The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A is for ...

As we bumped along in the back of the Landcruiser, trying to scan the horizon for giraffes or elephants at the same time as clinging on for dear life, I couldn't help but notice the huge pockmarked mounds of burnt orange soil dotted around the landscape. When we stopped, and I could be heard above the noise, I asked David, our guide, about them and he explained that they were termite mounds and the holes were made by aardvarks.

At the very mention of this singularly eccentric word, my lexicographer eyes lit up. Forget the cheetahs, forget the black rhino, I wanted to see the weird little creature that supposedly starts every dictionary; an aardvark! A little puzzled by my sudden overenthusiasm, David told me the termites' nemesis carries out his acts of murder and vandalism under cover of darkness. Undeterred, I talked him into taking us on a night drive.

Sadly, our usually attentive guide found the gossip of the friend he'd brought along to hold the spot lamp more interesting than our aardvark hunt and after a couple of hours of bouncing around in the dark trying to pick out shapes in the gloom while the spotlight roamed randomly across the landscape, we'd seen nothing more than a few startled antelope.

My lexico-zoological quest will go on though and I'm sure that on some future African adventure, I will come face-to-snout with this alphabetical oddity. At least, I suppose, I saw plenty of zebra ...

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Furious networking - IATEFL 09

My Facebook status yesterday at 16.59:

Julie Moore
is just back from a couple of days of furious networking in Cardiff.

"The large foyer is packed with delegates, some milling around, some stood in corners puzzling over their conference programmes and many in little knots of two or three, clutching their white china coffee cups in one hand and waving their free hand animatedly (quite a challenging restriction for many language teachers). Some are dressed in smart suits and crisp white shirts, others in faded cords and ill-fitting M&S jumpers, but all identified by the orangey-red tape around their necks from which their name tags dangle.

We zoom in on a woman in brown linen trousers and a beige v-neck jumper, with a spotty silk scarf tied loosely at her neck. In many ways, she seems neutral and unremarkable, until we look a little closer at the expression on her face. Her eyes flare with rage beneath her deeply furrowed brow, her coffee cup rattles alarmingly with each jab of her free hand towards the startled colleagues in front of her. As we tune in, we hear her spitting out a stream of bitter invective as she networks furiously."

Thanks to my friend Michelle whose FB comment conjured up such an intriguing image!