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The Flexibility of Language June 14, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Wordy Business.
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I am, by definition, a liberal person. I am relatively hard to phase, generally hard to stress (especially if things REALLY aren’t worth stressing over), difficult to really disgust. I have my passions, and my foibles, but I am up to a point happy to take life as it comes without getting worked up or upset with little insignificant things along the way.

One of the things that doesn’t really bother me is language. I’m not a grammar nazi, or a written word traditionalist. I can get annoyed if a word is used incorrectly (your and you’re, for example, has to remain different as it totally changes the meaning), but much of the time I am happy to see language grow and evolve over time. The lovely Roisin wrote this week about her issues with people who write noone rather than no one or nobody (which is just what got me thinking about all this) – but I see this as an obvious next step. Is there any point in forcing these words to remain separate when their usage and frequency of use suggests that perhaps compounding them works? For me, I would be (and am!) happy to see this happen, as it suggests the continuing refinement and development of English as life moves on and language changes.

You see, the evolution and flexibility of the written and spoken word are what seem to me one of the greatest wonders of literature. The fact that an entire nation can move from Shakespearean turn of phrase to tlking in txt spk in what is evolutionarily the blink of an eye excites and inspires me. Nothing is static, nothing is boring – the stuffy is always overcome, the impractical tramped down in preference of the best phrase, the best word.

People worry that the huge steps taken in technology over the past decade have accelerated this process. Phonetic spelling was thought of as a threat to spelling and accuracy, symbols have taken over from intonation and subtlely. However I argue that in actual fact this hasn’t happened. Instead, English has found a way to balance the needs of an internet and immediate-information fed generation with the feelings and meaning of a beautifully crafted language. In actual fact, the super-shortening of words has faded out a little, becoming replaced with a happy kind of middle ground that means I don’t feel guilty for using lol or tho, but I don’t have to decipher a complex mix of words and letters either, or bcum a mmbr of d txt spk gnr8n.

When the needs must, we can convey a complex message in 140 characters or less. We can abbreviate, respell, play around the with building blocks of our foremost means of communication with gay abandon. Yet, at the same time, writing has not become less passionate. In fact, people are still creating beautiful works of literature, breathtaking sonnets, heartbreaking stanzas. It is this flexibility in the way language is used that makes me so happy, so chuffed to see that communication has adapted so neatly to the needs of a new world.

Golly, I do love words. Don’t you?


Putting it all in perspective… June 8, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Wordy Business.
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Goodbye, cruel world!

There is a 1 in 455 chance of humanity failing to see out the next century… “it’s telling you that you’re about ten times as likely to get killed in a civilisation-ending event than you are of getting killed on a commercial airline flight”.

Moondust, Andrew Smith

Childhood Friends June 2, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Family, What I Wore, Wordy Business.
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One of the advantages of living in a small and relatively quiet neighbourhood is the fact that, as of yet, we haven’t descended into a fug of anonymity. My local corner shop recognises me, people smile at each other in the mornings, and children still play in the streets. Just the other day I was lucky enough to witness a group of 10 years olds clambering through the hedges collecting “pet” snails, and this evening I sat reading my book in the rec ground as a small crew of young teenagers played a little kick around.

The presence of children playing is, of course, absolutely lovely. However, what struck me in particular was that the budding footballers were made up of a team of brothers, and of a third boy who wandered over during play. He didn’t know them, just saw the game and came to join in. There wasn’t a hint of worry or shyness, he just started in, introducing himself as he went. Unhindered by the restrictions we feel when we are “grown up”, he just went out there and made friends without blinking.

As a child, I didn’t have that courage. In social situations, although I did generally make friends, I needed prompting. I was awkward and unfamiliar, standing quietly observing on the outside of a group before getting involved. I wasn’t crippled by shyness, but it certainly put up a barrier, a division that I had to try to breach quite consciously. A deep dive into my imagination could blow the barriers away like dandelion seeds on a breeze, but otherwise I had to consciously force myself away from inaction.

In many ways I still feel like that absent individual, standing on the sidelines trying to work out how to fall in. A room full of unfamiliar faces can, for a brief moment, cripple me. The difference is that as time has passed, as I have grown and changed and come to like myself, the move to dissipate the fear happens faster.  I smile at someone, or make a joke, or comment on something they are doing. Sometimes, in unfriendly situations, I can feel myself tagging onto people who are “nice”, scanning the room but always choosing to come back to that friendly face. I am chatty, I network, I am brave. In my head I may question whether I am left out, whether people even like me, but on the outside I am the friendly gibbery one who will chat to strangers and start conversations. A shy girl in an un-shy body.But still, watching those children, it is amazing how free they are. Innocent, unassuming, unhindered by the assumption that the person they are speaking to, playing with, won’t let them join in.

Pink legs!

Anyway, totally unconnected, an outfit shot from yesterday. Pale pink tights aren’t great if you want to have “thin” thighs, but they are fun for feeling like a princess – or as Cie said, like Alice in Wonderland! I also seem to be having trouble finding a decent face too, so you’ll have to settle for slightly awkward poses – but I wanted to share the dress nonetheless.

I build castles in the air May 31, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Dreams, Wordy Business.
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Years ago, I picked up a tome in a bookstore. A weighty beast, this book was crammed with scraps, and doodles, fragments of thoughts. It was a mishmash of one collector’s life, colour jostling with black and white, page after page of shapes and sounds and recollections. The hard back covers fell open in my hands, the flicking pages raising questions – what is the art of looking sideways, do androids dream of electric sheep?

The page it settled on, however, was just a poem. Black text on yellow paper. Simple, unassuming, perhaps not technically brilliant. A poem that now, nearly 10 years later, I can still recall, I hope with a good level of accuracy. With apologies to the author if I have remixed his words, that beautiful elegant simple poem went something akin to the following:

There was a fence with spaces

You could look through if you wanted to

An architect who saw this thing

Stood there one summer evening

Took out the spaces with great care

And built a castle in the air

The fence was utterly dumfounded

Each post stood there with nothing round it.

Some days I feel like that fence. Like someone’s come along and taken something vital without me even knowing what. I feel like I stand there in complete isolation, yet like at the same time I am some bit part of a magical castle hanging in the sky. You can’t see it, but it’s there.

I’m through to a shortlist April 22, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Books, Wordy Business.
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Apologies – I appear to be trying to force you guys to vote for me in endless competitions. There is the Orient Express competition, and now there is this.

Still, I think this is more exciting. I recently read my first copy of Stylist Magazine, and I was pretty impressed. It was lightweight and easy-going, yet the writing had a strong undercurrent of intelligence – even the lightest bubbliest articles were bright and sparky to read. I knew, from the moment I enjoyed it so, that ideally I would love to write for them.

As such, I put an entry into their culture critic competition. You had to write a 100 word (a very small amount!) review of your favourite book by a female author. This is harder than it sounds – how I managed to choose between such a vast array of seminal pieces (The Color Purple, The Yellow Wallpaper and Tipping the Velvet all spring to mind) and settle on Prozac Nation I don’t know. However, I soon found myself entering a little spiel – and now we are where we are today.

You see, I am in the top 10. In the shortlist! And next week the Stylist experts are going to combine their opinions with those of the people who voted for their favourites, to announce their new culture critic. As such, if you fancied following the link and sending an email voting for the Prozac Nation review, then I would be most grateful!

Click the image to go through to the shortlist!

Please help me win a trip on the Orient Express! April 21, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Travel, Wordy Business.
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Click the image to vote for me! If it doesn't work, refresh and the story should be there!

All help appreciated guys – if 100 people like this then I get entered into a draw to win a trip ion the Orient Express! I don’t have much time though, so need all the help I can get!

NB: My story is called “when it rains it pours” – sometimes you need to refresh the page for it to work!

Dreams of Lions and Strolls Along Wild Deserted Moors April 14, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Dreams, Wordy Business.
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I have been dreaming vividly again recently. I wake in the morning exhilarated from the adventures of the night before, and from the wild roads I have wandered.

Beautiful Lion

Last night I dreamt of lions. I dreamt of wandering along a twisted bulging tarmac street that cleaved its way through the barren expanse of a distant and unfamiliar moorland. In the distance birds circled and storm clouds gathered, and there was a scent of rain lingering in the air. Then, sprawled across a patch of bristly moor grass, I saw the pride. Four grown lions, snoozing and scrabbling in the last vestiges of sun, tossing their thick manes and pouncing at little blackbirds and plump pheasants.

Still we walked though, climbing the mutated and ravaged tarmac up into the thinner higher air,  fast enough to be left puffing for breath. Unexpected, the lion reached us, its tawny hair rough and shedding. It batted playfully at our legs, darted forwards just to rush away again, like a cat playing with a mouse. We ran in turn, falling, grazing our knees on the hard floor, grasping tufts of harsh reeds and scrabbling at gravel to pull ourselves back up, to keep running, to stay one breathless step ahead.

I still don’t know whether we survived.

[Image source: here]

I wish March 9, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Inspiration, Wordy Business.
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I wish I was lying on warm grass on a summers night, watching the sun sink below the horizon. I wish I could smell the scent of dew and greenery, and see the sky descend into inky indigo, the stars appearing in the ever increasing blackness.

I wish I was snug in someone’s arms, feeling their heat burning into my skin, listening to the pounding of their heart against mine. Staring up together at the blazing heavens, tracing patterns and shapes from light to light.

I wish I was watching shooting stars leave shimmering trails, hearing the hooting of an owl somewhere in the distance. I wish I was breathing in the smell of fresh lake air, having my hair stroked with trembling fingers, kissing and being kissed.

I wish.

It sings of love February 3, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Music, Wordy Business.
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Music can, if done well, be a true gateway to the soul. It alone is the thing that can calm me down, get inside my brain and make me realise that things aren’t as bad as they seem, that other people have felt the things that I feel. A head-banging session can get rid of any anger I may have lurking inside me, a soft sultry session with a gentle lullaby can wash away all of my worries and strife.

Today I was listening to some of my favourite songs. They are all gentle, these ones, soft tunes that have the ability to possess me, to wipe clean the slate in my mind and reset me back to a happier, calmer place. What I realised, as those tunes washed over me, is that the feeling truly good music arouses in me is actually the closest I have ever come to feeling in love without actually being “In Love”. They can make my breath quicken, goosebumps prickle upon my skin. As the crescendos build and the melody unravel, I actually feel that magical fluttering in the pit of my stomach, that flip-flop feeling that only comes from feeling magic.

These songs? They sing to me of love.

In Missing Reality January 28, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Wordy Business.
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There are some characters that have changed the lives of so many people. We feel their wants, their sadness. Their joys cause our hearts to quake, their experiences are as much a part of us as our own characters, our own dreams. They are so vivid, so pure and so real that they are not only embedded in our minds, but in our worlds. They are as homely to us as the couch we grew up with, as the pillows we dream on every night.

The problem is that these wonderful people, these dearest friends, are not there for us when we need them most. We are so close to them, we see them as so important, yet all they are, are shadows of someone else’s dreams. The most elegant and delicate shadows, of course, but shadows nonetheless. They are but thoughts passing in the night, no more of substance than our dreams or thoughts.