language

  • Avian neighbours

    Your ‘umble scribe is spending a few days beyond the confines of HM Open Prison United Kingdom staying with family in the Campo de Gibraltar. It’s his first time in the country for a few decades and a good chance to brush up on rusty spoken Spanish, as well as get some much-needed sun after a long, wet English winter.

    Being out in the countryside, your correspondent has been amazed by the local birdlife, which features species that are never or rarely seen back home.

    Firstly, let’s introduce the biggest of the local avian species, the Eurasian Griffon Vulture. These are described by my trusty half a century old Collins bird book as having a flight outline like a “tea tray in the sky“, stand as high as 1.22 metres high and have a wingspan up to 2.8 metres.

    They are spotted throughout the day on the crags behind the house, as well as riding the thermals in large flocks.

    Three vultures sunning themselves on a rock
    Three vultures perched on crags. Very easy photographic subjects at rest, but testing the phone camera’s technical limits.

    It’s rather difficult to get a decent photo of them on a phone, so here’s a close-up from elsewhere.

    Griffon vulture in flight
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    The other 2 very impressive local birds are more colourful but slightly smaller: the golden oriole and the European bee-eater respectively.

    Golden oriole in a fig tree
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    Orioles are truly spectacular, flitting across the valley in a flash of gold and black. Although they do migrate to Britain, their distribution is rather limited, whilst your ‘umble scribe had four sightings in a couple of hours one afternoon.

    Where the oriole impresses with its two-tone plumage, the bea-eater has colourful plumage reminiscent of a member of a 1970s psychedelic rock band.

    Bee-eater on a bare branch
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    These birds are not regular migrants to Britain, but have bred on several occasions in recent years, according to the RSPB. Down in southern Spain, it can sound as if there’s one in just about every shrub at times!

  • The importance of proofreading

    Within minutes of each other, two occurrences reminded your ‘umble scribe of the importance of proofreading, i.e. the process of finding and correcting mistakes in text before it is printed out or posted online.

    If nothing else, it proves the person or company involves knows what it’s doing and writing, providing evidence of professional competence

    The first was spotted on a change machine in Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport in the early hours of this morning.

    Sticker on machine stating this machine accepts new £20 note. On the image of the note is the printed word SPECIMAN.
    SPECIMAN? What’s one of those?

    According to Wikipedia, a specimen – not SPECIMAN – banknote is printed generally in very limited quantities for distribution to central banks to aid in the recognition of banknotes from a country other than their own. Furthermore, To avoid use of specimen banknotes as legal tender notes, the banknotes are deformed, typically by being overprinted and/or punched (perfin) with an inscription such as “SPECIMEN”, “SPECIMEN NO VALUE”, “CANCELLED” or the equivalent in one or more other languages.

    The second turned up a couple of minutes later on your correspondent’s social media feed.

    Ingredients list for a roast beef and criminalized red onion relish roll
    Should those with a poor grasp of English be gaoled?

    A reverse image search reveals that the original image first emerged on social media some 4 years ago and originated in the United States. Note that the snack is accurately defined as having caramelized onion relish its long description. Y’all have a good misspelt sandwich now! 😀

  • Single news day, double ambiguity

    In his first job after graduation at Bristol’s Imperial Tobacco, your ‘umble scribe was coached in writing in the company’s house style, which included writing clearly to avoid any ambiguity, i.e. the quality of a phrase or sentence being open to more than one interpretation.

    This avoidance of ambiguity is something that clearly needs to be instilled in what passes nowadays for the journalists at the Bristol (Evening) Post/Bristol Live, who yesterday demonstrated that Bristol’s Temple Way Ministry of Truth is quite capable of serving up double helpings thereof.

    Firstly, have you got a few spare quid? Do you fancy buying a foreign city, especially one where property prices are so low that the whole metropolis will only set you back a mere £18?

    Headline - The city 3 hours from Bristol that gets 300 days of sun a year and costs £18

    What can one complain about? A nice cheap price and 300 days sunshine per year. When can I start packing? And are other similarly priced settlements available nearby? I really do feel I can afford to build up a property portfolio. 😀

    The day’s other bit of ambiguity is far more grisly and disturbing involving two deaths, one of them violent.

    Headline - Woman finds body of sex offender wanted for murder in her caravan

    Did the murder take place in the caravan? Thankfully, the byline provides reliable information where the headline, by trying to cram in the whole story in one phrase, merely serves to sow confusion.

    Language is a precision tool, capable of imparting detailed information. However, those employed as ‘journalists’ by Reach plc titles like the Post/Live, only seem capable of using it like a crude, blunt instrument. 🙁

  • Asda vs Asbo

    British supermarket chain Asda is well known for the lime green livery of its grocery delivery vans, as per the photograph below.

    Asda delivery van and driver
    Photo credit: Asda

    However, there is now a serious rival to Asda’s dominance of the lime green delivery van sector. The vehicle below was spotted last week outside the Chelsea Inn at the junction of Chelsea Road and Bloy Street in Bristol’s Easton area.

    Asbo van outside the Chelsea

    Both Asda and Asbo are acronyms, i.e. abbreviations formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word. Asda is a truncated version of the first part of its original name of Associated Dairies and Farm Stores , whilst Asbo denotes an Anti-Social Behaviour Order, a past form of sanction for naughty boys and girls which has now been replaced by two penalties – the Community Protection Order (CPO) and the Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO).

    Note that the Asbo van is parked on the footway (which some refer to as the pavement (posts passim). Ed.); how apposite! 😀

  • Distracted boyfriend: Tory Lite edition

    The latest variant of the Distracted boyfriend meme has just come into my social media feed (posts passim).

    Starmer distracted by Thatcher to the dismay of Clem Attlee

    This time the dramatis personae are:

    • Distracted boyfriend – ‘Sir’ Keir Rodney Starmer, allegedly leader of the democratic socialist (on paper anyway. Ed.) Labour Party;
    • Annoyed girlfriend – Clement Attlee, leader of the 1945-51 post-war Labour government, which introduced the National Health Service amongst other achievements; and
    • New love interest – one Margaret Hilda Thatcher, one of the Untied Kingdom’s worst prime ministers and figure of divine devotion to the right-wing Conservative Party, the person who inspired the addition to the English language of the noun Thatcherism and the adjective Thatcherite.

    Some would say that any similarity between Starmer and a socialist is – as Hollywood would say – purely coincidental; others would even go as far as to declare such to be non-existent.

  • Honest Bob does a racism

    Smirking Bob Jenrick, a boil on the bottom of the body politicBackbench Tory MP Robert “Honest Bob” Jenrick has proposed that details of a person’s nationality, immigration and visa status should be recorded whenever he or she is given a criminal conviction, Nation Cymru reports.

    This piece of blatant racism has been submitted an amendment to the government’s Criminal Justice Bill, with Jenrick justifying it by saying the data would help to inform deportation and visa policies.

    Under Jenrick’s plan, there would be an annual requirement to publish the nationality, visa and asylum status of every offender convicted in English and Welsh courts in the previous year.

    In the traditional early morning media round for politicians in the last few days, Jenrick has been claiming without any citations or empirical evidence that there is “significant and growing evidence that we [the UK] were importing crime”.

    The BBC notes that Jenrick’s proposal has been backed by 25 Tory MPs, including the likes of former ministers ‘Sir’ Jacob “Happier Fish” Rees-Mogg and ‘Sir’ Robert Buckland, who presumably are also not bothered about being labelled as racists.

    Well-informed readers will be aware that Jenrick is a former immigration minister, who resigned because alleged prime minister Rishi Sunak was not being sufficiently nasty to foreigners.

    There is an old idiom in English, the fox guarding the hen house, which dates back to at least the 1580s. It denotes a set of circumstances in which someone who should not be trusted has been chosen to protect someone or oversee a situation.

    It is ideal to describe xenophobe like Jenrick being elevated to such a public office. Now he’s back on the back benches of the Commons, he’s clearly not letting opportunities to embrace his inner racist pass him by.

  • Greggs – EN-US written here

    Greggs logoIn recent days, pastry products purveyor Greggs suffered an IT outage that left shops unable to process certain types of payment, the BBC reported yesterday. The company has over 2,000 branches and employs 21,500 persons.

    Some shops were forced to close and posted notices saying they were closed for the day or could only accept certain payment types. Fans of hot pastry-based snacks took to social media, with some labelling it as bordering on a national emergency. One of the more interesting signs from an unidentified branch of Greggs is shown below.

    Notice reads Due to a system outage, we are CARD ONLY temporarily and our staff cant do math

    Yes, you did read that correctly: “Due to a system outage, we are CARD ONLY temporarily and our staff cant do math“.

    A system outage is not the only woe to beset this particular branch of Greggs. First of all, there’s a punctuation thief about, unless the staff cant is hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature from employees. Secondly, what is this math? Mathematics, the knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes, is abbreviated differently by speakers of British and American English; the former with maths, the latter with math, as in the well-known US phrase, (you) do the math.

    Fears of the creeping Americanisation of British English have been doing the rounds for about a century already, but are becoming more prevalent due to the pervasiveness of US culture and a general lack of awareness of the distinctions between the two dialects. For instance, your ‘umble scribe would call something that ran his laptop a program, whilst something broadcast on the radio or TV would be a programme: some folk – quite possibly younger – would use program without distinction for both.

  • Bristol’s Roman Road

    There’s a Roman road that runs across Durdham Down in the Clifton area of Bristol.

    However, it’s not the one near the top of Blackboy Hill with the modern name plate and the posh BS9 postcode. That ‘Roman’ road is an imposter, albeit a short but straight one.

    There is a real Roman road that crosses Durdham Down, but it’s much harder to spot on the ground since it consists of just the agger, the raised bank upon which the road was laid and its two accompanying side ditches. Your ‘umble scribe actually had to lie on the ground to spot it, as the lumps and bumps on the ground can be measured in mere centimetres. The sharp-eyed may be able to discern the differences between the agger and side ditches in the photograph below.

    Agger and ditches of Roman Road on Durdham Down

    It’s somewhat easier to spot on a Lidar scan of the area. It can be seen in the 2 faint parallel lines depicting the ditches on either side of the agger, which are enclosed by the red ellipse in the photo below.

    Plot of Roman road across Durdham Down on Lidar scan enclosed by red ellipse

    This section of Roman highway is a scheduled monument. Its official listing reads as follows.

    The monument includes part of the Roman road which originally ran from Bath to Sea Mills, situated on a wide plateau known as Durdham Down. The road survives as a length of flat-topped bank measuring approximately 100m long, 10m wide and 0.6m high with a visible although largely buried ditch on the south side.

    The Sea Mills mentioned above is a modern-ish suburb of Bristol. It was, however, also home to the Romans who established a settlement called Portus Abonae there. From Portus Abonae, travellers on the road would have had to take to water to continue their onward

    In between the surviving section on the Downs and Portus Abonae, part of the original Roman road’s alignment is still in use today, its course being followed by the current Mariner’s Drive/Mariner’s Lane.

    Mariner's Drive/Lane following line of Roman Road

    The map below shows how this Roman Road, known as the Via Julia, fitted into the general system of roads in Rome’s province of Britannia.

    Major Roman roads in Britannia
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
  • Food and language

    Along with water, food is one of the essentials of life.

    Another of life’s essentials is language; it’s vital for communication and communal living in a social species such as ourselves.

    One of the elements of language is the adage, generally defined as something which people often say and which expresses a general truth about some aspect of life.

    In English one well-known adage is there’s many a true word spoken in jest, a propos of which the screenshot below turned up today in my social media feed.

    Conversation reads - Is British food really that bad? If made correctly; yes.

  • Distracted boyfriend: fascist edition

    According to Wikipedia, “Distracted boyfriend is an Internet meme based on a 2015 stock photograph by Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem. Social media users started using the image as a meme at the start of 2017, and it went viral in August 2017 as a way to depict different forms of disloyalty. The meme has inspired various spin-offs and received critical acclaim.”

    Copyright on original: Antonio Guillem.
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    The latest depiction of such portrayal has taken more than one step to the right, depicting as it does Kremlin crook Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin as the object of distraction, Adolf Hitler as the long-suffering girlfriend and one Donald John Trump, unauthorised keeper of classified documents, convicted business fraudster, convicted sexual predator, suspected Capitol insurrectionist in chief and disgraced forty-fifth president of the United States of America.

    Donald Trump, holding hands with Adolf Hitler, distracted by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
    Phwoar!
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