BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for November 5, 2006 - November 11, 2006

10 things we didn't know last week

18:02 UK time, Friday, 10 November 2006


1. An infestation of head lice is called pediculosis.
More details

2. The Pope's been known to wear red Prada shoes.
More details

3. Sea urchins see with their feet.

4. The fastest supercomputer in the UK can make 15.4 trillion calculations per second.
More details

5. Airships use as much fuel in a week as a 767 uses to get from its gate to the runway. But are, obviously, much slower.
More details

6. Four million people in the UK have phobias about toilets, says the National Phobics Society.
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7. Online shoppers will only wait an average of four seconds for an internet page to load before giving up.
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8. Salt makes bitter food taste sweeter.

9. Donald Rumsfeld was both the youngest and the oldest defence secretary in US history.
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10. White poppies are also sold to mark Remembrance day - the first produced in 1933 as a symbol for peace.
More details

[3. Times, 10 November, 8. Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection, BBC Two, 7 Nov.]
Thanks to Tony Janes in Herts for sending the picture of 10 tomatoes.
Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week.

Caption competition results

15:40 UK time, Friday, 10 November 2006

It's time for the results of the caption competition.

This week, we asked you to put words to a picture of members of the Edenbridge Bonfire Society, Kent, putting the finishing touches to their effigies of racing tipster John McCririck and former Tory minister Edwina Currie. The winner's are:

1. Pix6, Vienna
Sartre said "Hell is other people". These are the other people...

2. Gareth Jones, Anglesey
"I could've sworn your missus said she wanted a curry on that big hillock."

3. Candace
Bonfire of the Vanities.

4. John Butler
"Now all we need is a pile of Edwina's books and my racing slips..."

5. Liam Doherty
Shorts in November. What's the odds on that?

6. Dan Budden
"That's the McCriwicker Man done."

Thanks to all who entered.

Your Letters

15:31 UK time, Friday, 10 November 2006

I see from your piece Millions 'hit by toilet phobia' that this can "simply be manifest as a mild distaste for public loos". So not a phobia then? I have a mild distaste for people who walk slowly on busy pavements but I certainly do not have a people phobia.
Colin Main, Berkhamsted, UK

Pedantry alert. Re: Neil's letter that all the water needed to hold the London 2012 200m freestyle event is one swimming pool's worth (Thursday letters). Actually, given that there are several rounds in the event, that the water is cycled and replaced for health reasons and that water will be lost through evaporation, I'm willing to bet that it's more than just one swimming pool's worth. Probably no more than an extra Routemaster bus worth, but I'm only guessing here.
Lester Mak, London

When viewing the enlarged image of the storm on the surface of Saturn, was I the only one who couldn't help thinking about That Unfortunate Firework Incident? Wince. Still, at least it wasn't Uranus...
Sue Lee, London

Re: Google 'aids medical diagnoses', I just did a search for "miserable magazine monitor letter writing" and the treatment is apparently a hug AND a cup of cocoa. Nearly right Ben (Thursday letters).
Lee, Cardiff, UK

I got my first ever zero score on the weekly quiz. I think I could do with one of Ben's hugs.
Carolyn, London, UK

I've seen the term mega-bucks several times recently - not least from our favourite Paper Monitor. But since this is the UK, can we have suggestions for a British alternative? Mega-quids just doesn't sound right.
Nigel Goodman, Hornchurch

I'd like to share Belinda Walker's excitement at being the first to answer the Daily Mini Quiz (Thursday letters). But, though I've been first twice, on both occasions I was 100% wrong. Which is a tad depressing way to kick off the daily grind. Incidentally, I think the name for this sport should be "quizoofing".
Stig, London, UK

Paper Monitor

11:14 UK time, Friday, 10 November 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"Poppy fascism" – that's what newsreader Jon Snow terms the tendency whereby everyone is expected to wear a paper and plastic flower in their lapel in the fortnight running up to Remembrance Sunday. And Snow won't stand for it.

The papers themselves are likewise divided, although which are and are not sporting poppies on their masthead comes as no great surprise.

In the red corner are the Times, the Sun, the Mail, the Daily Mirror, the Express and the Daily Telegraph. While the poppy refuseniks number the Guardian, the Independent and the FT.

Echoes of this floral theme can be found on the inside pages of the Mail, in the flowers that adorn one of Gustav Klimt's paintings to have sold this week for mega bucks. To the vaguely initiated, Klimt is that turn-of-the century Austrian artist behind all those subtly erotic paintings of women wrapped in gold-leaf blankets. To students of the Noughties, he is what Betty Blue and Pulp Fiction were, to, er, students of the 80s and 90s respectively.

But the Mail strips all that innocent romantic nonsense away with one headline: "Pornographic paintings, studio orgies and the weird world of the 'peasant Picasso'". It might otherwise be titled "Artist in bohemian lifestyle shock".

Want further proof of art's corruptible influence? Ponder, if you will, what tomorrow's Mail will have to say about the story in today's Guardian that the chairwoman of the Communist Party of Great Britain is £20m richer after flogging a family painting through Christie's in New York.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:08 UK time, Friday, 10 November 2006

For Thursday's Mini-Quiz, the challenge was to find which voice was used to show Polish bus drivers how Glaswegians speak. More than two-fifths correctly identified Billy Connolly. The current Daily Mini-Quiz is on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

15:27 UK time, Thursday, 9 November 2006

In the article about new, low-strength lagers, the factbox states men should have 3-4 units of alcohol daily. Seeing as I didn't start drinking until I was 18, I figure I have 6,750 days (at least) to catch up on. Bottoms up!
Evan, London, UK

I was fascinated by your article on Hinglish. If Billy Connolly were used as an example of the Glaswegian dialect, perhaps that could be referred to as Big Yinglish?
Matt Lewis, Chester, UK

I see that scientists have restored sight to some blind mice. Could I ask how many?
Geoff Harrison, Alsager

In the absence of any meaningful MM size comparisons lately (RouteMaster buses, phone boxes, football pitches, etc) - I have just calculated that if you took all the water needed to hold the 200m freestyle event at London 2012, it would be enough to fill one Olympic size swimming pool. Genius.
Neil, Edinburgh

Re: calculating chance and probability (Letters, Wednesday): If one in five light bulbs bought is energy-saving and energy-saving light bulbs last five times longer than normal light bulbs, what is the chance that a blown bulb was of the energy-saving variety? Or do I mean probability? Mia, yours is not the only head that hurts!
Mandy, Leeds

Re: sending in our Flexicon entries for wrong Internet links in a BBC Website story, What about Mis-taken Site-entity...?
Simon, Worcester

I’m too excited for words. I was the first to answer today's Daily mini-quiz and was 100% of replies and 100% right. I would like to thank my agent, my mother, my electrician ...
Belinda Walker, Northampton

Re: "Backside firework prank backfires". Now this story has GOT to be Punorama next week...

I'd like to propose we have a "hug a Magazine Monitor reader" week next week. Hopefully we can cheer people up and get rid of some of the grump that's been floating about. So go on - who wants a hug?
Ben Paddon, Luton, England

Paper Monitor

09:37 UK time, Thursday, 9 November 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's a game of compare and contrast in the papers today. That's right, out with the old guard, in with the new broom. David and Goliath. Hansel and Gretel. No wait...

The Daily Telegraph devotes much of page three to Wayne Rooney v Freddy Eastwood, of lowly Southend United, whose free kick knocked the bejewelled mega-stars of Manchester United out of one of football's many and various contests. Ditto the Sun, for the little battler is surely the Sun's type of boy.

Their tables compare the discrepancies between Wayne, 21, and Freddy, 23 - £60,000 a week v a mere £2,000, a fleet of luxury cars v a modest four-door emblazoned with Essex Car Rental decals, a palatial home worth £4.25m v a mobile home on a £2,000 plot.

But as befits a paper that keeps sports news in its rightful place - a separate pull-out section that can be left on the Tube for more needy souls - what really interests the Telegraph is the planning dispute said mobile home is embroiled in. Ditto the Independent.

At a planning hearing, the papers report that he made an impassioned plea to be allowed to stay on the site as this would allow his family to stay close to the established Romany gipsy community in which he grew up. Sweet.

Only trouble is, the neighbours don't seem to know that Rooney's conqueror lives among them. And his team - and his mum - told the Telegraph that he doesn't live there.

Still, why let the facts get in the way of a good story? Run the pic of the mobile home alongside Wayne's mansion anyway!

Daily mini-quiz

09:08 UK time, Thursday, 9 November 2006

With Prince Charles campaigning to save the albatross, yesterday we asked which is not a type of albatross. You were all but evenly split between the three options. Thirty-four percent said we'd made up the shy albatross, and 35% said the Chatham albatross doesn't exisit. Wrong. It's the screaming albatross, which 31% of you correctly picked.

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

Your letters

16:05 UK time, Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Only one in five light bulbs bought is energy-saving (the Times, via Paper Monitor)? But an energy saving bulb lasts at least five times as long as an energy-wasting one. This means people who only buy energy-saving bulbs account for fewer sales. So this statistic is perfectly compatible with at least 50% of people buying only energy-saving light bulbs (though that's still not enough). Come on, the Times - your lights are on but there's nobody in.
Jessica, London

Given that we now know pundit means "learned man", will the BBC now stop describing retired footballers as pundits?
Owain Williams, Munich

Cameron Smith has, as he probably knows, completely missed the point (Tuesday’s letters). "Chance" may mean "possibility", but one should not infer from this that it means "one of two or more equal possibilities", as he is trying to make it mean. Some things are, quite clearly, more possible than others. For example, the possibility of this letter being published is vanishingly small...
Martin Ruck, Oxford, UK

PLEASE can we stop talking about chance and probability? I don't understand it and it makes my head hurt. After a very long evening of discussion, I am content in my one world of chance. National Lottery? Fifty-fifty chance - you either win something or you don't. Or is that probability? Mummmmy...
Mia Elliott, Guildford

Your story on the closure of one of the Dartford tunnels links to a site that is about a band called Dartford Crossing rather than the actual crossing. Any chance of a flexicon entry for this kind of error?
John Airey, Peterborough, UK

Re Reginald’s complaint that he can’t understand the “Scotch” captain of A Question of Sport (Monday letters). I spent my first 30 years in Leicester and now live in Norfolk. I'm married to a lady who was raised in Sheffield and whose parents were both Londoners. All this and I still manage to understand the Scottish gentleman.
Kip, Norwich, UK

Re the complaint about Reginald using the word “Scotch” (Tuesday’s letters). Without wishing to take the debate much further, that’s an entirely appropriate term for someone from Scotland. In fact it's how Scottish people used to refer to each other - “Scots” is what the English/French used to say.
Shmunkie, Edinburgh

I have to agree with Grace (Tuesday’s letters). The letters page has suddenly become a hive of insults and pedantry - even more so than usual. So I'd just like to say that I love you all, yes all of you, and that everything is going to be okay.
Robin, Edinburgh

Punorama results

13:38 UK time, Wednesday, 8 November 2006


It's time for the results of Punorama - we take a story from the news, you write a punning headline.

This week it's news that after a nationwide hunt to find the perfect Maria for the £5m West End production of The Sound Of Music, Captain Von Trapp isn't up to scratch.

Just one week before the curtain rises on Andrew Lloyd Webber's new show the leading man, actor Simon Shepherd, has been dropped because of "creative differences".

People, you were in fine voice this week - and who knew how many Sound of Music fans there were among you! The songs that make up the soundtrack of the much-loved musical provided rich pickings for many punners.

Idlevice, by Cayley in Buenas Aires, didn't cast much light on the story, but we still liked it. On the same theme, and somewhat more instructive, was Idle Voice by Janet and Kieran Boyle.

Also popular were variations on Dole, my dear? The lead male, dear? - this offering, by Brian Saxby, being the best of a very good bunch, which also included Murray Milne's "...which brings us back to - DOH!!" and No-Way-He-Par-So-Pa-He-Go by Jer B, along with Doh! Oh Dear! (Mark H, Sue Lee and Dan Davies), D'oh! oh dear, a failed male diva (Helene Parry) and Doh! Oh Dear! A flee male near! (Tim Knott).

Others to make use of the The sound of boos (sic) songbook (thanks Pix6, Vienna) include How do you solve a problem like my career? (Niall Nugent and Tim McMahon), The hills are deprived (Danny Burke) and Right off the bill is the lowly Shepherd (Colin Nelson).

Inspired by what might have transpired backstage was Steve Hickman with Stormy Webber, Candace with Simon told "Exit, stage bereft" and Maria callous, by Simon Rooke.

Short and sweet, and all the better for it, was "I'll get my goat" (Mike in Newcastle upon Tyne, and Mark Starling). Don't get it? Perhaps it's time for a repeat viewing of the film. We hear the Captain's very good in it.

Thanks to all who entered. Click on the comments form below to see the losing entries.

Paper Monitor

12:39 UK time, Wednesday, 8 November 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Forget the mid-term US elections, the voters are clamouring for information on the latest line-up of I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! And the papers oblige with partisan profiles of the contestants.

The Daily Mail and the Sun both have full-colour runners and riders guides. But it’s the Sun that is much more crushing in its profiles. In the Mail, David Gest is billed as the "Minelli Mister”, while the Sun calls him “mad bloke who was married to Lisa Minnelli”.

The Mail demurely describes Jan Leeming as “the news headliner”, while the Sun pitches in with “posh bird who used to present the news”.

And the Mail can’t resist the political spin for Lauren Booth, billing her as “the PM’s nemesis”, while the Sun opts for “Cherie Blair’s much less famous sister”.

The Times takes another bite at the racist poem story, following up the “some of my best friends are Asian” defence used on such occasions. The paper spoke to one of the real-life Asian friends of the Tory councillor and found him to be unamused.

The Times also has an intriguing survey on its front page about the huge gap between our public commitment to green issues and the very different way we behave in practice. And it has the ring of truth about it.

For instance, almost two-thirds of us claim to buy energy-saving light bulbs, but in practice, only one in five bulbs sold is energy saving. A worthy 54% “make a conscious effort to take fewer flights” and, yep, airline passenger numbers rose by 27% last year.

But will it stop the rising tides of eco-stories? No, these have already become a staple news diet. Even if we’re not going to do anything about the solution, the problem makes for a riveting read.

Daily Mini-Quiz

08:52 UK time, Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Tuesday's Mini-Quiz asked readers to identify this year's first class Christmas stamp. A comfortable 46% spotted the correct answer, Santa. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

15:26 UK time, Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Does anyone else see the delicious irony in the name of the protest group protesting outside the wrong offices being called Plane Stupid?
James, Woodford, UK

Re: the debate about chance and probability, actually John, there is a one in two chance that there's a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The OED describes chance (among other definitions) as "noun: a possibility of something happening". As there are three possibilities and only one possible outcome, I stick by my assertion that there is a one in three chance of house prices rising, falling or staying the same. As for the probability, I'll leave that to the analysts.
Cameron Smith, Bath, UK

Is anyone else finding it hard to distinguish between Borat and Barot when reading the papers at speed in the morning?
Paul O'Neill, London

To Jel of Swansea re: "Black Country logic" - neither Birmingham nor Hanley, in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, are in the Black Country. That's like saying Swansea's in the Valleys. Hanley is some 30 miles North of the Black Country and is, in fact, the Capital of The Potteries.
Jake Perks, Telford, Shropshire (not in the Black Country)

Blimey, weren't we a grumpy bunch in the letters on Monday?
Grace, London

I can only assume you included Reginald's letter yesterday to sit back and watch with amusement as a string of irritated 'scotch' (!!) object to his little Englishness. The man on A Question of Sport is Scots, or Scottish, and his accent is perfectly understandable, thank you. By all means dislike the man, but don't object to watching it because you can't understand him.
K, Edinburgh

I liked this headline: Leap in the dark? Doubts over new electronic voting dog US mid-term polls.
An electronic voting dog? They're miles ahead of us in the US!
David, Ayr, Scotland

How to say: Stefan Kiszko

11:40 UK time, Tuesday, 7 November 2006


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

"A man has been charged with the murder of Lesley Molseed, pronounced MOHL-seed, which took place 31years ago. Stefan Kiszko, pronounced STEF-uhn KISH-koh, had served 16 years in prison for the murder, following a miscarriage of justice."
(For a guide to our phonetic pronunciations, click here.)

Paper Monitor

11:02 UK time, Tuesday, 7 November 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The Sun is in forthright form on Tuesday, making no bones about its attitude to Saddam Hussein’s forthcoming date with destiny. The tabloid publishes its own cut-out-and-keep Saddam hangman set.

There is also a strong line in the leader column demanding tougher punishments for hit and run drivers – following the case of a hit and run in London where a child was killed and the driver received a seven-year sentence.

As with many of the day's papers, the Sun has gone into graphics mode for the coverage of the latest terror plot. Except there are different versions in different editions of the paper - with one showing the London underground line and the site below the river Thames where an explosion was planned and another with these details excised.

Meanwhile, in the battle of the mastheads, the Times leads on a Kings and Queens poster (not a wallchart), while the Daily Mail bats back with a Disney computer game give-away.

The Guardian goes for a scatter-gun approach, with an eclectic collection of Arsene Wenger, Ben Affleck and red-coated huntsmen, plus an Israeli flag. And unlike its heavyweight rivals, it publishes in full on the front page the racist poem that has prompted the suspension of a Tory councillor.

The Daily Telegraph’s masthead is middle England in six inches of newsprint – with the Archers, Marks and Spencer and the current James Bond all mustered around the banner.

And the Mail also offers one of the most understanding headlines of recent times. “Sex therapy, a bottle of whiskey a day and the menage a trois that saved Kingsley Amis from despair.”

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:19 UK time, Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked which word was not used in the National Scrabble Championships: ziuqinimyliad, ctenidia, epinasty. It was ziuqinimyliad (38% got it right), which is actually Daily Mini Quiz backwards. According to the OED, ctenidium are the respiratory organs or gills of Mollusca; epinasty implies the upper surface of an organ grows more quickly than the lower surface, causing it to bend downwards. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine homepage.

Your Letters

17:44 UK time, Monday, 6 November 2006

In Logo shows 'approved' drug sites. This isn't going to stop the other sites as all they will do is copy the logo from 'validated' sites and show themselves to be a trusted site as well.
Paul, UK

Am I the only one for whom the Headline "FA to launch Coin Throwing Probes" induced images of an altruistic space mission?
Algo, London

Am I alone in thinking the "Quieter, Greener Plane" looks remarkably like the 40 years old design of Thunderbird 2? Come to think of it - that was green!
QJ, Stafford, UK

Re this letter: "Classic Daily Mail stuff. Front page story complaining of "snoopers" finding out people's salaries. Inside story reporting salary of £91,000 paid to Birmingham council employee." Yes because no newspaper or internet media site can ever have two different stories on the same subject. Classic Daily Mail obsessive hatred from a sheep.

I used to love A Question of Sport but since the have had a scotch captain who gabbles on and we can't understand what he says I don't watch it now. Sorry to complain but he tries to run the show.
Reginald15, Leicester

Black Country logic, week 2. Last week we saw the Fire Brigade in North Birmingham telling people to use the phone boxes outside the fire station to contact them when the telephone system was destroyed, this week we celebrate the Staffordshire Police's flush of success: Severn Trent Water won't allow the cops to pour 2500 cans of confiscated beer and several hundred bottles of wine down the drains, so what do they do? Pour it down the loo. What odds we'll discover next week an ambulance service unable to transport patients because they're ill?
Jel, Swansea

In two items I read on your web site today you identify people as "pensioners" . Why is this necessary? One concerned a woman who overturned her car in a petrol station forecourt. The other was about a man who swallowed a disinfectant tablet by mistake. Can a so-called pensioner not simply be referred to as a man or a woman? The BBC should be setting the example.
Sheila Carrodus, Grenoble, France

No, no, no! Cameron Smith has made the common mistake of assuming because there are three possible outcomes, for some reason they are equally likely. Following that logic is like saying there is a 1 in 2 chance that God exists or a one in two chance of finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow - two possibilities (yes or no) but not equally likely.
John Coulthard, Bath, UK

Re 7 days 7 questions: If Mark Thompson is classed as a public servant, are all the well paid newsreaders plus Jonathon Ross, Graham Norton et al included those 87 people?
Sam, London

Blue-sky thinking outside the box

13:34 UK time, Monday, 6 November 2006


It's supposed to cut out the need for brain dumping by making HQ more task-oriented.

Or, in plain English, speed up communication and make the workplace more efficient.

Business jargon seems to be driving a wedge between bosses and their workers, according to a survey by Investors in People. The minions, it seems, haven't got a clue what their superiors are going on about.

While managers spout phrases such as get your ducks in a row as they wolf down deskfast, bemused job-locked employees are left scratching their heads, contributing little more than face time because they don't know what's really going on. So much for joined-up thinking…

So how might workers correct this imbalance? Ever keen to strike a blow for flunky freedom, the Monitor invites you to suggest your own office jargon with which to baffle the bosses.

Send your entries using the "comments" button below.

Paper Monitor

10:57 UK time, Monday, 6 November 2006

Paper Monitor's satchel is covered with stickers of dinosaurs, thanks to the Guardian's giveaway on Saturday. Next week apparently they're doing stickers of bacteria. The week after, puddles. And it reaches a climax in week four with bogeys. What Paper Monitor really wants, of course, is a giveaway sheet of stickers of pictures of newspapers. Now THAT would be worth having, if only to give headaches to the ultra-logical among us.

No giveaways in today's papers, being a Monday, but plenty to chew on over one's egg and bacon focaccia (Paper Monitor's diet is all over the place). The news of the verdict and sentence for Saddam Hussein is something like a prism for the papers. Looking at these selected headlines tells us more about the paper than any freebie the marketing dept could cook up.

So let's play a guessing game. Match the headline with a popular newspaper. Answers at the bottom.

1. This was a guilty verdict on America as well.... We cannot even claim any moral superiority. Hmmm. A bit hand-wringy. No gloating allowed.

2. SADDAMNED TO HELL Up-and-at-em, but not in a particularly stylish or clever way.

3. DEFIANCE OF THE TYRANT Strong words, leaving no room for doubt as to where the paper stands.

4. HANG TO RIGHTS Also up-and-at-em, but done more cleverly and tastelessly, especially when combined with a picture of Saddam in his pants headlined: YOU'RE WELL HUNG NOW.

5. Eruptions of joy, anger, and anti-US protests Subtext: "On the one hand... but then on the other hand..."

6. Rejoice! Saddam to hang by Christmas Oh dear. Completely OTT.

So how did you do? The answers are:
1. Independent.
2. Mirror.
3. Daily Mail.
4. Sun.
5. Guardian.
6. Express (though of course the paper's main front page headline is "SPIES COVER UP DIANA 'MURDER'". It is Monday, after all.)

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:15 UK time, Monday, 6 November 2006

Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked which Jones has been banned from a record attempt to get most Joneses under one roof? Readers failed to keep up with the Joneses, as less than a third guessed the correct answer, Tom Jones.

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