Monthly Archives: August 2009

Joining the wordle party

Chally started it, and Lauredhel joined in. Here’s my wordle – a graphical representation of the words I’ve been using on this blog. It covers all the entries I’ve made this year.


You can make them at It has an option to simply paste in your blog URL to generate a wordle, but I found it only grabbed the front page. So I made my wordle by copying my entries for the year into Word, then deleting all the blog-machinery words (e.g. comments, categories), saving it as a text-only file, and then copying it all into wordle, which hiccuped a little, but came up with the goods.

How to make a woman feel homesick

Send her photos of home, of course.

My parents went out to their country block over the weekend, and spring is in full swing. Dad sent me some photos this evening, and oh, I so wanted to be there.

daffslambmedhigher quality image on flickr

There’s a clump of daffodils that appears every spring, on the site of an old house. The family who squatted there were desperately poor, and hard driven, but somehow, the mother found time to plant daffodils, and they bloom there still.

clematismedhigher quality image on flickr

Clematis paniculata, one of the clematis species native to New Zealand. Its starry blooms can be spotted high up in the bush. My family listens for the first shining cuckoo each year, and looks for the sprays of clematis. Pipiwharauroa hasn’t been heard yet this year, but the clematis is shining in the trees.

Why hasn’t this man been charged with assault?

(Potentially triggering)

A man who worked in disabled care, Andrew Lambert, has been reinstated in his job by an employment tribunal, after he had been sacked for “inappropriate behaviour” towards two intellectually disabled women in his care. [link to Sydney Morning Herald story – may be triggering]

To the great good credit of the organisation which employs him, the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Homecare, he hasn’t actually been allowed to go back on the job, but he’s now collecting his full salary.

Continue reading

Friday Feminist – Ursula Le Guin (2)

My cousin Grace included Ursula Le Guin’s Tehanu in her list of 15 books (my list is here) which prompted me to reread it. I love the way that Le Guin uses the small moments of life to illuminate large problems.

Then he too got up, and brought his dish to the sink, and finished clearing the table. He washed the dishes while Tenar put the food away. And that interested her. She had been comparing him to Flint; but Flint had never washed a dish in his life. Women’s work. But Ged and Ogion had lived here, bachelors, without women; everywhere Ged had lived, it was without women; so he did the ‘women’s work’ and thought nothing about it. It would be a pity, she thought, if he did think about it, if he started fearing that his dignity hung by a dishcloth.

Ursula Le Guin, Tehanu, 1990

Cat post (in lieu of actual blogging)

I am snowed under with work, and our neighbours have just gotten a dog. I regard dogs as stinking, slavering, obsequious beasts which ought not to be received in decent society. So herewith some cat blogs:

Wonderful cat walks, from

Cooper the cat photographer, from

Teacher’s pet from

Butterfly cakes

cupcakeI like cupcakes, but I’m not so keen on the ones that are commercially available these days. The great mounds of over-produced icing on top look like nothing so much as a mouthful of glug. Not at all appetising. But I do love butterfly cakes.

They are ridiculously easy to make. Use any plain, basic cupcake recipe – I used the one in Ladies A Plate. It’s similar to the classic cupcake recipe from Incidentally, the cupcakes on the site actually look edible. Once you have a batch of cupcakes, instead of icing them, cut a small round out of the top of each cake, and set the cut out bit aside (preferably somewhere close by). Put about 1/2 teaspoon of red jam in the middle of each hollow (raspberry and strawberry are good), and then a good sized teaspoon of whipped cream on top of the jam. Take one cut out round and cut it in half, then stick the halves into the cream, skinny side first, so that they look like butterfly wings. If you are feeling particularly indulgent, add a few decorative sprinkles on top.

That’s all. The cream doesn’t keep well, so you need to eat the cakes more-or-less straight away. They are light and delicious, and very pretty.

Here is the flock that the strangelings and I took over to our friends’ house for afternoon tea today.


Friday Feminist – Robin Lakoff

It might also be claimed that lady is no euphemism because it has exactly the same connotations as woman, is usable under the same semantic and contextual conditions. But a cursory inspection will show that this is not always the case. The decision to use one term rather than the other may considerably alter the sense of a sentence. The following are examples:

(a) A (woman / lady) that I know makes amazing things out of shoelaces an old boxes.
(b) A (woman / lady) I know works at Woolworth’s.
(c) A (woman / lady) I know is a dean at Berkeley.

(These facts are true for some speakers of English. For others, lady has taken over the function of woman to such an extent that lady can be used in all these sentences.)

In my speech, the use of lady in (c) imparts a frivolous, on nonserious tone to the sentence: the matter under discussion is one of not too great moment. In this dialect, then, lady seems to be the more colloquial word: it is less apt to be used in writing, or in discussion serious matters. Similarly in (a), using lady would suggest that the speaker considered the ‘amazing things’ not to be serious art, but merely a hobby or an aberration. If woman is used, she might be a serious (pop art) sculptor.

Related to this is the use of lady in job terminology. For at least some speakers, the more demeaning the job, the more the person holding it (if female, of course) is likely to be described as a lady. Thus, cleaning lady is at least as common as cleaning woman, saleslady as saleswoman. But one says, normally, woman doctor. To say lady doctor is to be very condescending: it constitutes an insult. For men, there is no such dichotomy. Garbage man or salesman is the only possibility, never garbage gentleman. And of course, since in the professions the male is unmarked, we never have man (male) doctor.

Numerous other examples can be given, all tending to prove the same point: that if in a particular sentence, both woman and lady might be used, the use of the latter tends to trivialize the subject matter under discussion, often subtly ridiculing the woman involved.

Robin Lakoff, “Language and Woman’s Place”, Language in Society, 1973 (2:1), pp. 45 – 80.