Friday, 28 March 2008

Language and Writing Meme

Having done a couple of other peoples' memes, I thought I'd have a quick go at putting one together. So welcome to my languages and writing meme.

How many languages can you speak?

Ah, that's the awkward part, isn't it. I read languages a lot better than I speak them. Aside from English (and since the Hull accent has yet to infect me, I think I can still claim to speak my mother tongue quite well), I have a little German, that I haven't practised in years, a tiny bit of French, and some Latin. Mostly, the French and Latin are confined to reading very old books these days, and my Old French is actually better than my modern French.

Do you write poetry, novels, articles etc?


Does your knowledge of other languages ever help with this?

Occasionally it's fun to throw in the odd non-English word, particularly where it describes a concept that doesn't translate that well. Mostly, it helps with research.

What are your favourite non-English words?

Mostly Scots words like Bokie (scarecrow) and bluffert (strong wind), since I'm part Scots and part English. Of course, my knowledge of these comes mostly from poets like Charles Murray, and so could be completely wrong for all I know. As a historian, the Latin word Testibus is always my friend, since I'm often on the lookout for witness lists. Also assorted swearwords picked up while fencing. Mostly in French.

Do you like doing research into other cultures?

Yes, but I'm usually more interested in historical cultures than modern ones. 12th century France interests me more than the modern country, for example.

Does this come out in what you write?

I hope so. Certainly, I think it adds interesting little details to what I do. It's hard to imagine that the knowledge is going into my brain and then doing nothing.

What's the last non-English book you read?

Probably some collection of charters or other. Maybe Southwell's Liber Albus (the Minster Chapter's collection of charters, letters, etc) for fiction, I started to reread Raoul de Cambrai recently, though that has a facing translation, so the French is mostly there to check.

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