9 August 2020
One of the pleasures I get from writing this blog each week is when somebody contacts me with a comment or an addition to something I’ve said. Last week, for example, I mentioned my theory about how Robert Maxwell died, peeing over the side of his yacht, and a friend told me her sister used to work on his yacht and he didn’t just pee over the side – he would often just pee on the floor of his cabin and then call for staff to come and clear it up. She didn’t stay long.
What an utterly disgusting man he was. Why would anyone do something like that?
One of the other pleasures is discovering the things people unwittingly say and write. For example, Wednesday’s Mail Online headlined “Fearless, funny and so hard-working – we salute you PRINCESS ANNE!”
We pedants call this a ‘dangling participle phrase’ which actually says that “we” (the Mail Online journalists) are “fearless, funny and so hard-working”, rather than Princess Anne. This they may be of course but one assumes they actually meant to say it was Anne who was fearless, funny etc. How simple it would have been for a sub-editor to correct this by adding the word “She’s” at the very beginning.
Another famous example of this error is: “Punting down the river, the chapel came in view.”
Princess Anne will be 70 on 15 August (hence the Mail’s sycophancy) and I must admit to having a sneaky regard for her myself. She and the queen seem to be the only two blood royals who have retained some dignity while all around them are losing theirs – women win again.
At this point, I must emphasise that, while I enjoy pedantry, I also love new words and the changing way they’re used. I greatly enjoyed the results of this year’s Washington Post competition to invent new words or new meanings for old words. My favourites from this year’s winners are:Coffee (n): the person upon whom one coughs.
- Coffee (n): the person upon whom one coughs.
- Esplanade (v): to attempt an explanation while drunk.
- Willy-nilly (adj): impotent.
- Gargoyle (n): olive-flavoured mouthwash.
- Frisbeetarianism (n): the belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
They also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. My favourites of these are:
- Bozone (n): the substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating; the bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
- Cashtration (n): the act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
- Osteopornosis (n): a degenerate disease.
- Glibido (v): all talk and no action.
- Ignoranus (n): a person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
And here are two I made earlier:
- Mistalking (n): the act of lying because one’s too lazy to have read the brief; currently particularly common amongst the leading politicians of the 3rd largest country in the world and a small, former member of the European Union.
- Corpulation (n): the sexual coupling of two overweight people.
Did you know that the National Grid has to keep the grid’s frequency at around 50 hertz in order to avoid power fluctuations that can lead to power cuts. At the moment, the energy grid’s electrical frequency has been controlled by the spinning turbines in traditional power stations but windfarms and other renewable energy sources don’t have turbines so the Electricity System Operator can be forced to shut down windfarms and keep gas-fired power stations running.
Now a giant flywheel is being built in north-east Scotland which it is hoped will mimic the effect of these turbines and stabilise the grid’s electrical frequency from next winter, allowing the Electricity System Operator to use more renewable energy and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
Our electricity supplier, Octopus Energy, claims “All our electricity is sourced from 100% renewable sources, like sunshine, wind, and water” but I’m now beginning to wonder if this can always be so. Still better some than none.
Incidentally, if you have a power line running over your property (not connected to your house), you might be entitled to a wayleave payment for it. We discovered this when a firm of chancers wrote offering to collect this for us if we weren’t already getting it.
They didn’t mention fees but I assumed that they’d want a large chunk of any payment we were due so I naturally wrote directly to our power supplier and, after a few formalities, we got a back payment for the time we’d been living here and now get an annual payment of about £30.
Elsewhere, a Canadian brewery and a leather store in New Zealand have both used the Māori word ‘Huruhuru’ for, respectively, a beer and a shop. To people who speak te reo, the Māori language, it means pubic hair. The owner of the leather shop said he thought it meant ‘feather’ and apologised. Ho yerss. A leather shop, pubic hair. Definitely a coincidence.
It was also reported recently that, in a similarly Freudian slip in 2018, Coca-Cola publicised one of its drinks in New Zealand with the phrase ‘Kia ora mate’. ‘Kia ora’ is a greeting meaning ‘be well’ but ‘mate’ can be translated as ‘death’.
Anybody else remember when, in 1965, Rolls Royce called its new model the Silver Mist but changed its name to the Silver Shadow after a linguist (who presumably wasn’t in the marketing department) pointed out that, in Germany, ‘mist’ means ‘shit’?
In America, the New York attorney general, Letitia James, has filed a lawsuit to dissolve the National Rifle Association, probably the country’s most influential and lethal lobby group. The suit claims that four of its top officials have been stealing millions from the NRA and have turned the organisation into “a breeding ground for greed, abuse and brazen illegality”. Good luck with that – I’d vote for her and I don’t even know if she’s red or blue (though my instinct says she’s blue).
Why is instinct so often dismissed and ignored? Intuition is even less respected. One morning, a father woke with a bad feeling, that something wasn’t right, so he kept his daughter at home from school. It was 6 August 1945 in Hiroshima and Keiko Ogura survived to bear witness to the full horrors of the small atomic bomb which killed an estimated 100,000 – 150,000 people, half of them on the first day. There are surely two lessons here: trust your intuition and don’t build bombs.