Blame it on the Gaelic?

When Ross Ferry was Ross's Ferry?

In days of old, when knights were bold, and Ross Ferry was Ross’s Ferry. Or was it?

Last weekend I railed against cartographers, bureaucrats, and linguistic descriptivists for robbing Nova Scotia place names of their rightful apostrophes.

A Gaelic-speaking Cape Bretoner writes from New Zealand to suggest an alternative explanation: A lot of Nova Scotia place names originated in Gaelic, which has no apostrophe.

My post did acknowledge that my beloved Kempt Head likely never had an apostrophe, even though it was probably named for early settlers with the surname Kempt. Nearby Ross [Ross’s, Rosses] Ferry, I argued, almost certainly did initially carry the possessive mark.

Not necessarily, says my correspondent.

Kempt Head is a translation for Ceann Camp. Ross Ferry was probably originally Gaelic as well. 

The online Gaelic-English Dictionary does indeed translate Ceann as “head,” “end,” or “lid,” which fits with the English word’s sense of “headland” or “promontory”—like Kempt Head. But the dictionary gives no translation for Camp, and I’ve not heard of any early settlers called Camp. A quick check with an online census did turn up a few Kempts.

Ah, but Gaelic has no “k,” so Camp could possibly be a Gael’s way of spelling the name. Perhaps Ceann Camp is a translation of Kempt Head, not the other way around. My correspondent again:

Gaelic surnames are all different in English. MacAonghus—son of Angus—being MacInnes. You can see how Aonghus would end up being pronounced as Angus, but [in Gaelic] it sounds like Euneuz (french eu sound).

As for Ross Ferry, I am skeptical of the Gaelic theory. Too many people pronounce the possessive case (“Rosses”) even if they don’t insert an apostrophe into the written version. This was the more frequent pronunciation half a century ago, when I first visited Ross’s Ferry.

Just as I write those words, however, I realize the blowup of an old sepia postcard of Ross’s Ferry in the 1930s or so, which adorns my living room wall, is plainly labeled, “Ross FerryCape Breton.”

I’m sure an historian will help us out.

RossFerry 550

What Emma Holten did when some creep stole intimate photos of her

Earlier this month, morality crusader Glen Canning sought to shame a part-time, sessional instructor at Mount Saint Vincent University by publicly posting an intimate photo the man had shared privately with a lover.

Two years ago, someone pulled the same stunt on Emma Holten, a Danish journalist. The impact was humiliating. Holten decided to fight back with the video below, which, it may surprise you to learn, includes a new set of revealing photos she commissioned for the occasion. [Possibly NSFW.]

Of her decision to disclose new intimate pictures, Holten explains:

I get why some people think this is counterintuitive, but I disagree. Consent is key.  I did this. Just as rape and sex have nothing to do with each other, pictures shared with and without this consent are completely different things.”

H/T Alison Uhma.

The criminal elimination of apostrophes in place names


Writing in the Kings County Register/Advertiser, Ed Coleman puzzles over the correct name for Scott’s Bay,  aka Scots Bay, a 350-year-old community on the Blomidon Peninsula, of which Wikipedia writes, “The debate on how to spell the name of this little seaside village is as old as the community.” Per Coleman:

Historically, Scots Bay must be correct as the name for the community. But to be fair and offer a bit of evidence to the contrary, the official highway map produced by the Department of Highways in 1935 has Scotsman Bay in bold type as the community name. The department’s map for 1944 has Scotsmans Bay displayed boldly as well, and near that in small type is the name “Scott Bay.” Another source, Thomas J. Brown’s book, Nova Scotia Place Names, published in 1922, has the name of the community spelled as Scott’s Bay.

To which Tim Bousquet, writing in the Halifax Examiner, responds:

What is it with Nova Scotians and their apostrophes?

Very few official Nova Scotia place names have apostrophes: Peggy’s Cove, the District of St. Mary’s, and perhaps one or two more. But Nova Scotia is hardly the only place that eschews the useful little mark in matters geographic.

Sometime in the 1920s, an international convention of foolhardy cartographers voted to expunge apostrophes from maps, on grounds they were too easily confused with geographical elements: islands, lakes, fire plugs, etc.

From maps, lawlessness spread to government lists of official names, thence to street signs, and on newspaper stories, and eventually the populace—although many stout souls cling stubbornly to what sensible grammarians know is the rightful place of the possessive mark.

Contrarian lives at Kempt Head, which so far as I know either never had an apostrophe, or shed it long before the map-makers’ murderous conspiracy. Nearby Ross Ferry, however, was indubitably Ross’s Ferry back when Old Man Ross began rowing passengers to and from Big Harbour on the opposite shore of the Great Bras d’Or Channel. Ross’s trade was a yeoman effort, surely deserving of memorialization in the form of a modest apostrophe. Few any longer write the name as Ross’s, but longtime residents still pronounce an extra, apostrophe-inspired syllable: “Rosses.”

Lately, the Anything Goes Linguistic Brigade has been demanding the total elimination of all apostrophes—no more pesky distinctions between “it’s” and “its,” “she’ll” and “shell,” or, tellingly, “he’ll” and “hell.” Time, Slate, and the Poynter Institute have all written about, but stopped short of endorsing, this anarchist campaign. There’s even a Kill-the-Apostrophe website, which good taste prevents me from linking to.

To such apostasy, Contrarian’s response is the same as it has always been to the reckless omission of the serial comma: Resist! Official, bureaucrat-inspired lists be damned! Keep using apostrophes in place names that obviously require them. Consider toting a sharpie for guerrilla sign-correction purposes.

The photo Dal suspended a Mormon whistle-blower for ‘liking’

In internet-speak, it’s known as a “meme”—an allegedly funny image, video, or text that spreads rapidly through social media. A familiar sub-genre is a photo in which an unknowing subject is inadvertently juxtaposed with a sign giving rise to risqué double entendre.

When the Disciplinary Committee of the Dalhousie Dental School was casting about for something—anything—it could cite as retroactive justification for suspending the male student who blew the whistle on the obnoxious Facebook group Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen, it discovered that Ryan Millet had once clicked the “like” button beneath such an image on the DDS15 group. Here’s the photo:

Public Entrance

It’s not exactly uproarious, but it is exceedingly tame by internet standards, the sort of picture a 20-something Mormon—Millet is a 20-something Mormon—might find humorously naughty. Apparently, it struck other people as funny, too. Here’s what you’ll see if you do a Google image search for the photo:

Google Search for Public Entrance

Clicking that like button is the only positive act by Millet the discipline committee was able to cite.

The committee did cite five other posts on the Facebook group. Two of them, Millet had never seen. Three, he had seen, but not commented on or liked. It is his failure to protest against all five that Asst. Dean Blaine Cleghorn, in effect the prosecutor in the case against Millet, construes as gross professional misconduct. Remember, this is the student who did protest against several other misogynist posts—to Facebook, to the dean, and to the female dental student who was the target of a particularly vicious post.

In short, it was not enough for Millet to repeatedly take positive action against misogyny on the group. The fact he did not protest each and every instance of misogyny now threatens his dental career.

Still skeptical about rising global temperatures?

Daily weather—specifically, daily fluctuations in temperature—tends to mask the gradual process of climate change. You may not have noticed 2014 was the hottest year in the history of our planet until you heard it on the news.

Tom Randall and Blacki Migliozzi of Bloomberg News devised a deceptively simple graph to animate the accelerating rise in global temperatures over the last 135 years. The screen-capture below offers a static snapshot of the moving picture, but you should really go look at the real thing.

Global Temperature Change

Starting in 1880, the animation draws a single line showing the monthly temperatures for each year in succession, overlaying the next year’s line atop the first, and so on, with the older years gradually fading away. A dotted red line shows each new record year.

The effect is to make the situation really clear. Doesn’t mean we’ll do anything about it.

Red state, blue state, good word, bad word

A Nova Scotia man whose brother’s family lives in Dallas, Texas, recounts this recent conversation the brother had with his daughter, a student in Grade Three:

Father: We don’t use the word “retarded” to describe people with developmental disabilities.

Daughter: But Daddy, it’s in my school book.


[NB: The following post contains language not intended for canine ears. Dog-ownerly discretion is advised.]

From an ad posted in the “Services-Pets” section of Seattle’s Craigslist:


Are you at the office 23 hours a day in a coke-fueled effort to squeeze every last penny out of your 20’s and 30’s?

Are you going out of town with your post-divorce trophy-girlfriend to visit your slave ship collection in the Barbados?


I am the most radical, bitching, mind blowing dog- walking experience in all of Seattle. All dogs are STOKED when I’m around, regardless of breed or sex. Your dog is gonna be on me like Charlie Sheen on a porn star mad of amphetamines; when I’m ascending toward penthouse suite in your private elevator, bitch’s nipples are gonna be ROCK HARD.

It gets better:

Are you one of those prototypical American success stories who worked your way up from nothing to live the dream, and now you want to gloat over an Ivy League grad who has been reduced to posting a dog-walking classified on skeezy-ass Craigslist?


Forget the agencies; I will alk your dog for less money, and I’m not some weirdo art school dropout who claims to be “in sub-verbal communication” with your dog.

Now you may as well read the whole thing.

H/T: Dave Pell, whose free daily NextDraft email newsletter and iPhone app gather up the 10 most important, profound, thought-provoking, or quirky stories of the day, and wraps them in droll, pithy commentary. I can’t imagine why everyone is not subscribed.

Glen Canning’s court of hypocrisy claims a victim


No sex please. We’re university students.

A legal lynching took place Thursday at the hands of the media, Glen Canning, and the Mount Saint Vincent University administration. They and we should all feel a bit dirty.

Michael Kydd, a part-time instructor at Mount Saint Vincent University, was suspended, then resigned, after he was found to have had a brief sexual relationship with a student.

The student was 38 years old, Kydd is 40. The course was a distance education offering, the sex consensual. The woman says they were both going through a difficult patch—Kydd was separated from his wife and seeking a divorce—when they found comfort in each other’s arms. A total of two liaisons, a bit of sexting, and some shared explicit photos.

On one occasion, Kydd prorated a grade for the woman, as he had for other students, when a medical emergency prevented her from attending an exam.

A few weeks ago, the unnamed woman somehow began meeting with Canning, the crusading father of the late Rehtaeh Parsons, and shortly after, she reported the affair to the school administration. Yesterday Canning tweeted a bowdlerized photo of the man’s penis along with some disapproving text.

I’ll pause for a moment while you absorb that.

When teenaged boys texted an explicit photo of Rehtaeh, Canning understandably demanded their hides. Throughout the process leading to the boys’ sentencing, he was constantly on the news and in social media, condemning their actions and the bullying it engendered.

He showed no such concern for Kydd’s children, or the families involved, when he shared an explicit photo without consent yesterday—only an impulse to indulge in slut-shaming of his own. When his lewd display touched off a firestorm on Twitter, he deleted the tweet but remained unrepentant.

The Mount suspended Kydd, and gratuitously reassured students the accused instructor was “not currently in the classroom”—gotta keep up the fantasy he posed some kind of  menace, don’t you know. President Ramona Lumpkin issued a statement affirming the university’s sensitivity to “protecting and supporting the student who has made this allegation and… providing whatever supports needed.”

Like a backbone, maybe?

The only backbone in evidence belonged to Kydd, who summoned reporters to his lawyer’s office, where he read a statement acknowledging his actions and announced he had resigned from his part-time teaching job.

“I did not want to compound my mistake—and this is my mistake—by failing to come forward and take responsibility,” he said. “I expect my career to be ruined.”

Seriously? Of all the characters in this tawdry operetta—the ex-lover, the avenging hypocrite,  the prissy president—Kydd is the only one I’d trust with work, children, or the truth. He’s the only one who owned up, spoke plain words, shouldered responsibility.

This is but the latest example of what happens when authorities substitute zero tolerance for considered judgment.

I’d say the Merit Contractors Association of Nova Scotia, where Kydd serves as president, is fortunate to have a person of his character. I suspect they won’t be stampeded into joining the lynch mob.

One last thing: Will this episode finally persuade the Halifax media to exercise critical judgment and stop treating Canning as a hero whose every mean-spirited utterance is regarded as received truth?

Fefergrad feedback

Yesterday I criticized Irwin Fefergrad, registrar of the Royal Ontario College of Dental Surgeons, for conducting a media blitz in which he passed premature judgment on the Dalhousie Dental School crisis, and chided the school administration for good measure.

A reader with long and deep experience in government responded on Facebook:

It has been quite a while since I looked at Administrative Law so I could be off base here. But I suspect Fefergrad has actually complicated his ability to protect the people of Ontario — and you are correct he has not yet been called upon to protect them from Dal’s class of ’15. Regulators’ actions were — and I’m willing to guess still are — reviewable by the courts for, among other things, bias. If one of the 13 applies and is turned down, all those media quotes will be evidence he may have to explain in court. I wonder if he has the backing of the College, or is on a frolic of his own. I wonder if he talked to the College’s lawyer first.

I wonder too.

Irwin Fefergrad’s ill-timed, unhelpful, inappropriate intervention

As everyone knows by now, Dalhousie University is in crisis over a series of repulsive Facebook posts by certain male students in the fourth year of its dentistry program. The students’ actions have provoked nearly universal anger and condemnation.

Dalhousie President Richard Florizone is charged with sorting out the mess. His decision to proceed deliberately, in particular his support for a restorative justice process as opposed to a purely punitive one, has been criticized by many, supported by some.

Florizone has been firm that any punishment, “must follow a just process—a process which is consistent with the law, with university policies, and which upholds the rights 0f all of those involved.”  Or as the Globe and Mail put it in an editorial this week, “Punishment has to come after adjudication, not before.”

I’m inclined to give the president the benefit of the doubt, for now.

Surprisingly, one whose support for a deliberative, evidence-based process has been less than obvious is the Registrar of the Royal Ontario College of Dental Surgeons.



Irwin Fefergrad has conducted no investigation, taken no evidence, heard no testimony from the impugned students, nor from any other witnesses. He is not even, as they say in the pesky law biz, “seized with the case.” Ah, but he has seen media reports, and he’s ready to pass judgement. So eager to pass judgement, in fact, that he popped up in a string of media interviews this week to condemn the students and chide the Dal president.

  • “There’s no room in the health care system for this,” he told the Toronto Star. “Zero, zero, zero.”
  • “(We) couldn’t sit back and just let Dal do its thing,” he told QMI Agency on Monday. “(It’s) just awful that these are people that are intending to offer health-care services to the public.”

Consider for a moment that Fefergrad is a regulator. As such, he is charged by law with serious adjudicative responsibilities. He holds these responsibilities, not in Nova Scotia, but in Ontario, a province 1,000 km. to the west.

Yet Fefergrad feels no compunction about waltzing before the cameras and bloviating about matters of which he has no first-hand knowledge. Zero, zero, zero.

This is the Alice-in-Wonderland approach to natural justice: First the verdict, then the trial. It’s akin to a judge calling a talk show and demanding police hurry up and name the suspects in a sensational assault case so he can pass sentence. Except, for the analogy to work, the judge would have to be from a distant province, preferably one known for its disdain toward colonials. It’s breathtakingly inappropriate behaviour for anyone with quasi-judicial responsibilities.

Faced as he is with a gravely complicated adjudicative challenge in an atmosphere of fevered emotion, one can only imagine how grateful President Florizone must be to receive pre-emptive, unsolicited, public advice from his betters in Canada’s largest province.

There may come a time when Fefergrad will have a legitimate role in the Dalhousie matter. If any of the impugned students ever receives a degree in dentistry from Dalhousie, an outcome that seems far from certain at this point, and if such a hypothetical student ever applies for certification from the Royal College of our sister province, Fefergrad will have an opportunity to pass judgment—though even then, one hopes he would first want to inform himself and consider actual evidence in a dispassionate manner.

Until then, he helps no one by piling on against those whose disgraceful behaviour has already earned the widest opprobrium. Showboating is easy, but it has no place in medical regulation. Zero, zero, zero.

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