The Write Way
Friday 3 August 2012
That's Talent ...
When you think of talented people, what sort of people and talents spring to mind?
Leonardo da Vinci's paintings, sculptures and brilliant machines?
Maybe Mozart's symphonies and piano concertos?
Albrecht Durer's "magic" square? (See this week's Little Something Extra for this amazing square ... it goes to show that even hundreds of years ago, some people had wa-a-a-y too much spare time!)
Perhaps your idea of talent is more along the lines of Opera singers Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti?
Or even modern singers such as Robbie Williams, Aretha Franklin and Elvis?
Or groups ... the Beatles, U2 and Queen.
Maybe it's ballet dancers ... Sir Robert Helpmann, Anna Pavlova and Rudolph Nureyev.
Athletes? Inventors? Scientists?
You get the idea, I'm sure.
All of these people -- and thousands of others like them -- have perfected their skills and produced work that makes us all sigh with contentment and gasp in admiration, with just a smidge of envy added for a bit of spice.
But what is this thing we call talent?
It's defined as "a special natural ability or aptitude; a capacity for achievement or success; ability," and it comes from an ancient Greek word talanton meaning 'a unit of money or weight.'
So, a talent should, by definition and origin, be something of value, which brings us scratching our heads and furrowing our brows to a recent entrant on one of those ubiquitous "talent shows" ... and I hasten to point out that I only ever saw this on the promos for the show, because there's not enough money in the world to make me watch one of these television programs.
This man is a mind-reader. (I know ... why do you even ask ...) But his trick was to don a blindfold (and we all know how effective they are), then hand a nail-gun to his hapless assistant. This unfortunate individual then had to point the nail-gun to the idiot's (sorry ... contestant's) stomach and fire.
And, of course, the question we're all dying to ask is ... Why?
Our hero claimed it was a way for him to combine his "old job as a carpenter" with his new talent for mind-reading, and in something that would have to be a contender for the under-statement of the century he finishes, "There's a lot of a risk for me as a person."
It was billed as a "game" of Russian Roulette, with four nail guns being prepared, but only one of the four actually loaded with nails. As the disembodied head of the contestant speaks, we see the obligatory (but, one would hope, unnecessary) disclaimer scroll across the screen "This act is performed by a trained professional. Do not attempt this at home." (Remember we chatted about disclaimers recently.)
And that leads us to ask just who in their right mind would want to?
If you had a couple of hours to spare after a spot of carpentry, would your first thought be to see if you could guess which nail-gun was loaded as you pressed it to your belly and pulled the trigger?
No, me neither.
And I'm sure your average bloke would much prefer a nice cold beer at the end of a hard day's work.
We've chatted about these unusual "talents" before ... Who can forget that man whose talent was to make irons stick to his face?
You'd have to have travelled a long way in life to find someone else with such a "talent," don't you think?
And I know some of you are shifting uncomfortably in your seats, anxious to point out that I've misspelt a word and that it should be "traveled."
Well, actually, no, it shouldn't, and it's all to do with giving readers visual clues about how to pronounce words. Here's when and why you double the consonant:
We double the final consonant of a word before we add -ed, -er, -est, -ing, -able and -y to show that the vowel has a short sound.
But how do you know when to double the consonant and when not to? There are a number of things to consider.
1. Firstly, we double a consonant if it comes at the end of a word [and follows a short vowel].
2. Secondly, we double a consonant if a word ends in one vowel followed by one consonant [if it's a short vowel].
3. Thirdly, we need to consider words that end in one vowel followed by one consonant, but contain two syllables. We only double the consonant in these words if the last syllable is stressed:
Last syllable stressed
Last syllable unstressed
Note: in two syllable words ending in one vowel followed by one "l", the "l" is doubled even if the last syllable is unstressed:
Fourthly, only some letters are doubled.
See? There's a reason for everything!
And here's a story that is completely unrelated to anything we've just been chatting about ...
Once a year, the collectors of antique tents in Germany get together for a rally. Last year, the organizers decided to hold it in Meinz.
Unfortunately, the local burghers took a dim view of so great an influx of tourists ruining their turf with tent pegs.
The citizens organised themselves so thoroughly that they even had an anthem: "Let Old and Quaint Tents Be Forgot and Never Brought to Meinz!"
This week's quiz:
And because we've been chatting about most unusual ways to express your talent this week, here are some unusual words ...
Match up the words and their meanings:
plangent, megrim, hamartia, eschatology, gnathonic, marcid, lickerish, aceldama, gemutlich, laputan
1. a place with dreadful associations
2. warm and congenial; pleasant or friendly
3. the branch of theology that is concerned with such final things as death and judgement; heaven and hell; the end of the world
4. the character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall
5. flattering; deceitful
6. withered or damaged
7. expressing or suggesting sadness; plaintive; loud and resounding
8. absurdly impractical or visionary, especially to the neglect of more useful activity
9. lascivious; lecherous; greedy
10. a caprice or fancy; depression or unhappiness
Here's a little piece that demonstrates (if you needed extra proof) the importance of proof-reading:
Just one little letter makes all the difference ... it turns:
Friend into Fiend
Lots of talent into Loss of talent
Hire into Fire
Million into Billion
Engaged girl into Enraged girl
United into Untied
Comely into Homely
Married into Marred
Milestone into Millstone
Inducting a judge into Indicting a judge
Deifying into Defying
Venial into Venal
Brother into Bother
Recital into Rectal
Public donation into Pubic donation
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Last week's quiz:
Here are some words to describe your different characters ... or people of your acquaintance:
pusillanimous, perfervid, recalcitrant, macroscian, rident, pertinacious, execrable, oscitant, pococurante, platitudinarian
1. a person who frequently or habitually utters platitudes - PLATIDUTINARIAN
2. stubbornly resistant to authority - RECALCITRANT
3. utterly detestable; abominable; abhorrent - EXECRABLE
4. one who casts a long shadow - MACROSCIAN
5. stubbornly unyielding; holding resolutely to a purpose, belief or opinion - PERTINACIOUS
6. lacking courage; timid - PUSILLANIMOUS
7. yawning, gaping from drowsiness; inattentive, dull, negligent - OSCITANT
8. laughing; cheerful - RIDENT
9. indifferent, apathetic, nonchalant - POCOCURANTE
10. extremely or excessively passionate - PERFERVIDThis is a story about the clumsy bee who came down with a cold. As determined as ever, however, the bee gathered its pollen, only to drop it time and time again, so it had to visit quite a few flowers before it was able to hold onto the pollen.
Sadly, though, it spread its illness to every single flower, and that became known as the blight of the fumble bee.
Little Something Extra
That Magic Square is here
The nail gun mind-reader here
Oxymoron of the week: Sensible sleight of hand
Word of the week: Prestidigitation (n) skill in or performance of tricks; sleight of hand
This great word comes from the Late Latin praestus, "ready at hand" and digitus, "finger."
Not that I'm suggesting for a moment that our nail-gun mind-reader was using sleight of hand or tricks ...
And this week's Latin phrase is definitely not one you want to use if there's a man wielding a nail-gun anywhere within coo-ee of any of your sensitive parts ...
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Copyright Jennifer Stewart 2012
Individual articles copyrighted by their authors.
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