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Archives for May 20, 2007 - May 26, 2007

10 things we didn't know last week

16:33 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2007

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

1. Pizza was known as “Italian Welsh rarebit” in 1950s Britain.
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2. Using a gas-fired patio heater for just one hour can waste enough energy to make 400 cups of tea, according to Friends of the Earth.
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3 Laurence Olivier and Tintin's creator Herge were born on the same day.
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4. A swarm of bees can ground a Boeing 737.
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5. On the first day of filming Star Wars in the deserts of Tunisia, the country experienced its first major rainstorm in 50 years and a rest day had to be called.
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6. Sharks have virgin births.
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7. Articles of 50,000 words - parliamentary reports in particular - were common in the Times in the early 1890s, just as the first tabloid newspapers came into being.

8. Japanese whalers in the 17th Century buried the foetuses of the pregnant whales they caught in a special graveyard facing out to sea.
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9. One in four house sales fall through.

10. Captive elephants often don’t know how to look after their young because they don’t work on instinct – in the wild, calves are looked after by the herd and this is how young females learn mothering skills.
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(Sources, where not linked: 7. A Tabloid is Born, BBC Four, 23 May; 9. Which? online.)

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Angela Murton for this week's picture of 10 limpets at Aberdour Bay, Scotland).

Your Letters

16:29 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2007

Turfing Trafalgar Square to draw attention to London's green areas? Isn't that a bit like asking Bruce Forsyth/Terry Wogan/Paul Daniels (or insert your favourite celebrity rug here) to front a campaign for hair?
Christian Cook, Epsom, UK

I was just wondering - technically speaking, would there ever need to be more than one time travellers’ convention?
Pascal, Grand Union Canal, Cowley, UK

After the 15 million v 16 million visitor problem, how many readers do you think will want to point out that one-tenth is less than a quarter (7 days 7 questions)? And also why do people looking for four bedrooms or above seem to make up about 80% of participants on TV shows?
Tasha, Sheffield

Re 7 days 7 questions. I suspect that the question about the meaning of Angelina Jolie's latest tattoo would have been a little harder had you not included a picture in which it's clear and legible. Can we expect similar hints in future quizzes?
Jacob, London

Re the Friday Challenge, in my experience, most fourth bedrooms are not even big enough for a single bed.
Basil Long, Newark Notts

In her letter, Naomi picked up on the term "sex swap" for sex change. Inspired by this, I read the article. I wonder how long the sex change took to complete, because Ms Bailey seems to have lost all track of time - she is quoted as saying "We thought 'we're transgender, but this is the 20th century, this is Cambridge, this is not an issue any more'."
PJ, West Yorks,

Dear Monitor, would you please run the following ad for me:
"Middle-aged man with access to confectionery wholesaler, wishes to meet Naomi's colleague. Object, exchange of calories." (Thursday letters).
Kip, Norwich

David from Manchester (Thursday letters) might like to know that the Milton Keynes pronunciation error is more similar than it seems. Maynard's surname is also derived from the Cahaines name.
Dave, London

Re font pedantry (Thursday letters). Actually Kaz, it's a type family. It becomes a type face when it is bold or italic and then, as you say, a type font when a point size is applied.
Christian Cook, Epsom

Will someone please save the Foreign Office from a deluge of even more Freedom of Information requests by telling us just how many Ferrero Rochers its ambassadors have enjoyed? I'm intrigued.
Keith, Surrey

Please, please, can Paper Monitor promise to keep his/her column a Big Brother free zone? It may be the only escape we get all summer...
Elaine, Newcastle

I was most disappointed with the options for “Are you looking forward to Big Brother's eighth series?” vote on the entertainment page. Surely better options than “yes” and “no” would have been:
No, I am not
No, I have already boycotted Channel 4 to avoid even the adverts
Not another one, I may kill myself
Kirk, Guernsey

I'm getting married tomorrow and am too nervous to think of a caption.
Gordon Tonker

Friday Challenge: euphemisms for 'bedroom'

13:18 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2007

bedroom203.jpgWith the bank holiday weekend looming, opportunities to siphon off a little work time into more frivolous pursuits are proving irresistible. Not wishing to disappoint, the Monitor is reviving – ever so briefly – a cherished old strand: the Friday Challenge.

For this one-off, readers are requested to put themselves in the mindset of estate agents.

This week the government adjusted its plans for Home Information Packs (which will cost about £600 each), ruling, from August, they will only be required for homes put up for sale with four-bedrooms or more.

Crafty estate agents quickly spotted a loophole in the legislation - because the law contains no definition of what a bedroom is, simply rename it something else. "Study" and "storage room" were two of the rather lacklustre suggestions to emerge.

But surely this is an opportunity for a little mischievous creativity. What about a "boudoir", "upstairs lounge" or a "Scalextric room".

The Monitor asked for your suggestions of euphemisms for "bedroom". The best are posted below.

Caption competition results

12:14 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2007

Here are the winning entries in the caption comp.

This week, a stunt model plies his trade at the Fire for Hire runway show at the 7th Annual Taurus World Stunt Awards in LA. But what's being said?

6. Steven Gray
Presenting the "hands free" Olympic Torch.

5. Hal Coyle
Mergers That Won't Happen #37: Price's Candles and Madame Tussauds.

4. Nigel Macarthur
"We don't want cheap exhibitionists in the new Big Brother! Thank you! Neeeeeeext..."

3. Rebecca
The shouts of "Dude, you're on fire!" only served to boost Brad's ego.

2. Niels Rutherford
"You're right, Mr Sugar. I AM fired."

1. Jason Holdcroft
The Aussie Statue of Liberty.

Thanks to all who entered.

Paper Monitor

11:08 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor is feeling a little unfocussed today, and the papers reflect this. Every single one has a different story as its lead, and their choices are entirely predictable.

The Daily Telegraph leads with the biggest divorce settlement in British legal history, in which an insurance magnate has been ordered to pay £48m to his wife. No surprise there, the paper aims to be the reading matter of choice for the mega-rich divorcing classes.

Equally unsurprising is the Independent's decision to plough its own (sustainably farmed) furrow. Its poster front page is a graphic of the eco-house of the future. And it and the Guardian alone relegate the last photo taken of Madeleine McCann to the inside pages.

But not the Sun, which leads with Maddie.

The Daily Mail, with its eye firmly on Middle Britain, knows that anything to do with carting away refuse gets its readership hot under the collar. "After fortnightly collections and microchips in your wheelie bin... NOW PAY FOR YOUR TRIP TO THE TIP".

Ditto the Daily Express, except it leads with "DUSTBINS: NOW WE FACE FINES AND TAXES".

The Times hedges its bets between no alcohol in pregnancy, and its exclusive interview with the £48m divorcee. The Guardian has its own exclusive on the government knowing the HIV risk of importing blood.

The Daily Mirror, perhaps mindful that Big Brother starts next week and it is ever anxious to beat the Sun on telly matters, reports on "repeated bust-ups" between the show's makers and Channel 4.

Sigh. Expect acres more on BB - the civilian version - in the coming months. If Paper Monitor gets sucked in, it'll feel as dirty as if it had read the collected works of Mr and Mrs Liz Jones.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:17 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2007

Yesterday we asked which Dire Straits song is to be re-released. Almost a quarter of you correctly answered Brothers in Arms, originally a hit in 1985, which will raise money for Falklands War veterans. But the biggest proportion of the vote - 31% - went to Money for Nothing, and third on 20% was Sultans of Swing. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine homepage now.

Your letters

18:11 UK time, Thursday, 24 May 2007

We certainly did not enjoy Andrew Marr's programme on the 1950s, because it was so negative. Obviously, he did not live through that era. We were born during the war, and we remember the 50s as a happy time, when people looked forward to a brighter future. We were not starving even though we were working class, and we were well-educated in state schools, which had good discipline. There was rationing, but we were never short of food, and we well remember when chocolate ceased to be rationed. Our money went a long way then, and we enjoyed going to the cinema, and theatre. There was very little traffic so it was safer on the streets, and we were able to roam around without fear. We did not go abroad for our holidays, but enjoyed staying in guest houses at English seaside resorts. The Festival of Britain was amazing, and the Battersea Fun Fair, which Andrew didn't mention, was exciting to visit.
James & Anne Moirrison, Coventry, England

Re "Edmonds strikes kids quiz TV deal" - "Marrying the genius of Noel Edmonds with a fantastic original format will make this the must-see TV show of the autumn." Ignoring the obvious oxymoron about Mr Edmonds, can a series based on an existing show be called "original"?
Tom Hartland, Derby, UK

I assume that McDonald's attempting to change a definition in the OED by means of petition is a publicity stunt. Surely they’re not so dim that they really believe dictionaries are democratically created reference books which only list what the majority of people think a word means. Even if 99 per cent of the population voted ‘against’ the current definition, the dictionary would still have to record it so long as anyone uses (or has used) it in that way. I note they also don’t say what they want the new definition to say.
MJ Simpson, Leicester, UK

Re the Me and my Font debate: Typographically (but not grammatically) speaking the title of the piece should be "Me and my typeface". A typeface only becomes a font when a point size is applied to it. So 10-point Helvetica is a different font to 11-point Helvetica, despite sharing the same typeface. Therefore, to be entitled "Me and my font" each contributor would need to specify the point size of said typeface.
Kaz, London

Re "First sex-swap mayor is sworn in" "Sex-Swap"? Surely not. You don't find two people and swap their "bits" now do you. "Sex change" would clearly be the better description. Sorry to harp on but it's been bothering me. (Oh and my colleague says she's so keen for chocolate she'd happily swap sex for it.)
Naomi, Sussex

I have found a way to improve the number of times I answer the DMQ correctly. Simply read The Metro on the way into work, the same poll is generally reported on the same day and you can arrive at the DMQ page fully armed.
MCK, Birmingham

Pedantry watch #287. Annya (Your letters, Wednesday) dares question PM on poking fun at the variance in the reporting of the fire at the Cutty Sark. But, regarding those visitor numbers, "more than 15 million" could occasionally be less than "'more than 16 million". Obviously.
Stig, London, UK

Maisy, you are absolutely right that the Keynes in Milton Keynes is mispronounced, but not for the reason you think. John Maynard Keynes and John Milton have absolutely nothing to do with the naming of the town. Milton Keynes actually gets its name from the village of Milton Keynes, a corruption of Middleton de Keynes, itself named after the medieval Cahaines family.
David, Manchester

Paper Monitor

10:35 UK time, Thursday, 24 May 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor is feeling dirty, and newsprint rubbing off on its hands is not the cause.

After all its high-minded sniping about Liz Jones' imploding marriage – forensically documented over many months in the Daily Mail – it must confess to falling into the trap, reading the double-page spread by Mr soon-to-be-ex-Liz Jones, Nirpal Dhaliwal, in Wednesday's London Evening Standard. (Note to non-London readers: you lucky things.)

It wasn't supposed to be happen. It started out as a cursory glance, mutated into a quick scan of the first few paragraphs and, before you could say self-absorbed-navel-gazing-media-solipsists, Paper Monitor was gleefully wolfing down every word.

Mr Dhaliwal repeatedly makes the point that his spouse-for-not-much longer was spurred on to write about their disintegrating marriage by the money it earned her. And while he claims never to have betrayed any home truths in his columns, he's clearly crafted a well-remunerated media career out of the shenannigans.

But that's what's got Paper Monitor really disgusted with itself – for caring one iota about what's said in this pathetic slanging match.

Over at the Mail today, there's, thankfully, no sign of Ms Jones – equally as elusive is an opinion piece praising the European Union for forcing mobile phone operators to cut their overseas roaming charges... it must be here somewhere. And what's this – a spark of defiance against the gone-to-the-dogs mentality. "As a tourist guide says we're a nation of binge-drinking yobs… Yes, there is a lot to complain about but, by God Britain's still a glorious place to live".

Paper Monitor feels instantly invigorated.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:38 UK time, Thursday, 24 May 2007

In Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked which tourists had been voted the worst dressed, according to Expedia. A whopping 47% of you said, correctly, it was the Americans. Try not to do better in today's DMQ, which is on the Magazine homepage.

Your Letters

15:37 UK time, Wednesday, 23 May 2007

I spied the headline Hips forced a 'bunker mentality', and looked forward to a piece on obesity. I was sadly disappointed.
Ralph, Cumbria

According to Battle of the sexes, "gossip is not confined to tittle-tattle about acquaintances' personal lives". If you say so, professor, but satisfy my curiosity: if this was the definition of gossip, as both and I believe, what percentage of their time do men and women spend on it?
Ken Donald, Chelmsford

I enjoyed Andrew Marr's programme on the 1950s but was curious that throughout he pronounced the surname of planet-brained economist John Maynard Keynes as "canes" - or indeed to rhyme with "brains". Have I been pronouncing the name of my adopted hometown wrong?
Maisy, Milton Keynes

Could we know the source of the Greatest Belgian poll (Tuesday's DMQ)? It wouldn't have consisted of only asking Belgian nuns would it?
Simon Rooke, Nottingham

Re great Belgians - the outright winner would have been chocolate if it had been an option.
Tim McMahon, Pennar/Wales

So you can't trust all that's published in the newspapers; there goes my innocence. Next you'll be telling us the Tooth Fairly doesn't exist.
Richard D, Faversham

Regarding the Me and my font discussions (Tuesday letters) - technically, font should be spelled "fount", so maybe it's more a case of "My font and u"?
HS, Cambridge

To Darren: The climber phoning from the top of Everest was on O2, of course (Tuesday letters).
Jel, Swansea

Pedantry alert re Cutty Sark "facts" - none of the cited explanations of how the ship came by its name are incompatible (Tuesday letters). The Witch in Tam O'Shanter is called "Cutty Sark" by Tam because she is wearing a short shift dress/skirt. So the Mail, the FT, the Telegraph and the Times are all in fact correct on that point. Ditto the point re number of visitors - "more than 16m" is obviously also "more than 15m".

What's happened to Clive James' column, A Point of View?
Julie, Crystal Lake, Illinois
The Monitor: Lisa Jardine currently has custody.

Punorama results

15:21 UK time, Wednesday, 23 May 2007

OK punners, it's results time again.

This week it was the man offering to donate his own head for shrinking, to an Oxford museum, if it is forced to return its current collection of shrunken heads to South America.

Eh? You read it right the first time. Ted Dewan says he will leave instructions in his will for his head to be shrunk and put on display if Oxford University's Pitt Rivers museum is made to send back its 10 heads from the Upper Amazon region.

So how did you do? It was a good week again, with a lot of original entries and some very nice nods to yesteryear - which we always like.

Amaz'n Face was the fine offering from Andrew Mason and Pix6 suggested Headucational bequest. We like.

Shrunken treasure was sent in by Sarah in Italy, while punorama regular Simon Rooke kept his standards high with Head of Light Entertainment .

Other favourites this week were Will of Ted's Excellent Head-venture from Lee Pike, taking inspiriation from the film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, and Think before you shrink before you die from Nigel Macarthur, recalling drink-driving campaigns of years gone by.

But gold star goes to Zed in Cumbria for Go a head, shrunk, make my display. It really tickled us. Well done you.

Paper Monitor

12:32 UK time, Wednesday, 23 May 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

From the outset of today's paper round-up, Magazine Monitor would like to make it clear that it does not endorse animal cruelty. But what it does endorse is highlighting the way papers work up a story to fill column inches.

Take the story of a newborn elephant who was pushed around a bit by his mother, something his German zoo keepers say is normal and a natural reflex action to stimulate newborns after birth. "HORROR AT ZOO" screams the Daily Mail's front page, flagging up a double-page spread on the incident inside. That's headlined "SAVED FROM HIS OWN MOTHER!" and has a standfirst that includes the words crush, drown and rescue.

All those column inches but the Mail's story seems to be missing a quote that's included in the Mirror's article on the same incident. "It's a natural reflex action of elephant mothers to stimulate their newborns to stand by nudging them," says the Zoo's deputy director Claus Pohle. Journalists never let mother nature get in the way of a story.

The Times is promoting its illustrated guide on escaping depression on the front page. Maybe avoiding the paper might be a tip - the front page alone includes stories of murder, a seige, chaos over government legislation, unfaithful fathers and doormat mothers.

Finally, the best-juxtaposition-of-stories-on-a-page award goes to the Sun. Page 19 has an article asking: Are you Mr Average? There's even a 20-question quiz you can do. Next to it is a picture of Michael Jackson arriving at Heathrow Airport. He's reportedly being paid £5m just to turn up at the 25th birthday party of HRH Prince Azim of Brunei. Neither he nor the prince need not worry about doing the quiz, we know the answer.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:33 UK time, Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Yesterday was the 100th birthday of Tintin's creator, Herge, often cited as the best-known Belgian. So we asked who was voted "greatest Belgian" ever in a recent poll. It was Catholic missionary Pater Damiaan, which just 2.5% of you correctly answered. Most opted for Jean-Claude Van Damme (42%). Today's mini-question, on the worst dressed tourists, is on the Magazine homepage now.

Your Letters

17:33 UK time, Tuesday, 22 May 2007

In the letter from Adam, London, UK, he bemoans the performance of his local Council in matters "green". Unfortunately, Councils are the "piggy in the middle", and whatever they do, they just can't win. Like your small business, Councils have to cover costs. The Council has no control of business rates (National Non-Domestic Rates) - which as their name implies, are set by the government, so if they subsidised paper recycling for businesses, who would pay the subsidy? Yes, the residents, through Council Tax. Do you want your Council Tax to go up? Or do you live in a different borough entirely from the one where you operate your business, so you wouldn't mind THEIR Council Tax going up? Blame the government - instead of funding alternatives, the Government are going to fine Councils for Landfill above a certain quota, and have provided only limited funding for alternatives.
PJ, West Yorks,

Re the Cutty Sark discrepancies pointed out by Tuesday's Paper Monitor - a quick visit to the Cutty Sark website confirms the Times' assertion that more than 15 million visitors have been on board the ship. The Daily Telegraph could still be right, however, if 16+ million people have visited the ship; perhaps 1 in 16 visitors chooses not to go on board? Bet none of the papers picked up on that statistic.
Nick Jones, Dorking, UK

In response to Dave Barrance's question (Your letters, Monday), no it shouldn't - "Me and my font" is the correct grammar in the circumstances. The article is about me and about my font, hence "me and my font". If you and your font had been doing something together, it would be , "My Font and I".
Sharon Cutworth, King's Lynn

A rule of thumb is to take away the "and [whatever]" and note what you would use in that situation.
Colin Main, Berkhamsted

Dave Barrance asks whether the headline should be "My font and I. It is impossible to know as it is an incomplete sentence but if the beginning of the sentence were, for example, “An Article about…” then “Me and My Font” would be correct. However, my Dad taught me that it is always polite to mention the other person first so perhaps it should be, “My Font and Me.”
Catherine O, Maidenhead, UK

Your Daily Mini-Quiz isn't quite correct. Pater Damiaan is only the Greatest Belgian according to the Flemish. According to the Wallons, it was Jacques Brel.
Ashley, Ghent, Belgium

Re Rod Baber, the climber who made a phone call from the top of Mount Everest. Which phone network is he with?
Darren, East Prawle

So "Viagra could aid jetlag recovery" is top of your 'Most e-mailed' list. I'd have thought most people would already get enough Viagra-related e-mails without your readers adding to it...
Neil, London, UK

I agree with Natalie (Your letters, 21 May) on the absurdity of the Google Map directions from Paris to New York. Why not swim directly to New York, instead of coming ashore in Boston? Besides, Boston Harbour is pretty polluted!
Catrin, Boston, MA, US

Paper Monitor

12:26 UK time, Tuesday, 22 May 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Maritime history is not a strong suit of your average journalist these days, so when the Cutty Sark went up in flames on Monday morning, there must have been some frantic boning up to be done… except at the Independent, which simply drafted in the curator of the Cutty Sark Trust to write its front page story.

A cheeky tactic but then the pitfalls of trying to bluff one's way in nautical expertise is a perilous, ahem, tack…

"[the Cutty Sark] achieved a record-breaking wind-powered voyage from Australia to England - 67 days in 1885 via Cape Horn" - the Times.

"The 280ft vessel… was once the world's fastest tea clipper sailing from Australia to England in a record 72 days in 1885" - the Daily Mail.

"Named after a fleet-footed witch in the Scottish legend of Tam O'Shanter" - the Daily Mail.

"Cutty Sark - which means 'short skirt'" - the Financial Times.

"The name, meaning short shift or nightdress in Scots dialect" - the Daily Telegraph.

"Willis named his ship Cutty Sark and embellished her with a figurehead of the witch of Robert Burns's Tam O'Shanter, wearing the skimpy blouse called a Cutty Sark" - the Times.

"On the bow is the motto: "Where there's a Willis a way" - the Daily Mirror.

"Jock Willis, the shipowner whose motto 'where there's a Willis a way" adorns the stern" - the Financial Times.

"Eventually the ship came to rest in Greenwich, where it has sat since 1953" - the Guardian.

"[The] Preservation Society… had it floated in a dry dock in Greenwich in 1954" - the Daily Telegraph.

"It has been visited by more than 16 million people" - the Daily Telegraph

"More than 15 million visitors have boarded Cutty Sark…" - the Times.

Your Letters

18:00 UK time, Monday, 21 May 2007

I was amused by your article "Why it pays for firms to go green", which claims that small businesses can save money by being environmentally friendly. It's a shame that no-one has told our local council about this. I run a small business, and despite our good intentions for recycling the large amounts of paper we produce, we've recently decided to abandon this plan as our council's waste desposal pricing policy makes it cheaper for us to send them for landfill.
Adam, London, UK

The fact that "Blair not indulging in vanity" is considered newsworthy, says a lot about him don't you think?
Candy Spillard, York, UK

Re Me and My Font. Shouldn't that be, My Font and I?
Dave Barrance, Milton Keynes, UK

I, like many others no doubt, always count the number of items in the 10 things picture. How surprised I was, therefore, to only see nine masked butterfly fish. There are two fish in the distance, but the clearer one doe not resemble a butterfly fish. Is it a moth fish and got counted by mistake? (Is the tenth fish behind fish four, as the numbers appear on a telephone?)
Lee Pike, Cardiff, UK

10_butterflyfish203.jpgMM: Pitiful apologies have been squeezed out of the journalist responsible for cropping this picture. The Monitor is happy to present the image in its full, un-edited, Director's Cut proportions.

When the Mars story broke, you published a letter from a rightly outraged coeliac pointing out that you hadn't mentioned that Mars Bars were also not gluten-free - dangerous for us coeliacs. Now that Mars has gone vegetarian again, I look in vain for one word of your story that tells me whether they are now gluten-free again! Come on, us coeliacs need to know - and we're not a pretty sight when roused to outrage.
MB, London

The "names-to-suit-jobs" phenomenon has surely reached a new zenith with the discovery that the spokesperson for the Playtex Moonwalk is called - wait for it - Kate Bosomworth. Sorry, I know this isn't a link to a BBC story, but I was just doing a general search for coverage, because I volunteered at the 26-mile sponsored Moonwalk event on Saturday.
Lulu, London, UK

Re "World's most expensive sandwich". I've just about had enough of these "World's Most Expensive (insert food stuff here)". All these chefs are doing is making a pretty much ordinary meal and then adding in a bit of white truffle. I think next week, I might create the world's most expensive Pot Noodle.
MarkG, Maidenhead, UK

The letters about directions to Carnegie Hall have reminded me of an amusing fact about getting directions from Google Maps. If you search for directions from Paris to New York, look at number 20. Now that's useful.
Natalie, Preston, UK

Re Ian from Redditch who speaks of seeing a live action TinTin movie on the TV - There have actually been two live action TinTin movies in the past. These are TinTin and the Golden Fleece (released 1961) and TinTin and the Blue Oranges (released 1964). Both films were original stories and were not based on original works by Hergé. Both films can be read about on Wikipedia.
Mike Harper, Devon, UK

How to say: Estonian names

14:58 UK time, Monday, 21 May 2007

A guide to the words and names in the news from Eva Liina Asu-Garcia of the BBC Pronunciation Unit

Over the past few weeks, several Estonian names have been in the international news in connection with the relocation of a Soviet era monument in Tallinn and subsequent riots and looting by part of the ethnic Russian population, as well as international cyber attacks targeted at the Estonian government’s, banks’ and newspapers’ websites. Also, last week, a new synagogue was opened in Tallinn to replace the one destroyed in WWII. In the context of all these events a few words about the pronunciation of Estonian, my native language, might be helpful.

Estonian is a vowel-rich language; there are 9 vowels: A, E, I, O, U, Õ, Ä, Ö and Ü. Unlike in most other languages, vowels and consonants in Estonian can have three degrees of length: short, long and overlong. In spelling, however, only two lengths are marked - thus one letter as a rule denotes short and double letters either a long or overlong sound. The primary stress falls on the first syllable of each word.

The name of the prime minister, Andrus Ansip contains only short vowels and is pronounced: UN-druuss UN-sip (-u as in "bun" in Southern British English, -uu as in "book"). Most of the vowels in the name of the defence minister Jaak Aaviksoo are long, and thus: YAAK AA-vick-saw (-aa as in "father", -aw as in "law"). President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is pronounced: TAW-muss HEN-drik ILL-vess.
The Estonian language also has 36 diphthongs ie combinations of two vowels in one syllable. For instance, the surname of the Estonian ambassador to the United Kingdom Margus Laidre is pronounced: LIGH-druh (-igh as in "high").

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

Daily Mini-Quiz

11:29 UK time, Monday, 21 May 2007

In Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked compliment women said they liked best. Obviously a lot of male DMQ entrants out there, because 54% of you incorrectly thought it was "You have a great smile." The correct answer, you sillies, was "Have you lost weight?" (41%). Today's DMQ is the vote related to the Your History series the Magazine launched on Friday - which decade would you most like to live in? It can be found on the Magazine index.

Paper Monitor

10:35 UK time, Monday, 21 May 2007


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Steeped in the spirit of the Baftas, Paper Monitor is kicking off a new week by rating the papers' coverage of last night's awards ceremony.

Most euphemistic picture caption: the Daily Mail wins twice over on this count, offering revealing pictures of Catherine Tate (lots of cleavage) and a Davina McCall (lots of leg) without actually owning up to such base tactics. Thus, Tate is "taking the plunge" while McCall is "back in shape".

Most unoriginal adjective to describe the fact that "people's favourite" Life on Mars failed to win the best drama series: "snubbed" - Daily Mirror, Express,

Most unoriginal adjective to describe the best drama series, Jimmy McGovern's the Street: "gritty" - Sun, Times, Express, Guardian.

Most opportunistic corruption of the name "Bafta": the Mirror, for its headline the Gafftas (re the snubbing of Life on Mars for the gritty northern drama the Street).

Most opportunistic corruption of Bafta iconography to something that isn't actually the Baftas: present company excepted, the Mirror for its Bafta or Dafta awards for best and worst dresses guests.

Staying with the weekend, Paper Monitor doesn't often report on the carnival that is the Sunday papers. But yesterday it was somewhat distracted by a copy of the Mail on Sunday, and in particular the free DVD it was offering.

Attentive readers will recall that a few weeks ago the Mail appeared to have worked out a new formula for give-away DVDs. Basically it involved offering a film which NO-ONE HAS EVER HEARD OF, but which has at least one household name in it. Then push the name rather than the film.

Yesterday's DVD fell completely into that mould. Roger Moore (tick!) and Susannah York (tick!) star with Sir John Gielgud (double tick!) in that classic action movie .... GOLD (err....)

So here's what we as the Monitor community need to know: has anyone ever seen aforementioned Gold? If you have, please let us know using the comments form below.

We also learned from the Mail on Sunday that Liz Jones (about whom Paper Monitor has despaired on more than one occasion) is "finally, finally, finally divorcing [her] husband". Lady, we just don't care.

And while we're at it, this headline ought to be, ahem, treasured: "I still suffer nightmares from the day I fought off pirate with a hosepipe." Someone give Have I Got News For You a call, would they?

PS. Paper Monitor also saw many adverts in the weekend supplements showing Myleene Klass in her blooming state in an M&S halterneck bikini, appearing to do an Ursula Andress (but without the knife). Whether one's interest is in the careers of former Hear'Say stars or fashion, one can only hope that one's colleague, Ad Breakdown, will do a follow up on this urgent subject.

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