Author Archives: Adrian


Questia – The Best Online Research Library

The Best Online Research Library is not an idle claim.  No matter where you are located around the world, be it USA, Great Britain (sorry I can never bring myself to call my former home “UK”), Europe or Australia, if you are studying or simply wanting to access some fantastic books and articles online, is for you.

The Beauty and Meaning of Words concerns itself with English words and the colourfulness, sound and feeling of words to enhance any written or spoken sentence.  The definitions in the posts and in the Word List are purposely not the norm and are meant to provoke contemplative thought for the reader.  Use them in your essays, in your research to add flavour to your work.

Questia’s library goes well beyond English Language and Literature with more than 83,000 academic books and more than 10 million newspaper, magazine and journal articles from more than a thousand of the world’s leading publishers, covering 14 major categories:

  • Art and Architecture (257)
  • Communication (473)
  • Controversial Topics (146)
  • Criminal Justice (447)
  • Economics and Business (541)
  • Education (450)
  • History (2,956)
  • Law (163)
  • Literature (3,202)
  • Music and Performing Arts (456)
  • Philosophy (594)
  • Politics and Government (730)
  • Psychology (813)
  • Religion (568)
  • Science and Technology (854)
  • Sociology and Anthropology (1,609)

There are also tutorials to help you write your research projects; different ways to research your particular topic;  various ways to save either entire pieces or just selections which you wish to quote in your work, including a great text highlighting feature.  Even bibliographies can be created easily for your work.

I was keen to undertake research on a favourite author of mine:  Thomas Hardy.  I was presented with 12,610 results in the forms of books, academic journals, periodicals, magazines, newspapers and encyclopaedia.  I haven’t finished them yet!

Another search for The Inklings (JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis et al) produced 1,292 results; Nick Hornby (e.g. Fever Pitch; About A Boy) 1,755 results; even Donna Leon, who wrote novels of and in Venice, had 91 articles.  Even my football team – Luton Town – brought up 3,898 results.  There seems to be plenty of items for everyone.

Yes, there are other online research tools available – many for free – but Questia is undoubtedly a better option.  Not only do you have access to all of these articles, you can easily create notes and bookmark pages for quick access and you are also able to gather and store your selections in appropriately named (by you) project files.

This, from a 2011 Study Guide Review:    “Overall, Questia is an invaluable resource to help you find your resources quickly and easily. It won’t do much for someone who is struggling with a subject, but it will help you to develop and research any topic that you might be looking into. This product is an amazing tool for any student who hates spending hours cooped up in a dusty library pouring over tomes and cracking their jaws to stifle their yawns.  8.5/10

Pricing:  I purchased a discounted first year’s membership;  this will automatically continue at the then applicable rate of, currently, $99.

There are three subscription levels for you to choose from, all of which provide unrestricted access to all tools and content on Questia:

  • Monthly at $19.95 per month
  • Semester at $49.95 every three months
  • Annual at $99 every twelve months

Several years ago, there were a number of disgruntled people that complained about the renewal policy of Questia, in that when the trial period was complete they were charged, automatically, full price for the continuation of the membership.  They argued that this was unjust, yet Questia state quite clearly – perhaps improving their process as a result of that criticism – that automatic renewal will take place unless cancellation occurs beforehand.  Fair enough!

Times have changed since then.  Join now by clicking here or on the banner below.

Questia 2


Beautiful Writing Desks and Implements


If you are writing beautiful words it is imperative you have equally beautiful and stylish accoutrements.  Be inspired by elegant and professional writing desks, writing pads and, of course, the finest and loveliest fountain pens.

There is no doubt that beautiful writing desks and implements increase your propensity to write better and be more creative.  It is a fact that business professionals in all walks of life perform better when they are suitably and correctly fitted out.

So if you are serious about being the best at what you do in your writing and in your life, ensure that you strive to have the best materials about you to enable that creativity in you to flourish.

Whether you wish to acquire a simply gorgeous writing desk as that pictured at the top of the page or a gorgeously simple desk like this one, find one to suit your needs and finances.Writing Desk







Then, having acquired your beautiful writing desk, you will need a luxurious writing pad and leather holder such as this lovely item which can be purchased at Amazon:

Jack George Pad Amazon

And perhaps the most important of all, it is necessary to have an exquisite writing implement along the lines of this superb Parker Duofold White and Ivory Medium Point Fountain Pen:

Fountain Pen 3

Or, at the very least a writing implement of some quality to elevate your word thoughts.

People have forgotten – those a little younger than I never have known – about the smell of ink. It really does imbue the written word with a certain je ne sais quoi.

A good pen (and I don’t mean ballpoints) puts one in touch with the elegance of handwriting and, unlike the altogether temporary tools that comprise our computing arsenals, it will last forever if properly maintained.

I had the great fortune of receiving mine as a gift, and I could hardly think of anything better. Yet even if you are not so lucky, I would encourage the investment: it will put you in touch with yourself in such a way that your computer never could.


Learn How To Speak English Online

Learn how to speak English online specifically with Speech School TV.

Your voice is a valuable instrument that influences a person’s first impression of you when you speak.  About 38% of their first impression will be based on how you sound.  How you enunciate, what accent you have, whether or not you speak clearly; how commanding your voice is.

The movie The King’s Speech is a marvelous example of the importance of the delivery of the words rather than the message itself.  I recommend that you see it.  Click here for a small clip.

So, it isn’t sufficient simply to know which words to say, you must learn how to say them and you can’t do that from reading books.  You must interact with English speakers to pick up the tone, pitch, intonations and speed that English speakers have.  Even then there are further complexities.

There are many dialects of spoken English around the world, indeed in Britain itself, and a lot of them sound terrible.  It is important then that in learning HOW to speak English that you choose an accent that gives you and those around you a feeling of your importance, of being in control, being professional.

How to Speak English Well

The accent that succeeds the most with achieving this is the educated, British accent found in southern England.  This I believe is vital if you wish to make the right impression.

What is so special about that accent?

Received Pronunciation (RP) – which many linguists now call Standard Southern British English (SSBE) – is an accent associated with high social prestige. Non-linguists sometimes call this type of speaking “BBC English” or “the Queen’s English”.

Think Joanna Lumley:

Think Patrick Stewart:

SSBE accents are considered to be of greater status and competence than regional accents which are regularly viewed more favourably for their social attractiveness.  This is probably due to the social and cultural pressures that operate within a community. So, Standard English is perceived more favourably than regional dialects within Britain and those accents from English speaking countries such as USA and Australia because of the perceived social and cultural status that those who speak with an SSBE accent afford.

Standard language is traditionally viewed as the language of the elite and while SSBE speakers may be stereotyped as sounding “posh”, the standard forms are considered by most to be “correct”.

What Do People Think Of You?

From a very young age, we shape our attitudes to everything around us, including social connotations, even if we never come into contact with them. We learn from a range of sources, including people around us and the things we see and read.

People from different locations, whether local or international, are associated with particular characteristics consequently the accents they use are also associated with those characteristics.  What do you think of when you hear speak the American President, the Australian Prime Minister and the British Queen?

Speakers of SSBE are thought of highly as they are seen as being professional, successful, and wealthy. People who speak with strong British urban dialects are often considered to have lower status because of a historical reputation of those areas for higher crime rates, unemployment, and industrialisation.

That is why it is so important that you choose a good speaking coach to work with to enable you to be that person others see as well-spoken and successful.  That is why you must choose an educator that speaks Southern British English (SSBE) for the prestige your new accent will bring you.

Speaking SSBE well will help you:

  • Improve your professional and personal reputation
  • Gain the trust and respect of others
  • Come across as sincere, authentic and reliable
  • Increase your success in business
  • Be seen or heard as an expert
  • Make strong first impressions
  • Attract people to you, because people want to associate with dynamic people

And, if you choose carefully, you can find such training online where you can learn at your own pace, interact with the tutors and become proficient in speaking SSBE.  Yes, you can find English language training online – many free – that supposedly teaches you how to speak English, but these are often poorly credentialled schools or educators where your learning will be equally sub-standard.

Think of it as whether you should be attending the local high school or Eton, Harrow or Oxford University.  The difference is immense!  I know which I prefer given the opportunity.

Now you can have that same opportunity yourself.  Learn how to speak English online, at home, no matter where you live.

Speech School TV is the best I have come across for providing you with the skills to be the speaker that you crave to be in the best English accent in the world.

Take a look at this video to get an idea:

So, you see, it is more than just a “Learn to Speak English” program.  You will learn correct pronunciation, tone, pacing, even posture.  Perhaps more than any other English language program that I have found, you will learn the important and secret manner of articulation.

The Art of Articulation

Artісulаtіоn (pronunciation аnd talking) іѕ the аbіlіtу to physically mоvе the tоnguе, lірѕ, tееth аnd jаw tо рrоduсе ѕеԛuеnсеѕ оf ѕреесh ѕоundѕ, whісh make uр words аnd ѕеntеnсеѕ.  Dіffеrеnt cultures have different ways of аrtісulаtіng.

Articulation іѕ іmроrtаnt tо be аblе tо produce ѕоundѕ, wоrdѕ and sentences whісh аrе clear and саn bе еаѕіlу undеrѕtооd and іntеrрrеtеd by оthеrѕ іn оrdеr tо be аblе tо еxрrеѕѕ bаѕіс nееdѕ аnd wants, rіght thrоugh to bеіng аblе tо еngаgе іn complex соnvеrѕаtіоnѕ.

Dереndіng on the extent оf the difficulties, unсlеаr ѕреесh саn іmрасt significantly оn hоw wеll a реrѕоn саn іntеrасt wіth their рееrѕ аnd саn аffесt the development оf lаnguаgе and social skills. A реrѕоn who іѕ hаvіng dіffісultіеѕ being undеrѕtооd саn bесоmе frustrated аnd angry and this mау lеаd tо bеhаvіоurаl іѕѕuеѕ.  Artісulаtіоn is аlѕо important in literacy skills ѕuсh аѕ reading аnd ѕреllіng оut оf wоrdѕ.

To come across as articulate in English it is imperative these methods are learned, understood and put into action.

Speech School TV

Speech School TV does all this and more.

So, how does it work?

The online training is made up of four dynamic and interactive components:

You have the option of undertaking one of two plans (or both if so desired):

I have no doubts that these courses are by far the best online in giving you the greatest opportunity to speak English in the correct and most thorough way.

There is even a FREE trial period where you simply subscribe and you may cancel after your first lesson, receiving a full refund if the program doesn’t meet your expectation.

So, click on the banner below and begin the journey to becoming the best English speaker you can be.



Do You See An Enemy?

Or is that a Sea Anemone?

I have always loved this verbal similitude.  And aren’t the phrases absolutely fabulous to say?  All those n’s and m’s.  And, yes I know, the apostrophes shouldn’t go in there but how else to show what I am saying?

An Enemy

An enemy (boo, hiss) is someone or thing with whom or which you are far from friendly.  He, she or it is the antithesis to your loving, wonderful self and are likely to produce feelings of animosity, hatred even.

When there is a collective hatred of another object, then conflict arises leading in all probability to warfare.

Hatred is an awful state and we must do all we can to not allow it into our lives.


When conflict arises between two bodies – individuals or peoples – then enmity exists between them.This usually arouses aggressive behaviour between the parties involved and is normally long-standing rather than short-lived.

Again, the word is lovely on the tongue due once more to the n and m sounds.  The t sound though gives the word more bite – appropriate for the word context.


Looks similar to enmity but amenity has a much pleasanter connotation:  a desirable or useful feature or facility of a place or building.


One needs to be careful choosing the correct word.  Anomy is very close linguistically to enemy and whilst an enemy may show the characteristics of anomy, the latter actually is a lack of social or moral standards, either in an individual or in society as a whole.


Yet another great sounding word.  The word-sounds are soft on the tip of the tongue and lips which is quite in variance with the acidity and tartness of the actual fruit.

Did you know trumpet, or other brass, players find it extremely hard to play their instruments when someone is close to them sucking on a lemon?

Give it a try yourself.


Eventually, all of the above preamble leads us to the purpose of this post and that is to enjoy the phrase “an anemone”.  Say it aloud but be careful not to stumble over the positions of the n’s and m’s.  It’s a great and fun phrase to get your lips around.

On land, an anemone is a flower:

But there is also a sea anemone:

Confusing, eh?  Even more cause for confusion however is the fact that the sea anemone is not a plant but is actually a marine animal.  Really.



Humpty Dumpty Nursery Rhyme

Or Should That Be Nursery Rhythm?

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

For today, the origin of this piece is not our concern.  What we are considering is the use of the words Rhyme and Rhythm.

And good old Humpty is helping us in that task.

The reason for the question at the start of this paragraph is that, well, the words rhythm and rhyme are actually the same word by way of their derivation.  “How can that be?” I hear you ask!

Both words originate in the Greek word “rhuthmos”, meaning ‘flow’ but rhythm became more associated with the Anglo-Saxon ‘riman’ which means ‘count’.  So, rhythm is the count or beat in a phrase, whether spoken or musical.



Dance, especially the Tango, has great rhythmicity.





And, did you know, that in Scrabble Rhythm has the potential to earn 51 points without even using a single vowel!


Today, of course, we think of rhyme as two or more words that sound the same.  ‘Wall’ and ‘hall’; ‘men’ and ‘again’ in Humpty’s example above.

An alternative (please note, not ‘alternate’ which means to occur repeatedly in turn) spelling to Rhyme was Rime, as in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, a poem written in 1797 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

I use the past tense here as Rime is rarely used today.

There is also a saying “Neither Rhyme nor Reason” which I find interesting in that the word rhyme, here, is used in the sense of entertainment while reason implies the notion of serious teaching.  So the idiom tells us that the subject is not fit for either amusement or learning.

In the county of Yorkshire, England, Rime is a colloquialism for Hoar-frost!

Rhyming Slang

Rhyming slang is most associated with the Cockney (i.e. East End of London) underworld of the 19th Century where it was allegedly used to thwart non-criminals’ attempts to overhear what was being discussed by those dastardly villains.

Examples are:  Frog and Toad = Road;  Apples and Pears = Stairs

Daisies are boots, from ‘daisy roots’ (!)

And so on.

The slang, although belonging to past times, is still in use today, kept alive by such TV programmes as The Sweeney – itself a great example of rhyming slang.



Colour Tones


Or, if you weren’t raised in Britain, “colors”.

This post isn’t concerned with the variety of colours but more the tonality of them.  Words that infer colour rather than simply stating them.

In a previous post we looked at The Stroop Effect of words and colors – see it here – and wasn’t that just psychologically brilliant?

So the suggestion of colour or the state in which to find colour is what we are interested in here:


Filmy; light; gauze-like.  Delicately hazy – like a girl I once knew.


Of twilight, when colours and often objects are distorted and confused.  Dim and indistinct – funny, I knew a girl like that, too!


Relating to growing darkness or the thrush in one of my favourite Thomas Hardy poems:

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.


A lovely word meaning to mark or colour with red.  As in this picture, the choral manuscript has been rubricated, highlighting particular points.  When I was at school, my homework was often handed back to me with severe rubrications.  Just about every teacher marked one’s work with a red pen making it abundantly clear where one had stuffed up.


Dark and gloomy like many of Charles Dickens’ buildings portrayed throughout his novels and
on film.  Also, how I felt after receiving my rubricated homework back.


Of a blackish or grey dusky hue.  Very much unlike my favourite television character when I was
a little ‘un:
Sooty, with his, and my, pal Sweep.  Say goodbye to the children, Sooty.
Ah, nostalgia … it’s not what it used to be.





“I say, old man, just look at that chap over there, what on earth does he think he looks like?”

“Looks bally ridiculous if you ask me. Never allowed to get away with it when I was his age.  What’s the world coming to I’d like to know? Harrumph.”

I love all these blustering, ex-colonel types.  A dying breed I’m afraid now.  In their ways, they were often comical, sometimes nasty, and always belligerent.  I know a lot of people disliked what they were and stood for – many of them civil servants or lesser local officials and usually quite officious – but they have left a legacy of a way of life that was emergent at the turn of the 20th Century and on to the second World War.

These men epitomised Pomposity.


It is such a darned shame that the negative connotation of Pomposity – arrogance, self-importance, stiffness, haughtiness – should come from the root Pomp, meaning ceremony and splendid display .  Its meaning being quite subverted.


It wasn’t just in their manner that the pomposity could be discerned, but they had a Tumescence – a pretentiousness in their use of the English language – that augmented the puffed-up presence they chose to portray.


The manner of speech was very often Magniloquent – lofty or grandiose and bordering on the bombastic and boastful.  Such was the nature of the thing.

All of the above  came about because I wanted to introduce Harrumph to the list of words here.  If  you haven’t yet surmised, Harrumph is a grumpy expression of irritation or disapproval, something which came easily to our pompous old chaps.

So, while these words aren’t truly “of the senses” they conjure up pictures of good old boys lost in a world that became far too modern for their and others’ liking.

The words are added  to the word list here.


The Taste of Words – Sweet and Sassy

I was very tempted to make this post a sticky but considered the pun too obvious!

There are scores of words in the food-word category that just drip with beauty and meaning.  I love the word syrup and all its thick viscosity that just oozes with association.

Likewise treacle and molasses.


Surprisingly though molasses eases off the tongue far too readily for a word with that connotation.  It doesn’t sound anywhere near the sheer clagginess of syrup and treacle.

And I use the word clagginess with deliberation.  Thick, sticky and gooey.  Can’t you just feel the words cloyingly sweet in your mouth.  In fact in the North East of England there is a treacle toffee called claggum.  Fabulous!

They may well be sweet but not sassy.  Sassy is reserved for sweets (desserts) such as a torte, bombe or sponge.

A sponge is what mother used to make.  It has to be light and luscious.  A cake sandwiching whipped thickened cream, fruit or jam or preserves.  The word sound reflects the softness of the cake with soft consonants.

It is vital when writing about a bombe to ensure that a) it is spelled correctly otherwise it becomes a very different item, and b) that even spelled correctly it is not confused with the code-breaking machine used at Bletchley Park during World War II.  A bombe glacee, or simply a bombe, is an ice-cream dessert that has been frozen in the shape of a sphere, thus a bomb.

The only explosion you’ll get with a bombe though is that of rich, creamy mouth-fill.  Yum.

I was taught that a torte originates from the Italian torta. (Like the subtle use of alliteration there?)  I have since come to learn that it can be filled with buttercream, mousse, fruits and often rum.  Probably the most famous torte is that devised at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna:  the sachertorte.

Now if that ain’t sweet and sassy I don’t know what is!  Now where’s my dessert fork …!




How Do You Do

Well, this is a fine How Do You Do isn’t it?

I intended to start this post discussing the correct manner in which to meet and greet a person with the phrase “how do you do” when it occurred to me that the phrase is actually a question without intended meaning.

“What does he mean by that” I hear you ask (yes, my website has ears but that’s another story).  Well, I’ll tell you.

If you truly wanted to receive an answer to the question you would say the phrase with an upward inflection thereby indicating a question is being put forth.  You would therefore expect to receive a response from the person to whom the question was put.  Fair enough!  Not so, when first meeting a person and shaking hands.

Today, we are more likely to say “Hi, I’m Adrian” or “G’day” (Australian) when meeting a person for the first time which is rather sad as there is no intent made in the greeting to show interest in the other party, leaving them to respond only with a “hi” or “g’day to you” or some such.

The polite and proper way to meet and greet a person for the first time is to say “how do you do“.

Now, like a lot of idioms it is not to be taken at face value.  You are not expecting to receive, nor will the other party be expected to give, an answer.  In fact the phrase is said with a downward inflection, indicating a statement not a question.  The correct response is a “how do you do” statement in return.

“Hmmm, well that’s a fine how do you do I must say!”   Now this particular statement is a modest expression of mild surprise or disappointment.  The tone is vague and sarcastic.  “harrumph!”

It then occurred to me how many similar sounding words there are to “do you”.  Such as:

Due         due

Not to be confused with Dew      dew

Or Jew

Or Adieu!



I’ll get me coat and go I think.



Catacombs of Rome

There are about forty different Catacombs of Rome – ancient underground burial places most famous for Christian burials – begun in 2nd Century AD.  They were built due to a shortage of burial land on the surface and subsequent overcrowding.


While the original custom in Rome was cremation, with the ashes being retained in an urn or pot, it became more ‘fashionable’ or acceptable to bury the unburnt remains of the dead in graves or sarcophagi.  Christians also preferred burial to cremation because of their belief in the resurrection of the body after death.

The catacombs (and there are many others in the World, for instance in Paris) today are huge tourist attractions with large tour groups visiting them year round.

It is very important that the Catacombs of Rome are not confused with the Cats of Rome which have lived in and around the Trajan Markets since ancient times and continue to reside in the ruins of the same market area today.


Further, it is equally important not to confuse the Catacombs with Cat Combs – something completely different:  cat-comb

Or Ilfracombe, where I was taken on hols as a nipper:  ilfracombe

Notwithstanding all that, Cat Combs, Ilfracombe, Catacombs each has a lovely word sound.  I think it must have a lot to do with the pronunciation of “coomb” or “coombs” or “coam” that make the words special.