Month: June 2014 (page 1 of 2)

More of those delightful straplines

Today I was at the Shrewsbury Food Festival, which, as with any major community event such as this, is fertile ground for strapline spotters such as me. As the queues for the portaloos were too long, my thoughts here came to me when I got home.

The best one I saw there was a combined Virgin Trains and random spring water company strapline created for the event. It went like this:

  • Virgin Trains and Random Spring Water Company: together refreshing your journey and refreshing you.

That’s quite a claim. I can see why they came up with that as it is quite catchy (and makes me want to drink water). I bet it took a team of people and a few weekly meetings to get to that. Water is refreshing so that makes sense. But I can’t see how Virgin Trains can ‘refresh’ a journey.

These people need to eat a lot of food

These people need to eat a lot of food

One of the sponsors of the Shrewsbury Food Festival is an estate agent called Monks. Their strapline is:

  • bringing people & property together

Oh dear. Stating the obvious or what? And why the ampersand instead of ‘and’?

They sell houses

They sell houses

Those were the two worst offenders I saw today (I saw lots of straplines for food producers emphasizing the healthy, local and organic-ness of their wares).

Then on the way home I saw this really bothersome one from Shresbury 6th Form College:

  • Shrewsbury 6th Form College: Unlocking potential…Shaping futures.
If you're feeling locked, study here

If you’re feeling locked, study here

As well as being an airy fairy strapline, here I question the use of ellipses. The word ellipse comes from Ancient Greek and means ‘falling short’ or ‘missing’. Ellipses are used to indicate missing text in a quoted piece of material. If the omission comes at the end of a sentence, then four dots are used rather than three. So in the strapline above, the implication here is that this is a quote and that some text is missing from the middle of a sentence.

‘Unlocking potential of Shrewsbury’s most locked minds and shaping futures’ perhaps? This is quite wordy so I can see why ellipses have been used.

The other issue is that the ‘S’ in shaping should be lower case as only three ellipses have been used. They either need to change this to four ellipses if the ‘Shaping’ is the start of a new quoted sentence or change the ‘s’ to a lower case. And who are they quoting?

I think sometimes I worry about these things too much.

When it comes to comedy, we’re all individuals. I’m not!

I’ve been thinking a lot today about the love-hate Mrs Brown’s Boys issue, and some of that thinking has been done alone upstairs on the toilet of course. It has been bothering me especially that I don’t find funny something that lots of my close friends think is hilarious.

Surely if our friendship is based on the foundations of similar ideas, beliefs, likes and dislikes this should extend to comedy? Of course I have different ideas, beliefs, likes and dislikes to people who have befriended me over the last few years. However, generally there will be an overlap in these aspects of personality between those that are still my friends otherwise how would we have been drawn together in the first place unless it was by force and why are we still friends? I would expect that there must be some similarity in those elements that make up personality, which includes SENSE OF HUMOUR.

So why do so many of my lovely old friends love Mrs Brown’s Boys when I just don’t get it. I want to get it. It is post-modernism at its best (that makes it sound posh, doesn’t it? It isn’t really as post-modernism just means ‘copied’). I don’t doubt that there is some genius behind it. It has won awards and everything. But I still don’t get it or like it.

I am so funny!

I am so funny!

I asked members of my family to comment as I thought surely we’d share a similar sense of humour. But I find that some of them love it, my mum said, and I quote ‘I laugh so much I frighten the dog’.

Dogs don't like Mrs Brown's Boys

Dogs don’t like Mrs Brown’s Boys

So this got me thinking that ‘sense of humour’ might not be based on genes or environment but could be unrelated at all to those things that psychologists like to argue about. I have no science to back this up though, although the BBC don’t think genes play a role. It’s just a thought.

What would the world be like if we all shared the same sense of humour? Awful I think. I might never understand the appeal of Mrs Brown’s Boys but some of my loveliest friends like it so I accept that it has a lot of merit. I like the fact that we are all different in this one sense. The world would be terribly boring if we weren’t.

Define funny: US!

Define funny: US!

Just for fun, because I was interested, I asked people if they like The Big Bang Theory (now that really is funny and genius, I’m not biased at all), if they like Mrs Brown’s Boys and if they either like both or dislike both. Only a few responded but just for fun here is another graph.

Another comprehensive survey

Another comprehensive survey

Mrs Brown’s Boys is the marmite of comedy

What I mean by that is that you either love it, or hate it. I hate marmite. Lots of people love it. I struggle to watch a whole episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys (actually five minutes is my limit). Lots of people love it and even own box sets of it. I want to understand what it is about it that divides people into two different camps: the Mrs Brown lovers vs the Mrs Brown haters.

Do you think I'm funny?

Do you think I’m funny?

So I carried out a comprehensive survey. I asked people whether they either ‘love’, ‘hate’, ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ Mrs Brown’s Boys.

Here are the results:

The comprehensive survey

The comprehensive survey

The results seem to concur with my suspicions: Mrs Brown’s Boys is indeed the marmite of comedy. I suspect that if I carried on with my survey the split between love and hate would be even to the end.

A funny jar of yeast estract

A funny jar of yeast estract

I’ve just tried to watch an episode. I lasted 4 mins 28 seconds. I still don’t like it, a lot.

You can verb any noun

This thought is related to the last thought about adding made-up words to the Oxford English Dictionary. I’ve talked about this before but this thought pops up every now and then (sometimes when I’m on the toilet).

The thought is: any noun (or adjective) can be verbed (that is, assuming verb can be a verb, which I think it can).

Calvin and Hobbes had an opinion on the subject

Calvin and Hobbes had an opinion on the subject

But, can any noun really be verbed? I’d like to think it can.  Not everyone likes nouns being verbed willy nilly without due care and consideration. Benjamin Franklin described the act as ‘awkward and abominable’.  However, the English language is constantly evolving and there has always been a certain degree of verbing going but it seems to be more prevalent recently, especially in the so called post-post-modern digital age. Here are some examples:

  • parent (the way I parent my children is regarded as low-maintenance)
  • trend
  • inbox (don’t forget to inbox me later)
  • message
  • card (i.e. footballers might be carded)
  • facebook
  • dialogue
  • action
  • tweet
  • sext (to text explicit images)
  • conference (lets conference about that issue)
  • table (to table a discussion)
  • chair (see above)
  • google
Let me google that for you

Let me google that for you

But as I say, verbing isn’t a recent thing. William Shakespeare verbed lots of nouns in his plays and in fact many of our accepted, but interesting, verbs came from him.  In Richard III the Duke of York says, “Grace me no grace, and uncle me no uncles.” I’m not sure that to uncle caught on though.

This got me thinking, is it possible to do the opposite, to noun or adjective verbs?

According to the World Wide Web, it is. I found some great examples:

  • That’s the take-away from today’s lesson.
  • We now need to consider the build.
  • Can you tell me the solve for your main issue?

They sound a bit odd to me now but perhaps in time they will become the speak of us all.



Happiness is seeing your made-up word appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary

I like making up words, words that describe it as it is. Here’s a selection of my made-up words and phrases:

  • straightwards – adjective, the direction that is neither left or right. It is close to forwards but it MUST be linear.
  • huggle – noun, not quite a hug, not quite a cuddle.
  • sockle – noun, a sock for a small child.
  • panticles – noun, pants for a small child.
  • verb – verb, i.e. ‘you can verb anything these days’ means you can turn anything into a verb.
  • bobble – verb, to bounce along the ground on your bottom (bottom shuffling, what some babies do).
  • knee pits – the underside of knees
  • elbow pits – the underside of elbows
This is definitely a sockle

This is definitely a sockle

Here are a selection of words that someone like me probably made up, said to their friend, who said to their friends, and their friends. And one of those friends said it to someone who works for Oxford University Press in the dictionaries department. It was that word which have made it into the Oxford English Dictionary:

  • selfie
  • twerk
  • buzzworthy
  • jorts
  • omnishambles
  • vom

So the next time I read the list of new words added to the OED and I see one of mine I will open a bottle of champagne. I don’t think I will be walking straightwards after that.

Food looks posh on square plates, it looks ordinary on round ones

This thought came to me while eating my dinner (rather than in the place I’m supposed to be having these ‘weird thoughts’). I have just eaten my dinner and I’d put it on a square plate. I am sure that my dinner tasted nicer than it should have done given the non-posh nature of the contents.

Tonight for tea we had sausages, baked potatoes, green beans and coleslaw (with a drizzle of ketchup). On a square plate, this looked amazing. On a square plate, it tasted amazing. If I’d dished it up on round plates, it would have looked fairly bland and would have tasted ok.

Put this on a round plate and it looks much less exciting

Put this on a round plate and it looks much less exciting

Why is that?

And as for food in bowls, that looks positively slap dash.

Who would want to eat that in a restaurant?

Who would want to eat that in a restaurant?


I really do have a Chandler Bing Job, a job that nobody understands

I have a friend who calls my job a Chandler Bing job. When she says that I tend to get a bit defensive because to me it sounds as if she is saying my job is boring. But she’s not saying that. She’s not trying to be mean, in fact what she means is that even if I can explain my job in the easiest, simplest way possible, nobody will understand what I do.

So I thought about this yesterday, while on the toilet of course, and thought I’d better write a blog entry about what I do so in the hope that I can explain exactly what my job is and to try to shed the Chandler Bing image.

Job title: Freelance Online and Print Publishing Manager (don’t be deceived by the word ‘manager’ – this refers more to project management than people management).

Work for: Oxford University Press and Bloomsbury Publishing

Please keep reading, it gets better, I promise.

Work on: academic monographs that get published on a subscription website owned by OUP, mainly published by OUP but also by other University Presses. I also work on or have worked on Trove Law (law higher education titles online), Very Short Introductions Online (fabulous little books about a variety of subjects from the eye to the earth) and Oxford Handbooks Online. I also am a Listings Editor for the annual Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. Still awake? Then read on.

What do I do every day?

Besides drink coffee in coffee shops in town, you mean? Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) is the main love of my life (we have a bit of a love hate relationship sometimes but it is mostly the former). For OSO I maintain all forthcoming and past title lists, update the database of forthcoming titles, attend phone meetings, liaise with editors and production staff in Oxford and New York, work with the datateam in Oxford, and circulate lists to Sales and Marketing and royalty departments every month. I also commission and check abstracts and keywords. I check OSO titles on a pre-live server every month. I might also write and / or check abstracts and keywords for other University Presses (e.g. MIT Press, Chicago University Press) or for Trove, or occasionally VSIs. This is the part of my work which makes me feel clever and academic, as if I really am mingling with great minds.

What I work on most of the day

What I work on most of the day

For the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook: I am responsible for all the book publishers listed in the book, the art agencies, the national and regional newspapers and the card and stationery companies. I have to email them all every year and gather updates to their entries. I update their entries in a database and from this proofs are generated which I have to check. I also have to research new companies to add. This is the part of my job which makes me feel like a trendy trade publisher, as if I am mingling with the likes of Oliver Jeffers, Nathan Filer and Terry Pratchett.

My baby

My baby

Makes sense?

I get it but then I get it because I’ve been doing it on and off for around seven years. More importantly, are you still awake and if so, do you get it?

The baby of the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook - my favourite of the two

The baby of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook – my favourite of the two

Do I like it?

Yep, I love it! I am so lucky that I can work from home for the same wage (if I were to measure my old full-time job by the hour) I’d earn working in Oxford in-house. I can still take the children to school, pick them up, do a part-time foundation art degree, go to school plays and sneak off for the odd coffee in the middle of the day. And I get the odd day trip to London or Oxford where I can pretend I am important with a laptop on a train.

One of the perks of the freelance life

One of the perks of the freelance life

Do I mind being thought of as a bit of a Chandler Bing?

Not at all! I love having a job nobody gets.

I do statistical analysis and data reconfiguration

I do statistical analysis and data reconfiguration

People in films don’t ever go to the toilet

Like royalty, people in films or on TV don’t ever say ‘hang on a minute, before we save the world from a band of unruly aliens can I just nip to the loo for a quick wee?’

As with the talking in complete sentences issue and the lack of history in science fiction, this is not realistic. I’m often needing to rush off to the toilet at a crucial moment during life’s exciting bits. My children are very good at choosing the most inappropriate moments for a quick sit down.

But as with my other concerns about fiction (most notably science fiction), I do understand that Peter Calpaldi rushing off to the toilet while the daleks are approaching does not make good TV and might take some of the drama and excitement out of the story (as well taking up precious time). It also might mean that he loses the battle. But if I were the script writer, I’d have him disappear for a wee after the crisis had abated at least. That time could be filled with other characters taking central stage, maybe making a nice calming cup of tea. Perhaps this is why I’m not a script writer.

We will exterminate, after we've found the nearest public toilet

We will exterminate, after we’ve found the nearest public toilet

Please, script writers, can you let nature call for your characters, once in a while? Then at least I know they are human (or daleks).

People in films don’t talk like normal people

This is fairly obvious perhaps. As with the last weird thought, this wasn’t a toilet thought but it could have been.

The contrast between how people talk in films and how people talk in real life is vast. Yesterday afternoon I was transcribing conversations I’d had with visitors to Powis Castle about their visit and I was struck by how jumbled up and incomplete their sentences were, and mine too. Here’s an example:

Ah well we’re in a hurry. We’ve got to get to Lancashire by 5pm. But my impression. The furniture. The furniture, yes, is stunning. The favourite, loved the Thomas Tomkin clock and the enormous table. One guide said, there are two Thomas Tomkin clocks, they are both gorgeous.

One of the stunning clocks at Powis Castle

One of the stunning clocks at Powis Castle

See what I mean?

So later on that evening as I was watching Serenity I was struck with how eloquently (and concisely) the people in the film were speaking to each other. They were in the middle of a space crisis with dramatic music and lots of noise yet every word, every sentence was loaded with either significance or wit. Every sentence was grammatically perfect. There were no ‘errr’s or ‘umms’ at all. They spoke colloquially (which is part of the charm of the whole Firefly / Serenity thing), but perfectly. That’s not real.

I am good looking and eloquent

I am good looking and eloquent

I understand why this is so though, they are actors reciting a script that was written by some chap sat at a computer and when you are sat at a computer creating dialogue you have time to construct good sentences. In fact, you want them to be loaded with significance and wit or the film wouldn’t be interesting.

Still, a happy medium would be better I think. I want to believe that the people in the film are real and that their space battles are as relevant as current-day crises such as the Internet has stopped working, the car has a puncture, the cat has vomited all over my foot etc. Perhaps I need to try to speak more eloquently with significance and wit the next time that happens to me.

If she drinks too much of that she might well be sick on my foot

If she drinks too much of that she might well be sick on my foot



People in science fiction don’t care about history

This isn’t a thought from the bathroom but it is a thought that is bothering me so I will share it. I’m sat here watching Serenity and a few things occur to me, reminding me of issues I have with science fiction in general, and science fiction on TV and in films in particular. The first issue is the subject of this blog, and that is: people in science fiction don’t care about history. This statement of observation doesn’t sit well with me. People in the real world care about history. We have always look back as much as we look sideways and forwards. People in science fiction look mostly sideways and forwards. Consider how many hours we may spend our Sundays wondering around National Trust properties, watching The Antiques Roadshow, or browsing through old photographs or fingering fossils, crystals or old pots handed down from our father’s father’s father.

Lovely old pots

Lovely old pots

Why don’t people in science fiction films set in the future have the same urges? How come they don’t adorn their mantlepieces with bits of old pottery? Most people fill their homes with relics of their personal history and objects of previous histories. Why do you not see people in science fiction films wearing vintage clothing? Why is it that they don’t like watching Downton Abbey between fighting space battles and having wars with the Kardashians?

Who are these people from times gone by and why do we care about them?

Who are these people from times gone by and why do we care about them?

I don’t think that this is realistic. People have always looked back to the past, fondly or with fear, and collected objects of history or historical significance. We like to have these old things around us. They comfort us. But in space, there is no sign of the past and this makes me feel uneasy. Where are all the antiques?

Kim's new look

Kim’s new look

Apparently there are two exceptions to my observation. Firstly, Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek Deep Space Nine I’m told kept a collection of old things he occasionally liked to admire. Secondly, the film Planet of the Apes (both versions of which I have seen) was all about harking back to the past even though it was set on a different planet. I do concede on point one, but not point two. If you look at the strict definition of ‘science fiction’ it means ‘fiction that uses science to create a story’. Despite what most people may think, it doesn’t have to be set on a spaceship (and doesn’t have to be set in the future either for that matter).

Two archaeologists kissing

Two archaeologists kissing

My issue is with proper spacy science fiction and it is yet to be resolved.



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