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Last week I came to the realization that I couldn’t effectively collect data from my 13th-century text without translating it more or less completely first. This proved to be a bear of a task. I don’t think a text edition of this manuscript existed when the dictionary and grammar books were put together. It’s also possible that the source texts are idiosyncratic in grammar and/or spelling; we all know a few writers like that. End result: sentence constructions and spellings that aren’t in the dictionary. The dictionary of the language I first saw in February. Yeah, that one.

So last week was a little challenging on the academic front. On other fronts, life went on.

NTS gratefully takes off his shoes after a long hike through the Pentlands

NTS gratefully takes off his shoes after a long hike through the Pentlands

Saturday week I went to a friend’s housewarming in Burntisland, which people call Burnt Island (I didn’t figure this out until the husband translated the train loudspeaker into person-speak for me). There are a number of local tales telling how the place (formerly an island, before a Back Bay type project filled in the bog with land) got the moniker “Burnt”. Oddly, the local land owner–name of “Burntis”–doesn’t feature heavily in these takes. Go figure. Good party, though, full of SCA (medieval re-enactment) friends.

Monday I went to practice traditional Scottish songs for a Burns night this week. Let me tell you, the Scots have very strange names for their musical notation. Quaver? Semi-quaver? The statement that it’s like “Scottish snaps” did little to clear up the confusion.

Three trees, Pentlands

And it’s nothing shy of hilarious (says the linguist) to hear speakers of Scottish and British English (not to mention Americans and non-native English speakers) singing their merry way through the Burns’s transcriptions of Scots. Let’s just say that our pronunciation bears little resemblance to Burns’s, and leave it at that, hm?

Thursday we attended a much-vaunted Gatsby party. The movie had quite the impact on our band of grad students and the party has been the talk of the crowd for weeks. (Confession: I ignored the movie on the grounds that I didn’t like the book in the first place. As a testimonial of the moral nullity underlying the gaiety of the roaring Twenties, Fitzgerald’s book is exemplary and a testament of his times. Oddly, however, vacuity of meaning with lots of sparkles on top is not favorite narrative formula.) Thursday’s party, however, combined the sparkle of the original with a pleasant dearth of adultery, murder and manslaughter, complete with snazzy costumes, classy cocktails and a yellow convertible in the living room.

Friday–we did have a busy week, didn’t we?–we foregathered at a friend’s house to throw a surprise birthday party that actually was a surprise! We were all very impressed with ourselves.

Saturday was thoroughly uneventful. On Sunday I capped off the weekend with odd, traditional housekeeping tasks: darning a hole in a sweater, altering the painfully high neck of a shirt, re-shaping a basket and setting it in the sun to dry, shaping the granola bars I’d started the day before.

And today, back to work.

NTS coming down a hill, Pentlands