Monday, 20 December 2010

Say that again?

A mondegreen is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase, typically a standardized phrase such as a line in a poem or a lyric in a song, due to near homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. 

It derives its name from Sylvia Wright's mishearing of the last stanza to the ballad "The Bonney Earl O'Moray:
Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O' Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.
The actual fourth line is "And laid him on the green". 

The birth of Nazi architecture

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The Haus der Kunst (literally House of Art) is an art museum in Munich, Germany. It was the first piece of public architecture built under the Nazi regime.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Sound and fury

Hendiadys (pronounced /hɛnˈdaɪ.ədɨs/, a Latinized form of the Greek phrase ἓν διὰ δυοῖν, hèn dià duoîn, "one through two") is a figure of speech used for emphasis, and is defined as the substitution of a conjunction for a subordination. The basic idea is to use two words linked by a conjunction (e.g. and) to express a single, complex idea.

Examples - sound and fury (from Macbeth) versus the furious sound. The Kingdom, the power and the glory (from the Lord's Prayer) instead of a glorious, powerful kingdom

This is to be distinguished from a tautology, which is an unnecessary or unessential (and sometimes unintentional) repetition of meaning, using different and dissimilar words that effectively say the same thing.

Examples - free gift, a short summary or a new innovation.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Belgium vs USSR

Belgium provided greater economic benefit to the Germans in World War II than the entire occupied territory in the Soviet Union

Friday, 10 December 2010

The red poppy is the ubiquitous symbol of remembrance throughout the UK and much of the Commonwealth.Its counterpart in France is another wild flower that was found in Flanders Fields - the blue cornflower or the Bleuet de France. 

Since 1933 there has also been a White Poppy sold by the Peace Pledge Union, which is seen as an alternative by anti-war activists.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


slactivism  (ˈslæktɪˌvɪzəm) - noun 

The public proclaiming of one's political beliefs through activitiesthat require little effort or commitment.

Facebook Cartoon Characters, and's definition of Slactivism

Monday, 6 December 2010

Metaphysically speaking

Metaphysics derives its name from a quirk of librarianship and mistranslation. Aristotle's philosophical works were arranged by Andronicus of Rhodes to follow chapters dealing with physics. Meta (μετά) is Greek for 'after' or 'beyond' and metaphysics were simply the chapters after those dealing with physics (φυσικά). Aristotle referred to the subject as 'first philosophy'. 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Hanging on the wall

A portrait of Frederick the Great was the only decorative image to hang in Hitler's quarters within the Führerbunker. 

Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia, Christopher Clark, BBC4

Two Tons O' Fun

The Weather Girls, best known for all time gay anthem "It's Raining Men", were previously known as the Two Tons, and then later Two Tons O' Fun. 

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Thirty Years' War

One-third of the population of the German lands was killed as a result of the Thirty Years' War between 1618 and 1648.

The Art of Germany, Andrew Graham-Dixon, BBC 4

Beguines - the good women of northern Europe

Amidst the fervant religiosity of the Crusades a female movement emerged at the start of the 12th century. Across the Low Countries and the German lands women began to live alone, and devoted themselves to prayer and good works. They were not nuns, they did not take vows or give up property, but they devoted themselves to attending to the poor. About the beginning of the 13th century some of them grouped their cabins together to form a community, called a Beguinage. The movement would decline over the 16th century, but survived with a handful of Beguines into the 21st century.

The Art of Germany, Andrew Graham-Dixon, BBC 4

Friday, 3 December 2010

From spires to shards - London's 2012 skyline

By 2012 London's skyline will have been transformed. Since the Second World War a city of church spires dominated by the dome of St. Pauls has slowly given way to taller buildings. By 2012 both the Gherkin and Tower 42 will be topped by the Heron Tower (or the Walkie Talkie) at 202 metres tall, the Bishopsgate Tower (or the Cheese Grater) at 235m and the Pinnacle (or the Helter Skelter building) at 288m. And all of these will be dwarfed by the London Bridge Tower (or the Shard) at 310m or 72 floors. This will make the Shard the tallest bulding in the EU when it overtakes the Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt, Germany (at 259m). It will not be the tallest building in Europe, however. That title will go to the 380m high Mercury City Tower in Moscow, to be completed next year. And by 2016 the Federation Tower East in Moscow will reach 506m.

From the Economist, Friday 3 December 2010

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Qatar - small enough to fit in your pocket

Qatar is about the same size as Yorkshire (11,437 km2 to 11,897 km2), and has a population a little bit bigger than Merseyside (1.69m to 1.35m). It is ranked 164th in area and 148th in population amongst the world's sovereign states.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Singular delights

The singular of ravioli is raviolo, as I found out last night on ordering at the excellent Don Restaurant near Bank station. Similarly a single 'gnocci' is a gnocco.

What I meant to say was - metonym

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Metonyms are when a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept. Examples include Wall Street and the Square Mile for the financial centres of New York and London respectively, Foggy Bottom, Whitehall and Quai D'Orsay for foreign ministries of the USA, UK and France and Buckingham Palace for the Royal Household.

From Wikipedia, Metonyms

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Most (un)popular post-war PMs

Following his tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, Tony Blair became the most popular prime minister ever recorded. His personal approval rating nudged above 90%, only to slump to 26% by the end of his Premiership. This made him both the most popular and least popular post-war Labour Prime Minister. At least, until Gordon Brown saw his ratings sink below 20%.

From Episode 5 of Andrew Marr's History Of Modern Britain

Monday, 29 November 2010

Amnesty for pirates

On the day of Sir Henry Morgan's funeral, the Governor of Jamaica granted a 24-hour amnesty to allow the pirates, privateers and buchaneers then existing outside the law to land and pay their respects. The infamous Captain Morgan was given an honourable send off - carried through the town of Port Royal atop a gun carriage followed by a 22-gun salute from the HMS Assistance.

From "Empire of Blue Water" by Stephan Talty

Gauguin: the maker of myth

Gauguin: the maker of myth is the current blockbuster show at the Tate Modern. It is a big old exhibition, with more than 150 paintings, sculptures and carvings spread throughout 14 rooms. And, befitting an exhibition that has had rave reviews, it is still packed two months into its four month run.
  • Gauguin scandalised the Roman Catholic hierarchy on Tahiti by decorating his studio with panels declaring it to be the House of Sensual Delight (or, even more scandalously, the House of Orgasm) (Maison du Jouir). In order to reach this Eden, Gauguin instructs, via the panels, visitors "Soyez mystérieuses" (be mysterious) and "Soyez amoureuses et vous serez heureuses" (find love and you will find happiness). 
  • Gauguin was a successful stockbroker before leaving his family to pursue his artistic ambitions. 
  • Gauguin was staying with Van Gogh when the latter severed a part of his left ear.