London Lingo

Standing next to me at the traffic lights, the businessman is asking his mobile; ‘Would it be major if we rearranged?’ meaning ‘I don’t want to see you.’ On the phone to a woman about an undelivered parcel I’m told ‘We’re currently experiencing scheduling issues’ meaning ‘We screwed up and you won’t get it today.’ […]

Mass & Murder

We’re about to welcome the Pope, passing through central London in his bullet-proof Popemobile this week. The appearance of the 83 year-old former Hitler Youth member has encouraged the Guardian’s Ben Goldacre to devote his ‘Bad Science’ column to the subject. He reminds us that in May 2005 Mr Ratzinger made his first pronouncement on […]

The Techy Stuff

A little tech housekeeping today. Some videos get pulled – I try to replace them when this happens, but if you find your favourite clip has just disappeared, let me know and I’ll rebuild from another source. You’ll notice some new screen shots when you log onto this site – there are over twenty in […]

Smokin’ Good Reads

Germany’s strict smoking laws mean that coin-operated cigarette vending machines are being replaced by modern versions which can scan identity cards for age verification purposes. This means that the old mechanical versions will become obsolete in November 2010. So they’re being converted to vend books. The repurposed machines carry a series of condensed novels, art […]

London’s Perfect Murder

This is the illustration accompanying the Evening Standard article on the murder of handsome 31 year-old MI6 employee Gareth Williams, not exactly in the best of taste, but I guess it’s what we’re all thinking. Here’s the Standard on the subject; ‘Police officers were first called to Williams’s home — the top-floor flat of a […]

Stamps Are Now Smarter Than Me

The Royal Mail has launched the world’s first “intelligent” stamp, the first to work with image recognition technology. The stamp, part of the Royal Mail’s latest Great British Railways edition, will launch online content via an iPhone or Android smartphone. Users place the camera over the stamp, which then launches the online content. The Royal […]

Unfortunate Words

When I have a book coming out in America, my editor skims through it to see if there’s any language that won’t translate, and adjusts words accordingly. But it doesn’t seem to work the other way. America’s ‘Where’s Waldo?’ became ‘Where’s Wally?’, but to us a wally is English for a plonker, an idiot. Years […]

England’s Strangest Town

I’ve long thought of Blackpool as the most peculiar town in Britain, so trapped in a between-the-wars era that it constitutes some kind of grotesque living museum, and now I’ve had those fears/hopes confirmed. In what feels like a publicity stunt, Blackpool is trying to get itself listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. The […]

Defining British

Let’s get a few things clear; I don’t like national definitions because by nature they fall into cliche. For decades our idea of an American was a loud bloke in a ten-gallow hat. Now Americans think we’re all like Russell Brand. My US book jackets all feature a Union Jack, a bowler hat (ever seen […]

‘Do You Want Better Grammar With That?’

This story reaches me from OUPBlog via Mike Cane. Apparently an English professor was ejected from a Starbucks on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for not deploying Starbucks’ mandatory corporate-speak. The story immediately lit up the internet, turning her into an instant celebrity. Lynne Rosenthal cared so much about good English that she finally stood up […]