Language

A guide for the rest of us

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The For Dummies set of reference books/instruction manuals has for years been sold as a non-intimidating guide for ordinary mortals and in its early days used to feature the wording in the title as a reassuring means of gaining sales from Joe and Jane Soap (or John and Jane Doe for readers on the west cost of the Atlantic. Ed.).

The series’ follow the bouncing ball style of guidance has over the years been ridiculed and that ridicule in turn used to good advantage to mock those clearly out of their depths in their chosen profession or – heaven forbid – public office to which they have been elevated.

Which brings us to the alleged government’s current Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, one Elizabeth Mary Truss.

Liz, as she prefers to be called, has the reputation of not being very bright, but that is no obstacle to high public office in the kakistocracy presided over by party-time alleged prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

She is however, a fully paid-up member of the two clubs to which all government ministers and Tory Party loyalists are now supposed to belong, the Cult of Brexit and the Cult of the Adoration of the Boris.

And it is in relation to the first cult that this post is being penned.

In the mid-18th century a song was composed exhorting Britannia to rule the waves. Since Brexit one is more likely to see Britannia waiving the rules – as is currently being threatened by the British government in respect of the Northern Ireland Protocol, a treaty between the English Empire (which some still call the United Kingdom . Ed.) and the European Union, which has the status of international law.

Reading between the lines, it is obvious that Johnson and his government have no intention of honouring by the Protocol and are currently seeking to tear it up, with Truss making a statement to this effect yesterday in the House of Commons.

Which brings us once again the Dummies and the inspired piece of parody.

Parody book cover entitled International Law With Dummies

As regards the references in the image to pork markets and a limited and specific way, a search engine is your friend. 😀

Needless to say, the antics of Johnson and Truss have not been warmly received by the EU Commission.

Truss’ plans will also send a clear message to states with whom the government may seek to conclude a trade deal that the British government’s word is not to be trusted.

To hark back once again to another phrase coined in the 18th century, perfidious Albion is alive and well.

Campaigner’s monoglot parking charge quashed

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The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 modernised the existing legal framework regarding the use of the Welsh language in the provision of public services in Wales.

It made provision for the official status of the Welsh language and established the office of the Welsh Language Commissioner which replaced the Welsh Language Board. It made Welsh an official language in Wales. This means it must be treated no less favourably than English and that when dealing with the state (i.e. central and local government, the health service, etc.), Welsh speakers are entitled to use the vernacular.

However, its provisions do not apply to the private sector, such as monoglot car park management companies based in England but operating in Wales, has been brought to light by the small matter of a parking charge in a small village in Ceredigion.

Today’s Nation Cymru reports on the case of Welsh language campaigner who was due to appear in court for non-payment of a parking charge for the sea front car park in Llangrannog in September 2020.

Llangrannog viewed from the south cliffs. The car park in question is just to the left of the picture’s centre.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today Toni Schiavone, a former teacher and education officer for the Welsh Government, was due to appear at Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Court to answer a charge of not paying a penalty charge notice issued to him solely in English by One Parking Solutions Ltd. of Worthing in West Sussex.

Mr. Schiavone repeatedly contacted the company requesting the penalty notice and further correspondence in Welsh and is on record as stating he would only pay the charge if the notice was served in Welsh, but his words fell upon deaf ears, with One Parking Solutions replied with typical colonial arrogance that the company was based in England and under no obligation to issue penalty notices in Welsh.

Mr Schiavone’s response to One Parking Solutions’ less than helpful reply was quoted by Nation Cymru as follows:

It would be nothing for them to issue a penalty notice in Welsh but they have ignored the request and decided to take me to court. They are the ones causing trouble for themselves.”

As this post was being drafted, Wales Online announced that Mr Schiavone’s case had been thrown out of court as there was no representative from One Parking Solutions present.

In a delicious piece of irony the court received all the papers from the plaintiff – including a copy of the penalty charge notice – in Welsh as Mr Schiavone was exercising his right to use his vernacular in court; this all had to be translated by One Parking Solutions.

Speaking after the case, Mr Schiavone put the case for extending the provision of Welsh language services to the private sector in Wales, stating:

This clearly shows the need to extend the language measure to include the private sector. Private companies like this have said many times over the years that they will not provide Welsh language services voluntarily.

Borked in Bristol

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The last time your ‘umble scribe visited Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery was before the first pandemic lockdown over two years ago. There’s always lots to see and the first thing I observed was the major changes to the art exhibits. Local talent features prominently in these, including the 19th century Bristol School of Artists and prominent portrait painter and local lad Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA. Furthermore, the ceramics section has a fine selection of ware from the late 17th and early 18th century Brislington Pottery.

However, the excellence of local art and crafts was not matched by local artefacts from the period of Roman occupation, being limited to the Thornbury Hoard (although 3,000 Roman coins on display is quite impressive. Ed.), one Samian ware bowl and a solitary drinking vessel, which is pretty poor considering the major influence and changes wrought by the Romans during the three and a half centuries that Britannia was a province of the Roman empire and ample evidence of Roman settlement and economic activity in the area. These include. for example, Abona Roman port at the confluence of the River Trym and Bristol Avon, visible remains of of Roman roads, villa sites, plus the 2 Roman pigs of lead found in 1865 in Wade Street in St Judes whilst excavations were underway on the old bank of the River Frome).

On the other hand, the museum does have a fine natural history section, especially in respect of extinct fauna – the giant Irish elk skeleton with its antlers spanning a width of 3 metres is most impressive – and fossils and dinosaurs in particular.

As is well known, generations of children have displayed a passion for dinosaurs. Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery has catered for this passion by installing interactive displays. Nevertheless, any child currently wishing to learn more of the life and times of Doris the Pliosaurus would have been disappointed at the time of my visit as Doris’ display was – to use a technical term borked.

Windows 7 not behaving for an interactive museum display Close-up of Windows 7 screen and options

The bottom picture clearly clearly shows Microsoft’s Windows 7 misbehaving, a not uncommon undocumented feature of the Beast of Redmond’s alleged operating systems.

If anyone desires to see more borkage in public, your ‘umble scribe would refer such readers to The Register IT news site, which has a dedicated bork section/archive.

A short history of tractors in Tiverton & Honiton

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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is a humorous novel by Marina Lewycka, first published in 2005, which went on to win the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize at the Hay literary festival, the Waverton Good Read Award 2005/6 and was shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction, Over one million copies of the novel have been sold in the UK.

Official portrait of Neil ParishOn the other hand, A short history of tractors in Tiverton and Honiton is a sordid, grubby little tale of unacceptable behaviour in the workplace, plus the lies proffered as explanations of such conduct, which first came to light in late April 2020.

The main protagonist of the more recent tale is the now disgraced former so-called Honourable Member of Parliament for the constituency of Tiverton and Honiton (up to now a safe Conservative seat. Ed.), one Neil Quentin Gordon Parish.

Our tale starts in the final week of April 2020 when the media reported that an unnamed Tory MP was accused of watching pornography in the chamber of the House of Commons.

The allegation was made at a meeting of Conservative MPs at which attendees shared stories of sexism and sexual harassment at Westminster, including the claim that one MP had watched sexually explicit material in the chamber and was spotted doing so by two female colleagues, one of whom is a government minister.

This prompted an investigation being launched by the Tory Chief Whip with the outcome of Parish being suspended from the party.

Before he was revealed as the guilty party, Parish even had the nerve to appear on right-wing “news” channel GB News (aka GBeebies, Ed.) to remark that when discovered, the accused MP should be “dealt with and dealt with seriously

As pressure mounted, Parish referred himself to parliament’s Standards Commissioner, who likewise initiated an investigation.

By this point any reasonable and rational human being would have realised that their position was untenable and written a resignation letter. Not Parish. He dug his heels in.

As reported by The Guardian, Parish gave the BBC’s Politics South West programme the following totally lame excuse:

The situation was that – funnily enough it was tractors I was looking at. I did get into another website that had a very similar name and I watched it for a bit which I shouldn’t have done.
But my crime – biggest crime – is that on another occasion I went in a second time.

It’s the kind of mistake any can make isn’t it: looking for tractors online when one encounters pr0n, especially with all those closely related domain names?

Well; actually, Mr Parish it is not.

Parish was rightly ridiculed for this pathetic excuse, including by Deputy Labour Party leader, Angela Rayner, a frequent target for Conservative sexism and misogyny.

Tweet reads He was looking for tractors but ended up with porn actors? Neil Parish must think you were all born yesterday. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are a national embarrassment.

Yesterday, Parish resigned as an MP and the Liberal Democrats are once again looking to overturn a 20,000-plus parliamentary majority, as they did in December 2020 in North Shropshire (which had been a de facto Conservative one party state since 1832. Ed.) when the disgraced grifter Owen Paterson resigned after being caught breaching advocacy rules.

Time to get comfy with a big bowl of popcorn, politics fans… 😀

Humour and social media

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I’ve been on Twitter for 13 years now and there’s never a dull moment on the platform.

One of my old college friends told me earlier this week he’d left the platform, describing it as a bear pit.

Twitter can indeed by a rough and unforgiving place if one discusses politics and especially when one tries to debate with those with views diametrically opposed to one’s own. However, your ‘umble scribe has noticed over the decades that public discourse has become less respectful and courteous.

Nevertheless, the Twitter is not all ursine-baiting gloom and doom. There are those who post photos of nature, their gardens, pets and the like which leavens the gloom and doom.

Furthermore, there is a lot of humour on the platform too. Some of the best political quips I relate in other places have usually originated from Twitter.

However, the humour extends to other fields than politics and its practitioners and can be gentler in such areas, as per the example below, which will appeal to lovers of language and English in particular.

Tweet reads A truck loaded with thousands of copies of Roget's Thesaurus spilled its load leaving New York. Witnesses were stunned, startled, aghast, stupefied, confused, shocked, rattled, paralyzed, dazed, bewildered, surprised, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, confounded, astonished, and numbed.

Amid confusion

One recent development your ‘umble scribe has noticed in respect of the vocabulary used by members of the Fourth Estate is an unprecedented rise in the use of amid.

This preposition has the following definition:

in or into the middle of;surrounded by.

A useful synonym in this context is among.

Other definitions include during and with the accompaniment of.

Needless to say. these definitions are not always adhered to by the more illiterate members of the press and poor old amid is consequently used out of context, as per today’s example from the Powys County Times.

Headline reads Historic Newtown church struck by vandals amid appeal for witnesses

The confusion apparent in the headline was succinctly explained by the @KeepBristolTidy Twitter account, who helpfully stated the following.

Tweet reads So the church was struck by vandals on the middle of the appeal for information about the same vandals?

Patron saints and language

Today, 23rd April, is the saint’s day of the patron saint of England, St George.

<However, George is not just the patron saint of England. Other states and nations having this Cappadocian Greek who served as a Roman soldier and died in 303 CE include Ethiopia and Georgia, the Spanish regions of Catalonia and Aragon, along with the Russian capital Moscow.

Very little is known about George’s life, but he is believed to have been martyred in one of the waves of persecution that preceded the accession in 306 CE of the Roman emperor Constantine.

According to Wikipedia, the legend of St George and the dragon was first recorded in the 11th century in Georgia and arrived in Europe in the 12th.

In England specifically, St George had by the 14th century, been declared both the patron saint and the protector of the royal family. and thus replaced Edmund the Martyr (also known as St Edmund or Edmund of East Anglia. Ed.) as England’s patron saint. Edmund, who died on 20 November 869 had been king of East Anglia from about 855 until his death at the hands of Viking invaders.

George’s dragon-slaying efforts were ultimately worthwhile, not only for the the city of Silene, Libya, which the dragon was menacing, but ultimately for the English, as was pointed out yesterday on Twitter by some wit recalling WW2-style the benefits of the good saint’s deed.

Tweet reads If it wasn't for St George we would all be speaking Dragon

If you don’t feel like celebrating the life and work of George of Lydda, the 23rd April is also recorded as the day upon which playwright William Shakespeare was baptised.

Infant caprine security?

Ever since newspapers mostly did away with sub-editors some while ago as a cost-saving measure, standards of written journalism have visibly declined. Poor punctuation and clumsy use of language have become more commonplace. Sub-editors used to play a vital role, helping reporters to become better writers and thus journalists.

Nowadays, authors are supposed to check their own output.

Even with the best will in the world, it is sometimes difficult to stop errors in one’s own copy.

That being said, there is an absolute howler in today’s online edition of the Shropshire Star, as per the screenshot below

headline reads Safety kids to be handed out to women in hot-spots for crime in Newtown

Unless young goats really are to used to promote the safety of Newtown’s women and girls, which is not readily apparent from the subsequent copy, one would think that checking a headline before hitting the ‘Publish is a skill that should be taught on journalism courses. 😀

The headline has since been corrected.

New Turkish LibreOffice guide

Yesterday the blog of The Document Foundation – the German non-profit organisation behind the free and open source LibreOffice suitereported on the release of a Turkish language guide for the productivity software.

Cover of LibreOffice Turkish user guide

Image courtesy of The Document Foundation

The guide has been translated from the English Getting Started Guide by Ayhan Yalçinsoy, a member of The Document Foundation and Board of Directors deputy.

Ayhan comments:

I’ve been using LibreOffice since 2010. It makes me happy to support and contribute to this application that I use with pleasure. For this reason, I have been trying to contribute by translating the interface and help text since the day I started using it. I know that every contribution counts in the open source world.” says Ayhan. “I would like to thank Muhammet Kara for what he has done for LibreOffice here. I learned from him how I can contribute to LibreOffice apart from interface translation. I solved some easyhack issue with his support.
After all these contributions, we established a certification team. We started the translation work for the LibreOffice Getting Started Guide 6.2 about a year ago, but for some reasons we could not continue. This issue remained in my mind. Finally, with the encouragement of Muhammet Kara and the sponsorship of TUBITAK/ULAKBIM, I completed the translation of Getting Started Guide 7.2.

Ayhan is currently working on a Turkish guide for Calc, LibreOffice’s spreadsheet program and is also appealing for volunteers to help him with this task, as his ultimate aim is to make Turkish language guides for all of LibreOffice’s constituent applications.

Toppled Road renamed

Nearly half a year ago, your ‘umble scribe reported that Colston Road in Easton, a road named after Bristol-born slave trader, insider share dealer, financier, religious bigot and former Tory MP for the city had been unofficially renamed as Toppled Road (posts passim).

On the other side of the road from the crudely painted Toppled Street on the side of a house, a new more official-looking street name sign has appeared in recent days.

Colston Four Road

The original street name sign is painted out as a token of the regard in which Eddie the Slaver is held locally.

The new unofficial sign commemorates the acquittal by a Bristol jury of the so-called Colston Four who were tried for criminal damage when Colston’s statue in the centre of the city was brought down and dumped in the city docks during the course of a Black Lives Matter protest on 7 June 2020.

Local residents have been uneasy for years about living in a street named after a so-called philanthropist who made his money from kidnapping, trafficking and exploiting to death thousands of unwilling Africans and have long campaigned for it to be changed, along with other reminders of the late Victorian Cult of Colston.

Speaking to Easton councillor Barry Parsons yesterday, your correspondent asked him for an update on how the name change was progressing.

He responded that the whole matter of street renamings was one of the topics handed over to the We Are Bristol History Commission, which has just recently issued its recommendations in respect of Colston’s statue, backing the general public view it belongs henceforth in a museum.

However, any words of wisdom from the Commission regarding the fate of Bristol’s street names commemorating Eddie the Slaver have yet to be uttered and it would appear the matter has been (so to say) kicked into the long grass.

In a final twist, the Bristol Post/Bristol Live is claiming that some of its less perceptive readers are “outraged at the change of name, with some actually believing the new sign has been erected by the city’s perfidious council, even though the sign’s design is clearly different to that used by the local authority, whose standard modern street name signs all include the first 3 characters of the road’s postcode

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