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Archives for August 31, 2008 - September 6, 2008

10 things we didn't know last week

17:30 UK time, Friday, 5 September 2008

10_birds_unknown203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. E-mail addresses beginning with with "A", "M" or "S" get more spam than those starting with "Q" or "Z".
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2. Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie lived off the proceeds of cocaine while in exile in South America.
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3. Ping-pong was originally called ping-pong, not whiff-whaff, as London's mayor, Boris Johnson, publicly claimed at the Beijing Olympics.
More details (the Times)

4. Urban gulls produce three times as many eggs as their coastal counterparts.
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5. One of the scientists involved in developing the £5bn Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Switzerland, was the keyboardist with the chart-topping group D-Ream.
More details (the Independent)

6. Water is naturally present in aviation fuel.
More details

7. Former World's Strongest Man, Geoff Capes, is an avid budgerigar keeper - owning more than 300 of the birds.
More details (Daily Mail)

8. The man who designed the iconic Rolling Stones lips logo, was paid just £50 for the job... although he received a £200 bonus.
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9. Indie music fans are not, in general, gentle sorts but heavy metal fans are.
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10. You can dive from 35ft into 12in of water - and only suffer bruising (with a lot of training).
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Oliver O'Brien for this week's picture of 10 unidentified birds.

Your Letters

17:22 UK time, Friday, 5 September 2008

How do the facts in this story justify the headline? This is something the BBC has done repeatedly - sum up the sentences of all the guilty parties and present them as a total. These youths were sent to jail for 3 and 2 years respectively - anyone scanning the heading would assume they had been sentenced to five years. If ten people are sentenced to six months each, the sentence is six months, not five years. And do you know what? I don't even think I am being pedantic here - this is simply misreporting the facts.
Kevin Friery, Portsmouth UK

In your article on wind energy, Maria McCaffery of the British Wind Energy Association says: "We don't have to pay for wind power it just comes to us naturally". What a load of Tosh! We DO have to pay for wind energy, just like we pay for our Water! It costs to harvest it, turn it into an energy source we can use and distribute it to our homes and factories.
Mike, UK

Given all the talk about grammar lately, shouldn't the headline for this video be "Footage shows bus hit by boy". From watching the video it is obvious that the bus is the object and the boy the subject.
Aidan Folkes, Reading

What utter tosh. Next professor North will be trying to prove a link between personality and the clothes we wear or some such rubbish.
David, Hong Kong

To Georgina James (Thursday's letters) - there are only five stories that it is acceptable for UK journalists to write in December, and they are:
(1) Will there be a White Christmas this year? (No)
(2) Gosh, haven't the sales started early this year!
(3) Meet Joe Bloggs, he celebrates Christmas EVERY day of the year!
(4) Here's Phil from Dudley, who's put £25,000 worth of illuminated decorations on the roof of his 3 bedroom semi.
(5) Your Christmas dinner - how many calories does it REALLY contain? (Lots)
I suggest you pick one of the above. That's all anyone else will be doing!
Nicky Stu, Highbury, London (I've moved house)

Georgina, no matter which city you visit, I'd suggest you bring a pedant's guide to English grammar, a conversion table for measuring large objects in terms of double decker buses or the country of Wales, and read up on nominative determinism. Oh, and don't forget your coat.
Rob, Worcester, UK

Was sadly disappointed to discover this story wasn't about the Minister for Schools, although it did give me a very good caption for Guido's Friday caption competition.
Silas, London, UK

As a fellow pedant, I feel I must point out to Chris Melville (Thursday's letters) that SPAM is also not actually an acronym, rather it's a backronym. Like the computer mouse (see past letters), both spam of the meat variety and spam of the electronic variety have been attributed false etymologies. Spam the meat was just named Spam to help with its marketing. As for the electronic type of spam, it got its name because a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch set in a cafe in which nearly every dish involves spam, inspired people to use the word to disrupt conversations in internet chat rooms. The term then went on to cover all unsolicited internet communication.
PS, Newcastle, England

At the risk of seeming a pedant, surely CHMSL is neither an acronym nor, as Chris suggests, an abbreviation - it's an initialism.
Ben Goudie, Leeds

Chris - I hate to uber-pedant your pedantry, but Spam (in its tin-based meat, Monty Python or email forms) isn't an acronym, it's a contraction of SPiced hAM. An acronym doesn't necessarily have to be pronounceable (and you can have quite a few arguments about the correct way to say those that are - see GIF as a good example), but it does need to be made up of the initial letters or initial parts of a series of words, so Spam doesn't quite qualify...
Dan, Cambridge

She's back! What a way to begin the weekend!
Darren McCormac, London

Caption Competition

13:15 UK time, Friday, 5 September 2008


Winning entries in the caption competition.


This week, three people suspended in sleeping bags nailed to a wall at London's Victoria station to promote the launch of a herbal sleep remedy.

The competition is now closed. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. nigelmccc
"Itching powder? You're... Oh, no..."

5. Candace9839
Heathrow Terminal 5 unveils its new lounge area.

4. pinkfloydareace
You want to know why there are always three tickets booths unmanned every day? Here's the answer.

3. nick_fowler
"Passengers are advised to be on the lookout for some very large spiders."

2. JamesWTT
After being confronted by the evidence, Ripley headed off to find her flamethrower.

1. Mozza3322
Small, one-bed dwellings, excellent commuter links.

Paper Monitor

12:04 UK time, Friday, 5 September 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Yesterday we highlighted our anticipation for Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw giving Guy Ritchie's Rocknrolla the kind of beating not seen since, er, the last movie by Madge's husband.

Here it is.

The premise is a play on the title's misspelling. Here's a sample: "As so often in the oeuvra of the film's creata, each cipha sounds like he's a Groucho Club memba, a haunta of that exclusive London booza which contains many a bourgwa meeja [expletive deleted] who thinks he's a West Ham supporter after a night on the powda."

Lovely. Sadly, while Ritchie might expect a bit of sniping from the snide Guardian, the film also gets positively tepid reviews in the Daily Mirror, Sun and even the Daily Star.

Meanwhile it's over to the Times, for an insight into La Difference, as it applies to the press.

The story is the pregnancy of French cabinet minister Rachida Dati. But who is the daddy? She's not saying, and the French media famously believe that "news stops at the bedroom door".

There's a glorious quote from Renaud Revel, described as a commentator with France-Inter radio.

"The German or Anglo-Saxon press would have X-rayed Rachida Dati's pregnancy to the point of producing the father's ID papers and his DNA. The French media are kept at a distance. The father has been known to newsrooms for weeks. But not a line, not a name... not the slightest allusion has appeared."

You might be tempted to paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies's famous utterance and suggest "he would say that, wouldn't he". Or you might accept that this is the difference between our tawdry press and its noble Gallic cousins.

It all reminds Paper Monitor of the times it has to ring one of its friends in a red-top newsroom to find out which celebrity is the unnamed subject in an injuncted news story.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:28 UK time, Friday, 5 September 2008

See the Quote of the Day every morning on the Magazine index.

"You have the charisma of a damp flannel" - Janet Street-Porter on Selina Scott's failure to get on TV more.

Selina Scott has taken issue with Five's failure to use her to cover newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky's maternity leave. The likes of Joan Bakewell are sympathetic and happy to blow the ageist and sexist trumpet. For others, to see those who once benefited from being bright young things now complaining of falling out of favour is a bit rich, on a par with Frazer's King of the Woods complaining about job security. Janet Street-Porter lays it on with a trowel, telling Scott: "You're better off rearing your goats back in Yorkshire, love." Priceless.
More details

Your Letters

16:23 UK time, Thursday, 4 September 2008

This must surely be the greatest feat of engineering of all time.
Paul Bradshaw, Nottingham

Re Today's Paper Monitor. As much as I love Peter Bradshaw's movies reviews (his Hulk review being a particular favourite), I do hope he doesn't trot out his apparently favourite "... makes ... look like Citizen Kane" comparison. He's used it in at least three films reviews already (Hulk, I Want Candy and Revolver) and he of all people should know how terrible an unoriginal and essentially rehashed sequel can be.
PS, Newcastle, England

Tchah! The headline at the top of the Magazine reads "Daily papers: Just who is this 'Biffo' that you speak of?" - "...of whom you speak", surely?
HB, London

Since it's pedants' season, I should point out to Heather Simmons (Letters, Wednesday): CHMSL is not an acronym, it's only an abbreviation. An acronym is an abbreviation whose letters can be pronounced as a word, like "SPAM" or "SCUBA".
Chris Melville, London, UK

In reply to GDW, Edinburgh (Letters, Wednesday): Either "I shall" or "I will" would be grammatically correct. In the instance of coat-getting, however, "I will" is to be preferred. The speaker is expressing an awareness of the social faux-pas he has committed, and a willingness to defuse the awkwardness with a swift exit. "I will" is therefore the phrase which more precisely nails his feelings.
James, Stockport

GDW, Edinburgh, I believe it is "I will get my coat", though you could also ask the question "Shall I get my coat?".
Sarah, London, UK

It's "I'll".
Alistair, Australia

I think the Independent swizzed its loyal readership out of £2,350 today. 3/4 of page 17 was a copy of the front page article. Or is this just a much more discreet method of increasing the effective price per page without having to change the cover price?
Jo, London

Random Stat: It's been 202 days since we had an update to the random stat.
Stuart, London

I will be in your city in December and would love to write an article about it in my magazine. What would you suggest?
Georgina James, Australia

Paper Monitor

11:19 UK time, Thursday, 4 September 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Journalists are like carpenters. Most deal with the rougher end of things, nailing planks together and so forth. Most are happy with their lot, having no aspirations to be joiner or cabinetmaker or other more rarefied worker of wood.

But sometimes even the humblest word-carpenter can soar. So is the achievement of Tom Horan in the Daily Telegraph today.

In an interview with 80s synth star Gary Numan, he conjures up a paragraph on a par with a Chippendale chair in reference to the singer's wife.

"A self-confessed plastic-surgery addict with an alpine cleavage and hair extensions in iridescent pink, Gemma exuded the air of warmth and thoughtfulness that so often personifies vaguely Gothic/industrial types. She referred to the master of the house at all times as 'Biffo'."

Forget whether alpine and Gothic should have leading caps or not, this paragraph soars like a textual eagle. There is so much here to digest.

And from one word-carpenter to another, Paper Monitor feels obliged to draw everyone's attention to a coming attraction.

As far as can be ascertained, the Guardian has not reviewed Guy Ritchie's latest, Rocknrolla, and we're hoping Peter Bradshaw will be doing it tomorrow. We've highlighted Mr Bradshaw's work before.

But everything hinges on whether he found it appalling. If he did, Paper Monitor will be in inky heaven.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:24 UK time, Thursday, 4 September 2008

"It'll be nice to know that every gallon of petrol a Manchester United fan buys is going into our kitty" - Noel Gallagher gloats after the Abu Dhabi takeover of Manchester City.

Longstanding City fan Gallagher is among those currently stunned by the club being taken over by insanely wealthy backers. Of course, at some point, heartbreak will still follow.
More details

Your Letters

15:15 UK time, Wednesday, 3 September 2008

I wonder if we could have more items in the Magazine where readers send things in, and then you print them, and underneath you put "NOTE:" and patiently explain why they're wrong. The one today was fun.
Paul T, Manchester

Re: number seven in the "20 examples of grammar misuse", surely 'John Self' is one of the more ironic cases of nominative determinism when talking about being obsessed with reflexive use.

Daniel Morgan, Kent, UK

Many thanks for the pedants' guide to grammar. One point of clarification, please. Is it "I shall get my coat" or "I will get my coat"?
GDW, Edinburgh, UK

A few months ago a letting agency on my street put up a sign saying "The Credit Crunch means less houses being sold, more being let." As this is Oxford, it was corrected overnight with a marker pen to read "Fewer". Shortly afterwards the sign disappeared and was replaced (presumably at great expense) by one with the grammar corrected. Chalk up a victory for the pedants?
Alex, Oxford

Re: "Couple in court over Olympics tax", I love the Olympics. Where do I send my £33.35 to?
Sue, Stoke

First our antipodean cousins are sexist and now no digeridoos for the girls? Strewth! Is there some sort of anti-Oz conspiracy going on? I think we should be told.
Helen, Istanbul, Turkey

The correct spelling is CHMSL (10 Things We Didn't Know Last Week, #2) which stands for Center High-Mounted Stop Light. This acronym has no vowels, like its close cousin PRNDL (Park-Rear-Neutral-Drive-Low).
Heather Simmons, Macomb, Michigan USA

Paper Monitor

11:44 UK time, Wednesday, 3 September 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's September and that means that summer is official O-VAH. School pupils are back, newspaper executives have returned from their boltholes on the Croatian coast. And the long-absent sun, while hardly beaming out like a laser in your face, is casting a pallid glow over Monitor Towers.

But news never sleeps, not even during the Silly Season, which is also officially over. Although perhaps the Times colour writer sent to Afghanistan may be surprised that the whole front page has been given over to his lyrical waxations about British troops under fire. Pushing news of Gordon Brown's stamp duty-led charm offensive to page three, and the compelling tales of the burnt-out mansion and the Republicans' colourful VP hopeful further back.

The paper does have the pick of the "picture says a thousand words" photos of Sarah Palin, sitting in her Alaskan office with a bear skin - head, fangs, claws 'n' all - instead of a sofa throw rug.

The Daily Telegraph's coverage of happenings across the Atlantic places a photo of a woman in a leopard-skin hat emblazoned with badges such as "Maniacal, foaming at the mouth, feverishly, fervent PALIN NUT!!" just above the headline "New Orleans still not safe, residents warned".

And over at the Independent, there is an exclusive interview with Mr Heat - Mark Frith, who sat in the editor's chair of gossip rag for eight years - and his mea culpa for creating Britain's celebrity obsession. The Indy's designers have clearly had a bit of fun for once, tricking out the features supplement to mimic a Heat cover.

It is perhaps the first time the paper's picture editor had to dig out images of (deep breath) Geri Halliwell, Liz Hurley, Jade Goody, Jennifer Aniston, Jordan and Kerry Katona. All at the same time.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when that picture request came through...

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

10:12 UK time, Wednesday, 3 September 2008

"I have Van Gogh's ear for music" - Stephen Fry on why his role as The Mirror in a Snow White panto involves no singing.

fry226getty.jpgThe actor/quizshow host/whatever is to lend his mellifluous tones to a Christmas show. But those heading to Norwich Theatre Royal in the hopes of being in the presence of the master will be disappointed - Fry has already recorded his lines in the studio. And will not break into song.

Your Letters

18:30 UK time, Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Carrier bags. A few years ago, I ordered 51 items from Tesco online shopping and was delivered in 18 bags. I even had a bag for six Oxo cubes. Is this a record?
Helen, UK

Re the quote in Tuesday's Paper Monitor,When did "better" become a synonym for "more colourful", as per the Telegraph today?
H Cartier-Bresson (decd),

Re Chris Ayres comment on Sarah Palin, noted in Paper Monitor. I have heard that the acronym of VPILF has been coined following the announcement of her as McCain's running mate. Of course, it will only be applicable if McCain is successful in November.
PS, Newcastle, England

I can't help thinking that if Michael had spent more time at home being a good parent, rather than galavanting around the world, these things would never have happened.
Simon Robinson, Birmingham, UK

Thundered? Thor would not be impressed, trundled maybe.
Robin , Herts, UK

I used to have sex on the beach every Thursday, but I went off the peach schnapps. Give me a screwdriver and I'm yours!
Angel, Coventry, UK

Johnny (Monday's letters), even more confusingly, it's fewer than 100 pennies but less than 100 pence, because it depends whether you're considering the individual objects or a quantity of money.
Anna, Milton Keynes

Re "Commitment phobes can blame genes", failing to commit can only be described as a genetic flaw if the species becomes extinct because of it. Other than that it is no different from a genetic disposition for blonde hair.
James Hayward, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Re "MoD to hold bearskin hat meeting", Robbie LeBlanc says "It takes one bear to make a hat". How do they do the stitching with those paws?
Mark, Reading, UK

I feel I should point out that the six checkpoints listed in the article about the 'gang spotter guide' perfectly describe how I was as a teenager in the 90s. I was never in a gang, I just felt the need to experiment.
Michael, Lincoln

Marie Clair of the PEC ("When to use 'fewer' rather than 'less'") seems to have fallen victim to Hartman's Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation: any article or statement about correct grammar, punctuation, or spelling is bound to contain at least one eror (SIC). She says "...spelling and grammar has slipped." They certain has, Marie.
Peter Howard, Cambridge, UK

To Lester Mak (Monday's letters): if you were told to "count up to 10", would you stop at 9?
Ruaraidh Gillies, Wirral, UK

Paper Monitor

10:53 UK time, Tuesday, 2 September 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's "expand your vocab" day in the Times. Sarah Palin, according to commentator Chris Ayres, is a "gun-packing, moose-wrangling, salmon-trawling milf from Alaska".

You'll have to look that one up - Paper Monitor is contractually bound from explaining what it means. Meanwhile there's lots of colourful background on the Palins, including the names of the children - Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig.

Elsewhere, more new vocab but this time more highminded. Times religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill casually throws in the word "archiespiscopate". Nice work - though her phrase "tensions over sexuality that are threatening to rend the Anglican Communion in two" would surely sound a touch more Biblical if she had said "in twain". *

The Daily Telegraph meanwhile has gone full colour today. Paper Monitor is old enough to remember a plantive cry of a traditionalist Telegraph reader who, when colour was introduced to the front page some years ago, said that seeing the paper over the breakfast table was like encountering one's teenage daughter coming down the stairs plastered with garish make-up.

Can't imagine anyone complaining in those terms nowadays. And in a rather depressing article explaining the introduction of colour (an article a la Sarah Sands) it is claimed that "readers will be able to enjoy even better pictures and exciting new graphics throughout the paper". Woo-hoo! It adds: "In Business, we have responded to your demands for even more graphics detailing key financial and economic data." You spoil us! Those demonstrations of placard-wielding Telegraph readers chanting "What do we want?" "Even more graphics detailing key financial and economic data!" "When do we want them?" "Every day including a comprehensive round-up at the weekend!" must have passed Paper Monitor by.

Still, the paper does look attractive, so good luck to them. And it's interesting to note that, just as the Times did before it, the Telegraph has chosen the familiar Magazine teal to denote its news pages.

* "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;", Matthew 27 v51.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:41 UK time, Tuesday, 2 September 2008

"They say every man will have an affair, but I really don't think mine will.
Actually, I know he won't"
- Jools Oliver on her husband Jamie

La Oliver worries not about tempting fate. It must be said that her husband Jamie, the celebrity chef par excellence, is known for his uxoriousness. And perhaps his energies are elsewhere - fighting the good fight in school canteens and trying to keep to the dealer's maxim of "not getting high on your own supply".

Your Letters

16:28 UK time, Monday, 1 September 2008

If there were fewer people who complained about "less & fewer", then there'd be less chance my blood pressure would be so high thanks to people who moan for the sake of it.
Jordan Dias, London, UK

Please explain the difference between:
£1 or less
100 pennies or fewer
Thank you.
Johnny, York, England

Re: Tesco's sign changes. Am I the only one who isn't sure whether the "Up to 10 items" queue means "Up to and including 10 items" or nine items or fewer/less. I think I'll stick to the voice of the self-service checkout...
Lester Mak, London, UK

I think you've officially given me Crunchwatch syndrome. At the weekend I noticed that Krispy Kreme Doughnuts' special offers now refer to the Kredit Krunch.
Susannah, Northampton

Regarding number five in 10 things - surely most people already knew that words can be very painful? As the poem by Steve Turner says, "Sticks and stones only break your bones, but words can tear your heart out".
Kathryn, London

Rich (Thursday's letters) and the family who "identified the spider using the internet". Presumably it was using the world wide web.
George, London UK

I am highly interested in famous quotes and expressions. Thank you for this offer.
Ando, Cotonou, Benin

Paper Monitor

11:26 UK time, Monday, 1 September 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Cough, splutter, grimace - the Aldi of the quality newspaper world, the Times, has suddenly gone all reassuringly expensive, adding 10p to its cover price. At a credit crunch-unfriendly 80p there's now nothing to choose between it and the other qualities... in monetary terms at least.

There's just a merest whisper of this hike at the very foot of page two, in shrunk-down text - and no grandiose explanation about maintaining high editorial standards amid a climate of rising costs. Somewhat more in your face, though, is the full-page ad further in which advises how to "Freeze the price of your papers" - yup, it's the Times bigging up its annual subscription and home delivery service.

A prudent financial move perhaps, until you get to p10 of the Mail. "Are we on the eve of destruction?" Yikes. Just when you though Mondays couldn't get any worse, the Mail wades in with the theory that when the European Organization for Nuclear Research switches on its giant underground collider in nine days time, this "man-made black hole 'could swallow the Earth'".

It's the sort of story that could leave the likes of Ryanair, with its "3 million seats from £15 - travel in October" ad on the opposite page, feeling rather like the British public do about their government, if you believe the Alistair Darling.

Talking of which, here's a list of which newspapers printed Darling's two-word frank assessment in full on Saturday: Guardian, Daily Star, Independent, Financial Times...

...while the Express, Telegraph, Mirror and Times opted for some judicious use of asterisks.

Finally, just time to mention an interview in the Mail with the new president of the Budgerigar Society - an unlikely one at that: former world's strongest man Geoff Capes.

Which is a convenient opportunity to remind one and all of the merits of signing up for the Magazine Twitter feed. (More details)

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:57 UK time, Monday, 1 September 2008

"A certain amount of hanky-panky was condoned, especially when it was for a good cause" - US journalist Jennet Conant on the wartime activities of author-cum-agent Roald Dahl

Before he became an author loved by millions and known for children's classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Road Dahl was seducing for Britain as part of his undercover mission in the US. As an RAF attache based in Washington, he even complained that some of the high society women left him exhausted.

"Dahl's superiors watched his rake's progress with grudging admiration," writes Conant in The Irregulars, which is published this month. Thankfully, Dahl did find time away from the bedroom to discover his talent for writing. The Gremlins was published in 1943 and promptly sold to Disney.

More details (the Telegraph)

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