Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I said something about the ladies of Basingstoke the other day so it's only right I should now pose a question about the men - Why do so many of them have a camouflage pattern on their shorts/trousers? As the latter end just below the knee, I suspect the irony is that real soldiers wouldn't be seen dead in them. Or with the beer belly that usually hangs over them.

Well, the Eurovision Song Contest was its usual farce, the worst thing being the gradual loss of the only reason for watching it - its capacity to amuse. It was interesting, though, to be reminded it once served a political purpose for Portugal. When their 1974 performers made their entrance carrying guns, each of these had a red carnation in the barrel. This was a signal to the rebels to begin the peaceful overthrow of the country's dictatorship.

I wrote last week of the upcoming exhibition of 'invisible art' in London. Coincidentally, I saw a cartoon in the Oct. edition of Prospect magazine today in which a gallery guard is rushing towards someone about to take a foto of a blank canvas, shouting "No photographs!"

And now for some surprising (English) word origins:-
- Neighbour: Near labourer; the guy who tilled the next field
- Nickname: Eek name.

It's a quick and easy flip from words to names . . . I don't know about the USA but the names of Chardonnay and Shiraz are now commonplace in the UK, especially for girls. Though I don't think I've seen Pinot and/or Grigio yet. Or even Tempranillo. But this article suggests that Timotei has appeared on the list of bizarre monickers. As has Nevaeh, said to be the fastest growing name in the USA. As well as being 'Heaven' spelt backwards. Spain seems to have fewer of these fad names, perhaps because the choice seems to be limited to those of saints or parents. Which is much the same thing. My all-time favourite is Jesus and Mary, from Steinbeck's "Sweet Thursday", my recollection being that it took me a good few chapters to realise this was only one person. As for 'Shiraz', this is, of course, a wine grape - also called Syrrah - and is said to hale from around the city of the same name in southern Iran. Shiraz, not Syrrah. The best bottle available when I was in Iran in the 70s had a name which translated as One Thousand and One - Undoubtedly a reference to the Arabian Nights but also a brand of carpet cleaner in the UK. Actually, it's even a questionable brand name in Iran. Which is not an Arabic country and which, on the whole, looks down on its Arab neighbours. Especially those which try to invade it. With Western help.

A bit more on the troubled Spanish bank - Bankía - which is currently causing serious problems for Spain. And, thus, for the EU. Having previously reported a profit of 309m euros for 2011 it's now coughed and quietly admitted it made a 2.98bn loss. Yes, 2.98 billion euros. I asked yesterday whether anyone there could count but I think we have our answer now. Spain's Prime Minister, Mr Rajoy, who doesn't make many appearances before the microphones, has said there'll be no need for a bailout to put the bank on its feet and that Spain will sort out this problem on its own. But this appears to depend on how you define 'bailout', 'sort out' and 'own'. In so far as I can tell, he's asking for ECB help but in a way which would mean some mutualisation of the debt. Sucking Germany in through the back door. If not the coal hole.

Meanwhile, the articles on Spain get more and more apocalyptic and the word Spaxit has inevitably been coined. El Mundo has fanned the fears by claiming that three other banks will need rescue funds of 30 billion euros - CatalunyaCaixa, NovaGalicia, Banco de Valencia. Like Bankía, NovaGalicia is a fusion of two savings banks and I'm reminded of the old IT phrase - Shit in, shit out.

Finally . . . Have they found the Higgs Boson yet?

8 comments:

Alfred B. Mittington said...

I'm afraid the dictionary does not agree with you all the way. It says:

Old English nēahgebūr, from nēah ‘nigh, near’ + gebūr ‘inhabitant, peasant, farmer’

So you got the sense right but the roots wrong. Not next but near, not laborer but 'Boer', as they still say in SA and Holland.

Colin said...

Thanks, Alfie. I knew I could rely on you to have your research buds tickled.

What's the Dutch for 'wordsmith'?

Perry said...

T'were me (I believe) who coined the word for Spain's exit, 'though I rhymned it with Greece's exit.

I post elsewhere as Abiogenesis.

How red tape is tying British business in knots 3 days ago

Grexit Spexit: Euro Collapse.

European Union Disintegration.

National Cultures Restored.

Catastrophic Anthroprogenic Global Warming Dogma Dumped.

Punish The Guilty.

Humanity Resurrected.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/9292091/How-red-tape-is-tying-British-business-in-knots.html#comment-539674782

James Atkinson said...

"1001 Cleans a big big carpet for less than half a crown" Those were the days! I haven't seen any adverts for carpet cleaning products since the 70's. Probably even with recession people either buy a new carpet, or get someone in to do it.

Colin said...

Not 100% accurate, James.

For . . . Less . . . . Than . . . Half . . . A . . . . Crown!

Bloody effective ad if we can still sing the jingle.

Like A Mars a day, makes you work, rest and play.

When Waggonwheels were HUGE and hardly fitted into your rucksack!

moscow moskvitch said...

Sorry but I think Colin you are a bit behind the times (nothing new). If you ask people aged above 40, yes there is a good chance there still will be a lot of Juan Marias, Maria Jesus, Maria Dolores, Jesus Jorge, Maria de la Concepcion and so on and so forth.

But things have changed radically in the last 25 yrs though. Below 25 there is a fad for slavic names (Tatiana, Tamara, Vanessa, Ivan,..), for Basque names (Iker, Ander, Ainhoa,...) and all sort of imports: Jennifers, Sorayas.....Names like Laura or Virginia are probably more popular now than the more traditional Concha or Lola (among girls aged 0-20). Apparently there is even a whole new type of (sub)urban girl called "las Chonis" who usually bear names like Jessy or Jenni or Vane. I say apparently because I got this from the media not that I have had the opportunity to verify this empirically.

Colin said...

@ Moscow.

I think you miss the point. Some of these newer Spanish names may be unusual (especially in Spain) but none of them, as far as I know, is also a wine grape or a hair-spray. Not a distortion of an existing word such as 'heaven'. Doing the same with the Spanish equivalent would give us 'Oleic' but I suspect it will be a while before we hear this on Spanish streets.

Colin said...

Thanks, Perry. Will check out your blog.

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