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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Romeo, Juliet and me

I suppose I didn't approach the Sydney Theatre Company's production of Romeo and Juliet at the Drama theatre in the Sydney Opera House with the right reverent attitudes.

Of course, I am rather keen on C. J. Dennis' The Sentimental Bloke, written a century ago in Australian vernacular—and in particular, the part where they go to see said play.  Here's an excerpt, but the whole of this portion is here: strongly recommended!

'Wot's in a name?" she sez. 'Struth, I dunno.
A still from the Raymond Longford's 1919 Australian
silent movie of The Sentimental Bloke.
Billo is just as good as Romeo.
She may be Juli—er or Juli—et ——
'E loves 'er yet.
If she's the tart 'e wants, then she's 'is queen,
Names never count ... But ar, I like "Doreen!"

A sweeter, dearer sound I never 'eard;
Ther's music 'angs around that little word,
Doreen! ... But wot was this I starts to say
About the play?
I'm off me beat. But when a bloke's in love
'Is thorts turns 'er way, like a 'omin' dove.

This Romeo 'e's lurkin' wiv a crew ——
A dead tough crowd o' crooks —— called Montague.
'Is cliner's push —— wot's nicknamed Capulet ——
They 'as 'em set.
Fair narks they are, jist like them back—street clicks,
Ixcep' they fights wiv skewers 'stid o' bricks.

That aside, there were warnings in the foyer that there would be bangs, flashes, smoking and nudity.  Clearly, this was to be a modern production, and I am a bit of a traditionalist.

I grimaced slightly at this news, and declared that if Friar Laurence got his kit off, I was leaving.  No worries there, it was only R and J who disrobed—and they kept their knickers on, mainly because all the actors were miked (!!) and they needed somewhere to hide the battery pack and transmitter.  Sadly, the microphones did nothing for their diction, but that was OK because they were messing about with the script.

Anyhow, it being Grand Final season in Australia, when the non-round-ball football codes (we have a number of them, but Rugby League and Aussie Rules are the worst in terms of making the fans silly) send out their stupidest alpha males to maim each other, and all the bogans go mad.  So I asked Chris if we should barrack for the Montagues or the Capulets, and then things started to degenerate.

I think it was two of the men (Capulet and Paris, as I recall), playing a sort of gentle squash game with tennis racquets and a tennis ball against one wall of the revolving set while they chatted. The revolving set was at rest at the time, and it worked well—it was actually two concentric revolving floors.  Apparently it has had some teething troubles, but now all is well.

Then again, maybe the rot in my mind started earlier.  Even before the opening, a ladder somehow got involved with a part of the audience as it was carried down off the stage before being taken back into the wings, and I expressed the hope that they would enliven the proceedings by a short excerpt from 'Pyramus and Thisbe', re-scored for two choruses, with the ladder playing the part of Wall and offering a plethora of chinks for the chorus members to use.  That would have been good, I said, and after the play—but only then—she agreed.

Still, we had no such luck getting a look at P&T, but hope springs eternal, and just after Friar Laurence slipped in one of the sonnets (116: "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds ...") as the marriage lines, I began to hope for a proper pastiche.  (This is named after Jean-Luc Pastiche, the inventor of the Hashed Mashed Potato Treat.)

(I might add that Friar Laurence was seen on stage, puttering around in a garden of ferns, collecting flowers from them!  Some botanist and druggist he'd be!  Mind you, they were probably GM ferns, so I suppose anything's possible.)

Given the sonnet cross-over, I began to hope for a cage fight between Macbeth and Macduff (didn't happen), a cream pie fight between Titania and Oberon, formation nude bathing in a bird bath by knights in armour, a cameo role for Caliban and a kraken (all ditto).  It wasn't my fault: with dodgy diction, I had to fill in the gaps for myself.

I began to long for Sir Andrew Aguecheek on roller skates or the return of the ladder to retrieve helium balloons that had escaped in the party scene, with Bottom and Falstaff as the retrievers, dancing on the ladder to the rock music playing for the party.  Again, no luck, but all the party-goers wore white rabbit masks and that was a plus.

Mind you, it wasn't hard to spot Capulet, though, because he had a greasy pony-tail that looked silly at the back of a rabbit. They drank a lot but ate nothing, making it unlikely that we would hear Puck's immortal line:

"Lord, what foods  these morsels be!"

But at the end, Juliet was still alive, and she had a gun, and apparently knew how to use it.  I'm fairly sure that's not how it happened in the 1600s.  I hoped she would fire a shot into the fly loft, with two rubber chickens falling to the stage, but Paris had used three shots to try and kill Romeo, Romeo got the gun and used one to kill Paris, and she must have wanted to make every shot that remained count, so no rubber chickens.

Still, when a pantomime horse crossed the stage, followed by a hunchback crying "A Norse, a Norse, my Kingdom for a Norse", a flood of slaughter ran through the theatre when we realised he was doing a Danish accent and waving a skull.  We were a sophisticated audience.

Actually, that last bit might not have happened (but it should have), or if it did happen, it might have been a flood of laughter that ran: my notes are hard to read, and by then I was concentrating on the structure of the next book, and trying not to echo 'The Bloke' in the fight scenes:

"Put in the boot!" I sez. "Put in the boot!"
"'Ush!" sez Doreen ... "Shame!" sez some silly coot.
Well might we all say, "Put in the boot" to this performance.

Next time, I want a re-run of Charley's Aunt.  If it has nudity, I want the actors on skates, on ice, and juggling, so as to improve the chances of a satisfactory and fundamental shock to them, rather than to the audience.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A quick travel tip

I am putting this in as a warning to other intrepid travellers who may foolishly rely on the standardisation of the EU.

The issue I have is with electric plugs, and the adapters one uses to get power out. I am cunning, and I carry an Australian-standard power board with four outlets, and one adapter for each country I plan to visit.  We often have two cameras, two tables, one netbook, one iPod and two phones with us, so four outlets isn't excessive, but it's enough, provided we can plug the powerboard in, hence my tale.

I have edited and/or prepared 16,000 words of text in the past four days, and my mind is turning to goo, because it's all about serious physics stuff.  So I am doing some file-gardening, and I came across two pictures of EU standard adapter plugs, both of which work in Italy.


In theory, one adapter should do for the whole of the EU, because they are standardised.  The practice is different.

The problem is that the fat one is the EU standard, but the Italians often have skinny socket, and if you ram the fat plug in, you may break the socket.  A few of the sockets take both, but you need an adapter for the adapter, and these aren't easy to find in the middle of a city like Rome, because hardware/electrical stores are not in high demand among tourists.

The plug on the left is an adapter for the adapter, and they fit together like this:

Don't be alarmed, but do be wary!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The camels are coming, hoorah, hoorah!

I am busily working away on my Not Your Usual series, and I have been getting a few odd reactions from people. friends even, who hear that I am planning them as e-books—and that I will be self-publishing.

Part of my reasoning is that I can get my ideas out faster and more cheaply as e-books, but mainly, I don't see paper vs digital as a wholly either/or dichotomy.  I see e-books as something different, and rather more fun, and I have been thinking this way for a while.  What now follows was largely written in September 2000, just as the Sydney Olympics kicked off. I came across the text while selecting content for Not Your Usual Science, which I will have more to say about later (basic message: we need a general survival-level look at science and how it works).

The bits from 2000 make up most of this blog entry, but the comments on the new series weave through it, and are obviously a more recent application of long-standing views. Not that it matters much that I have held these views for a while: what matters is that I hold them now.

First up, e-books need not be bad, even if they are self-published, but they need to be looked at in a different way to print books. Here, I need to recall one of the truisms of research in this area, as explained by Lee J. Cronbach, in the 1970s, back in the days when my main trade was educational measurement.

If you are going to compare a horse and a camel, said Cronbach, you need to compare a good horse and a good camel; the researcher should not just take two camels and saw the humps off one of them. In this case, the hump-sawing is minimal, but no attempt was made to use the special advantages of electronic communication.

A fair test of two media would involve giving two content experts the same amount of time to take a set of information, and develop it into a worthwhile use of the selected medium, rather than holding a contest between a horse and a bicycle, and deciding that neither is very useful for crossing deserts.

I submit that, for the most part, e-books, especially self-published ones, are no more than amputated camels.  The writer of an e-book needs to spend a bit more time on the design and redesign of saddles, bridles and other bits for the animal that is created.

In the next week or so, I expect to see the simultaneous release of two editions of the same book, the Big Book of Australian History, one on paper, and the other as an e-book.  I haven't seen either, yet, but when I prepared the way for the e-book version, I found some 500 hot-links to go in the text, taking my readers directly to the references and sources.

The next few years will see a number of publishers engaging in what Marshall McLuhan called 'rear-view mirror driving', the sort of thinking that saw a steam locomotive called an 'iron horse', an automobile 'a horseless carriage' and labeled radio as 'wireless telegraphy'.

This was the sort of thinking that led Hollywood to put vaudeville performers on the large screen, that led television producers to put radio performers on the small screen, and led the British Post Office to say that telephones would never take off, as people had messenger boys to do all that.

The e-book medium will shape itself as time goes on, and many of the early standards will fall by the wayside. The bad Dickens e-book will be the text of one or more novels and no more.  They are what some of us used to call shovelware.

The good Dickens e-book will explain why dinosaurs are mentioned in the first paragraph of Bleak House (it was published just after the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, where dinosaurs were first made popular), what 'wards in chancery' were, and so on, with hot links in the text or marginal links.

A truly excellent Dickens e-book would offer a way of electronically folding the page corner, a character list, and so on. (Yes, well, we have most of that now.)

The brilliant Dickens e-book might offer Gustav Doré's pictures of the poor in London (two on the left), and perhaps New York's 'other half' of Jacob Riis (right, above), contemporary maps and illustrations, newspaper reports, and so the list would grow.

The point always would be to provide an optional broadening of the base, comparisons, correlations, the links that assemble factoids into knowledge.

Scholarship, now seen as a fairly odd and obscure habit, would begin to pay off, not only for the scholars, but for those who have the chance to follow in their footsteps and really enjoy what Dickens has to offer, putting things like coal-whippers in a proper context.

The same applies, vice versa and mutatis mutandis, in other realms.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

In praise of Ada Jackson...

Or as she was known in Perth society, Mrs. William Fawcett, after her marriage in late 1929 or early 1930 (the papers are a bit confused about this) to a Sydney managing director called William Fawcett.

By then, Ada Jackson had, unusually for her time, acquired a Bachelor of Science in zoology, and even more unusually, she had an M. Sc. for a thesis on worms of some sort.

She had a daughter within the first year of marriage, but where she had been prominent in the press, gadding about with her sister Nina (they lived in Forrest Street, Peppermint Grove, which says the family was well-off), after her marriage, she disappears from the social scene, a bit.

Then in the 1940s, she published two books, Seashore Swamp and Bush (1941), and Beetles Ahoy! (1948). The illustration you see here is from Beetles Ahoy! and scanned from the cover of my own copy. As you can see, it looks a bit old-fashioned now.  Don't be too unkind: I used to look like the boy (and some might say I now look like the old man).

Ada Jackson's two books were well received and praised, and Beetles Ahoy! was highly commended at the Children's Book Council of Australia  (CBCA) awards.

I received my copy of that book in about 1951, and I was immediately entranced. It was told as a story, where two children found that their next-door neighbour was an expert on wee beasties, or as we call them now, minibeasts.

My own book, on the left, was directly inspired by Ada Jackson's book, though I chose to write in a straightforward fashion. It goes in some detail, into the ways that ant lions live, and that was something I learned about from reading her book. The main difference was that I explained how to wrangle ant lions.

Australian Backyard Naturalist was, I had hoped, likely to be short-listed for the CBCA factual books category, but winning is always going to depend on the tastes of the  judges, and so I missed out, even though I had been the winner in the same category with a similar book that I thought had less to offer, two years earlier.

Still, I was over in Perth this week to share first prize in the W.A. Premier's Book Awards—and in Ada Jackson's own backyard, so to speak!  (By the by, my co-winner, Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend is a charming and totally worthy book, and a number of librarians that I know were annoyed that, while short-listed, it did not win its category.  I am pleased to keep company with it.)

So I was delighted to have the chance, in my acceptance speech, to sing the praises of Ada Jackson, who died in 1996, without my ever having met her.  But if we never met , I have taken on her mantle, and with luck, I will help ensure that other generations gain, at second-hand, her inspiration. Styles change as technology makes new things possible, but underneath, there remains a golden thread of simple delight.

Every book bar the first book owes something to what went before, and that first book had its roots in the oral tradition.  I dearly wanted to take my first serious adult history to Oz Worboys, my old history teacher, so I could place a copy in his hands and say "This is all your fault, you know!", but he had died five years before the book came out.  Now I know when Ada Fawcett died, I realise that I could have caught up with her.  I wish I had.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Gems among the put-downs

Not Radulph Glaber...
This post came about because I was reading a history of Sicily, a Kindle book, on my tablet, as I was coming home today, and encountered this:
…one, the notoriously unreliable monk Radulph Glaber (the wildness of whose imagination was rivalled only by that of his private life, which gives him a fair claim to have been expelled from more monasteries than any other littérateur of the eleventh century)…
—John Julius Norwich, The Normans in the South, 1016–1130, 1992.
Perhaps that was malicious, perhaps it wasn't. It was certainly fun to read, and I'll bet it was fun to write. I have committed one or two like that (but I'm not telling where), and I know how it feels.  And normally, the author can offer a claim of truth and public benefit.

Then I recalled that I had a few more barbed comments, not too unlike it, at home, on file. So I just opened the file, added the Norwich one, then pulled out the others for sharing. I was going to call this selection "literary malice", but a few of them don't quite fit the description "literary", and not all of them were malicious.
I have no doubt of your courage, Sir Robert, though you have of mine; but then consider what different lives we have led, and what a school of courage is that troop of Yeomanry at Tamworth — the Tory fencibles!  Who can doubt of your courage who has seen you at their head, marching up Pitt Street through Dundas Square onto Liverpool Lane? . . . the very horses looking at you as if you were going to take away 3 per cent. of their oats.  After such spectacles as these, the account you give of your own courage cannot be doubted . . .
— Sydney Smith (1771 - 1845), in a letter to Sir Robert Peel, June 20, 1842, quoted in Charles Mackay (ed.), A Thousand and One Gems of English Prose (n.d.), p. 400.
Mr Henry James has written a book called The Secret of Swedenborg and has kept it.
— William Dean Howells (1837 - 1920).
Born in Warsaw in 1838 and died there in 1861, aged twenty-three.  In this brief lifetime she accomplished, perhaps, more than any composer who ever lived, for she provided the piano of absolutely every tasteless sentimental person in the so-called civilized world with a piece of music which that person, however unaccomplished in a dull technical sense, could play.  It is probable that if the market stalls and back-street music shops of Britain were to be searched The Maiden's Prayer would be found to be still selling, and as for the Empire at large, Messrs. Allan of Melbourne reported in 1924, sixty years after the death of the composer, that their house alone was still disposing of 10,000 copies a year.
— Percy A. Scholes, The Oxford Companion to Music, 9th edition, 1955, page 64.
On behalf of Australians everywhere, I declare that last one to be malicious!
In retrospect I think my essay on Teilhard was good of its kind, but I confess that when on the insistence of an American writer friend I read Mark Twain's 'Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences' I bowed my head in the presence of a master of literary criticism.
— Sir Peter Medawar (1915 - 1987), Plutos's Republic, introduction, 22.
These are fun:
Andrade is like an inverted Micawber, waiting for something to turn down.
— Sir Henry Tizard (1885 - 1959), recalled by C. P. Snow (1905 - 1980), Science and Government, 1960.
The hatchet is buried for the present: but the handle is conveniently near the surface.
— Sir Henry Tizard (1885 - 1959) on Lord Cherwell, recalled by C. P. Snow (1905 - 1980), Science and Government, 1960.
And Snow himself is always good value:
It would have been more accurate for Leavis to say that there has been no debate between him and me.  There has not: nor will there be.  For one simple and over-riding reason.  I can't trust him to keep to the ground-rules of academic or intellectual controversy.
— C. P. Snow (1905 - 1980), The Case of Leavis and the Serious Case, 1970.
Critics like Leavis always take a pounding, but so do others, and so does criticism:
You ought to be roasted alive, not that even well-cooked you would be to my taste.
— J. M. Barrie, to George Bernard Shaw, in response to GBS's criticism of his plays. 
When I am dead, I hope it may be said:'His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.'
— Hilaire Belloc (1870 - 1953), 'On His Books' in Stories Essays and Poems, Everyman Library 948, 1957, 413.
And then there was the one attributed to Sibelius, I think, to the effect that nobody ever erected a statue to a critic: I have yet to get a reliable source for that, so it isn't in my files. The same goes for the alleged Max Reger letter to Rudolph Louis. Louis was a critic for the Münchener Neuste Nachrichten and Reger allegedly wrote: 
I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me!"
("Ich sitze in dem kleinsten Zimmer in meinem Hause. Ich habe Ihre Kritik vor mir. Im nächsten Augenblick wird sie hinter mir sein.")
It's all over the web, and even in Wikipedia, but I am still checking. Now, one last poisonous put-down, to which there was (and is) an antidote:
It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs Carlyle marry one another and so make only two people miserable instead of four.
— Samuel Butler (1835 - 1902), quoted in Henry Festing Jones, Samuel Butler, a Memoir, 1920.  Butler, by the way had been a sheep farmer in New Zealand, for what that's worth.
Here is an alternative view on one of those Carlyles: the Jenny mentioned below was Jane Carlyle, the same Mrs. Carlyle mentioned by Butler.

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in:
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,  Jenny kiss'd me.

— (James Henry) Leigh Hunt (1784 - 1859), Rondeau.

When I visited the Carlyle's house in London's Chelsea in 2010, the chair was still there, but I was neither allowed to sit in it nor to photograph it, the repulsive, anal-retentive toads!  All I have to recall it by is that small verselet.  There's plenty more in that commonplace quotes file that I should share.

Hmmm.  You know what?  I think I have just found another title for the Not Your Usual... series. I just checked, and there are more than 73,000 words in that file.  A bit of judicious weeding and I'll have a nice collection for injudicious reading!

Update, a few hours later: trimmed to 70 000 words, roughly banged into epub, mobi and pdf formats. A bit of cleaning-up to go, a bit more weeding...


* * * * * * *
This blog covers quite a few different things, so I tag each post. I also blog about history, and I am currently writing a series of books called Not your usual... and the first two have been accepted by Five Mile Press, The offcuts appear here with the tag Not Your Usual... . For a taste of Australian tall tales, try the tags Speewah or Crooked Mick.   For a miscellany of oddities, try the tag temporary obsessions. And language us covered under the tags Descants and Curiosities, while stuff about small life is under Wee beasties.




Tuesday, 10 September 2013

What's wrong with having a bit of attitude?

I have just finished drafting the Teachers' Notes for my next book, due out on October 1, the nicely titled Big Book of Australian History. The notes are still to be edited, but here are some excerpts from the introduction: this is the Director's Cut, so to speak.
These notes offer one old teacher's ideas on some of the more interesting avenues to explore. I have never allowed myself to be bound down by a mere smear curriculum if that threatens to get in the way of educating in the widest sense.
Indeed, as a teacher, when asked what I taught, I would always grin and say, brightly, "Children!". I hope that attitude is visible here. There is time in a child's life for both the prescriptions laid down in the curriculum, and the joy of wondering.
So if a question occurred to me and it seemed interesting, I took the grandfather option—all the fun, and none of the responsibility—and you can see this as early as the very first question posed for chapter 1!
The question I most like being asked as a story-teller is "What happened next?" If we can plant, encourage and feed the habit of asking that question, we will have won.
In writing the book, I used a lot of historical newspapers from the National Library of Australia's digitised collections, because I have been using them for some years and know my way around them. That aside, this book was written for the National Library, and aims to showcase the holdings of that library. You can access Trove's newspapers at <http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper> if you or your students want to explore them.
More to the point, I have added most of my sources to public lists which are accessible to anybody. There is a master list that can be accessed in two ways: the URL is <http://trove.nla.gov.au/list?id=31895>; but as that can be hard to recall, I created a shortcut, <http://tinyurl.com/ozhistory>, and that takes you to the same place. If you are handing that link out to students, you can also give them <http://preview.tinyurl.com/ozhistory>, which is always safer, as it allows the user to see where they are about to go.
I have in mind that sometimes teachers won't hand out the links: they will look through the lists I have created, select one or two items from it, and use those. As Harvey said to Butch Cassidy, "Rules? In a knife fight? No rules!". 
<Snip> 
Australian history cannot be studied without looking at where we came from, and where Australia came from. The once commonly-heard dismissive comment that Aborigines did not invent wheeled vehicles can best be seen as profoundly ignorant when you look at Australia's lack of suitable draught animals. Equally, the lack of Aboriginal agriculture (as we think of it) is understandable when you consider Australian climate, soils and plants, which simply don't lend themselves to farming.
Everything is connected, and the details are everything!
So that's how I spent the election weekend.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention: it's going to be both a print book and a very-hotlinked epub e-book. I'm looking forward to seeing that one, because the target age is primary, and the hotlinks take the reader straight into contemporary newspaper accounts and other original sources.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

A variety of ships



Sydney is going to be invaded by a huge fleet in a couple of weeks.  I rather think it's to do with the centenary of the Royal Australian Navy, but for some odd reason (given that they are all on the water), these vessels will cause traffic jams.  All the would-be audience, I suppose.

Anyhow, it's a while since I wrote: I have been busy with literary lunches for children, re-editing Not Your Usual Bushrangers, soon to be an e-book, and getting the Teachers' Notes done for The Big Book of Australian History, which will be both a print book and an e-book. How the world changes!

But that coming invasion got me thinking about ships.

"Scholarships not battleships" was once a political slogan, created with mischievous misuse of two different types of 'ship'. Such a play on words is a venerable one, and when Sir Joseph Porter explains how he became First Lord of the Admiralty in H. M. S. Pinafore, he sings (in part):  
Of legal knowledge I acquired such a grip
That they took me into the partnership.
And that junior partnership, I ween,
Was the only ship that I ever had seen
But that kind of ship so suited me,
That now I am the ruler of the Queen's Navee!
 The marine sort of ship in Old English was a scip — still pronounced like 'ship', but spelt that way, and Sir Joseph's first ship was not. Somewhere along the way, the word scip divided up into two pronunciations: 'skiff' and 'ship', with a size difference entering into calculations, so that any craft which could be hauled on board another craft was a boat, and any craft too large for that was a ship. It is not such a good definition now we have cranes that can lift even an ocean-going vessel onto the deck of a still larger ship.

Captain Donovan's brig Vision was definitely a boat, but I leave it to the reader to look that one up.

The division in pronunciation also happened with scyrte, an item of clothing which was a short garment, what we would now call a kirtle originally, but it developed into two forms and the meanings of the two pronunciations diverged, so that scyrte gave us both 'skirt' and 'shirt'.

Mind you, the OED disagrees about skiffs, saying that the French have an esquif, while the Portuguese have an esquife, and the Italians have a schifo, all with similar meanings, but then it traces all of these back to the Old High German word scif, which is a ship or a boat, so we are just about back where we started.

Usually a skiff is a small light boat, well suited to sailing or rowing, but the term can also be applied to a long skinny boat of the sort only used in rowing races. Some people call these boats 'sculls', but this is a transfer of name from the oars, which are properly 'sculls', probably because the race is sometimes referred to as 'lightweight sculls'. 'Sculling', though, is done by one oar, over the stern of a small dinghy, with the blade travelling in a figure-of-eight. This is hard to do, which is why boating people do it, to cock a snook at landlubbers.

Now back to our scholarships, battleships and partnerships. The '-ship' ending that we see in marksmanship and dictatorship is an old English ending equivalent to -scape in landscape, or -shape in shipshape, for that matter. It comes from three Old English endings: sciepe, scipe and scype. It comes originally from an Old Teutonic form skapiz, meaning to create or ordain or to shape something. In fact it has come to be used in a variety of ways, as in 'hardship', 'authorship', 'lordship', 'courtship', and the like.

In English place names, we find yet another form of 'ship', where the word is a corruption of 'sheep' (scéap in Old English), so Shipbourne is a 'sheep burn', a stream where sheep were washed, and Shipmeadow needs no explanation at all. But Shipton is not, as many people assume, a town with many sheep — the '-ton' ending on English place names actually means 'enclosure', so Shipton is a sheep enclosure.

The word 'township', on the other hand, is a carry-over from Old English, when it was túnscipe, the only surviving example of a way that the Anglo-Saxons made a new word by adding '-ship' to make a collective: in this case, the inhabitants of a town.

Which possibly sheds a new light on the expression 'ship of fools'.