BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for October 15, 2006 - October 21, 2006

10 Things we didn't know last week

16:19 UK time, Friday, 20 October 2006

Snippets harvested from the week's news, chopped, sliced and diced for your weekend convenience.


1. The Australian investment group which is buying Thames Water also owns the transmitters on which the BBC is broadcast.

2. Twice as many people turn their heads to the right to kiss as to the left, say researchers.

3. Nearly one internet user in 10 has started a blog, according to Harris Research.

4. A dwarf species of hippopotamus once lived on Cyprus.

5. There are 375 people reported missing each day, on average, according to the National Missing Persons Helpline. More details

6. More than one in eight people in the United States show signs of addiction to the internet, says a study. More details

7. The warm autumn has seen North African butterflies appearing in Scotland. More details

8. One third of all the cod fished in the world is consumed in the UK. More details

9. UK customs officials intercept attempts to smuggle in 150 live birds and animals, and 6,400 animal parts, each week. More details

10. Boys’ GCSE results have improved to the level that girls had reached seven years ago. More details

[1. 10 O’Clock News, 16 October; 2. Daily Telegraph, 17 October; 3. Daily Telegraph; 4. 19 October, The Times.]

Thanks to Sarah Baker for sending the picture of 10 copper coils in Hanoi.

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

Your letters

16:00 UK time, Friday, 20 October 2006

David Cameron has complained about politicians "piling in with their 10 pence-worth" in the headscarves debate. Is this a sign of inflation? I’ve heard the phrase penny's worth, tuppence worth and the American two cents in such a context, but this is the first mention of 10p I've seen. Are any MM readers able to clarify what should be a reasonable amount for usage these days?
Lester Mak, London

In an age of hyperbole and journalistic license, I'd like to nominate Professor John Pendry of Imperial College for quote of the day, for his comment in Experts create invisibility cloak story:
"Despite the hype around Harry Potter, this isn't anything that flaps around in the breeze. It's more like a shed."
Gus, London

Is there really any point in putting pictures to this cloaking device story?
Bas, London

Nicola Judd asks why the c in Pc isn’t capitalised (Thursday letters). This is a BBC thing, the "c" should be capitalised as it is short for Police Constable. However, the BBC is too "PC" to express "PC" properly. I have raised this point to the BBC before about capitalising acronyms or abbreviations. The reply was that this is "general usage".
Ian, Horsham, UK
MM note: It is to avoid confusion between cops and computers.

I know we're behind the times "oop North", but according to your daily mini-quiz a cup of coffee is £2! Here the average cafe price is about £1.10; but I resent paying more than about 70p, given that there is no excise duty on it, and I can buy half a pint of "heavily taxed" beer for £1.
PJ, West Yorks,

Can we assume that ALL the other captions were just too filthy to publish?
Simon Rooke, Nottingham
MM note: Not a bit of it. The rubber band that runs the publishing system snapped under the weight of all the rejected entries. Anyone got a spare?

I'm meeting Michael, Gerry, Martin and Kevin at six-ish in Franco's bar. Do any of the Monitor readers want to join us for a beer?
Ian, Cosenza, Italy

Paper Monitor

12:30 UK time, Friday, 20 October 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Stop the presses - George Michael in cannabis shock! He lights up, he inhales - who’d have known, eh?

The Daily Mirror plasters pictures of the singer openly smoking a joint all over its front page, topped with an EXCLUSIVE banner.

But before you go thinking that the Mirror has only gone and bagged itself another scoop in the vein of the Kate-Moss-cocaine-snaps Mark II, look more closely – the pictures are TV stills from an interview with Melvin Bragg for ITV's South Bank Show. So not that exclusive after all. Unless it’s the tabloid lexicon you’re referring to, which defines exclusive as “not in the Sun”.

The Sun, meanwhile, has an exclusive of its own – what it says is the world’s first review of Casino Royale. Yes, Rebekah Wade has played M and dispatched the paper’s own secret agent – dubbed The Sneak – to infiltrate a preview screening of the film.

Given that the Sun has previously devoted much newsprint to deriding new Bond Daniel Craig, so what’s the verdict on his 007?

“THE BEST BOND SINCE CONNERY” shrieks the headline. “[Craig] plays the gritty, tougher than nails secret agent novelist Ian Fleming meant the world to see.”

And for anyone who took the time to read the full transcript of the leaked dossier on Heather Mills’ divorce petition (so that will be everyone then), and who wondered what happened to the five missing pages, the papers attempt to shed light on the issue: “I think you will find that there was something in the pages that was derogatory about Heather,” a source close to the case tells the Times.

Again, who’d have thought?

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:14 UK time, Friday, 20 October 2006

On Thursday we asked on which Mediterranean island did Hippos live? The answer, Cyprus, was guessed by 41% of Magazine readers, while 36% plumped for Sardinia. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine page.

Your letters

15:51 UK time, Thursday, 19 October 2006

Re: Quote of the Day. Had anyone asked Max Clifford to represent Heather Mills or was he just pre-empting a possible request? If so, I'd like to see the list of people who he wouldn't represent. I have a postage stamp he could write it down on.
TS, Croydon

Re: Quote of the Day: " I would not represent Heather Mills for all the tea in China" - Max Clifford. No Max, you're more expensive than that.
Andrew, Malvern

Please could someone explain to me why the c in Pc is not capitalised in its abbreviated form, as in the story Shot Pc colleague gives evidence. Sorry to say I'm training to be a teacher and should probably know these things.
Nicola Judd, Brisbane, Australia

Not to be outdone by the Guardian's apple wallchart, I see the Independent have produced a cheese wallchart in Thursdays paper! What next I wonder? Grass wallcharts, or maybe a "how many trees are chopped down to produce useless wallcharts" wallchart?
David Scott, Belfast

Perhaps PM should get in on the act and produce a wallchart of different types of egg (duck, chicken, quail), with handy descriptions of their shape for Oxbridge candidates.
Louise Dade, Bedfordshire

Yes yes Re: hippos used to live on Cyprus (the DMQ) - but for that matter they used to live in Cambridgeshire too! There are fantastic hippo skeletons in the geology museum in Cambridge that were dug up ten miles away..
Jenny, Cambridge

Bex from Austria would do well not to include the immortal phrase "Is it just me?" in a letter to MM. Trust me on this one.
Ben Paddon, Luton

Caption Comp result

15:06 UK time, Thursday, 19 October 2006

Here are the winning entries in this week's competition.


This week we asked you to put words to this picture of the ever-obliging-for-the-camera President Bush.

It captures him joking with reporters before he took part in a tyre-changing exercise at a children's centre.

1. Steven Gray
“Ok, where's that loose screw people keep talking about?"

2. Tim Knott
George W. Bosch

3. Steve Jackson, Madrid
“Ok boys, put the car on the drill and spin it around.”

4. Chris
"Make my dado."

5. Faisal
Iraq. Can we fix it??

6. Pete C
Bush goes to work on the 'Axles of Evil'

Thanks to all who entered.

Paper Monitor

11:06 UK time, Thursday, 19 October 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

When celebrities divorce, there is an almost inevitable tit-for-tat war of words from carefully briefed “friends”.

But the armageddon over the breaking of the Mills-McCartney bond is in another league entirely.

So what’s a media organisation to do when a lurid court document from the Mills camp comes whirling off the fax machine? For on Tuesday afternoon, this is just what happened in the Press Association’s office.

The folk at this august institution declined to publish the previously unknown allegations, given that the Judicial Proceedings (Regulation of Reports) Act 1926 rules out covering celebrity divorces in excruciating detail. No such qualms at the Daily Mail, which received the same documents some three hours later.

In the Guardian, a media lawyer writes that it is not the allegations of wife-beating and drug-taking that will make the legal profession choke on their collective cornflakes. Instead it is the “unexpected return of Edwardian-style reporting of divorce cases”.

Prior to the above-mentioned act, the popular press covered such sensational claims as it was necessary to establish cruelty or adultery to get a divorce. But the powers-that-be decided this was injurious to public morals, and so banned all but the most concise statement of “evidence” in contested cases.

Thus is the Guardian’s excuse for piling in - to detail the legal and ethical dilemmas involved in covering the story.

Again, no such qualms at Mail today. Or the Daily Telegraph, which also goes big on the allegations. This could be seen as perverse, concerned as both are with the state of the public’s morals. But who are we to judge?

(In an unrelated aside, a big shout out to the nice folks at the Telegraph, who cover the upcoming publication of the BBC's pronunciation guide, as revealed on Monday by our How to Say guru.)

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:29 UK time, Thursday, 19 October 2006

On Wednesday we asked how much the seven-course tasting menu costs at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay? Only 20% of 15,071 Magazine readers correctly guessed £110, while 43% went for a pricey £130. Try today's DMQ on the Magazine page.

Punorama results

16:00 UK time, Wednesday, 18 October 2006


It's punorama results time.

We provide the story and you come up with the puns.

This week it was an art installation in the Melbourne International Arts Festival. A team of performers carefully weigh out quantities of rice to represent a range of human statistics - the populations of towns and cities, the number of doctors, the number of soldiers, the number of people born each day.

Each grain represents one person. The biggest pile - seen in the background - represents all the people living in China.

So, how did you get on? Spendidly, of course.

Taking their inspiration from the one and only Bruce Forsyth - and who wouldn't - are Andy Kitchen with Rice to see you; to see you rice. He was joined by Tim Knott in Trowbridge, Chris Jones in Nottingham and Sarah Caln in Edinburgh, who offered Rice to be you, to be you rice!

Using the old statistic line was Jamie Otton in Leeds and Lynsey Coulter in Derby with Damn rice and statistics and Ian Butcher in Preston with Rice, damn rice and statistics. Also, Will Mobberley in King's Lynn with Statisticians count on Uncle Ben.

An honourable mention for Mike Monk in London and Sarah Jay in Poole for the rather excellent Pilau of the community. But gold star goes to Danny Burke in Bristol for It's graining men. Top of the class.

Your letters

15:14 UK time, Wednesday, 18 October 2006

No wonder TVR have been struggling, they've revealed that the initials derive from the name of the car's designer TreVoR! Doesn't quite conjure up the same image... Ooh look, a brand new Trevor, etc. Awaits barrage of comments from indignant Trevs...
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Re: Water charges law delay forced. Is Yoda writing BBC headlines?
Dr Swift, Manchester

Regarding the article about Oxbridge entry requirements, most Oxbridge undergraduates I've ever met wouldn't even know how to boil an oblate (or prolate) ellipsoid.
Rob, London, UK

For Matt of Bristol. Why should eggs be egg shaped when Nashi pears are apple shaped?
Jan Podsiadly, Croydon

When I read the headline today stating: UK wildlife crime centre to open I automatically began imagining magpies behind bars for steeling shiny things. Was it just me?
Bex, Wolfurt, Austria

Nice to see that politicians are manipulating statistics again in London 'costliest' for film-goers. The £17.50 ticket price is for the most expensive seat in the most expensive, plush cinema in central London. Most tickets for other cinemas are substantially less than this, so I doubt that most of us in London are really paying this much to see a film. If you do, I believe, PM is overdue for some pampering by its readers again and would love an invitation to this Friday night's blockbuster release?
Lester Mak, London

Addressing PM's problems with Scrabble rows; I find a copy of the Official Scrabble Words extremely useful. If a word isn't in the book, it isn't allowed. End of. (There's also a handy list of two-and three-letter words at the end)
Kate, Oxford, UK

Re: Guardian wallchart "does life get any better?" and earlier comments on Walnut Whips for daily walnut allowance, I think they should include green Skittles and green Wine Gums in their salad greens wallchart. A handful of these should count as one of my five-a-day, since they contain real fruit juice.
Lucy Jones, Manchester

Re: The Missing Link. I'd like to report a missing person. "MM", as s/he is known...
Dan W, Chesterfield, UK

MM did go missing but was found within the usual 72 hours. Panic over and apologies.

Paper Monitor

12:35 UK time, Wednesday, 18 October 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Let's cut to the chase. There's only one important question being asked in the papers today - why have so many dogs leapt to their deaths off a certain bridge in Scotland? Last year five died this way in just one month, declares the Daily Mail .

Paper Monitor has a theory, could they be feeling the pressure of being such media stars? Just look at the papers, animals are everywhere. They feature in two double-page spreads in the Mail alone. Even the high-brow Times is sensible enough to sandwich a story about a three-legged tortoise in between all the politics and crime stuff. If Kate Moss or Madonna feel hounded - no pun intended - what about animals?

The Mirror and the Express do their public duty and expose a "politically correct waste of money". Refugees and asylum seekers in Coventry are getting free clown classes, costing taxpayers more than £2,000. The theatre company running the classes says the workshops will be fun and take people's minds of things - you know, like the persecution, rape and torture many have suffered. Apparently, clowning is a very British thing. In PM's book that is one good reason to leave the country, not try to get in.

Scrabble is also causing a lot of outrage. "Violent and dangerous" prisoners are being paid to play it in prison and having "fun" at our expense, screams the Express. Can that really be true? PM has never had fun playing Scrabble and rather than calming people down, spelling rows have been known to send PM violent and dangerous. You've been warned.

Today's Guardian wallchart is dedicated to tomatoes. Salad greens tomorrow. Does life get any better?

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:24 UK time, Wednesday, 18 October 2006

On Tuesday we asked how long the average human life expectancy will be in the year 3,000? The correct answer, 120 years, was guessed by 43% of Magazine readers. Try your luck with today's DMQ on the Magazine page.

Your letters

16:07 UK time, Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Re: News headline ticker this morning: "Humans may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years' time. More soon." No need to rush this report...
David, Bristol

I didn't go to university at all - couldn't afford it for a start - but isn't an egg, obviously, egg-shaped?
Matt, Bristol

Who'd have thought that people are allowed to be prejudiced about people due to their weight? It's not ok to be prejudiced about colour, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, but it is ok to be prejudiced about their weight. How does that work? What happened to equal opportunities?
Belinda, Liverpool

What is so special about Norton, a town of about 14,000 people on the outskirts of Sheffield? If you go onto Google Maps and zoom out to show the UK and Western Europe, there it is, featured alongside London, Bristol, Leeds and Manchester.
Chris, Sedgefield

Re: Paper Monitor on the Guardian herb chart - a wallchart with Tarragon the Dragon, Parsley the Lion and Bayleaf the Gardener? That's something to look forward to!
Colin Edwards, Exeter

Further to the snarky comment from Robin of Edinburgh regarding the Guardian's apple wallchart, I feel I should make you aware that this comment came from someone who used to have a "Sheep breeds of Britain" poster. I should know - I'm his big brother (which also gives me the right to humiliate him in public).
Andrew, Minneapolis (formerly from Edinburgh)

Can I have a wallchart so I can tell which wallchart is which please?
Kip, Norwich


13:14 UK time, Tuesday, 17 October 2006


It's punorama time again.

You know how it works. We provide the story and you come up with the puns.

This week it's an art installation in the Melbourne International Arts Festival. A team of performers carefully weigh out quantities of rice to represent a range of human statistics - the populations of towns and cities, the number of doctors, the number of soldiers, the number of people born each day.

Each grain represents one person. The biggest pile - seen in the background - represents all the people living in China.

Send in your puns using the comment form below. The best and the rest will be posted on Wednesday.

Paper Monitor

11:05 UK time, Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Today's papers are much concerned with the future of humanity. Not so much the peace between races and religions, but rather what people will look like.

A report from something called Darwin@LSE says humans will reach their physical peak at about 3,000 AD, then split into two sub-species, which the Daily Express labels as "intelligent, symmetrical, creative, healthy, slim, tall" and "less intelligent, asymmetrical, unhealthy, grubby, stocky, short". It's not clear which category the paper sees its readers evolving into, and since its current TV advertising campaign promotes good manners, it's probably not polite to speculate.

The Wallchart Saga continues. There are "herbs" in the Guardian (with pictures of little plants - frankly Paper Monitor was expecting pictures of little bottles). And "meat" in the Independent. Meat? Yes, today it's pork and lamb, even though the paper elsewhere reports that famous meat-man Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall might be turning veggie. Curse that uncontrollable news beast.

Every other aspect of dinner having already been subject of a wallchart means tomorrow must be the Indie's Crockery of the World day. Cue report from Canteen@LSE predicting instant demise of chinaware.

Other facts gleaned from the papers: Today's Page 3 girl (Sun) is wearing underwear by Asda. Martha Lane-Fox now runs a karaoke bar (Telegraph). Baby hedgehogs are amazingly cute but unlikely to survive winter because global warming meant they were born too late (Express).

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:53 UK time, Tuesday, 17 October 2006

On Monday we asked, amid rising house prices, what is the average asking price for a property in Kensington and Chelsea, London? The correct answer was £999,087 but most magazine readers guessed £835,087. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine page.

Your letters

15:07 UK time, Monday, 16 October 2006

And the award for the most related internet links on a BBC News article goes to Q&A: Protecting your identity. Can anyone top this?
Tom Calvert, Northiam, UK

Has anyone considered that the reason for hospital patients not finishing their food could be that they were not feeling very well?
Jan Podsiadly, Croydon

The Guardian's apple wallchart has to be one of the most useless yet. Okay, so I eat more apples than I see exotic butterflies, but they all look the same; roughly spherical, and a mixture of red and green. Thrilling!
Robin, Edinburgh

Re: James Carter's comment "workers find unexploded bomb". The term "unexploded" helps define the extremely brief period between the finding of a previously undiscovered bomb and an explosion. This period is normally measured in milliseconds.
Nick Rikker, Barcelona, Spain

I regard a bomb becoming an unexploded bomb after its intended moment of detonation. Prior to that it is surely just a bomb.
Andrew, Liverpool

So, rock/pop groups are always plural, according to your style guidelines. What about The Streets, which is a one man band....
Andrew, Stockport, UK

Phillip of Nottingham - this is a theory I have suggested many times in emails which have been suspiciously suppressed. The fact that this PM (as opposed to the other PM) never seems to take a holiday is proof enough for me.
Christina, Bath

I think MM is produced by a comically mis-matched couple somewhat akin to Terry and June. I picture them in matching tracksuits getting in hilarious scrapes. "Ju-une! I've lost Thursday's letters and the boss is coming round for tea! Again!"
Adam, London, UK

How to say: Bruschetta

15:05 UK time, Monday, 16 October 2006


A weekly guide to words and names in the news from Catherine Sangster of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

"There's considerable coverage today of Good Food magazine's survey into the most commonly mispronounced foreign items on restaurant menus. (See here, for instance.) The focus was firmly on European languages, notably Italian (bruschetta, correctly pronounced "bruu-SKET-uh", not "bruu-SHET-uh"), Spanish (chorizo, pronounced "chorr-EE-thoh") and French (Pouilly Fumé, pronounced "poo-yi FOO-may").

It's interesting that the coverage focuses so much on the idea of diners humiliating themselves in front of "wincing waiters" - personally, I doubt that waiters or other expert speakers ever mind being asked politely how something is pronounced if it's in an unfamiliar language, and they might even appreciate the curious diner's linguistic interest.

I've had several such conversations myself in Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants - well, you can't expect a pronunciation professional to be entirely happy ordering by numbers, can you? I certainly agree with Good Food's editor that uncertainty about pronunciations shouldn't put you off trying something delicious.

Incidentally, Lena Olausson and I have been working for months now on editing the Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation, which is finally being published next week. It includes pronunciations for people's names, place names, animals and plants, drugs and diseases, musical instruments, mythological characters and - we are pleased to say - all the tricky food and drink names mentioned in the Good Food survey."

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

Paper Monitor

10:55 UK time, Monday, 16 October 2006

Sticklers for tradition will welcome the return of a picture of Princess Diana on the front page of Monday’s Daily Express.

But these are changing times. Now Princess Di has to squeeze in beside other co-royals, in a trail for a piece headlined: Who’s the brainiest Royal?

Prompted by comments by Princess Michael of Kent about her gifted children, the Express analyses the educational pedigree of the royals – concluding that they are collectively “lacking in academic aptitude”.

The Sun also starts the week with some royal trimmings, reporting on the current state of play of Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy.

This article is a treasure trove of odd details. For starters, Harry has a poster of George W Bush on the wall “to remind him of dizzy Chelsy”. The explanation for this is that Chelsy has a reputation for daft comments.

As an example, it’s claimed that she thought that woolly mammoths were still a living species. This intellectual prowess isn’t any barrier to her future plans, which the Sun says, is to take up a postgraduate place at the University of Bristol.

And under the Too Much Information category, what are we to make of the Daily Mail's report that at her birthday party, Harry and Chelsy “disappeared into the disabled lavatory together for a few minutes”?

Maybe they need the calming, educational influence of the Guardian’s latest give-away. It’s an apples wallchart – not a poster – a wall chart. And tomorrow, the herbs.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:25 UK time, Monday, 16 October 2006

Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz marked the Nobel prize awards by asking how Afred Nobel made his cash. The answer, dynamite, was spotted by an explosive 89% of readers.

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