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I also offer personally-tailored, individualized English conversation practice (including etiquette) and coaching in writing techniques. Finally, I edit texts such as magazines, business proposals, memorandums, emails so they are presented in English which does not embarrass you or your organization. For further details, please mail me at: language.etiquette@gmail.com

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15 March 2012

Bells, smells and perfume for the Pope

 It is important to keep up to date if you, as a Russian aspirant to “acceptable” status in Anglogovoryushosphere, want to feel relaxed in your use of language. Nothing marks out the person who has “learned” their English, rather than “acquired” it, so much as using the sort of out-of-date expressions that feature in old text books. Many of them are drawn from Agatha Christie novels and went out of general use when Britain stopped taking tea at four o’clock, and dinner at 8.
     An example of this is contained in an interesting article in yesterday’s Guardian about the new, custom-formulated eau de cologne which Pope Benedikt XVI has just started slapping all over the Papal body. The fragrance was created by the sought-after Roman Nose, Silvana Casoli, who has devised scents for Madonna and King Juan Carlos. This one is said to include hints of lime-tree, verbena and spring grass in order to reflect His Holiness’s “love of nature”. 
      But the Pope is a canny operator and he demanded an exclusivity deal so that nobody else could go round smelling so holy. Signora Casoli calls it “a pact of secrecy”, which means this scent cannot be bought in GUM. So Russians who want a hint of the Old Religion will have to visit my friends Mike and Bob who operate out of a back office on the fourth floor of a rather “ethnic” building at the top end of Myasnitskaya. There they peddle a budget, ready-to-slap scent for men, which they call Eau de Pope, and which they make up to order in the office kitchen from a concoction of incense, Sunday biscuit and re-calibrated vodka. Like His Holiness’s cologne, this transmits what Signora Casoli calls, “an unforgettable olfactory message.”
     All of which is by the grammatical way. What I wanted to mention today was the fact that the Guardian article ends with the following sentence:
“One scent that bishops and cardinals might wish to avoid is Nude, a scent inspired ‘by the smell that only a woman’s skin emanates in a state of ecstasy’.”
     It is very old-fashioned to use the word “emanate” as a transitive verb, meaning to emit, to send out. These days you only hear that word used in its intransitive form, as in “the smell emanates from a woman’s body”, or “the sound of heavy breathing emanated from a nude cardinal.” Only someone who has “learned” their English will understand that as most dictionaries and text books still give both forms.
     However, only someone who has “acquired” their English will understand the terms “transitive” and “intransitive”. Most native-speakers of English are so ignorant of their own language’s grammatical structure that they need Russians to explain it to them.


  1. Well, the Devil's Kitchen at the top of Myasnitskaya is actually expanding its range of scented bathroom products....coming soon: Pope on a Rope.

  2. Most efficient way to learn differences among transitive and intransitive aspects:

    kill = transitive
    die = intransitive