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Archives for February 11, 2007 - February 17, 2007

10 things we didn't know last week

17:41 UK time, Friday, 16 February 2007

Snippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Georgic is a punishment dished out to Eton pupils which involves the copying out of hundreds of lines of Latin.
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2. Only 10% of the three million men in the UK who suffer from impotence are being treated, says Boots.
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3. The left ear is more responsive to words of emotion whispered into it than the right.

4. One in three households in the UK is dependent on the state for at least half its income, says thinktank Civitas.

5. A siesta can drastically reduce the risk of death from heart disease.
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6. Tony Blair does not keep a personal diary.
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7. Antony and Cleopatra were ugly.
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8. Women in the UK travelled on average 6,300 miles in 2005, 1,900 miles less than men.

9. Two-thirds of Frosties are eaten by men aged 18+.

10. 10% of university work from across the UK is plagiarised.
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Sources where stories not linked: 3: The Independent on Sunday, 11 February; 4: Daily Telegraph, 12 February; 8: the Times, Monday 12, February; 9: Guardian, 15 February;

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Anna Kulinskaya for this week's picture of 10 scooters, in Luassane, Switzerland.

Your Letters

15:51 UK time, Friday, 16 February 2007

Holding a Live Earth concert in Antarctica to highlight global warming has to be one of the most hypocritical things I have ever heard of. Do the penguins need to be reminded about their carbon footprints? While I'm sure the crews will take a long, slow & ecological boat to the continent, I'm sure the stars will be jetted in. If the event wasn't held, the organisers wouldn't need to bother with the hassle of making it carbon neutral.
Pete C, Birmingham

Were you being deliberately ironic when you referred to Germaine Greer's book The Female Eunuch as "seminal" (Gallery replaces Greer with Irwin)?
Stephen Turner, Cambridge, UK

Can anyone settle a debate, sparked by the question of whether sex on a plane is illegal? If a baby is born, to (say) a Japanese mother and English father, on (say) an American aeroplane, flying through (say) Indian airspace, what nationality will the baby be, or be entitled to be?
Rob, London, UK

Despite the sadness of the passing of the founder of one of my favourite ice cream parlours in Northern Ireland, Angelo Morelli, it is wonderful that the NI news team was zealous to record he was 99. May he find eternal rest in Knickerbocker Glory.
Rooster, Belfast

Re the mini-quiz on most-hated chores. Anybody fancy taking out my bin for a week in exchange for a week's ironing? Bin juice - ugh.
Lucy Jones, Manchester

Caption competition results

13:46 UK time, Friday, 16 February 2007

It's time for the caption comp results.

This week, Conservative leader David Cameron has been in the news amid allegations that he was caught smoking cannabis while a pupil at Eton. But here he is later in the week in Sweden, talking to a dad about that country's paternity policies. So what's being said?

Here's the pick of the entries:

1. Simon Rooke
"Remember, drugs is bad, m'kay? There's a time and a place for drugs and it's called Eton."

2. Gareth Jones, Isle of Anglesey
"...and this little piggy has a private past."

3. Sean Smith
"I admit, Mr Svenson, I have shopped at Ikea. It was a long time ago and I'm not proud of it."

4. David Dee
"Cool, great, really metrosexual! And was the mother present at the birth?"

5. Matti
"Ahhh! So this is the Centre Left?"

6. Helene Parry
"This little piggy took an enterprise-based approach to a free market economy..."

Thanks to all who entered.

Paper Monitor

13:07 UK time, Friday, 16 February 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Everybody, but everybody loves a quirky animal story. So when an elephant participating in a polo match spat out the dummy, throwing his rider and headbutting the opposition's mini-bus, it was always going to make a picture story.

THE JUMBO-SIZED TEMPER TANTRUM - says the Daily Mail, detailing how Abey the elephant packed in the game and lumbered about in a huff.

The shaken American rider and her teammates spoke of their shock, vowing not to play again as it was too dangerous. But one of their opponents was more philosophical: "Doing any sport is always a risk. Let's go surfing."

Meanwhile, the papers keep the Brits coverage going for a second day, detailing the fall-out of the assorted after-parties and wondering what's with Devon lass Joss Stone suddenly sporting an LA accent to match her LA tan and makeover.

The Times's fashion pages bemoan the lack of true rock chick chic at the ceremony. "The overdyed hair, the strident shade of lipstick, the chipped black nail polish: these things cannot and must not be the careful result of hours of styling, but the outcome of having done your make-up in the cab because you overslept after yesterday’s all-nighter."

The suggested style icon? No, not Lily, Amy, Russell or Ana. "The post-Kevin Britney looks trashy and unkempt because she is trashy and unkempt. She is, in her own small and pointless way, keeping it real."

Go, Brits!

Elsewhere, the paper devotes much space to horoscopes - Chinese horoscopes, that is, to mark the newly-dawned Year of the Pig.

"FAMOUS RAMS" it says, above a photo of Bill Gates and Michael Palin - to Paper Monitor's mind, two men less synonymous with rams would be hard to find. Camilla will surely take none too kindly to being referred to as a "FAMOUS PIG"; likewise Brigitte Bardot as a "FAMOUS DOG" or Prince Harry as a "FAMOUS RAT".
But Lord Archer and Sharon Osbourne will no doubt be pleased to be "FAMOUS DRAGONS".

And Paper Monitor's sign? It's impolite to ask one's age.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:50 UK time, Friday, 16 February 2007

Yesterday we asked whether this 2,000-year-old coin depicted Anthony or Cleopatra - the unflattering likenesses somewhat debunking the myth that the lovers were perfect specimens. Almost two-thirds of you correctly identified Cleopatra - pointy of chin and low of brow. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

16:30 UK time, Thursday, 15 February 2007

Can I protest at today's mini-quiz on Anthony and Cleopatra? You say the picture featured is [name withheld for security reasons], when in fact it is [name withheld for security reasons]. Unfair! I got it right and demand a refund.
Trish, Scotland
MM note: The Magazine's pit pony was sadly denied his carrots this morning. Thank you to all who spotted this.

I presume I'm not the only one to see the irony in Noel Gallagher's comment that David Cameron is "like a songwriter ripping off someone else's songs"?
Paddy, Newcastle

It's all in the tread
That's why the manager of the Forensic Science Service's footwear section is Jonathan Goodyear...
Jel, Swansea

Taking all these copies of people's footwear patterns must be wrong: aren't we supposed to be reducing our carbon footprints?
HTFB, Oxford, UK

A daily newsletter I received has today told me of a local charity that is "helping make the region a carbon-free zone". I am wondering what will be left if they succeed?
David Tate, Gateshead, UK

We have a 2-in-1 air freshener in the toilets at work that claims to both 'eliminate odours' and release fragrance'. Can anyone tell me why it isn't self-neutralising?
Ian, Kent

Re: "Your Leters" (Wednesday). Is this because you "let" some get published and others not (like this one I dare say).
Bryan Poor

And …

Re Your Leters [sic], please find enclosed a spare "t". t.
Rob Foreman, London, UK
MM note: Dictionary on its way to the pit pony's nose bag.

Paper Monitor

11:14 UK time, Thursday, 15 February 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Brits week climaxes. And oh the agony of it.

How we weep over the reversal of fortunes that is the Robbie-in-rehab-while-old-band-mates-Take-That-scoop-a-Brit-Award tale.

And how could Gary, Mark, Howard and Jason fail to publicly announce their sympathy for Rob as they clutch their shiny new award, sobs the Sun amid the four-page frock-fest.

The Mirror's Brits smorgasbord includes a handy chart of Russell Brandisms from the night - with number one being a reference to Britney Spears' recent tendency for displaying her bits in public.

Had Russell been given a sneak preview of the paper's latest update on the singer? Brit's been swapping undies and fishnets with a stripper in a nightclub and prancing around in them - is there no end to stories of the former pop princess's boozy/fleshy exploits?

Celeb shenanigans aside, it's a busy news day for hacks. PM notes however that the Daily Mirror finds space in its leader column to warn a certain tyre maker that slimming down the Michelin Man won't automatically increase sales. Look what happened to the Little(r) Chef, eh?

Meanwhile, sub-editors on the Daily Express must surely know they have got it right when its readers are spraying cornflakes across the breakfast table at the very sight of its front page.


Cliches abound as page 5 gasps at "bonkers" council bosses who have put up road signs in Polish to help confused migrant drivers.

"Ludicrous" political correctness, "soaring" migrant populations, towns "flooded" by Eastern Europeans - it's all there. A text vote on whether "Britain has gone to the dogs" is the nice juicy cherry on the cake.

What's next? Asks their baffled leader writer - signs in Double Dutch!?

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:51 UK time, Thursday, 15 February 2007

On Wednesday we asked how well Tory shoe queen Theresa May did in a league table of dishy Members of Parliament. In a hung parliament, 39% of you correctly guessed Ms May came fourth - and 39% of you also suggested eighth (where are you manners, dear readers?) Some 22% of you graciously said she was the second most fanciable. Conservative Central Office researchers - you can stop voting now. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine index now.

Your Leters

15:56 UK time, Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Re: Nationwide fine for stolen laptop. Surely this seems a bit unfair? I'm fairly confident that I had nothing to do with the theft of the laptop!
Gaspipe, Bradford

Regarding his letter, how exactly does Jake Perks think the name Euan is pronounced? It is "YOO-an" as in Ewan McGregor (despite the different spelling). It's really not that difficult. I hadn't realised mine was such an unsual name until I left school and got a job, only to find that customers regularly called to speak to "Juan". Perhaps there's a wider education role for the BBC's Pronunciation Unit than its current contrubution to the Monitor?
Euan Thomson, Newcastle, UK

"Janet Jackson and Richard Branson are self-confessed members of the Mile-High Club and Ralph Fiennes may have joined them." Sounds like a bit of lurid gossip from Heat magazine.
Kev, London

I like the BBC Entertainment pages these days - it's the only place on the web to legitimately find crack, smack, masturbation and the use of the word 'Feck'
Basil Long, Newark, Notts

For Gareth, how about "@ a loss"?
Jacob, Exeter

Did you have to have a quiz about sexy politicians? Now I can't stop thinking about John Major and Edwina Curry. Where's that CD of the Pink Panther theme tune to take my mind off it?
Martin, Stevenage

Re: Paper Monitor's crush on the Daily Telegraph. Today the paper is advertising "cheap love" - a sale on no-frills flights. Given this is on the day you also ask "is sex on a plane illegal", is the Telegraph trying to tell you something?

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Mines a pint, How about you?
Tim Mcmahon, Pennar, Wales

A Babycham please Tim. Are you trying to get MM drunk?

Paper Monitor

12:49 UK time, Wednesday, 14 February 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Love may be in the air but can it be bought?

The papers compete in their annual Valentine's Day offers, with the Daily Express boasting on its front page that its two-for-one chocolates offer is worth £3.49.

But that's not all for Express readers. There is also a voucher for a half-price Britney Spears "fantasy" perfume. Could it be her recent troubles, amply illustrated on page three of the Daily Mirror, have made her fragrance appear a little costly at £40 for 100ml?

The Sun takes a worthy stance by giving each reader a wet smacker - Mmmwah! - for buying the paper and thereby making the British Heart Foundation 1p richer. But it's the The Co-operative making the donation, not Rupert Murdoch.

"The perfect Valentine's Day Gift" is promised in the Daily Mail, but Paper Monitor wonders if a DVD called The Secret Affair sends out the right message to Mail readers, who quite correctly frown upon such misdemeanours.

Despite happily accepting that kiss from the Sun, Paper Monitor's romantic thoughts are today fixed on the Daily Telegraph (even more so than usual).

Its anti-Valentine giveaway, a free spy novel, only adds to its mean and moody image, and therefore worthy of Paper Monitor's affections. Mmmwah!

Shnookums' revenge

10:58 UK time, Wednesday, 14 February 2007


Tell your loved one why you don't do Valentine's Day.

Two years ago, to mark St Valentine's Day, the Monitor launched "Shnookums' Challenge" - an invitation to fly in the face of all those unctous Valentine's Day messages and tell your most dearest how little you care.

Now Shnookums is back, and more than a little disappointed with the rampant commercialism, not to say cliche-ism, of Valentine's Day. After all, if you love someone to the ends of the earth, shouldn't you be lavishing them with flowers and chocolates every day of the year? Trouble is, what would Mrs Shnookums say?

So, Monitor readers are invited to come up with credible explanations for their loved ones on why they are opting out of Valentine's Day this year. Send us your entry using the comments button below and we'll publish our favourites throughout the day.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:06 UK time, Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Yesterday we asked, with the Dixie Chicks sweeping all three major awards at the Grammys, who was the last British artist to do so. Twenty-nine percent of you correctly said Eric Clapton, the only Brit to do so, and a feat he managed in 1992. Another 36% said Sting, and the rest opted for Elton John. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

15:36 UK time, Tuesday, 13 February 2007

In response to Kelly Mouser's message about speeding. From my friends experience of this type of course it is still a money gathering exercise. The cost of the course was twice the cost the fine would be. However, he took the course because he wanted to keep a clean license - which I expect is why most people would take it. Also please note that the accident stats for Devon showed that for the vast majority of accidents speed was not a factor. The stats mention "inappropriate speed" not speeding, so cases where speeding was involved would be even less.
Mark E, Slough, UK

Kelly Mouser of Upminster, don't worry, they still take the £60, they just let you of the points... Of course at least you get something for your money this way.
Simon, Milton Keynes

If you want to reduce the environmental impact of cut flowers you could maybe not buy summer flowers in February? Or grow your own in pots? They're a domestic luxury, not a necessity.
Jo Miller, Nottingham, UK

Amy is evidentally escalating her story with each interview. I look forward to her next one. Perhaps admitting on Newsround her £200 an hour habit?
Alex, Reading, UK

Re: Menstrual cycle injury risk link. Is this the risk to men who dare to speak to them at a certain time?
Mike, Liverpool

As a bitter singleton I am dreading Valentine's Day, but I never thought that the cynical joy of punorama would be tainted by such tomfoolery. So here's my pun (I realise that I'm not using the correct form): Happy, rich people are really happy and rich, and I hate them. So not a pun at all, just oh so bitter.
Robin, Edinburgh

Not a pun, but for comparison, the area of paper required to wrap a house is approximately 22.4 nanoWales.
Chris R, Cambridge, UK

Is there a flexicon entry to describe the annoyance of not being able to easily find the @ (at) sign on an unfamiliar keyboard in a foreign land?
Gareth, Tokyo, Japan

Punorama results

13:20 UK time, Tuesday, 13 February 2007


It's time for the Punorama results.

As ever, we gave you a story and you sent us punning headlines.

This week it was the heart-warming tale of photographer Jasin Boland, who gave his fiancee an early Valentine's present - a £500,000 house wrapped up in 5,000sq ft of paper decorated with giant hearts and 23 metres of pink ribbon.

"Last year I took her to dinner which wasn't much of a present. I thought I'd better do something special this year," he said.

His fiancee Maria said she was completely overwhelmed by the gift and he was "very cute" for making such an effort.

The romantics and cynics battled it out for honours. Ryan W and Minty warmed the heart with Casa-nova while Helene Parry was uplifting with Love storey, maybe prompted by the Magazine’s Faces of the Week.

Stig came up with Bricks and more-to-her and great female minds Anna Lilley, Sarah in Trieste and Candace got luvvy-duvvy with Heart to hearth.

Now the anti-Valentine entries. Grounds for divorce was from Kip, while Tom Knott and Niall Nugent had a snipe with Bradford and Blingley and Romancing the stone cladding respectively.

Credit to Simon Rooke for focusing on the wrapping rather than the house, with The Hallmark of approval.

But the winner, with To have and to leasehold, is Stella.

Also worth a mention but clearly pun-free is John Owen’s effort, which would be better suited for the caption comp: “What do you mean: It's the thought that counts?”

Paper Monitor

10:08 UK time, Tuesday, 13 February 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's Brits week. And you know what that means… lots of strident music business PRs touting their clients around the papers. Amy Winehouse's people are certainly earning their crust – landing her an "exclusive" double-page interview in the Daily Mirror, where we learn that La Winehouse "used to smoke £200 of pot a week" and likes a drink or twelve.

While the Mirror is counting down to the Brits this week - "One day to go" - the Sun is counting up "Brit Awards week: Day 2". And who has it bagged for its double-page spread interview? Non other than Amy Winehouse, who tells the paper about her, you guessed it, former £200 a day marijuana habit and the fact that she likes a drink or twelve. At least the Sun has the good grace not to call its story an exclusive.

Oh well, maybe it was just a one-off; a mix-up by the publicity people. These things happen once in a while. So who do the red tops have lined up for their Wednesday Brits interview?

"Tomorrow: Bigmouth Host Russell Brand" – the Sun.

"Tomorrow: Russell Brand on his women" – the Mirror.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:25 UK time, Tuesday, 13 February 2007

In Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz we asked you which city has the most billionaires in the world after New York, which has 40. The answer is Moscow with 25, according to Forbes. A respectable 32% of you got it right. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine index.

How to say: Baader-Meinhof

18:08 UK time, Monday, 12 February 2007

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

Today's pronunciations relate to the Baader-Meinhof (BAA-duhr MYN-hof) group. Former member Brigitte Mohnhaupt is to be released on probation; her name is pronounced brig-IT-uh MOHN-howpt, with a hard g as in get. Another member, Christian Klar (KRIST-i-an KLAR) is also seeking release.

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

Your Letters

17:21 UK time, Monday, 12 February 2007

Re the trial initiative for offering speed awareness training as an alternative to penalty points, Paul Biggs, from the self-styled Association of British Drivers, says: "it's better than getting three points... but I think it is a bit of brainwashing." Unfortunately, the scheme puts the lie to his organisation's assertion that the purpose of speed control is to make money for the authorities. Why does Mr Biggs think they want us to slow down? There is clearly no benefit to the economy - lower speeds mean slower deliveries and less work done. So guess what? It REALLY IS to save lives!
Kelly Mouser, Upminster, Essex

You say in 10 things we learned this week, that "Frankie Laine set a marathon dance record of 3501 hours in 145 consecutive days in 1932. " Given that 145 days only contains 3480 hours in total and - for his own sanity and safety - we have to assume Mr Laine took rests, would you care to advise us how this feat was possible?
Theo Cupier, Amersham, UK

So, the "Southern Cross has more stars than the five commonly depicted on the Australian flag, astronomers have discovered." (10 things we didn't know last week) - well, yes, of course it has - anyone with a halfway decent pair of binoculars and a star atlas will be able to see at least 10 of the stars in the Southern Cross. And that's excluding the fact that Alpha Crucis is a double star. The flag of Australia is an approximation, showing the five stars visible to the naked eye. There are still only five visible to the naked eye.
Mark Walton, Melbourne, Australia

Um, apparently the Taiwanese (according to Clive James) are getting New Year face lifts "for luck". They do realise its the Year of the Pig, don't they?
Rachel, Perth, Australia

Re the public's lack of sex knowledge: "half of people did not know when was the most fertile point of a woman's menstrual cycle was" Would it be unreasonable to assume the relevant half was the men questioned?
Rikki, Essex, UK

Anyone who doesn't realise that a Cadbury Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut Easter Egg contains nuts frankly is not safe to be allowed out to eat chocolate. If this describes you, please send the chocolate to me instead. Thank you.
John Airey, Peterborough, UK

Re celebrity Beano appearances: is the Beano's editor really called Euan Kerr? Sounds more like a character from Viz comic to me.
Jake Perks, Shropshire, UK

Regarding the question of how snowplough drivers get to work, in Canada quite a few years ago there was a TV ad that asked, and answered, that very question with considerable humour. The answer: they drive a Volkswagen.
Norbert Cunningham, Moncton NB Canada

It's all very well explaining how gritter drivers get to work, but what do they do during the summer? Are they laid off or do they move to the southern hemisphere?
Pete Makings, Nottingham

Paper Monitor

11:28 UK time, Monday, 12 February 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"Revelations" in the Sunday press that David Cameron smoked cannabis as a schoolboy have whipped up a storm of indifferent silence among politicians, with even sworn enemies such as the Home Secretary John Reid calling it a "so what?" moment.

It's an indication of the apparent chasm of concern that can exist between the media and the public:

• the former seeing it as a technical victory against the Tory leader who, thus far, has resorted to heavy innuendo – "there were things that I did in the past that I don't think I should talk about now that I'm a politician" – when asked whether he'd taken illegal drugs;

• the latter largely greeting the news with a collective shrug of the shoulders.

Given its almost imperceptible shockwaves on the Westminster Richter scale, what, if anything, can Monday's papers do to move the story on?

Barring a stiffly-worded commentary from the Sun's political editor, the paper plays it for laughs – mocking up a picture of Mr Cameron with a massive joint, and imagining some of the Latin lines that a young Cameron would have had to copy out for his punishment. "Me non oportet inhalare – I must not inhale"… you get the picture.

The Mirror weighs in with some predictable toff-bashing – "Absolutely spliffing" – and acknowledges that while cannabis smoking is no big deal, the wider issue is what else Cameron may have done but not admitted to.

The Mail, which one might assume has the most cause for outrage on this further erosion of standards in politics, is rather muted, adding little to Sunday's story and using its leader column to urge Cameron to be tougher on drug use today.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:53 UK time, Monday, 12 February 2007

In Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz we asked which petrolhead had scored the highest when given a flavour of the environmental questions to be added to the new written driving test. The answer was Jeremy Clarkson with two out of three, and he made a good case for arguing he'd got full marks. Oh ye of little faith. Only a third of the 20,000 answers backed the Top Gear presenter. Far more of you wrongly went for speed camera campaigner Captain Gatso. Try and do better today. Monday's DMQ is on the Magazine index.

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