E, by Gummey

One of the things that most irritates me about people who want to standardise English spelling is the fact that it is clearly changing all the time.  No sooner would it be standardised than it would start to morph into something else.

Over the past few years the spellings of words such as ‘pricy’, ‘spicy’, ‘chancy’ and ‘flaky’ have wobbled like Mr. Blobby in a high wind.  I was re-reading John Le Carré’s ‘The Russia House’ the other day, and came across the spelling ‘flakey’, which I don’t think would be the norm now.  ‘Spicy’ is always spelt without an E, but ‘pricy’ is now more often spelt with an E.  I have noticed this repeatedly in what used to be called the broadsheet press, so it is being done by top journalists.

Without going back and doing extensive research, I can’t be sure of this, but it seems to me that ‘pricy’ always used to be spelt without an E, and it is only in recent years that the E spelling has become prevalent.  ‘Chancy’ seems to be spelled both ways with equal frequency.

I’m not going to wade in and say which I think is correct, although I would always tend to use the spellings without an E.  Both are perfectly clear, and I can’t see that either is objectionable.  My spell-checker doesn’t seem to mind most of that time, though it doesn’t like ‘flakey’. (The spell-checker on WordPress doesn’t like ‘pricy’, so perhaps ‘pricey’ is a US spelling.)

In my view, the greatest reason for not standardising English spelling is because it would destroy the etymological clarity of word meanings.  Of course, I do think that people should have some idea of the etymology of words, and I have no idea whether or not this is taught.  I hope it is – it is always been one of my great joys. However, the other great reason is because you simply can’t hold people to standard spelling – it seems to be against human nature.

Published in: on June 13, 2014 at 10:49  Comments (2)  

Questions for Mr Gove

My old horn-playing pal Sarah Rock is preparing for an interview with Michael Gove next Tuesday for BBC Radio 3. Tom Service will be doing the interview and it’s going to be broadcast in ‘Music Matters’ on Saturday, 15th June from 12:15pm on Radio 3.

Sarah asked through Facebook (perhaps unwisely, given the massive response she is likely to get) for suggestions from music professionals for any points she should raise with him. Here are my initial suggestions, which I’ve sent to her: (more…)

Published in: on June 7, 2013 at 12:48  Comments (12)  

The devastation of instrumental learning

I’ve just heard something incredibly depressing. I will anonymise the details as I think it may a be picture which is replicated elsewhere.

Imagine a medium-sized town in a shire county with four main secondary schools.

Not one of these schools has a school band or orchestra.

In one of the schools, there used to be 150 children learning an instrument. Now there are 30. Thirty.

Just in case you are too shocked to work it out, that’s twenty per cent of the previous numbers.

In the town itself, there is only one community music ensemble currently running. Only five young people under the age of 18 are taking part in it. (more…)

Published in: on May 14, 2013 at 14:52  Comments (2)  

Do you have to be posh to like classical music?

This is the second of Lady Eff’s Rants which are being broadcast as part of the Classics From Scratch programme on Secklow Sounds, an online radio station which  brings people and communities together. Classics From Scratch is presented by Catherine Rose and is broadcast at 2 pm on Thursdays. It is available to listen online a few days later.

Now, first of all, the number of people in the UK, or even in the world, who are actually, certifiably posh is tiny. It’s minuscule. It’s so vanishingly small that if you stood them shoulder to shoulder on the Isle of Wight you’d still have room for the entire population of Hong Kong.

The other thing about posh people is that they don’t necessarily like a specific form of music. Some are rock fans. Some are acid jazz devotees. Some (though I bet not many) like folk music. You get the picture. So, it follows that if classical music relied on posh people for its living, it would have disappeared long ago. (more…)

Published in: on May 2, 2013 at 16:02  Comments (2)  

Proving our worth – a couple of good links

To add to my previous post about the Culture Secretary’s recent pronouncements, I’d like to add a few things:

  1. Thanks to Paul Kelly for proving all the links to all the reports that I didn’t, ahem, get round to doing – it’s in among the comments on the original post.
  2. Apparently they order these things better in Canada – here’s a link to recent research showing the value placed on the performing arts by the Canadian public. This is from the Canadian Arts Presenting Programme via my friend Patrice Baldwin: Landmark Study Sheds Light on Profound Benefits of the Performing Arts.
  3. And I couldn’t put it better myself than in this Evening Harold spoof: “Singing in playground banned as Minister says culture must be presented as a commodity” – thanks to my friend Leaping Badger for spotting this.

Toodle pip.

Published in: on April 30, 2013 at 13:31  Comments (1)  

Proving our worth – yet again

The Culture Minister Maria Miller has asked the arts sector once again to prove its worth financially.

This is astonishing – the arts sector has made this argument over and over and over again for the past twenty years. The economic value of the arts to the nation was one of the chief reasons put forward by the sector when the first round of cuts were made. Jobs, income, regeneration, health, education – the positive impact is plain to see. This is further proof that the government doesn’t listen to or read anything the arts has to say.

Furthermore, it perpetuates the total ignorance that the government seems to have of the benefits which the arts confers outside the boost to tourism and the creation of ‘Brand UK’ or whatever. Evidence exists, for example, that the arts improve educational attainment, increase well-being and improve health. (more…)

Published in: on April 24, 2013 at 12:23  Comments (15)  

On experts and teaching

That George Bernard Shaw quote – “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” – follows teachers around like a malevolent hobgoblin. Clearly the best teachers are those who can also ‘do’. My take on it is this: “Those who can, do – but they shouldn’t dabble in education unless they can also teach”.

This sentiment arises from the recent incursions into curriculum development by the historian Niall Ferguson, who perhaps does not realise that he is exposing himself on every front, through bad judgement, lack of knowledge of education and the kind of entrenched prejudice that has no place in good historical practice. (more…)

Published in: on February 19, 2013 at 12:55  Comments (5)  

Buttressing our cause

There’s a lot of campaigning going on at the moment in support of the arts. Arts cuts in Newcastle and (I’ve just heard) potentially Cambridgeshire are the cause of a huge amount of concern and media activity. Plans to restrict the Ebacc to exclude the arts are the target of a lot of well-expressed and powerful lobbying by many significant figures in the arts, and related fields such as design and fashion. Pillars, as you might say, of the arts establishment and creative industries.

However, we need more than pillars – we need buttresses. These can be yer common or garden buttresses – supports “built against a wall to support or reinforce it”, or flying buttresses, which are attached “to the external walls… free-standing, arched buttresses allowing builders to construct high cathedrals with soaring interior spaces”. (Thanks to About.com for these definitions.)

What am I talking about? (more…)

Published in: on December 20, 2012 at 13:34  Leave a Comment  

Profit has no place in state education

James O’Shaunessy, who is described in a BBC news article as ‘David Cameron’s former policy chief’ has written a report for the think-tank Policy Exchange saying that failing schools should be taken over by for-profit education companies. I’ll quote some of the article, which is by Hannah Richardson, to give you a little more detail.

“The report says at the first Ofsted notice to improve, schools should be obliged to become a state-funded but privately run academy under a new sponsor. At the second, the academy would be obliged to join a successful academy chain of at least three schools bound together legally, financially and operationally. If no improvement is seen by the third notice to improve, the governing body would be obliged to hand over the running of the school to a proven educational management organisation, which may or may not make a profit. This organisation would then operate the school on a payment-by-results basis.”

When I read this a whole list of objections leapt into my mind and I am going to try to get them down in words. (more…)

Published in: on October 17, 2012 at 09:20  Comments (8)  

Credit where it’s due…

As regular readers know, I’ve crossed swords with Ed Vaizey from time to time and I’ve not been entirely polite about Michael Gove. I am doing my best to enjoy the feeling that I really ought to be eating at least some of my words.

I’ve never doubted the love of the arts that both these gentlemen have – I’ve either said or written as much to both. However, I have had concerns, some of which remain.

Yet the publication of the Henley Report and Gove’s sensible response to it calls for magnanimity.

One concern is that they haven’t listened to expert opinion in the past – they are clearly listeningto Henley, who in turn had listened very hard to a lot of people in the music education world. I hope this trend will continue, and that these listening skills will be applied more widely.

Gove’s decision to adopt Henley’s recommendation to continue funding music services for a further year while working out a plan for the future shows another quality – leadership. One of the main lessons I learnt from the Clore Leadership Programme course I went on years is ago is something Roy Clare said about the things leaders do. One of them was ‘Buy Time’. If you can buy time to enable you to do a better job than you would have done by just jumping in, everyone will be better off in the long run.

What’s important is what is done with that time – and I hope that all music educators will continue to have a voice in that process.

Lest anyone out there might think I’m going soft – don’t worry. We should all continue to scrutinise what’s going on, and I shall certainly be doing so.



Published in: on February 9, 2011 at 20:27  Comments (2)