beatle songs to the Spiderman theme, and from Monty Python’s The Galaxy Song to my personal favourite, Henry Mancini’s The Baby Elephant Walk. Definitely worth a listen.

And now for a gratuitous picture of an adorable Tigger:


Posted by Mark at 05:42 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2004

Underðeodendlic gemet (Be he live or be he dead...)

Another cross-over between my Old English class and my English writing class.

There’s a line in The Wife’s Lament that has a particular use of the subjunctive forms of the verb ‘to be’: “Sy æt him sylfum gelong / eal his worulde wyn, sy ful wide fah / feorres folclondes” which can be very literally translated ‘be all his joy in the world dependant on himself, (or) be he very distantly outcast from his far country’ or perhaps more smoothly though freely translated as ‘whether all his joy in the world is dependant on himself, or whether he is very distantly outcast from his far country’.

This use of the two subjunctive forms to form a correlative construction with the sense ‘whether … or’ survives into Modern English (though somewhat archaic) in Jack and the Beanstock: “Be he live or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread”.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed that some of my English writing students have a tendency to use this construction. I wonder if they do so in an attempt to sound more formal. I generally suggest they change it to ‘whether … or’, which I feel is more common in Modern English, but perhaps the construction is fine in current usage. Does anyone else use this construction in their writing (or speech, I suppose)?

Posted by Mark at 10:35 PM | Comments (1)

March 21, 2004

Æt and wæt

Last night’s dinner was one of our more recent favourites, Singapore Noodles:


It’s a fairly simple recipe (from The Essential Wok Cookbook), actually, though it is a bit time consuming. First of all, boneless chicken breast, thinly sliced, is put in a marinade of garlic, ginger, oyster sauce, and soy sauce for half an hour. Meanwhile, dried rice vermicelli are soaked in boiling hot water and then drained.

Next, the chicken is stirfried in a wok over high heat until browned. Then julienned celery and carrot, as well as spring onion, are added to the wok and stirfried some more.

Next the flavourings and other ingredients are added. First some curry powder is stirfried with the chicken and vegetables until fragrant. Then more oyster sauce and soy sauce are added, along with sesame oil and and bean sprouts. Finally, the contents of the wok are combined with the noodles and some more spring onions for garnish:


On the side, we had (admittedly store-bought) egg rolls and chicken balls with plum sauce and cherry sauce, as you can see in the picture at the beginning of this entry.

While making this stirfry, I drank a Jade cocktail (1 1/2 oz rum1, 1/2 oz green crème de menthe, 1/2 oz triple sec, 1/2 oz lime juice, 1 tsp sugar, slice of lime). Why didn’t I have the obvious Singapore Sling? We were out of Cherry Brandy, an amazing occurrence given our Cocktail Party extravaganzas (any publicly available official web site for this Madhava?). Of course, with dinner we drank Oolong green tea.

1 I used white rum this time, but it’s usually made with dark rum, or sometimes golden rum.

Posted by Mark at 07:02 PM | Comments (4)


I’ve made a small addition to the sidebar: there is now a category index of the category archive pages, so you can now easily browse the entries by category (should you wish to do so). Enjoy.

Posted by Mark at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)


We got most of the way through The Wife’s Lament in my Old English class this week. Next week we’ll finish it off and read the fairly short Wulf and Eadwacer. I’m saving the last week of term to do Old English riddles with the class, but that leaves a good week open, so I put it to a vote as to what text to read next. The group decision was to read parallel exerpts from Beowulf and Judith, so the sections I chose were the dismemberment passages: Beowulf’s fight with Grendel and the tearing off of his arm (ll. 809-836), Beowulf’s fight with Grendel’s mother (ll. 1557-1590), and Judith’s decapitation of Holofernes (ll. 94b-121). It should be both fun and thematically interesting. Indeed, I’m quite happy with the passages I settled on.

I’m also pleased with some of the topics I’ve got my students working on for the final essay. In particular, I’ve got a couple of students working on word studies, a topic close to my own heart. One is working on the word uht, a word that means ‘dusk, the period before dawn’, and its various compounds (such as uhtcearu ‘sorrow at dawn’). Another might be working on compounds such as eorþscræf ‘earth cave’ and eorþsele ‘earth hall’, which might have also have the connotation of ‘grave’. These are interesting words and should produce good essays. I’m really looking forward to reading what my students come up with.

I’ve also been getting much encouraging feedback from students lately, from both my Old English class and my Effective Writing class. At least I know I’m doing something right. I’m glad to hear that I’ve been able to make my classes both useful and interesting.

Posted by Mark at 12:46 AM | Comments (2)

March 20, 2004

Fisc and wæstmas

On Thursday night, we had one of our signature dishes, salmon with fruit salsa:


This is a recipe that we developed from the inspiration of an existing recipe. We had come across a recipe for a fruit salsa that seemed interesting, but we were unable to find most of the ingredients called for. We’ve modified the recipe over the years until perfecting it in the form it’s in now.

The salsa itself consists of mangos, avocados, papayas, red onion, lime juice, jalapeño, freshly ground mixed pepper, and salt. The combination of mango and avocado may seem odd at first, but trust me, it works amazingly well and complements salmon perfectly. You simply must try this recipe. The papaya can be omitted if you don’t have access to it.

As for the salmon, fillets or steaks will do. In the winter we broil it, in the summer it’s great grilled on the bbq. We like to brush the salmon with citrus olive oil before cooking, which is particularly when grilling to prevent the fish from sticking to the grill. You can use ordinary olive oil, but the citrus oil brings extra flavour to the party.

Oh, and what did we drink while preparing this culinary wonder? Margaritas of course!

Posted by Mark at 12:50 PM | Comments (1)

March 19, 2004

Scrabblator Optimus

First of all, another quiz:

You know the difference between indecisive and
undecided, and won’t hesitate to call it!
You probably taught your teachers a thing or two,
and have the glasses to prove it.
But don’t forget, not everyone is asking for your

What Board Game are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Yeah, that sounds about right for me. I do love my words.

On the topic of Scrabble, the Latin Scrabble Tournament at the Centre for Medieval Studies has wrapped up, and you can read all about the results here.

My congratulations to this year’s winner of the title Scrabblator Optimus, Morris Tichenor. It’s quite a feat. In the final round Morris played against my thesis advisor George Rigg. Morris even successfully challenged a word in the game, which must have taken nerves of steel.

One of my favourite plays in the tournament is the word er (played in game one of round 4) which means ‘hedgehog’. Truly impressive. In fact there are a number of clever plays in that game in terms of overlapping word placement involving a number of two-letter words. I guess that’s the key to playing Latin Scrabble: knowing all those short, obscure words.

Anyway, my congratulations to everyone who took part in the tournament and to its organizer. Have a look at the official website, it’s a lot of fun!

Posted by Mark at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2004

Irisc flæscmete

Here’s one more recipe from Margaret M. Johnson’s The Irish Heritage Cookbook, Gaelic Steak, which we ate for our St Patrick’s Day dinner.


It’s a fairly simple recipe actually. We started off sautéeing mushrooms and onions in some butter, which were then removed from the skillet and set aside.

Next, the steaks were fried in some more butter. Meanwhile, we got the side dishes going: carrots boiled and tossed in some butter, green beans, and potatoes. We had all four burners going for a while (a situation which the stove is not always happy with).

Then we flambéed the steaks in Jameson Irish Whiskey:

flambe1.jpg flambe2.jpg
flambe3.jpg flambed.jpg

As you can see, the initial fireball was quite excessive, but we managed to maintain our nerve and continue until the flame subsided. The last couple of times we did this recipe the flames weren’t so high. Once the flames had gone out, the steaks were removed from the pan.

The final task was to finish the sauce. Cream was added to the pan, along with some salt and pepper, and was allowed to reduce slightly as we deglazed the bottom of the pan. Then the mushrooms and onions were returned to the pan, and the sauce was cooked until thickened.

Finally we plated it all up. Again, note the tri-coloured arrangement of the carrots, potatoes, and green beans in the form of the Irish flag. It was a very delicious meal, and very flashy and festive to prepare, what with the flambéing. A perfect way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day!

Posted by Mark at 11:14 PM | Comments (1)

March 17, 2004

Dies Sancti Patricii

Happy St Patrick’s Day to all! Have a Guinness or a Jameson, (or ignore the day completely if you prefer). Tomorrow I’ll write about tonight’s St Patrick’s Day dinner. For now I’ll mark the day with a bit of trivia.

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the year 430, St Patrick is (or may be) briefly mentioned: “Her Patricius wæs asend fram Celestine þam papan to bodianne Scottum fulluht” (ChronE 430.1).1 This is in the E text of the ASC; all the other texts read “Palladius” (as does Bede’s HE). In the A text of the ASC, there is an interlinear addition of ‘or Patrick’ in what is apparently a post-Conquest hand. So there seems to be some confusion here, but it seems like it should actually be Palladius and not Patrick.2 Patrick gets all the glory in later tradition, and poor Palladius get Guinness drunk in his honour every year.

It’s also worth noting that the Irish are referred to as the Scots, which was common at the time (I’m sure it will infuriate many to read this). The passage in Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis anglorum reads: “Palladius ad Scottos in Christum credentes a pontifice Romanae ecclesiae Caelestino primus mittitur episcopus” (HE 13).3 This passage is translated into Old Engish as: “Þæs caseres rices ðy eahteþan geare Palladius biscop wæs ærest sended to Scottum, þa ðe on Crist gelyfdon, fram þam biscope þære Romaniscan cyricean, Celestinus wæs haten”.4

Scots… Irish… to those in the middle ages it’s all the same. What a final sentiment for a St Patrick’s Day posting. Well, I’m off to drink some Jameson and Guinness. I’ll finish off with the only other mention I’ve found in the Old English corpus of St Patrick: “Ðonne resteð sanctus Aidanus and sanctus Patricius on Glæstingabirig and fela oðra sancta”. (KSB 8.2 37.1). A cookie to the first one to correctly translate this passage…

1 ‘In this year, Patrick was sent from Pope Celestine to preach baptism to the Scots.’

2 There is an article on the confusion between the two figures: D.N. Dumville, “‘Acta Palladii’ preserved in Patrician hagiography”, in Saint Patrick, ed. D.N. Dumville (Woodbridge, 1993), pp. 65-84.

3 ‘Palladius was sent from Celestine, bishop of the Roman Church, to the Scots, who believed in Christ, as their first bishop.’

4 ‘In the eighth year of that Emperor’s reign, bishop Palladius was first sent to the Scots, who believed in Christ, from that bishop of the Roman church who was called Celestinus.’

Posted by Mark at 05:06 PM | Comments (1)

March 15, 2004

Lamb Folláin part II

Last night we had our pre-St Patrick’s day feast of Lamb Folláin:


Picking up where I left off, we took the marinated lamb out of the fridge an hour before putting it into the oven so that it could come up to room temperature. After removing it from the marinade and patting it dry, we placed it in another container and into the pre-heated oven. With the oven set to 325F we figured it would take about 2 hours to cook, but we used our handy digital thermometer to make sure that we cooked it to an internal temperature of 145F (medium rare).

At various points in the roasting process, we basted the lamb with some reserved marinade from the night before. I passed the time by first drinking a Rory O’More (3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth, 1 1/2 oz Irish Whiskey, 1 dash Orange Bitters), and then I modified a Softy (normally made with 2 oz Orange Juice, 1 1/2 oz Scotch, 2 tsp Drambuie, garnished with a cherry) into a more Irish-themed drink by substituting Jameson for the Scotch and Irish Mist for the Drambuie. As you can tell, both cocktails tie into the dinner as both are made with Jameson and either orange bitters or orange juice.

When the lamb was getting close to completion, we put together the sides: peas, potatoes, and baby carrots. On a whim, after boiling the baby carrots, we decided to sauté them briefly in butter and the Robertson’s marmalade that we had used in the marinade the night before. I can certainly recommend this way of doing carrots to anyone.

Finally, when our digital thermometer beeped at us, we took the lamb out of the oven and left it to rest for a few minutes tented under aluminum foil. We then turned our attention to another innovation, deciding to take the pan juices and leftover reserved marinade and make a jus. Then we carved the lamb and found it to be a perfect medium rare:


Finally we plated it all up with the jus poured over the lamb and the peas, potatoes, and carrots arranged on the plates to form the Irish flag (as you can see in the photo at the top of this entry). It was a fantastic dinner and certainly worthy of the occasion. Once again, I would certainly recommend Margaret M. Johnson’s The Irish Heritage Cookbook to anyone who enjoys this kind of cooking. Ther recipes are fairly easy but always good.

Posted by Mark at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2004

Lamb Folláin part I

Last night we started the process for this evening’s dinner, Lamb Folláin, which we’re making in honour of the impending St Patrick’s Day celebration on Wednesday. The recipe is from Margaret M. Johnson’s excellent The Irish Heritage Cookbook, which I mentioned in a previous blog entry. Last night we made up the marinade, which consists of orange marmalade, Jameson Irish Whiskey, grated orange zest, minced garlic, olive oil, orange juice, fresh chives, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Since we didn’t have access to the special Folláin orange-whiskey marmalade, we used Robertson’s orange marmalade (admittedly made in England by appointment to H.M. the Queen!) and added some Jameson whiskey and a drop of lemon juice.

The combined ingredients were cooked over low heat until the marmalade melted and the sauce was smooth. Once the marinade had cooled a bit, we placed a boneless lamb leg in a container and poured the mixture over top to marinate in the refrigerator over night:


Tomorrow I’ll pick up the thread again and write about the completion of this meal. Stay tuned…

Posted by Mark at 06:09 PM | Comments (0)

Cicen on broðe

Since I wrote up a description of the bean soup my wife and I make, I thought I’d give a fuller account of the chicken noodle soup that I’d mentioned in a previous entry.


We start off cooking the mirepoix, which in this case contains carrots, celery, and leeks instead of onions (since we liked it so much the last time we did it that way) in olive oil. Once the mirepoix has softened a bit, we add our homemade cicken stock and bring to the boil. Meanwhile we add the seasonings, which we keep fairly simple for this recipe: salt, freshly ground black pepper, a bay leaf, lovage, and some parsley. Next in the pot is some boneless cicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces. Once the soup has come back to the boil, we leave it to simmer until the chicken is cooked.

After a brief pause for a manhattan, it’s time for the noodles. The noodles we like to use for this soup are very small soup noodles labelled as Filini 86 on the bag. Then the soup is left to simmer for about three minutes until the noodles are cooked:


Finally, once the soup is served in bowls, we add a garnish of some more fresh parsley. Like the bean soup, this chicken noodle soup is not complex or sophisticated, but it is a very satisfying comfort food. What really makes this soup (indeed any soup) a success is using a good homemade stock. Perhaps I’ll write about making stock the next time we do it.

Posted by Mark at 05:28 PM | Comments (1)

March 13, 2004

Gewundod catt

My cat Tigger needs some sympathy today as he had a rather hard day.


First of all, he came in without his collar having lost it somewhere this morning. Then later in the day, after we put a new collar on him, he came in covered in mud having clearly been in a fight with another cat (you can read about his last such encounter in my wife’s blog here and here). We did an initial check to see if he was hurt, and he seemed okay, just dirty. So we decided to try to wash him off. We’ve never bathed him before, so he’s not used to it, but he was so coverd in mud that we felt we had to do it anyway. Well, needless to say, he was not pleased, but nevertheless he recovered from the ordeal fairly quickly.

It was only later that we noticed he was moving about somewhat tentatively, obviously a little sore from the fight. Upon closer inspection we found a small cut above his front left leg. We’re keeping a close eye on him and won’t let him out again until after the vet has a chance to see him on Monday. As can be seen in the picture above, and these two as well, he’s sleeping it off now. Also, if you look closely in the two pop-up images, you can see his wound. Poor boy! Proh dolor!

Update: You can also read my wife’s acount of Tigger’s day here and see some more pictures of an adorable Tigger convalescing.

Posted by Mark at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)


A few weeks ago, I got some examination copies from the publishers (as one often does), in this case of two History of the English Language books, C.M. Millward’s A Biography of the English Language 2nd ed., published by Thomson, and Thomas Pyles and John Algeo’s The Origins and Development of the English Language, 4th ed., published by Harcourt. These are two of the most commonly used HEL textbooks.

Well, more recently I got a copy of John Algeo and Thomas Pyles’s The Origins and Development of the English Language 5th ed., published by Thomson, which raises a few questions.

I’m confused about the publication situation of the Pyles and Algeo (or Algeo and Pyles) book. It seems that Harcourt still has the rights to the 4th edition (which is dated 1993), but Thomson has the rights to the new 5th edition (which is dated 2004). That seems like a rather odd situation. Would there be any market for the older edition? I’ll have to sit down with the two and see how they actually differ.

The other odd thing is why the switch in the order of the names: the 4th edition is Pyles and Algeo, and the 5th edition is Algeo and Pyles. Did Algeo just decide to take top billing in the new edition, or is there some sort of editorial purpose behind this change?

Finally, it occurs to me that Thomson is really cornering the market here with both the new edition of The Origins and Development of the English Language and A Biography of the English Language (not to mention the many other English textbooks they publish).

Posted by Mark at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)


I just managed to get tickets to the Sting concert here in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre in July. When I tried to get tickets to his concert at Massey Hall (about a week from now) I was disappointed to find out that I couldn’t get two together, and I’d have to pay a rather ridiculous amount for them. But the ACC is a much bigger venue. I still feel vaguely cheated by all the convenience fees, etc., etc., but what can you do?

Posted by Mark at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2004

Werlic cynn and wiflic cynn

It occurs to me that I haven’t blogged about a linguistic topic in a while, so I thought I’d write about the issue of gender in language as it became an issue in both my English Writing class and my Old English class this week.

The grammar topic I covered with my English Writing class this week was agreement (subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent), and this brought up the problem of the lack of a gender non-specific singular personal pronoun in English. Of course it has become pretty much standard usage in spoken language to use they for this purpose as in: ‘Every doctor has outdated magazines in their waiting room.’ I had to convince my students that it wasn’t correct to use their that way in written language.

My students weren’t terribly happy with the rather clunky solution of using he or she or s/he (‘Every doctor has outdated magazines in his or her waiting room’), but there really isn’t any way around that is there (suggestions welcome).

Historically, most languages (or at least the Indo-European ones I know) use the masculine gender to cover both (‘Every doctor has outdated magazines in his waiting room’), but this no longer as acceptable, not only for the sake of political correctness, but also for logical correctness; with respect to my sample sentence, a hundred years ago one might be more or less safe in assuming that all doctors are male but that’s certainly not true now.

While it isn’t correct to use they as a gender non-specific singular personal pronoun in written English now, I’m sure that in a hundred years or so it will be (unless some other pronoun is developed to fill that void). I’d be interested to hear from anyone who might be able to enlighten me as to how other languages not familiar to me handle this problem.

On a related topic, I find it stunning how often scholars have tried to interfere with the gender expressed in the Old English poem The Wife’s Lament. The poem is a first person monologue, with no name given for the speaker. It is clear from the first sentence of the poem that the speaker must be female because of two adjectives referring to the speaker which have unambiguous feminine endings (geomorre and minre sylfre). A surprising number of Old English scholars have suggested emending those inflectional endings so as to take the speaker as male. It is a testament to the systematic misogyny of 19th century scholars, I suppose. What is perhaps even more surprising is that even as late as the 1960s such arguments were still being floated. And it is remarkable the lengths that these scholars went to explain away the gender expressed in the text and how inventive some of their arguments were. It’s a shame, because it is such a compelling poem and such a powerful female voice.

As a final note, if you enjoy reading about language, click over to On English (also linked to on the sidebar), a very entertaining and interesting blog written by Rethabile Masilo, who enjoys punning neologisms as much as I do.

Posted by Mark at 10:31 PM | Comments (1)

March 09, 2004


Well, I’ve put this off long enough. While it is no secret that music is a great interest of mine (I play a number of instruments and even started a music degree as an undergraduate), it may not be common knowledge that over the past year I have become quite devoted to the ukulele.


For my birthday last year, my wife Aven gave me a ukulele, specifically a Denver Duke. Little did she know what she’d started.

I found out that there were two other types of ukes availible at our local music store, and I couldn’t resist. I bought a baritone ukulele, a lower-pitched ukulele made by Hilo, and a guitalele, a six-stringed ukulele made by Yamaha. If only I’d had these when recording the Folk Brigade material!

As it turned out, the guitalele came with a cloth carrying case, but the other two didn’t, and so, rather than buying cases over the internet, I decided to make cases:


The plaid one in the middle is the guitalele case, and the two black ones are the ones that my wife and I sewed out of black denim and grey fleece for the lining. Here you can see a closeup of the inside of one of the cases.

The surprising thing is that I’m not the only Old English scholar with a ukulele connection. Although he doesn’t play the ukulele himself, Roy Liuzza plays in a band called The Rites of Swing that features a ukulele. I haven’t heard any of their music, but I imagine it would be great.

In addition to the Ukulelia weblog linked to on the sidebar, another site I’ve found useful in my exploration of all things uke is the ezFolk Ukulele Section. I’ve even fuelled my uke habit by putting together my own book of ukulele transcriptions. My latest plan is to do some digital recording on my computer of Gershwin songs played on the uke. I don’t know why, but somehow it seems appropriate. Maybe when I do get around to doing this, I’ll put clips up on this blog for you all to hear.

As a side note, the original ukulele I got for my birthday came in an oddly shaped cardboard box, which strangely enough is the exact right size and shape for Tigger:


I’ve taken to calling him my furry ukulele. I’ll never be able to take away these boxes because he’d be so upset with me. Here are a couple more pictures of the furry ukulele to bring up the cuteness quotient of this posting.

Well, I guess I end this rambling entry with a picture of me playing the uke, as well as the baritone and guitalele:


Posted by Mark at 05:42 PM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2004

Beana on broðe

In a continuation of the theme of yesterday’s entry, today’s topic is last night’s dinner, bean soup:


This is a recipe of our own devising. We start off rendering a few slices of bacon, then adding some olive oil, diced carrots, celery, and onion. Once the mirepoix1 has been cooking for a while and the onion is translucent, we add our home-made beef broth and the already soaked and boiled beans (red kidney, navy, and romano beans). Next, we add the flavourings, this time a bay leaf, lovage, sage, salt, and pepper.

Then, we add the the vegetables, staggered depending on their individual cooking times: green beans, cauliflower, and broccoli, as well as the parsley. (We sometimes also include corn, but we forgot to buy a can this week and were disappointed to find that we didn’t have one on hand in our pantry as a matter of course. Clearly we’re barbarians!)

When the vegetables are close to being cooked, we add the orzo pasta2. Here is a picture of the soup bubbling away on the stove. Finally, after serving, we garnish with some more parsley. Healthy and very satisfying.

1The French term for the traditional flavour base consisting of carrots, celery, and onions.

2Small rice-shaped pasta.

Posted by Mark at 04:25 PM | Comments (5)

March 07, 2004

Irisc mete

For dinner last night we made Beer-Braised Roast Pork:


The recipe (slightly modified procedurally) is from The Irish Heritage Cookbook by Margaret M. Johnson. I highly recommend this cookbook. As for the recipe itself, it consists of a boneless pork loin roast (browned), onions (sautéed), salt, pepper, parsely, and, of course, Guinness for braising. The Guinness, along with the slow braising process, makes for very tender pork. It’s a fairly simple recipe, but it’s very good. On the side, we had potatoes (of course), broccoli, and cauliflower.

And what to drink with such a meal? Well, Jameson’s Irish Whiskey before dinner, Guinness with dinner, and Irish Mist liqueur afterwards.

Tonight we’re making a bean soup, which I’ll write about tomorrow.

Posted by Mark at 06:17 PM | Comments (3)

March 06, 2004


I just finished reading The Meaning of Everything by Simon Winchester (see the list of readings on the sidebar and this previous posting). As I noted earlier, this is a book about the history of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, and, as someone who has previously worked at a dictionary (the Dictionary of Old English), I found this book to be particularly congenial. The book is well written and quite interesting; in fact, it has certainly made me want to read Simon Winchester’s previous book on the OED called The Professor and the Madman.

There are a lot of interesting facts in this book that I didn’t know, such as the fact that Henry Sweet, whom I’m familiar with as an important Old English scholar who wrote various OE textbooks, a student’s OE dictionary, and editions of OE texts, was the model for Henry Higgins in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Indeed, having read the prefaces to his Early English Text Society edition of King Alfred’s West-Saxon Version of Gregory’s Pastoral Care and The Student’s Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon, where he comes across as a fairly ornery fellow, I am not entirely surprised by this revelation. There are also many wonderfully interesting bits of trivia contained in his very entertaining footnotes.

I’m quite the dictionary fanatic and never pass up the opportunity to acquire another. And I find it fascinating to read the history of all these linguistic tools that I use constantly, such as the OED and the editions of the Early English Text Society, a society which was created to supply reliable editions for the OED, and of which I am a member. I really should have been a nineteenth century scholar of language and Old English. In any case, reading The Meaning of Everything has put me in a non-fiction state of mind, so next up is Colin Peter Field’s The Cocktails of the Ritz Paris.

Posted by Mark at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2004


The academic job market has, of course, been very much on my mind lately. And this insightful posting by Michael Drout has inspired me to make this my topic today.

Having defended my dissertation in September 2003 and spending the 2003-2004 academic year as a part-time sessional instructor at U of T teaching Old English and English writing, this was the first year that I was really on the job market. Now realistically I know that one must often expect to be on the marked for a few years before landing that much-coveted tenure-track job, but it seems like a steeper climb than I had originally thought.

As Michael Drout pointed out in the aforementioned posting, graduates of the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto have often been quite successful in getting jobs, but I’m not so sure that’s as true recently as it has been in the past. There were a number of Centre students on the market this year, myself included, who didn’t get jobs in this round of hiring. I think there are some more general reasons for this as well as some specific ones in my case.

I suspect English departments may have a general bias against medieval studies. Students from medieval studies programmes have a lot of specialist knowledge. The Centre for Medieval Studies places a lot of emphasis on languages and skills such as textual criticism, Latin, and palaeography. Many English department hiring committees, however, may be looking for candidates who will teach medieval literature in a way more in keeping with the ways other areas of English literature is taught.

Am I suggesting that a PhD from an English department is better than one from a medieval department? Not at all. In fact, I believe in many ways a medieval studies graduate is on the whole often better prepared to produce solid scholarship on medieval literature than a graduate from an English department, but the English department graduate still has an advantage when it comes to the job market.

I think it’s particularly difficult for Old English specialists. As a friend of mine pointed out to me today, medievalists often have to position themselves as early early modernists. And there often seems to be a (wrong-headed) belief that it’s better to hire a Middle English specialist who can teach Old English than it is to hire an Old English specialist who can teach Old English.

In my case specifically, I imagine I am somewhat disadvantaged by the fact that the focus of my research is philological. I know that many people would suggest that one’s thesis topic should be chosen with a hiring committee in mind, but I simply refuse to sell out just to get a job. A trendy topic may garner attention in the short term, but fifty years from now it’s the philology that will still be relevant. Besides, one has to enjoy what one is researching, otherwise it probably won’t get done.

I had initially thought that my teaching experience would be a big advantage. I had had a lot of TA positions and was applying as a current sessional instructor. But I now think publications are far more important. As Michael Drout pointed out, an article in the right journal can open a lot of doors. So now my priority is getting published, and hopefully for me that will make the difference in the next round of hiring.

Well, that’s enough ranting for today, I guess. Though I may sound a little bitter, I guess it’s just because I’m venting a little. I haven’t by any means lost hope, but it is a little discouraging.

Posted by Mark at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2004


It occurs to me that I haven’t writting anything about teaching my Old English class yet. This week we finished up the poem The Wanderer and are now in the middle of Deor. Reading these poems again, I was again struck by how fascinating they are (though for very different reasons). I’m enjoying teaching these poems immensely.

For a poem ostensibly about a wanderer or eardstapa (literally ‘earth-stepper’), it’s striking how solipsistic The Wanderer is. Certainly the poem contains much description of the physical realities of the wanderer’s situation, but so much of the poem is about his internal psychological state. Indeed the poem is quite a sophisticated examination of the psychology of despair and consolation, it seems to me.

Deor, also a poem that examines despair and consolation, is fun to teach because it gives me the opportunity to talk about Germanic heroic legends (as well as Classical mythological analogues). And while some scholars back away from the suggestion that there is Boethian influence on the poem, I find the parallels quite striking, particularly when taking into account King Alfred’s translations. Aside from the passage that parallels the refrain in Deor, most of the legends referred to in the poem are also referred to in Alfred’s version or are paralleled by a Classical analogue.

But the main reason why I’m enjoying teaching this stuff so much is how keen my class is about it. They seem to be as fascinated by it as I am. It’s very encouraging to get that kind of response.

Posted by Mark at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2004

A Sublimi ad Ridiculum

Two Latin items:

Follow this link to read about the 2004 Latin Scrabble Tournament at the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto.

And my weird Latin phrase:

I want my rubber ducky!
Volo anaticulum cumminosam meam!
“I want my rubber ducky!”
Okay, so you’re a little childish. You know how to
have a good time.

Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Mark at 01:26 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2004

Ring Composition

Well, the main addition to this site today is the web rings section on the sidebar. This site is now a part of the Grammar Avengers web ring devoted to blogs of people who have “a love of language”. It seemed like the obvious choice for me! Do check out some of the other blogs on the ring.

I’d also like to follow up on one of the many cogent and interesting comments posted by Anatole on one of my previous entries.

I would suggest that recent political leaders seem less able to speak off the cuff, or at least they do so less. Their handlers seem to keep them pretty strictly on the script (a wise move in the case of George W. Bush). Even Jean Chrétien, who used to be known for his fiery style of oratory in the 60’s and 70’s, was much more subdued and premeditated in his speach patterns as Prime Minister in the 90’s. But this may not be a reflection on ability, so much as a technological exigency. In the early half of the 20th century, an off-the-cuff remark by a politician wouldn’t be replayed ad nauseum on a headline news channel.

But in terms of the level of sophistication of prepared speaches I think the theory does hold. Political speaches today do sound a lot more conversational and direct, belying their careful crafting. After all, Reagan was known as “the great communicator” for his use of straightforward language. Well, he certainly wasn’t Churchill.

Getting back to my original point, I guess technology of one sort or another has always been a driving force behind spoken-language change: the creation of the technology of writing necessitated the invention of written language, adapted from spoken language; years later the invention of computer technology has led to spoken language again having an influence of written language. The two diverged for a few thousand years but may be coalescing again. Punning again on the title of this posting, I guess written language is coming full circle.

Posted by Mark at 11:50 PM | Comments (1)

March 01, 2004

Ða Wealas and leac

Well, I don’t have time for a full posting today, but I thought I’d just take a moment to wish everyone a happy St. David’s Day. I suppose it’s odd that I titled this posting in Old English (‘The Welsh and leeks’), but I’m afraid I don’t know any Old Welsh (would someone care to enlighten me?); it’s especially odd since the word ‘Welsh’ comes from the Old English word Wealh, which originally meant ‘foreigner, slave’. The poor Welsh were made slaves and foreigners in their own country by the Anglo-Saxons!

In celebration of St. David’s day, we put leeks in our chicken noodle soup last night (made from our home made stock). Etymology for the day: the word ‘leek’ comes from the Old English word leac, which is actually a general word for ‘onion’ and is the second element in the compound garleac ‘garlic’, literally ‘spear-leak’ because of its shape.

Posted by Mark at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)