Posts Tagged ‘language’

Not ‘One of Us’


I return to the despicable, desperate, ‘dog-whistle’ racist leaflet produced by John Howarth’s Public Impact Ltd for Reading Labour Party.

On my twitter feed the chief political commentator of the Independent on Sunday, John Rentoul retweeted an article in the Sunday Telegraph religion section about the favourite to be the next Archbisop of Cantebury, Dr John Sentamu. It was retweeted by Mr Rentoul to highlight the use of language in the piece but I noticed something separate:

“At its best, the besmirching of John Sentamu has revealed that strand of snobbery which views outsiders as lacking class, diplomacy or civility — in other words ‘not one of us,’” said the Rev Arun Arora.

“At worst, it has elicited the naked racism which still bubbles under the surface in our society, and which is exposed when a black man is in line to break the chains of history.”

The last paragraph won the Daniel Hannan award for mixed metaphor of the day. The use of ‘one of us’ in the first paragraph quoted is interesting as showing that what is meant by the use of the phrase are “outsiders” lacking “class, diplomacy or civility” that it has highlighted “the naked racism which still bubbles under the surface” Whereas the Reading Labour Party agent tries to justify the use of the term “one of us”, in terms of a white woman candidate ‘born and bred’ on the other side of the town, in drawing a distinction with a Pakistani born, local-living candidate:

“Labour voters in Church Ward are entitled to know that their candidate is not likely to abandon her party and that she understands the issues that matter to them. In other words, she is  ‘one of us’,”

And the school-girlish Sarah “No Councillor” Hacker tries to justify the term thus:

“As for the statement ‘one of us’.  Again, how is this racist?  Who is defining ‘us’?  Reading Labour are defining it as a resident, a family…”

Both of the defences mentioned above fail totally to address the racist aspect of the use of the term, the drawing of ‘the us’ against the other in the use in Church ward highlighted by the quote from the paper.

Vote early, vote often


One of the things I like Twitter for is that it allows people to share things that are interesting, challenging or just a laugh. In the past I wrote about my accumulated Management wisdom, which amounts to:

  • Do it now,
  • Get it right first time,
  • When something’s not right it’s wrong.

This blog has had a manifesto since it started but it doesn’t have a mission statement, I don’t really think it needs one. If it did then one way to get one is the ISMS Mission Statement Generator©. I don’t know who pointed me towards it but it has created a mission statement for this blog:

We will strive to sponsor iconic e-business with internal impact for the benefit of our organisation and other public services.

Then this week I was pointed to the web economy bullshit generator. In the past I have studied management theory and other similar subjects and this would have been invaluable. So, we need to “…enhance sexy e-commerce, streamline real-time e-services and aggregate bricks-and-clicks ROI.”

The weather for the past couple of weeks has been beautiful here, as many places. The first picture is of the cathedral taken from rue d’Austerlitz, next to the Au Canon restaurant earlier this week. The blue sky shows what a beautiful afternoon it was, in the high twenties as it seems to have been forever. However, at the same time the trees have started changing as can be seen from the second picture where a brown leaf made it into our hall.

As I wrote about just over a month ago, I am a Germanophile, and my study of the language included taking part in an exchange with a pupil from a school in Osnabrück. It was on these two trips that I discovered the pictured biscuits which are a couple of plain ‘rich tea‘ type biscuit as a sandwich with a chocolate cream between them. They were not regularly available in the UK at the time. The times I have been to Germany since I would often buy a packet of the biscuits. One of the things I noticed on moving here was that the biscuits were available in my local co-op. I have been very restrained and have not bought them regularly as when I do I tend to eat a number each time which would not be good for my weight. Thursday I did buy a packet. I have never had a poll on this blog before. The first one is on the subject being talked of up and down the country. Vote, vote, vote. Oh, by the way it is set up that you cannot vote often.

To have a look of hell


Another in my occasional series about the use of language following the first about the mistranslation of stuck-up cow. This time it is from a poster in a window of a shop in the centre of Strasbourg, between Place Homme De Fer and Place Kleber, being refitted. Or, as the sign says “Your shop is closed for a relooking”. My dictionary defines look as look, and goes on to define ‘avoir un look d’enfer’ as to look great or wicked. So the shop is getting a new look so much nicer than being refitted.

In previous jobs I worked in offices and sometimes had to meet members of the public or attend public meetings. So it was required to wear a suit and tie. I have around 40 ties but until now I never had anywhere to keep them. So they ended up with about half of them on a tie holder that came when I bought one of them and the rest on a hanger in the wardrobe. It was not good for the ties and took up more room in the wardrobe than needed.  After looking at a number of websites I decided I needed a tie rack to tidy them up. I decided the bes place to put it would be on the door of the wardrobe. There were some good ones on the Amazon website but it would cost almost the same in postage to get them to France as it would to buy them and make them very expensive. I found one on a website in France after googling the google translation of tie rack in French, support à cravates. I also tried to find one in Germany but all it came up with was the shop tie rack and website with contacts for manufacturers in China if you wanted to order loads of them. I was worried the with the Rapture last weekend being the that I would miss out on the delivery of the tie rack and leave my ties in a mess so it was a bonus that it is now put-off to October. Well it arrived this week but it was too big for the door of the wardrobe! Oh no what to do? I managed to fit it under the rail that shirts and suits hang on and 32 of my ties now hang up nicely in order.

Mr Mojo Risin reprise

In this post I wrote about converting my vinyl to MP3 tracks. Having worked my way through some, but less than half, my UK 80’s and 90’s vinyl I discover I have already converted more than 40 albums. This means my original estimate of 100 to do is way low and, considering I have more in the 70’s and 60’s and earlier racks there must be over 300 to convert. I’m now prepared to consider that it might be the end of the year before I am able to complete the task, especially as I will be working in the UK in July and August and plan to be in Australia in Novevember. The good news today was that I awoke to be told by JTO to look at my emails. On doing so I saw that she had ordered an iPod Touch from the online store of FNAC. I was immediately jealous but this changed upon being told it was a present for me to listen to all the tracks I had been converting. How cool is that? Perhaps the way to a man’s heart is through his ears?

Anyway the music to end this piece could only be one track, one from among the many I have converted:

Step away from the dictionary


One aspect of the English language which non-native speakers find difficult, as

Stuck up cow?

there is not generally something similar in many other languages, are phrasal verbs and verbs with prepositions.  Even people with a good level of English seem to have difficulty with this form of English and need extra work at it.

A stuck?

One example this morning was the story of the Scots Guard ‘sacked’ from Royal wedding duties after referring to Kate Middleton as a ‘Stuck-up cow’ on his social media site. A report on the French media this morning had the soldier saying she was a ‘vache coincé’.  Coincé is the first translation you find in the dictionary for ‘stuck’ – making the translation a ‘stuck cow’. You have to look below it for stuck-up which my dictionary has as ‘snob’ so the correct translation would be ‘vache snob’, showing the problem of a hurried look at the dictionary by someone not aware of the phrasal verb.

You can get it if you really want


Previously on The Flashing  Blade, I wrote twice (here and here) about the decision by WH Smith and Waterstones to stop selling eBooks to people not living in the UK after pressure, they claimed, from the publishers.

Not long after I got sent an email detailing a number of special offers from WaterstonesJTO had told me some of the stories from newspaper serialisation of the Keef Richards autobiography and it sounded interesting.  I just hope it is not the case that all the intersting stories are in the newspapers and there is nothing left for the book.  Anyway as Waterstones had the book available for half price and even with post it would still be cheaper than I could get it here in France I ordered it.  Guess what?  No problem.  Here is the email they sent me:

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Here are the details of your order:

Order number: #3982357

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1 Keith Richards Life £9.39

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OK, I got away with that they will realise and not send me the book, informing me that because I live outside the UK I cannot buy books from Waterstones.  Then I received this:

Home I Wish list I Newsletter sign-up I Store finder
Your order is on its way
FREE UK delivery plus FREE, no-hassle returns*
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Dear The Flashing Blade,  

Thank you for shopping at

Your order has now been shipped and should be with you soon.

Order number: #3982357

Qty Author Title Price
SubTotal: £9.39
Shipping & Handling: £4.98
Total: £14.37 

Waterstone’s Card / Waterstone’s Gift Card / e-wallet
Please note that the total value shown above is before any Waterstone’s Card point redemptions, Gift Card or e-wallet contributions were taken into account. Where these were used, they will be deducted from the amount above before your card is charged.

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So.  I’m not allowed to buy an eBook from Waterstones because of threatened leagal action by publishers but I am allowed to buy an old fashioned paper and cardboard book from the same people and have it delvered to me in the post.  What nonsense.  I’ve already commented about the nonsense of this on the bottom of a story about the silliness of the publishing industry on the Economist.  Next week I start to hit more sites about this.

I wrote to the Publishers Association about this on 29th October but they have not bothered to send me a reply yet.  I think two working weeks is sufficient for any organisation to respond to correspondence, especially an email.  If I have not had a reply by the end of business tomorrow I am going to write to them again and post the correspondence here next week.

A nice day for a bike ride


A beautiful sunny day for  the Toussaint public holiday – I’ve never understood why there is a public holiday in a nominally secular country for such an important Catholic day as All Saints, but hey who’s complaining we’ve got a day off work.

JTO went to the centre of Strasbourg to see the laying of wreaths at the memorial to the liberation of Strasbourg in 1944.  After which we got on our bikes and rode along the canal du Rhône au Rhin (wiki) which heads South out of Strasbourg.  The name is actually incorrect as the canal joins the River Ill in Strasbourg just around the corner from where we live but Canal du Rhône au Ill doesn’t sound as impressive.

As you can see from the first picture the trees looked wonderfully Autumnal in their golds and reds and with the leaves that had fallen into the water and the reflection it really was a bright canal.  We passed the Strasbourg hotel pictured, known locally as the Maison D’Arrèt, separated from the canal by Autoroute A35.  On the opposite side leaving Strasbourg is the Zone Artisanale De La Plaine des Bouchers.  It got the name Plaine Des Bouchers as it was where the cattle, destined for slaughter at the butchery in Strasbourg, were left before their final fatal journey.

Roads cross the canal in a number of places and on this bridge there was some graffiti, ‘Elsass forever’.  Elsass is the name of the region, Alsace, in the Alsatian dialect of German and means ‘seated on the Ill‘(wiki) the river that runs through the Alsatian plain before joining the Rhine North of Strasbourg.  So I can understand an Alsatian nationalist writing Elsass toujours, or if an anti-French point was being made Elsass fur immer or dauernd but forever?

Our destination was Fort Uhrich at the Souhtern end of the Strasbourg connurbation.  It was built by the Germans after they took Alsace from the French in 1870 and named by them after the General who captured Strasbourg, Generalleutnant von Werder.(wiki)  When it failed to keep Strasbourg from the hands of the French they renamed it Fort Uhrich after général Uhrich, the person who organised the defence of Strasbourg in 1870.  It was one of fourteen forts built around Strasbourg to add to the defences of the city.(Plan)

On the way back home we passed one of the city’s rowing clubs.  In the Summer there are often classes of young people in the water but, despite being a warm sunny day, there were not any people around to be seen.  There was also no-one using the new climbing wall which was intalled only this Summer.

Seperated from the rowing and climing club by the railway to Germany is the new Mosque pictured here, or to give it its full title, Mosquée du Heyritz.  When I first moved to Strasbourg construction on the site had stopped at the concrete shell of the building until May 2009 when construction started again as I wrote here.  In the last year there has been considerable work to the site.  I am still no further forward in learning what will happen to the existing Mosque on the industrial estate in the Plaine des Bouchers as I wrote almost a year ago here.

The last photo is of the former rowing club.  When I moved to Strasbourg this site was then a rowing club and I regularly saw people taking boats out onto the river from here.  Mind you it is on one of the main routes into Strasbourg and you had to cross the road to get to the river so I was not surprised when I stopped seeing people carrying boats, then saw it demolished and these flats built in its place.  With a view onto River Ill some o the higher up flats would be a great place to live – ah if only my lottery ticket had won on Saturday.

Men don your frilly lacy pants for manhood.


As someone whose work involves the English language, in a number of forms, making explicit the fact there are a number of different forms of English and that the difference amounts to more than just vocabulary is quite important.  For example I spent the afternoon and evening of Patti Smith events with an American friend and it struck me how much of British English is formed in the negative sense, even giving approval or permission – not half, I don’t mind etc, which doesn’t happen in American English, certainly not the mid-west version of my friend.

You do see quite a lot of adverts featuring English, more than I expected.  The advert has to have the French equivalent displayed on it, though on this one it seems to be in very little letters up the side – they’re too small for me to read to make sure.  This is part of a campaign launched by Dockers and will fall foul of the teaching of British English.  A ‘Call to Manhood and asks “Wear the  Pants”‘, or as the poster puts it, ‘Calling all men, its time to wear the pants’

American British English

Pants                       Trousers

Knickers                  Pants

So the call would be met by the answer, which ones?  The Frilly lacy ones, the thong, the big pants or the white y-fronts?

I also saw this poster of ‘A spectacle from the heart of Ireland’and I must say the Irish friends I have don’t tend to dress like that or break out in dances like that.  One friend I worked with this Summer didn’t do any of this at all.  What are we being sold?

Whilst out in the city I saw the van photographed from a local ‘Fromager’, M Tourrette.  I know the syndrome (wiki) is not spelt like this but with one ‘r’, however, an online medical dictionary spells it differently.(Check the URL rather than on the page – whoever did the coding was the person with the spelling problem.)  It did make me wonder what a cheese with tourettes would be like and that even for France, where as De Gaulle famously said with more cheeses than days of the year, a cheese with tourettes would be a novel concept.

Finally, a friend has introduced me to a dubbed version of the wonderful Flashing Blade that gave this blog its name.  Here’s one in funny supposed Lancashire accents:

The importance and significance of numbers and dates?


Today is 8th September 2010, as my mother would say, “all day”.  Probably more distinctive as 08/09/10, though if you’re American this date of this year happened last month.  Since the 1st February 2003 in Europe we’ve had a 11 year opportunity for a day each year with a date that has a consecutive serious of numbers until 11th December 2013. (In the US they get 12 as they started with the second of January 2003, 01/02/03 and will finish with 13 December 2014 or 12/13/14.)  There also continue to be other date number sequences, for example the first of February 2034 which is 01/02/34.

Apart from the pleasing appearance of the natural sequence showing an order is there any other relevance?   I don’t think so.  Some Numerologists think that it is the sum of the dates which is more important, one example being here who says there is a spiritual meaning to numbers and that the sum of the date produces a single number which can be used to predict the future.  For today the prediction is equal to 08+09+2+0+1+0 = 20 =2+0= 2 giving the answer:

“Two: The symbolic meaning of number Two is kindness, balance, tact, equalization, and duality. The number Two reflects a quiet power of judgment, and the need for planning. Two beckons us to choose. The spiritual meaning of number Two also deals with exchanges made with others, partnerships (both in harmony and rivalry), and communication. Two urges us out of our indecision, calls us to unite with like-minds, and like-ideals. Two asks us to exert our natural flow of judgment to do what is best for our souls.”

Well, you pay your money and take your choice but its not my cup of coffee.  Here and here are other sites on the same topic.

Something I have found significant came from teaching the date in English and the contrast between British and American English.  I usually explain the difference in the date systems by reference to 9/11.  We all know the importance(wiki) of 11th September 2001 in America, as I believe  and unless I am corrected, the first and most major attack upon American civilians upon American soil.  Few people remember the importance of 9/11 for the people of Europe.  The 9th November 1989 (wiki) (here & here) saw the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of of the artificial division of Europe, the continent becoming whole again and freedom, human rights and the rule of law being a norm for all the people of my continent.  So 9/11 same numbers but important in different ways for different days in the American and European date system.  Is this meaning for the same date mean it is important in some way as a date?  I don’t think so, the importance for me is what happened on the date, which is what makes 11/9 important as well as 9/11.

Hard shoulder


When younger there was a time when I found it difficult to differentiate between shoulder and soldier.  This could make it difficult when I was looking for something to dip into the yolk of my boiled egg. (British English joke there, bits of toast for dunking into egg yolk are called soldiers.)  Last year there was a time when I had a problem with my left arm such that I could not lift it above a certain height and was losing the use of it.  JTO reminded me of the Tommy Cooper joke:

Patient – Doctor, when I raise my arm above my shoulder it hurts.

Doctor – Don’t do it then. (4:15 in below but its worth watching it all)

However it was making washing my self difficult and was getting in the way of work.  So I visited the Doctor and some painkillers and anti-inflammatories later it was sorted.  At the end of last month I started getting pain in my shoulder putting my coat on which was getting worse, little by little.  When in Sarajevo it got so bad I couldn’t put my coat on at all by myself and by the end of the visit I couldn’t put my socks on either.  So on return back I went to the doctors.  Again painkillers and anti-inflamitories  and the problem went.  However, getting a similar problem twice suggests there is something of a more serious problem so I got referred by the doctor to a specialist.  First I had to get an X-ray and an Echograph.  Here you do not have to go to hospital for these.  There is a place, close to the next tram-stop on the ride into the city, where you buzz in to what looks like an ordinary residence, take the lift to the first floor and there is a waiting room.(Building with x-ray on the left, I wonder if there is any special shielding to protect the people above from the x-rays etc, the technician stands behind what looks like a lead shield whilst operating the machine.)  Both procedures were done and I took my results away with me, after I had paid of course.  Then this week, I visited the specialist on the first floor of another residential building just across the road from the x-ray doctors.  He looked at the x-ray, read the letter from the doctor and manipulated my shoulder and asked me to perform various tasks and decided there was a problem with a tendon for which I got a cortisone injection.  It is generally fine now apart from the odd twinge.

Two things come out of this tale regarding the difference between the French and British health systems.  The first is how much more of a role I play in the system.  I chose which Doctor to go to.  He prescribed drugs and an x-ray just as the equivalent probably would have d0ne in the UK, I went to the chemists and got the medicine and paid for it, again as in the UK.  However, for the X-ray I had to find which places perform x-rays, decide which to go to and then find a specialist and go to them.  After the Cortisone injection, rather than pay then for the drugs I got a prescription and had to go to the chemists to collect and pay for it before delivering it to the specialist to replace the one he had used on me.  Similarly when given an appointment to go to a dermatologist before, I was given a prescription for a visit to a dermatologist and it was up to me to find one and go to them.  For blood tests I have to find a laboratory and go to it for the test.  They then send the results to the doctor who prescribed it but also to me.  I have copies of every blood test and every x-ray I have had.   I know more about what is happening to me, about the state of my health and I play more of a role in taking decisions about who I see and they involve me more in decisions about my treatment.  It is so different from the UK system where the Doctor tells you what is wrong and makes an appointment with the appropriate specialist, the x-ray department of the local hospital send you an appointment telling you when it is suitable for them that you turn up, they send the x-ray to the specialist who writes to tell you when it is convenient for you to see him.  I feel I have played more of a part in my health and been treated more like an adult than in the UK where you are treated more like a child.

The second difference is paying.  Paying to see the doctor, for the prescription, to see the specialist, for the x-ray etc, in hard cash before leaving.  People with low incomes or on benefits get a card which means they do not have to pay.  I have an insurance which reimburses me most of the cost but I have to pay first and get the money later.  It’s hell for the cashflow when you get a bill for more than €300 in a month that was not budgeted for.  I much prefer being part of the decision making about my healthcare.  It seems appropriate the day after the final votes to introduce President Obama’s healthcare reforms to be thinking about different healthcare systems.

Pourquoi moi?


I think someone has it in for me and getting any better at the French language.  Last Thursday I was due to go to my French class.  However, I had to work afterwards and had been given the use of the firm’s car so that I could leave my French class in time to get to work.  It was the first time I had driven to the Eurodistrict in Strasbourg.  I had thought that taking the route through the town would be OK and it would take much less than the half an hour I would set aside for the journey, parking and getting to the lesson.  Between home and the car park where I left it overnight I decided to take the Autoroute, as that’s bound to be quicker isn’t it? Ha.  I took a wrong turning and ended up on the route to Germany.  I got off that and was stuck going in the wrong direction in Neudorf.  I got out of that and managed to head in the right direction and found myself lost in Robertsau.  What is a twenty minute cycle ride took me around an hour and twenty minutes before I found somewhere to park, an hour and a half before I got to the building where the classes are held.  With it now two thirds of the way through I decided to have a coffee and leave early for work.  It was just as well I did as when I got to the place I was going to work there was a lot of photocopying and form filling etc which took up the extra time I had from leaving early from my lesson.  It’s OK I thought I have a lesson organised on Monday.

19102009026This morning I left for that lesson to get a message at the tram stop saying that the lines A & E which go south of Strasbourg have a ‘technical fault’ and are replaced by a bus service.(‘Technical fault’ means a tram has broken down and is blocking the route, see above.)  Line A is , of course, is the route I need to take.  On arrival at the transfer to line A I see one leaving the tram stop.  It takes more than ten minutes before another comes but, at the transfer to the bus I get some luck and I’m the last one on to the bus.  Twenty five minutes late for the lesson.  Fortunately it went ahead and I get the full lesson which is good as I now understand the Imparfait and Passe Compose better.

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