Monday, January 30, 2006

English Examination - Answers

1. ‘Ghoti’ is pronounced ‘fish’ - according to George Bernard Shaw, anyway. ‘Gh’ as in ‘rough’, ‘o’ as in ‘women’, and ‘ti’ as in ‘motion’.

2. ‘Cleave’, ‘sanction’ and ‘fix’ are contronyms, ie. they have two opposite meanings. (Also known as auto-antonyms or Janus Words.)

Cleave means both ‘rend asunder’ and ‘join together’. ‘Sanction’ means both allow and prohibit. A ‘fix’ can be a cure or a problem.

Other contronyms include ‘fast’ (moving quickly or not at all) and ‘screen’ (show or prevent from seeing). An alarm that ‘goes off’ may be noisy or silenced.

St Paul’s Cathedral was supposedly once described as ‘awful, artificial and amusing’ (meaning awesome, clever and thought-provoking).

3.: ‘Neil A, NASA’s pet, steps as an alien’ is a very long palindrome – same forwards and backwards. Some more good ones:

Madam, I'm Adam.
Marge lets Norah see Sharon’s telegram.

And here’s a really long one:

Dennis, Nell, Edna, Leon, Nedra, Anita, Rolf, Nora, Alice, Carol, Leo, Jane, Reed, Dena, Dale, Basil, Rae, Penny, Lana, Dave, Denny, Lena, Ida, Bernadette, Ben, Ray, Lila, Nina, Jo, Ira, Mara, Sara, Mario, Jan, Ina, Lily, Arne, Bette, Dan, Reba, Diane, Lynn, Ed, Eva, Dana, Lynne, Pearl, Isabel, Ada, Ned, Dee, Rena, Joel, Lora, Cecil, Aaron, Flora, Tina, Arden, Noel, and Ellen sinned.

4. The Russians ended up with an Anti anti anti anti anti anti anti anti anti anti anti anti missile missile missile missile missile missile missile missile missile missile missile missile missile.

5. Woman: without her, man is useless.

6. Dear Tony Blair,
I would like to compliment you, I can't. Stop thinking that you are one of the best Prime Ministers. We have had so many leaders. Go ahead and propose policies and then botch the job, we expect it from you. In years to come, I know we will have better results.

7. They are all correct English sentences.

a) She told her friends were pointless – the ‘her’ is a different person from the ‘she’.

b) The horse rode past the barn fell – the horse which was being ridden past the barn proceeded to fall

c) Dogs dogs dogs bite bite bite - dogs which are bitten by dogs which are themselves bitten by other dogs, do themselves bite things.

d) Badgers badgers badgers badger badger badger badgers badgers badger – Badgers which are badgered (annoyed) by badgers that are in turn badgered by other badgers, do themselves annoy badgers that are badgered by other badgers.

8. Five consecutive ‘and’s:

A man was walking past the ‘Pig and Whistle’ pub when he spotted the publican painting the sign. “Excuse me”, he said. “I think you need bigger gaps between ‘Pig’ and ‘And’ and ‘And’ and ‘Whistle’”.

9. Eleven consecutive ‘had’s:

Smith and Jones were taking an exam which required them to write either ‘I had dinner’ or ‘I had had dinner.’ Jones plumped for the former, Smith opted for the latter. The examiners decided that Smith was correct.

Therefore, Smith, where Jones had had ‘had’, had had ‘had had’; ‘had had’ had had the approval of the examiners.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Still fighting the battle after it's won

Feminist Natasha Walter in the Guardian:

I am sitting on a platform at the ICA with Naomi Wolf, and a young woman speaks up from the audience. "Where has our women's movement gone?" she asks. I am struck by her impatience and the anger that is voiced by other young women in the room. ….

Although some advances were made [by feminism] and no ground has been lost, that optimism has now dissipated. This is not just about what has happened at Westminster, though part of the new cynicism is about that, since the promise that the beginning of the 21st century would see a more women-friendly politics has foundered in the macho, centralised culture of New Labour. It is symptomatic of these depressing times that people have stopped even drawing attention to the absence of women at Westminster. Now we can move from one leadership struggle to another in which women do not even come within touching distance of the robes of power and nobody seems to get angry about their absence.

But when I say political I'm not talking just about Westminster. The importance of political feminism is that it can take what women currently experience as personal, separate issues and join them up into the bigger picture - the persistent and outrageous inequality of women throughout society. Right now women writers, lawyers, politicians and campaigners go on working on single issues, such as childcare or rape law or equal pay, often with some success, but nobody is talking about how these things connect within a wider pattern of inequality, an inequality that persists through the generations and the classes.

Because this wider picture has got lost, the struggles women face in their daily lives are seen by and large as private, not collective. The language of choice - women choosing to get plastic surgery, women choosing to stay home with their kids - is spoken without any feminist analysis of the forces that drive these so-called choices. Even when people do recognise the economic, political and social inequality that still prevents women from making free choices, they tend to shrug their shoulders, to slip into cynicism and inertia. The language of biological determinism is often lazily used to excuse this inertia.

Strikes me that what really makes Ms Walter angry is the fact that not enough other people want to waste their short, precious lives being angry.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Brit Abroad

Some guest blogging:

Thought Experiments
A stint on Bryan Appleyard's blog

The Daily Duck

A poem about blogging

"The greatest blog thread ever" - David Cohen

Teaching the controversy

The importance of being Sabine

From Ananova:

Lovelorn Canadian writes to 3,700 Sabines

A Canadian man is writing to 3,700 Belgian women called Sabine in a bid to find a sweetheart.

Marc Lachance met a Belgian woman called Sabine on a bus trip to Havana while he was on holiday in Cuba.

He told De Morgen: "We liked each other and spent the day together. But I was too shy to ask her address or telephone number."

Back in Canada, he realised Sabine could be the woman of his life and began his efforts to track her down. "All I know is she speaks French and she was travelling with a friend named Klara," said Mr Lachance. "Finally, I looked up in the phonebook the addresses of all women named Sabine. There are 3,700 of them. I was shocked it's such a popular name."

Mr Lachance has so far written to all the women named Sabine in Brussels. Soon he will send letters to the Sabines in Namur, then the rest of the country.

"It is costing me a lot of money," he admitted. "And what if her name is not in the phonebook - I dare not think of that."

This story sounds like perfect fodder to feed into the Rom-Com Computer to churn out a plot for the next Richard Curtis film.

Hugh Grant plays the handsome but shy Mark Lastchance, who meets the beautiful but mysterious Belgian Sabine on holiday. Back in England, he realises he must find her again, but her name and nationality are all he knows about her!

So begins his epic quest, by turns comic and heartbreaking, to find the elusive Sabine. Accompanied only by his eccentric friend Rhys Ifans, Mark journeys to Brussels. After meeting 3,700 unsuitable Sabines of all shapes and sizes (with hilarious results!), Mark is on the verge of despair. On a whim he drops into a cafe for a cup of tea. But the waitress informs him that they only sell Belgian hot chocolate. Mark recognises the voice. He looks up. It is Sabine! Yet her name badge says 'Marie'. Then he sees the name of the establishment - Le Cafe Sabine!

Marie had taken a pseudonym on holiday, after her workplace! But why? Because of her tragic and mysterious circumstances, of course. Gradually Mark is able to woo her, but when one of the earlier unsuitable Sabines pounces on him in a public place, Marie catches them at it and natually jumps to the wrong conclusion. She runs to the train station to catch the next Eurostar out of Brussels. Once again, Mark is in despair. But urged on by the trusty Rhys Ifans, Mark chases after her in a frantic race against time...Tearful explanations and joyful reunions.

Finally, Marie's tragic and mysterious circumstances are revealed. She was abandoned at birth by her mother, and given the name Marie by her foster parents. Somehow an even more tearful reunion is implausibly and clumsily engineered with this biological mother. And at last, 'Marie' discovers her real name...guess what it is!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

That is the point

This is so good, I had to reproduce the whole thing. From today's Times.

No Great Britain day, please, we're British
Martin Samuel
If the Chancellor thinks he’s on to a vote-winning idea, he simply doesn’t grasp the essence of our culture

THERE IS AN advertising billboard at Upton Park, home of West Ham United Football Club. Visit Britain, it says. Now what is the point of that? Who is going to read this message and think: well, that would make a nice change of scenery. One would imagine by the time a person had reached the lower end of Green Street, bought a ticket and taken a seat in the West Stand, he would be somewhat aware of his location on the globe.

True, the nationality of the right-back might create confusion, but it is fair to say nobody, except perhaps an illegal immigrant previously stowed away in the load of a driver with a shaky grasp of the geography of northern Europe, could reach London E13 without having some awareness of being on British soil. And illegal immigrants cannot afford to watch Premiership football, anyway. Much like the rest of us. Visit Britain was this country’s silliest and most redundant instruction, until Gordon Brown unveiled his plans for an outbreak of Britishness. Celebrate our culture, Chancellor? We’ll do that every day if you let us.

We’ll do that by not visiting the churches of England (unless in a white dress or pine box), by not planting flags on the front lawn and by going about our business without showing any great desire to force our way of life upon the rest of the world (well not anymore, anyway) or even upon our own citizens. Now that indicates a strong national character. This Government, and Brown is a significant voice within it, may wish to promote Western democracy globally, but the majority of its people just want to be left alone to get on with the ironing, which has been stacking up all week. And that is what makes us uniquely, spectacularly, superlatively British.

Nobody has ever strapped on a bomb and taken a carriage-load of innocents to oblivion on behalf of the main religion within this country. Nobody ever will. Spitting Image captured it best. There was a knock on the door. A man answered. “Do you believe in God?” he was asked. “Of course not,” he replied. “I’m Church of England.”

Now there is a faith worth promoting.
Some religious leaders spew hatred. Ours organise jumble sales and coffee mornings. When my uncle died recently, the vicar began: “Sid didn’t believe in God. So I’m hoping that wherever he is now, he’ll be very surprised.” The service included the deceased’s favourite song, Ruby, by Kenny Rogers, no hymns and ended with Dean Martin singing Little Ol’ Wine Drinker, Me. No other religion on earth could have given that man the send-off he deserved. Now there is a culture worth preserving.

Not with self-conscious bank holidays or a flag in every garden, as Brown thinks. There is a cross of St George flying three fences down from me, and it looks as ridiculous and misplaced as “Visit Britain” at a football ground in East London. You want a commitment to Britain? Just pay your taxes. Why should a bloke with a 200 grand mortgage, giving almost half his income to the State, waste good money on a flag? What more does he have to prove?

The cliché is that everything America gets happens here ten years later — apart from The Larry Sanders Show broadcast at a sensible time on a channel somebody watches — and if Brown wants us wrapped in a flag annually, then that is another bad idea imported bang on schedule. America loves a flag. Every house, every car, every public building, a giant Stars and Stripes flutters above. Means nothing. When members of Congress and Senate gathered on the steps of the Capitol to sing God Bless America in patriotic solidarity after 9/11, they held tiny flags given to them for the ceremony. Made in China, every one. In all, even before the attack on the World Trade Centre, 1.3 million Old Glories were Chinese-made and that number is unlikely to have decreased in the frenzy of flag-flying, sticker-affixing and apple pie baking that has accompanied the war on terror. Even now, the iconic stars and stripes flapping over a Rockwell-like white picket fence could well be a boon to a burgeoning Communist economy. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.

Like Brown’s eye-catching, vote-winning patriotism, America’s flags are a stunt. One on the lawn there, two in the yard next door, a whole row above that stoop and, my, look at the local Cadillac dealership, there must be a hundred. Jeez, those guys love our country. And they’re offering the best deals in town. This is not patriotism; this is marketing.

Brown wants us to work too hard at being British, which is not British at all. Leave us alone and we’ll show you British. Christmas. Trees and lights and little nativity plays, all the stuff that makes your council twitch. The right to laugh at everybody and not watch what we say, which means laying off Jimmy Carr and football fans going to Germany, now being piously lectured on not mentioning the war.

What truly makes a country great is not some puffed-up ceremony, stage-managed to further a man’s political career, but the fabric of its daily life: the humour, the tolerance, the kindness displayed by British people of all colours and faiths, who feel no need to wave a Union Jack or launch into speeches about our great democracy. It is because of this that we remain perplexed by the rise of Hitler and the motivation of suicide bombers.

We are so happy in our skin that we do not need Great Britain day. In fact, let us alone and every day can be Great Britain day again. Nice idea, Chancellor. But to coin a very British phrase: bollocks to that.

Monday, January 16, 2006

After this, they won’t even want him to advertise Listerine*

From the BBC:

George Galloway has been branded a "laughing stock" by a Labour opponent after the Respect MP imitated a cat on Celebrity Big Brother.

Mr Galloway, 51, went on all fours, purred and pretended to lick cream from actress Rula Lenska's hands, as part of a task set on the Channel 4 show.

*That’s actually an incredibly clever headline, don'tcha know, because Listerine is cockney rhyming slang for Americaphobia.

Derivation: Septic = American (from ‘septic tank’ = ‘Yank’). Listerine is a brand of antiseptic. Therefore 'Listerine' = 'anti-American'.

And no, I didn’t make that up. (Stephen Fry told me on QI)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Talk about missing the point

From the BBC:

Britain should have a day to celebrate its national identity, Gordon Brown has proposed in a speech portraying Labour as a modern patriotic party.

The chancellor used his first major speech of 2006 to urge Labour supporters to "embrace the Union flag".

What could be less British than inventing a day in which we are expected to celebrate Britishness?

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Gratuitous Nazi Reference Page

If you waste enough time on the internet debating lark, you’ll soon realise that few things are more popular than a comparison with the Nazis, Nazism, Hitler, Nazi appeasers, the Nazi-collaborating Vichy Government or the Goebbels propaganda machine.

The Nazi Comparison is designed to be a final word – the ultimate argument for which your opponent can have no possible answer

This page aims to be a perma-linked record of all the best Nazi References. Please feel free to report any good ones not on the list.

Remember: the more gratuitous the better, and double marks for two precisely opposite viewpoints both getting the dreaded comparison.

Key: C=Comparer; R=Reason given (if any)

1) George W Bush (C: the Left half of the world; R: you name it, really)
2) The United Nations (C: The Right half of the world; R: appeasing genocidal dictators)
3) The Roman Catholic Church (C: Lapsed Catholics, mostly; R: opposing condoms and other sundry items)
4) Atheists (C: The Religious Right; R: being atheists, like the Nazis)
5) The Religious Right (C: Atheists; R: being intolerant, like the Nazis)
6) Darwinists (C: The Religious Right; R: approving of genocide)
7) Tony Blair and the Labour spin-doctors (C: The Tories; R: propaganda)
8) The Tory party (C: the British Left; R: being fuddy-duddy and homophobic etc)
9) Fox-hunters (C: Animal Rights Activists; R: killing foxes is as bad or worse than killing people)
10) City folk who want to ban fox-hunting (C: The Countryside Alliance; R: the tyranny of the majority)
11) Israel (C: pro-Palestinians; R: just general dislike really)
12) The Pro-life movement (C: The Pro-choice movement; R: being evil)
13) The Pro-choice movement (C: The Pro-life movement; R: being evil)
14) The War On Terror (C: Harold Pinter; R: senility)
15) Harry Potter (C: Certain US bloggers; R: Hogwarts is racially prejudiced against muggles)
16) Those who think religion and scientific viewpoints are ultimately incompatible (C: a certain other blogger; R: you’ll have to ask him)
17) Ted Haggard’s New Life Church, Colorado Springs (C: Richard Dawkins; R: a service looks like the Nuremburg rallies)
18) Those who want to introduce a British identity card. (C: teenage debaters. R: ID cards would arguably pose a minor threat to civil liberties; anyone who does this clearly wants to establish the Fourth Reich)
19) Anti-prostitution laws (C: Sebastian Horsley; R: interference with his fundamental slap-and-tickle rights )

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ouch, my baaack

From the BBC:

Arnold Schwarzenegger did not have the proper licence to drive a motorcycle when he crashed at the weekend, Los Angeles police have said.

The California governor and former action movie star required 15 stitches to his lip after being injured in the traffic accident in Los Angeles.

Questioned by reporters, he admitted he had never applied for the right licence after moving to the US in 1968.

"It was just one of those things that I never really did," the governor said.
The admission may mean he has been breaking the law for years.

Los Angeles police say they have forwarded the case to the city attorney's office for possible prosecution.

The governor could face a fine.

Given that Arnie appears to have offered no apology or atonement for this law-breaking, and thus there can be no redemption, I recommend that the city attorney show no clemency.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Website of the Week: Get Back to Work, George

Gorgeous George Galloway MP has struck another great blow for the credibility of his own Respect party and for the anti-American Left as a whole by appearing with a load of even less famous freaks as a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother, when he should be at work.

This magnificent site celebrates the fact:

George, Think of England salutes your courage, your strength, your indefatigability and your skivability.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The party for nice little boys and girls

From the BBC:

Lib Dems get 'youngest' president

A 12-year-boy has made political history and become one of the youngest-ever local party presidents.

Oliver Smith joined Amber Valley Lib Dems in Derbyshire when he was eight. He
became their president on New Year's Day after being elected in November.

He succeeds out-going president Keith Falconbridge, who being in his mid-50s, is more than four times his age.

He said he wanted to go straight into the adult section of the party in order to make a difference.

“Ollie will shortly have to start GSCE coursework," [his mother] said. "The spark of the idea for him to become president from me and we discussed it at length. We decided that later on he'd be snowed under with GCSE work and sooner was better than later.

"He's very keen to get rid of Mr Blair and Mr Brown as soon as possible - this is one of his campaigning interests."

For some reason, the punchline (verse 9) to Psalm 137 comes to mind.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Happy New Year

If you haven't already done so, TofE recommends that you get your New Year off to a rip-roaring start by running - yes, running! - down to your local cinema to see Peter Jackson's marvellous King Kong.

That bit where the three dinosaurs are swinging in the vines and snapping their jaws at the just-out-of-reach damsel, while Kong tumbles massively down to save her, is the sort of spectacle the movies were invented for.