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  • The Good Friday Agreement, Teletext and an Anonymous Phone-Caller October 21, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Good Friday Agreement, Teletext and an Anonymous Phone-Caller

    The Good Friday Agreement – and we’ll come back to that name in a minute – was signed 10 April 1998. It was the single most important step in the winding down of the low grade civil war that had marred the province since the late 1960s and that cost over three thousand lives in […]

    ‘Bloody Foreigners’ and English April 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Medieval, Modern
    'Bloody Foreigners' and English

    The British are often characterized as being insular, stand-offish and suspicious of outsiders.  And Beach has recently been fascinated by how this parochialism (which is at least partly based in fact) has left traces in the English language and more particularly in the words that English uses for nationality. It should be said, first of […]

    Italy’s Weird Languages February 4, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Italy's Weird Languages

    Italy is chaotic not just in day-to-day but also in geographical terms. The Apennines that come down from the Alps dominate most of the country and separate out the peninsula into two hundred semi-independent shangrilas. The result is that Italy has always been doomed to social, cultural and linguistic division. Italian itself, the ‘dialect’ of […]

    Fusion and Confusion in Post Roman Britain September 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Fusion and Confusion in Post Roman Britain

     ***This extended essay was written as a sequel to a previous post on Roman Britain signalled in the first link*** We have looked before in the place at the darkness that descends on Britain after Rome decamps from the island. Our ignorance about this period of British history is simply astounding. We know that there […]

    Badgers, Pigs and Asses: Celtic in English May 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Badgers, Pigs and Asses: Celtic in English

    ‘While I was on the ass, going to feed my dun hog, carrying only a matlock and some bannock, I saw a brock coming down from the tor that’s shaped like a bin’. It is not exactly poetry. But this sentence might stand as a memory aid for students of English. The interest lies not […]

    Lost in Transmission May 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Lost in Transmission

    Words echo through the centuries like coins dropped down an infinite well. And as they are passed on they are smoothed and confused in the mouths of the people. The best examples we have of this are, of course, placenames: in the space of eighty generations Londinium becomes London, Mamucium becomes Manchester and Euboricum becomes […]

    The Babel of History May 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Babel of History

      The past according to a much worn-line is ‘a foreign country, they do things differently there’. Of course, if this were all then history would be a doddle. It would be enough to fill the Cutty Sark with sabres and give the natives music sheets for their acres. But, unfortunately for those who like […]

    The Future of English December 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    The Future of English

    There have been various ‘world’ languages, beginning with Greek, moving on to Latin, and from there changing rapidly from Portuguese, to Spanish, to French and more recently to English. Beachcombing spent a lazy moment yesterday browsing a nineteenth-century essay on the ‘inevitable’ triumph of English, the author arguing that not only would English become the […]

    Flinders Island May 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flinders Island

    Beachcombing tries to get a geographical spread going with his posts where – if there is a depressing bias towards Europe and Blighty – he covers pretty much the whole globe  in at least a token fashion. However, some parts of the world are underrepresented. Take Australasia. Bar some reports of moas in New Zealand […]

    French Kisses, Guinea Pigs and the Spanish vice November 13, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    French Kisses, Guinea Pigs and the Spanish vice

    Beachcombing had a terrifying dream last night. A great voice told him to find a bizarre story on turkeys, presumably one of the last shadows of his recent obsession with birds? Beachcombing has decided, however, not to do so because his subconscious has, frankly, been getting on his nerves in the last weeks. Instead, Beachombing is going to look at […]

    The Parrots of the Atures November 2, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Parrots of the Atures

      Since beginning this blog five months ago Beachcombing has noticed a monotonous pattern. He takes out a long-treasured fragment of bizarre history, all fired up to write a cracking whiz-bang post. And then, when he comes to triple-check the facts, he discovers that the event never happened – that it was based on a misunderstanding […]

    Rhyming Violence in Early Medieval Ireland October 23, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Rhyming Violence in Early Medieval Ireland

    Ireland, the early seventh-century. It is a cold, cold day in late autumn and the monastery is buzzing with excitement. ‘The faminators are coming. There is to be a duel’. As soon as the master of studies hears the news he waddles off to tell the abbot.  It takes him half an hour, but after […]

    World’s Last Latin Speakers in Africa? June 23, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    World's Last Latin Speakers in Africa?

    Yes, yes, Beachcombing knows that those bores in the Vatican and some Finnish broadcasters still speak Latin. He’s even been into monastic libraries where they won’t give you a manuscript unless you babble something from Lewis and Short. But what Beachcombing wants to know – and he doesn’t think he’ll get an intelligent response for […]

    Language Confusion in Vinland June 13, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Language Confusion in Vinland

            Most people, when they think of Vikings, think of men with rakish pointy hats and anger management issues. Beachcombing thinks, instead, of rare manuscripts being burnt, ‘drowned’ or thrown down monkly toilets – he detests the northern philistines.  However, one aspect of Viking life has long interested Beachcombing and that is their habit of […]