Sunday, February 21, 2010

Canine carbon footprints; Household economies; The Spanish economic model; Teutonic muscle flexing; Debt figures; and English as she is spoke

Here’s an interesting fact – the keeping of a medium-sized dog has the same ecological impact, they say, as driving a 4.6 litre 4x4 (todo tereno) 10,000km a year. More if the dog is inside the vehicle, increasing the weight.

And here’s a interesting development for those of us who have a daughter whose affinity with artificial lighting is such that she switches every light on every time she enters a room and never, ever switches one off. Regardless of the time of day and the amount of sunlight, I should add. You can buy a little box which tells you how many watts you’re using when you switch anything on. Which will be of most use in respect of guests who believe it’s necessary to put three litres of water in a kettle (3,000 watts) for a 300cc cup of tea.

But on to higher things . . . There was an article in one of our national papers this week, bemoaning the fact the Spanish model is no longer admired around the world. This was a tad confusing since I didn’t think it was likely that many people had admired specious economic growth built on the sand of the phoney construction boom since 2000. And it also struck me the writer couldn’t be very aware of foreign disregard for the things that seriously blemish the Spanish state\culture and which no one seems to have the political will to do anything about. And then I read in El PaĆ­s today that an actress had said, in effect, that Spain’s further development is hamstrung by the ‘anything goes’ attitude so prevalent here. So I’ve changed my views on celebrities making political comments.

One of the inevitable effects of the Eurozone crisis is that Germany is finally moving away from its subordinate role to France. He who pays the piper usually calls the tune, of course, and it was no great surprise to see Germany baulking at giving handouts to Greece. And now it's reported she is hell-bent on getting one of her own as the head of the European Central Bank - traditionally one of the plums snaffled by France, by hook or by crook.

Talking of crooks . . . I also read today that the Spanish debt figures regularly defended by President Zapollyanna are false in that they don’t include the debts of the regional governments. Which are said to be twice as much again. Of course, Spain has not been alone in this. Greece has been using the genius of the American banks to obfuscate things. And Mr Brown has long had his off-balance sheet PFI schemes. The Greeks, of course, have a word for it – Lying.

Talking of Americans, a fellow-blogger in Galicia has become a tad irritated at being told be will fail his English oral exam if he doesn’t pronounce things the British way, and not his natural American way. Frankly, the most surprising thing to me about his account was that the university of Santiago has an oral test. But the other thing that fascinated me – since confirmed by Spanish and American friends - is that, specifically, we Brits pronounce the letter R differently, especially at the end of a word. Which I hadn’t picked up during all my years of visiting and even living in the USA.

Finally . . . I wanted to send a message of welcome to new Follower Peggy today. But to do so, I was compelled to become a Follower of my own blog. But at least this means I was spared the agony of a long wait until the total rose from 49 to 50

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Midnight Golfer said...

I know we don't "talk" the same - but how on earth could a Spaniard even test for that.
WHICH British accent, and which American accent? There must be at least twenty.
Of each.

Ferrolano said...

I thought that the purpose of foreign students studying English, generally as a second language, is to be able to communicate. And in all honesty, I prefer to listen to most US pronunciations over some of the more diabolical accents to be heard around the UK. BTW Colin, I was also nor aware of the “R” issue until reading your comments and the blog article by XW. This after working with Americans for the best part of 40 years. I must be deaf or after so long, I have forgotten and become immune to the difference.

Colin Davies said...


Yes, I agree. But some of these examiners (OK, all of them) are attuned to looking for things (written and oral) which we Anglos have no knowledge of whatsoever. It's all a reflection of the way English has traditionally been taught here - with an emphasis on rules rather than effective communication. Strange in such an un-ruley country. But a reflection of the fact that, until recently, most teachers of English couldn't string a verbal sentence together. The Spanish, of course, have a ridiculous view that they are genetically poor at speaking other languages. Or at least those with more than 5 vowels. Which is probably all of them.

The British accent demanded of our friend is standard English. Oftemn known as BBC English. Which is ironic as you hardly ever hear it on the BBC these days.

@ Ferolano

Exactly! On both counts.

Yes, the word used to demonstrate the difference was 'sinner'.

We Brits don't pronounce the R much, if at all. But the Americans do, extending the sound of the second syllable. But it can't be that strong if neither of us have ever noticed it.

santcugat said...

From my point of view, people in Europe are obsessed about turning the lights on and off.

Combined with 100% dark roller blinds, sometimes I feel like I'm living in a cave.

Juan said...

I had no idea that some people couldn't hear the difference between American and British use of the -r! When we Americans try to imitate (read: slaughter) an Oxford accent (because it's the only one we consider British until we start watching the BBC), the first thing we do is drop the -r. I don't understand why Brits and Australians can usually pull off great American accents and yet Americans are awful at British and Australian accents!

By the way, there are non-rhotic accents in the States as well. The Boston accent is famous for this, as is the Southern Drawl one might hear in Savannah.

santcugat said...

Lots of other things to criticize about Zapatero, but sovereign government debt statistics don't generally include regional debts unless the regional debt is explicitly guaranteed in some way by the sovereign.

Eg I've never see US federal debt stats include state and municipal debt. In theory the states could default without making the federal government default.

Pericles said...

I named my youngest son Elliott, in the vain hope that at least one T would be pronounced. Not a chance!

"Ellierrr" is the sound he responds to. How people can communicate without sounding the ends of words is a mystery, yet it does explain why they have difficulty with spelling. If the letters are not sounded, they are just not there, it seems.