A driver in Devon was found upside down in a ditch in February. To be clear, that’s both the driver and the car. The driver explained that he’d swerved to avoid an octopus.
The road’s five kilometers from the coast. Call that two and a half miles. You’ll be wrong if you do, but you’ll be within driving distance of the right answer.
The driver was arrested “on suspicion of driving while unfit through drugs or drink” and will have to attend a class on thinking up credible excuses and another one on enjoying your hallucinations.
He gets time off for trying to save the octopus.
The British Council has apologized to George Orwell for refusing the publish an essay on British food that it had commissioned from him. Several things make this odd. First, the council had paid him for the article, so whatever hard feelings they caused could have been much harder. Second, the rejection happened in 1946, which is by any standard a long time to delay an apology. Third and most important, Orwell died in 1950 and has nothing to gain from publication anymore.
But what the hell, let’s talk about it anyway.
The article involved was supposed to convince Europeans that British food wasn’t as bad as they thought. Based on the quotes I’ve seen, the council had a good argument for not publishing it. The British, Orwell said, eat “a simple, rather heavy, perhaps slightly barbarous diet.” He also said the coffee was nasty and that vegetables seldom get the treatment they deserved.
In fairness, Britain was still rationing food in the wake of World War II, and his description was probably accurate but not what he was being paid to say.
And then there was his marmalade recipe. The council says, in hindsight, that it was wrong to reject the essay but that the marmalade recipe’s still wrong–too much sugar and too much water. “It would have turned out far too watery,” they said.
Did Orwell actually know anything about cooking or did he just beg or steal recipes from people who did and hope they weren’t messing with him? I don’t know. What I can tell you is that in addition to getting his marmalade wrong (and I’m going to have to take other people’s word that he did; I’ve never made the stuff), he also says crumpets are made “by a process that is known to very few people.”
If that’s true, I belong to an elite secret society. And if you’ll follow the link, so will you.
Translation Issues: Ariana Grande went to the tattoo store, as so many people do, meaning to pick up a simple tattoo–in this case, one with the title of her song “Seven Rings.” In Japanese.
Why Japanese? One of the unpredicted results of globalization is that people want tattoos in languages they don’t know but think are cool. It’s less harmful than a lot of the other, more predictable, results have been.
It (that’s the tattoo, not globalization) went wrong when she found out that the damned thing hurt and she asked the artist leave out some characters.
So what does it say? “Shichirin,” which is a small charcoal grill. An earthen one, in case that helps us understand the situation better.
Which wasn’t what she wanted, and since she’s a public figure folks started making fun of her, so she got it fixed. At last sighting (by me, and I make no effort to stay up to date with this stuff) it read, “Japanese barbecue finger.” Or maybe that’s “small earthen charcoal grill finger.” It’s up to you, because translation’s not an exact science. It leaves a good bit of room for interpretation.
I’m now going to give you some advice, because I think every last one of you needs to hear (or read) it: Do not get tattoos in languages you can’t read.
Language and Work: The Oxford English Dictionary is asking the public to tell them about professional jargon and work slang. You can submit your entries here.
The articles about this that I’ve seen give several examples of the kind of words or phrases they’re looking for but the one getting the most play is DTSO. When a vet uses it, it means dog smarter than owner.
Oops. A Scottish stone circle that was thought to be thousands of years old turns out to have been built in the 1990s.
Yeah, archeologists had noticed that it was unusual. The stones were small. The diameter was small. But stone circles are sneaky bastards, and they’re hard to date.
That’s not date as in going to a movie and get all romantic with but as in figure out how old they are.
Those aren’t unrelated, though. Before you get into that romantic stuff, you should know how old they are. Personally, I’ve gone to movies with people who made going out with stones look enticing.
But we’re not here to talk about me. The stone circle was a good replica, and the guy who built it came forward when the stones were being tested, saving everyone involved any further embarrassment.
Roadworks: Archeologists exploring an area that’s being dug up for roadworks near Cambridge found what they think is the earliest evidence of beer brewing in Britain. What I love about this story isn’t that it involves beer (trust beer to steal the headline, though) but that it involves archeologists playing in the mud of construction zones.
Large-scale British construction has to take the country’s historic environment into account, which often means that archeologists follow along and find all sorts of neat stuff. Here in Cornwall, they followed the digging for a new sewage line and found, among other things, some burials that combined early Christian burial style (laid out so the person could be resurrected with a view of the sunrise) with pre-Christian burial (with put the body in the ground with stuff they might want in the afterlife). Presumably, they were hedging their bets. The people who buried them hadn’t made up their minds about how things worked after death and wanted the person to prepared for anything.
How’d I find that out? The archeologists held a public meeting to talk about what they’d found and had a great turnout.
The construction industry considers important archeological finds a risk–they hold up the work. Archeologists, I’m sure, have their own opinions of the construction industry, which is always pressing on them to hurry up so they can go ahead with what they consider the important stuff.
The 21-mile construction project that found the brewing site found remains dating from the neolithic period to the medieval–a stretch of 4,000 years.
Money and Coffee: A new company plans to roast coffee beans by shooting them into space in a spacecraft called the Coffee Roasting Capsule. It could be launched as early as next year. Or it could not, depending on multiple factors that you can make up as well as I can. The idea is that, outside of gravity, the beans will (a) float and (b) get heated by the capsule’s re-entry into earth’s atmosphere. Here on earth, inconveniently, beans tumble as they roast. They break apart. They scorch.
Gravity’s an inconsiderate beast.
I haven’t found any estimates on how much a cup of space-roasted coffee’s likely to cost. And the whole thing may never happen anyway. The article notes at the end that the company didn’t return the paper’s calls and emails.
No, I won’t sink low enough to make the obvious pun about them being too spaced out to bother.
Money and Money: The world’s 26 richest people own as much as the poorest 50%. There is nothing I can add to that.
Money and Cake: A British judge had to decide whether a health-food brownie is a cake or not a cake. If it is a cake, it can be sold without without VAT–a hefty sales tax. If it’s not a cake, then it would be considered confectionery (a fancy word for candy) and taxed.
Why the difference? Foods that are part of a healthy diet–foods like cake–don’t get taxed. Or if not exactly a healthy diet, a basic diet. Non-basic frivolities get taxed.
So someone somewhere had to decide that cakes and biscuits (which if you’re American are cookies) are basics but candy (a.k.a. confectionery) isn’t. Unless the biscuits have chocolate on top, in which case they’re a luxury item and get taxed.
You didn’t really follow that, did you? Let’s give an example. It won’t help but it’ll make me feel like I’ve done my job.
A chocolate cake covered with chocolate is not taxed. Chocolate cake with frosting is an essential part of the basic diet that’s good enough for people whose spending we (let’s duck the issue of who “we” are for now) scrutinize, which is to say people who earn less than us and who we suspect are frivoling away their money on chocolate-covered biscuits when plain biscuits are good enough for the likes of them.
They’re probably also wasting it on rent and laundry soap.
It cheers me up to know that someone somewhere is bringing rational thought to important questions like what low-income people are allowed to eat without (a) paying tax on it and (b) intruding tax-free on the baked goods of their betters.
No, no. I’m completely objective about this stuff. You should hear me when I have an opinion.
When I got out my magnifying glass and looked between the lines of the newspaper articles about this, it sounded a lot like the judge had to taste not just the health-food brownie (made of dates, brown rice bran, and finely chopped Birkenstock sandals) but also a French Fancy (don’t ask for it at Victoria’s Secret; you’ll embarrass everyone involved, including yourself)), a vanilla slice, a chocolate eclair, and a slice of Victoria sponge.
It’s a tough job but someone had to do it.
This isn’t the first time judges have had to make this kind of distinction. Courts have based previous judgements on important issues like whether the item’s eaten with a fork and whether it would be out of place on a plate of cakes “at a cricket or sporting tea.” Because looking at home on a plate of cake at a cricket or sporting tea is the measure of a basic diet. Or else a sporting tea is located at the outermost limit of the way judges imagine the world to work.
Dressing for Winter
Last January 14 was the tenth annual No Trousers on the Tube Day.
I need to stop here and do the usual translations: The tube is London’s underground rail system–what I’d call a subway (you never quite stop being from New York, or I don’t anyway) but in Britain a subway’s a tunnel for pedestrians, not for trains. And trousers are what Americans call pants. Pants are what the British call underwear. So the participants did wear underwear but didn’t wear anything over it.
If you, dear reader, are neither American or British, I’d love to offer a helpful translation but I’m at the limit of my knowledge here and don’t want to lead you astray. You’ll have to do that on your own.
Why have a No Trousers on the Tube Day? Basically, why not? Organizer Farhan Rasheed said, “There is no point to it, we are not campaigning or raising awareness of anything…. It’s a bit of a nonsense day out. It’s London and London is used to this stuff, they take it in their stride and get back to their book.”
The group caught an assortment of trains. On the Picadilly Line, the crowds were thick enough that the participants had trouble finding space to take off their trousers.
It was organized by the Stiff Upper Lip Society, which recommended avoiding “thongs/budgie-smugglers/anything see-through . . . as we aim to amuse, not offend, fellow Underground users.”