A Merciless Guide to Writing

This is too good not to pass on… Kem has recently defended her dissertation in English at the University of Toronto and after years of marking undergraduate essays, she was moved to write a blog about some of the main problems she encountered along the way.* The blog is entitled “Kem’s Utterly Merciless Guide to Essay Writing” and the caption goes:

I am so bloody tired of marking essays composed by students who do not know what the hell they are doing that I have been moved to create this guide for them. It is not a nice, kind guide in which I gently usher the reader through the essay-writing process. This guide, my friends, is going to hurt. 

 Start from the table of contents and read on… It’s very cleverly done and many rules of grammar are explained in very clear terms. Hell, there’s even an index! Now I have to figure out a way of making my students read it from beginning to end… *Hmm, now I’m stumped. Is Kem a he or a she?  

What kind of accent do you have?

Try it out:

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)Northern You have a Northern accent. That could either be the Chicago/Detroit/Cleveland/Buffalo accent (easily recognizable) or the Western New England accent that news networks go for. Personality Test Results
Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

Update: as you’ll see in the comments, it makes sense that I can across as from the Northern States or at least neutral since I did first learn English living in Washington state. But I was a bit bummed. I wanted to be Canadian! So I did the test once more and this is what I got:

Yay!!! I did the test again and I came out CANADIAN!!! I’m sooooooooo happy :)))




What American accent do you have?
Created by Xavier on Memegen.net



Canada. You probably get irritated when British people and Europeans think you’re from the States, but over here we wouldn’t make a mistake like that.

If you’re not Canadian, you’re either a Minnesotan, or you’re a Westerner who over-thought some of the questions on the quiz.

Take this quiz now – it’s easy!


We’re going to start with “cot” and “caught.” When you say those words do they sound the same or different?

Hehehe, I had been moaning for a bit about the test results and when I got this one today, Alan said “finally!”…. hehehe

That calls for this video (picture me doing a little dance around the room singing the song):

Portuguese trivia

While we wait for my pictures, here are some trivia on the Portuguese’s contribution to the world:

  • the Louvre pyramide was built by a Portuguese construction company
  • Portuguese is the second language of Johannesburg in South Africa, of Newark, NJ, of Luxembourg, and of Caracas, Venezuela
  • The Portuguese were in Japan trading and discussing theology with Buddhist monks generations before other European countries even knew of its existence. Some words still current in Japanese come from Portuguese, like “orrigato”, from “obrigado”, meaning “thank you”
  • they introduced tempura into Japan
  • they taught the Japanese how to construct buildings that would withstand both artillery attack and earthquake – the Portuguese-built city of Nagasaki withstood the atomic bomb of 1945 a lot better than Hiroshima
  • the Portuguese brought the chili plant to India, allowing for the invention of “curry”
  • Portuguese is by far the most difficult of the Latin languages to master
  • it is also the third most spoken European language after English and Spanish, and before French and German
  • most “Italian” trattorias in London are run by Portuguese, as well as many “French” restaurants in Paris

Catalan language and poetry

Sept 11th was an important holiday for Catalunya. While the rest of the world talked about terrorist attacks and the loss of liberties those entailed, Catalans remembered the date in 1714 when its armies surrendered to the Spanish forces led by Felipe V. Many foreigners laugh and shake their heads – “why commemorate a defeat?”, they ask. Because it wasn’t a simple defeat. The date marked the beginning of suppression of Catalan language, culture and institutions by a centralizing Spanish monarchy that wanted to punish Catalunya for picking the wrong side on the war of succession to the throne. So the date has become an important day to commemorate freedom (llibertat) and Catalan culture.

Young Catalan at Sant Cugat Flags at Saint Cugat

As Alan mentioned on his blog, when we took the train that day to go hiking nearby, we were given a little hardcover book of Catalan poetry. It is entitled Catalunya en vers: mil anys d’història a través de la poesia and it is basically a collection of poems that mention Catalunya as a nation. Since nationalism was the criteria, most of the poems hail back from the nineteenth century, that golden age of nationalism.

I have to say I was very disappointed. For a book that wants to talk about “a thousand years of history”, it completely ignores the middle ages. The oldest poem in the book is from the seventeenth century. As a medievalist, I cannot let that pass without saying something. There was no dearth of poets and writers writing in Catalan between the 13th and 15th centuries. Just think of Ramon Llull or Ausiàs March.

It always amazes people when I tell them that not only Catalan is a language in its own right (and not a dialect of Castilian as some assume), but it is also one of the oldest of the current languages spoken in Europe. Scholars hail about the early development of English citing the work of Geoffrey Chaucer and Shakespeare. Well, Ramon Llull was writing his mystical novels one hundred years before Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales just as Ausiàs March and his contemporaries were writing beautifully a hundred years before Shakespeare.

Here’s one of Ausias March love poems:
Així com cell qui en lo somni·s delita
e son delit de foll pensament ve,
ne pren a mi, que·l temps passat me té
l’imaginar, que altre bé no hi habita.
Sentint estar en aguait ma dolor,
sabent de cert que en ses mans he de jaure,
temps d’avenir en negun be’m pot caure:
aquell passat en mi és lo millor.

Del temps present no·m trobe amador,
mas del passat, que és no res e finit.
D’aquest pensar me sojorn e·m delit,
mas, quan lo perd, s’esforça ma dolor,
sí com aquell qui és jutjat a mort
e de llong temps la sap e s’aconhorta
e creure·l fan que li serà estorta
e·l fan morir sens un punt de record.

Plagués a Déu que mon pensar fos mort
e que passàs ma vida en dorment:
malament viu qui té lo pensament
per enemic, fent-li d’enuigs report,
e, com lo vol d’algun plaer servir,
li’n pren així com dona ab son infant,
que, si verí li demana plorant,
ha tan poc seny que no·l sap contradir.

Fóra millor ma dolor soferir
que no mesclar poca part de plaer
entre aquells mals, qui·m giten de saber
com del passar plaer me cové eixir.
Las! mon delit dolor se converteix,
dobla’s l’afany aprés d’un poc repòs,
sí co·l malalt qui, per un plasent mos,
tot son menjar en dolor se nodreix.

Com l’ermità qui enyorament no”l creix
d’aquells amics que tenia en lo món
e, essent llong temps que en lo poblat no fon,
per fortuit cas un d’ells li apareix
qui los passats plaers li renovella
sí que·l passat present li fa tornar;
mas, com se’n part, l’és forçat congoixar,
lo bé, com fuig, ab grans crits mal apella.

Plena de seny, quan amor és molt vella,
absença és lo verme que la guasta,
si fermetat durament no contrasta
e creure poc, si l’envejós consella.

Newfie accent

Newfoundland is a province on eastern Canada, known for the friendliness of its people. Newfies are supposed to be the nicest Canadians around. They are also known for their accent, not that noticeable in the big cities but as you move inland and to smaller communities it becomes more pronounced. I had heard about it but never actually head a newfie speak until the movers came to move our stuff from our apartment in Toronto into storage. There was a young guy among the movers who was very pleasant but whenever he would ask me something or talk to the other guys I would just stare at him and think “that sounds vaguely like English but I don’t understand any of it!”. It was then that Alan told me that he was from Newfoundland. Anyways, Nissan has released a commercial in Canada featuring a Newfie carsalesman and I decided to post it here for those among our non-Canadian friends who are curious to hear for themselves: