BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for October 22, 2006 - October 28, 2006

10 things we didn't know last week

18:06 UK time, Friday, 27 October 2006

red_arrows203.jpg1. Pelicans can swallow pigeons whole.
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2. Pelicans were first introduced into London's St James's Park as a gift from the Russian ambassador.
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3. Sex workers in Roman times charged the equivalent price of eight glasses of red wine.
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4. Only 12% of the adult male population had more than one sexual partner in the past year, says the Office for National Statistics.

5. Finland is the only country in the world which broadcasts the news in Latin.
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6. The 100-million-year-old bee fossil found in Burma is so well preserved scientists can see individual hairs.
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7. English is now the only "traditional" academic subject in the top 10 most popular university courses.
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8. The number of people committing suicide in the UK has fallen to its lowest recorded level.
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9. A very small front garden can hold up to 700 different species of insect.
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10. Kellogg's Special K in the UK has 31% more sugar than Special K in the US.

[4. Reuters, 26 October, 10. Guardian, 26 October] Thanks to Jon Norfield for the picture of 10 Red Arrows, which he took at the Dunsfold air show. "They fly the Hawk T1A RAF Fast Jet Trainer," says Mr Norfield. "This is a rare sight as the team only fly with 9 aircraft."

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

Your letters

15:50 UK time, Friday, 27 October 2006

Dr Reece Walker refers to the Princess Margaret maternity lawsuit as a "boondoggle" (Thursday letters) - a boondoggle is something monstrously expensive that has little function (such as the Millennium Dome or, some might say, Princess Margaret herself). I think the word Dr Walker is looking for is "brouhaha" or "kerfuffle". All great words, though.
Neil Golightly, Manchester, UK

Can I thank Dr Walker for introducing me to "boondoggle." It will be a good name for my new cat.
Robin, Edinburgh

Thank you to those eagerly supplying me with a word for my lack of punning ability (Thursday letters). I feel much better now. And lack of caption ability? Bet that's not so easy...
Sarah, Edinburgh

Sarah, by my reckoning I have now submitted 10 entries to Punorama. I look every week to see if I've won, but to no avail - no pun in ten did! (Sorry, just get me coat.)
Tom, Leeds

Kay asked the BBC to stop using suffer/sufferer in stories about those with illnesses (Thursday letters). She might just note that the OED says that "suffer" has 14 shades of meaning, including the very neutral "experience". This means that you aren't necessarily spending all your time going "ouch" when you suffer an illness.
Herbert G, Leeds

Please could the BBC stop using the word “illness” and talk instead about “deferred health”? Thank you.
Sue, health novice, Twickenham

Kay says people with illnesses don’t suffer, “they deal with them and get on with life”. What about man-flu? Boy, does that cause suffering… you ladies out there know what I’m saying.
Christina, Inverness

Re driving a tank. Being a member of the Friends of the Tank Museum, Bovington, and a former squaddy, I can confirm that driving a tank is relatively easy. However, DVLA are not geared up to private ownership. It is virtually impossible to tax, insure or MOT your own panzer for use on the open road.
Ian, Horsham, UK

Simon, Cambs queries braking left to turn left (Thursday letters) - but it makes sense. Try it. Stand up and keep your left leg on a spot while using your right leg to walk in circles; you'll circle to the left, if you don't fall over trying.
Ed, Clacton, UK

When MM says "Due to technical and manpower issues....." in the caption competition blurb, does this really mean that it's too much like hard work?
MCK, London
MM note: No.

I’ve been trying to trace a friend that I lost touch with years ago. Her name is Vicky, a teacher last known living in East London. What a coincidence if it’s the Vicky that posted on Monday. Did you used to live in a house share in Walthamstow in the early 90s? Do you remember the mannequin in the window, the orange paintwork or the marmite jars? If not, I apologise to all Monitor readers for misuse of the letters page in advance of the flack I will no doubt get for this letter. Sorry.
Clair, London

Caption competition results

13:05 UK time, Friday, 27 October 2006

It's time to reveal the winning entries.

This week, HRH The Prince of Orange and HRH Maxima of The Netherlands visit the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery on their tour of Australia and New Zealand. But what's being said?

1. Andrew Harding
"...and another advantage of adopting Tiddles is that you wouldn't have to fit a cat flap."

2. Cayley
"Exhibit 3: The owl and the pussy cat, divorce proceedings."

3. Trevor
"So you see, Looney Tunes were wrong. THIS is what happens when a Tasmanian Devil is run over with a steam roller."

4. P Anghelides
"...but on a more positive note, it's nice to see Richard Hammond back behind the wheel."

5. Sarah, Trieste, Italy
"NOW it's extinct, yes."

6. Jon Bright
Taxidermist training weekend: Troubleshooting.

Thanks to all who entered. Due to technical and manpower issues, we won't publish the also-rans, as we have done previously. But we hope to reinstate this soon.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:52 UK time, Friday, 27 October 2006

Oh, tardy, tardy, tardy!

But back down to business - here are the results of Thursday's mini-question. We asked what percentage of UK men have had more than one sexual partner in the past 12 months. People, you do underestimate the fidelity - or overestimate the stamina - of the British male. The answer was 12%, which 30% of you got right. A quarter said it was 52%, and 45% of you thought it was 35%.

Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Paper Monitor

10:22 UK time, Friday, 27 October 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

With the clocks about to go back and temperatures finally flirting with a drop, Paper Monitor is feeling the first flush of autumn/winter weather. Brrrr.

But it won't be rushing off to get stuck with a flu jab. The Daily Telegraph has good news for needle-phobes who harbour doubts about whether the annual vaccination cuts deaths, stops hospital stays or keeps us at work.

Better a brisk walk, says the Times. For about half an hour a day. Don't then ruin it by going to a 45-minute stretching class where you are likely to catch everyone else's germs. Sniff.

Or, with Paper Monitor's reflective garb and cycle helmet on, an adrenalin-boosting cycle to work should do the trick.

Never mind the dark and the cold at this time of year. For Londoners alone, Ken Livingstone wants "200%" more cyclists on the streets in the year London will host the start of the Tour de France. No real figures are quoted in the Independent on how many intrepid two-wheelers are out there at the moment.

But going for the burn could help Macca, as it is his turn to look bedraggled thanks to the McCartney-Mills divorce spin cycle.

Yesterday the Telegraph was saying the domestic turmoil may have improved last year's well-received album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.

Today the Sun remarks that he looks "haggard over his divorce" as he returns from a night out.

Never mind Sir Paul, just one year to go until you turn 65 - the age threshold for anyone who'd like to boost winter immunity with that flu jab.

(Incidentally, nice piece in the Telegraph on when to wear a poppy, which says "the question was asked yesterday as the Royal British Legion launched its poppy appeal". Asked where? Oh yeah, here.)

Your Letters

16:11 UK time, Thursday, 26 October 2006

As a consultant gynaecologist I can honestly say that the current boondoggle involving the claim about the late Princess Margaret is the first claim of disputed maternity I have ever encountered. The claimant may be unaware, being single and childless, that the efforts put into reproduction by women are far more complicated, time consuming and noticeable than that of the male. Nonetheless he (and, alas, today's Paper Monitor) are mistaken in one important detail. Even if his bizarre claim succeeds, he will not be 12th in line to the throne - illegitimacy is an insurmountable barrier to ascent up the Royal ladder, and he has no greater claim than you or I.
Dr Reece Walker, London UK

Re the Michael J Fox story about him making adverts promoting stem cell research. Please could the BBC stop using the word "suffers" and "sufferers" when referring to people with illnesses/diseases - it annoys me as a health professional (and many others I'm sure!) as most people don't suffer with their illnesses, they deal with them and get on with life (as is, incidentally, very well demonstrated by Michael J Fox).
Kay, Wiltshire

How ironic that one of the world's biggest arms manufacturers, has a director of corporate responsibility.
Tom, CI

I'm not surprised that bus deregulation "is not working". Private companies always put profit before the public service. For example, in Reading, bus fares have just gone up 20p to £1.50. How is that supposed to persuade people to stop using their cars?
Andrea, UK

In Rural struggle without main gas, we are told that "oil cannot be used for cooking". So are my lovely meals from my oil-fired Aga figments of imagination? Baggsy leaning against the front of the Aga, say I.
Carol, Elgin

Just a minor comment on your How easy is it to drive a tank article. When you pull the left stick, it is the left track which is braked to turn you left?
Simon, Cambs

Your article on tank driving was a tad incorrect on the likely cost of filling it up with fuel. I believe it is legal to run roadworthy AFVs on Red Diesel which is considerably less expensive than DERV!
Steve, Widnes

Bravo to the Paper Monitor today for its rather elegant use of the word "unduffed". Surely a late entry for next year's OED?
Tony Doyle, Holmes Chapel, UK

Regarding Sarah's letter about Punorama, in which she asks for a word for people confounded by Punorama: the world is divided into Pundits and Pundidn'ts, the latter often to be found looking to rescue their wounded self-esteem on the "Your Letters" page.
Nick Rikker, Barcelona, Spain

Sarah of Edinburgh, the word is 'post-cognizance' and we all suffer from it... unfortunately.
Mal Walker, Adelaide, Australia

Sarah, you are dispuntional - the inability to think of a suitable pun. There is also punture - the deflated feeling which occurs when your pun doesn't make the grade. And finally the rare punultimate.
Bryan Poor, Oxford

Paper Monitor

12:06 UK time, Thursday, 26 October 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It’s Myra Hindley as you’ve never seen her before, staring out from under her peroxide blonde mop in that infamous police mugshot, in the Daily Mail.

What’s the beef, you might wonder - the Mail’s picture desk has frequently dusted that image off in its long-running condemnation of the Moors murderer.

Ah, but here’s the rub. She’s done up like an angel, white dove of peace perched on one hand, heavenly robes of white replacing her more familiar 60s garb. It is Channel 4’s provocative ad for its new drama about the child-killer and Lord Longford, the Labour peer who fought to free her.

Advertising revenues can be hard to come by these days, and a full-page ad sold is a full-page ad sold. But Paper Monitor cannot help but wonder at the bile that might be spewed in the Mail’s letters page tomorrow. For not only does this ad dress Myra up as an angel, it is C4 wot’s done it! Tick off those Mail hate-figures.

Meanwhile, Paper Monitor has been most intrigued by the 51-year-old solicitor who has launched legal proceedings to prove that he is Princess Margaret’s secret love child.

That his birth certificate lists Mr and Mrs Joe Average as his parents does not dent his certainty – “I’m adopted!” Then there’s his recollection of a lovely lady who came to visit when he was two, who told him to behave as “one day you’ll be the king of England” – well, 12th in line for the throne, should his claim be proven.

margaret203pa.jpgThe Guardian too has had its curiosity pricked, for it has dug a photo of the wasp-waisted princess from its archives taken just two months before his birth (here she is, foreground right, in another photo taken at the same time from our own archives).

“It suggests that either a Windsor’s uterine walls are as unyielding as her sense of duty, or that Marge remained resolutely unduffed until the highly legitimate Viscount Linley came along,” says the paper.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:55 UK time, Thursday, 26 October 2006

Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked how quickly did a champion texter send the message: I'm on my way. I'll be there in 30 minutes? Hang your heads in shame, just 3% of you plumped for the correct answer - 16 seconds. An embarrassing 74% of you thought it was six seconds, while 23% went for 11 seconds. Must try harder.

Your letters

15:51 UK time, Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Loved the piece on stars before they were famous appearing in My Guy photo stories. But how frustrating that we don't get to find out what George Michael's mate wants to tell him when they head out to chat up girls. How tidy the closure if it were the obvious...
Howard, Bakewell

Re: fast-texting in the daily mini-quiz - I managed it in 11 seconds (typing the message that is). I feel superior to small children now. And no, I don't have an inferiority complex!
Sam, Sittingbourne

Why is it that the Punorama challenge confounds me every week, and yet when the best ones are published they seem so logical? Is there a word for this? Aside from "stupidity" directed at me.
Sarah, Edinburgh

Re: UK given go-ahead for face treatment. Given the shape of the mainland is suspiciously close to a hag riding on a pig, I don't think I'd like to be living on the West Coast of Scotland in the near future.
Jel, Swansea

No, Dr Swift (Tuesday’s letters), people age at the same speed... populations do not (the "age" of a population is usually considered to be the average age of the people within that population group).
Neil, Wrexham

Re: Book thief librarian is sentenced - wouldn't it be more appropriate if they were paragraphed or chaptered?
Lee Pike, Cardiff, UK

Zero out of 10 on the maps quiz. At least I know where the UK is.
Bish, Bedford

Thank you for the country quiz. Sadly, your quiz setters ruined the geographical value by persistently using "up", "down" "above" and "right" instead of compass directions. Aarrggh!
Ross, Moscow, Russia

Re: mobile phones damaging sperm (Tuesday letters). Don’t forget that many people keep their mobile in their trouser pocket. The peak electromagnetic output from a mobile phone is produced *when it starts to ring*. So it seems quite reasonable that sperm could be suffering damage - and the more calls that the four hours a day are made up of, the greater the damage.
David McMahon, Thailand

Re: The prevalence of multicoloured maps (Tuesday letters). Now that everyone's got Excel, people expect more than graphs from us statisticians. And that map software cost us an awful lot of money so we need to be constantly thinking of new ways to use it. Suggestions are welcome...
Rich, Herts

Re: letter race (Tuesday letters). Speed not content? Me write fast now.
Steve, Winchester

Punorama results

13:30 UK time, Wednesday, 25 October 2006


whisky2_203.jpgWe take a story from the news and you write a punning headline. Now it's results time.

This week was a story about police trying to trace a lorry-load of whisky which was stolen while the driver took a shower at a motorway service station. The truck was driven off from Reading Services in Berkshire and later found abandoned but empty.

So, how did you do? Well, there were some extremely popular themes.

Scotch Missed - or variations on the theme - were sent in from Michael Gallagher, Gary Belshaw, Jake Perks, Mike Grimes, Andy in Leeds, Sarah in Dartmouth, Helen Eva, Jeremy Stevenson, Steve Hickman, Akilah, Stu Webb, Grollope, Bunny, Violette Cameron, Bryn Roberts, N Willing, Ron King and Richard Peers. Phew.

Inspired by a wee dram were Neil, Matt B and Steve Hickman with Dram Raid. Thinking along the same lines were Lynn with Dram Raiders, also Cameron Smith and David Regan with Dram Busters.

There's more. Got Away Scotch Free - or something very close to that - was the entry sent in by Muhammad Isa, Phil Whitehead, Will Parkhouse, Richard Clarke, Peter, Lynn and Theron Bigland. Along the same lines was Scotch and Robbers suggested by Matthew.

Another goodie was Whisky Business , sent in by Tony and also Neil. Whisky Manouvere was sent in by Phil in Cardiff.

An honourable mention for individuality goes to Steven Gray for Thieves Tippled-Pink , Graz for Scotcha! and Murray Milne for Nips and Truck .

But MM's personal favourites this week were The Great Grain Robbery from Sarah, Malt, In The Name Of The Law from James Lynden and Malt Teaser from Stephen C in Winchester. Bravo, top of the class.

Click here if your effort is not included in the above.

Paper Monitor

12:49 UK time, Wednesday, 25 October 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor, as regular readers know, is nothing if not health conscious. And vain.

After a morning spent munching strawberries and salad leaves (to keep dementia at bay) and walnuts (to keep potency at full thrust), Paper Monitor has spent the past few minutes in doleful contemplation of its knees.

For there are parts of the body where no amount of healthy living can reverse the effects of ageing. Just as Madonna has the body of teenager but the hands of a grandmother [copyright: Daily Mail], saggy knees have blighted actress Demi Moore. Until now.

The paper says that thanks to a £5,000 "knee-lift" 43-year-old Demi has a pair of knees worthy of stepping out with her 28-year-old husband Ashton Kutcher. Would such an operation be worth the money? Well, yes, if the grainy pictures are to be believed.

Speaking of 80s icons, has Dirty Dancing aged as gracefully as Demi? The reviews are in for the West End musical of the coming-of-age chick-flick, and it has translated itself literally from screen to stage with not a "No one puts Baby in the corner" or "I carried a watermelon" line dropped.

"Even the leads appear to have been cast for their physical similarity to the original stars," says the Guardian's reviewer.

Surgery and summer fruits aside, perhaps the best way to fight ageing is to replicate oneself altogether?

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:23 UK time, Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Tuesday's Mini-Quiz asked which prize had already been won by Bafta-nominated Basil Brush. This foxed a majority of readers, with the largest number opting for Horse and Hound's man of the year, and the lowest number, 30%, plumping for the correct answer, The Weakest Link.

Your letters

15:56 UK time, Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Apparently, "Japan has the fastest ageing population in the world". I would have guessed that all populations age at the same speed, but what do I know?
Dr Swift, Manchester

Re: Using a phone for four hours a day may damage sperm' . Starting young aren't they? My children have to wait until they are in secondary school to get one...
Janet Hayes, Pontypool, Wales

Comment about mobile phones damaging sperm. It quotes Dr Pacey, who is honorary secretary of the British Fertility Society, as saying: "If you are holding it up to your head to speak a lot, it makes no sense that it is having a direct effect on your testes." Yet people seem to be missing the fact that you move your phone to a location nearer to your brain when you talk... we all know the brain is for thinking... we all know that men think with their... So maybe that should be factored into the research?
James B, Sheffield, UK

Regarding today's story "Speculation over Blair grilling", can I have mine medium rare please.
Mike, Lewes

Re: the train defecator. It's an impressive feat. Eating the train in the first place must be no less impressive.
John, Belgium

Following on from the Bob, Chester letter. Would a politically correct, police constable's personal computer be a PC Pc's PC?
MCK, London

Vicky, mentions the letter publication race. I didn't realise it was about speed as well as content! I must change my tactics...
Sarah, Edinburgh

I like the multicoloured maps.
Olivia, London

Paper Monitor

09:32 UK time, Tuesday, 24 October 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor is fearing for its sanity. As yesterday's PM reported from the Daily Mail, new research shows strawberries could delay the onset of dementia.

But just as Paper Monitor is tucking into its morning fruit charivari (double helping of summer fruits - carbon offset those air miles), it's accosted by even newer research, in the Daily Mirror, that says vegetables slow the rate of mental decline in old age but fruit doesn't have the same effect.

Leafy greens are apparently the elixir of cerebral youthfulness, which leaves PM scrabbling around for its copy of last week's Guardian wall-chart on salad greens… or was it in the Independent... or the Times?

Maybe PM's just suffering from a seasonal ailment, as today's Metro reports that "Colds can kill off our memories'".

Worrying news for those who get about on public transport, given the belief that trains and buses are hotbeds for winter bugs. But there's hope for the grey matter yet, with news, in the Metro again, that public transport bosses are investigating an anti-flu disinfectant spray.

Whether it will mitigate the effects of the notorious train defecator seems less likely.

Daily Mini-Quiz

08:54 UK time, Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Monday's Mini-Quiz marked energy saving week by asking about the most typical temperature for washing machines in the UK - with more than three-quarters of readers correctly identifying 40C.

How to say: Ramadan

16:39 UK time, Monday, 23 October 2006

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

"As the festival falls today, I've chosen Eid al-Fitr as this week's pronunciation. Arabic pronunciation will vary slightly according to region, but the anglicised pronunciation we recommend is 'EED uhl-FIT-uhr'. It marks the end of the month of Ramadan, for which we recommend the pronunciation 'ram-uh-DAAN', although 'RAM-uh-dan' is also common. In some countries such as Turkey, the spelling and pronunciation is different: 'ram-uh-ZAHN' instead. "

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

Your Letters

15:13 UK time, Monday, 23 October 2006

Just like to say a quick "Hi," sorry, I mean "Good Morning Everyone," to all the other teachers who are free to join in the fun and frivolity of Magazine Monitor this half-term week. Can we have priority in the letter publication race please?
Vicky, East London

The latest fad rolled out by the statisticians - the multicoloured map of the UK (or just England sometimes) on any subject - is starting to become somewhat annoying. Could we have a multicoloured map of the UK showing the proportion of people annoyed by multicoloured maps of the UK, please?
Basil Long, Newark Notts

So we should eat walnuts, strawberries and oats. Great, I can now change to muesli. The porridge was getting a bit heavy for a warm spring morning.
Alistair, Argentina

So sales of walnuts have increased 80% since they were reported to be beneficial in preventing heart disease? Is that perhaps also partly related to the fact that they are now just being harvested (at least locally grown ones)?
Ed, Clacton, UK

Regarding the MM note about the use of Pc, was just trying to think of a sentence where by Police constable and personal computer could actually be confused and I have to say I've struggled. My best attempt would be: "Plain clothes political correctness police constables seize 10 personal computers"
Bob, Chester

I can't help thinking that Her Majesty could have picked a better day to announce that Buckingham Palace will be lit up at night for the rest of her reign than the same day that a survey is published showing Britain is Europe's worst energy waster.
Adam, London, UK

Paper Monitor

11:25 UK time, Monday, 23 October 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It’s Monday, so let’s get it straight out of the way. Yes, the front page of the Daily Express is about Princess Diana. Apparently they have some suspicions about the circumstances surrounding her death.

If this is a traditional start-the-week move from the Express, the Sun is taking a new direction in the give-away war. It’s offering a “free adult DVD each day this week” (or at least a voucher for a DVD), beginning with the gritty 1980s comedy, Rita, Sue and Bob Too.

And a developing trend, apparent in the broadsheets as well as the tabloids, is to accompany the give-aways with a story about them – including in this case, a review of the movie by Johnny Vaughan.

Ever wondered about the impact of all those stories about food and health? The Daily Mail reports that sales of walnuts have soared by 80% since they were reported to be beneficial in preventing heart disease.

But how can we choose which food to rush out to buy? Just when we’ve got in the walnuts, we flick on a few pages in the Daily Mail and there’s research showing that strawberries could delay dementia. What? Just after they’ve got really expensive in the shops?

Or perhaps we should be getting in a supermarket run based on the Times, which has the advice that we should be eating “viscous fibres” (such as oats and barley) and soy protein. How are we to consume all this advice? Do we start eating lots more strawberries in addition to the walnut frenzy, or do we alternate with the viscous fibres?

Much clearer advice is issued by radio presenter John Humphrys in the Daily Telegraph. “Any reporter… who refers to old people by their first names should be strung up by their heels.”

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:06 UK time, Monday, 23 October 2006

On Friday, the Daily Mini-Quiz asked how much coffee growers received for a £2 cup of coffee. The correct answer, 2p, was identified by almost two thirds of readers.

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