Sunday 25 December 2011


In the spirit of the season I'm offering a free copy of any one of my books to he or she who gives me the best reason (in my opinion) why they should be the recipient of the book of their choice. The offer remains open until the next post, probably at the start of 2012.

Choose from:
Derbyshire Place Names
Dorset Place Names
Gloucestershire Place Names
Hampshire Place Names
Haunted Worcestershire
Leicestershire and Rutland Place Names
Ley Lines Across the Midlands
Nottinghamshire Place Names
Oxfordshire Place Names
Paranormal Cotswolds
Paranormal Staffordshire
The Salt Routes
Shropshire Place Names
Somerset Place Names
South Devon Place Names
South Staffordshire Street Names

Sunday 18 December 2011

An Advent Calendar of the Written Word (18th to 24th)

The final week featuring a note for each day of advent. No chocolates or pictures in this calendar but perhaps something of interest to the wordsmith.

18th - it seems many studies have been conducted into spelling errors. While it impossible to believe any examination can have taken a large enough sample in order to make the study particularly accurate, it seems the 18th most common wrongly spelled word is ASSOCIATION. Amazingly it was not the 's' or the 'c' which proved the stumbling blocks, the most common wrong spelling was "assocation".

19th - it probably won't come as a surprise to discover there are no 19-letter English words beginning with J, K, V, X, Y, or Z. However the most exhaustive of searches also drew a blank for 19-letter words beginning with W.

20th - to list the most common languages we can only use those spoken as a first language. Mandarin comes first, followed by Spanish and English. Twentieth on this list is either Korean or Tamil, both had 66 million speakers at the last respective census but those were taken some years apart.

21st - the 21st novel written by Terry Pratchett was Jingo, one of his Discworld series.

22nd - based on the list of best-selling magazines in the UK during the first half of 2011, 22nd on the list (with 413,311 copies) is Hello! magazine.

23rd - as it's Christmas a look at the all-time best-selling books for children reveals the paperback at number 23 is Judy Blume's Superfudge; while the classic The Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter is ranked 23rd.

24th - in the Old Testament the 24th word is 'the'; the New Testament 'and'; in the Quran 'is', the Torah 'upon', and in the Book of Mormon 'many'.

Sunday 11 December 2011

An Advent Calendar of the Written Word (11th to 17th)

The second of three weeks featuring a note for each day of advent. No chocolates or pictures in this calendar but perhaps something of interest to the wordsmith.

11th - the 11th December is the anniversary of the birth (1918) of the Russian writer, Nobel winner and Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who died in 2008.

12th - has to be Twelfth Night for this was my one and only appearance as a thespian (although to be accurate there were two performances) when I had the role of Malvolio forced upon me by a teacher. Should 'Happy' Richmond still be around to recall those (for me) endless weeks of torture, my loathing for you is undiminished.

13th - the 13th this month fell on a Tuesday, yet had it fallen on a Friday all manner of woes and ill fortune may have been blamed on something which can only happen a maximum of three times each year in the Gregorian calendar. However spare a thought for Spanish-speaking countries where Friday the 13th passes unnoticed as it is Tuesday the 13th, or Martres trece, which is feared. Incidentally, statistics show these unlucky 13ths (be they Fridays or Tuesdays) are likely to see a significant drop in accidents.

14th - the 14th letter in the alphabet is 'n', the sixth most common letter used in the English language but as a consonant second only to 't'. The development of the letter 'n' seems to have been from the adaptation of the Egyptian snake heiroglyph by Semitic people, their word for a snake beginning with the 'n' sound.

15th - the 15th best-selling daily newspaper in the world, with an average daily circulation of some 2,204,000 is Japan's Sankei Shimbun. However it ranks only 7th among Japan's dailies, indeed the five best-sellers in the world are all Japanese. Incidentally 15th on the United Kingdom list is the Manchester Evening News.

16th - Barbara Cartland has the longest entry in Who's Who, mostly a list of her books, the 16th of which appeared in 1937, a contemporary romance novel entitled But Never Free (aka The Adventurer). Incidentally at the time of her death there were some 160 unpublished works

17th - the 17th book of the Bible is Esther. As an English name Esther became popular in the 17th century, when it was the 17th most common name given to a baby girl.

Sunday 4 December 2011

An Advent Calendar of the Written Word (1st to 10th)

Over the next three weeks a note for each day of advent. No chocolates or pictures in this calendar but perhaps a snippet of interest to the wordsmith, writer or reader.

1st - the most valuable first edition is the Gutenberg Bible, currently valued at over £30 million but you probably haven't got one of the 21 copies thought to exist. My oldest first edition is a book by Thornton W. Burgess entitled Little Joe Otter. The copy I was given as a child disappeared and I was delighted to receive a 1925 edition for Christmas a few years ago.

2nd - few will be unaware the Bible is the best selling book of all time and outsells the second best seller six or seven times over. Yet few will know that next on the list is Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, most often referred to as his 'little red book'.

3rd - the third most commonly used letter in English writings is 'a', accounting for 8.167% of the total.

4th - the fourth longest English novel ever published is Poor Fellow My Country, a tale set in Australia and written by Xavier Herbert. It is said to contain 850,000 words.

5th - the fifth best-selling fiction author ever has amassed some 600 million copies of an impressive 800 books, and including 3,400 translations. Most of those books appeared under her own name and, although she did sometimes use the pseudonym Mary Pollock, very few can have missed Enid Blyton's work as a child or later as a parent.

6th - the complete works of Shakespeare did not see the light of day until seven years after his death and the publication of his plays certainly does not reflect the order in which they were first performed. As the latter is a better indication of the chronology his 6th play can be said to be Titus Andronicus, first performed in 1593 and appearing in print the following year.

7th - the Guardian newspaper poll to find the Seven Wonders of the Literary World placed Homer's The Odyssey at number seven - Don Quixote topped the list.

8th - in June 2011 John Locke became the 8th person to sell a million copies of an ebook and the first to self-publish and reach this milestone

9th - once it was considered a worthwhile achievement to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica - Richard Byrd taking a copy to the South Pole to help the time pass during his five-months stay - none other than literary giant George Bernard Shaw himself said he had read the 9th edition, although he admitted to skipping the scientific articles (a rather significant chunk to leave out).

10th - I suppose one of the golden rules when editing is to remove 'that' as superfluous. Thus it is interesting to note it is the tenth most commonly used English word and therefore should certainly appear in 'that' dialogue.