Let’s make this easy shall we?

As I write this, its the Late Summer Bank Holiday Weekend in most of the UK …..but not Scotland…they are holding out until September for theirs. And theirs is known as the September Weekend…no Marketing consultants or focus groups for naming things required here folks!

Unfortunately, so far it is actually the coldest August Bank Holiday weekend for 20 years according to the weather statisticians. Forget any ideas of picnics, walking in the moors, trips to the sea or al fresco dining of any kind. What the weather did invite however was a trip to our nearby independent bookshop.

Our local town Holmfirth (known to many 40+ year olds in the UK and perhaps beyond, for the Fictional TV Series ‘Last of the Summer Wine’) has a good mix of craft shops, eateries, cafes, independent stores and a recent addition of a small bookshop.

As covered in a previous blog, Bank Holidays are a somewhat curious quirk of the uk and yet another example of our use of the English language using a term that is blindingly obvious to us native speakers, but very confusing to others.

Yes for sure the bank staff get a holiday on these days but so do many other people in industry , commerce, education and government but of course not those in essential services or indeed shop workers who rely in some ways on the rest of us not being at work to give them some added footfall through their shop doors.

So on the subject of shops, back to this one. There is actually not a moments doubt as to what is sold in this shop….. it is books …its called Read. Holmfirth is a tourist destination so even for non native speakers you will know what the offering is here.

Its a great little bookshop with well selected fiction (and many of the books are signed) The only downside is, you may have to queue to get in…its not a huge shop, and with current social distancing rules, if one family enter the store that’s it…until they vacate to make a space for you

It did strike me that actually very few shops in the UK have such a simple and obvious name. We rely on tourism in many parts of this country so why not make things a bit easier for visitors?

Ok, for those of you who are UK residents or at least familiar with the UK High Street you are now reeling off a list of names and brands that provide ‘what it says on the tin’, so as to speak. Yes, I too can think of a few UK examples past and present : ‘eat’ is a chain of outlets that sell …yes, eat in and take away eats; Toys ‘r’ Us, (sadly departed) , ‘Patisserie Valerie‘ (ok, of course Patisserie is a French word, but you get the idea) , The Perfume Shop and so on.

However the ones that may confuse a non native speaker are far more commonplace: ‘Curry’s’ are not a restaurant selling Indian food, but are an electrical goods retailer; ‘Boots’ are a chemist with not a chance of any footwear being on sale other than perhaps a Dr Scholl sandal; ‘Lakeland’ – garden pond accessories? …sorry, its a cookware retailer; ‘Jigsaw’ – not a single children’s puzzle for sale here. You get the idea……

Anyway, this is just nothing compared to what we at least historically named our pubs (and our beer!) …but that’s another story for another blog for another day.

I’m off to the Bulls Head for a Pint of Old Peculiar now……….

My submarine is full of eels!

In the UK , this was a Bank Holiday weekend. We residents of course know exactly what that means, but to others in the world, whether native English speakers in North America, Australia, New Zealand etc. possibly not and to those who are speakers of English but for whom it is not their mother tongue, most definitely not. My european colleagues having just got over my use of the term annual leave when taking just a days holiday were perplexed when I started on about bank holidays!

So what is a bank holiday? Unlike just about any other country we in the uk don’t refer to national non working weekdays as public holidays, but as Bank Holidays. The term derived really from two sources…the holidays are of course days when banks and government offices are closed, but also back in 1871 ¬†John Lubbock first Baron of Avebury who was a scientific writer who studied ants and allegedly tried to teach his poodle to read. He however was also a banker and politician and he drafted the Bank Holiday Bill . This once it was law ¬†created the original bank holidays.

We also very carefully schedule our bank holidays..a day off is much more useful if it can be on a Monday or a Friday and tagged on to make a long weekend. Hence the term Bank Holiday weekend..although ask a UK native about bank holiday weekends and they will usually mutter something about rain.

Uncannily many bank holidays seem to attract inclement weather and there is almost an expectation of it for our Late Summer Bank Holiday weekend, on the last Monday of August. Being a stoical nation, people will carry on as normal and still go to the beach and eat fish and chips or ice cream on the beach and then look miserable but resolute!

English is a congusing language, and we tend to use these idiosyncratic terms, desmite many of these never finding their way into a phrasebook. Perhaps that’s a good thing. Monty Python once did a sketch about a Hungarian Phrasebook that had ‘useful’ phrases for translation including “My submarine is full of eels”. Hmmm…and you thought Bank Holiday confusing!

Anemometer..not an easy word to spell or say!

I have an anemometer in my garden, part of a small weather station and to be open and honest, I am a bit of a weather geek. In the uk we often get 4 seasons in 1 day so its actually quite good to have a measure of what is going.

However anemometer is a difficult word to pronounce let alone spell. In English we happily use words of Greek or Latin origin… in this case the Greek word for wind, Anemos. In German they make life a bit easier for themselves and call it a ‘wind messer’…ie a wind measurer. Germans not only are good at cars, beer and sausages…they have some great ‘say it how it is words’ this being one of them.

Anyway back to the anemometer and my ‘obsession’ with the weather. One day a family member on hearing me quoting a weather statistic (that admittedly was probably verging on the soporific) prompted an outburst of ….”Oh you are such a….” and then the silence of realisation that there is no obvious word in the English language that describes this overheated fascination with the weather.

After a little research the simple answer is that the English language doesn’t have one. Strange as we have words for perhaps lesser interests e.g. those embroiled in all matters French (Anglophile) or even booklovers (Bookworms) but for an almost national obsession…nothing!

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