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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 30 ‘Raze the past and reset’


What could Mac say? He knew where this was all going but what could he do?Emergency Order CBI341 excluded him from taking part and this was what alarmed him the most. Overnight the country became divided between those involved and everyone else. Mac was now part of the ‘everyone else.’Mac received a letter in the post, confirming the fact that as ‘a reward for all you have already done for your country a grateful nation now exempts you from having to take part in Operation TurnBack.’The letter made everything sound so plausible but Mac knew the true purpose of Operation TurnBack.‘This is how civilizations are loosed from their footings’, he said to himself. ‘Raze the past and reset.’‘Everyon...
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 29 ‘a charming idea’


Bureaucracy can be both banal and baleful at once and so the simple issuing of something as official-sounding as an Emergency Order helped lull once more an already docile nation.As the world has learned since lessons began, the trick is to convince a nation to rewrite history together. Collectively. Only personal histories are rewritten with a single pen.And so being the nostalgic nation that it is, the country readily adopted Operation TurnBack as a charming idea.‘We’ve been through such a lot as a nation in recent times.’‘It is time we brought the old times back.’‘Everyone has spent years only thinking about themselves.’‘It is high time we thought about the country again.’‘If only everyon...
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 28 ‘Operation TurnBack’


It was Emergency Order CBI341 that required everyone in the country aged between 16 and 60 to report to their local Polling Station and register for what the television adverts called ‘Operation TurnBack.’According to the Order, anyone not prepared to do so would have their citizenship immediately ‘suspended’ and all income and property ‘pertaining to the individual and their family or families’ held ‘in permanent trust.’Every hour on the hour groups of ‘ordinary’ men and women wearing blue overalls with #TurnBack stencilled on the breast pocket appeared on all available screens and enormous animated billboards that had been specially erected on every street corner.‘It is time to take a stan...
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Cut the crackle.


I recently went to an NT Live screening where drinks were allowed into the auditorium. It shouldn’t have been a problem; someone quietly sipping from a plastic glass, and perhaps successfully stifling a niggling cough in the process – what’s in that to disapprove of? But even such a minor food related action in the auditorium can cause irritation and distraction. The pleasant man in the seat next to me brought his drink in with him after the interval. Unfortunately as he put it on the floor when the actors came back on stage, his hand shook and he spilt it on the floor and over my boot. I assured him in a hushed whisper that it was no problem, but his embarrassment drove him to go back out o...
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 27 ‘The price of freedom’


It was while sloshing home through the flood waters that Mac heard the news.Apparently, following an all-night session in the Dáil Éireann the government had ‘temporarily loaned’ control of the country to Crowley-Baird Inc. Mac raced back to his rooms in time for the televised address.‘We are just not equipped as a country,’ continued the Taoiseach, ‘to confront the tasks that now face us as a nation without specialist support.’ The Taoiseach paused.‘But let me assure you all,’ he said firmly, ‘this is only a temporary measure. I know we all know the price of freedom and its being lost.’Unsurprisingly, everyone was convinced, everyone that was apart from Mac.Original link
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 26 ‘a simple gasp’


Inteachán weighed up her options.It was simple.Move.Or die.Gripping the rope with one hand Inteachán reached for her belt and there was a high-pitched sound suddenly filling the shaft with blinding noise deafening bewildering and I don’t know why no one will ever know why but Inteachán pulled out her knife her sharp little knife and cut the rope she really cut the rope but she simply wasn’t strong enough to hold on with one hand she couldn’t hold on how could she and with a simple gasp she       fell.Original link
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 25 ‘the repetitions of her effort’


The darkness amplified everything in its embrace and as she listened Inteachán could hear someone sobbing and groaning.She had been so caught up in the repetitions of her effort that Inteachán was shocked to discover that the noises were coming from her. She paused but as she did so the enormity of everything crushed her.Was it an hour?Ten minutes?Three miles?A metre?Inteachán couldn’t be sure.All she knew was that she couldn’t climb anymore.Original link
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 24 ‘dangling deep in a dead night hole’


To die dangling deep in a dead night hole is the not the way that Inteachán wanted to go so she began to climb back up the rope.Arm over arm. Pulling herself upwards again.And again.Again.Once more.Again.Gravity is happy to let you down always but does everything it can to stop you when you want to move in the opposite direction.Original link
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You Are What You Say.


Did you know that you can identify where a new-born baby comes from by the sound of its cries? So says Jane Setter in Your Voice Speaks Volumes. Not that we should be surprised by this as farmers reckon they can tell where cows come from by the way they moo. And sheep by their baas for that matter. Another thing Setter has researched is the way boys and girls speak differently, even before puberty. Generally girls talk more softly and with a higher pitch. This is particularly marked in Japanese children.And it’s not just pitch and timbre post puberty: women are more likely to be seen as social climbers if they try to modify their regional accents and talk with ‘received pronunciation’ (RP), ...
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 23 ‘I’ll be back when I am’


But when the crying ends there is still always  something to be done and so with a sniff and a wipe of her sleeve Inteachán thought about her next move.She was stuck in a pitch-black hole attached to a rope that was not moving any more. She could hang in the hole for the rest of her life as far as the world was concerned as only Mac knew where she was and it would be days before he would raise the alarm.‘I’ll be back when I am,’ Inteachán had told Mac as she headed off. ‘I won’t be back before.’But what was bravado then was now something so much harder to explain that Inteachán decided to act rather than reflect.Original link
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 22 ‘Tears of fear and solitude’


Fear gripped Inteachán tight like a brand new skin.And as the enormity of her predicament threatened to wrench her free from the precarious perch of her sanity Inteachán began to cry.Salty great tears fell from her eyes and kept falling downwards. Tears of fear and solitude. Desperation. Realisation. Responsibility. No nine year-old should be in such a terrible position.‘What have I done to deserve this?’ whimpered Inteachán.‘Why is it my fault that the world needs saving?’And with the nothing of the darkness as her only answer Inteachán despaired.Original link
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 21 ‘the darkest of lights’


Just as quickly as Inteachán descended she suddenly stopped.The rope was caught and no amount of flicking her wrist would free it.Inteachán hung in the darkness. Her harness began to pull tightly as her stilled weight now tested its seams.Inteachán breathed deeply and then swallowed.Her ears popped.She yawned.Inteachán breathed deep again but she couldn’t keep the fear from starting to fill her body like the darkest of lights.Original link
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As Easy As ABC.


We tend to think the alphabet has been around forever. We tend to think its application is universal. In fact we are wrong on both counts.The alphabet as we know it (20 plus symbols representing sounds) has been in existence for about 4,000 years. It emerged first in Egypt, where before that thousands of hieroglyphics representing individual things was the main means of written correspondence. Progress was slow and most of the development took place in ancient Rome and Greece. The word alphabet is in fact made up of the first two letters of the Greek alphabet – alpha & beta. By about this time most of the written works in the Western world were alphabet based, and have continued to be so. Bu...
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 20 ‘privy to a cosmic truth’


But of course the world couldn’t wait and it was the evening of their return that Inteachán’s parents perished before they had had the chance to reveal the truth and the story as we know it began.Not that we should be too hard on Inteachán’s parents though.Imagine it was you that was privy to a cosmic truth and even though you knew the time had come when you needed to tell your only child everything you knew but were forced to balance this cosmic necessity with the wholly conflicting and much more mundane desire to simply allow a young girl to retain their innocent view of the world for just one more day.Original link
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 19 ‘The world can wait ‘til morning’


‘There are some truths we are not meant to know,’ he continued but Inteachán began to doze. She was only young and it was late.‘I really need to tell you …’Inteachán’s mother put her finger on his lips.‘We have time enough to speak of these things and many more.’ She smiled. ‘Let her sleep for now. The world and its saving can wait until the morning.’Inteachán’s father nodded and looked down at the sleeping girl.‘You’re right, my dear,’ he whispered. ‘The world can wait ‘til morning.’Original link
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 18 ‘Each star a tiny nail’


As she continued her descent Inteachán could not have known that the sides of the hole were bent and skewed. Occasionally the rope got slightly snagged but a flick of her wrist would free it and so Inteachán felt that she was making good progress.Once she had adjusted to darkness and the silent Inteachán felt herself relaxing slightly. She thought of Mac and how much he had suffered. She thought of her parents and the times they shared. Car rides and camping trips.An open tent at midnight and everyone looking up to the night sky. Inteachán nuzzled closer to her parents.‘It’s all there,’ whispered her father. ‘Each star a tiny nail to hold an important truth in place.’Original link
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Operation Eye Witness


I don’t normally write about myself on this blog as it is mainly about words and their origins, interviews with authors, and ‘fancy that’ snippets about linguistics. But today I’m going to talk about my recent operation in hospital. Before the more faint-hearted of you stop reading, let me reassure you that the only reddy-pink stuff splattered round the operating theatre was the rather colourful disinfect all my exposed bits were liberally sprayed with before they got going. I know that, because I was awake all the time.I went in for an operation on my shoulder which is normally done under general anaesthetic, but because of a problem with my liver it was decided that it would be better if i...
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 17 ‘foot then leg then chest then all’


Down into the darkness then.Inteachán watched as the shadows ate her whole – foot then leg then chest then all. Aside from the gentle creaking of the rope the world was silent now.Not just anyone would be prepared to do what Inteachán was doing.Most of us would still be at home hoping that someone else was doing something.Well, someone was.Is.Original link
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Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 16 ‘groping for a better word’


Of course, lowering a rope is the easy part.Lowering yourself is another thing altogether.Breathing slowly, Inteachán checked her gloves and began her descent.If the sight of child feeding a rope to a hole was bizarre enough then the sight of this same hole slowly swallowing the same child whole would undoubtedly leave any onlooker groping for a better word.Not that the world will be saved by the finding of a better word.We are way beyond that now.Original link
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Accent and Dialect.


I went to an interesting talk recently about accent and dialect. They are not synonyms: accent is the way someone pronounces things; dialect is the grammar and sentence structure behind how this is delivered. It is (relatively) easy to convey dialect on the page; much harder to convey accent. We do not know, for example, how our predecessors actually spoke – though poetry can help as it will show some words that rhymed then that do not rhyme now. To pick just one word: right was once universally pronounced reet (and still is in many northern accents) but is now commonly rhymed with rite. (This change in pronunciation is known as the ‘great vowel shift’ that took place in England between the ...
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