Media

Introducing the Stockholm

In the world of metrology there are standardised and internationally-recognised units of measurement such as the metre for linear distance, gram for weight and litre for liquid measurement.

In everyday life there are also informal units of measurement used by people to give or gain an idea of the magnitude of a particular phenomenon.

In terms of surface area, for instance, there’s the football pitch. Imperial Tobacco, my employers many years ago, used to like to boast that the cigarette production hall at W.D. & H.O. Wills’ factory in Hartcliffe, Bristol, (once the largest cigarette factory in Europe. Ed.) had an unobstructed floor area, i.e. free of the pillars supporting the roof structure, equivalent to three football pitches. Another common measurement for surface area is the Wales, particularly for larger items than football pitches.

Also in common use for informal metrics are the double-decker bus and cricket pitch, both for linear distance.

This plethora of informal measurements has now been joined by a newcomer, the Stockholm, courtesy of the Bristol Post, the city’s newspaper of warped record.

Stockholm city views

Stockholm: once just the capital city of Sweden, now a unit of measurement. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Reporting yesterday on the shameful fact that Bristol, in spite of its huge housing crisis, now has 5,785 empty homes in the city, the Post then goes on to introduce Sweden’s capital as a new unit of measurement specifically for vacant homes, stating:

Nationally, there are now just short of a million (980,565) properties deemed uninhabited – about the same amount as the entire housing stock of Stockholm.

There you have it.

Finally, a word of caution, under no circumstances should the Stockholm as a measurement of empty homes ever be compared with so-called Stockholm syndrome, a psychological condition in which hostages develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity.

If readers do happen to come across any further undocumented units of measurement, please alert your ‘umble scribe via the comments below.

Littered with innuendo

Yesterday’s Bristol Post reported on the first month of operation of what it’s dubbed the “litter police”, the private contractors brought in by Bristol City Council to take enforcement action on such environmental crimes as dropping cigarette ends, littering, failing to clear up the mess of one’s dog, tagging and spitting.

They’ve had a busy first month, issuing 1,368 fixed penalty notices with a total value of nearly £70,000.

Whilst this long overdue enhanced enforcement against the untidy is welcome (as a founder of Tidy BS5 I wholeheartedly support their engagement by BCC. Ed.), it’s not the numbers that interest me, but the Post’s choice of language, particularly at the top of the article, which is reproduced below.

sub-heading under headline reads the civil enforcement officers had a busy first few weeks on the job

Look between the headline and the byline and you’ll see the following sentence: “The civil enforcement officers had a busy first few weeks on the job“.

All you Brits can stop sniggering.

Now!

On the job” in the sense of something related to work is, to the best of my knowledge, an import from American English that has in recent decades started appearing increasingly in British corporate jargon. During my youth over 4 decades ago, the phrase had only one meaning and that had salacious connotations.

Collins Dictionary gives the following definitions for the phrase in British English:

  • actively engaged in one’s employment;
  • (taboo) engaged in sexual intercourse.

As regards the first definition, this could cover tuition given during employment (e.g. on the job training): no further explanation is required for the second.

Hold the front page!

The print edition of Scotland’s The National newspaper has an interesting take on the latest Brexit shambles, a comedy of epic proportions if only it were no so tragic.

on blank page paper has headline stating UK finally releases details of secret Brexit impact reports

No further comment required.

Readers may like to leave their comments below on the likely impact of Brexit. 😀

“Brexity”

Today’s Times has discovered a new word being used by younger people in the UK, i.e. “Brexity“.

It turns up in a comment piece by Janice Turner admonishing those outward-looking folk who voted to remain in the EU in that disastrous referendum for continuing to criticise the isolationist Little Englanders who voted to undo 4 decades of European integration and dragging a partly reluctant UK into a more modern era.

Ms Turner’s piece gives a couple of examples of the usage of “Brexity“. For instance, concerning places: “It was this horrible Brexity little town“; and food: “He ate this disgusting Brexity pasty“.

According to Ms Turner, it denotes something low-grade, provincial, unsophisticated; enjoyed or frequented by the old, the white working class.

Brexit Monstrosity float in Manchester

Brexit Monstrosity float in Manchester. Image by Robert Mandel courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Commenting on a reference to the Times comment piece, Twitter user Fish in a hat has pointed out the following:

I understand it is now coined freely in youth slang to mean trashy & tawdry. The young have a good eye, but are cruel. OTOH it is their future that is being trashed & were denied a vote. They have the right to complain. I am sure they will rejoin as soon as they are old enough to.

Quite. Those under 18 have even greater grounds for being upset as they were denied a vote in the referendum, unlike the 2014 Scottish independence referendum when all Scots over 16 years of age were given a say.

Getting rather old and coming from white working class stock, your correspondent hopes his readers won’t find him and his attitudes too Brexity. 😀

Sexy shellfish?

Many press organisations have sacked sub-editors and dispensed with proofreading in recent years as a means of saving money.

Alabama’s Times Daily in the USA seems to have been part of this movement, as is apparent from the following photo of its front page today on the unfolding story of former Alabama state judge and Republican politician Roy Moore‘s past sexual indiscretions.

Headline reads party divided over sex clams

If one were dining out, what would be the right wine to accompany sex clams? 😉

Hat tip: Dr Ray Schestowitz.

No Welsh please, we’re Great Western Railway

Earlier this week Wales Online reported that train company Great Western Railway will not have Welsh language announcements or signs on its new class 800 fleet that will be providing services on the Great Western route from South Wales to London Paddington.

800 Class locomotive in GWR livery

Class 800 locomotive in GWR livery. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The lack of Welsh language announcements or signs on board was first spotted by Cardiff City Labour councillor and Welsh learner Phil Bale, who raised the matter with Great Western Railway via social media.

GWR responded to Cllr. Bale as follows:

I’m afraid we have no plans to have bilingual signage and on-board announcements on these services.

Diolch yn fawr, GWR!

The decision was justified by GWR remarking that the trains serve both England and Wales they aren’t a dedicated South Wales Fleet. However, as a patronising nod in the direction of Wales having a distinct language, GWR did point out that it had leaflets available in Welsh, but passengers would have to ask for them first (presumably in English. Ed.).

In response to GWR’s monoglot policy, Councillor Bales remarked: “For me it shows that Great Western are stuck in the dark ages. We have a Welsh Government target of one million Welsh speakers and there are international transport operators who manage to provide their services in different languages all across Europe.”

As the trains do serve both countries, one would have thought that providing bilingual announcements and signs would have been a common courtesy to those who speak Welsh; and as for Councillor Bales’ remark about running services in other countries, your correspondent doesn’t believe the travelling public overseas would tolerate the incompetence and sheer bloody-mindedness of GWR.

GWR’s attitude contrasts sharply with that of fellow train company, Arriva Trains Wales, which also runs services between Wales and England (e.g. from Cardiff Central to Manchester Piccadilly. Ed.). Arriva provides both signs and announcements in both Welsh and English, as well as bilingual ticket machines and timetables, even at English stations.

Plaid Cymru described GWR’s attitude as “disrespectful“, whilst a Cymdeithas yr Iaith (Welsh Language Society) spokesman said: “Ensuring bilingual signage and announcements on trains in Wales is a matter of basic respect for the Welsh language – there is no excuse not to. The fact GWR have said they don’t intend even to ensure these simple things, and that they’ve missed easy opportunities to do so, shows that they are not a suitable organisation to provide a train service in Wales.

“The Welsh Government should publish strong language standards in the transport sector so that the Welsh Language Commissioner can force companies like GWR to respect the language.”

According to the South Wales Argus, a Welsh Language Commission spokesman said: “Great Western’s alleged lack of investment in the Welsh language is a cause for concern.

“In 2016 the Commissioner submitted a report to the Welsh Government recommending that Welsh language standards should be placed on train companies. The Commissioner continues to work with train companies and others to develop the use of the Welsh language on a voluntary basis, and discusses public concerns with them.”

Real tripe from Florence

Today Theresa May, a woman who does Prime Minister impressions, will descend on the Italian city of Florence to make a speech. She will have with her a full supporting cast of cabinet ministers, plus hangers-on from the British mainstream media.

The speech, all about Brexit, is being talked up by the British media as an attempt to prompt progress in the stalled negotiations on the UK’s exit from the European Union.

However, no senior figures from the EU will be in attendance at May’s speech at the church of Sant Maria Novella (conveniently situated opposite the main railway station for a quick getaway. Ed.).

However, for true lovers of tripe, this blog has a better recommendation: ignore Theresa’s speech altogether and go for Lampredotto instead.

Lampredotto sandwich

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This typical Florentine dish is made from the abomasum, the fourth and final stomach of the cow.

Lampredotto” is derived from the Italian word for lamprey eels, lampreda, as the tripe resembles a lamprey in both shape and colour. Lampredotto is typically chopped, slow-cooked in a vegetable broth, seasoned with herbs and served on a bread roll; in addition, it is sometimes topped with either a piquant or green sauce.

One final point: Florence was once a leading financial centre – a status it may soon be sharing with a post-Brexit City of London.

The PM’s pay

Dr Patricia Greet

Worth more than the PM?

Whenever there’s a new appointment to a senior, high-paying post in the British public sector, the press and their pals in the rest of the country’s media are queuing up to make the inevitable comparison with the salary of the Prime Minister.

The latest example of this is the coverage of the appointment of Dr Patricia Greer by Bristol’s newspaper of (warped) record, the Bristol Post.

New Bristol bureaucrat to be paid more than the Prime Minister“, thunders the headline in a piece posted yesterday on the paper’s website.

This is reinforced in the article’s first 2 sentences.

Bristol’s newest public servant is to be paid a whopping £150,000 a year – more than Prime Minister Theresa May.

The chief executive of the West of England Combined Authority will be paid more than double the amount received by her boss, Metro Mayor Tim Bowles.

First a bit of background: the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) is made up of three of the local authorities in the region – Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire. North Somerset decided not to join in this additional level of local bureaucracy, but has said it will co-operate with WECA on transport matters.

WECA was imposed top-down by central government in the last round of so-called “devolution”. There was no referendum to legitimise its establishment, merely the usual inadequate consultation from the local authorities involved. WECA comes under a so-called “Metro Mayor”, the incumbent being Tory Tim Bowles who was elected in May 2017 on a turnout of less than one-third of the electorate.

Its detractors refer to WECA as Avon County Council Mk. 2, a reference to a previous unpopular round of local government reform.

image of Theresa May

Worth £143K a year, or not worth the paper she’s written on?

Anyway, back to the PM’s pay. Theresa May, the present occupier of 10 Downing Street, is currently paid an annual salary of £143,462 for doing Prime Minister impressions. Other senior ministers are on similar amounts once their parliamentary salaries are included.

However, to my way of thinking, the comparison of senior public sector employees’ remuneration with the Prime Minister’s pay is erroneous on a number of counts.

In the first place both Prime Minister and the Metro Mayor are elected offices: their holders find their way to their desks via the ballot box. WECA’s chief executive is appointed, presumably by a small body of individuals; the electorate has no say in who gets their feet under the big desk on the deep pile carpet.

Secondly, there are many appointed officers in the public sector whose pay is more on a level with those in the private sector. Take for example the large quantities of gold showered on the vice-chancellors of English universities such as Bath, which has resulted in resignations from that institution’s council.

Another comparison that could be taken into account is budgets. WECA will be receiving funding of £30m a year for 30 years, which is really just petty cash in public sector terms when stood next to the 2015 figure of running the NHS (£115,398m. Source: Cabinet Office).

Perhaps a fairer comparison would be with the PM’s senior civil servant, namely the Cabinet Secretary, the country’s most senior civil servant, who acts as the senior policy adviser to the Prime Minister and Cabinet and as the Secretary to the Cabinet. The post is currently held by Sir Jeremy Heywood, for which he receives an annual salary of £195,000.

Whilst this may be a fairer comparison, there’s one major drawback. Whereas most people could readily identify the Prime Minister when questioned, how many members of the public could readily name the Cabinet Secretary.

The media deal with certainties and the familiar, hence measurements related to the size of football pitches (and Wales! Ed. and, by extension, comparisons of those in high office with the PM’s pay packet.

Hollywood’s homophone corner

According to an adage often attributed to Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, it’s popularly said that Britain and the USA are two countries divided by a common language.

I’m therefore wondering whether for reasons of homophony (particularly in view of some British regional accents. Ed,), this forthcoming American film starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford will be renamed for the British market… 😀

film title is Our Souls At Night

Translators and interpreters – a new guide

The media – and consequently the general public too – are always conflating translators and interpreters.

To help alleviate their ignorance a new graphic has been produced.

graphic showing difference between translators and interpreters

Hat tip: Anna Szenfeld.

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