Football to politics, blokes only open their mouths to change feet


Not our lucky, lucky Prime Minister though, who on Tuesday voiced some  concerns about sexism in politics and was instantly rewarded by blokes from  seemingly every walk of life in Australia choosing this week to act like utter  berks. Continue reading


How we’re herded by language

How we’re herded by language

Metaphors can persuade us to war or bring us back from the brink. We must try to be more aware of them.

Poodle at Westminster dog show

‘The present meaning of the word poodle seems a world away from what the original breeders must have had in mind when they bred the Pudelhund to be a water retriever.’ Photograph: Chris Mcgrath/Getty

Here come the old metaphors again – and some new ones, too. In the last few days we have heard Barack Obama flooding the zone so as to urge strikes in Syria, within time windows, but without boots on the ground, because of the crossing of a red line which, back in May, threatened to box in the president, or even turn into a green light for Bashar al-Assad, who himself says that “the Middle East is a powder keg, and today the fuse is getting shorter”. John Kerry calls people who hesitate “armchair isolationists“, which suggests useless snoozers by the fireside rather than thoughtful opponents. Meanwhile, the media dubs France “America’s poodle“. So vivid are British memories of that taunt that the very thought of it may have accelerated the quick decision this time to reject military involvement. Continue reading

On a not very bright grammar test

On a not very bright grammar test

An English-teacher correspondent in the UK writes to tell me a very worrying – but totally to be expected – story emerging from the Key Stage 2 grammar test marking earlier this year. Question 16 asks children to complete the sentence ‘The sun shone ________ in the sky.’ and the mark scheme reads ‘Accept any appropriate adverb, e.g. brightly, beautifully’.

A child presented the answer ‘The sun shone bright in the sky’, and this was marked wrong, on the grounds that it is ‘not an adverb’.<!–more- Continue reading