English is a B*gg*er of a Language

Following on from yesterday’s post about the difficulties of the English language, Noreen came across the following letter from one David Truman of Fulham in the London Evening Standard of 18 November 1991:

Lines in honour of the rehabilitation of Frank Bough (by an inner-London primary school teacher trying to teach children English).

I take it you already know
of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through?
I write in case you wish perhaps
To learn of less familiar traps:
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead; it’s said like bed, not bead;
For goodness sake, don’t call it “deed”!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear for bear, or fear for pear.
There’s dose and rose, there’s also lose
(Just look them up) and goose and choose,
And cork and work, and card and ward,
And font and front, and word and sword,
And do and go, and thwart and cart
Come come, I’ve barely made a start!
A dreadful language?
Man alive, Who mastered it when I was five!

Zen Mischievous Moments #127

Twenty-one reasons why English is hardest language to learn.

  1. The bandage was wound around the wound.
  2. The farm was used to produce produce.
  3. The dump was so full it had to refuse more refuse.
  4. We must polish the Polish furniture.
  5. He could lead if he would get the lead out of the lead.
  6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  7. Since there was no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  8. A bass and a bass were painted on the head of the bass drum.
  9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
  10. I did not object to the object.
  11. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  12. There was a row among the oarsmen on how to row.
  13. They were too close to the door to the close to close it.
  14. The buck does funny things when does are present.
  15. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
  16. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
  17. The wind was too strong to wind in the sail.
  18. After a number of injections my jaw got number.
  19. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
  20. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  21. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

[With thanks to Sue Frye]

Friday Five: Nudity

I’m amazed that it’s almost two weeks since I posted anything; guess you’ll just have to put it down to too much work. Anyway here’s this week’s Friday Five, which is one I couldn’t resist as it’s an old hobbyhorse of mine. 🙂

Nudity/Body Awareness
(aka “How comfortable are you in your skin, or with others?”)

1. Have you ever gone skinny-dipping?
Sadly no I haven’t. I’d like to but there seem to be no available facilities near here, and anyway most clubs require one to be a member of British Naturism as a bona fide (I don’t like BN; too cliquey and too club-centric, unless it has changed a lot in the last few years). Neither am I anywhere near a naturist beach. And no opportunities in my youth. Very sad.

2. When you’re home alone, do you strip down to get comfortable? Do you ever go out without underwear because it’s more comfortable?
I always wear as little as possible at home. Writing this I’m wearing just a pair of shorts and that only because I’m awaiting a grocery delivery from the supermarket. I just love the freedom of nudity and the air is good for the body — if it was good enough for Benjamin Franklin it is good enough for me. We have a naturally warm house so even in the middle of winter I’m often wearing nothing. And in summer I’ll sit in the garden in nothing, tho’ only close to the house so as not to frighten the neighbours; it doesn’t bother me but it probably would bother “them next door”.

I don’t often go out without underwear, but I certainly do in summer if wearing only shorts.

Basically I wear clothes only because (a) the rest of society demands it and (b) for warmth. Otherwise, why bother?

3. Have you ever/do you use the bathroom with the door open? Are you comfortable using public facilities?
The only time our bathroom door (or bedroom door) gets shut is if there are visitors in the house, and then for their benefit not ours. We’ve always been like this and we both wander in and out even if the other is in possession. It doesn’t bother either of us; it never has. I have no problem with public facilities and would have no problem with mixed sex facilities. I’m actually astonished at the number of men who clearly dislike peeing in public and always use a cubicle rather than a communal urinal; I reckon this affects 30-50% of men — very odd.

4. When getting intimate with your significant other, lights on or off?
Either; it depends on how we feel at the time. Actually it is more a question of glasses on or off! Mind you even if I say “lights off” we never draw our bedroom curtains (come to that, any curtains) and there is a street lamp outside, so the bedroom is never dark. And you’ll not be surprised to know that we both sleep in the nude; I have done since I was a student and managed to get out of living in conventional shared lodgings.

5. How comfortable are you with body exposure/nudity of others? Group shower rooms? Topless/nude beaches? Breastfeeding in public?
Absolutely no problem with any of this. I’m dismayed at the number of men who walk around group shower/changing rooms trying to hide behind their towels or swimming trunks. I’m one of those who walks around totally bare and thinks nothing of it. And the antics of the British on the beach trying to change out of wet swimming costumes behind a towel always amuses me.

Before you ask … Yes, of course one looks at other people in the nude. Why shouldn’t one? We look at each other clothed and admire nice bodies; so why not in the nude? Staring is objectionable whether you’re nude or not. I feel sure fewer girls would complain about having their tits stared at or being visually undressed if blokes were more used to seeing the naked human body. And it works both ways: girls you’d get a good look too!

I see no problem with nudity anywhere, anytime; public or private. What’s the problem? I can’t understand why people have a problem with nudity. Come on, let’s be honest: give or take the odd scar we all know what’s underneath that shirt, skirt, shorts. We would all be better off if we were more used to nudity; if we were brought up with nudity. We’d be much more comfortable with our bodies. That would make it easier for most people to talk to their doctors (and each other); they’d be less embarrassed. So in turn our health would be better because illnesses would get treated sooner, as we’d not be embarrassed/scared of going to the doctor. And we would be much less embarrassed and reticent about talking to each other — about anything, not just things sexual! — which would be good for most people’s relationships. Ultimately we’d all be more civilised. Besides, isn’t nudity a basic human right?

Go for it: Nudity for all!

[Brought to you courtesy of Friday Five.]

Head Cook, Restored

I’m really pleased. This weekend I’ve managed to get back to doing the cooking — something I always used to do the vast majority of. I set myself a challenge last Thursday: cook two meals in the next week. So far I’ve done three main meals (although one of them was a salad). We’re eaten:

  • Friday: Fusilli with asparagus, smoked duck and beans
  • Saturday: Pasta and chicken salad á la maison
  • Sunday: Cheese and rocket omelette with tomato, avocado and onion salad

Now all I have to do is to keep it up.

(If anyone wants the recipes — well some guide as to what I did anyway — ask and I’ll post them.)

Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)

I found this today on a rose bush in the garden; the first one I’ve seen; I’m pretty well certain of the ID. Not the best of pictures I’ve ever taken.

The Harlequin Ladybird is a recent arrival in the UK and it is spreading from the SE. It is a pest: it is aggressive, spreads quickly and predates other ladybirds rather than following their example and eating aphid. More information at www.harlequin-survey.org and www.ladybird-survey.org. Yes, I have submitted a report to the survey.

And now one has a dilemma. Do I destroy the beasticle on the basis that it is a pest, or do I let it go free rather than risk damaging my karma?

Friday Five: My Life Wouldn’t be the Same Without …

Apologies to everyone for the long silence: been very busy at work in the last few weeks; just now beginning to surface. So let’s catch up with this week’s Friday Five

My life would not be the same without this…

1. Song/movie/book:
Well as you’ll all expect by now I’m going to be very predictable and nominate a book: Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. Now there’s a surprise! But I could almost as well have chosen one of any number of albums or classical pieces.

2. Person:
Dare I nominate anyone except my wife? Yes I dare, but I won’t! Noreen has to be the nomination, although clearly my parents have to be a very close second.

3. Place:
Now this is really difficult. Much as I moan about it my first inclination is to say London — ‘cos it’s where I was dragged up and the place I know best. But there are other places where “I’ve left a bit of me”: Forde Abbey in Dorset would be one, and Lyme Regis another.

4. Event:
Another difficult one! I’m going to have to think about this for a minute or few. Strangely I don’t remember events well, perhaps because I don’t have a highly visual memory. There aren’t too many events which stand out and probably none for which I can replay the whole video in my head, only odd snapshots. Even things like our wedding and my doctoral graduation are fairly fuzzy memories. Clearly our wedding would have to be high on the list, as would the Anthony Powell Centenary Conference in December 2005; also the funeral for our friend Robbie at which I was the “celebrant” and my father’s funeral. Probably in that order.

5. Self-indulgence:
Don’t think I have too many doubts here. It has to be beer. I always enjoy good beer — by which I mean traditional English real ale, or quality Continental lager and white beer. My second choice would be food. No real wonder I’m the size I am!

[Brought to you courtesy of Friday Five.]

Blogging Code of Conduct

Another piece I picked up from this week’s New Scientist is the suggestion that weblogs should effectively be forced to adhere to a code of conduct or be “black marked”. Here are a few apposite quotes from the full article, Bloggers lash out at ‘code of conduct’:

Perhaps inevitably, some bloggers have criticised a proposed “code of conduct” designed to curb the harshest online criticism.
A pair of internet luminaries suggested the code after a prominent blogger complained of threatening messages posted on her own blog and other sites.
Publisher Tim O’Reilly […] and Jimmy Wales […] proposed the Blogging Code of Conduct after Kathy Sierra [received] threatening messages [on her weblog].

A first draft was released this week […] has riled some bloggers, who accuse its authors of acting like media overlords and disregarding free speech.

The proposed code calls for bloggers to ban anonymous comments and delete messages if they are abusive, threatening, libellous, false, and if they violate promises of confidentiality or an individual’s privacy. “We take responsibility for our own words and for comments we allow on our blog,” the draft code states. […] The code also calls for ignoring “trolls” […]
[…] bloggers who adopt […] the code would adorn their websites […] a sheriff’s badge […] those who chose not to […] mark their websites with an icon of a stick of dynamite […]
“I like civility but prefer the ‘anything goes’ badge […] Censorship is a slippery slope […]”

Some other bloggers also complain that even a crude bar on anonymity could help control comments in countries with governments that are intolerant of free speech.
David Sifry, founder of Technorati [says] “One of the core principles that the Internet is built on is the principle of free speech […] If you really are a jerk, I don’t have to read what you say.”
“I’m not sure a code of conduct is the answer […] It makes about as much sense as me wearing a badge to have a conversation […]” [adds Mike Tippett].

Here’s a link to the draft “code of conduct”. Having read the “code of conduct” it isn’t as draconian as the news articles I’ve seen imply. But I’m still not hugely in favour. No, correction, I am still against.

I have a fundamental belief in free speech and civil liberty for everyone, however uncomfortable it may be. And any such code of conduct strikes me as censorship by the back door. As previous readers of this weblog will know I have a deep rooted moral objection to anyone making impositions on what someone may read, write, say or think. Either we have freedom of speech or we have censorship. And in my book there is already too much censorship (mostly covert) in the world. I may not like or agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it. If I disagree with you I can either engage you in debate or I can ignore your views.

Equally no-one – at least no-one of right thinking – would want to abuse or upset someone else. But sadly there are too many out there who aren’t right thinking. By focusing on them we give them the attention they mostly crave. As with “trolls” the best thing is to be grown up and ignore them. Let’s lead by example and not by diktat.

And this weblog? Well it would instantly be “dynamited” because of the occasional references to sex and equally occasional use of words like “fuck” and “bollocks”. Now just how pathetic is that!?

Circumcision and Morality

Two pieces I picked up from this week’s New Scientist. First a report of moves to “encourage” male circumcision:

New York is […] considering whether promoting circumcision among the city’s men might help limit the spread of HIV there. The procedure has worked wonders in Africa, cutting the infection rate by 60 per cent in circumcised Ugandans, Kenyans and South Africans compared with their intact compatriots. On 28 March, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS endorsed it as a means of reducing HIV spread.
So far […] the procedure has only been shown to work in Africa and in men who only have sex with women. So could a similar strategy work in New York, where sex between men and infection through intravenous drug use are more prevalent?

As this quote implies male circumcision isn’t just actively under consideration in NY but also in the whole of Africa. And now to female circumcision:

The painful and dangerous practice of female circumcision has been outlawed in […]Eritrea, where around 94 per cent of women are circumcised […] anyone who requests, incites or promotes female genital mutilation [will] be punished with a fine and imprisonment.

I appreciate that there is a difference of scale between male and female circumcision, but it seems to me there is a disconnect here. How can it be immoral to (seek to) mutilate female genitalia but yet moral to (seek to) mutilate the male penis?

Yes, OK, male circumcision may reduce the incidence of HIV amongst a defined section of the population: males who have sex with females without condoms. But it worries me that there is clearly going to be (political, medical and peer) pressure applied to men to get circumcised, and on parents to have baby boys circumcised. Worse I can see circumcision of male babies becoming an unquestioned part of perinatal care with parents not even being asked if they consent. And for adult men (at least in Africa) I can foresee the scenario there was in India some years ago where men were effectively bribed to have vasectomies. If I choose circumcision of my own free will, then fine. But how dare the medical profession, let alone politicians, decree that I must (or even should)? And how dare parents inflict it on a baby? If the same situation was being applied to women there would be the most almighty outcry — and rightly.

Let’s stand by our human rights and be very clear that all body mutilation (whether medically induced or not) which is not chosen of the subject’s own free will is immoral and (probably) illegal under international law.

When will politicians and the medical profession learn?

(Oh and by the way, no I’m not circumcised and I’m very glad my parents didn’t inflict it on me.)