Media

Terminology still a mystery to Auntie

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The BBC has long boasted of the quality of its English.

However, its reputation fort linguistic excellence has started to look very tarnished in recent years. One particular area of concern is the BBC’s failure to use the correct terminology when referring to those who work with languages (posts passim).

Since I first wrote about this seven years ago, very little seems to have changed, as shown today by a news story posted today by a reporter with BBC Newcastle concerning the quality of language services provided to the police and courts by ITL North East Ltd. of Gateshead.

It starts off on the wrong foot, with the headline proclaiming: “Translators were ‘not qualified’ for police interview work“.

Translators don’t do interview work, said my mind, unless they’re working from transcripts!

The first paragraph, however, manages to get the terminology correct:

Unqualified police interpreters have cost the public thousands of pounds by causing court delays and in one instance the collapse of a case, the BBC has learned*.

The error in the headline in repeated further down the piece, as follows:

In addition to Northumbria Police, it provided translators for interviews with the Durham and Cleveland forces.

As regards the quality of the interpreters provided the piece details several cases where unqualified interpreters had caused trials to collapse and unnecessary expenditure to be incurred. For instance, one so-called interpreter couldn’t explain the police caution in full to a suspect.

In another instance, an “interpreter” who had just been in the country for 3 months before being recruited. She freely admitted not being able to understand everything a police officer said in an interview with a suspect.

Since the evidence of poor quality work came to light, Northumbria Police requested a full audit of the qualifications held by all interpreters registered with ITL North East Ltd.

The BBC should follow Northumbria Police’s example and audit the liguistic abilities of their reporters.

For those reporters who still don’t understand the difference between translators and interprwters, I would refer them once again to my handy illustrated guide from 2013 (posts passim).

* = As regards the phrase “the BBC has learnt…”, it has been pointed on social media out that this story was first broken the satirical magazine Private Eye over a year ago. Do keep up Auntie!

Cheese toastie shocker

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Yesterday’s online version of the Bristol Post (now renamed Bristol Live. Ed.) carried a shocking item about a hitherto unknown catalyst for violence: the toasted cheese sandwich.

According to the Post, this humble snack may not be served at a proposed catering concession in Monk’s Park in Bristol’s Southmead district “amid fears a proposed hot food van could attract booze-fuelled anti-social behaviour and motorbike gangs“.

The Post continues:

Councillors have agreed to grant a provisional licence for cold food, such as ice cream, and tea and coffee in Monk’s Park, Biddestone Road.

But the vendor would be barred from selling hot snacks following dozens of objections from residents, a ward councillor and the headteacher of a nearby secondary school.

A provoker of violence, accompanied by tomato soup.

A provoker of violence, accompanied by not quite so provocative tomato soup. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

However, the fear of violent behaviour was not the only concern for banning hot food: councillors on the city council’s public safety and protection committee also feared children from the next-door school would be tempted to skip lessons due to the lure of grilled fermented curd.

Following the committee’s decision the concession will now be put out to tender.

However, the story does not end there. When your correspondent posted about the article on Twitter, one person to respond was local artist Dru Marland, whose response about fermented curd addiction was hilarious.

XDru's tweet reads they start 'em on Dairylea slices, and before you know it they're mugging pensioners for their next fix of Stinking Bishop

For a more complete understanding of the violence-inducing properties of cheese, I should have asked the committee about their opinions of more exotic varieties of fermented curd, such as Roquefort or Graviera, but pressure of time dictated otherwise. 🙂

Update: Not forty-eight hours after Bristol was opened to national and international ridicule over this affair, Bristol Live reports that residents of Bristol’s Cotham district have branded a hot food catering van an “appalling idea“. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Post exclusive: fire brigade incident at non-existent tower block

One thing is certain about life in Bristol: it’s quite unlike living anywhere else and can sometimes be well beyond the borders of the surreal.

This feeling is enhanced by reading the Bristol Post, city’s newspaper of (warped) record.

Just skimming casually through the Post website, readers may easily miss some real exclusives, such as this fire brigade incident reported yesterday by Heather Pickstock, who is alleged to be the paper’s North Somerset reporter.

As shown in the screenshot above, Ms Pickstock informs readers as follows in this fine piece of creative writing:

screenshot of part of article

Crews from Southmead, Temple, Kingswood, Hicks Gate, Bedminster and Pill were called at 9.46pm yesterday to reports of smoke billowing from the sixth floor of a high rise block a Littlecroft House, Pip Street, Eastville.

There’s just one thing wrong with the above sentence: it’s completely incorrect; there’s no Pip Street in Eastville and no high rise block called Littlecroft House either.

A research technique known to ordinary mortals, but not to Ms Pickstock, affectionately known as “5 minutes’ Googling” reveals there’s a a council tower block called Little Cross House in Phipps Street, Southville, a good four miles across the city from Eastville.

The Bristol area can breathe a sigh of relief that Ms Pickstock does not work as a call handler on the 999 emergency switchboard. 😉

Fell is foul

Many of the phrases in common use in English have 2 sources: either the Bible (both the authorised King James version and earlier translations, such as those of Wycliffe and Tyndale. Ed.) and the pen of William Shakespeare.

Indeed, some lovers of the English language actually refer to it euphemistically as “the language of Shakespeare” when someone ignorant commits an indignity with it.

Today’s online edition of the Bristol Post/Live, the city’s newspaper of (warped) record has not difficulty in mangling some of the Bard of Avon’s actual words.

The misquoting of the Bard occurs in a promotional piece advertising a supermarket chain’s substantial breakfast. The piece itself was a cut and paste job lifted from the Post’s Trinity Mirror stablemate, the Manchester Evening News, which itself lifted the item from the Metro, a publication so downmarket its owners the Daily Mail have to give it away.

misquoted Shakespeare quote is one foul swoop

However, neither the MEN nor the Metro saw fit to misquote Shakespeare; that was a solo effort by the Temple Way Ministry of Truth.

The offending sentence is in the final passage shown in the above screenshot, i.e.:

The breakfast contains your entire daily allowance in one foul swoop, but it’s described as the perfect meal for those with a big appetite.

The actual words penned by Shakespeare are not “one foul swoop” but “one fell swoop” and occur in Macbeth, Act 4, scene 3, when Macduff hears that his family have been killed. Macduff remarks:

All my pretty ones?
Did you say all?—O hell-kite!—All?
What, all my pretty chickens, and their dam,
At one fell swoop?

One fowl swoop” is occurs frequently as a variation to the misquotation.

Whether Shakespeare actually invented the phrase himself or was the first to write it down is a matter of debate. Even so, Macbeth was written in 1605, so even the Bard’s the phrase dates back over four centuries.

The adjective “fell” is archaic, meaning evil or cruel, so it’s unsurprising that it’s misquoted. Moreover, in its context tends to occur in literary works such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic “Lord of the Rings” (e.g. fell beasts).

Driverless vehicle turns to theft

This blog has previously documented the carnage on the highways caused by driverless vehicles (posts passim).

The Bristol Post, the city’s newspaper of warped record, has now discovered that driverless vehicles are not only responsible for so-called “accidents“, but have now turned to theft – or attempted theft – as well.

Headline reads Police stop 4X4 on motorway with fake license plates after it tried to steal a caravan

If there’s one crumb of comfort to be gained from the above report, it is that our brave boys and girls in blue would have had no trouble spotting the offending vehicle with those American “license plates“. 😉

Exclusive: Bristol Post changes name to Manchester Evening News

It’s official: the Bristol Post (or is it BristolLive? Ed.) is changing its name to the Manchester Evening News.

And the revelation comes in a piece from no less a personage than Mike Norton, the title’s editor in chief himself, and is hidden away in the details about the implications of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The relevant section is outlined in red in the image below. Click on the image for the full-sized version.

relevant sentence reads: However, the GDPR is not just related to emails. It affects every industry, business, including publishing and therefore ours here at manchestereveningnews.co.uk

Whether production of the Post will be moved up north from the Temple Way Ministry of Truth is not mentioned.

Is Mike Norton guilty of copying and pasting without checking the actual wording?

In Private Eye’s immortal words: we should be told! 🙂

A fool and his money

Q: Pictured below are 2 men: Winston Churchill, who some would argue was the greatest UK Prime Minister ever; and Piers Morgan, a man of no discernible talent apart from sycophancy to those on the extreme right wing of politics. What links them?

Winston Churchill and Piers Moron composite image

A: A cigar butt.

One of Churchill’s discarded cigar butts, to be precise.

Earlier this week, Piers Morgan bought said cigar butt at auction, as reported by the Shropshire Star.

Piers (affectionately renamed Piers Moron by Private Eye. Ed.) was so pleased with his purchase, he also tweeted about it.

Tweet reads: I feel so patriotic today that I just bought Sir Winston Churchill’s half-smoked wartime cigar at an auction.

Auctioneers Travanion & Dean of Whitchurch in Shropshire had been expecting the half-smoked historical artefact to sell for about £1,000.

Piers paid £2,600 for it.

Needless to say, the final bill would have been rather more than that once the auctioneers’ commission had been added.

He may have considered his action patriotic, but Piers’ action reminded your ‘umble scribe of an old adage, i.e. a fool and his money are soon parted.

That bit of folksy wisdom in turn set me researching its origins.

The King James version of the Bible published in 1604 has something similar to this saying in Proverbs 21:20, which states:

There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.

However, for a rendition slightly closer to the wording in question, one has to look at 1573’s Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie by Thomas Tusser, reproduced below:

A foole & his money,
be soone at debate:
which after with sorow,
repents him to late.

The form of words commonly used in the present proverb were first just over a decade after Tusser. In 1587 Dr. John Bridges writes the sentence below in Defence of the Government of the Church of England:

If they pay a penie or two pence more for the reddinesse of them..let them looke to that, a foole and his money is soone parted.

What about the pictures?

Read the screenshot below and do so carefully.

headline reads: £250 reward offered after giant Ironbridge duck is thrown in river - with pictures

After reading the actual story, I found no mention of pictures being thrown into the River Severn in Ironbridge by vandals.

Did it actually happen? Or did the dread ambiguity that plagues so much modern journalism strike again?

When I was learning/being taught to write so many decades ago, we were always advised to steer clear of anything that could be misconstrued.

That concept is now obviously regarded as old-fashioned and no longer worthwhile by those who write today’s media (sometimes with the digital equivalent of a crayon. Ed. 😉 )

The thoughts of Michael Gove

Today’s Graunaid reports on the establishment of a new Tory think tank, erroneously called “Onward“.

However, it is firmly denied that this anodyne moniker is meant in any way to be an echo of “En Marche!“, the movement that propelled the right-of-centre Emmanuel Macron to power in France (and Andorra; he’s also the ex-officio co-prince of the Pyrenean principality. Ed.).

Michael Gove's official Defra photoThose at the centre of the launch in the Gruaniad’s eyes are Scottish Tory leader Ruth “tractor quotas” Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, and Michael Gove, the man with the most punchable face in British politics and alleged to be the UK’s current Secretary of State For Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

Leaving aside the sordid details of the think tank’s launch, which were given far too much attention for my mind by the Gruaniad, what struck your ‘umble scribe was the following phrase relating to the boy Michael:

Gove, the environment secretary, who has long been one of the party’s most influential thinkers,…

The plain truth is that thinking doesn’t come naturally to Michael. In a previous incarnation as Secretary of State for Education, he’s on record as not understanding what an average is or how it works in this oral reply to the House of Commons Education Committee in 2012:

…we expect schools not only to be judged on the level of raw attainment but also in terms of making sure that children are on track and are not falling back-and, indeed, do better than the average.

Meanwhile in his present post, he has in the past had difficulty in remembering which country he’s in, singing the praises of Welsh lamb in a press release for a visit to Northern Ireland (posts passim).

Furthermore, there are also times when Michael Gove doesn’t think at all. He didn’t think of his son when he and his wife thought it acceptable to leave the 11 year-old at a hotel to go to a party.

Thinking is a skill that can be taught and acquired, but your correspondent has yet to see that Gove has gained sufficient quantities thereof in his education at public school and thereafter at Oxford University.

Then again, lack of talent has never been an obstacle to achieving high office for the Blue Team…

Leveson 2: why the government is reluctant

In the last 2 weeks there have been several attempts to block implementation of part 2 of the Leveson inquiry, judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal.

Part 2 of the Leveson inquiry (aka Leveson 2. Ed.) would investigate “the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International, other media organisations or other organisations. It will also consider the extent to which any relevant police force investigated allegations relating to News International, and whether the police received corrupt payments or were otherwise complicit in misconduct.”

The Conservative Party’s 2017 manifesto stated that Leveson 2 would be dropped entirely, a fact confirmed by Culture Secretary Matt Hancock on 1st March 2018.

However, the proponents of Leveson 2 have not given up. Yesterday the House of Lords voted in favour voted by 252 to 213 on Monday evening to back an amendment to the Data Protection Bill that called for Leveson 2 to be put back on the agenda, i.e. a full investigation into unlawful conduct by newspapers, misuse of data by social media companies and relations between the press and the police.

This overturns a decision made by MPs last week and has set up another showdown with the government.

At this point you may be wondering why the government is so keen to halt an inquiry into corporate criminality.

This is best answered in pictorial form, with no further comment being necessary.

Rupert Murdoch, Theresa May's puppeteer

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