Tag Archives: news

And the 2011 winners are…

2 Dec

It’s December, and you know what that means – stressing about another year having passed while your goals are inexplicably further away than ever! No? Just me then? Ahem, moving on…

December is when the when lexicographers unveil their words of the year. Exciting times!

The Oxford English Dictionary gave us a shortlist of 10 words, each one chosen to reflect the ethos – or “flavour” – of 2011. Different lists were made for UK and US audiences, but the chosen word of the year was the same for both countries: ‘squeezed middle’. (It’s worth noting that the OED recognises two-word expressions as compounds, which is why it’s counted as one word.)

So what does this title-winning word mean, according to the OED?

squeezed middle

Squeezed middle: the section of society regarded as particularly affected by inflation, wage freezes, and cuts in public spending during a time of economic difficulty, consisting principally of those people on low or middle incomes.

Or, as Ed Miliband, the British MP who coined the word, explains: “[The squeezed middle is] around the average income, but below and above the average income.”

Right, just about everyone then.

Some of the other words on the OED list are to be expected in current times: ‘occupy’, ‘ the 99%’, ‘crowdfunding’… and, somewhat randomly, Berlusconi’s ‘bunga bunga’.

But that’s just the OED. The dictionary.com team came to a different conclusion for its word of the year, choosing a word that “aptly defines the spirit of 2011, even if the choice is obscure”. And obscure it was – drum roll please…

Tergiversate: to change repeatedly one’s attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.

Try to work ‘tergiversate’ into a conversation today!

Meanwhile, in Holland, it was a democratic process, with the public visiting the Dutch Institute of Lexicology website to vote on words. Their winner? ‘Wild knitting’, which is the practice of knitting items to cover poles, trees, statues and other public items. You might also know it as yarn bombing or street/graffiti knitting.

The Dutch runner-up was also interesting – it was ‘infobesity’, the word used to describe what happens when you overdose on information gleaned through the wonders of modern technology.

So there you go! As my mother is fond of saying, “You learn something new every day.” Well, she doesn’t say the learned information will always be helpful.


Banned Books Week

27 Sep

It’s Banned Books Week, so let’s do an old fashioned book parade! Dress up like your favourite book character… I bags being Dawn from The Baby-sitters Club! (That used to be my old standby – we both had long blonde hair so it was easy.)

Okay, no, the aforementioned parade is actually a Book Week activity, which is an entirely different animal. From September 24 to October 1, America (and therefore the world?) holds Banned Books Week to draw attention to censorship by hosting a variety of events, both IRL and online.

So what kind of books have been banned in the past? Well, you name it – if it has a story, it seems to have pissed someone off somewhere, what with its religious viewpoints, unsuitability to its age group, anti-family values, sexually explicit material, offensive language, violence and homosexuality (oh my, what a book THAT would be).

The list of challenged books is pretty interesting, and the American Library Association has a great database, listing them by year, author and decade. Then there’s the list of challenged classics: of the Top 100 from the Radcliffe Top Novels of the 20th Century, at least 46% have been challenged. In fact, of the top 15, 12 have been protested (crossed out below) – yes, people have had to fight to keep these books in libraries and schools:

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  6. Ulysses by James Joyce
  7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  9. 1984 by George Orwell
  10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
  12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  13. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Scary, huh? Imagine how bland the literary world would be without these wonders floating around out there. I’m trying to avoid using emoticons in these posts, but sometimes you just need to use a sad face 😦

If you’re a fan of not having your reading list dictated to you by a crazy minority group, you might want to take part in the BWB YouTube channel. It features people reading snippets of books that have been challenged at one time or another – you can just watch other people’s or upload your own. There are famous readers, like Whoopi Goldberg, and people like this guy, who’s reading The Lorax (challenged because it “criminalises the foresting industry”… yes, really). It’s strangely addictive.


Chickens feel empathy

11 Mar

chick empathyYou know, before I started this blog I didn’t think about chickens very often. Sure, I knew they were delicious – and obviously very cute – but I wasn’t drawn to them in any particular way. But now that I’ve named one of my personalities after them, I feel I should learn more about these creatures.

And now that I’ve read this, I’ll know never to blow a puff of air at a chick ever again.

Chicken on the run…

8 Feb

“The bird didn’t look scared, just indignant. It had a look on its face like it was thinking ‘I’m just trying to walk across the car park, what’s your problem? Why are you chasing me?'”

This article is a bit out of the realm of what this blog will usually cover, but it is chicken related. And who could resist reposting that classic quote above?

I want to see someone taking their chicken for a walk, then have it get away and create a hilarious chase scene. You just know that everyone watching would have Benny Hill music playing in their heads…