Thursday, January 29, 2009

Potential Swearwords

There are 26x26x26x26 (456976) potential swearwords. To be honest, there is no necessity to employ these words in an expletive manner and, in spite of their obvious utility, we use relatively few. Of the massive number available, barely seven thousand appear in the OED. A great shame. The people of our blessed lands struggle to spell efficiently and leaving all these simple, short and potentially descriptive words unused is quite wasteful of a readily available resource.
There are those within the whole set which are, frankly, useless. Where all the letters are identical or the final combination is a complete tongue-twister we would be forced to consign it to the scrapheap. In truth, around 30% might never be successful orally/aurally.
But there remains a massive number of combinations where there is no current meaning and the difficulty involved in spelling vanishes. A few moments staring at the QWERTY keyboard conjures up thousands. Not one of the variations I created (mentally) in the previous ten minutes is in common use.
So, if you are edging towards inventing a concatenated Greco-Roman-derived lexical behemoth to describe a newly discovered -phobia or the latest -ism go for the short, pithy option instead.
You would be praised at Dimly Lit Corner.

Allergy advice: No words matching the title description are included in the piece above.


Birmingham, it was announced today, is going to get rid of apostrophes on road signs. King's Walk will become (exempli gratia) Kings Walk. Given my often ridiculously over-the-top defence of my mother tongue, you might expect me to be dead against this. Well, surprisingly, I'm not.
For starters we shouldn't confuse road signs with poetry or prose. Different things don'cha know. Apostrophes do tend to complicate things on your SatNav too. I know using your mobile phone is naughty whilst driving but it is safety personified against reprogramming your Tom Tom at 60mph through town. Apostrophe's? Get rid of the little bugger's. Who need's them?
We must also remember the location of this act of grammatical vandalism. Birmingham. There is a theory that the Brummie accent is only allowed to exist because everyone else then sounds intelligent. Even Smoggies. It is apt that they are de-apostrophising in Brum. Having massacred the spoken word it is right and fitting that they now butcher the written word.
Our gain, Birminghams loss.

Drunken Teenagers (or not)

Apparently, 6% of boys and girls have been drunk before their 16th birthday*.
Shock! Horror! Probe!
Hang on. I think this means that 94% have NOT been drunk. What in God's name are we worried about? I think that figure is absolutely amazing. This would be an excellent country if a few other things were at (or around) the same level. What about: truthful MPs? honest Peers? Up-to-date judges? Things worth watching on TV? The incidence of simple good manners? Useful government initiatives? Cancer survival rates? People in work? People who enjoyed going to work? Trains that run on time? and so on.
The shameless way the New Puritans target our teenagers whenever/wherever possible is one of the most depressing features of 21st Century Britain. If Cromwell's lackeys are to be believed [please don't] our 13-18's are drunken, obese yobs in hoodies with no respect for anything, with dreadful GCSE results and zero future. They really aren't. Really.
But they will be if we keep treating them like that.

*Government figures today. Something miraculous happens on your 16th birthday. It is OK to be ratted most of the time from then.

The Unelected

Regular readers will have noticed that I am rather anti our PM, Gordon Brown. There is nothing personal in this. Indeed, I would love him to pop round for a chat one night. We could get in a parmo* and a couple of beers if he liked. Play on the Wii; that sort of thing.
My problem with Mr Brown is that he is unelected. I know the apparatchiks of New Labour want him in power but, in a democracy, that is really not the point. The people of this country should want him in power and we do that through a General Election. He will never have any real power or credibility unless/until he is actually elected PM.
The same goes for Mandelson. Just wheeling this old crony in from the Lords to get us out of this recession doesn't wash. We are a democracy, damn it! The Lords are there to keep an eye on the Commons and take dodgy payments to make laws. They are NOT there to be in executive positions. I had the same reservations about Lord Carrington in Thatcher's time.
Perhaps I have it all wrong. Perhaps we are not living in a democracy.

*A Middlesbrough delicacy. Think Pizza, but replace the doughy base with hammered out chicken. Excellent.

The Resistable Rise of Bugsy Malone

The Puritan Kakistocracy are at it again! This time we are being ordered not to allow anyone under 15 ANY alcohol. Yet again, parental responsibility is crushed under the heel of autocratic diktat. Do these people never learn?
Just after World War 1, the USA introduced Prohibition by way of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. It was an unmitigated disaster, giving rise to a crime wave unsurpassed at that time. One of the big supporters of Prohibition was the Ku Klux Klan. That should have been a big clue (no pun intended) to the law-makers. Some of the great names of American history emerged in the Prohibition: Al Capone, Bugs Moran.... The 18th was repealed - the only amendment that has ever been repealed. Well, Gordon Cromwell and his miserable minions are heading the same way only down a generation. If we tell our teenagers not to do something, they will see it as something to do. Bugsy Malone with WKD instead of custard.
The French will be laughing at us.
And I hate that.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Career Paths

I sometimes look at my career and wonder where it all went wrong. Sometimes I wonder why it all went right. It's a mood thing; something to do with my age and very little motorbike riding in the last few months.
Some people though have amazing career paths. A few local folk should suffice as examples.
In Newcastle we have the Royal Victoria Infirmary. Ludwig Wittgenstein, premier league philosopher, worked there as a porter. Staying with the health service, Hastings Banda went from a GP in North Shields to God in Malawi. I know GPs have a well-established god-complex but seeing one go the whole way is impressive. Sting going from teacher training to saviour of the whole planet, especially rainforests, is another sterling example.
I'm sure there are others.
I would love to read what they put on their CVs.

The Royal Mail

I don't normally do requests, but this one's for Fiona in Durham....
I strenuously object to the Royal in Royal Mail. Those who know me well will attest to my republican leanings, but I feel so sorry for HM and her kith and kin being saddled with the Mail.
Perhaps we should call it The Current Government's Mail and dump the blame exactly where it should be. The problem that nice Adam Crozier was given when he took over is that someone said that HM's Mail had to make a profit. Clang!
Why? Why would anyone say something as stupid as that? That's like the NHS making a profit, or the BBC, or schools. The Royal Mail should have been one of those quintessentially non-profit making things that we put up with because it delivers great service. If I had had to chuck in a few quid in tax to ensure that we had a great postal system I would have done it gladly.
Instead, I'm chucking thousands in to bail out our feckless bankers who can't be arsed to get their toxic debt back from the flakey Russian mafiosi they loaned it to.
Who do I write to to complain?

The Power of the Equilibrium

Le Chatelier's Principle: Any system in a dynamic equilibrium will tend to oppose change. It works every time and woe betide anyone who forgets it. So who forgets it? Our Government, that's who.
We are ruled ("governed" is too soft a word) by the most puritanical kakistocracy this side of Cromwell. They hector, cajole and threaten constantly about things that are not one jot their concern. The middle classes are now being berated for the amount of wine we ( I think it's "we") drink. The equilibrium they are trying to disturb is that most of the "middle class" (not a term I like or really understand) try to forget their angst-riven lives by having a bottle of wine while they watch the vacuous shite on TV before - after sleeping it off - setting off on another working day the following morning. This is miles over the "recommended" limit, apparently. Recommended by whom? The soulless killjoys that we stupidly elected last time. That's whom.
People will crack. They will have no opportunity to turn off the pressure and relax. Alcohol - even many units above "recommended" - is better than a nervous breakdown. Pissed or Prozac?
An easy choice.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


A Labour MP (Graham Stringer) has claimed dyslexia is a myth invented by education chiefs to cover up poor teaching. I don't for one minute believe that he is 100% right. Only 99%. There are, undeniably, children who are dyslexic. Equally undeniably (except that it is always denied) there are children who are poor readers who get the "I'm dyslexic" badge and milk the system for all it's worth. Stringer claims that our "dyslexia industry" has been set up to ameliorate the deficiencies within the education system. It is interesting that the incidence of dyslexia fluctuates so wildly from nation to nation and language to language. One might imagine that those languages that use the common Roman alphabet that you are reading here (e.g. German, French, English, Italian...) might have similar dyslexic populations (by percentage). They don't. One might assume that nations speaking the same language might have a similar dyslexia rates. They don't. Clearly, Stringer has a point. If we are (and we are) producing many more dyslexics than same-language or similar-language nations, we are doing something wrong.


It is interesting that Oxygen (Gk: I make sharp/sour) and Oxymoron (Gk: sharp+dull) have such an overlap. Oxygen was once thought to be an essential constituent of those sharp/sour-tasting acids found by chemists. Oxymorons (I don't like oxymora as a plural; don't know why) are (along with double entendres) essential components of our language. Oxymoron (itself an oxymoron) generation sometimes happens on purpose (e.g. "deafening silence") but the best are purely accidental. Good grief. Civil War. Military Intelligence. Airline food. Microsoft Works.
However, it worries me more than a little that these pearls of our language are tending to go unrecognised in the highly careful phrases that we are now subjected to.
Just for starters: "financial strategy", "fiscal prudence", "customer care", "job centre", "savings account", "politically correct", "the Prime Minister thinks...", "Olympics 2012 budget", "civil servant".
Any others will be gratefully received.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Swearings In

I'll admit this is unlikely, but here goes.
The Vice-President gets sworn in before the President, it appears. So who is he Vice-President to? Well, quite clearly, the outgoing President. So Joe what's-his-face was Dubya's VP for a few minutes there today! OK. What would have happened if Dubya had snuffed it in the few minutes between Joe Thingummy being made VP but before St. Barack became President. Joe Hoosit would be President. What would St. Barack do then? I feel a screenplay coming on.
You have to say, it didn't go well. Aretha? Wrong key and (OMG!) wrong hat. No-one could hear the loony on the cello and his mates. St. Barack fluffed his lines (although, as in all things, it was clearly not his fault). Ted Kennedy collapses at lunch. And was small Obama listening to her iPod during his speech?
Still, the ex-Presidents looked good. I loved the stapled on smiles of the Clintons. Oh yes.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Welcome back Ken!

Well, well. There was me raving about Ed Balls and who pops back into view but ex-Minister of Education, Ken Clarke. I am absolutely delighted!
A few reasons. Firstly, Ken is unashamedly pro-Europe; so am I. Secondly, he has a great style in the Commons and (since Lord Peter Whimsey isn't actually there) he should have a great time kicking seven bells out of Mandy's junior ministers. I really will enjoy that. Thirdly, and most crucially, it shows that the Tory party are moving on with their progressive agenda.
What? (I hear you say) He's 68! He was in Heath's/Thatcher's/Major's governments; how is that moving on?
The way I see it is this. In all that time his avuncular, knock-about persona was roundly ridiculed by both left (who were scared of him) and right (who were scared of him). With him back on the front bench it shows that the Tories are at last capable of having someone with personality back in a position of clout. He is the only Conservative with any personality as far as I can see.
So welcome back Ken! Have fun.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Talking Balls

Tucked away in my far corner of a comfortable red-brick, I am somewhat immured and protected from the pell-mell of mainstream education.
Then, to spoil it all, Ed Balls appears on my TV screen.
I have worked through dozens of Education Secretaries now. Ruth Kelly, Charles Clarke and all the way back to Kenneth Baker and - I think - a couple before him.
None of them even get close to Ed Balls for talking absolute rubbish.
He is the latest in a long line of Labour apparatchiks that has wrecked our education system from end to end with their ceaseless tinkering, pointless measurement, social engineering and unabashed class warfare. Listening to him on the BBC Breakfast programme this morning was an education in itself. He talked balls. Not just some of the time; absolutely all of the time. A more vacuous litany of platitudes would be hard to imagine. I have to say, I am not a fan.
However, I have worked out a method of detecting when Balls talks balls.
His lips move.

Charles: Shock, Horror, Probe

Ditto; more or less.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Harry: Shock, Horror, Probe

Two things surprise me about this latest furore about Prince Harry. Firstly, that we are all so mock-surprised and mock-shocked about it. He is Prince Phillip's grandson after all. Secondly, that the Captain Shah that the comment was directed at has made no comment whatsoever, clearly wasn't insulted, and probably has some equally derogatory nicknames for Harry. Since the Captain outranked Lieutenant Wales he could have made a really big thing of it. He didn't/hasn't. Good lad.
It worries me that, in the general case of A calling B a non-PC name, the rest of the planet can feel outraged and insulted. All those times (with my Australian upbringing showing here) that I've called people "Bastard" I should really have been expecting a massive backlash from all those born out of wedlock. Gosh. And when I referred to someone as a "Chav" I was risking the outrage of thousands with tight ponytails and Adidas trainers. My word, a lucky escape indeed.
Sadly, the day has arrived when we can't have a bit of banter with our mates without some git selling it on to the News of the World. What's New Zealand like?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Weather Maps

I have put up with this in silence for long enough. I am thoroughly sick of the weather maps on the BBC. The pseudo-3D layout of the UK has me particularly vexed. The beautiful land that is Scotland is a shrunken, withered husk where the self-important South-East is a swollen land mass the size of Antarctica. I'm sorry, but the UK doesn't look like that. It's not even as though they have taken some slanted projection. I've tried to replicate their map on Google Earth. It just can't be done.
So now, the only time our kids will see a "map" of the UK it is hideously distorted to salve the egos of those living in London and the South-East. Honest kids; it doesn't look like that! I also heard one of the so-called meteorologists talking recently about the "south-east half of Britain". Ye Gods! The very best the South-East can be is a quarter.
Perhaps the worst thing of all is the low standard of their forecasts. I wouldn't trust them to get yesterday's weather even approximately right.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Entropy at the Epiphany

I always feel an overwhelming sadness when the Christmas decorations are dismantled and the tree is put out with the rest of the seasonal litter. It might be that the family is once again dispersed; it could be that the bubble we have lived in, full of good will to all, is burst. It could be the thought of work tomorrow.
My wife noticed, amidst these thoughts and deeds, that the second law of thermodynamics reared its inevitable head in a big way. Basically, the Second Law states that entropy (chaos - but in a scientific way) tends to increase. She noticed this increase of entropy in the fairy lights that won't fit back into their box, the pine cones that will no longer occupy a single carrier bag and the Nativity set that clearly did not ever fit into anything at all.
However, the best example of entropy increase was claimed by the Christmas tree itself. Having shed very few needles from mid-December to a few hours ago, it now appears to have hopped around the house depositing its leaves everywhere. We only carried it from the living room to the front door. Needles are now in every room of the house.
I never liked Thermodynamics much at University either.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


A fair number of my friends are bipolar (apparently this is latterly preferred to the much more informative manic depressive). Some, markedly so. Truth be known, I show several of the same tendencies, but not enough to warrant a badge or anything. In mediaeval times, personalities were assumed to be governed by the mix of the four humours (blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile) that made us sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric or melancholic depending on their proportions. Each personality has its good side and their bad side. I have long positioned myself in the choleric camp and this coming year I fully intend to live up to my mediaeval classification.
For me, 2008 was a year littered with change, stress, loss and frustration that was normally bordering on anger. I am resolved that 2009 will be very different. This will - I have decided - be a manic year for me. I have no specific resolutions that I would share here, but I am optimistic - in a zealot-like way - about this year.
Happy New Year to all who read my missives.