Thousands of people will descend on Edinburgh this evening for the annual Hogmanay celebrations. But it seems even the most famous of New Years parties can't avoid the economic downturn as many tickets were left unsold. Sky's Rona Dougall reports.
It's not often that Africa features on The English Blog, so I'm pleased to give a mention to BBC News' gallery of cartoons looking back at 2008 in Africa.
This cartoon appeared in March, after Robert Mugabe lost the first round of Zimbabwe's presidential election to his rival Morgan Tsvangirai. Mugabe is berating the representatives of Zanu PF, the ruling party, for failing to deliver an election victory.
Spelling note: The word constituncies is wrongly spelt. It should be constituencies.
YouTube has compiled a selection of memorable video moments from 2008 and is posting them at the rate of one per hour until 2009 dawns. At the stroke of midnight (Pacific Time) you can expect a more detailed run-down of the clips on the list, complete with some background information to place them in context. This one attracted over 11 million views.
According to the Daily Telegraph, British physicists and official timekeepers around the world will insert an extra second or "leap second" into the new year countdown to bring the most accurate atomic clocks in line with the astronomical day.
For thousands of years the definition of a day was easy enough: the length of time it takes for a full rotation of the Earth around its axis.
Since ancient times, clocks of various descriptions have helped us keep track.
But recently, clocks have become so accurate that it has emerged that the Earth's rotation can take slightly longer or shorter than 24 hours.
That's why the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) occasionally adds a "leap second" to the world's timescale to keep internationally defined time and the Earth's rhythms in synch.
This means that instead of the usual six pips at the start of the BBC's midnight news bulletin there will be seven.
One of Britain's best-loved cartoonists is the Daily Mail's Mac. For some unknown reason Mac's daily cartoons are not available at MailOnline, but they have just posted a series of 12 cartoons looking back at 2008. Some of the cartoons refer to stories which are long forgotten, but this one from October is still topical.
In this cartoon by Morten Morland on TimesOnline, we see a dying Father Time (patient 2008) lying on a hospital bed. Beside him is an hourglass, which is being fed by a drip. At his bedside is a baby holding a scythe and wearing a top hat and a sash which says 2009. According to Wikipedia:
Father Time (known as Pakiž in some countries) is a personification of time. He is usually depicted as an elderly bearded man, dressed in a robe, carrying a scythe and an hourglass or other timekeeping device (representing time's constant movement). This image derives from many sources, including the Grim Reaper and Chronos, the Greek god of time.
Father Time's image is used as the personification of the previous year (or "the Old Year"), who "hands over" the duties of time to the Baby New Year (or "the New Year"). In this case, his old age is emphasized (in particular, he may be depicted walking with the aid of a stick).
In Britain this year there has been a lot of debate about euthanasia and assisted suicide. Current UK legislation does not allow either, and PM Gordon Brown is against any relaxation of the law. In the cartoon, Father Time wishes that he could have been 'put out of his misery', i.e. helped to die, earlier in the year—an obvious reference to the fact that 2008 has been a very depressing year (credit crunch, wars, natural disasters, etc.).
The text of the cartoon mixes two types of conditional sentence: the second conditional—"if the law was different"—and the third conditional—"I'd (= I would) have been put". This is because the first part of the statement refers to the present (the current law) and the second part refers to the past ("by October"). Grammar purists would probably prefer "if the law were different". In fact, one could argue that it should be "if the law had been different", but that sounds a bit stilted.
The decision to award the Treasury's top official a knighthood has "cast a shadow" over the New Year's Honours List, according to The Times. Nick Macpherson was at the helm during the boom that gave way to the credit crunch. Pictured are two less controversial winners - Rebecca Adlington and Paralympic swimmer Eleanor Simmonds. Read full article >>
1. The British honours system is a means of rewarding individuals' personal bravery, achievement, or service to the United Kingdom. The honours are awarded by the Queen based on recommendations from the government.
2. A knighthood (or a damehood, its female equivalent) is one of the highest honours an individual in the United Kingdom can achieve. If you are knighted by the Queen, you are entitled to be called "Sir", e.g. Sir Elton John.
3. Other honours—in order of importance—include the CBE (Commander of the British Empire), OBE (Order of the British Empire) and MBE (Member of the British Empire).
The suffix -hood means a "state or condition of" or a group sharing a certain characteristic. Other common examples include childhood, adulthood, fatherhood, motherhood, sisterhood, brotherhood, manhood and neighbourhood.
Comment Looks like I've been overlooked yet again. I'll just have to wait for the Queen's Birthday Honours.
I always hated maths at school but as I've grown older I've come to appreciate how useful a knowledge of numbers can be. So I was pleased to discover More or Less, a BBC podcast which looks at the way in which numbers, statistics and figures guide our lives. It's become a regular on my iPod.
This week's edition has a Christmas Quiz which could easily be used in the classroom. Just put your students into groups and ask them to solve the puzzles. This activity should give rise to a lot of discussion.
Hogmanay (pronounced [ˌhɔgməˈneː] — with the main stress on the last syllable) is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year (Gregorian calendar) in the Scottish manner. Its official date is 31 December (Auld Year's Night). However, this is normally only the start of a celebration which lasts through the night until the morning of Ne'erday (1 January) or, in some cases, 2 January which is a Scottish Bank Holiday. (Source: Wikipedia)
In the spirit of seasonal satire, Fonacon, a French protest group, wants to ban 2009. TIME Magazine reports:
In addition to their more admirable accomplishments, the French are generally considered the world champions of public protesting. Whether it's transport workers striking against tightened pension regimes, fishermen outraged by high operating costs, students battling education reform, or even lawyers picketing over court closures, it seems scarcely a week goes by without some section of France's population taking to the streets. Given that, it should come as little surprise that one boisterous French group is planning a protest rally on the evening of December 31 — and demanding the world refuse to shed 2008 to make way for a troublesome-looking new year. Read full article >>
I find that one of the most annoying verbal tics is the repeated use of the expression "you know"—or y'know—by interviewees on TV or the radio. But the champion has to be Caroline Kennedy, who used the offending phrase 142 times in a single interview. Telegraph.co.uk reports:
When she first made it known that she wanted to be appointed to take over Mrs Clinton's seat, Miss Kennedy, 51, the daughter of the assassinated President John F. Kennedy, seemed a near certainty for the job.
But in the course of a few weeks she has alienated Governor David Paterson of New York, who has the sole power to make the appointment, and the American press, including the elite New York Times, which is a powerful influence on Democratic officials.
During an interview with the paper she stumbled badly, fuelling comparisons to Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, whose bid for the vice-presidency was blighted by a series of disastrous interviews with Katie Couric of CBS News.
Perhaps most damaging of all was her repeated use of the phrase "you know", which she uttered 142 times and was left in the transcript when it appeared in print.
Explaining why she would be a good Senator, she said: "So I think in many ways, you know, we want to have all kinds of different voices, you know, representing us, and I think what I bring to it is, you know, my experience as a mother, as a woman, as a lawyer, you know, I've been an education activist for the last six years here, and, you know, I've written seven books – two on the Constitution, two on American politics. Read full story >>
And, of course, the interview has become a hit on YouTube:
Comments: A variation of "you know" found in Britain is "d'you know what I mean, like?" And "like" on its own is also commonly used to punctuate speech: I was, like, going down the street, like, minding my own business, like, when I like saw an accident, like ... etc., etc. Grrr!
London bankers are trading in loud colours for white shirts during hard economic times. CNN's Jim Boulden reports.
Language note: If you describe something, especially a piece of clothing, as loud, you dislike it because it has very bright colours or very large, bold patterns which look unpleasant (Collins Cobuild Advanced Dictionary).
inogolo is a practical, easy-to-use website devoted to the English pronunciation of the names of people, places, and various things. The site contains a searchable database with both phonetic and audio pronunciations in English. The site can be searched or browsed—alphabetically, by tag, or through topical pronunciation guides.
inogolo has two purposes:
To provide an easy to use tool that will help English speakers pronounce difficult and commonly mispronounced names.
For non-English speakers and those for whom English is a second language, to provide an easy- to-use tool to help pronounce common English names, since many English names follow no phonetic rules.
The inogolo website is the part-time project of Stuart Yoder who lives and works in the Austin, Texas area. For more information about inogolo, read an interview with Stuart and watch this video in which he talks about his site.
Comments: The embedded audio works well and features real—as opposed to synthetic—speech. The Pronunciation Guides are a nice idea. If Stuart continues to expand his list of words (5,000+ currently), inogolowill become an even more valuable resource.
Tip: Use the inogoloWebsearch to search dozens of name pronunciation websites with one convenient search.