look what I'm getting for my birthday...



  1. You shouldn't have opened that until next Tuesday, it won't be a surprise now!

    Anyway, Happy Birthday for next week, Lynne.

  2. I didn't open it--I helped in ordering it. The spine will not be cracked before Tuesday, I swear!

    Now...who is Strawman? A penpal or a Scrabbler?

  3. Excellent blog
    But must admit I am definitely in need of some linguist help!

  4. So, will you just copy great passages out of your present for future blog entries, then? ;)

  5. The first thing is to check it and gloat about anything that I've covered that Algeo hasn't!

  6. And that is exactly what she did the second she opened it. She checked for 'Jinx' and then cackled that it wasn't in the book.

  7. BH is right--that's what I've been doing, though the jinx cackling (actually, it was snap I looked up!) isn't really fair.

    The book is a "Handbook of word and grammar patterns", which means it's not attempting to be a dictionary--so straight translational differences like pants/trousers are not to be found there.

    A quick test of whether this blog is redundant, given the existence of this book, gives me hope that my (and my blog's) wretched existence contributes something to the world. I looked at my September archives and found that both Algeo and I mention in/on the High Street/on Main Street, to sit an exam, burglar(iz)e and pressur(iz)e. (I'm using -ize spellings because Algeo does.)

    NOT covered by Algeo (but still fitting within the purpose of his book) are: passive sit and to set an exam paper.

    Not covered by Algeo, but present at varying degrees of standardi{s/z}ation in the two Englishes (so not just BrE or AmE, and therefore arguably not necessary for his book): die/dice, orient(at)e, and acclimat(is)e.

    By the way, thanks for the compliment, City Slicker.

    And welcome to our (that's the royal our) beloved BH, making his first appearance in the comments!

  8. If you haven't yet got "Coping with England" and "Coping with America", you should -- they're delightful. (Several of the other "Coping with ..." books are fun, too.) They cover rather more than language, but the other parts are just as good.

  9. I just searched your blog for posts about birthday party traditions but I don't think there is one so I guess this one will do.

    I just learned that the tradition of singing "Why was (s)he born so beautiful" at birthday parties is specifically Australian. This surprises me. I assumed it was a British import.

    The tradition is that after the happy birthday song and a couple of rounds of hip hip hooray, guests may launch into another song with the lyrics: "Why was (s)he born so beautiful, why was (s)he born at all? Because (s)he had no say in it, no say in it at all." (But generally only at larger parties with a critical mass of guests. It would be out of place at a small party with only immediate family present.)

    This tradition is dying. It was very common in my childhood, but you don't hear it much anymore. Even in my childhood the singing was always led by someone of an older generation. Personally, I rather like it, but even I don't want to be the person who leads the singing.

    Note that the sentiment is very British as opposed to American. It praises the values of humility and non-assertiveness. You get the picture of unborn spirits saying to each other, "no, you first" in the queue to enter the world.

    If you search for it online, you'll find a ridiculous rugby song version, and if you filter that out, you'll find lots of references to a viral social media post. But what you will not find, at least not easily, is any kind of scholarly documentation.

    The social media results reveal that to people from other countries hearing it for the first time, it often comes across as non-complimentary. The true sentiment is as I indicated above. Maybe the trend toward more American pro-assertiveness values is a large part of the reason it is dying.

    Another prominent search result is an archived Wikipedia discussion, in which it is falsely stated that the tune is the same as Australia's national anthem. This Youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSUAiFnvXr4 shows its adoption by one American family, and the tune is correct, but they only sing the first half. More evidence that it is not congruent with American values.

    Anyway, I was just saddened to find that this old tradition is barely documented online, and this comment is my way of doing something about that.


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)