Archives for April 2013

Éala Éarendel: A study in names

A meditation on words, slightly late, but suited for Eastertide. Any howling errors herein are wholly my own; though I reserve the right to be an intellectual coward, and blame them on my recent concussion.


There is no such thing as an expert on language. There are experts on individual languages, and experts on different aspects of language as a phenomenon; but the field of language as a whole is, and always has been, far too large for anyone to adequately survey in a human lifetime. Tolkien came as near it as almost anyone: he was intimately familiar with the whole 1,500-year history of English, plus Old Norse, Latin, and classical Greek, and had a firm working knowledge of German, French, Spanish, Welsh, Irish, Hebrew, and several other languages, including the latest reconstructions of Proto-Indo-European. Yet he wrote, with perfect sincerity, to Fr. Robert Murray: ‘I am in no ordinary sense a “linguist”’. He understood better than most professional linguists the internal workings of language, but he also had a sound knowledge of his own limitations.

It may be unfair to compare Tolkien with Noam Chomsky, who does unabashedly call himself a linguist, and is often regarded by his younger colleagues in the field as the linguist. Unfair, but for my present purpose, necessary. Chomsky does not show any signs of great familiarity with any language but English. He attempts to lay down ‘universal’ rules of grammar, but his universals, when closely examined, tend to be disturbingly parochial. [Read more…]

‘Book bomb’ for Ben Wolverton – spread the word!

Amplifying the signal. Go, and do likewise. Dave Wolverton (a.k.a. David Farland), a fine writer and superb writing teacher, is in trouble, and his family needs your help:

As many of you know, Dave’s son, Ben, was in a serious long-boarding accident last week. He is 16 and suffers from severe brain trauma, a cracked skull, broken pelvis and tail bone, burnt knees, bruised lungs, broken ear drum, road rash, and is currently in a coma. His family has no insurance.

We are having a book bomb this Wednesday on behalf of Ben Wolverton to help his family out. You can view the event’s facebook page here.

For those that don’t know, a book bomb is an event where participants purchase a book on a specific day to support the author, or, in this case, a young person in serious need: Ben Wolverton.

Many of you have expressed sympathy for Dave and Ben and have asked if you could help. Now you can. We need you to help Ben get the most out of this book bomb. Right now we are focused on spreading the word and telling others about it. If you could share this event on facebook, twitter, pinterest, your blog, or through email, please do. This is a way everyone reading this can help, whatever their financial situation.

On Wednesday, we will have the book bomb. If you haven’t yet purchased Nightingale or Million Dollar Outlines, please consider doing so on Wednesday. If you have already purchased them, you can donate money to Ben and his family here.

If you have a blog and would like to do a post about this book bomb, please email me at [email protected], and I will send you some information you can use.

Please consider “attending” our event on facebook.

Thank you.

Much of the material in Million Dollar Outlines was covered in the workshop I took with Mr. Wolverton in 2011. I can vouch for its value. However, I haven’t bought the actual book. It looks like I’ll be doing that on Wednesday.

News from the bottom of the stairs

I was going to go out tonight to get a bite at Denny’s and work on the next bit of the Octopus, but a hitch has come up. We’re having freezing fog here, and the back stairs of my building were covered in glare ice. I slipped on the stairs and took a concrete step in the middle of the back. Almost passed out from the pain (and a certain amount of whiplash). I have just been on the phone with Alberta Health Link, which provides 24-hour medical advice, and while they don’t consider it strictly necessary for me to go to hospital, they do warn me that I’ll have bruising and more pain for the next couple of days – and that I should go to the nearest ER if I start having symptoms X, Y, and especially Z.

Halfway up the stairs
There’s a stair
Where I slip.
There isn’t any traction there,
Feet don’t
I fell on my bottom,
I hurt at my top,
Because of the stair
Where I had

(With apologies to A. A. Milne)