Saturday, 9 January 2016

High Noon, Hell, and High Water - A Very Long Linguistic Rant

It seems but a day or two since our last blog post, and yet how many things have happened! How much we shall have to tell! (And how much we shall have to conceal.)

Let us begin with some linguistic musings. We engaged in a discussion on the word forenoon with Shewee Fiend Friend, some days ago. The Oxford English Dictionary will have you believe that forenoon is a word still in common use, but we all know this is a bollocks suggestion. Nobody uses the word forenoon outside of Victorian novels, and this is  a crying shame.

To speakers of other Germanic languages, which still retain the equivalent of the word, the discontinued use of the excellent word forenoon in English is a puzzle and an irritation. How is one supposed to express temporality when the language has been deliberately stripped of one of its most useful words? Scandiwegian languages, for instance, have the word förmiddag, and variations thereof, German has Vormittag, and Dutch has voormiddag.

Originally, various dictionaries inform us, forenoon, and its Germanic cousins, were used as synonyms to morning, ie the time before the afternoon - much as in modern English. However, in modern Germanic languages, the equivalent of forenoon is much richer than that.

Jonny, comparing himself to Colin Firth with not very much subtlety in a dark photo clearly taken well into the afternoon, says:

"I'm like a fine wine, getting more refined with age. Next stop, Mr. Darcy distinguished Gentleman.
[...] You can also add that my shot was in a toilet."

If you are a wanton female and you find yourself thinking, upon regarding this picture of Jonny, "HUNKA HUNKA!", then do get in touch. We say this not because we wish to be arrested for pimping, but because we happen to think that Jonny is a nice boy, despite his sometimes immature and often vulgar attitude.

(We say "wanton female" because a) the type of female who frequents this blog tends to veer towards the shameless spectrum, and b) although we are rampantly in favour of non-heteronormative constellations, we believe that chicks stand a greater chance of success with Jonny than dudes. Anyway. If you haven't seen it already, have a gander at this lonely hearts ad we did for Jonny once, and, if it rocks your boat, get in touch: theprivycounsellor [at]
On a related note, this interview made us go HUNKA HUNKA!)

When one for instance staggers into the kitchen, hungover and rueful, round 11 am, to attempt to make oneself tea without vomiting, it is clearly not morning. The morning, in civilised society, only lasts until about 10 am - as soon as you get into double digits, you are in the territory of the forenoon.

The distinction is important because saying you did, or intend to do, something in the forenoon, as opposed to the morning, can indicate a variety of things. It can indicate that there is no rush - that something doesn't need to get done till the forenoon; or that, as in the example above, one was so hungover that one didn't manage to do something until well into the forenoon; or that somebody was late, not arriving until the forenoon; or that one has no intention of doing something early in the morning but is set on waiting until the forenoon. The forenoon not only makes the language richer, but removes stress!

The word forenoon is of course a compound of the preposition fore and the noun noon. Noon is specific to English; other Germanic languages appear to retain variations of the word middag / Mittag, meaning, naturally, "middle of the day" (though if one is to believe the OED, the Norn language in Shetland appears to have been more perverse in this respect than others). Why English speakers have felt the need to take recourse to the word noon is beyond comprehension. (Regular readers are aware that we are rampantly mistrustful of Latin, especially when it is opposed to a Germanic language. Latin can be useful when one wants to compose witty slogans against mansplaining, but apart from that, we consider a Germanic tongue much more satisfying.)

We harbour strong antipathies towards the word noon at the Privy Counsel, and have done ever since we read somewhere that noon derives from the Latin nona, signifying the ninth hour. This only makes sense in a monastic system, where the day starts at three am. THREE A.M.! The notion of starting the day at three am should horrify and appal all right-thinking people.

When discussing the unreasonableness of this with Shewee Fiend Friend, we wondered how the hell this kind of system was supposed to work in northern Europe where there is no daylight until 8 am at the earliest, and sometimes not at all. Is one supposed to run around performing monastic duties in the dark? Isn't that dangerous? Wouldn't it be better if everyone stayed in bed until a reasonable hour? (At this point Shewee Fiend Friend, we are sorry to say, made a lewd and unscientific suggestion, which we by no means intend to repeat. The discussion took another direction entirely after that.)

Here is a gratuitous picture of Colin Firth in a bath-tub.

However, our opinion of the unreasonableness of the term noon was somewhat tempered on looking up the word in the OED. Apparently, says this soothing authority, noon originally denoted the hour around 3 pm. If this is the ninth hour, then clearly the day doesn't start until 6 am, which is a lot less horrendous than 3 am. Apparently, in the Roman system, the day started at sunrise. This, we feel, is reasonable, at least in winter.

Nobody seems entirely sure why noon changed from being at 3 pm to 12 o'clock. Possibly the time for ecclesiastical services moved, or work patterns changed after the BASTARD NORMAN* invasion.

Possibly we had some toilet pictures we had intended to show you, but once we start ranting we tend to produce quite long blog posts, and we hesitate to bore or exhaust our readers. Let us therefore content ourselves with telling you the joyous news that there is, actually, official information on the sorry state of British plumbing!

We came across, via Twitter, this blog, written by an American living in Britain. The author expresses her bafflement at the perversity of British plumbing in a way that is familiar to all readers of this blog. The traditional learning curve goes:

1) WTF? Why are there two taps? Why?
2) Oh thank God, there ARE mixer taps even in this fucked-up country
4) This is hell

A witty and intelligent illustration of said learning curve is provided in this video.
Anyway, we learned from the blog mentioned above that there is actually a leaflet from Defra, the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, explaining the intricacies of the fucked-up-ness of British water tanks. Enjoy.

We've drunk a good litre of tea this forenoon and need to break now. But first - a festive video! We came across, via this article by Soraya Chemaly on the structural sexism affecting (the lack of) women's toilets, an excellent TED talk by the same author. We're not normally in favour of videos where people talk, preferring to read articles as this is faster and constitutes a more reasonable use of our time, but Soraya Chemaly's talk is thoughtful, intelligent, and funny, and based on solid research. We cannot recommend it enough.

*As all civilised people know, one cannot use the word "Norman" without prefixing it with the adjective "bastard".

Festive video - Soraya Chemaly, How Sexism Shapes Human Knowledge

Related Reading

The one time we saw the advantage of expressing something in Latin:
Apparently There Was a "Best Norwegian Café" and "Best Latin Translation" Competition, and Here Are the Winners!

The video illustrating the perverted monstrosity going by the name of plumbing in the British Isles: Evolution of British Plumbing

Soraya Chemaly on toilets and structural sexism:
Biology Doesn't Write Laws: Hillary Clinton's Bathroom Break Wasn't As Trivial As Some Might Like to Think

If you're a bit drunk and in the mood for something kinky and perverse:
The Defra leaflet explaining about British water tanks

The lonely hearts ad we wrote for Jonny:
Jonny and a Public Toilet - A Treat for Single Ladies

Another picture of Colin Firth in the bath:
Privy Counsel Pin-Up - Colin Firth

And another one:
It Is Tolerable, We Suppose: A Privy Counsel Pick-Me-Up

A compilation of our best rants on separate taps:

A Note on Desperate Measures
Are You British? Does Tap Sanity Elude You?
Let's Get Medieval: King's Manor, York
Mixer Taps - The Great Controversy, or, When Will Britain Enter the 21st Century?, or, You Are Not Alone!
More Dark, Dark Horrors: An Outwardly Reputable Employer with a Dark and Filthy Secret
More Uzbek Toilets
On the Eighth Day God Created Paratroopers, But He Forgot the Soap
Right Up Our Alley
Safety at Work

1 comment:

  1. SEO spammers beware!
    Please be aware that we don't publish spam comments. Don't waste your time - use the time you would have spent writing gibberish in this comments field to drink tea, adopt a dog from a shelter, or call your grandmother.
    Genuine comments are always welcome.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...