Study

Bookish Nooks, Cultural Crannies
Studies serve for delight, for ornaments, and for ability (Francis Bacon)

The Cod Delusion

Just 100 Cod Left in North Sea declared the Telegraph the other day. How did they count them? I wondered. And how on earth could there just be 100? Then the Sunday Times proclaimed there were only 100 Adult Cod…

S is for SEO

Confuse your kids with a French bird alphabet tapestry! When I was little, in the 18th century, A was for Apple (as in Cox’s Orange Pippin rather than iPhone). But would that make sense to a modern toddler I wonder?…

Oldest Photograph of Human

I stumbled on this photo today. Taken by Daguerre in Paris in 1838, the exposure time was around 15 minutes, so all movement disappeared into an invisible blur. With one exception: an anonymous shoeshine boy and a chap having his…

Clever

‘I’ve not been feeling too clever recently,’ intoned the frail Mitfordish old lady in Waitrose. It’s ages since I’ve heard ‘clever’ being used in the sense of ‘well’. Peculiarly English I suspect. And it only makes sense if delivered in…

Gore Vidal 1925 – 2012

Sad to learn that Gore Vidal has died. My favourite Gore V anecdote is that he was on a TV show with Richard Adams who claimed his writing was ‘meretricious’. ‘Pardon?’ replied Vidal. ‘Meretricious.’ ‘Meretricious to you,’ he replied. ‘And…

Save The Gerund

I’m worried about gerunds. If you’re under 25, a gerund is a verb form ending with ‘ing’. They used to be quite socially acceptable. We used to flaunt our gerunds and openly say things such as, ‘I love eating.’ But…

Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizit

‘Please reuse your bags’ said a sign outside Tesco. And, as ever, I prounounced ‘reuse’ in my head as ‘rurze’ – sort of French sounding, rhyming with ‘Chartreuse’ or ‘purrs’. I simply can’t read ‘reuse’ as re-use, with two syllables.…

Supercalifragilisticexpialiplagiaristic

I was amused to read in the Boston Globe that there was once a ridiculous copyright dispute over the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Thankfully, um-diddle-diddle-um-diddleye, um-diddle-diddle-um-diddleye was spared. That could have got nasty. The Sherman brothers, who wrote the Mary Poppins version…

This classic headline, in the Sun in 2000, refers to Inverness Caledonian Thistle beating Celtic (football teams, if you’re not sporty). But, rather like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, it has an interesting provenance. Could it be that the Sun headline writer had seen…

The Ape Pennines

Thank goodness for the Pronunciation Unit at the BBC. I’ve just watched a property programme on another channel, featuring houses in Italy. And the presenter, who had a really funny accent, referred several times to the Ape Pennine mountains. He…

SpeechJammer

Finally – the perfect invention. It’s a Japanese speech-jamming gadget that forces dull people into silence. The SpeechJammer gun records the speech of your target (a tedious teacher, lecturer, vicar, relative or whoever) and then fires their words back at…