Elise Tan Roberts is just two years, four months old and she can already count in different languages, name 35 capital cities and is the youngest member of Mensa. Sky's Alistair Bunkall met the child genius.
You can usually rely on the BBC News website to provide in-depth coverage of major global events and true to form it has an impressive collection of resources about the swine flu outbreak including the latest news, backround information on how the outbreak emerged, interactive maps, videos, and a picture gallery.
VOCABULARY If someone says that something sucks, it means they think it is very bad. • That last Indiana Jones movie really sucks. Some people find this use of the word offensive. You can read a defence of suckshere.
Stuart Jeffries has written a very amusing piece in The Guardian about the much maligned exclamation mark. Click here to read it!
There is a town of 1,471 happy souls in Quebec called Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!. The second "Ha!", amazingly, is part of the town's name, not my commentary on the first "Ha!". Unlike, for example, the Devon town of Westward Ho! Ho! There, the second "Ho!" is mine. Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! is the only town in the world whose name has two exclamation marks. It will remain so until Wolverhampton is renamed Wolverhampton!! to highlight its funky new Black Country vibe, which, all things considered, seems unlikely.
Or maybe I'm wrong. After all, exclamation marks - those forms of punctuation derided by the funless and fastidious - are making a comeback, thanks to an internet renaissance that is bleeding over into every form of written communication. Once it was bad form to end a paragraph with an exclamation mark. Now it's borderline obligatory. Once it was enough to put a sign on your door: "Back in five minutes." Now, without the flourish of an exclamation mark, that sign lacks verve or at least zeitgeisty voguishness. Go figure! Full article >>
COMMENT According to Fowler's Modern English Usage: "Except in poetry the exclamation mark should be used sparingly. Excessive use of exclamation marks in expository prose is a sure sign of an unpractised writer or of one who wants to add a spurious dash of sensation to something unsensational." Poor old Fowler must be turning in his grave!
This cartoon by Kipper Williams from The Guardian shows two long-haired hippie types passing a billboard with the headline SWINE FLU. One of the hippies is wearing a T-shirt bearing the words 'Eat the bankers.' This was one of the slogans seen on placards at the G-20 protests in London at earlier in the month. He says to his companion, "I blame capitalist pigs."
COMMENTARY The joke involves a play on the words 'swine' and 'pigs'. Swine is another word for pig. Pigs are thought to be the origin of the current swine flu epidemic. However, if you call someone a pig, you are insulting them because you think they are greedy or unpleasant. The man probably blames the capitalist pigs (bankers, stockbrokers, shareholders, etc.) for all society's ills, including the outbreak of swine flu. In fact, he may be right about the swine flu since unhealthy conditions on intensive pig farms in Mexico could have helped create the disease in the first place.
A two-year-old girl who knows the capital of nearly every country in the world is "Britain's brainiest child", the Daily Mirror reports. Full story >>
VOCABULARY 1. Someone who is brainy is intelligent and good at learning. • State schools are getting better at educating brainy children but have yet to master the art of spotting their most gifted and talented pupils.
2. IQ is an abbreviation for Intelligence Quotient.
I got an e-mail from Faiza Khan asking me to check out her WordAhead vocabulary learning site. This is how she describes it:
This website has a collection of short, simple and fun multimedia clips and an audio narration to correctly pronounce, define, and provide examples of difficult English words. The videos are entirely appropriate for middle and high school students. Visitors can subscribe to receive a Word of the Day video from WordAhead. A WordAhead widget is also available on the website.
WHAT I THINK
I'm impressed. There are over 500 videos and flashcards, each illustrating a word. The videos are professionally done and include a drawing, and a spoken definition followed by an example. My one reservation from an EFL standpoint concerns the choice of words, which seem to be aimed at SAT test takers. Even I didn't know some of them (acclivity, descry, zoophagous!). For advanced learners, then.
A man from Yorkshire claims to have started speaking in a broad Irish accent after waking up from a brain operation. Why?
He's never even visited Ireland, but when Chris Gregory came round from brain surgery he reportedly started speaking like a native.
Mr Gregory had spent three days on a life-support machine after surgery. When he came round he sang a stirring rendition of Danny Boy from his hospital bed, much to the surprise of staff and his family.
His strange behaviour is thought to be the result of a very rare condition called Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS). People who have it start speaking in an entirely different accent. In some cases they speak fluently in a language they hardly know. Full story >>
COMMENT Read this MailOnline article for more on Chris's story.
Here's the mystery pic of the day. Can you say who these beautiful bottoms belong to? Click here to find out the answer and see how their owners match up in other key areas.
VOCABULARY When referring to the part of the body pictured above, you can safely use the words 'bottom' and 'behind'. If you want to seem more sophisticated (or pretentious), you can use the French 'derrière'. 'Bum' is informal but doesn't sound very nice. • Does my bum look big in this? 'Ass' (US) and 'arse' (UK) are rude and best avoided by non-native speakers. • Move your ass!