One of my favourite albums of the year so far is Contra by Vampire Weekend. There can't be that many songs with 'English' in the title, so it seemed like a good excuse to feature this one. You can read the lyrics here. Don't ask me what they mean—I've no idea. But it's a great song all the same. You can watch the complete Pitchfork session here.
This cartoon by Schrank from The Independent on Sunday refers to Labour's improved performance in the opinion polls ahead of the general election. According to The Sunday Times, Gordon Brown is on course to remain prime minister after the general election as a new poll reveals that Labour is now just two points behind the Tories. A few months ago David Cameron's Tory party had a substantial lead in the polls and seemed certain to win an overall majority. Now, a hung parliament is beginning to look increasingly likely.
In the cartoon, Gordon Brown is flinging a mobile phone in rage at what we can suppose to be a departing secretary. This is one of the bullying allegations made against Brown in a new book. The trajectory of the phone resembles the line on a graph. David Cameron, looking in through the window, comments: "Oh no ... not another Gordon bounce!" The question is: why is Gordon so angry, if he's doing better in the polls?
VOCABULARY In the language of opinion polls, a bounce is a recovery, an upward movement.
VOCABULARY If you are depressed, you are sad and feel that you cannot enjoy anything, because your situation is so difficult and unpleasant. • Depressed seniors can get relief when they play Wii sports games, according to a new study.
This cartoon by Peter Brookes from The Times portrays UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown as an arrow-ridden cowboy who lies dying on the ground in the American desert. The US Cavalry have just arrived. One of them has a flag reading "Recession Over". Brown's speech bubble trails off, "Here Comes The Cava ...", suggesting that he has just breathed his last breath.
EXPLANATION In Western movies the arrival of the cavalry just in time to rescue the hero is a well-worn cliché. So much so that the expression 'Here comes the cavalry' can be used to refer to any situation in which help arrives at an opportune moment. In Gordon Brown's case, however, the cavalry (i.e., the end of the recession and the improving economy) have come too late to save him from certain defeat in the forthcoming general election.
The Daily Express claims Met Office staff have been awarded £12m in performance-related bonuses over the last five years, despite repeated and embarrassing forecast gaffes.
VOCABULARY If you describe a situation or event as a farce, you mean that it is so disorganized or ridiculous that you cannot take it seriously. • A top German bobsleigh official slammed the four-man bob event as a "farce" that should be called off after six crashes in the opening two heats.
LANGUAGE The cartoon title 'Malice in Blunderland' is obviously a play on 'Alice in Wonderland'. Malice is behaviour that is intended to harm people or their reputations, or cause them embarassment or upset (e.g., the Gordon Brown bullying affair), and a blunder is a stupid or careless mistake (e.g., rewarding bankers for financial failure).
The economic gloom means a squeeze on salaries. But employers may try to keep staff on side with inflated job titles by way of compensation. BBC News reports:
Instead of "what do you do?" today this question may be phrased in a subtly different form: "what's your job title?" The answer may be as clear as mud, for 21st Century job titles can be a verbal minefield.
Job title inflation is everywhere. Last week the Plain English Campaign received a local authority job advert from a member of the public for a "person-centred transition facilitator". "We debated for hours what this means. It might be a social worker dealing with disabled children?" says a spokesman.
Other examples from its files include ambient replenishment controller and regional head of services, infrastructure and procurement. Also known as shelf stacker and caretaker.
This cartoon by Dave Brown from The Independent relates to yesterday's healthcare summit. Democrats and Republicans have very different ideas about health care reform, and President Obama has acknowledged that it might be hard to get past those differences. Read more >>
The cartoon shows Obama in a hospital bed. He is surrounded by doctors, surgeons and nurses, who are examining him, giving him injections, and taking his temperature. At the back, we can see an angry-looking elephant dressed as a butcher. He is wearing an apron and hat, and brandishing a meat cleaver. Obama looks on in horror.
EXPLANATION The elephant is the traditional mascot of the Republican party. The butcher metaphor is clear: the Republicans want to kill off Obama's healthcare reform bill.