Sunday, April 26, 2009

Really interesting article

Just a quick note. I found a really interesting article about a church opened at night time in Bournemouth. You can read it here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

An independent Texas?

Last week, the Governor of Texas made a comment about possibly seceding from the United States to become an independent country, and according to one survey, half of all Texans support independence (another survey suggested that only 25% of the population supported such a move). The comments came during protests about the increase in Federal spending since the start of Obama's presidency, where some more conservative Americans believe the country to be sliding towards socialism.

On this topic, I found an amusing YouTube video, "Houston, We Have a Solution".

On another note, there are plans underway for a musical about the life of Jade Goody. No, I am not making it up. What I want to know is if they can have a musical about Jade Goody, what about Princess Diana? Or Anna Nicole Smith? Or anyone else who spent unhealthy amounts of time in the public limelight only to die a tragic death? Where's the sense of equality? Or, maybe they should just not bother.

This title is intentionally blank.

I couldn't think of an original title, so I decided I'd be clever and make it a self-referencing paradox. I like paradoxes, such as the famous Monty Hall paradox. You can play the game here.

Beki's telling me off for moaning because I ate a whole bar of chocolate and now feel sick. Lucy was being nice (which is worth being recorded for prosperity), but as soon as I started writing it, she stopped. Never mind. According to Lucy, I'm a geek. She might be right, though. In other news, I hardly slept because some wacko was playing very repetitive music till four in the morning. Ok, I'm off to revise.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sunshine in Paris

I'm back in Paris. It's scary to think that this is the last time I'll be in Paris as a student, and soon I'll be leaving. And that I've done three years of a degree even though it feels like a few weeks. I've actually yet to book my ticket back at the end of May, and yes, it's getting closer and closer and ticket prices are getting higher and higher, but I think I'm in denial... But on a positive note, the weather's lovely. Nicky, Natasha and I had a revision session this morning which I found reassuring as I actually knew things, and then we had lunch on the Esplanade des Invalides in the sunshine. Paris is lovely in the sunshine. This is my favourite time of year: sunny but not too hot, and without the hordes of tourists roaming the streets like zombies.

And now for today's enigmatic etymology: asparagus
Asparagus, the vegetable, comes from the greek word asparagos. However, folk etymology has resulted in various variants of the name, such as 'sparrowgrass', or even 'asper grass' or 'spar grass' due to the resemblence of these pronunciations to the Greek. Folk etymology has also led to other corruptions in English, such as the silent 's' in island. The word comes from Medieval English iland from ieg ("island") + land, but because of its similarity to 'isle', which derives from Latin via Old French, an "s" was inserted. False etymology has even led to the resignation of a US public official, who used the word 'niggardly' and was accused of racism because of its similarity to the N-word. Although the origins of the former are unclear, it precedes the latter, which derives from the Latin word niger, meaning "black". In a similar vein, a paediatrician in Wales had her car and house vandalised by vigilantes confusing her profession with the word 'paedophile'. After the murder of Sara Payne in 2000, the News of the World, a newspaper not worth the wood pulp it's printed on, launched a name and shame campaign that led to a witch hunt including, as well as the attack against the doctor, driving five innocent families from their homes in Portsmouth.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The humble honey bee

I've just ordered a bee box for my mother! It's not quite the same as buying a apiary (something that I'd like when I'm all grown up) but it's a sweet little thing. And, it's to help the environment, since there's been a recent dramatic decline in bee numbers here in the UK and across the globe. Honeybees not only make honey but pollinate a third of the food we eat. Without them, we'd be without apples, strawberries and carrots to name three examples. So you can do your bit by buying a bee box. In fact, you can get them reduced as a part of the Cooperative's "Plan Bee". To do so, go to and in the e-Value box in the left-hand column, type "coop" and "pa06". And then search for "bee box", et voila! You get 15% off the price of a bee-box (or about £1).

In other news
I'm going back to Paris tomorrow. For the last time! Soon, I'll be leaving. How tragic.

Enigmatic etymology
There are several words which come from place names, even though their links with that place may well not be that evident. Here are some examples.
  1. Turkey: although arriving from North America, the origins of these large birds of the order Meleagris seem to have escaped Europeans. In several European languages, the bird is named after a place where it isn't actually from. Apart from the English naming it after the country occupying the Anatolian peninsula, confusing it with the similarly named bird the turkey fowl, the French named the bird dinde ("from India", or d'Inde) and the Portuguese named the bird peru. A similar geographical inaccuracy arose in the word gypsy. Although gypsies, or the Romani, most probably come from India, the name reflects the belief that they came from Egypt.
  2. Brummagem: This word can be used as either a noun or an adjective, and describes something that is showy but worthless, or a counterfit. It comes from a local pronunciation for the English city Birmingham, where counterfit coins were made in the 17th century.
  3. Milliner: A milliner is a hat-maker, and his trade is millinery. This word derives from the word "Milaner", or an inhabitant of Milan, a city that is still today renowned for its fashion industry.
  4. Denim: The hardy fabric derives its name from another fabric, serge, which was manufactered in the French town of Nîmes. It was thus called serge de Nîmes, which was shortened to denim. Denim is most associated with clothing like jeans. The word jean itself derives from the French word for Genoa (Gênes). Another item of clothing made from denim, dungarees, possibly derives its name from an Indian village Dangidi, or from the Dongari Killa fort, both in or near modern-day Mumbai.
  5. Also named after Mumbai is the Bombay duck, which, despite its name, is not a duck but a type of fish.

And that's all for now.

Another Internet Meme

I don't like the word 'meme', but anyway, I couldn't think of a better title. There has been another video circulating the internet in the past week, and that is the one of Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent. If you haven't heard of Susan Boyle, where have you been this last week? (To be fair, I only heard of her yesterday) Videos of her have been watched over 50 million times since she appeared on the ITV programme last weekend. She is, as The Times put it, the story of the ugly duckling who didn't need to turn into a swan. Susan Boyle is a 47 year old spinster living in a council house in Scotland. She has been repeatedly bullied for having learning difficulties, involving children throwing things at her front door. And when she went on TV last week, everyone in the audience dismissed her as another deluded contestant, but that was before she started to sing. You can watch the video here.

I personally feel sorry for the girl at 1:23 who rolls her eyes incredulously. She's been pointed out individually, but she was only doing what everyone else was doing. But Susan's story is a perfect example of the old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back in England

So much has happened since I last blogged. Actually that's a lie, but let's pretend my life's interesting for the moment. Shortly after my last update, I was so bored I decided to go to the cinema to watch Slumdog Millionaire. It was really good, despite being dubbed into French. The film has however had mixed reviews. Although in some ways trying to present itself as an accurate portrayal of Mumbai slums, I don't think Slumdog Millionaire should be seen as much more than a fantasy film set in Mumbai. And then all the problems with its accuracy just disappear! And let's face it, in the words of Lisa Simpson, films don't have to be one hundred percent accurate one hundred percent of the time. One the other hand, we shouldn't dismiss the manifold social problems in India, such as poverty, class, religious and racial violence, and so on.

The next day, I arrived in Angleterre. Since being back, I haven't done too much: I've visited relatives, seen friends, done some clothes shopping. Thomas's girlfriend visited for several days (having left about half an hour ago), and this was the first time I've properly met her. I apparently met her once before she and my brother were going out (I hate that expression), but I'll be damned if I can remember.

Enigmatic etymology
Since I like words, I think I'll add an 'enigmatic etymology' to the odd entry, following my post from eons back of the same name. Today's word is: cretin. The word means:
  1. a person suffering from cretinism.
  2. a stupid, obtuse, or mentally defective person. (

Although the etymology is somewhat disputed, the most commonly accepted theory, is that, deriving from French, the word ultimately has the same origins as the English word 'Christian'. Does this mean that all Christians are cretins (or vice versa)? Well, not really. The word 'christian' gained the meaning of 'cretin' via the following route. In Franco-Provençal, a language spoken in the south of France and northern Italy, the word creitin/crestin (Christian) gained the more general meaning of 'person', since everyone in the area was a Christian. In a similar vein, to ask someone in Greece if they're Greek, you can ask if they're Orthodox. The form creitin then began to be applied to people with mental handicaps (apparently cretinism was common in the south of France), to highlight their humanity despite their disability. It then became adopted in standard French to refer to someone suffering from cretinism, a condition of stunted physical and mental growth due to a lack of thyroid hormones as a foetus, or a lack of intake of iodine. After this, cretin became a term to describe a stupid person, but has now become one of the several words associated with deformities (spastic, idiot, dumb) to have become politically incorrect to use.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Buvez de ce whisky que le patron juge fameux.

I'm going back to England tomorrow. Indeed, I've already finished packing. Pity the flight doesn't leave for another 20 hours. Having achieved what I wanted to do today (i.e. pack), I am now bored, which is one of the reasons I am writing this blog entry, and is also the reason why I have a French pangram as the title.

I always feel restless for a few days before travelling; right now I feel homesick, even though I'm going home tomorrow. It's odd, because I hardly ever feel homesick when a departure home isn't imminent.

My local supermarket, Auchan, has changed its name to Simply Market. The Académie française must be apoplectic about this; not only is it a corruption of the French language, but it doesn't even make sense in English. Its new slogan is "Be happy ! Be simply.", which is translated, as required by the loi Toubon, as "simplement heureux". At least the translation makes grammatical sense. I first read it as "be happy, be simple", and thought it was an instruction to reject consumerism and live as a Mennonite, which would have been inspiring if it were true. I don't particularly understand the French's obsession with dubious English (un people, le shampooing...), but it looks like it's here to stay.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Woah, long time no see!

I have recently been very poor at updating this blog, and some people, okay, 1 person has been complaining that I haven't written in a while. So, my excuses: 1) I've had lots of essays; 2) I've had friends around who I was the tour guide for, and 3) my internet decided to stop working chez moi this week, to much annoyance. But now I've finished all my essays and my friends have come and gone.

Having two friends here over the weekend was really cool, but very tiring. We did a heck of a lot, but the highlights for me was going to Dans le Noir?, a restaurant where you eat in pitch darkness, so you can experience what it is like to be blind. All the waiters are blind, and the menu is a surprise, so you don't know what you're eating until they tell you at the end. Of course, you can specify the menu to some extent, such as no fish or nuts. But the food was good, and also varied; both the main and the dessert was really an ensemble of several smaller dishes, so there was a range in taste and texture, which made the experience even more interesting. There was definitely something that everyone on the table loved, and something they hated. I'd definitely recommend it; even though it's quite expensive (38€) it's a worthwhile experience, and something I'll remember. There's one in London too.

The other experience I really enjoyed was going inside the Palais Garnier, as I've seen the outside, which is beautiful, but I've never been inside. Going around it definitely makes me want to go to the opera, so afterwards, we decided to plan a trip to the Royal Opera House in London for this summer! And on another note, I mentioned in passing, "I'd like to go to Italy". Within an hour at most, Ali was saying, "So, when we go to Italy...". I told her she'd have to arrange it! Should be fun!

On Wednesday, I went to see an interesting film with Natasha, The Burning Plain, directed by the scriptwriter for Babel, which was a very good film, but unfortunately I lost my bag somewhere that evening. And even more unfortunately, I was borrowing a book from someone, which was in the bag, so I'm going to have to buy another copy. It's very annoying, since I've been really good about not loosing things in Paris, but in the last two/three months I've lost quite a lot of things. Either it's just that things always seem to come in groups, or it's the stress of it being my last semester at uni.

On another note (my last, I promise), on my brother's blog, he talks about Christians who refuse to support non-Christian charities. Thomas expressed his disappointment much more tactfully than I am going to: I think that this is appalling. It's narrow-minded and unbiblical. Christians are called to support justice for everyone, and in everything we do. Social justice isn't a pick-n-mix affair, it should be our way of life. We can't choose to let children be abused in a country which isn't Christian, or not to support a charity because it isn't Christian, we should fight justice where we see it whenever we can. Of course, we can't support every charity in the world, but if there is a situation where we can make a stand, we should, regardless of who we are making a stand with. If his friends said, "I'm not going to support this charity, because it's not Christian, but I'm going to do this instead," then fine. But not doing anything is definitely worse than doing something with non-Christians. Others might be making a stand because of humanist values; Christians should make a stand because we are standing for justice. And as my brother says, our God is a God of justice.