Plural of Guinness

Posted by jerry on August 17th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Travel, Writing

Now here’s a debate that has been raging all over the net – when you order more than one pint of Guinness (as one often does!) there is always that slight awkward pause – especially for a linguist like myself – as to the correct word to use. My first inclination, and the version I use probably more often than not is to refer to multiple Guinnaeii. This usually gets a reaction varying between a laugh and a raised eyebrow, preparatory to someone about to … er… offering an alternative form of the noun.

And as I think it through I would have to ask myself about the derivation of the word – clearly, if it had a Latin derivation then I might be quite close to the mark with Guinnaeii. This might even work with a Greek derivation (not sure about that). But we are not actually talking about a class of drink, which may have latin or greek roots in the phonemes. Instead, we are dealing with a brand name, a proper noun. For this reason I would probably avoid the ‘sheep’ example which would make it multiple Guinness. As a proper noun I suspect it would be like the plural of Jones – making it Joneses – and in this case I would suggest that the plural form Guinnesses would in fact be the most ‘correct’ for traditional grammarians. I suspect this one would also win on the basis of usage, although I have not taken a survey on this. Of course you can always avoid any confusion by referring to ‘pints of Guinness’.

So there you have it – and while you’re there perhaps you can make it a couple of Guinnesses for me too!
And if you are in Ireland you would naturally avoid the English language as much as possible, so you would order thusly: “Piont (leath-phiont) Guinness led’ thoil”


Sunken Treasures of Brunei

Posted by jerry on August 16th, 2004 — Posted in History, Journal, Travel

After a wonderful Sunday afternoon at Tidbinbilla, I headed into Canberra city centre and visited the National Museum of Australia – and there was a delightful exhibition of ceramics, bronze artifacts and textiles related to a recent archeological find off the coast of Brunei: The Sunken Treasures of Brunei Darussalam. The sunken vessel went down around 1600 providing a great snapshot of life and trade of that time in that area.
willow pattern bowl

They say the South China Sea was the Mediterranean of the East, and this is ample demonstrated by the treasures that emerged from this wreck. It was a trading vessel – at least twice the size of anything operated by any of the European countries, showing that the Asians had sophisticated sea going vessels far superior to the Europeans. It also illustrated the kind of volume of trade between the countries of the region. There were at least three different styles of ceramic pots from different regions, and in a range of styles suggesting a wide variety of cultural contacts.

sunken treasures of Brunei

Pots from South China Sea

The exhibition is on now and runs until 4 October, when it will move to the Western Australian Maritime Museum – so if you are in the west, catch it there! It is well worth a look, the exhibition is well laid out and includes interactive displays, some 500 pots and several ornately cast cannon on loan from Brunei and some exquisite textile pieces. There is also a beautifully illustrated catalogue to go with it. This is definitely one of the better exhibitions to come to the NMA.


Shoes – the body’s interface with the ground

Posted by jerry on August 15th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Travel, Writing

Consider shoes – the interface of the body with the ground. We wear/abraid the shoes from the inside while the ground wears away the sole. Shoes mark our travels (and travails) as we mark the ground with our slight footprints.

How well do we care for those neglected extremities – our feet? Yet they are the focus of our connectedness with the ground and our primary means to take us to new experiences.

And our shoes shield us from the roughest and sharpest surfaces, and insulate us from stones and cold and summer heat.

So our shoes at once connect us and insulate us whether humble thongs (flip-flops) or the highest technology running shoes or shoes of highest fashion through which we express our personality. What a wonderful invention is the shoe!


Ancient Egypt – the Faiyum

Posted by jerry on August 14th, 2004 — Posted in Technology, Travel, Writing

I was recently reading a book on Ancient Egypt by Lorna Oakes and Lucia Gahlin. It is richly illustrated and covers a lot of cultural and belief system issues not covered in such breadth elsewhere. One of the cultural issues referenced in passing is the production of textiles – ancient Egypt was big in cotton and linen production.

About 60km south-west of Cairo lies a large depression in the Libyan desert – a fertile area around a large lake, called the Faiyum. It seems that in Phaironic times, the kings used to time out visiting the Faiyum area for a spot of fishing. Interestingly, in the reign of Ramses II (1279-1213BC some of the ladies of the harem were employed in the production of textiles there. There are references to Maathorneferura, the daughter of the Hittite king Hattusilis being one of these women. She lived in a palace at nearby Miwer, which appears to have been a textile production centre.

Several sources state that large estates and palaces in Ancient Egypt usually contained various workshops, including spinning and weaving studios, to provide the household with necessary items. The evidence would suggest that within such studios, tens of people, usually women, were involved in the production of cloth.

In royal palaces, these women were often the numerous wives of the pharaoh. Along with their children and servants, they were housed in harem palaces in remote areas, such as that at Abu Ghurab.

The linen from the towns of Tennis, Damietta, and Shata in the Northern Delta and in Faiyum and El Bahnasa in Middle Egypt, were particularly famous. Tennis, one of the most famous linen manufacturing centers, was known for a fabric called Al-Qasab Al-Molawwan, or the Brocade of Tennis. Historical sources state that Tennis had around 5,000 weaving workshops with 10,000 weavers and that there was no house in the world that did not have Tennis fabrics or clothes.

Linen, woven from the flax plant that grew prolifically in Egypt’s fertile delta region was first spun and then woven. There is a bit more information abut the actual spinning and weaving processes here.

Anyhow, Oakes and Gahlin’s book Ancient Egypt: An illustrated reference to the myths, religions, pyramids and temples of the land of the Pharaohs is a great read, lavishly illustrated and well worth buying!


quantum teleportation

Posted by jerry on August 11th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Technology

I watched the movie “Timeline” tonight – hired on dvd – a fun action movie based on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name. The story involves an archeologist who is transported back in time using the concept of breaking the 3D person down into packets of information and ‘faxing’ the data to another place – except a wormhole gets in the way and sends them back in time.

I thought I’d look at the purported principle and found that, for example, the ANU has actually achieved quantum teleportation of a few photons of light. It makes use of a principle known as the “Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) correlation” or “entanglement” to impart information (spin) from one particle to another. The folks at IBM manage to explain it quite well in this site at

Fascinating concept, but I think I might wait a while before giving it a whirl…