The Write Way
Friday 7 October 2011
One good thing to have come from all our floods last summer is that our gardens are blooming now. Of course, the bush is also blooming, and the flip side is that it's going to be a really bad year for bushfires ...
But you know what a Pollyanna I am, so I'm only going to think about how lovely and lush everything looks at the moment. The birds are enjoying all the food around and arrive in the grevilleas outside our bedroom every morning around 5. But that's all right, because the bats have left by then and we're getting lonely ... I told you I was only going to look on the bright side, so I won't say a word about the squabbles our little bats have every night (all night) over whose turn it is to hang upside down feeding from the palms and the citrus trees and the paw-paw ... Not a word will I say!
Neighbours tell us to screen the trees or put up silver foil on string to frighten them away, but we're happy to share our oranges and mandarines with our noisy little furry friends. Actually, to be honest, they made it very clear several years ago that they prefer mandarines over all other fruit we have growing and long ago they baggsed that tree for their own, so it'd be more correct to say that they share it with us, occasionally leaving a couple of mandarines on the lower branches for us to enjoy.
But cometh the dawn, cometh the next shift, and the first to arrive (and last to leave) are the rainbow lorikeets. I once read a description of lorikeets as tiny jewels that flashed across the sky, and it's a perfect description of them -- their colours are stunning, as you can see in this photo from the Australian Museum here. Even this doesn't really do them justice -- once the sun hits those colours they absolutely glow!
It's spring out here, which means baby lorikeets, and that means even more squabbles and chattering from the families that gather around our bird-bath each afternoon. While they're in and out of the garden most of the day, afternoon is clearly designated bath-time for lorikeets, and I discovered this a few days ago when I took my latest book outside to rendezvous with a writer I know will never let me down (as did last week's writers here). This is a writer my dad introduced me to when I was in my teens, a man who can spin a yarn and a half, and he's been a favourite ever since here.
So there I was, fully immersed in the adventures of Gregory Sallust, when I was distracted by a great deal of activity near the bird-bath. Two lorikeets had come down for a bit of a splash. I watched for a couple of minutes, expecting to see them dip their beaks in, maybe jump in and out and then fly off as other species do. But no, these two were really having a decent swim. Each actually sat down in the water with its little belly on the bottom and its head resting on the edge of the bath, so that its entire body was under water. Then they'd do the usual wing-flapping carry-on, sit on the edge of the bath and then dive in again.
After five minutes, as they sat on the edge, I could see that the water was streaming off their tails. They were saturated!
Book forgotten (sorry Gregory ... but I know you'll extricate yourself from every sticky wicket you encounter), I sat entranced by them.
By this time word had got around that there was a pool party at the Stewart Hilton, so lorikeets were swooping in to take up their possies in the fig tree we share with our next door neighbours, in the palms around the pool, in the loquat tree and the ornamental gingers, even clinging precariously to the tree orchids I've tied to the trunk of one of the palms, as they waited their turn for a bath. But the original two were in no mood to share, and as soon as other birds arrived, they were told in no uncertain terms to nick off.
(While I didn't have my camera with me this particular day, I did do a stake-out of the bird-bath over the next couple of days and managed to get a couple of photos here. And in the process I discovered something about nature photography that I'm happy to pass along to you ... birds won't sit still and pose for you!)
Despite the fact that these two were so wet they couldn't fly (as proved to be the case a few moments later), they continued to fight off every newcomer until finally someone higher up the pecking order flew in and sent them on their way.
At which point there was a valiant attempt to fly that ended in a most undignified flop to the lawn, where they spent the next few minutes fluffing around to dry their wings in the sun.
I could see that there was very little water left in the bird-bath, but each time there was a bit of a lull and I got up to fill the watering can and head in to top up the bath, a new group would swoop in, and I didn't have the heart to shoo them away while I re-filled it. The general concensus of opinion among our feathered visitors seemed to be that ...
Ah yes! I can see that you're certainly not water-logged, despite all that fluttering about in a bath.
The word we need here is consensus, which means "majority of opinion; general agreement or concord; harmony," and it comes from (surprise, surprise) two Latin words: the prefix com/con- meaning 'with' and sentire 'to feel.' (Think of our other 'feeling' words 'sentiment, sentimental, sentient.') So the word means "feeling together; agreeing; giving permission." It isn't derived from the word census, which is 'an official enumeration of the population, with details as to age, sex, occupation, etc.' and comes from the Latin censere 'to register citizens in a census, assess.'
Then we have another problem with 'general' and 'opinion' in that expression ... You'll have noticed (because from long experience I know that you have a mind like a steel trap) that the word 'consensus' actually means 'majority of opinion; general agreement' ... so there's no need to add these redundant words to the perfectly contained 'consensus.'
We seem to have a habit of this sort of thing, and I'm thinking here of expressions we all use from time to time, such as 'ascending uphill, speeding fast, sinking under, free gift, foreign import, gather together ...' and one of my personal favourites ... 'live audience.' Makes you worry a bit about the other sort, doesn't it? And then, of course, any expression that includes 'my' and personal' is also redundant ... if it's about me, then it's personal.
And something you may or may not know: a crow has one less pinion feather than a raven.
So how do you tell a crow from a raven? It's a matter of opinion.
Then there was the Frenchman who walked into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder. The bartender said, "Where did you get that thing?"
The parrot replied, "In France. There are millions of them!"
This week's quiz:
Something a bit different this week ... identify and remove the redundancies in the following expressions:
1. nape of the neck
2. old adage
3. past experience
4. positive identification
5. new innovation
6. reflect back
7. regular routine
8. period of time
9. nostalgia for the past
10. plan ahead
A magician was performing on cruise ship and each night while performing his pet parrot kept saying, "It's up his sleeve ... it's in his pocket ...it's in his shoe," and the magician was losing his patience.
One night while performing his tricks, the ship's boilers blew and the ship sank, but the lucky magician was able to grab onto a ship's table and float on the sea for a few days.
The parrot seemed nonplussed and looked at the magician before finally saying, "I give up ... what did you do with the ship?"
Last week's quiz:
apocryphal, putative, polemic, spurious, tendentious, egregious, rebarbative, risible, potable, dissimulate
1. lacking authenticity or validity in essence or origin; not genuine; false - SPURIOUS (from the Latin spurius - illegitimate)
2. conspicuously bad or offensive - EGREGIOUS (This great word comes from the Latin ex - out of and greg - herd and describes anything that is so bad it really, really stands out from the rest.
3. tending to irritate; repellent - REBARBATIVE (Another word you'll be itching to use ... it comes from Old French rebarber - to confront, that originally made its way from the Latin barba - a beard. You work it out ...)
4. of questionable authorship or authenticity; erroneous; fictitious - APOCRYPHAL (We take this from the Greek apokruphos - hidden. This word is also used to describe various early Christian writings that have been proposed as additions to the New Testament but rejected by the major canons - these are known as the Apocrypha.)
5. fit to drink - POTABLE (From the Latin potare - to drink)
6. eliciting laughter; ludicrous - RISIBLE (From the Latin ridere - to laugh)
7. to disguise (one's intentions, for example) under a feigned appearance; to conceal one's true feelings or intentions - DISSIMULATE (From the Latin dis - negative and simulare - simulate)
8. generally regarded as such; supposed - PUTATIVE (This comes from the Latin putare - to think, which has also given us computer!)
9. marked by a strong implicit point of view; partisan - TENDENTIOUS (From the Latin tendentia - a cause)
10. controversial argument, especially one refuting or attacking a specific opinion or doctrine - POLEMIC (From the Greek polemos - war)
And did you hear about the duck that walked into a bar and ordered a beer. The bartender said, "Will that be cash or charge?"
The duck replied, "Just put it on my bill!"
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A Little Something Extra
Read about our rainbow lorikeets here
Dennis Wheatley books here
All about twitching (or bird-watching) here
Australian birds here
Bird species (and images) here
Oxymoron of the week: Bird dog
Word of the week: Ornithology (n) the study of birds, including their physiology, classification, ecology and behaviour
Rather than coming from Latin, this word, like so many of our scientific words comes from Greek. From ornis 'bird' and -logia 'the study of.'
And a Latin phrase about birds ...(Yes, I know, scraping the bottom of the barrel for this one!)
Ad praesens ova cras pullis sunt meliora
[AHD PREYE-sayns OH-wah KRAHS POO-lees SOONT may-LEE-oh-rah]
(Eggs today are better than chickens tomorrow ORa bird in the hand is worth two in the bush)
Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders?
How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king)
Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)? Click here
for these and more:
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