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Category archive: Language

Saturday March 17 2018

GodDaughter2 having dragged me into London at the crack of 10.30am (which is when that Traviata dress rehearsal started), I of course got to Embankment Tube early, on account of being so scared of being late.  I had some time to kill.

So, instead of turning left at the Embankment Tube ticket machines and just trudging up Villiers Street to Trafalgar Square and on to the ENO’s Colosseum, I instead turned right, and went up onto the north London end of the downstream version of the Hungerford Footbridge(s).  It’s a favourite little spot of mine, concerning which, maybe, there will (although I promise nothing) be more here, soon or whenever.

For now, consider just this one photo, taken from that spot, at that time:


Because it is the morning, the light is not what I am used to.  The Big Things of the City of London are not well light, because back lit.

The big picture story here is that the Big Things of the City of London are, slowly but surely, metamorphosing into one Great Big City Thing.

But when I got home and had a closer look, I was intrigued to see two moderately Big Things already clearly to be seen.

You probably noticed this one already:


That’s the Scalpel.  That the Scalpel has been going up has been obvious for some time.

But this one came as rather more of a surprise.  This detail had to be enlarged, or you might miss it, as I did, until I got home and looked carefully:


That, ladies and gents, hiding in among all the bigger Things, is the much touted but seemingly never actually happening (but it actually is) Can of Ham:


The Can of Ham is called that because it will look like a can of ham:


Come to think of it, I have a vague recollection of visiting those Big City Things, about … a while back.  Bear with me while I rootle through the photo-archives.Yes, here we go.  I was there on June 3rd, last year.

The Scalpel was already well under way, thanks to some particularly entertaining cranage:


And it definitely was the Scalpel, because it said so at the bottom:


But the Can of Ham was also already starting to go up:


As you can clearly see if you take a closer look at what it says at the bottom there:


By trying to call this thing “Seventy St. Mary Axe”, but by making it look exactly like a can of ham, and quite a big and visible one, big enough and visible enough for it to need a particular and memorable name, they screwed up on the naming front.  It was only ever going to be called the “Can of Ham”.

Some bunch of idiots long ago tried to get the Gherkin called 30 St Mary Axe, and that never stuck either.

50 St Mary Axe is also a Thing, but such a small Thing that nobody cares what that’s called, so that actually is called 50 St Mary Axe.

Thursday March 15 2018

Yesterday GodDaughter2 arranged for me to accompany her and and a selection her singing student friends to a dress rehearsal of the ENO’s La Traviata.  Like every show at the E(nglish) NO, It was sung in English. It was also somewhat strangely directed, as operas tend to be nowadays.  So, the students were all grumbling afterwards.  What were those peculiar gestures the soprano kept on doing?  “Such torture” to have listen to it in English!

As for me, my problems were that we were the usual third of a mile up and away in the sky (but with no windows through which I might have taken photos of London’s Things), and I couldn’t properly see what was happening down there in the distance, beyond the woman in front of me’s head and those brass railings that she was able crouch down and look under.  I wasn’t bothered by all the strange “acting” that the singers were apparently doing, because I could hardly see it.  It was all I could do to decypher the English crib (and thank goodness for that) above the stage, of what they were singing (in English also (but as often as not you still can’t make out the damn words (because of how they sing them))).  But the music, by Giuseppe Verdi, which I knew only as a random bunch of tunes that I had just about quarter-heard before, is so good that I was kept constantly entertained.  Plus, I understood enough of what was going on to really enjoy it, and to really learn something.

It’s quite a story.  A young woman (the Traviata of the title) is trying to juggle short-term pleasure with and against long-term romantic fulfilment, is fretting about whether her true love can truly be depended upon, but also doesn’t want to get her true love into social trouble because of her lurid past causing everyone to think he could have done better, which will dishonour his entire family and make his younger sister much less marriageable.  Plus, she is not in the best of health and has to keep seeing a doctor.

I can remember, way back in the sixties, when it was believed that all that social pressure stuff was dead in the water.  Plus of course, in the sixties, everyone was far too young to be having any health problems.  Girls could shack up with guys and have consequence-free sex, and then live happily ever after with … whoever.  I think I remember thinking, even at the time: well, we’ll see.  And it turns out that young girls can now be “ruined” a lot like they were in olden times, that “society” has not gone away, that people still get ill, even sometimes ill because of sex, and that La Traviata is still bang up to date.

The Father of the Traviata’s True Love very much wants True Love to stop being Traviata’s True Love, and begs Traviata to give him up.  For the ENO, yesterday, this Father was sung by Alan Opie.  He was especially good.  A bloke had come on at the beginning and said that, what with this being only a dress rehearsal, some of the singers might be holding back a bit, saving it for the real show.  But you could definitely tell that Opie was the real deal.

Wednesday March 14 2018

I follow Tom Holland because I have liked several of his books (especially Persian Fire), and because I often agree with him, as when he says things like this:

The assumption in Europe that its brand of colonialism was uniquely awful is, in a perverse way, one of the last hold-outs of eurocentrism.

Very true.

Via Tom Holland, I came upon this, from Anthony McGowan:

I came across a place called Strood. I looked it up (having no idea where or what it was), I found this achingly poignant statement: “Strood was part of Frindsbury until 1193, but now Frindsbury is considered part of Strood.”

It’s the implication that “now”, in the Strood/Finsbury part of the world, began in 1193 that makes this so entertaining.  I guess they have long memories out there in the not-London part of Britain.

Anthony McGowan is someone I don’t agree with a lot of the time (here is what I think about that).  But, I also liked this:

An article about the history of the Chinese typewriter. One old machine had a strange pattern, as some characters had been polished by over-use. It belonged to a Chinese-American immigrant. “The keys that glitter with use are: emigrant, far away, urgent, longing, hardship, dream”.

McGowan doesn’t supply links to where he got these intriguing titbits, which I don’t like.  But despite that and other similarly nitpicky nitpicks on my part, Twitter is working, for me.  At present I have no plans to depend upon it to say things, although that may change, for I am too distrustful of its increasing political bias.  But it is supplying me with much more stuff to be thinking about and writing about.

Tuesday March 13 2018

Incoming email from Tony entitled “Couldn’t resist buying this”:


Here’s hoping he was/will be amused by its cheek.

Apparently the Arse is a river in southern France, beside which grapes are grown.

Up early tomorrow. So now, to bed.

Thursday February 15 2018



The best comment I can think of is another photo, one of the many that I took in the Churchill Dungeon, this one being an item for sale in the gift shop:


I love words.  I sometimes I fail to think of the right ones, but they never fail me.  It just that I am sometimes not worthy of them.

But I found some good ones this time, I think,

Sunday February 04 2018

I just heard ITV News describe South African politician Jacob Zuma as being “mired in a whirlwind” of something or other.  Controversy, or some such thing.  Yes, this.

Next thing you know, he’ll be blown away by a swamp.

Wednesday January 31 2018

I’ve often wondered about words like these, but Susie Dent explains:

You can be gruntled (satisfied), kempt (combed), couth (polite), ruthful (full of compassion), whelmed (capsized), and gorm-like (have an intelligent look about you). And, for a while in the 1600s, you could be shevelled too.

A commenter adds the words “chalant” and “consolate”, which were apparently first used in a New Yorker piece.

Also in that piece: “wieldy”, “descript”, “gainly”, “cognito”, “make bones about it”, “beknownst”, “it would be skin off my nose”, “both hide and hair”, “toward and heard-of behaviour”, “maculate”, “peccable”, “new hat”, “terminable”, “promptu”, “petuous”, “nomer”, “choate, “defatigable”, “committal”, and quite a few that I surely missed.

Immaculate and impeccable are odd ones.  Does im at the front mean not?  It’s not clear.  Pressive?  Pact?  Mitate?  Agination?  Immiserate sounds the same as miserate.  This can get very intricate.  Although, you may think it to be not very tricate.  Also, I hope you are being ritated rather than the more common negative of that.

“Indefatigable” could be shortened twice.  Defatigable.  Fatigable.  Which means something very similar to indefatigable.

Timidate.  Timate.  Genious.  Sipid.  Cest.  Ert and Ept, I’ve heard before.  Nuendo.  Finitesimal.  Juriours,

For “over”, you could just put “der”.

I hope this posting has interested you.  My apologies if, instead, you have been terested.

Friday January 19 2018



At the time I took that photo, in Lower Marsh, I was with someone else, and just grabbed the shot before moving on at once.  But I reckon it came out really well.

Wikipedia tells us of Mickey Mouse’s compiucated origin.  He was a replacement for a rabbit, and before a mouse was arrived at, it seems that many other animals were considered:

Mickey Mouse was created as a replacement for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, an earlier cartoon character created by the Disney studio for Charles Mintz, a film producer who distributed product through Universal Studios. In the spring of 1928, with the series going strong, Disney asked Mintz for an increase in the budget. But Mintz instead demanded that Walt take a 20 percent budget cut, and as leverage, he reminded Disney that Universal owned the character, and revealed that he had already signed most of Disney’s current employees to his new contract. Angrily, Disney refused the deal and returned to produce the final Oswald cartoons he contractually owed Mintz. Disney was dismayed at the betrayal by his staff but determined to restart from scratch. The new Disney Studio initially consisted of animator Ub Iwerks and a loyal apprentice artist, Les Clark, who together with Wilfred Jackson were among the few who remained loyal to Walt. One lesson Disney learned from the experience was to thereafter always make sure that he owned all rights to the characters produced by his company.

In the spring of 1928, Disney asked Ub Iwerks to start drawing up new character ideas. Iwerks tried sketches of various animals, such as dogs and cats, but none of these appealed to Disney. A female cow and male horse were also rejected. They would later turn up as Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar. A male frog was also rejected. It would later show up in Iwerks’ own Flip the Frog series. Walt Disney got the inspiration for Mickey Mouse from a tame mouse at his desk at Laugh-O-Gram Studio in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1925, Hugh Harman drew some sketches of mice around a photograph of Walt Disney. These inspired Ub Iwerks to create a new mouse character for Disney. “Mortimer Mouse” had been Disney’s original name for the character before his wife, Lillian, convinced him to change it, and ultimately Mickey Mouse came to be.

Those two paragraphs are, at Wikipedia, crammed with links.  Follow the link above and scroll down to where it says “Origin”, if you want to follow any of these links.

I will, however, honour the amazingly named Ub Iwerks with a link from here.  I wonder how he was pronounced.  His dad was from Germany, and I think I know how they’d have said the name there.  But, Ub (!?!) was born in Kansas.  When it came to Amercans pronouncing foreign names, all bets were off.  My guess is there were lots of Germans where the Iwerks family grew up, and thus it was not felt necessary to do any name changing.

Blog and learn.

A Mickey Mouse posting
Photoers on Primrose Hill and how my camera turns everything yellow
Googling for new planets
Queen and Bean
Naughty old adverts in The Star
A clean dirty joke
Brushing up my Shakespeare
Rodelinda at the ENO tomorrow evening
Self storage is a strange expression
Gerald Elias on classical music performance style(s)
Funny words – baffling words
Un autre quota photo
An interruption ends
Horse spotted in Putney this afternoon
The Ghostbustours bus – old Routemasters – Boris buses – improved Boris buses
Malaysia crushes some real Myanmarians
The Sinatran origins of cool
A gadget that worked really well
Wonder women
Why computers are so dumb and so insolent
BMdotcom quote of the day (in three dimensional latin)
Art is strange
The queens of the canning factory
Mr Ed has some metaphorical fun
Timing shits instead of forcing them
A selfie being taken a decade ago
“Yeah, no …”
“Robot” suggests the possibility of fraternization
Slam City Skates in Covent Garden
Cat proximity awareness
Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
My comment on the Six Nations so far
UPS drones and drone vans
And Africa’s rivers don’t help
Softening the brutalities of brutalism with colour
Rod Green on Boys and Men at the time of Magna Carta
What does Thames “RIB” Experience mean?
Ghost Bus
They’re back!
When welfare means lavatories
English is weird
White vans are becoming very informative
Pochards and Ibises
Cat and cubs
The fixed quantity of laughter non-fallacy
A busy day and a collection of Big Things
Wainwright on facadism
Bike fishing in Amsterdam
With GD2 in Richmond Park (3): Scary names
ShiRtstream drycleaners and a party recollection
For CAR’S read CARS
Christmas is coming and you’d better watch out
Milo Yiannopoulos
Bell end?
Architecture as modified cliché
Van Morrison
Memo to self about not letting blog postings get out of hand inside my head …
Now I know what a Mews is
Trois Citroens (et deux chevaux)
Where punctuation might have helped
Credit where credit is due (in France)
A man taking a Selfie before it was A Thing (and me taking a picture of him)
Out and about with GD1 (3): Baritone borrows my charger
Paul Johnson on Mozart and Da Ponte
Another quota sign
Magic clarified
BMdotcom abusive comment of the day
Photoing the old London model
BMdotcom What if? of the day
BMdotcom (mathematical (and sporting)) quote of the day
Database blues
Early tries by my guys
Pavarotti could not read music (very well)
Fuck the duck until exploded
Is it practise or practice?  (And: would perfect communication actually be perfect?)
Sign with sarcastic sneer quotes
Xxxx-ie outside Xxxx-ridges
God was overheating and now needs radical transplant surgery (and Dawkins now has to do my email)
Quota selfie from 2006
What to call the sneerquote Salesforce /sneerquote tower? (plus a quite profound tangent)
TfL electronic signs (etc.)
Emmanuel Todd talking in English (about how the Euro is doomed)
The joyful excitement of the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer
Premier League soccer news
Two badly lit views of “Victoria Tower” and why Big Ben is not St Stephen’s Tower or Elizabeth Tower
Sorry for the outage last night
JK Rowling describes two rich girls
Boris Johnson’s London
Big Things on a better day
Comrade Blimp
Friend on telly
Sidwell (and me) on selfies
Fat bastard!
Hampers can be annoying
Monty Panesar: “I piss on your short pitched fast deliveries aimed at my body!”
The Alex Singleton blog
The right sentences but not necessarily in the right order
There are cranes and there are cranes
BMdotCOM mixed metaphor of the day
So painters also used to “take” pictures
The ups and downs of English
Kissa yrittää mennä laatikkoon
Literally the light switch of leadership
BMdotCOM Headline of the week
Thrashing India
Choosing a Clean Food Outlet in Lawas is as easy as ABC
Emmanuel Todd’s latest book - in English
Misspelt (correction: Italian) signs of the times
Multilingual signage
Excellent new word
Pronouncing on the Six Nations quote of the day
More signage
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom spam comment spelling mistake of the day
The Humpty Dumpty Learning Channel
Obamanomics dod not work
English will not last for ever shock
Another strangely punctuated headline and a depressing television play
K Street - metonym - synecdoche
To Serve Man
Reading various bits of Roger Kimball
I flipping told him
Brian Sickle-feather?
Sounds like a brothel with film star lookalikes
One of the many signs of aging
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom modified cliche insult of the day
Stepping forward into the abyss!
Old-school media versus (or becoming) new-school media (again)
All your Quite Interesting questions answered
What a difference a g makes
Spelling Micklethwait wrong and Googling for Brian Micklethwaite
Long platform ticket
I am not drunk - I just didn’t know what to put so I just started
Some neologistics
Excellent mixed metaphor
I need to get out less
“I will cause a boy that driveth a plough to know more of the scriptures than thou dost.”
Metaphor muddle alert
Today I have been blogging elsewhere and also doing other things
Computer blues
Signs of civilisation
It’s true what they say about how hard it is to pronounce Chinese – oh beansprouts!
New word alert
Robots will transform education
On the appeal or lack of it to Young Europeans of “capitalism”
When inimitable means very imitable
Today I ate something that disagreed with me
Refuting decimation