Monday, February 14, 2011

The History of Valentine's Day

St. Valentine's Day is celebrated on 14th February every year, and in Ireland we have a special reason to be particularly fond of this Saint as his remains are in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, a gift from the nineteenth century pope, Gregory XVI. Every year special Masses are held on 14th February in the church for engaged couples. 

Although St. Valentine is associated with love, romance and the giving of gifts and cards, little is known of the original St. Valentine – in fact there were several Valentines associated with 14th February in the early history of the Church. The first associations of St. Valentine with a day celebrating romance and love are attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer of The Canterbury Tales in the 14th century.

Initially lovers used to exchange hand-written notes, letters and poems expressing their feelings. However, in the 19th century , the arrival of a postal system increased the popularity of sending loveletters, particularly anonymously, and the next development was of pre-printed cards . These were often decorated with real lace and ribbons although this was replaced with paper lace in the mid-nineteenth century. 

Nowadays, Valentine’s Day is an established day for lovers to remember each other and give each other cards and gifts, from traditional flowers and chocolates to something altogether more personal and quirky. It is also a day for candlelight dinners and other romantic dalliances for couples, and woe betide any boyfriend or husband who accidentally ‘forgets‘to show his girlfriend or wife how special she is! It is estimated men spend twice as much as women on their Valentine’s Day gifts... 

For any singles without any romantic entanglements to celebrate, it’s definitely a day for keeping the head down – who wants to be asked did they get a Valentine and have to say ‘no’?! But it is also a day for celebrating that secret crush by sending an anonymous card or gift or even asking that special someone out on a date. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"What" AND "Which"

Both "what" and "which" are relative and interrogative pronouns. Sometimes they are very close in meaning, eg you could say "What colour/ which colour do you like best?"

Usually, though, "what" in a question suggests unlimited possibilities, eg "What do you like doing?" - the answer could be almost anything. "Which do you like?" on the other hand, shows a definite, limited list of alternatives (basketball or tennis, say.)

As relative pronouns, they are quite different. "What" again means unlimited possibilities: "She asked what my name was," " I don't know what to do." "Which" is specific: "I live in the countryside, which is very pleasant," or "I don't know which jacket to buy."

"What" is used in a range of expressions, all giving this idea of "no limits:" "What about...?" "What if..?" or used as a substitute for any other word: "I saw whatshisname this morning" or "I bought a whatyoucallit."