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So, what is it?

He just said the most famous Hitler phrase there is in this world,” Zverev told the umpire of a fan in the stands to his left.

What? Drive East? They don’t actually tell us what was said…..

Toss off

‘Black market’ is racist phrase and should not be used, say bank leaders

We have a well established vocabulary here. Black market – illegal. Grey market – legal but not tax paying. Or possibly legal but not wholly so – so things like parallel imports without IP protection and so on. White market – fully law and tax abiding.

Just bugger off and go touch yourself up over your virtue signalling somewhere else.

Language guys, language

Volvo’s got a car called the “Recharge” At least in Portuguese it does.

Isn’t that rather reinforcing range anxiety in potential buyers?

Reminds of the problems Chevy had selling the Nova in Iberian speaking countries. Nova or No Va?

Centimated sounds like a good word

Investors have started legal action against the Swiss financial regulator over its decision to wipe out bonds worth more than £14 billion during the emergency rescue of Credit Suisse.

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, known as Finma, caused uproar among debt investors last month by writing down some bonds issued by Credit Suisse to zero but preserving some value for the troubled bank’s shareholders.

It emerged yesterday that a group of investors representing SwFr4.5 billion (£4.1 billion) of the SwFr16 billion of decimated bonds

Decimated is one in ten, or 10%. So centimated, no?

Not quite le mot juste here

In the field of cryptozoology — the study of animals which have not yet been proven to exist — there are no bigger questions than what is Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster.

Now, a scientist has used statistics to try and explain the legends of two of the world’s most high profile urban myths.

Given that we don’t spot Bigfoot on Brtaodway, Nessie in the Thames, I think they’re rural, not urban, myths, no? Something brought on by an excess of turnips in the diet, not the pressures of city life?

Misunderstand how language works

Language is us applying words to some feature of life that we’d like to use a word to describe. Changing the word doesn’t change that feature. Therefore, over time, changing the word doesn’t in fact change the meaning being conveyed.

N-word to Negro to colored to African-American to Black to Person of Color is still a description of the melanin tinteness of the one being so described. Cretin to retard to disabled to differently abled to arrives on the Variety Club Fun Outing coach is still describing that same sad feature of some lives.

Members of the department’s Homeland Security Group, which leads work on Britain’s counter-terrorism response, attended a talk last week focused on “the right language” around LGBT issues.

On Monday, the Home Office moved to distance itself from its contents, which it said did not represent “departmental or government guidance”.

Across 12 slides on gender issues, first reported by Guido Fawkes, Whitehall staff were told: “Be aware a person’s sex, gender identity, and gender expression may not correspond.

“Genderqueer is a blanket term for those who don’t define their gender in binary terms … It is not a modern invention. Each identity is valid and deserves respect.”

A slide on language to avoid using included the terms homosexual and homosexuality, which it said is “generally considered a medical term now. People tend to use gay instead. Can reduce the person to purely sexual terms”. It also warned against the use of the word transsexual.

We can call it gay, homosexual, shirt-lifting or bum banditry. Genderqueer if we prefer. But it’s not going to change the connotations of the description because they are what exist and what is being described. Changing the word doesn’t change those connotations.

British society has long made distinctions here – Mrs. Patrick Campbell and not frightening the horses is different from going all John Gielgud at Praed St Gents for example. Thus cottaging is different from homosexual. But that’s very much the point being made here. We can call cottaging seeking love in a public manner if we wish, even a human right as some try to insist, but it’s still willy waving in the council privy. Changing the word doesn’t change the thing that is being described.

But this always happens to languages

The Welsh language is being threatened by social media, as a study found “the erosion of a language online would threaten the cultural identity of a nation”.

Last month, it emerged that the number of Welsh speakers had fallen to a record low of 17.8 percent, as fewer children are speaking the language.

Academics at Swansea University found nearly 70% of Welsh speakers used English “often” or “always” on social media, with the vast majority using it more than Welsh.

All of them, always, are subject to two contrasting forces.

1) They become increasingly fissiparous. Latin into Catalan, Andalucian, Galician, Portuguese, Provencal, D’Oc, Florentine, Sabian and on and on. A household comes up with a new word or two – happens in every household all the time. Some of those spread and become the accepted version in the village – or town, county and so on. Continual changes bubbling up from the bottom and the accumulated changes create those new languages over the years. Latin took 1600 years or so to become many really entirely different languages. Old Germanic took about the same to become The varied Germans, Norses, Cloggie and so on. Some languages are a bmic across boundaries – English.

Shrug, well that happens. Happened to Welsh too – Cumbrian, Cornish, Scots, Irish, Manx and so on. Wouldn’t surprise me at all to find that northern Welsh is different from southern.

2) Certain events consolidate languages. New methods of communication being one of them. Radio, newspapers, they both consolidate the previous fissiparity. Because there becomes a standardised version which exists across the distribution area. One of the most common was in fact the Bible. When it first started appearing in the vernacular (c. 15th c) which version of the local language was used became the nailed down and formal version. The King James had a lot to o with the creation of English as a unitary language. The other one I know of was the selection of which variant of Slovakian to use – the selection then led to the language of one subset of the greater becoming the formal version of that language.

This is all just normal about languages. OK, so now we’ve got a new comms method, Twitter. To some extent – and only some, nothing is 100% here – this will mean the standardisation of language across the platform. Just because that’s what happens. And, also, there will be the neologisms there some of which spread. As with texts – KTB, LOL and so on.

This doesn’t greatly help the Welsh with their cultural identity of a nation shtick of course. Because the Welsh language is their unifying factor in that official and give me more culturalmoneyforthebureaucracy sense. The population of the south is – genetically, culturally a century back – near entirely unrelated to that of the North. The mines and steelworks were populated not by the local farmers of yore but by vast waves of immigration from the Midlands, SW and Ireland. Pretending they’re all Welsh by shouting Yakki Da at each other is the only cultural identity they’ve got in common.

That last paragraph might not be as entirely and wholly true as those preceding it.

Stanford’s loonie, we know that

But they’re also wrong:

Even “rule of thumb” appears to have fallen foul of the university’s initiative, because it refers to “an old British law that allowed men to beat their wives with sticks no wider than their thumb”.

Sounds remarkably unlikely. Partly because there is no such thing as “British law” and never has been. The constituent Kingdoms have always had their own laws. But rather more to the point, back when we could have had such a law we didn’t have such laws. We can imagine (no, go on) that back in that past it was considered OK for some mild and unconsensual chastisement to go on. But back then we never did have laws which detailed what you may do. We only had laws which said what you may not do. That was just the way the English (and Scots etc) legal systems worked. Everything was legal except that which is illegal. Just the way the system rolled.

So we couldn’t have had a law which said that you were allowed to do so.

Quite apart from all the other reasons that the derivation is bollocks of course. Rule of thumb coming from the same source as the measurement the inch – a rough guide to something, around and about, as measured by the size of a thumb – the inch.

One of those things where Wikipedia is in fact correct:

In English, the phrase rule of thumb refers to an approximate method for doing something, based on practical experience rather than theory. This usage of the phrase can be traced back to the 17th century and has been associated with various trades where quantities were measured by comparison to the width or length of a thumb.

A modern folk etymology holds that the phrase is derived from the maximum width of a stick allowed for wife-beating under English common law, but no such law ever existed. This belief may have originated in a rumored statement by 18th-century judge Sir Francis Buller that a man may beat his wife with a stick no wider than his thumb. The rumor produced numerous jokes and satirical cartoons at Buller’s expense, but there is no record that he made such a statement.

English jurist Sir William Blackstone wrote in his Commentaries on the Laws of England of an “old law” that once allowed “moderate” beatings by husbands, but he did not mention thumbs or any specific implements. Wife-beating has been officially outlawed for centuries in England (and the rest of the United Kingdom) and the United States, but continued in practice; several 19th-century American court rulings referred to an “ancient doctrine” that the judges believed had allowed husbands to physically punish their wives using implements no thicker than their thumbs.

The phrase rule of thumb first became associated with domestic abuse in the 1970s, after which the spurious legal definition was cited as factual in a number of law journals, and the United States Commission on Civil Rights published a report on domestic abuse titled “Under the Rule of Thumb” in 1982. Some efforts were made to discourage the phrase, which was seen as taboo owing to this false origin. During the 1990s, several authors correctly identified the spurious etymology; however, the connection to domestic violence was cited in some legal sources even into the early 2000s.

Why productivity is declining

The Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative is a “multi-phase” project of Stanford’s IT leaders. The list took “18 months of collaboration with stakeholder groups” to produce, the university tells us.

Productivity is defined as the value of the output as compared to the resource input. So, for example, the productivity of labour is the value of the output gained by employing that labour as compared to the cost of the labour (usually measured in hours, but doesn;t have to be) used as an input.

So, if society is using some of its highest paid minds to work, for many man-years, on something with no measurable value of output (which is before we even wonder whether the output is of any value at all, we should all agree that this output is not, in fact, recorded in a manner that is contained in GDP) then the productivity of the economy as a whole is falling.

Which is a neat thought really. Because these same great minds will tell us that falling productivity – or, the reality, no longer strongly rising productivity of labour – is proof that the free market and capitalist system of organisation is no longer performing and must be replaced by committees of the the high minded organising and planning things for us.

Oxymoron time

A new entry for the examples in the dictionary:

When agents from La Sûreté de l’Etat, Belgium’s intelligence service,

Actually, a double

broke into the Brussels home of a former Italian MEP this summer they could scarcely believe what they found: €700,000 (£610,00) in cash, most of it in crisp new €50 notes.

€500 notes exist for a reason.

Once again snark comes before the fall

So, reading elsewhere I find this:

for people who are dyslectic

And I’m about to comment there that well, you know, non-native English speaker (her native is something akin to Grikath’s Cloggie I think) and isn’t that just a giggle that it should be that word misspelt.

Before I do I think, well, let’s just check.


adjective: dyslectic
relating to or affected by dyslexia.
“dyslexic children perform well in oral tests”

noun: dyslectic
a person who has dyslexia.
“dyslexics can have difficulty writing by hand”


Not for the first time I find that non-native speakers know the language better than a native speaker. Presumably on the grounds that they actually have to work at it rather than just absorbing it by osmosis over the decades…..

Just a little linguistic amusement

This One Love armband.

Yes, obviously, we all get the point.

And yet within one subset of one sector of the LGBTQetc communities there’s the obvious point that sexuality is pretty much defined by not limiting those physical expressions of love to the one. Monkeypox wouldn’t be the problem it is if this were different.

Just amuses.


Any linguists or Yiddish experts out there? I would like some help settling a dispute with my wife, please. Early on in our relationship, she introduced me to a brilliant new word: beshwiggled. Ever put on a jacket over a bunch of layers and everything feels crumpled and you’re all hot and bothered? You’re beshwiggled. Ever tossed and turned at night and your bedsheets feel tangled and uncomfortable? Beshwiggled. Evocative with a satisfying mouthfeel: I reckon Lewis Carroll would have had a good chortle at the word. It sounds like something he might have conjured up in Jabberwocky.

Carroll didn’t invent it though. According to my Jewish-American wife, beshwiggled is a Yiddish word. Curious about the etymology, I spent a while Googling different spellings of beshwiggled (geshwhiggled, b’swiggled) and consulting online Yiddish dictionaries, but couldn’t find any information. I think your family made it up, I finally informed her. “No,” she insisted. “It’s a real word!” I don’t want to be a schmuck, but I’m not sure it is.

You’ve just discovered how language works. Each and every family – heck, any social grouping – has its own neologisms. Sometimes those take off and infect an entire language grouping. Mostly they don’t. Even those that do tend to do so on a regional basis. Which is how we get accents and dialects and over time those develop into new languages. There are centralising forces too – mass media being an obvious one. Print was an earlier example. Most European languages got nailed down to a single one of those regional variants with the publication of the first vernacular Bible (for some reason I know that there was considerable argument over which version of Slovak should be used).

Give it a couple of millennia and we’ve got Latin breaking up into Romanian, Spanish, Portugee and so on. Or the varied Italians. Yes, other influences too, but absolutely part of it is just families and groupings inventing a word and it takes off among a wider group but not all Romance language speakers. We have another example in the Bantu languages, again over a couple of millennia. Or, of course. Old Germanic into German and Scandi and the influence upon English (which is an oddity, being a blend across two major groups) or the varied forms of Slavic.

At some point some Lombard started using birra instead of cervisia and it spread, but not to the similarly Latin speaking Spanish or Portugee. Same with tavola instead of mensa.

That’s just how it all works. Languages are naturally fissiparous precisely because families always do invent their own new words.


*Greta Thunberg makes surprise appearance on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2022*

Saturday 25 June, 5.15pm

Announced 11am, Sat 25 June

So it’s not a surprise then, is it?


A spokesman for Ryanair added: “We require passengers travelling to the UK to fill out a simple questionnaire issued in Afrikaans. If they are unable to complete this questionnaire, they will be refused travel and issued with a full refund.”

If they’re flying on a South African passport that is.

Afrikaan is spoken by about 13pc of South Africa’s population, alongside the country’s 11 other official languages.

Not, actually, a very good test.

Actually, OK so what are the first two? English and Zulu? Anyone know?