Saturday, 19 March 2011

If you can't see what's wrong with these, bend over!

All garnered in recent times from the B.B.C. which, at one time, I used to think represented the paragon of correct spoken English:-

1) "In Iraq a series of explosions have taken place."

2) "Crime has increased by 50%" (No mention of what period this is over.)

3) "Michael Jackson could hold an audience literally in the palm of his hand".

4) "Of the two candidates he was the one who got the most votes."
and a mistake of the same type with - "Saturday will be the best day of the week-end."

5) "The town's population was decimated by the flood."

Okay, in the last one I'll admit that although the commentator clearly meant that the
population had been reduced to about a tenth of its former figure, and not by a tenth, my
Chambers dictionary states that the word is currently used to mean "to reduce very
heavily", so that at least may have changed in my lifetime.


When I was at school, if anyone made such errors as those above, at best they would be openly ridiculed by our English language master-priest or, more usually, the unfortunate boy would be given a taste of the 'strap' on his hand, usually comprising several strokes. These straps, by the way, were made from heavy duty rubber and imported from Ireland where they had been lovingly crafted by Irish priests - all for our own good, you understand. After just one stroke your hand would sting like nobody's business - but, as I say, a mere single stroke was not considered adequate for the desired efficacy. (Though it's always odd when one thinks back and recalls that it was always the same few boys who were the ones repeatedly punished. So maybe not so effective after all.)

But I digress. It's often said that it doesn't really matter if what you say is incorrect as long as you can get over your meaning. I can't agree entirely with that because when I hear errors like these my distraction causes me to miss the rest of the information.
Well, I won't say things were better in my day. Oh no! That is just too much of a cliche. But I must at least register disappointment that things have come to such a pass when the organ which one feels ought to be propagating the English language with pride is, in fact, so sloppy in its use of it.



Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Self-photos - A futile vanity project?

I don't think I'm alone in thinking that if you want to find out what you really look like, don't look in your own mirror. Look at a very current photo or look in somebody else's mirror. My own regular daily mirror images are somehow loaded with flattery, and I don't know why. Maybe it's to do with remembering how one once used to look and the eye is unwilling to relinquish the memory of what once was - a denial of reality, in effect. It's always quite a shock when I'm brought face-to-face (literally) with how things really are.
This morning it was only on the seventh attempt (above) that I got anything like a picture which is close to being acceptable to myself. Some of the tries looked like the photo of a corpse! Goodness knows what others think when they see me outside. But I suppose it won't be long before I'm wishing I could have even today's looks. (Moan, moan, moan.......)

Friday, 4 March 2011

How should one refer to a female adult?

On a radio programme today, which deals with listeners' reactions to what they've heard, a female listener rang in to berate a (male) doctor in an earlier programme who'd been talking about morning sickness during pregnancy, where he'd repeatedly used the word 'ladies' rather than 'women'. She found this condescending, insulting and demeaning.
I, myself, have always referred to 'ladies' because I feel that that word is more respectful than the other one. Actually, it's not the first time I've heard this viewpoint but she was so up-front and offended that I'm wondering if my viewpoint is a 'generation thing'. For the record, I also use the word 'gentleman' when talking to a third party about a particular male - and sometimes, when appropriate I'll say 'young man' (or young lady) which maybe compounds the original 'offence' - though I will concede that the word 'gentleman' has, for some, overtones of referring to a public toilet, as has the word 'ladies' - but I can't help that!
The word 'woman', because it contains in abbreviated form the word 'womb', makes me feel a tad uncomfortable to use in 'polite' conversation. But maybe my views can be dismissed as just those of an old-timer whose crusty attitude has been superceded by time and generally-accepted behaviour. After all, I'm still one of that dying breed who, while receiving glowering looks of disapproval from the men remaining seated, will give up my own seat on a bus or a train for a lady, oops, sorry - a woman!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Another disturbing film to keep me awake at night.

It's been 15 months since 'Paranormal Activities' (the first one) had pressed all the right 'scare- buttons' in my mind. So it was that yesterday I saw the next film to give me the most sleepless night for quite some time.
'Never Let me Go' is a British film about three young adults who, as children, had attended a kind of boarding school where all the pupils are reared (and this isn't a spoiler as it's evident in the early part of the film) with the sole intention of being organ-donors when they reach maturity. The story behind this frightening scenario has a fine pedigree - based on a book by Kazuo Ishiguro ('The Remains of the Day' etc) and given a screenplay by Alex Garland ('The Beach', 'Sunshine', '28 Days Later' etc.)
What I found particularly unsettling in this film was that the 'victims' accepted their fate without question and, furthermore, their highest aspiration was to survive long enough to denote as many as three varied organs over a relatively short period of time, while being progressively debilitated in the process. However, they are given to understand that they may, by demonstrating satisfactorily that they've 'fallen in love', defer their fate by being given a year or two's grace to enjoy their experience. Of course they don't know in advance which organs will be eventually removed from them. It could be something as survivable as the extraction of an eye or it could be their entire liver.
There is little, if any, visual 'horror' to be shown on screen. It's the very notion that is so disturbing and which made me almost break out into a sweat last night when all was still and quiet and my mind gravitated to where it wanted to dwell.
It's usually ideas, sometimes only suggested or implied, that tend to scare me more than full-frontal horror. For example, even though I don't care for the sight of blood I've never found the notion of vampires particularly frightening. Everyone has their own personal 'trigger-points'.
Incidentally, much has been made here that the trailer for 'Never Let Me Go' gives no indication of the seriousness of the storyline. If I hadn't known beforehand, when I first saw the trailer I thought it was just about a love triangle between two young women and a young man, and I wouldn't have bothered to go. But even though I was definitely disturbed by the experience of seeing it, I'm glad I'd heard about the reality of what it was about and I made the effort. So, if you're not entirely put off by what's involved, I'd say "Do see it. A good film."

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Tony Blair - still a nasty after-taste.

It's impossible to glean any pleasure from seeing the Gaddafi-inspired horrors currently going on in Libya, but I do derive some gloating satisfaction in seeing our news channels replaying footage of Tony Blair's visits to that maniac, greeting him with the traditional double kiss, warm, smiling embrace and handshakes. Blair certainly never took too much trouble in choosing his friends (that buffoon, Berlusconi, was another of them!) and I can only hope he's doubled-up and cringing with embarrassment as he sees yet another aspect of his foreign policy history replayed to a world, a large part of whom knew at the time that he, Blair, was making such a fool of himself and would live to regret it. As he hides away in his multi-millionaire world, I'd love to hear him come out now and try to defend his acts at a time when money and oil did the talking. (Did I just say 'did'?)
Blair was always a conundrum. Coming to the fore in the 1990s as a champion of the working classes; a Prime Minister, many of whose domestic social policies were truly commendable, and for which he fought for against the odds; and yet when it came to foreign policy (one does not even have to mention Iraq) he was so ham-fisted and plain wrong that it's virtually impossible to square the circle. Meanwhile, nearly four years since his grudging resignation as Prime Minister, he now travels the world, receiving astronomical sums for giving speeches about his political experience laced with his advice and, erm, 'wisdom'. He ensconces himself away in his multi-million pound residence (I think he may have several), still protected by bodyguards (very telling that he still needs them!) which we British taxpayers have to pay for.

His wife, through her legal career even wealthier than he was at the time he was Prime Minister, is also on the speeches-for-money binge-circuit as well as receiving her regular fees for her judiciary work, which in many single cases would dwarf what most people earn in a full year. She also originated from a 'working class' background. (Her actor-father, a lifelong socialist activist, and still so, long since denounced his son-in-law's politics and refused to vote for his party.)
Of course one can say that if the Blairs are still receiving colossal sums, then good for them. But I do wonder how often they, in their ivory towers, think of their roots and the people they left behind, those very people whom they at one time championed. Or are they just too busy totting up their bank balances?