All writers, at least all the ones I know, think of themselves as wordsmiths and pride themselves on their knowledge and usage of language. I for one certainly spend hours going over and refining text, even if I’ve written something comparatively simple, and I enjoy moving words and sentences around in order to achieve a better balance or effect. I know I don’t always get it right, and I expect some one will find the deliberate or not so deliberate mistake in this article.
I’m a language graduate, and words and grammatical structures mean a lot to me, but when I started writing, I realised that, in order to make my words and characters sound even half real, I had to abandon the principles of a life time. So my sentences frequently start with conjunctions like, “and”, “but”, and, of course, “so”. In fact, it’s now becoming second nature. Recently, I enrolled on a Classical Greek course, and I was taken aback yesterday when my teacher announced that one never starts an English sentence with such words. I resisted the temptation to tell her that I do it all the time.
But, to get to the main point: learning Greek and writing murder mysteries help to keep my mind exercised, and I can almost feel the tension as my brain is stretched to breaking point every time I struggle to conjugate a Greek verb. Perhaps it will become easier with time, and I need to bear in mind the Greek proverb I learnt yesterday:
γηρασκω δ’αει πολλα διδασκομενοσ (Solon)
which roughly means,” I grow old learning something new everyday.”
Well, that was yesterday, so what have I learnt today?
Araucaria, who also combined a passion for words with mysteries, has died at the grand old age of 92. He must have been exactly the sort of person Solon had in mind. Some of Araucaria’s clues were more erudite; some reflected the language of today; all were neat and displayed an unerring logic. He truly demonstrated his own ability to learn and keep up with the times, while leaving me and, I suspect, many others, dumbfounded. On a personal note, however, I would like to thank him especially for keeping me (and my husband) entertained and distracted during many long and anxious hospital waits, and I know that he will be sorely missed in this household.
Last year the aforementioned husband had a significant birthday and asked me to commission an Araucaria crossword puzzle to mark the occasion. I duly complied and entered into email correspondence with Araucaria (John Graham). His charm and great modesty came across immediately and are particularly evident in the following extract:
“I’m afraid I am slightly disorganised at the best of times – and it hasn’t helped that the very last puzzle that I did was also for Peter Smith – but an entirely different Peter Smith. I think I have managed to keep them apart.”
Well, I can assure you that the crossword was absolutely perfect and didn’t contain the slightest hint of the other Peter Smith!
So, for those of you who would like one more Araucaria to solve, here it is:
RIP John Graham
- Araucaria obituary (theguardian.com)
- Araucaria the crossword master: share your favourite clues (theguardian.com)
- Cryptic crossword clue of the day 11/26/13 and some sad news (robertbyron22.wordpress.com)
- Araucaria: ‘He never dumbed down’ (theguardian.com)
- Farewell to crossword setter Araucaria (standard.co.uk)