By coincidence


Who would have thought that just these two words: by and coincidence applied judiciously by James Kirkup in the Daily Telegraph could have led to the resignation of the British Minister of Defence?

The Guardian draws first blood

The Telegraph strikes the fatal wound

The Guardian delivers the death blow

Craig Murray connects all the dots


Common sense?


Musing on the Polish election results

At the end of the 4.50 from Paddington (the 1987 BBC TV adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel with Joan Hickson), just after the final dénouement, there is an interesting exchange between the rakish Cedric Crackenthorpe and Miss Marple regarding the super-efficient Lucy Eyelesbarrow and his rival for her affections, Bryan Eastley.

Miss Marple. She’s not in love with him yet, of course. I rather think that she’s more attracted to you. But she’ll marry him, and make him what she wants, and then she’ll fall in love with him… probably when she’s expecting their third child.

Cedric. I never realised before that common sense is as powerful an instinct as love, hatred or patriotism.

Miss Marple. How very common sensible of you to realise it.

4.50 from Paddington (BBC TV 1987)

Note how the positive connotation of ‚common’ in common sense, common law and common land can turn to the neutral in a phrase like common sense clothes and can turn to the negative as in: that’s rather common.

So what’s common sense in Polish? Zdrowy rozsądek, perhaps?

The following, posted on W-wa Jeziorki, should be sent to every translation agency in Poland.

A note on Polish road-naming. Most roads or streets are simply ‚ulica’ (pronounced „ooLEETsuh”, abbreviated to ‚ul.’). The word ulica means street, although there’s no need to translate it into English (any more than one needs to translate strasse from German into English or rue from French into English as ‚Road’).

Plac (abbreviated to Pl*.) in Polish is ‚square’ (as in the French place or German Platz). There’s also skwer (as in the English ‚square’), though these are rare in Warsaw. Roundabouts are rondo (neither skwer nor rondo are abbreviated).

So Aleje – from the French and German Allee. We have Aleje (plural) and Aleja (singular). So – Aleje Jerozolimskie, but Aleja Stanów Zjednoczonych (both are abbreviated to Al.*). Allee in English is ‚avenue’ – but then so is avenue. Aleje Jerozolimskie in English is exactly that. Rue St. Michel doesn’t need to be translated, nor does Bahnhoffstrasse. So hey, Mr Translator, no Jerusalem Avenue, please!

Read the whole post.

Now I have not the slightest intention of participating in this particular „space”. I won’t have anything to do with an invitation written in so clichéd a language, including all the trappings of pseudo-academese psychobabble and happy-clappy optimism. These are words of emptiness and exclusion, of elitism and trend, of a conference held for the sake of holding a conference.

Robert Fisk has a delicious rant in today’s Independent against some overworked clichés.

Poles and Russians, for example, culturally just don’t do ‚light touch’, as far as I can see. Other European nationalities might attempt it but end up being ponderous or silly.

From a post about Speechwriting in English for Non-Native Speakers by Charles Crawford on his blog.

Very true, very true. He then goes on to expand his subject as comprising three kinds of circumstances:

  • speech-writing in English by people whose first language is not English
  • speech-writing in English for a speaker whose first language is not English
  • speech-writing in English by non-native speakers for an English-speaking audience

and gives a few dos and don’ts for speech writers in his post. But to my mind he is making much too heavy weather of it and is writing in exactly the same kind of manner for which he faults the Poles and Russians.

There is one over riding principle for writing speeches that work:

Employ a good native speaker English speechwriter who understands the culture of the audience PERIOD

By the by which is correct – ‚speechwriter’ or ‚speech-writer’? In my book it is the former, but Charles is backing both horses, perhaps he should get himself a good native speaker editor to tidy up his posts?

Aerial photo of Meols, Museum of Liverpool.

(Click image to go to Museum of Liverpool website.)

This press release, the work of a USA PR agency and reproduced in part below, is riddled with clichés, grammatical and spelling mistakes. There is even some bad history for good measure. Since when was the Roman occupation of Britain ‚pre-historic’? It seems that ‚American English’ can be just as ugly as ‚Polynglisz’.

Document Never-Before-Seen Archaeological Wonders of Meols –

NEW YORK, July 26 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ – KPI, a unit of Lightworks Producing Group (LPG), a multi-faceted television production company and part of vertically integrated Lightworks Enterprises, Inc., today announced that it has been granted exclusive television access to document the newly discovered sunken forts of Meols. The statement arrives on the heels of an article published recently in Wirral Archeology. World-renowned diver and deep sea explorer Jay Usher will spearhead the project.

„The quest for the sunken Roman Forts of Meols, on the north Wirral Coast, is the type of underwater mystery we like unraveling,” said Vinnie Kralyevich, EVP and Chief Creative Officer, Lightworks Producing Group and Founder of KPI. „We have created underwater programming for years from the Pacific to the North Sea, with programs such as Deep Sea Detectives for The History Channel and Sea Battles, which is in production, for the Military Channel. This is the first time we’ve ever secured exclusive access to these underwater Roman ruins that, up until now, was covered by the ocean.”

Meols is considered one of the most significant ancient sites in Northwest England and contains compelling evidence of prehistoric Roman coastal settlement and trade in Britain. A catastrophic earthquake in 543 AD, along with three inundations, resulted in serious coastal changes and damages, sinking what was once the largest Roman settlement in Merseyside. Although a series of artifacts were discovered during the early 19th Century, no large-scale archaeological investigations have ever taken place – until now.

(Read the whole article here.)

Some interesting facts about Meols can be found in this article on the British Archaeology website.