Thursday 31 December 2020

Buzz Words for 2020: December

Times readers moan about “granular” for “fine detail”, complaining that it is all over the place during the year of Covid. It has been around for longer than that.

Astoundingly, optimists are saying “Brexit may not be so bad! Let’s wait and see! Let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best!” 

Brexit is a “dustbin issue” – voters threw in all kinds of concerns, like identity, immigration, poverty, queues at the GP, “They never listen to us”, unemployment etc. And at least one person “heard at work” that “special planes” were going to deport all brown people. (Originally, the day after the referendum. Now postponed to Jan 1.)

“[Something that isn’t violence] is violence” is popular the  week of Dec 9.

Everyone’s an expert on who should get the vaccine first.

Much talk of “chains” on Dec 12. Oh, supply chains. Food.

Spectators boo when footballers take a knee for BLM because the movement is “Marxist” and BLM is “now a political party”.

Some fans are putting a picture of Jeremy Corbyn on top of the Christmas tree. The further he gets from power, the more he is transformed into Superman/King Arthur.

Women with PhDs are being told they shouldn’t use the title “doctor” – again.

Many Brits are baffled and outraged by Nigella’s pronunciation of microwave as “meecro-wahvay”. (Perhaps that’s the correct pronunciation – have I got it wrong all my life?)

Several Tory MPs and many Brexiteers exhibit invincible ignorance about trade, tariffs and what we did with our fishing rights.

Conspiracy theorists fear the "Great Reset".

137,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine administered in the U.K. There have been 0 associated deaths, 0 people now with autism, 0 people dead, or walking around like the robot army Bill Gates is supposedly building, and 0 people now acting as a 5G antenna! (Via Facebook)

Anti-vaxxers respond “Well, I’ll wait and see.” Also blah blah dollars blah blah. An Italian nurse, one of the first to be vaccinated, closed all her social media accounts after attacks and abuse by anti-vaxxers.

Everything, from Covid to Google, has “rewired our brains”, and we are a different species now. And people only use the internet because of “dopamine hits”, not because our entire lives are lived through it now.

The Wellingborough Conservative Association newsletter told Tories to “say the first thing that comes into your head – it’ll probably be nonsense, you may get a bad headline, but if you make enough dubious claims fast enough, you can get away with it”. (The Week)

Some gourmets claim that “We don’t need to eat Brie and French sausages are horrible”. “The UK imports about 85% of vegetables from the EU. The Netherlands provide the bulk of tomatoes and onions while Spain sources most of the cauliflower and celery, the two fastest-growing commodities. France is the leading potato supplier,” says Google.

Hello, 911? Help, I'm trapped between "viruses aren't real" on the right and "penises can be female" on the left and I don't know which arm to gnaw off first. (@OsborneInk)

Apparently Twitter’s “stony wit” is getting us through the crisis.

Amateur historians Tweet that “Christmas is really pagan!” while historians respond “Actually, no”.

People are attacking Wonder Woman 1984 because Gal Gadot plays the name character.

There's a vogue for colourised historic photos – they look just as tacky as they did in the 50s.

The fan vault pictures keep coming.

The useful word “spite” is back.

We always dress the dog up at Christmas.” (Denise Van Outen)

Trifle is a Christmas lunch tradition?

And “luvvie” is back – Twitter is piling on Sam West for saying the current Conservatives are like the old National Front.

Some keyboard-tappers think socmed is all about sh*tposting. Do they wake up in the morning and wonder what to whinge about today?

Calls to “get behind”, “come together”, “move on” etc. Get lost.

Does anyone really believe that the Human Rights Act “took away all their rights”?

Today I learned the word “pleurant” for carved mourner on a tomb.

Radicalisation” now means “indoctrination with crazy and/or right-wing ideas”. And “radical” feminists want gender equality and women’s rights; “liberal” feminists just want to get degrees and professional jobs, and don’t want to rock the boat. I think.

People getting very clued-up about the vaccine and trying to make sure they get the best one.

Happy New Year! Stay safe, wear a mask, get vaccinated.

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 20 December 2020

Reasons to Be Cheerful 28

The Communist Manifesto of 1948 promised government investment in infrastructure, the development of suburbs, free universal education, the abolition of child labour. All these things came to pass.

1751 Gin Act eliminates small gin shops.

1902 The head of the Sistine chapel persuades the Pope not to hire any more castrati. He also forces his predecessor, the castrato Domenico Mustafà, to retire, ending a tradition that had lasted three centuries.

"You can have your own credit card, you can buy a house in your own name, you can sign your own documents - those things weren't even true when I was a young woman," says Karen Nussbaum, now 70, who campaigned for secretaries’ rights.

1965 The UK bans hunting with a bow and arrow.
1967 The British Phrenology Society disbands.

1987 Diane Abbott, Bernie Grant and Paul Boateng are the first black Londoners to be elected to the House of Commons (and Diane Abbott is the first black woman).

1988 Magdalene College Oxford admits women to the postgrad programme, and then goes co-ed. Some dons wear black armbands in protest. (Per an ex PhD student, the college is now mostly Asian, and largely female. And “its academic performance has soared now it’s not filled with Tim Nice-but-Dims".)

1990 Black South Africans can legally use the same public amenities as whites.
1991 Bill Morris becomes the first black British General Secretary of a major trade union.

The heads of parliamentary parties in Lithuania are all female – and they’re forming a coalition.

October Ministers plan to boost number of female-only toilets to protect women’s safety (Sun headline) The review will consider the ratio of female toilets needed versus the number for men, given the need for women to always use cubicles, and will address misconceptions that removing sex-specific toilets are a requirement of equality legislation. (Well, glory hallelujah!)

Nov Twitter permanently suspends David Icke’s account. A few days later it also bans Steve Bannon permanently.

Lynx may be released in Kielder Forest.
Waterhall golf course near Brighton is to be rewilded.
7 Nov Scotland makes smacking children illegal.

7 Nov Thailand’s Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta shut down Pornhub this week. He said Pornhub is “hosting illegal material from hidden recordings to non-consensual pornography, as well as sexual abuse of children, which obliges the ministry to block it.”

Nov Joe Biden wins the US election.

Early Nov UAE promises tougher penalties for family killings of women, and also decriminalises alcohol and lifts ban on unmarried couples living together. (Laws against honour killings have come into immediate effect.)

11 Nov Pfizer announces an effective vaccine to protect against COVID-19.

Morocco is the fourth country to make peace with Israel after UAE, Bahrain and Sudan.
Exercise therapy will no longer be prescribed to those living with ME in England.

Nearly all TV ads now feature mixed casts. (The only downside is that the ads are just as silly and humiliating as usual.)

Seven in ten pubs “could close in 2021” (Week headline)

Nov 30 Sudan says it will stamp out child marriage and enforce a ban on FGM.

Dec Argentina legalises abortion.

2020 Ministry of Justice drops “wealth rule” that denied legal aid to victims of domestic abuse (because they had a stake in the house)


1924 US Congress passes law excluding “inferior” immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe
1927 US Supreme Court ruled that sterilisation without consent was constitutional

2020 We are still racing greyhounds and allowing women to dance in pointe shoes, and there is still a global trade in donkey skins.

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 18 December 2020

Predictions for 2021

I usually predict what people will write or argue about in the coming year – much the same as the previous year. But 2021 is different. Let’s be positive.

In case people can’t recognise you in a mask, introduce yourself – even to people you know. It’s harder to see emotions, so now's the time to revive the language of rhetorical gesture (pictured).

Women will inherit titles formerly passed down the male line.
(We’d get more sensible people in the House of Lords.)

As more people cycle to work, workplaces will  provide showers and clothes cupboards.

Firms will adopt a numbering system for job applicants, to disguise gender and “foreign” names.

Demolition is too polluting, so we'll reuse and retrofit buildings instead of destroying them.

Child benefit will be paid to all mothers, for all children.

We'll grow tea in the Scottish Highlands.

We'll build new houses with offices, and equip home workers with proper office furniture.

Better connectivity to allow more people to work from home. (Penny Mordaunt)

The centre for Cities suggests moving public sector staff into offices in disused shops. FE colleges, swimming pools, sports halls, libraries, yoga studios, care homes nurseries and health centres should return to the heart of towns. (Janice Turner, Times 2020-12-06. And all those workers will need supermarkets, sandwich shops, cafés, hair salons, shoe repairers...)

More ideas:

Repurpose airports, cinemas, department stores, and city centre towers emptied by home working and post-Brexit flight.

Think of things to do for the two hours a day you are not commuting.

Force owners of investment flats to rent them out.

Build lower office/flat towers as the “four in a lift” rule makes tall towers less workable.

If the property market crashes, will an investment flat be such a good investment?

As Covid continutes, courtship rituals will return – including the “country walks” people used to include in their small ads along with “fine dining” as code for “am middle class”.

Post-Brexit, we'll need recipes for seakale, pigeon's eggs, American crayfish and Japanese knotweed.

We'll eat patriotic British food: all supermarkets will carry Bedfordshire clangers and Bakewell tarts.

British farmers will revive monastic farming and raise rabbits, doves and fish (eel, tench, bream, perch, roach) in ponds.

Zoom will become more user-friendly and we'll be able to sing in harmony.

In 2021, 2022, 2023 etc Tory politicans will announce that they are going to “reverse Beeching”.

People will announce on Twitter that they are “taking a Twitter break” or are “back from their Twitter break”.

A firm with a new plus-size range will announce "The big woman is back!"

Someone will write an article about the menopause claiming that women need no longer "suffer in silence".

A celebrity with a book to sell will announce "Craft is back!"

Broadsheets and magazines seem to have given up on “Can a woman eat alone in a restaurant without being seated next to the toilet?”

The Voynich manuscript will be decoded.

“Millennials are miserable because tech” is an article they write every month and how can one be so obtuse? We are living through one of the most economically unequal periods in human history; with the ravages of global warming a constant reminder of capital's contempt for us all. It just feels so lazy. Yes tech contributes to anxiety but guess what does more: debt, medical bills, rigged elections. It would be like saying that people in the sixties were anxious because of TV.

Why are all these young adults who can't afford to live alone, stay healthy, or have babies so miserable?... Must be tech! (@father_kipz)

Past years here.

Wednesday 9 December 2020

Hey Guys, It's Nearly 2021!

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. (Andy Warhol)

It’s 2020 and there are few checks on who can propagandize schoolkids.

It’s 2020 and people are whingeing that the Christmas ads are full of brown people. (Large supermarkets respond by hiring brown people for all their ads.)

It’s 2020 and people are still making presentations in a mumbled monotone, without moving their lips. (Get voice lessons.)

It’s 2020 and people are still making vegan jokes.

It’s 2019 and people are still saying “The Tate exhibited a load of bricks and called it art! What’s it of? What’s it supposed to be? Which way up is it meant to be? My six-year-old could do better. In the end it’s the public that decides.”

It’s 2019 and there still queues' for ladies loos everywhere. Architects – for every gents’, build two ladies’. (It’s 2020, and there are fewer ladies’ loos because institutions have turned them into shared facilities that women – and transwomen – don’t want to use.)

It’s 2019 and people are cross because a black girl has been cast as the Little Mermaid.

It’s 2019 and there are still segregated schools in Northern Ireland.

It’s 2019 and stab vests only come in “male”.

It’s 2019 and menopausal women “suffer in silence” as they have every year for the past 50.

It’s 2019 and doctors are still telling women “You’re imagining it! It’ll get better when you have a baby.”

It’s 2019 and someone on Facebook just made a “feminists have hairy legs” joke.

It’s 2018 and we’re still blaming victims of domestic violence.

It’s 2018 and we still don’t talk openly about “women’s things” – not even in all-female groups.

We just won our case to make a public charter school end a sexist dress code policy forcing girls to wear skirts and punishing them for wearing pants or shorts. It’s 2019. Women and girls have been wearing pants in school and professional settings for decades. (@ACLU. They mean "trousers".)

It’s 2018 and there are people whingeing about black presenters on Springwatch, women presenters at the World Cup and women with PhDs using the title "doctor". Well, really! (It's 2020 and they're still doing the latter.)

It's 2018 and the Education Editor of @thesundaytimes is describing being gay or trans as an "alternative lifestyle". An alternative lifestyle is living in a hut in the woods, not loving someone of the same sex. (‏@benjaminbutter)

It's 2018 and some cafe loyalty schemes are a physical card you mark in biro.

It is 2018, so why are we still debating whether women can do physics? (New Scientist headline)

We were repeatedly threatened with violence and these people were allowed to walk off freely whilst I had to console my crying kids. Racist woman even had the cheek to tell me she can say what she wants as its 2018! (@pocobookreader)

It’s 2018 and people still don’t get that feminism doesn’t equal hating on men sigh. (@ahchtoo)

Since it’s 2018, can we stop trying to hold wives/friends/colleagues accountable for the actions of abusers? Abusers will lie/gaslight/intimidate anyone in their circle precisely because you trust them. (@QofTU)

It’s 2018 and some people are still saying “Only idiots use social media and all they do is wibble”. (And all tweets are lies posted by loons says... someone with a Twitter account.)

It’s 2018 and there are still show bunnies, and men-only clubs, and “walk-on girls” at darts matches. But if we ban the grid girls, shouldn’t we ban PR girls, gallery girls, front-of-house girls, baristas and shop assistants chosen for their youth and looks?

It’s 2018 and people are still tweeting writers with: “Loved the article, but why did you give it that headline?” Writers do not write, or pick, headlines. Sub editors write headlines.

Just a reminder, this is 2018. Although I had to laugh at the thicko who thought his “sense of patience” grew after gawping at a mummified severed arm. (‏@peasmoldia. St Francis Xavier’s arm has been touring Canada.)

Can’t believe this word is still getting used for humor. It’s 2018, c'mon. (Via Twitter, re people joking about pasta called “fagottini”.)

More here, and links to past years.

Sunday 6 December 2020

Buzz-words of 2020, Part II

Middle-class Brits are moaning about finding churches shut due to Covid.

The Chinese are “toppling” Buddha statues.

QAnon followers are refusing to wear masks because there’s no track and trace app for paedophiles. In fact the people telling you to wear masks are all paedophiles, not doctors.

Some Twitter accounts have very beautified profile pics – try checking against Facebook.

Bill and Melinda Gates have been replaced by actors, Granny Smith apples plant vaccine seeds in your brain and the government is harvesting our DNA from Covid tests.

Orwell backlash. (He was in the Burmese police!)

“Why does the mainstream media ignore the problem of asylum seekers?” (The Daily Mail has talked of little else for years.)

A child is now a “kiddo”.

Flag Twitter: people with Union Jacks in their profile. FBPE means “follow back, pro EU” but there are a lot of false flags.

People on Facebook are posting screenshots of entire Twitter threads.

To some, masks are “muzzles”, and free speech advocates don’t want anybody to be “muzzled”.

It’s so hot in Europe that the Brits are actually talking about installing air conditioning at home.

A Tory Brexiteer suggests “taking back Calais” to deal with migrants crossing the channel in dinghies.

“Yes but what IS ‘hate speech’ REALLY?” It’s like saying “What is truth?” when your cherished belief doesn’t check out when compared against reality. (Classic trolling.)

We need to revive the terms “lunatic fringe” and “cranks”.

People are falling for QAnon - anti-Semitism and all - because they think it’s radical and progressive.

blocky: blocking people on Twitter
try-harding: also via Twitter – something you mustn’t do when playing games

There are teaching platforms? Of course there are! Teachable, Canvas, GoToTraining. And anybody can write anything on – no editorial control?

You can always accuse those who disagree with you of being a “nice white lady” or “simpering rich lady”.

#ownvoices means “This story about a bisexual teenager was written by a bisexual teenager”.

A lot of people are tweeting about saying tortoise “tortoys”.

“All white people are racist” is back.

David Frost is trending and he’s not saying “Hello, good evening and welcome”.

How many soft Londoners have given in and put the heating on? (Via Twitter. Protestant guilt in a nutshell.)

Leftwaffe,  refuging, trauma response, nifty

It’s getting hard to tell the progressives from the authoritarians. Who has stolen whose terminology this week? (2020-09-01 “Authoritarian” may mean “But they’re telling ME what to do!”)

A Facebook discussion of QAnon conspiracy theorists in Glastonbury leads to “Am I anti-Semitic for criticising Israel? Israel is bad because...” And so on for several paragraphs.

complicity theorists (what conspiracy theorists think the rest of us are)

What happened to all those optimistic Covid poems predicting that when lockdown was over the world would be entirely different and we’d all be nicer to each other? (None appeared during Lockdown II.)

What happened to “all you have to do is stand like Superman and you’ll feel powerful and will be able to do anything you want”? Perhaps it didn’t work.

An experiment shows that many people think a message that ends with a full stop is “harsh and passive aggressive”.

Some silly white people are still trying to change the Black Lives Matter slogan because it’s not about them and they’re not in control. You see they ought to change it because some people might think it means white lives don't matter.

Cupcake or buttercup for snowflake seems to have gone out. I hope.

Facebook users refer to it as “Faceborg”. (Presumably they want to indicate “I’m not one of those awful redneck hillbilly chav Facebook users”.)

Lots of sneering about the UK Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change ahead of their report.

Footprint” used for “impact on the environment”. How can you have a “plastic footprint”? It used to mean “space a computer takes up on your desk”.

Some people even think they’re “aromantic”.

Cognitive dissonance” is being used for denial, contradiction and dishonesty.

Someone in government says that “law is just a state of mind”.

nodding along (“I nodded along to her unbelievable tale.”)

Nuance is as popular as ever. It can mean: "My statement can be taken three ways, so that I can always switch to one of the other meanings if you start producing disconfirming facts".

wellness influencers (“Influencers” and “viral marketers” are shills – some of them on commission.)

Spelling “more” “moar”.

You can’t just claim anything you want to do as a “human right”. There’s an official list.

It’s rumoured that people are leaving cities. A backlash asks “Is this a good idea? Is it even happening?”

Someone points out that “inclusivity” is a box you have to tick to get your funding.

I'm 76, and I don't want to live what remains of my life span in a state of cowering fear. I follow the regulations, but let's "carpe diem" and live each day fully, not frightened. (Mary Kenny in the Irish Independent. The right noises having been made, we can comply with the guidelines. See also the man who says he follows all the guidelines but thinks people shouldn't be coerced.)

We need “real leadership” on Covid, not “hysteria”. (I’m not sure what they want, but it isn’t “more restrictions”.)

Debate is an imperialist capitalist white supremacist cis heteropatriarchal technique that transforms a potential exchange of knowledge into a tool of exclusion and oppression. (Prof Sunny Singh. I think she means it. The 80s never went away. Isn’t this just “It’s unfair that men have logical minds so we shouldn’t use logic”? Again? Or "You won! You must have used rhetorical tricks!")

Covid cases are rising again, restrictions are back, and a company is plugging “Hope-filled messages to slot into books”.

A depressing number of people tweet anonymously that they have to implement ineffective reading schemes, or teach the works of incomprehensible feminist theorists as part of English Language A Level, and they can’t protest or they’d lose their jobs.

Some people have done the sums and worked out that, globally, white people are in the minority. They feel very threatened by this fact, and imagine that brown people are trying to “replace” us. Projection?

"Pearl-clutching neurotics" is used as code for “Covid believers”.

I don't think terms like 'PC' and 'cancel culture' are particularly helpful - largely because they assume that the direction of traffic is all one way when it comes to the censorious times we live in. For every left winger determined to take offence over some minor verbal transgression, there seems to be someone on the Right who wants to police our education system, or weed out "Marxists" (whatever they're supposed to be). (Yougov contributor.)

“Laugh at this hilarious video of a small child being humiliated and distressed!” “Laugh at this hilarious video of a woman grabbing a champagne glass and dropping her baby.” “What’s the matter with you, where’s your sense of humour?”

You gloyte! (They're lower than plankton, apparently.)

Oh dear, the most popular “influencers” on Instagram are the ones who peddle meaningless uplift of the “You can have anything you want as long as you want it enough” type.

A Republican senator tweets: Generic tweet for after the debate. Couldn’t be prouder to have Mike Pence as America’s Vice President. Thank you for standing for freedom.”

ultracrepidarian: someone who gives advice on subjects outside their knowledge or experience (Armchair epidemiologists, men who “see no problem” with gender-neutral toilets.)

Who's a "mad raving anti-British racist"? Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, for criticising Laurence Fox for being racist. (2020-10-14)

Coy is word of the week. (2020-10-15)

Most of us are missing normal life.

Interesting that the right doesn't seem to be talking much about Sweden's hands-off approach to Covid anymore. (Don Morrison. Sweden is imposing restrictions as cases rise.)

“People think drinking is a personality.”

A dear, sensible friend posts a meme and asks us to copy and paste, then adds: “DON’T tell me this is a phishing meme! I’m an adult and I know what I’m doing and if I want to pass on this meme I will! Anyone who tells me this is a phishing scam gets unfriended!” (It’s a phishing scam.)

“They just don’t know how to budget. Food is cheap.” (2020-10-22)

We can’t give free food to poor children because it might lead to communism. We can’t stop drawing pictures of the Prophet Mohammed because it would be a slippery slope. (Pure Jeremy Bentham. A British Museum spokesman calls it "where-will-it-end-ism".)

“The language of this book is very 90s.”

Dominic Raab was a member of a secret Facebook group called the Ultras that advocated bringing back workhouses. (

RIP James Randi (2020-10-22), and there’s an immediate backlash. “He was just a magician!” “Randi wouldn’t let me believe in my favourite brand of nonsense!” (And he didn’t just expose working-class mediums, charlatan faith healers and showman spoon benders, he criticised serious middle-class professors with their own university departments! Those departments are shrinking to invisibility – no findings, lost funding. I’d love to hear him on the subject of magical thinking and positivity.)

I had a brief moment on TV to challenge the miserable horror of turning antisemitism into a factional battering ram against the left. (@BarnabyRaine. The EHCR report is out and is damning, and Jeremy Corbyn has been suspended from the Labour Party. Barnaby Raine is a Momentum member and “anti-Zionist”.)

Woke. Political Correctness. Cancel culture. Virtue-signalling. SJW. Snowflake. Identity politics. I guess “anti-racism has gone too far” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. (@Limerick1914)

People are still finding it “relaxing” to look at pictures of “beautiful” fan vaults.

That’s not anti-Semitism because... (Nov 2020)

"Cognitive dissonance” is being used to stand for the inconsistency, the discomfort AND what you do about it – denial, rationalisation etc.

6 Nov 2020 Words in the news: shenanigans, skulduggery, petulance, peevish. (@susie_dent)

Motorists whinge about cycle lanes taking up road space. Meanwhile it’s difficult to go anywhere in Hackney by bus or taxi as cars are banned from side streets. We can’t all ride bikes. Bring back the horse.

7 Nov Biden wins.
7 Nov RIP Jonathan Sacks.

Immediate parade-raining on Biden supporters celebrating, even from Trump loathers. Among warm tributes to Sacks, the odd piece of anti-Semitic bile.

Tailor” (verb) is popular Oct. and Nov. Seems to mean “make sure assistance only goes to those in genuine need and not to those who don’t deserve it”.

“Did they all have a meeting or is vacuous nonsense catching?” asks @hatpinwoman in response to a reference to “pregnant and birthing people”.

Intelligence agents working at GCHQ have launched a cyber-operation to disrupt anti-vaccine propaganda being spread by hostile states, says The Week. The wartime Rumour Department never closed.

Whatever happened to tempeh, kutia, freekeh and natto?

Q. “When did the one-minute silence become two minutes?” A. 1919. It has always been two minutes.

Bitter arguments about poppies on Twitter – more complex and intelligent than in previous years, but just as pointless. People wear poppies for the wrong reasons, they only wear them due to social pressure – meanwhile I can’t wear one because they have been co-opted as a symbol by the right. (Hang on – isn’t that social pressure? Presumably you don’t want to be lumped in with nationalists and neo-Nazis?) Someone makes the valid point that poppies have been commercialised – jewellers and T shirt makers send only a fraction of the price to the British Legion.

Trump refuses to concede.

Wokeness has become an arms race – there’s always someone out there woker than you, and the language policing resembles blasphemy laws. (Just like the 80s.)

More and more henhouses put in charge of foxes.

Vaccine hesitancy” is a thing, per the WHO.

Seamless, frictionless, oven-ready, sovereignty. (Still wrangling, December.)

“Yes anti-Semitism is bad and wrong but the problem in the Labour Party was exaggerated for factional in-fighting.”

There’s a lockdown puppy boom – especially those little fluffy things with humanoid faces. Look good on Instagram.

Migrants aren’t subject to lockdown rules, and they’re housed in 4* hotels." (They're being housed in World War II army camps.)

Latest whinge is “I hate it when interviewees say ‘Thank you for having me’.”

People are accusing each other of “seeing everything through the lens of... (something or other)”. Sometimes “prism”.

Depressingly, women and girls still think they have to come up with a witty put-down to a sexist remark. (“That’s rude!” or “What did you say?” will do. If they say “It was a joke!” say “But I’m not laughing.”)

And passive aggressive Brits are planning to go out wearing T shirts and masks with “amusing” wear-a-mask jokes. Others are boasting that they mutter “Stupid!” or “Selfish!” within the maskless person’s hearing. (Address them directly and say: “You need to pull your mask up – it goes over your nose”.)

“The Freeze Peach brigade” sneer those who are furious to find that free speech also applies to their opponents.

Corbynites compare their ex-leader to the other JC. (“He’s been crucified!”)

Luxury silk face coverings are available.

workation: Book a hotel room for a week and get some work done.

What is "the great Reset"? No doubt we'll find out.

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 4 December 2020

All You Need to Know about the Olden Days

1. The Ancient Greeks couldn't see blue because they had no word for it.

2. Marriages were all arranged; romantic love was invented by 19th century poets.

3. Nobody washed, look at Queen Elizabeth I – she had a bath once a year "whether she needed it or not".

4. Nobody drank water, because it was contaminated; they drank alcohol instead and were drunk all the time.

5. Spices were popular – to disguise the taste of rotting meat. (Somehow at the same time food was unpalatably bland because only the very rich could afford spices.)

6. Medieval theologians argued about how many angels could dance on the point of a pin.

7. Parents didn't love their children because infant mortality was so high.

8. Everybody died aged 40.

9. People were much smaller – look at short beds, low-ceilinged cottages and tiny suits of armour.

10. Those tiny suits of armour were so heavy that a medieval knight needed a pulley to hoist him on his horse, and if he fell off he was as helpless as a beetle on its back. 

11. Apart from royals and aristocrats, everybody lived in a rustic cottage that resembled a stable inside with exposed beams, exposed stone and brick, and distressed wood.

12. Everyone was illiterate apart from priests and aristocrats. Paintings and sculpture were the books of the lower classes.

1. According to Goethe, Nietzsche and W.E. Gladstone, the colour-blindness of the ancient Greeks is proved by the paucity of colour words in Homer, and the fact the Greeks called the sea “wine-dark”. The Greeks had two words for blue: “cyanos” for dark blue, and “aethrios” for light blue.

2. Abelard and Heloise, Lancelot and Guinevere, Dante and Beatrice were famous medieval lovers. And there is plenty of romanic love in ballads, folk songs and the Song of Songs (circa 500BCE).

3. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) wrote himself a memo: “Go every Saturday to the hot bath where you will see naked men.” Attempts to find a contemporary source for that quote about Elizabeth I have failed. Southwark was famous for its Turkish baths in the medieval period.

4. Our ancestors avoided dirty water and valued clean springs and rainwater, but didn’t know that diseases were water-borne. They blamed “bad air” until Dr John Snow halted an outbreak of cholera by removing a Soho pump handle in 1854. If nobody drank water, how could the polluted water from the pump cause cholera? And didn't they drink coffee, tea, chocolate, milk, lemonade, barley water? They also "took the waters" at holy wells and spas. In the medieval period wine was highly diluted – with water. Beer was between 1% and 3.5% alcohol. “The three best cooling drinks are apple water, goat’s whey and spring water,” says a medieval Welsh medical manuscript. 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys records that on a hot day he and his wife went to a dairy to drink whey (skimmed milk), but it ran out and they drank water. Charles II banned coffeehouses, and forbade people to sell coffee, chocolate, sherbet or tea from any shop or house. (Another version of this myth states that wine was added to water to disinfect it – but any alcohol strong enough to kill germs would kill you. Others say that alcohol was drunk because tea was too expensive – tea, made with boiled water, was also safe. If our ancestors were wise to this fact, why didn't they just boil their drinking water?)

If nobody drank water, ever, why did they repeat proverbs like these:

Adam’s ale is the best brew. (Water is the best beer.)

Drinking water neither makes a man sick, nor in debt, nor his wife a widow.

And 18th century tea caddies constantly turn up on Flog It!.

5. Wikipedia says that spices were expensive, and those who could afford them could afford fresh meat. Meat was eaten fresh; leftovers were smoked, salted or turned into sausages. The less well-off brightened up their food with sharp-tasting sorrel, quinces, crab apples etc, plus thyme, sage, mint.

6. says the first mention of the angel debate is in a 17th century book. After the Reformation, and especially during the Enlightenment, scholars loved to poke fun at the superstitious Catholic past.

7. See heart-breaking poems on the death of children by Victor Hugo (1802-85), Robert Burns (1759-96); Egil Skallagrimson, (910–990); Po Chu-I (772-846), and many others.

8. Many are confused by reading that “in the 18th century the average life expectancy at birth was 40 years”. It’s an average, and infant mortality was high. If you made it past 5, your chances of living to 60 or 70 (the Biblical life-span) improved. And if it was average age of death, some would die sooner and some later than 40.

9. Research by Richard Steckel of Ohio State University shows that Early Medieval men were taller than men of the 17th-19th centuries. Cottage floors have risen, and tiny suits of armour were probably samples. Beds were shorter because people slept propped up on pillows.

10. Someone's made a film of a man in armour, a firefighter carrying full kit and a soldier ditto running an obstacle course.

11. Country dwellers plastered and whitewashed walls, and painted wood – usually in cream gloss. They concealed everything they could conceal. If they couldn't afford pictures, they pasted up pages from magazines.

12. Until recently it was thought that the majority of people were illiterate in the classical world, though recent work challenges this perception. Anthony DiRenzo asserts that Roman society was "a civilization based on the book and the register", and "no one, either free or slave, could afford to be illiterate". Similarly Dupont points out, "The written word was all around them, in both public and private life: laws, calendars, regulations at shrines, and funeral epitaphs were engraved in stone or bronze. The Republic amassed huge archives of reports on every aspect of public life." The imperial civilian administration produced masses of documentation used in judicial, fiscal and administrative matters as did the municipalities. The army kept extensive records relating to supply and duty rosters and submitted reports. Merchants, shippers, and landowners (and their personal staffs), especially of the larger enterprises, must have been literate. (Wikipedia)

More myths here, and links to the rest.

The whole set are collected in What You Know that Ain't So: A Dictionary of Received Ideas.

Thursday 3 December 2020

Zoom Tips

I can’t see anything else while using Zoom!

There are some View Options in the centre top of the Zoom screen (100%, 50% etc).

On a Mac keyboard, ESC (top left of your keyboard) will exit full screen. Or View options at the top right of the Zoom screen offers "Exit Full Screen".

My audio and video symbols (bottom left of the zoom screen, a microphone and a cine camera symbol) keep disappearing! I have to mouse over the frame to get them to reappear!

Menu, Window, click "Always show meeting controls" and your audio and video symbols will never disappear again.

Everybody says I’m too quiet/loud!

Click on the arrow next to the microphone symbol to find Audio Settings. You can turn your volume up or down.

You can also check the box that enables you to mute and unmute using the Space Bar.

In Audio Settings, uncheck "Automatically adjust microphone volume".

You can also adjust your sound by going to Audio Settings, and clicking Advanced (bottom of screen). Now check "Show in-meeting option" to "Enable Original Sound". (I've just noticed there's a High Fidelity Music option.)

If you are going to be talking a lot over Zoom, it’s a good idea to get an external microphone - they’re not very expensive.

All I can see is a green telephone! That'll be someone joining the meeting via a land line – they're dominating the screen because they're talking. Go to View at the top right of the Zoom screen and select Gallery View instead of Speaker View.

My face is in shadow and I'd like to look more glamorous.

Click the arrow next to the cine camera symbol and select Video Settings. Check "Touch up my appearance". Also "Adjust for low light".

In a big Zoom meeting, the sound keeps going funny and I can't hear the speaker.

All those who aren't speaking should mute themselves. It doesn't matter if you're sitting there in silence, if you're unmuted, the sound will be affected.

You don't need to wait for the next Zoom meeting to make all these adjustments – you can start your own meeting of one!