BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for October 1, 2006 - October 7, 2006

10 things we didn't know last week

17:59 UK time, Friday, 6 October 2006

1. Some Amish people have phones in trees near their houses to get round the ban on them at home.

2. More than 90% of plane crashes have survivors. More details

3. Pollen can cause havoc on the railways, by blocking train radiators. More details

4. Duck a l'orange is not from France, but Renaissance Italy.

5. Peter Kay and Ronnie Barker used to write to each other in character - Barker as Fletch from Porridge and Kay as Brian Potter from Phoenix Nights.

6. Dung beetles prefer horse and dog faeces to those of camels and foxes.

7. Parents spend four times as much time with their children now as in the 1970s.

8. Computer games are a powerful learning tool according to government-funded research.

9. Bullets can’t penetrate more than two metres of water.

10. Tony Blair’s favourite meal to cook is spaghetti bolognaise. More details

[1 – the Times, 3 October; 4 – Today, BBC Radio 4, 5 October; 5 - Daily Mirror, 2 October; 6 – the Times, 6 October; 7 – the Times, 4 October; 8 – Daily Telegraph, 5 October; 9 – Metro, 2 October. ] Thanks to John Garner, Clitheroe, Lancashire, England, for submissions. Thanks to Iain Harley for sending the picture of 10 sheikhs.

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week.

Your Letters

15:30 UK time, Friday, 6 October 2006

After my big fat zero at 7 days 7 questions, my colleagues taunted me by saying a monkey could do (infinitely) better. But if it was hard for me, surely a monkey - with its poor grasp of both current affairs and a computer mouse - would struggle yet further? In the name of scientific research, any chance of popping down to a zoo with a laptop and seeing how one fares?
Ian, Bristol

A Chunky Kit-Kat with NO WAFER?!! How much more proof do we need that the End Times have begun?
Woe, woe...
Curt Carpenter, Dallas, Texas USA

Talk of the all chocolate Kit Kat reminded me of the urban legend involving an Aero. Apparently someone bought an all-chocolate Aero. On getting the complaint Nestle responded by sending the disgruntled consumer a box containing the air they were missing.
James Hayward, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

The Australian police are a sharp bunch! In the story about the man driving 200kms backwards, you state "But quick police work soon established that the car was in fact heading backwards".
Tim, UK

I wasn't among the winning entries of the caption competition, but I wasn't among the non-winners either. So is my entry in limbo?
John Brown, Belgium

MM: A couple of caveats apply. Normal BBC taste and decency rules on publication. And, entries have to be sent to the correct caption competition inbox.

Pun of the week must surely go to the author of your feature on the recent drought: "Water UK, the umbrella group for all water companies." Genius.
Hamish, Cheltenham, UK

Caption competition results

13:29 UK time, Friday, 6 October 2006


It's time for the caption competition results.


This week we asked you to put words to pictures for London's Naked Fragrance Fashion Show.

Here are the winning entries:

1. Sean Smith
If men were allowed to organise speed dating...

2. Mike Grimes
These surgeries with Jack Straw never cease to amaze me.

3.Mark Bell
Manchester City fans are issued blindfolds in anticipation of Joey Barton's latest stunt.

4. Kip
But Mr. Prendergast the old optician only made us cover up one eye at a time.

5. Colin Horley
Channel 5 launch their revamped version of Blind Date.

6. Iain
I told my husband I was going to the Tory Party conference.

You can see the non-winners here.

Paper Monitor

10:22 UK time, Friday, 6 October 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

A pair of brown eyes, bordered by the black cloth of a Muslim woman's full veil, gaze out from the front page of many of the papers, as they retell the story of Jack Straw's column in the lesser-read Lancashire Telegraph.

But can we tell what her expression means, seeing as she's wearing the niqab?

Not according to the Leader of Commons, and the posh papers and the red tops have gone to town on the "full scale row" over his comments, asking Muslim women to remove it.

The Independent chooses instead, of course, to blind us with facts on its front page. Neat graphics plot people's race distribution across the UK.

But the other papers give over pages and editorial judgement to Mr Straw's view that a full veil makes better, positive relations between communities more difficult. If you can't see a person's face, it's hard to tell what they mean.

The Mirror pictures Straw himself on the front - lit from under the chin, Abu-Hamza style, a trick to make him look more sinister.

In the Daily Telegraph, is it a moment of rare praise when the paper calls his move "bold"? One of rare liberalism when the Sun says hearing the views of Muslim women in Britain is "vital"?

Perhaps rapper Kanye West, should take note of the furore. He's pictured on pg3 of the Daily Mail at designer Stella McCartney's show wearing a hoodie to trump all hoodies. Only his eyes are visible through a red and white, zip-up-to-the-scalp, skeleton top.

It's one outfit that makes it incredibly difficult to understand what on earth he was thinking.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:34 UK time, Friday, 6 October 2006

The Channel Island Sark is shaking off feudal rule and the special rights of its leader, the Seigneur. We asked which bird they had the sole right to keep. A sizeable 60% of Magazine readers guessed it was Swans, only 19% got the right answer - the pigeon. Try your knowledge with today's DMQ on the Magazine page.

Your letters

15:58 UK time, Thursday, 5 October 2006

Am I alone in thinking it strange that to aid the visualisation of an amount of crisps, we are advised of the number of telephone boxes or swimming pools that would be filled, yet when it comes to aiding the visualisation of an amount of water, concert halls are referred to (as occurs in "What happened to the drought?")?
DS, Bromley, England

Re: "Geekspeak still baffles web users". Sorry, what is "Geekspeak", exactly?
Adam, London, UK

To Luke, Tom and L.S. Klar - sorry to outpedant the pedant pickers - but Chris was in fact correct. Reason being that the sentence in question refers to "one in eight schoolchildren". This does not represent a single schoolchild. There are tens of thousands of schoolchildren out there so one in eight of them would represent a great many schoolchildren - ergo, "one in eight schoolchildren have english as a second language".
O.Asha, Brighton, UK

Luke, Tom and L.S. Klar and Grammarian, I am sorry but my colleague and I think that we agree with Chris. If the sentence was, "One of the children...", then the verb should be has. However, we are dealing with a proportion of a group, hence indicating more than one person. Therefore, we think the verb must be have. I am currently employed as an English teacher. Either I am brilliant or I should resign immediately.
Gareth, Tokyo, Japan

Re: The pedantic backlash to my pedantic comment regarding Grammarian's pedantic criticism of PM's use of 'HAVE' in 10 things - My interpretation of 'One in eight children in primary schools in England...' was that it was referring to (more or less) '500,000 children in primary schools in England...' i.e. that the subject of the sentence is not an individual but half a million individuals, hence 'HAVE'. But never mind. Clearly it's not a good idea to stand between PM (singular) and the Grammarians (plural) of this world.
Chris, Paris, France

Can the "one-in-eight" pedants clarify whether, in today's PM story about Boris vs Jamie, "the paper's faithful" should be plural (a collective noun) or singular as it's the Telegraph.
Ed, London

Re: 'Bulge' yields new planet class. Just what sort of whizzing is going on here?
James Hayward, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

I got very excited this morning to find that my Chunky Kit-Kat was all chocolate and no wafer. Why didn't I just choose a Dairy Milk in the first place?
Maria Quinn, Glasgow

The item on satirical/comedy websites missed one of the best of all...magazine monitor.
Martin, Stevenage, UK

How kind of you Martin.

Paper Monitor

10:24 UK time, Thursday, 5 October 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The wall-chart backlash has begun: cf the headline on pg3 of today's Daily Telegraph. "I became infatuated with her as we stood looking at a wall map of Chard. It sent a sexual thrill through me."

Paper Monitor struggles to recall exactly which title issued said map of salad leaf varieties, although given chard's popularity with the polenta-eating classes the Guardian stands as number one suspect.

Hold on, what's this about a market town in Somerset?

Exotic herbage aside, the story itself has "Daily Telegraph" written through it like a stick of rock: a tribunal hearing in which a 67-year-old pillar of the community (town mayor, to be precise) falls for a dewy-eyed young siren and makes clumsy, albeit tentative, advances. Pictures are everything at this point, and the Telegraph never misses a step. We get the tousle-haired young woman, looking introspective and traumatised, next to a picture of the (now former) mayor ambling his way to the hearing accompanied by his walking stick-dependent septuagenarian wife.

Medialand is full of rumours of unrest in the Telegraph ranks, as enforced redundancies are pushed through, but the façade of normality remains faultless… right down to a huge picture on pg11 of Telegraph poster girl Keira Knightley.

And, after two-days of media circus around Boris Johnson, following his swipe at Jamie Oliver, the paper's faithful is treated to lashings of its hero: pg4 (main course) and pg24 (pudding).

Please sir, we've had enough.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:50 UK time, Thursday, 5 October 2006

A vested interest perhaps? Yesterday 87% of Magazine readers correctly guessed that the machine which generates Premium Bond numbers is called Ernie. It stands for Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine page.

Your letters

15:43 UK time, Wednesday, 4 October 2006

If five exabytes is 40,700 years of television and a television has a lifespan of three years (when warranty runs out) that makes 13,567 televisions. Say an average television is 60 cm wide, 45cm tall and 45 cm deep, that makes 1648.4 m cubed of information! How much water is in a swimming pool again and how many Routemaster buses would this be?
Rod, London, UK

Surely 40,700 years after 2002 would be 42702?
Andy, Leeds, UK

Oh dear, Chris of Paris. As you say, if you're going to be pedantic, it helps to be right. The subject of the sentence beginning "One in eight schoolchildren..." is "One", which is most definitely, in fact absolutely, singular. That's why it's called "One"! So the verb HAS to be HAS.
L.S. Klar, Chelmsford, UK

Actually, Chris, Paris, France, Grammarian is correct. Try it with the phrase the other way round: "One schoolchild in eight... "has" or "have"? "Has", of course. The other way round, the grammar still remains the same, so: "One in eight schoolchildren has English as a second language."
Luke L, London, UK

Chris, Paris. France. I think you'll find that "one in eight children HAS..." is correct, as the subject is a hypothetical sample of eight, of which only one has the characteristic being described. Once again again, if you're going to be pedantic, it helps to be right. (Or to choose a topic with less scope for interpretation...)
Tom, Guernsey, CI

Teenagers 'smoke to ease labour'. Presumably, they drink to ease liberal and take drugs to ease conservative.
Dave Godfrey, Swindon

"We are bringing up our young women very fearful of labour". They're pretty worried about the Tories as well!

I am pleased to see that smokers are doing it to "ease labour". As we know, the tax helps Gordon no end.
Colin, Thatcham

Oh, get rid of Punorama. Only a handful of schoolkids enter, and the rest of us have to scroll past its sub-Beano humour to get to interesting things.
Herbert G, Leeds

Carol in Portugal - thanks for not going on.
Ben, Reading, UK

Punorama results

13:41 UK time, Wednesday, 4 October 2006

This week, the story of how high pollen levels have played havoc with the railways… Leaves on the line is a perennial favourite when it comes to explaining away delays, but now news that high levels of pollen over the summer blocked some train radiators on a service operated by Arriva Trains Wales. (Indeed, the Monitor almost feels inclined to blame the sneezing stuff for Punorama's own tardiness today.)


Let's start in the guard's van. A bit of a crowd of faredodgers with variants on A-Choo Choo train (Rory Walker, Pete, Pix6, Candace and Pat).

Standing room only for Helen Parry with Snot fare and Nigel Macarthur with Train Services are a-pollen. Double seat for Rob Falconer with Pollen our legs and Pollen station. Sitting opposite is Greg Hoover, who is lucky, with Spore-ient Express.

Remaining nameless is the customer left standing on the platform who didn't get the idea and suggested Train develops rare hayfever condition.

Click here for the also puns

Paper Monitor

10:01 UK time, Wednesday, 4 October 2006

The massacre in the Amish community in the United States continues to fascinate the papers – with the Daily Mail giving its front page to the background of the assailant, Charles Roberts.

But the real appeal of this story is to give everyone a chance to publish photographs of the other-worldly Amish and their Little House on the Prairie-style homesteads. On the front page of the Daily Telegraph, four sombrely dressed Amish girls stride across a field – and inside there are two more atmospheric pictures of beards and buggies – plus a big picture of Harrison Ford in the movie, Witness.

On the subject of other-worldliness, the Telegraph also makes the most of Boris Johnson’s apparent culture clash with Jamie Oliver. Both the faces of Boris and Jamie appear below the masthead – with the pairing presumably representing a complete male dream team for the Telegraph.

The Times has a small picture of an Amish man on its front cover, but the big picture is given to a dramatic image of a lion attack an elephant, taken by a BBC wildlife team.

Meanwhile the Sun has the breathless news that Prince William has visited a bingo hall – presumably calling out “House of Windsor” when he wins.

But there’s an even odder piece written for the Sun by Google chief Dr Eric Schmidt.

“Most Sun readers know about gigabytes and megabytes,” writes Dr Eric. “But it’s estimated that in the year 2002 we created five exabytes (that’s a byte followed by 18 noughts) of information. To translate that into television hours, absorbing five exabytes of data would mean sitting in front of a screen for 40,700 years.”

Right, could you just run that by me again… We’re absorbing exabytes from 2002 through the television screen right up until the year 40706. How is this information converted into televisions? What happened after 2002?

The man from Google has the answer: “So remember, it’s a great time to be alive.” Thank you, doctor.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:10 UK time, Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Back in 1937, King George VI was the last man to grace the front of Good Housekeeping magazine before Jamie Oliver became the cover star. But 63% of magazine readers thought it was sauce-maker and film star Paul Newman. Try your luck with today's DMQ, on the Magazine page.

Your Letters

18:06 UK time, Tuesday, 3 October 2006

After yesterday's "acronym watch" about Pamela, I note that while the Conservatives have poked much fun at the Tony Blair's cosy relationship with the president of the US, the party's urbane new leader is credited with bringing the GWB fruit smoothie bar to this year's conference. GWB? General Well Being, we're told. So nothing then to do with George Walker Bush.
Derek St John, Epsom

Title watch: While Pamela has two identities in two BBC News articles, Kenneth Stevenson has three in only one article. In Church schools in 'inclusive' vow he is referred to as; the Rt Rev Kenneth Stevenson, Bishop Stevenson and Dr Stevenson.
DS, Bromley, England

I must disagree with Ed S of London, about the pronunciation of "ny" in manual Thanks to the BBC Pronunciation Unit I can now pronounce "Ferenc Gyurcsány" perfectly. My Hungarian friends are very impressed. Oddly, though, nobody now understands me when I try to say "manual", which is a bit of a nuisance as I'm a car salesman.
David Dee, Maputo Mozambique

Ed, it's very easy. Say 'manual', go on. Does not your tongue naturally curve to the 'y' place in your mouth? It's what's called a palatal approximant, and in some languages (Spanish for example) there would be a curvy line called a tilde over an 'n' to indicate this sound, as in mañana ('manyana', not to rhyme with banana). I could go on...
Carol, Portugal

Re Grammarian's "One in eight schoolchildren HAS..." comment. Unless there are only eight children in primary schools in England then it's clear that we're talking about multiple children having English as a second language, hence 'HAVE'. Once again, if you're going to be pedantic, it helps to be right.
Chris, Paris, France

Re Ubuntu (10 things): "I am because you are". Is that the same philosophy children use, only that's normally called "But (s)he started it"?
Ed, Clacton, UK

Is there a flexicon term for Katie Melua singing "We’re high on the wire" (Nine Million Bikes) while at the bottom of a drilling rig's leg? The Goons would have been proud of the girl...
Jel, Swansea

On reflection, perhaps it would be better if we didn't see Keith from Guildford's letter on both Friday and Monday?
Paul Greggor, London

Re: Osborne's autism jibe criticised - so it's okay for the journalist to actually call George Osborne "faintly autistic", but not for George to deflect this by mentioning Gordon Brown - he never even mentions autism. Am I missing something?
Richard Peers, Croydon, Surrey

Hypothetically speaking, if I do not apply for a job because I consider myself too old, under the new legislation, am I guilty of discrimination due to ageism?
Nenya, Brighton

Paper Monitor

10:58 UK time, Tuesday, 3 October 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The murder of four Amish schoolchildren in Pennsylvania, US, presents an opportunity for the papers to unleash all they know about this insular religious community.

The fact the Amish believe photographs are "graven images that steal their souls" – as a former reporter from Lancaster County where the shootings took place, explains in the Times – seems not to make an iota of difference, with images of the grief-stricken locals splashed across several front pages.

And with a name like Paradise – the village where the shootings happened – the Times and Sun can't resist a pun… only, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian locate the school where the drama unfolded as the more mundanely titled Nickel Mines.

It takes the Daily Mail to clarify matters, noting that Nickel Mines is a hamlet within the township of Paradise.

There's also apparent confusion on where the Amish originate from. The Mail calls them "descendants of Swiss religious groups" while the Times says "the roots of the Amish extend from Germany"

While most cite the influence of the 1985 film Witness in highlighting the Amish community to the wider world, the Daily Mirror is the only one to include a (small) picture of Kelly McGillis.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:53 UK time, Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Sunny D might not be the fastest sinking brand of moment, but try telling your average Magazine reader. Asked in yesterday's Daily Mini-Quiz which brand has seen the biggest slump in the past 12 months, 59% plumped for the drink, when the correct answer was another orange "flavour" drink entirely, Fanta. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine page.

Your Letters

17:37 UK time, Monday, 2 October 2006

Acronym watch: Who'd have thought we'd see the acronym PAMELA used by BBC news twice in a month for different things - the the Pedestrian Accessibility & Movement Environment Laboratory on 12th September and the Process for Advanced Management of End of Life Aircraft on 29th September?
Henry, London

Re Monday's "How to Say" -ch as in church, I understand....but -ny as in manual, i don't get! EX-plain pl-EASE!
Ed S, London, UK

Re Marriage in 20s 'is a good idea'. Well I suppose spreading the cost of a wedding between 20 couples or more will make it much cheaper overall for those involved. However, you'd need a very wide aisle to accommodate 20 brides at once.
DS, Bromley, England

The Guardian is at it again, making more spurious claims that their newest number game called Futoshiki has the ability to be "witty". Apparently only habitual puzzlers can appreciate this, so perhaps one can explain this to me.
Owain Williams, Munich

To Charles USA, but Monitor STARTED the wall chart fashion! Remember the snack sticker wallchart from the World Cup?
Akilah, Chelmsford England

Re 10 things… We're talking about education and English, so let's say one in eight schoolchildren HAS, not HAVE, shall we?

Re: "10 things..." - what happened to the caption under this week's picture of 10 things? Those of us not in the know are left to guess: 10 giant raddishes? 10 chinese lanterns? Please tell us, PM. Many thanks.
Charlie, Nottingham, England

On reflection perhaps it would be better if we didn't see all the losing entries for the caption competition.
Keith, Guildford

How to say: Ferenc Gyurcsány

13:04 UK time, Monday, 2 October 2006


A guide to names and words in the news, from Lena Olausson of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

"This week's pronunciation is the Hungarian prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány. The surname is a bit of a tongue-twister, both the first and the last sounds are foreign to English ears. In our usual - slightly anglicised - treatment, the best recommendation we can give is: FERR-ents JOOR-chaany (-j as in Jack, -ch as in church, -ny as in manual). The accent over the a in the surname is an indication of vowel length, not stress. In Hungarian, the stress always falls on the first syllable."

(For a guide to our phonetic pronunciations, click here.)

Paper Monitor

10:35 UK time, Monday, 2 October 2006

“Personally I’m pleased with the 1970s. It’s been a decade of general upward progress.” Who summed up an entire decade with such sparkling and amusing words? Comedy legend, and the nation’s uncle, Michael Palin.

The Daily Telegraph has coughed up for the Palin diaries, with extracts spread across a couple of pages illustrated with copious Python pictures.

Except, the difficult thing to say, is that they’re not exactly very funny. For example, Nov 24 1976, planning Life of Brian: “John and Graham have a good idea for a Brian storyline – writing Go Home Romans on the wall is going to be a classic. I wish I’d thought of such a neat idea.”

Perhaps the most surprising detail from Palin is that at a nightclub Mick Jagger “warns me against the poofs here”.

Palin is the first in a line-up of male celebs appearing on the morning’s mastheads. These top-of-the-page faces are the paper's selling points at the newsagents - and the Daily Mirror features the childhood memories of comedian Peter Kay, while the Sun pitches in with DJ Chris Moyles.

Meanwhile the Guardian’s man on the front cover, Mick Davis, has a very big smile – not surprisingly perhaps, because he’s named as topping the league of high-paid chief execs, pocketing almost £15m last year.

The story shows that average directors’ pay rose by 28% last year, while average earnings increased by 3.7%. And it reports that Mr Davis earns 544 more times than the average of his employees at Xstrata. Presumably this statistic will figure prominently in the firm’s what-a-great-team-we-are e-mail to staff.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail took its own small step towards clearing up a longstanding mystery.

It reports that an Australian sound editor has found a missing word in one of the most famous quotes of the last century. When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969, he said: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” which, if you think about it, doesn’t quite make sense.

Armstrong, in his autobiography, says he meant to insert an “a” – so that it would say “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. Armstrong wrote: “Certainly the ‘a’ was intended, because that’s the only way the statement makes any sense.”

But now the tapes have been re-examined and sound man Peter Shann Ford has found an acoustic wave that represents the missing “a”, spoken so quickly and quietly that it was inaudible, but is now detectable. Does that mean that all those quote books will have to be re-written?

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:33 UK time, Monday, 2 October 2006

Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked which composer had been voted most popular choice for a 2012 Olympics theme tune: Edward Elgar, Paul McCartney or Andrew Lloyd Webber? Well done to those 40% of Magazine-ees who spotted the right answer - Elgar. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine page.

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