BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for January 25, 2009 - January 31, 2009

How to Say: Davos

17:00 UK time, Friday, 30 January 2009

An occasional guide to the words and names in the news from Christine Haunz of the BBC Pronunciation Unit

As the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum is once again taking place in Davos, some disagreements might arise as to how the name of the host location should be pronounced: is it DAV-oss (o as in top) or dav-OHSS (oh as in no)? In fact, both pronunciations are in use: the latter is the local German pronunciation, while journalists and attendees commonly use the anglicisation DAV-oss.

Among the attendees are the Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, and China's Wen Jiabao, as well as Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who was involved in a heated exchange with Israel's Shimon Peres on Thursday. The pronunciations of their names are as follows (with stressed syllables in upper case):

1. Vladimir Putin: vluh-DEE-meer POO-tin (uh as "a" in ago, eer as in deer -- not PYOO-tin)

2. Wen Jiabao: WUHN ji-aa BOW (uh as "a" in ago, j as in Jack, ow as in now)

3. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: REJ-ep TIGH-yip AIR-doh-an (j as in Jack, igh as in high, air as in hair, oh as in no)

4. Shimon Peres: shee-MONN PERR-ess (err as in merry)

The managing director of the World Bank, formerly the finance minister of Nigeria, is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, pronounced ng-GOH-zi ock-ON-joh ee-WAY-luh (ng-g as in finger, oh as in no, o as in top, j as in Jack).

Finally, leaving the Swiss Alpine resort for the shores of north-east England, where French footballer Charles N'Zogbia is said to be unhappy that his boss, Newcastle United manager Joe Kinnear, can't pronounce his name - having referred to him as "Insomnia". The pronunciation of the player's name used in English contexts is normally n-ZOG-bi-uh (uh as "a" in ago). In France, however, he is usually referred to as SHAARL en-zoh-BYAA (oh as in no, by as in beauty).

To download the BBC Pronunciation Unit's guide to text spelling, click here.

10 things we didn't know last week

16:51 UK time, Friday, 30 January 2009

boxes_203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. The record score in rugby union is 350-0, made when one team was protesting against suspensions.
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2. Naked rambling is legal in Switzerland.
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3. Members of the House of Lords cannot be expelled or suspended.
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4. There is an Apostrophe Protection Society.
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5. Cows who are given names produce more milk.
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6. Poland pays 94% of the funding for the Auschwitz Museum.
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7. Thinking too much makes your golf worse.
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8. The brain chemical serotonin causes locusts to swarm.
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9. Cricket at altitude is potentially dangerous.
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10. Putting nuclear reactors near areas prone to earthquakes was banned in the UK. Now it's not.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Helen Evans for her picture of 10 mailboxes in Wyuna Bay in New Zealand.

Your Letters

16:03 UK time, Friday, 30 January 2009

The Friday nominative determinism is Neil Nightingale, Head of the BBC Natural History Unit .
Fred, Rotherham

In today's "The Good, the Bad and the Mangled", a photo of Kate Winslet carries the caption "Kate Winslet does a German accent - only Germans know if it is any good". Just two questions spring to mind: what defines a "good" German accent and how on earth would most Germans even know what English spoken with a German accent sounds like?
Neil Franklin, Chandlers Ford, UK

Postman cat helps deliveries - surely this isn't news, hasn't Jess been helping Pat for years?
Mike Higgins, Leeds, UK

Those ramblers aren't naked, they're wearing socks and boots. Surely a truly naked rambler would be doing it barefoot?
Claire, London

I suspect those who write the headlines on the BBC news website must have some wager on who can get the most letters sent into the Monitor about their mischievous and misleading wording. I was deeply disappointed at the identity of the Clarkson in this headline today: "Clarkson makes US chart history." (It was Kelly, not Jeremy).
Tom, London

Re Nicky Stu (Thursday letters) - I don't think "overmorrow" would be quite such a catchy name for a diaster movie, though.
Dan, Oxford

RE: Mike (Thursday letters) may I suggest "blodge" as a succinct term for blog-avoidance?
Mary, Derby

Caption Competition

13:16 UK time, Friday, 30 January 2009


Winning entries in the caption competition.

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

Pope Benedict XVI with a lion cub

This week, the Pope meets a lion cub during his weekly audience at the Vatican. What's being said?

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

6. SundayParkGeorge
The first meeting between the Pope and the Atheist Society is preceded by the traditional exchange of gifts.

5. eattherich
"Aah, my Ebay purchase. Go and give positive feedback."

4. Rockahula
O Puss Dei.

3. W_K_Snowdon
"Trust me, Your Holiness, he's very tame. What smoke?"

2. poshboy1980
"Let us prey"

1. nadine7346
Much as he trusted God, the Holy See decided that was close enough.

Paper Monitor

10:55 UK time, Friday, 30 January 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Can a newspaper ever have opened an online debate on a topic more likely to have its readers flocking, puce of face, to its website? The Daily Telegraph today invites comments on Birmingham City Council's decision to drop apostrophes from road signs.

The first poster is duly apoplectic and unashamedly pedantic - and, as regular Monitor readers will know, this is merely an invitation for fellow pedants to rake over their comments with a fine-toothed red pen: "Are we sure about the comma after 'language' old boy?" queries another poster, who is himself so apoplectic that he spells this word wrong. One suspects this may get nasty.

Meanwhile, the Daily Express is responsible for planting quite an unpleasant image in Paper Monitor's mind with the conjunction of "Plums are the latest superfood" with "Why women just can't keep their hands off Alan [Titchmarsh]". Stop now.

And while many of the papers joyfully reprint pictures of police puppy Gunner attempting to apprehend the Duchess of Cornwall's scarf - captioned by the Express as "Who's a bad boy then? Gunner looks abashed but is quickly forgiven by startled Camilla. She loves dogs" - the Daily Mail does not. How curious. But it does have a double-page spread of studio photos of cute puppies, kittens, rabbits and squirrels. How sweet.

zuckerberg.jpgBack at the Telegraph, editor William - not Will - Lewis is blogging about his time at the Davos shindig, and becomes the latest, not the first, to note an unlikely barometer of these hard time: the return of the necktie. Lewis observes that even the dotcom crowd is getting in on the act - in the shape of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who has teamed his cravat with a pair of jeans (see pic right). Lewis is speaking to Paper Monitor's heart when he questions this combo. It brings to mind the glastly 80s pop star-look and Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia.

And finally, an extra helping of kudos - with no peas - is winging its way to Oliver Beale, of London ad firm WCRS, author of the "best complaint letter ever" (the Telegraph's reproduction of said letter still tops the most-read list on its website three days on).

Mr Beale tells the paper that he has been offered no compensation other than the chance to select the food and wines for future Virgin flights (and, presumably, this gracious mea culpa from Virgin's PR man). So Mr Beale, chicken or beef?

He has rather landed on his feet, as an advertising executive can do far worse than having his comedic and communication skills feted around the world. Except in the kitchens of Virgin's caterers, of course.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:11 UK time, Friday, 30 January 2009

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

"It's certainly raised awareness that we serve Indian food on our Mumbai to London services" - Virgin Atlantic spokesman Paul Charles finds some positive spin in "best complaint letter ever"

Mr Charles has clearly learned a lesson or two at the throne of King Richard of Branson, judging by this defiant response to what been branded the "greatest complaint letter ever". The six-page letter to Virgin chief Richard Branson was from a passenger unhappy about the state of his in-flight meal. More details here.
Source: BBC One's Six O'Clock News

Your Letters

17:43 UK time, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Stig, unmasked - Brilliant! A hero in our midst, revealed at last. And good to know that someone makes such great contributions also manages to hold down a steady job. Makes me feel a lot less guilty about writing messages like this from my desk...
The Bob, Glasgow

No, I'm the Stig!
Susannah, Northampton

Is it modern etiquette to tell friends that you don't actually read their blogs or should you just bluff? And has anyone a flexicon suggestion for blog-avoidance?
Mike, Newcaste upon Tyne

The answer to this question is "Their arrrrrrccountant."
Dan, London

In this article your correspondent says that the channel tunnel looks like "an impossibly long, giant Smarties tube". No it doesn't, because it isn't hexagonal as Smartie-tubes are now (another death-knell to my childhood).
Basil Long, Nottingham

Ohhh... If we're voting to bring back obsolete words (letters passim) for periods of time, can I please nominate "overmorrow" (which means the day after tomorrow). Fellow Monitorites, drop it into conversation: maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but overmorrow, and for the rest of your lives.
Nicky Stu, Highbury, London

Wish us luck - we have just made the momentous decision to no longer have terrestrial or cable TV (and no, no satellite either). Anticipating a bit of a ruckus from my five-year old, I was quite impressed that, on being told, she just nodded and said "Can we have a game of hide-and-seek, then?". So we did. PS I also like the word sennight - but here in the US they do not even use the word fortnight. When I said I'd been away for a "fortnight's holiday", I was asked "Where's that, then?".
Rachel, Minnetonka

Re Council to build houses of straw. Have these people learnt nothing from the three little pigs!? Wolf-related vandalism will skyrocket!
Mike Harper, Devon, UK

Re the numberplate in this story: Am I missing some association between Everton FC and the monarchy? It's true I have been out of the country for a while. Is the Queen their manager now?
Ozzie Becca, Queensland, Australia.

Could someone please explain why a drama based in the 1960s still is based in the 1960s after 17 years of being screened? They must had more than 10 Christmas specials for one!
Helen, UK

Next time Paper Monitor is looking for some stock illustrations, take a glance at the favicon at Getty Images.
Andrew Taylor, Manchester

Re Baroness Murphy admitting she made up the medical condition "cello scrotum". I'm glad the British Medical Journal have agreed that "no-one faced the sack for failing to spot the implausible condition."
Dave S, London

After "Rabbit Run" and Updike's early short stories, I lost interest in his fiction, but continued to enjoy his book reviews. Too many novels about a "famous writer" pursued by women were simply shallow and annoying, despite fine writing. One excellent story about a man's jealousy for a lover's dedication to religion does stick in the mind years later.
Waimea Williams, Kaneohe, Hawaii, USA
Monitor: Er, thanks Waimea, though wrong thread

Paper Monitor

13:10 UK time, Thursday, 29 January 2009

A (belated, again) service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Blogs. Curious beasts, aren't they? Funny the things you can find out about people.

And now John Prescott's time is no longer taken up with croquet at his grace-and-favour home deputy prime ministering, he's discovered social networking in all its myriad forms.

The People column in the Times caries this dispatch from Prezza's blog (!), Go Fourth. In it, he casts light on why he compared a life in politics to a coconut on a shy. "I'd been set a challenge by one of my Facebook friends, 16-year-old Reece - to mention a coconut on that show without it being noticed, but with it being heard. More challenges soon."

Paper Monitor does not quite know where to start with that revelation. Facebook? Teenage friends? And, most mystifying of all, who still so misunderestimates the power of Prescott's verbal dexterity as to be surprised at anything he might say?

Moving on. The papers do so enjoy a seemingly straight caption to a potentially embarassing photo of a public figure.

capello_dancer_ap.jpgSuch as the Daily Mail's fondness for laughing into its hat while penning captions such as "The Duchess of Cornwall meets a competitor as she tours the stables backstage at the Olympia Horse Show yesterday" (Paper Monitor, 18 December).

Today People tries it with a snap much like the one reproduced above right. "No doubt straining to catch David Beckham's AC Milan performance on a screen monitor, Fabio Capello, the England manager, finds that his view is unfortunately blocked during a guest appearance on an Italian TV spectacular."


Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:58 UK time, Thursday, 29 January 2009

"They got up and ran out of the court onto the street... That's where they met the pole - it was all over, rover" - A police officer's account of two prisoners' futile bid for freedom

The prisoners, who were handcuffed together, thought they had made their great escape from the courthouse in New Zealand. However they runied their own getaway when they ran either side of a lamppost, crashed into each other and fell into a heap, where police caught up with them.
More details

Stig, unmasked

10:42 UK time, Thursday, 29 January 2009


Some say his Twitter feed has its own tinted helmet. All we know is that he's called Stig and he enters the Caption Competition. Well, that WAS all we knew...

thestigbbc.jpgTop Gear's mystery test driver The Stig has been allegedly unmasked as Ben Collins, a 33-year-old former racer from Bristol. Or Heikki Kovalainen, a Finn who apparently drove a Renault F1 car in 2004. Or Chris Goodwin, Julian Bailey, Terry Grant or Russ Swift. Or perhaps Dan Lang. Or maybe a man called Will. All depending on which newspaper you read.

But how about the Monitor's very own masked man? Since late 2004, a character known only as Stig - and, more recently, Stigmondo - has built up quite a following for his fast lap times and tight cornering in the Magazine's Caption Competition and now-defunct Lunchtime Bonus Question.

Some say his captions arrive at Television Centre in their very own limousine. And some say he and Top Gear's always-helmeted Stig are one and the same.

But now, inspired by The Stig, our Stig unmasks himself as...

richard_thestig.jpgName: Richard Jenkinson

Age: 50

Occupation: "Director and co-owner of a financial research company, based in the City of London. Yes, it's been an interesting year, why do you ask?"

Relationship status: "Married (to Mrs Stig). And not to someone called Sue, as more than one letter to the Monitor has strangely alluded to. Caused me no end of steely looks over the dry toast, those. I have two children that now enter the caption competition, and are dangerously close to beating their father."

Why Stig? "It was given to me in the Army, but my room wasn't exactly regimentally uniform in its tidiness. So Stig of the Dump it was."

Favourite caption: "My air caption for the air guitar."

What next? "Stig is to have his own version of being launched off the back of an aircraft carrier in a banger. He'll enjoy that. As for me, I have more than one identity on the Monitor, and the non-Stigmondo ones are proving quite successful."

Your Letters

16:23 UK time, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Was it really necessary to explain that of the two pictures, the one of Darwin was the one on the right (Iconic images quiz) given that the other is a picture of tortoise? Frankly, if you couldn't work that out, there wouldn't be much point trying the quiz (in which I got six out 10 incidentally).
TS, Bromley, England

Re: Paper Monitor and the greatest complaint letter of all time. I really hope that gentlemen gets a Virgin train soon. I'd love to see the letter he composes after such a journey.
CS, Manchester, England

In addition to "forenoon" (letters passim), another great word we don't see enough of now is 'sennight', meaning a week.
John, Bristol

I've just been told off in Morrisons for going through the checkout labelled "Hand Baskets Only" with three handbaskets. Surely I am more correct than those who only go through with one?
Basil Long, Nottingham

Inspirational names for the Type 45 destroyers : Daring, Dauntless, Diamond, Dragon, Defender... Duncan?! Not quite in the same class, if you pardon the pun.
Paul Greggor, London

Re: "Barry scoops £25,000 Costa prize". Do prizes have to be "scooped" for the same reason that losers have to "crash out"?
Mike, Newcastle upon Tyne

Paper Monitor

12:42 UK time, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Metro doesn't need to make you smile in the morning - but isn't it nice when it does?

Paper Monitor is all a-glow at its tale of how Sir Richard Branson phoned an irate Virgin customer who penned "what's been called the best ever complaint letter".

The e-mail, sent after a flight from Mumbai to London last month, contained a photo of what appeared to be two sponges. And it read thus: "Look at this Richard. Just look at it. I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And, which one is the starter, which one is the dessert?"

It gets better in the Daily Telegraph, which runs an online picture gallery of the meal in question, along with further extracts from the complaint e-mail: "Well answer me this Richard, what sort of animal would serve a dessert with peas in. I know it looks like a baaji but it's in custard Richard, custard."


Sorry for the break in transmission, Paper Monitor is attempting to recover from one of those laughing fits so incapacitating that colleagues gather, bearing concerned looks and the first aid kit.

Feel the need for some joy in your life, or perhaps a quick pass to the sick bay? Click here, and scroll down to where the beleaguered passenger shares his impressions of the main course. (The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. Or the funny looks you may get if you snort tea through your nose.)

Meanwhile, the Guardian has taken to promoting its online presence by adding its favicon to almost every page. It's a "g" - lower case, with a very similar curved font to Google's own mini "g" icon.


Sorry again, Paper Monitor has just spent several minutes toggling between a Google page and a Guardian page, comparing favicons. An idiot who is easily amused, but a happy one.

Updike imparted

10:40 UK time, Wednesday, 28 January 2009


His name towers over American 20th Century literature. Author of about 50 books, John Updike, who has died at the age of 76, pocketed literature prizes with the sort of casual abandon that the rest of us pocket £10 notes out of a cash machine.updike_getty_203.jpg

But, it must be said, while Updike's name is almost universally known, not everyone who has heard of him has read one of his works.

But here's an opportunity to employ the Monitor meta-brain. All those who have read one or more of Updike's works - and, no, having sat through Jack Nicholson in the Witches of Eastwick doesn't count - are invited to share with readers ONE thing that made Updike so worth reading.

Here's a taste of what we're after, from British novelist Philip Hensher: "What I most admired about [Updike] was... his way with a sentence. There's a moment [in one of his books] where he just looks at a baby and it's as if nobody has ever really properly looked at a baby. He was a wonderfully fecund observer of the world."

Ok, that probably counts as two thoughts - but Hensher's a novelist himself, so he's allowed.

Updike apostles - make your pithy point using the comments box/button below. Updike innocents - brace yourselves for enlightenment.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:25 UK time, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

"Perhaps, after 34 years, it's time for us to confess we invented cello scrotum" - Baroness Elaine Murphy, in a letter to the British Medical Journal

In 1974, when she was a young doctor, Baroness Murphy spotted an article in this same journal about guitar nipple, caused by friction from the instrument against said body part. Thinking it sounded like a joke, she and her husband invented cello scrotum - its cause surely self-explanatory - and fired off a letter to the BMJ. Since then their hoax ailment has been referenced in numerous medical articles.
More details (Metro)

Your Letters

15:43 UK time, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Natalie Betteley asks which country is the largest exporter of inedible frogs (Monday letters)? The answer is any that exports poison dart frogs, of course! These rare and colourful animals are found in the wild in rainforest in South America (Brazil, Columbia) and are being bred by Baltimore Zoo in the USA. The breeding programme is to prevent wild frogs from being captured and exported, of course.
Matth V, Cambridge, UK

No, sorry Natalie, I'm definitely with Auntie on the frogs thing. The exclusion of 'edible' would simply render Indonesia an exporter of frogs for an indeterminate purpose. Added to which, I'd wager that a number of countries are indeed exporters of inedible frogs for the pet trade. Gribbit!
Neil Franklin, Chandlers Ford, UK

"Red Dwarf voyages back to Earth" tells to expect "a 'no holds barred' episode without sets, special effects or autocue." I was under the impression that no sit-coms feature autocues, what with the cast having to learn the script.
PS, Newcastle, England

Did you have to print the story about the man who shape-shifted into a goat? Now we're going to have to read so many letters ending "I'll get my goat." Er, like this one, I suppose.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Is there a flexicon entry for breaking a barrier that never really existed (eg. the 20% barrier here ) or all these oil price "barriers" that we hear about?
Robert, Surrey

Ah, the joys of not noticing a scrollbar. I was convinced that, every time Murray was mentioned on the radio, PM's plumber was "unable to contain a wee".
HS, Cambridge

The caption on the first photo states that absent parents could be stopped from driving, and yet it shows someone doing some perfectly good parenting, just without a ubiquitous car in the picture
Basil Long, Nottingham

Adam of Manchester (Monday letters) - you should be eating porridge.
Colin Edwards, Exeter, UK

Paper Monitor

15:43 UK time, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Ok, first off - pipe down with those jibes that are undoubtedly waiting in the "Your Letters" inbox about tardiness. Paper Monitor is wrestling with a spot of multitasking (and no, don't take that as an indication of gender). And besides, it was rather banking on the fact that by the stroke of midday the Independent would have been sold off to some Russian oligarch for the price of a Chomp bar - such are the fluid rumours of the paper's future.

Besides, this is the very first instance of a Paper Monitor-Your Letters publishing deadline double hander.

Down to business. It's the morning afternoon after the night before for Sun editor Rebekah Wade, who had the honour of presenting last night's Hugh Cudlipp lecture (Full text here). Paper Monitor was cheered by the thrust of La Wade's talk - a gung-ho, cheerleading affair championing the importance of journalism.

Wade also offered a stout defence of the Sun's way of doing things and put a boot into the "knee-jerk tabloid kicking reaction" seen in the "serious" press. Paper Monitor's buttons are truly pressed.

It is in this partially inverted state that we turn to today's Sun and Mirror, which are busy keeping Leeds University's most glamorous serving undergrad, Chelsy Davy, on a steady simmer.

In one of those remarkable instances of simultaneous editorial decision making, both seize on the deep skin tones of Prince Harry's ex, each running with the headline "The future's bright..."

It has to be said, the Mirror rendering of Miss Davy is significantly more orange than that of the Sun (a little less image/adjust/saturation perhaps guys). Both offer witty colour swatches, inviting the reader to match Davy's hue to the nearest colour. Since you're asking, in the Sun Davy is closest to "Sad Sunset" while in the Mirror she's "Ginger Nuts".

There's further synchronisation in the captioning of pictures of Mickey Rourke clutching various ladyfolk. Rourke's new film is called The Wrestler - thus our Mickey is seen to be "grappling" with his female friends.

Finally, a stunt that only the Sun could pull off. "Mow's a Sun reader" runs the headline over a story about the literary likes of West Bromwich Albion boss Tony Mowbray.

Football manager reading red top is hardly a shocker... except that's not the story. The Sun in question is Sun Tzu's Art of War.

Just goes to prove: Tzu can never doubt the Sun.

(Anyone bought the Indy yet?)

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:33 UK time, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

"The suspected car thief we wanted to apprehend turned to that sheep, we quickly apprehended it" - Nigerian vigilante Prince Omoniyi Nasirudeen accuses a goat/sheep of being a shape-shifting car thief

It's been a big story in Nigeria. Vigilantes handed a goat to Kwara state police, which was then apparently paraded it in front of local reporters, accused of being a man who had attempted to steal a Mazda 323 belonging to Henrietta Ayijesu. Upon capture, the man had transformed himself into a goat. Now the Nigerian national police are denying everything. A spokesman said: "Of course goats can't commit crime."
More details (the Vanguard)

Your Letters

17:37 UK time, Monday, 26 January 2009

As I understand it, morning is anytime between midnight and noon (as in "three o'clock in the morning"), whilst forenoon (Friday letters) refers to the time between dawn and midday. I think I may have to start re-using the term; I rather like it.
Elaine, Newcastle

Now you're actually making the news.
Dan, London

It seems odd that we're told cannabis is bad for your health, as it appears to be the very opposite if there is any truth in the claim that "the age of users is falling".
Adam, London, UK

Way to put me off my [insert leading cereal brand here] BBC...not the sort of image I like to see in the morning when I wake up.
Adam, Manchester

If Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of edible frogs (10 things, Friday), which country is the largest exporter of inedible frogs? And if, as I suspect, no countries export inedible frogs, surely the word 'edible' in that sentence was superfluous.
Natalie Betteley, Aberystwyth, Wales

Another case of nominative determinism in this article?
Aimee, St. Andrews, Scotland

Paper Monitor

10:30 UK time, Monday, 26 January 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

If King Arthur personally offered you a place in his harem, would you leap at the chance or politely decline this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?

If you are a reporter, you would say no as it is your job to observe dispassionately rather than participate in events. Unless, of course, you specialise in gonzo pieces. In which case, you would grab such an opportunity with both hands. Quite literally.

But Daily Mail journalists are, in the main, nicely brought up coves. So when King Arthur Uther Pendragon issued just such an invitation to girl reporter Jane Fryer, she declined (one assumes), and adds that "[He] then made a great show of pretending to grab my right breast".

That was the last time she met him, during summer solstice, and she recycles this story now she's met him again for a piece about, well, shall we let the headline tell the story?

"Druid wars: How a drunken row over 4,000-year-old bones is causing chaos in pagan circles"

A prime example of a headline that makes you want to read more, yet also tells you everything you need to know. The Mail is a master of this particular art.

Fryer also adds that the self-styled king has "a tendency to ramble", which is a bit rich, given that it takes an admittedly entertaining seven paragraphs to get to the bit about the bones.

Meanwhile, there's yet more fun in store for the paper's fine stable of headline writers with the tale of women getting stuck into cocaine: "Middle class addicts soar as glamour drug sweeps the shires." How long have the subs been keeping that baby on ice? So to speak.

The story is illustrated with a picture of Welsh songbird Katherine Jenkins, who looks distractingly like Geri Halliwell, who also makes an appearance in the Mail after being papped - accidentally, no doubt - while out for dinner with her new gentleman caller. And George Michael.

The Daily Telegraph is also concerned with the comings and goings of the female of the species, in particular Chelsy Davey, the now former girlfriend of Prince Harry. Not to be confused with Captain Chesley B "Sully" Sullenberger the Third.

The paper's front page offers the teaser headline "How Chelsy announced her split with Harry". What? How? Did she push him into the wheelie bin she's pictured passing? She might have shouted: "You're, like, so binned, you are, innit. Like." (As Paper Monitor is given to understand the yoof of today speak.)

Not at all, but her chosen method would make it into a modern-day reworking of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. The Telegraph primly reports that "Miss Davey, 23 announced the end of their five-year relationship on Facebook, updating her online profile to read 'Relationship: Not in one'."

And finally, just as deadlines sometimes favour Fleet St's finest - to whit the news carnival as the Hudson River became a watery runway - sometimes they do not. Would an in-form Andy Murray continue his winning ways in the Australian Open?

As he only took to the court in Melbourne as the last of the late-night subs were heading towards Sleepyland, the papers are unable to carry news of his progress.

The Guardian plays it as safe as safe could be, simply pointing readers to its web coverage of the match. For those who have yet to catch up with the news, Paper Monitor will not spoil the surprise. Except to note today one is working from home as the plumber nurses one's boiler back to full health. And each time Murray is mentioned on Five Live, said plumber is unable to contain a wee snort of delight.

Needless to say, this plumber does not hail from Scotland.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:34 UK time, Monday, 26 January 2009

"After they exhumed Mr Itch they were very apologetic" - Charlene Gurney on police digging up her dead hamster

A warning to all bereaved pet owners who lay their favourite furry friend to rest in a shoe box in the garden. Police investigating a local robbery in Bradford unearthed the hamster rather than the lost loot they had expected after a tip-off.
More details (The Sun)

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