Language

The Severn Sea

Yesterday your correspondent took a break from the inner city and headed by rail to the North Somerset Coast at Weston-super-Mare.

Plenty of good, fresh air and healthy exercise was had, with my walking from the railway station to the far end of Weston bay at Uphill where the River Axe empties into the Bristol Channel between Brean Down and the semi-tidal Black Rock, as shown below.

View down the Axe estuary to the Bristol Channel

The River Axe flows into the Severn Sea between Brean Down (left) and Black Rock (right).

The eastern limit of the Bristol Channel is defined by the International Hydrographic Organization as that area between two lines between Sand Point in Somerset and Lavernock Point and the western limit a line between Hartland Point in Devon and St. Govan’s Head. Upstream of the eastern limits, the body water is the Severn Estuary, whilst westwards of the western limit is defined as the Celtic Sea.

Landsat 7 photo of Bristol Channel

The Severn estuary, Bristol Channel and eastern part of the Celtic Sea as seen from Landsat 7.

However, the Bristol Channel has not always been used to characterise this area of water.

Until Tudor times the Bristol Channel was known as the Severn Sea. Indeed, it is still known as this in both Welsh: Mรดr Hafren and Cornish: Mor Havren, whilst on Jacob Millerd’s 1673 map of Bristol shows the Severn Estuary in the Latin, Sabrina Fluvius, as depicted below.

Detail of Millerd's map showing the point where the Bristol Avon discharges into the Severn

Millerd’s River Severn from his 1673 map of Bristol.

A very special bus service

One of the phrases guaranteed to dismay every regular user of Britain’s chaotic and overpriced railway network is rail replacement service. This involves taking the scheduled service off the rails (usually for engineering works at busy holiday periods when everyone either wants to get away and/or visit friends and loved ones. Ed.) and substituting the rolling stock with buses, with the inevitable increased journey times and a reduction in passenger comfort.

However, these rail replacement services do not serve Stapleton Road railway station, where the sign shown below is affixed to the Frome viaduct wing wall on the station approach.

Sign title reads rail replacementment buses

As the station is under the management of First Great Western, an alleged train operating company, you ‘umble scribe assumes it was their staff who designed, wrote and approved the final signage.

For any passing First Great Western signage design drones, here’s a wee tip: a spellchecker now comes as a standard feature of all popular office productivity suites. ๐Ÿ˜€

As…

From Monday’s Bristol Post.

Headline reads: Pedestrian hit by van as Great Western Air Ambulance lands in city centre

Is this:

  • correlation;
  • causation; or
  • a typical example of a poorly written headline from a Reach plc title?

Murdoch rag makes up language

The Murdoch Sun has long had a reputation for making up stories, such as the infamous The Truth front page which accused Liverpool fans of misbehaviour and criminality at Hillsborough in 1989 when 97 Liverpool football fans lost their lives in an incident which a later inquest ruled to have involved unlawful killing.

The infamous The Truth Sun front page

That front page untruth resulted in a boycott of Rupert’s rag by the city of Liverpool that continues to this day.

However, not content with upsetting a city for over 3 decades with a made-up story, Murdoch’s apology for a newspaper has now started on a more ambitious project – making up a new language akin to English, starting with changing the past tense of the verb to fly from a strong verb conjugation to a weak verb one. Headline reads Mum flied home from honeymoon along as hubby denied boarding

The headline has since been corrected following mockery on social media to the effect that it’s now written by 10 year-olds.

Is there no start to the talent of those members of its staff that the title insists it employs as journalists?

Seriously…

How many times have you heard or read the phrase “We take (insert_topic_here) very seriously…” in a newspaper or broadcast media news item?

Today’s Guardian website includes a report with not just one but two organisations – HS2 and the Environment Agency – claiming precisely that they take matters within their respective bailiwicks “incredibly seriously” (HS2) and “very seriously” (Environment Agency).

This “seriously” – whether qualified or not – appears to be part of the hackneyed stock reply to the unearthing of errors or shortcomings that the bodies involved would have preferred not to have come to light and seems to your ‘umble scribes mind to be shorthand for “we’ve been caught out“.

Another way of describing them is weasel words, i.e. something that someone says either to avoid answering a question clearly or to make someone believe something that is not true. In other words lies and/or hypocrisy are brought into play to save the reputation and embarrassment of the organisation involved and its senior management.

The Guardian’s story appears to be a classic example of the modern (mis)use of the adverb seriously. However, your correspondent does at the same time note that neither of the organisations involved resorted to that other stock phrase frequently wheeled out when they’ve been found wanting, i.e.: “We have robust measures in place…“. But let’s leave the deceit inherent in the use of robust for another time.

Finally, if HS2 is sincere, the use of the adverb “incredibly also merits examination. Its dictionary definition is “difficult to believe“, so in effect what HS2’s was actually saying is that it is hard to believe the organisation takes the matter seriously at all. ๐Ÿ˜€

Da iawn, Athro!

Welsh schoolteacher Stephen Mason has set up a YouTube channel called So You’ve Moved to Wales (SYMTW) specifically for non-Welsh speaking schoolchildren moving to a Welsh school and having to catch up on Welsh language studies, Nation Cymru reports.

Mr Mason works at Queen Elizabeth High School in Carmarthen and has 25 years’ service at the chalkface.

Explaining his motive for setting up the SYMTW channel, Mr Mason told the paper:

Moving home and changing schools when you are a teenager is a stressful time. A new country, a new school and a new language can easily become associated with an unhappy or stressful life episode. I therefore decided to make a series of videos for Welsh teachers to share with latecomers to their subject that would help them settle into their new surroundings more easily.

The first of Mr Mason’s videos is embedded below.

Only one resident at a time

The flats at Combfactory Court in Easton have a capacious car park with at least 6 or 8 spaces.

However, owing to stringent restrictions imposed on its use – as shown below on the notice on its railings – only one resident is allowed to park at any one time.

Notice reads Resident's Only Parking

Resident’s only? Not a chance for greengrocer’s then!

Whoever is in charge of the car park has contributed to public view a textbook example of the greengrocer’s apostrophe. This is an informal term in British English for the non-standard use of an apostrophe before the final -s in the plural. It would appear the efforts of examinations body the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority since 2006 have been in vain.

Ambiguity corner – latest

For the second time this week, Reach plc’s Wales Online title graces this blog with its presence due to its journalists’ failure to understand the word ambiguity, let alone recognise what it means and how avoiding it is crucial for members of the fourth estate.

Today sees a classic ambiguous headline for this story.

Headline reads; Boy, 15, approached woman in woods armed with log and said 'give me all your stuff'

Who was armed with the log? Take your pick!

Amongst other things, the Guardian and Observer style guide states that ambiguity is a common problem in headlines”.

Welsh sheepdog lives to 89?

Another day, another confusing headline from a Reach plc title, this time the Daily Post/North Wales Live, with this story about an 89 year-old sheepdog, an 89 year-old man with werewolf proclivities or something else, which escapes your ‘umble scribe’s imagination for the time being.

Headline reads: 89-year-old who caught Covid has just made the Welsh national sheepdog team

For a sheepdog, he looks remarkably human!

I’m perplexed!

However, there is one upside to the policy of Reach titles to cram the whole story into the headline, i.e. one normally doesn’t have to waste time reading the article.

~Are Reach titles operating on the TL:DR principle?

Answers in the comments please!

Bristol Post exclusive: Journalist eats catering establishment

Today’s Bristol Post website features another of modern journalism’s highlights – the hidden exclusive (posts passim), although this particular style of hackery is not itself peculiar to publications in the Reach plc stable.

Yesterday’s Bristol Post hidden exclusive features Mark Taylor, allegedly the title’s food, drink and restaurant critic, who seems to have eschewed protein, carbohydrates and fat for a more substantial diet, in this case the shipping container housing the soon-to-open Choux Box Patisserie down by the city docks. At Wapping Wharf shipping containers replace the construction materials of more traditional eateries.

Headline reads: Delicious new patisserie to open in Bristol

There’s only one place I know of where eating buildings is not unusual and that’s the tale of Hansel and Gretel, first published in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm.

Hansel, Gretel, the witch and the gingerbread house

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

For some reasons known only the the residents of the Temple Way Ministry of Truth, Mr Taylor’s piece is strangely quiet about the quality of the ingredients used for the shipping container. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Finally, your ‘umble scribe must remark that given his constitution, Mr Taylor may like to start training for food challenges of the Man v. Food reality show variety, of which there are plenty to punish his palette in Bristol.

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