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Entries for 'Alison'

Too much English?

Too much English?

You’ve got to feel a bit bad for Dutch universities. There is a cycle in the public debate on language policy in Dutch higher education that goes like this. First, somebody high-profile laments in a national newspaper that English-language study programmes are a scourge to society. The lecturers' English is worse than Louis van Gaal&rs...

A catalogue of failures

A catalogue of failures

It’s a fun fact that the acronym for the ‘Fuckup Nights’ is FUN. But what are the Fuckup Nights, you ask? An event series where entrepreneurs share their stories of professional failure. A global movement akin to the ‘CV of Failures’ published by one Princeton professor: a list of jobs he didn’t get, papers turne...

Open kitchen science

Open kitchen science

It’s that time of year again: grant-writing season! Marie Curie, ERC, NWO, you name it: academics everywhere are labouring feverishly over their applications in the hope of landing a big bag of research dough. Almost all these people will miss out. Many of them will end up feeling disillusioned with academia and their place in it. To them ...

The happy news

The happy news

In case you live under a rock and missed all the world-changing things that happened this summer, here’s a brief recap. In politics, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had a baby while in office, then turned down her annual pay rise, saying the NZ$ 470,000 she receives is quite enough, thank you, even with nappies to buy. Across the...

The Janus face of writing

The Janus face of writing

I'm supposed to be doing laundry, but I can't tear myself from my computer. I should be making the baby’s breakfast, but I'm writing. I ought to be heading out to vote – but I'm writing. For writers, writing is a necessity, like breathing or (in my case) eating double-caramel Magnums. And by writers I don’t mean...

It’s the flu, actually

It’s the flu, actually

In late December some twelve thousand people in the Netherlands had the flu, two of them under our roof. Our baby son started showing the signs on Christmas Eve, signalling his discomfort as best he could, which is to say with indiscriminate shrieking. We are hoping that by this time next year he will be capable of simply announcing ‘Listen, ...

A word of advice

A word of advice

If you're a new student in Maastricht, you'll have received lots of advice already. Some of it contradictory. Focus on your studies. No, enjoy student life – you’ll never have this time again. Knuckle down and finish as soon as you can. No, take the time to explore, find out what you’re really interested in. Most important...

Slow Academia

Slow Academia

You’ve heard of the Slow Food movement. Now there’s Slow Academia as well. Slow Academia is a response to the university as anxiety machine. To a creeping, aggressive brand of academic capitalism, characterised by rampant managerialism and an insidious audit culture. Resisting the neoliberal university, proponents say, means embracin...

Act normal

Act normal

Nothing about global politics over the last year has felt ordinary, but that didn’t stop the prime minister, Mark Rutte, from calling for more “normal” a few weeks prior to yesterday’s election. “Sometimes it seems as though nobody behaves normally any more,” he wrote in an open letter to the Dutch people. In ...

So how many diseases do you have?

So how many diseases do you have?

The arrival of the film Arrival in movie theatres recently was the biggest event of the year in the linguists’ cinematic calendar, if that's a thing. It's not often linguistics meets Hollywood. In the film, the linguist Dr Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams – who is clearly hot but, thankfully, not too unrealistically hot) is ...

Anglosplaining jerk

Anglosplaining jerk

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard the term mansplaining being thrown around; a portmanteau of the words man and explaining. It was inspired by a landmark essay by the American writer Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me. In it, she recalls the time a Very Important Man informed her about a book she must re...

On being an indy scholar

On being an indy scholar

Now and then people ask me, ‘Do you miss academia?’ The question always surprises me, because to my mind, I never left. I’m not affiliated with a university; not since I left Cambridge two years ago. But I never stopped doing and publishing research. I call myself an independent scholar. When I tell people this, they look at me...

Media forgets medal winner

Media forgets medal winner

At the Rio Olympics, all eyes in Britain were on Tom Daley. Daley is an English diver who won the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics in the 10 metre platform event. Fit and photogenic, he immediately shot to media stardom, even landing a role on the celebrity diving reality TV show Splash! Yes, that’s a thing that exists. So four ...

The Netherlands, in 40 questions

The Netherlands, in 40 questions

Two years after I graduated from Cambridge, I find myself filling in an application form for a job at Albert Heijn. Education level?, asks the form. “PhD”, I write. What section would you like to work in? This is a tough one. Baked goods is the obvious choice, but then what about the cheese counter? I decide to come back to this. ...

Heads up!

Heads up!

I was lining my pencils up in preparation for sharpening when the phone rang. It was Pauw, from the talk show. That morning the NRC newspaper had run a small piece on my research on ‘Dutch English’. Would I be willing to come on the show and discuss it? ‘I could, I suppose’, I said. I’ve always been underwhelmed ...

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

I’ve been flirting with the idea of adopting a new name. For starters, I have to share my present name with about ten million other people. Being called Alison Edwards is like being Jan Jansen in Dutch, or at least the female equivalent thereof. To make matters worse, I don’t even have a middle name. In fairness it’s probably f...

I notice that …

I notice that …

I was watching TV with my husband when he turned to me and said, “Actually, it wouldn’t be all that easy to kill you.” “Pardon?” It was the word actually that struck me. As though it was a rejoinder to a conversation about the difficulty or otherwise of doing me in that had been going on for some time. In his hea...

Appointment angst

Appointment angst

It’s that time of year when universities around the country are swamped with kids trying to figure out where to go study. I say kids, but many of them are not much younger than I was when I started teaching in Maastricht, almost ten years ago. I don’t say that to show off. In fact, at 23, I was a relatively old graduate by Australian...

A wonderful career choice

A wonderful career choice

So Karl Andree, the Briton sentenced to public flogging in Saudi Arabia for alcohol possession, has been released. I’m reminded of a lecture I attended years back in Sydney, by a journalist who’d likewise just been released from a Saudi jail. It was the only lecture I enjoyed of my entire degree. Looking back, my choice for jour...

The simple things

The simple things

What is it that binds people all around the world? Is it some shared value? A global sense of humanity? Or even Chomsky’s universal grammar? Clearly not. The answer is tea. We all have our different ways of drinking it. Different flavours, different things we put in it, different things we drink it out of. But at the end of the cup, it&...

At home

At home

I was less than enthusiastic about spending my summer in Australia. True, I’d get to see family – that’s a plus. But summer here means winter there. My parents figured it’d still be warm enough to go on a whale-watching cruise near my hometown. While my husband saw a humpback whale and a pod of dolphins, I became closely acq...

“I was the worst integrated person ever”

“I was the worst integrated person ever”

I’ve taken up squash, and here’s what I’ve learned. It’s not just like tennis. Sure, there’s a racket and a ball and an itsy-bitsy skirt to wear. But if you think you’ll pick it up fast because you’ve got a mean tennis forehand, think again. You’re going to look like a moron. My team has eight wome...

Professors possessed by aliens

Professors possessed by aliens

When you move someplace new in your twenties, you make friends by getting drunk. In your thirties, you join a book club. The first book in my new Amsterdam group is called The Humans. It’s about a Cambridge maths professor whose body is possessed by an alien. Now, usually I won’t read anything involving aliens, wizards, hobbits or an...

Life and strife in Lech

Life and strife in Lech

‘Like Maxima’, people tend to say, one eyebrow arched, when you announce that you go skiing in Lech every year with your in-laws. The main purpose of our annual Alpine excursion is to give my husband the chance to laugh at how Dutch my once acceptable German has become. The two languages have just collapsed into the one box in my head,...

Avoiding the r word

Avoiding the r word

The process of applying for research grants was specially crafted to remind PhD graduates that waitressing is still a serious option. Different granting bodies have their own unique style when it comes to delivering bad news. Brussels is direct: No. Just – no. British funders will do everything they can to avoid using the r word: ‘We a...

Post-wedding book merging

Post-wedding book merging

This Christmas, my husband and I finally got around to a much-anticipated post-wedding activity: the Great Book Collection Merger. Nothing spells permanency like his books and my books, all together under one Amsterdam roof. The travel section is now above the TV. Antiquity to the left, philosophy to the right. The Latin dictionaries were relegate...

Louis van Gaal’s exemplary English

Louis van Gaal’s exemplary English

Louis van Gaal is a genius. Inspired. Visionary. And I don’t mean just as a football manager, although he seems to be quite good at that too. I mean in his use of English. You might think I’m being sarcastic. I’m not. Linguists consistently find that, in interactions between native and non-native speakers, it is often the native ...

Life’s great adventures

Life’s great adventures

It is 1970s England. At least, I think it is – the timeline is a bit unclear. My parents, in their early twenties, get on a plane – or is it a boat? – and set out for the other side of the world. They are trading in the grim coal mines of northern England for a new life on the beaches of Australia. They arrive in Perth, on the we...

My wedding dress

My wedding dress

So my PhD is done and I’ve emerged from my dungeon, blinking, into the light. Reintegration into society is underway. Step 1: join the local squash club. It’s far, far away – a good twenty minutes on bike – so by the time I arrive I’ve done more exercise than in the last four years combined. After the first training s...