OBSERVERS ARE WORRIED.

That’s the title of Roger Blench’s Dictionary of Ghanaian English (pdf), which he generously put online (in an early version from 2006) and which Matt of No-sword wrote me about (thanks, Matt!). Here’s an interesting paragraph:

One of the more surprising things about Ghanaian English is the extent to which it has a common lexicon and grammar with other West African Englishes, notably Nigerian. I have less information about Cameroun, Sierra Leone and Gambia and would welcome further insights. However, the puzzle is the history of some of these forms. Do they go back to the early days of colonial presence on the coast or are they more recent products of the massive migration of Ghanaians to Nigeria during the oil-boom era of the 1970s and 1980s? Probably both, but only a detailed scanning of earlier sources will provide answers.

The title is an odd one, not explained in the text, but it’s appropriate for today, given that Marie-Lucie wrote expressing concern for our situation in Western Mass., right in the path of the storm, and suggesting that I reassure my faithful readers, which I hereby do: we’re fine, with two cords of wood in the garage and a wood stove ready to cook food and heat water for us if the power goes out as it did last year (though hopefully it won’t be out for four days this time). So far we’ve just gotten a little wind and rain. She says of her own situation: “Here in Nova Scotia we will probably see just the tail end – the brunt will be in Southern Ontario and Québec and perhaps New Brunswick.” I trust all my readers in the eastern part of North America are safe and secure. Let’s all knock wood!
Update. We got lucky; a bit of wind and rain, no damage, no power loss. My best wishes to those who had it worse, and to anyone in Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) who may have suffered from the earthquake that struck there Saturday night, as iakon reminds us in the comments.

Comments

  1. High winds but not yet much rain here in Manhattan; power/cable/Internet/telephone are all operational. I am on sufficiently high ground, not even in Zone C (flooded only by a Katrina-style direct hit), never mind Zone A (mandatory evacuation). Perhaps 15,000 customers are without power in the outer boroughs, but everything in Manhattan is underground, so unless the storm surge comes over the seawall, all should be fine.

  2. “Observers are worried” is apparently a common truck slogan in Ghana. This paper proposes what it might mean.

  3. marie-lucie says:

    JC, Manhattan, of course! Thanks for letting us know. The news media always accentuate the negative.

  4. I’ve been preoccupied with our earthquake here in Haida Gwaii, which explains why I didn’t think of the possible plight of you lot down east. And vice versa.
    We had a 7.7 quake Sat. at 8 pm., followed by aftershock after aftershock continueing today. The last big one was 8.1 in 1949.
    We’re lucky: Nobody hurt and no damage. The reason is wood-frame construction of all buildings. Much swaying north-south. A tsunami warning was issued, then rescinded 30-40 minutes later.
    No tsunami was possible. The type of earthquake here is strike-slip, where two continental plates rubbing together jerk suddenly, like the San Andreas Fault. Tsunamis occur when the movements are vertical.
    The result here was mostly panic-stricken hub-bub, from those who know little of earthquakes and how to find out. When the continental plates release tension, we become tense.
    Anyway, I hope you who are battened down below the storm actually have a pleasant adventure and I hope damage is minimal. I’d probably camp in the basement if there is one.

  5. Loved the “two cords of wood.” It reminded me that New Englanders, like the Texas farmers I write about, are impressively competent when it comes to base-level survival.

  6. marie-lucie says:

    iakon, I am glad to hear that there was no damage to people or property. My friends in the Nass Valley (across the strait) all felt the ground and floors moving like waves, but there was no damage to speak of. I guess it must have been the same type of thing for you, only stronger. I did not know about the type of fault, thanks for the information.

  7. m-l, my sensation was of shaking back-and-forth on a north/south line, lasting perhaps a minute. I’m on the 2nd floor of a 2-storey apartment building. One person walking reported a rolling sensation.
    It was also felt in Prince Rupert, Terrace, Prince George and even, apparently, in Edmonton.
    Since then, there have been 2 shocks greater than magnitude 6, and a hundred greater than 4. There are always many that aren’t felt.

  8. I had no idea what “cord of wood” was in reality. I’d always taken it to be a synonym for “log”, I think.
    Your optimism worried me until I googled.

  9. I discovered from the Oxford DNB that Moresby Island is named for the father of the man who invented Port Moresby. Both were admirals, the son joined the Royal Navy at the age of 12.

  10. AJP: Correct. And neither admiral was ever in this neck of the woods.
    One of my neighbours has two cords of wood to keep him warm through the winter. I envy him. I have elctrical heat, which I dislike because it’s on again, off again. I would prefer a wood stove.

  11. Electrical. Sheesh.

  12. It says that in 1853, the son, Admiral John Moresby (1832 – 1922), commanded a punitive expedition against the natives of Vancouver Island. But as far as I know he wasn’t otherwise a bad man:
    While primarily concerned with the suppression of the kidnapping of native labour, he mapped 1200 miles of the coastline of New Guinea. In recognition of his discoveries he enjoyed the distinction of having his name bestowed on a destroyer built in 1916. He published an autobiography, ‘Two Admirals’, which included an account of his father’s career. He died at 9 Lindon Grove, Alverstoke, Hampshire.*
    It is a truth universally acknowledged that admirals of the Royal Navy retire to Hampshire.
    *I took this from the DNB, but it’s jumbled up.

  13. R. N. Rudmose Brown, a botanist & geographer who wrote the Moresby article, had a mountain in Antarctica named after him.

  14. AJP: What was the date of that ‘punitive expedition’? Can’t find it. The one I guess is 1856.

  15. I see that the WiPe article re Haida Gwaii (linked to by our host) refers to ‘the disputed Dixon Entrance’ to our north. This is the first I’ve heard of a dispute.
    I can understand why there might be, though. The entire width is officially Canadian, which surprises many people who think the boundary with Alaska should run along the center. I still don’t know why the United States government agreed to this.
    The agreement may well have been in the middle of the nineteenth century or before, when the US was preoccupied elsewhere and had no need to use the Entrance. And in those days any canoe or sailing ship coming from the northern end of the Canadian mainland had to approach the north coast of Haida Gwaii along the south coast of the Alexander Archipelago because of a strong clockwise eddy in the center (on an east-west line) of the Entrance.

  16. Iakon, thanks for that explanantion of your quake. it explains why we felt none of it here in Seattle.
    “The entire width is officially Canadian, which surprises many people who think the boundary with Alaska should run along the center. I still don’t know why the United States government agreed to this.”
    Probbaly figured it would all be moot sooner or later. If you know what I mean.

  17. I now know what the dispute is. Those interested can google Dixon Entrance and click on the WiPe article. But it’s just too remote from anybody’s life to come to a demand for resolution.

  18. So what’s become of John Cowan?

  19. Iakon, it says:

    In 1850 he sailed for the west coast of South America. Shortly afterwards he was transferred to the frigate Thetis as gunnery lieutenant, and in 1853 commanded a punitive expedition against the natives of Vancouver Island. After returning home on promotion, Moresby joined the paddle sloop Driver as first lieutenant in 1854, on the eve of war with Russia.

    I’m guessing that John Cowan simply has no electricity.

  20. Trond Engen says:

    Loved the “two cords of wood.”
    Me too. I thought we were quaint for using favner (“fathoms”).
    I see that one chord is 128 cubic feet = 3.62 m³. That means that 2 cords = 3 favner (metric). A metric favn is the amount of wood equal to a well-stacked pile of 2m x 2m x 0,6 m. Historically, it was a little less:
    1 favn ved = 1 favn x 1 favn x 1 alen (“ell”) = 6 fot x 6 fot x 2 fot = 72 kubikkfot.
    It’s not common to burn wood two foot long in modern stoves, of course. The usual length is 30 cm or even 20 cm. It’s said that clever salesmen have used this to deliver half the volume as en favn tredve “one fathom thirty”.

  21. Trond Engen says:

    I’m guessing that John Cowan simply has no electricity.
    What happened to Battery Park?

  22. This is the first I’ve heard of a dispute.

    Alaska Boundary Dispute

  23. I have elctrical heat, which I dislike because it’s on again, off again.

    Doesn’t that mean you have eclectic heating?

  24. Thanks, Paul, I found that.
    Surely you don’t expect me to answer that, Silly.

  25. It’s not common to burn wood two foot long in modern stoves, of course.
    Our stove takes logs of less than 16 inches, which we always specify when ordering it, yet there are always a number that are too long. Fortunately we have relatives with fireplaces who are happy to take the overage.

  26. “commanded a punitive expedition against the natives of Vancouver Island. But as far as I know he wasn’t otherwise a bad man”
    How gratingly historically correct of thee! Hindsight being the only friend of the corrective school of historical myopes. Would you have had him wave the Rainbow flag in place of the Union Jack? Perhaps send an advance scouting party of Amnesty International representatives to lecture the natives on conflict resolution? Better yet, the barrels of British blunderbusses could have been adorned with flower garlands. The First Nations people had been briefed on international peace symbolism no doubt. Easy to imagine Mr. Moresby in his Nehru jacket proclaiming as the arrows fly, “can’t we all just get along”.!

  27. Easy to imagine Mr. Moresby in his Nehru jacket proclaiming as the arrows fly, “can’t we all just get along”.!
    Haha, I probably deserve that, Hozo. Anachronistic judgements are irritating, but where do you draw the line? We’d certainly say that Germans who practised genocide in the east were bad men, after all. I’ve just been reading ‘Bring Up The Bodies’, and I found it was only possible not to judge characters by their attitude to the beheadings and burnings because literally no one is portrayed as being against these punishments. In the 1850s, few Englishmen would have opposed this ‘punative’ action; nevertheless there was opposition to European rule in North and South America from its outset, and I feel I can side with either party: the invaders or the invaded. In this instance, I’m choosing the latter.

  28. I always feel better about my anachronistic judgements after reading one of Hozo’s snide comments.

  29. He’s not otherwise a bad man, though.

  30. Oh, I forgot the logs: I think I remember from designing fireplaces that ‘Architectural Graphic Standards’, the huge book of building standards and construction techniques in the US, gives 16″ as the minimum front-to-back dimension of the firebox opening (in plan). Even taking canted sidewalls into account the useable width and height are greater than 16″. I think that was all based on the standard US log size being max. 16″. For my wood stove in Norway diameter is more important than length.

  31. In 1853 a couple of natives from the region of Nanaimo canoed down to a hunting ground near Fort Victoria. No-one knows the details, but they ended up murdering a shepherd at Lakehill Farm, then skedaddled. How they and their place of origin were identified I don’t recall, but Governor Douglas went on a Royal Navy ship (presumably commanded by Moresby) to the village on Nanaimo Harbour. He went ashore and demanded that the local chiefs hand them over for punishment. They were known locally by their souvenirs and bragging. They were handed over, and after a trial, hung from the yardarm.
    My recall of final detail may be distorted, but the gist is correct.
    So much for you, Mr Historical Myope Hozo.

  32. I forgot: Moresby Island would have been named in 1856 during the first hydrographic survey (read exploration) of these islands by the Royal Navy.

  33. Well, the storm surge did come over the seawall. I’m now in my office cube on 42nd St., north of the no-power line. My house, however, is still in the stromlos zone. It’s going to take real time to catch up, of course, but rest assured that LH is first in my thoughts.

  34. Welcome back, John.
    I think Moresby’s ship was the frigate Thetis.
    Later on, it seems Moresby was badly treated by the RN hydrography office:

    Moresby returned home [from New Guinea] at the end of 1874 to find that, while geographers realized the value of his work, the hydrographer had become strangely indifferent and the government of the day had no anxiety to establish a British claim to eastern New Guinea.

    Using google maps I looked up Moresby jr’s retirement home, and it’s a shabby late-Victorian terraced house in Gosport; not the Hampshire country mansion I’d been expecting for the founder of Port Moresby. Perhaps his lack of cash was God’s punishment for the 1853 incident. Or not.

  35. Good to hear you’re high and dry, JC.
    the government of the day had no anxiety to establish a British claim to eastern New Guinea.
    This occured more frequently than some people today like to believe. Ship captains would return to the old sod having declared some island the possession of the Empire, but the government would reject it because they couldn’t afford the costs involved. They turned down King Kamehameha when he offered his kingdom as a protectorate because of financial difficulties he was in, just before the American filibuster of his country.
    I read that Iceland was looking toward the European Union when their economy crashed, but I bet their application for union was turned down. I don’t know for sure.

  36. Moresby returned home at the end of 1874 to find that, while geographers realized the value of his work, the hydrographer had become strangely indifferent and the government of the day had no anxiety to establish a British claim to eastern New Guinea
    What happened after that is interesting:
    3 Apr 1883: Queensland (Australia) annexes the southeastern coast [of New Guinea].
    2 Jul 1883: British colonial office disallows Queensland annexation.
    1884: Partition of New Guinea agreed by Netherlands, U.K., and Germany along the 141st meridian.
    3 Nov 1884: Germany proclaims protectorate over northeastern New Guinea (Kaiser-Wilhelmsland/German New Guinea);
    17 May 1885 – 1899: administered by the German New Guinea Company (Deutsche Neu-Guinea Compagnie).
    6 Nov 1884: Britain proclaims protectorate over southeastern New Guinea (British New Guinea territory).
    1886: British colony of New Guinea.
    (from here)
    The whole mentality of the day is pretty plain when colonies start annexing colonies!

  37. J.W. Brewer says:

    Someone over on LH was claiming that “high and dry” was exactly the wrong phrase for people left in a predicament by the recent storm, but it actually sums up my little suburban block just north of NYC quite well – approaching 96th hour w/o electricity, but all damage from wind (mostly via trees knocked down) and none from water. The local topography abutting LI Sound is sufficiently steep that the storm surge didn’t even get as far inland as Shore Road (which is, in fact, the closest road/street to the shore of the sound) and this seems to have been by the time it got to us pretty much the least-rainy hurricane ever, which was quite a stroke of luck as the sump pump under my house became nonfunctional once the electricity went out. By contrast in Irene last year we never lost electricity but I had something over eight inches of water down in the crawl space at one point because it had been coming in faster than the pump could get it out.

  38. J.W. Brewer says:

    Oops. I meant to type “over on LL.”

  39. I won’t say the accession of Iceland to the EU is on rails yet (the rails in my neck of the woods being conspicuous for lacking any trains at present), but certainly the 2014 target might well still be hit. The main contentious points seem to be the fisheries, whaling, and repaying the bank bankruptcies.

  40. Wikipedia, Arctic policy (i.e. its relation to the oil resources) of the European Union:

    If the accession of Iceland to the European Union occurs, the EU will increase its Arctic influence and possibly gain permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. The Northern Dimension of European Union policy, established in the late 1990s, intended to deal with issues concerning western Russia, as well as to increase general cooperation among the EU, Iceland and Norway. It has since become a multilateral, equal partnership among the EU, Iceland, Norway and Russia. Canada and the United States are observers to the partnership. Three Nordic Council members have joined the EU (Denmark in 1973 and Sweden and Finland in 1995). The European Union’s application to become a “permanent observer” in the Arctic Council was blocked in 2009 by Canada in response to the European Union’s ban on the importation of seal products.

    (In my opinion Iceland ought not to be allowed to join the EU until it renounces whaling).

  41. Thenks, JC and AJP, for these references to Iceland and EU policies (the one on Arctic policy has links to other policies).

  42. This post has been feeding my pleasure in political geography.

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