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10 THINGS WE DIDN'T KNOW THIS TIME LAST WEEK
Snippets harvested from the week's news, chopped, sliced and diced for your weekend convenience.
1. The UK's mistletoe capital is Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire, where nearly all wholesale supplies of the plant are sold.
2. The familiar London double-decker bus, the Routemaster, might have disappeared from the capital's streets, but it's still used in Guernsey.
3. It is illegal to buy cigarettes under the age of 20 in Japan.
4. A knowledge of just 100 words would allow you to understand half of any book, even adult fiction, researchers at Warwick University say.
5. Sleep deprivation can make you hear police cars. Ben Fogle, currently rowing across the Atlantic with James Cracknell, reports experiencing just such a phenomenon.
6. You can buy poker chips with verses of scripture on them.
7. In theory, just 10 human embryos could be enough to stock a viable UK stem cell bank.
8. A collective noun for a group of jellyfish is a "smack".
9. You can now be prosecuted for taking part in an unauthorised protest near Parliament.
10. The word "twerp" has been classed as both parliamentary and unparliamentary language. In 1956, the Speaker ruled it in order because he assumed "it was a sort of technical term of the aviation industry". It was later classed as unacceptable.
[Sources where no links: 3, Times, Monday; 4, Daily Mail, Friday; 8, Times, Wednesday.]
If you spot anything that should be included next week, use the form below to tell us about it. Thanks this week to David, Jerusalem, Tom Lee, and Michael Perris.
Add your comments to this story using the form below:
The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.
YOUR LETTERS FRIDAY 9 DECEMBER 1630 GMT
Re: A joke too far?, 9 December. Who is the joke on? You report:
"Each space cadet, for instance, receives £5,000 for each day on set." Most of us could live with looking stupid for £5k a day.
It is a criminal offence to abandon a child under the age of two, you say (What happens to abandoned babies?, 8 December)? In that case, the wife and I are off down the pub and leaving our three-year-old in charge. Cheers!
The widely lamented Routemaster bus seems to have fallen victim to an evolutionary process. The new "bendy buses" seem to be nature's way of ensuring that buses continue to arrive in pairs.
Re: Ray Lashley's wanting a new unit of measure to make up for the defunct double decker bus. As someone who spent many years working in a supermarket, I tend to measure things in bags of sugar. The bags come in wide lots of 20, so a "lot" can be used for area; individuals bags can be used for weight, and stand them on their ends for height. The only problem is the measurements are small - a double decker would probably weight several hundred thousands bags, which is a tad impractical.
The simple matter of converting units of Routemasters into units of elephants (metaphorically of course) has been further complicated by meddling academics in Cardiff. The new subspecies of Bornean elephant now requires a conversion factor of x1.5 to be applied to align it with Indian elephants and x2.1 to align it with African elephants. For information, two and a half African elephants equate to approximately one Routemaster.
The green wheelie bin as a unit of measure could lead to some confusion. In this part of the country standard householder wheelie bins are black and only the industrial sized wheelie bins are green.
In search of new measures, can I suggest the "Hairdresser's Inch"? This equates to two-and-a-quarter normal inches.
First The problem with paranoid parents, then a week later, Dummies 'reduce cot death risk'.
First What are lad mags doing to us? then Why the world needs Lads. Whoever said the BBC doesn't give a balanced, fair and even-sided view?
Is it just me, or does the picture of David Cameron on this morning's news front page look just like PC Plum from Balamory?
Newport, S Wales
I have no problem with the laptop link to a mosque, but I trust in the interest of fairness there will soon be a similar event for other faiths, even Christianity, sometime soon?
In the spirit of improving the numeracy of Monitor readers, I think a calculation is in order (Stig's letter, Wednesday).
Apparently, the Queen and Cameron are fifth cousins twice removed, meaning that two of her Majesty's great great great great grandparents are also Cameron's great great great great great great grandparents (Wikipedia entry on cousins). The Queen has about 2^5 pairs of ancestors at that distance, while each couple has roughly 2^8 descendants in Cameron's generation. This means that the Queen has (give or take) 2^13 = 8,000 fifth cousins twice removed. Not quite enough to include plebs like Stig and me, I suspect.
New Haven, US
CAPTION COMP ***UPDATED*** FRIDAY 9 DECEMBER 1305 GMT
It's time for the caption competition.
This week, attendants at a sand sculpture competition in Sanya city, China, spray the artworks to help preserve them.
6. Prateek Buch, London
"No, you've got it all wrong. That's not what Mount Rushmore looks like at all!"
5. Hilary, UK
"I sphinx, therefore I am."
4. Sean Smith, Bucks
"Hmm - you're not my usual stylist are you?"
3. Stig, London
So, that's what happened to Fay Wray...
2. Kieran Boyle, Oxford
"You know, in the West caddies just rake the bunkers."
1. Christian Cook, UK
"Sometimes the termites are so creative you almost don't want to spray 'em."
PAPER MONITOR FRIDAY 9 DECEMBER 1100 GMT
A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
Let's not be distracted by a headline from today's Times which could have come straight from
The Onion: I can't remember who I really am, says ID thief.
And let's not dally with the Daily Mirror's Brian Reade who followed in the oarmarks of Turner Prize winner Simon Starling by turning his garden shed into a boat and sailing it.
And by Jove let us not be diverted from our task by the Telegraph's tale that Christopher Robin is being replaced by a cycle helmet-wearing brat in a new Disney version of Winnie the Pooh.
No, today our role is to pity the fat-fingered. The Times reports that the phenonemon of traders not being able to type correct numbers has cost one firm £128m. Paper Monitor, naturally, is no stranger to the perils of msiyptng words, but it can't help feel that the appointed phrase - that "fat fingers" business - is evil stereotyping of people with chubby digits, no doubt by elegant, long-fingered aesthetes sitting in an ivory tower somewhere.
So come on, flexicographers. Do your duty. Let political correctness go mad, and give us a non-stereotyping replacement.
FRIDAY 9 DECEMBER
In Thursday's Mini-Quiz, we asked which place was ranked the wealthiest outside London in a new study. The answer was Tatton in Cheshire, picked by 31% of you, with Cotswold a more popular but erroneous answer. The research by Barclays Bank placed Tatton third nationally with £41,466, behind Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster. Today's quiz is on the Magazine index now.
YOUR LETTERS THURSDAY 8 DECEMBER 1735 GMT
Shame on you, BBC! PMQs shouldn't have an apostrophe! Tut tut - the pandas would be appalled!
The height and length of a double-decker bus do not of themselves define the void it leaves, unless you also know its width. The standard unit derived from that is the "Oi-Come-On-Mate-You-Could-Get-A-Bus-Through-There".
In response to Ray Lashley's quest for a new unit of measure, I noted that this week's Real Story used the green wheelie bin as a measure of volume, which I rather liked.
In addition to the suggestion for Tory Leadership Contests to be used as a unit of length, I'd like to add the suggestion of Tory Leaderships themselves. However, this would only really be suitable for use when measuring something that proves to much shorter than everyone thought in the beginning.
Not only does the new symbol of the International Red Cross resemble the standard NATO symbol for a hostile unit, as pointed out by Ian on Wednesday, it is also the name of a Clare Francis novel in which an underground terrorist unit tries to bomb half of Europe. Very interesting.
Your article on the North South divide certainly sheds new light on the subject. If average earnings in Tatton are £32,763 but average earnings after living costs are £41,466, then presumably somebody is paying people the best part of £10K per head to live there. Where do I sign up?
Re Pack it in"Think of the "widget" that helps canned bear pour like draught" - that's a bit cruel, canning bears isn't it!
PUNORAMA ***UPDATED*** THURSDAY 8 DECEMBER 1532 GMT
It's time for Punorama.
19th Century journalist Victor Noir died the day before he wed
The rules are straightforward - we choose a story which has been in the news, and invite you to create an original punning headline for it.
The story for this week is how a statue in a Paris cemetery has been fenced off to prevent further damage from "lewd rubbing". It is said that women who kiss the statue's lips will find a mate by year's end - and some have added a pat in the groin area for good measure.
Referring to romance behind the rubbing, She rubs me, she rubs me not... (Jax, Herts), while getting down to the basics is Grope expectations (Joel Hodes, London, UK).
The down-right naughty are Excessive groin patting causes erection (Grahame, Cardiff) and French Fence Kissing Stiff (Simon Rooke, Nottingham UK).
A pat on the back for A kiss on the lips, a goodtime on the hips (Angela Barlow, Liverpool) and the horticulturally influenced Reseeding in progress - keep off the brass (James Carter, Manningtree, Essex).
Sounding a bit jealous is Bronze have more fun (Alan Frank, Luton) and spelling out the upset the fence has caused is Grave disappointment for single girls by Joseph Stilton, London.
And finally, get in the festive mood with Kiss-mass is cancelled (Stuart, West Bromwich, UK).
PAPER MONITOR THURSDAY 8 DECEMBER 1057 GMT
A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
Same size, same idea... Now that it's gone tabloid, the Independent has taken a leaf from the Daily Mail's Little Book of Photo Spreads: take a celebrity who has undergone a transformation, dig out a "before" pic from the archives, then wrack brains for past examples.
Case in point is Peter Jackson - the New Zealand director has gone from "uber-hobbit" in his Lord of the Rings days to "elfin charmer" for his King Kong premiere. His transformation, having lost five stone in 10 months after ditching junk food and 21-hour days at work, puts the paper in mind of some other Incredible Shrinking Men:
- Nigel Lawson, five stone in 10 months, strict no-fun diet
- Alexander McQueen, four stone, liposuction and dietary drugs
- Jack Osbourne, five stone in six months, detox and extreme sports
- Diego Maradona, eight stone in seven days, stomach surgery
- Buster Bloodvessel, 18 stone in 10 months, stomach surgery
Others, too, have fun with photo spreads: the Daily Mirror with houses lavishly decorated for Christmas; the Mail with aerial views of Britain; the Sun with the highs and lows of Gazza and George Best; the Daily Express with those at Eton with David Cameron - chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, illustrator Giles "Purple Ronnie" Andreae, rower Sir Matthew Pinsent... but wait, who's that? Why, Earl Spencer, brother of Princess Diana. Yes, in the Express.
THURSDAY 8 DECEMBER
In Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked if it was true or false that in the past mothers were told to cover the pillows of asthmatic children with polythene bags. It's true, as 79% of you correctly identified. The advice was in the Nursery World magazine in the 1960s and has been revealed in its 80th anniversary edition. Today's quiz is on the Magazine index now.
YOUR LETTERS WEDNESDAY 7 DECEMBER 1606 GMT
In response to Ray Lashley's quest for new height and length measures to fill the void left by the Routemaster bus (Monitor letters, Tuesday), perhaps we could now measure length in terms of Tory leadership contests. However, this unit would only be suitable for seemingly interminable objects whose ends are known well before they are finally reached.
Neil Golightly may want to add a few common marketing phrases to his list of snowclones: "For all your X Needs", "Your One Stop X Shop", "If you liked X, you'll love this!", and "X - the only Y you'll need".
In the article ITV buys Friends Reunited website: "ITV has high hopes for the Genes Reunited strand within Friends Reunited. The site, which allows people to trace their family tree, has 46 million registered members." Someone should point out to ITV that GenesReunited has over 48 million NAMES on the site, and many of those are dead.
Flexicon entry: delay in the appearance of letters or features - a "monitorium".
Re Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz about how closely David Cameron is related to the Queen. Fifth cousin twice removed seems pretty far away - that could apply to many, many thousands of people. I suspect I'm only slightly less related to the Pope. Or David Dee from Mozambique and Kip from Norwich. Strewth, I could be similarly related to everyone who has ever posted to the MM. Let's have a family gathering?
Your feature on Narnia says it is "reported to have cost $150m ($87m)". Is the dollar very unstable at the minute?
PAPER MONITOR WEDNESDAY 7 DECEMBER 1239 GMT
A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
David Cameron has been duly anointed the Tories' chosen one. Sketch writers, go to work!
"Not since Liz Hurley turned up in her little black dress at a film premiere has anyone enjoyed such instant fame," says the Independent. "[But] Liz Hurley doesn't just have a fabulous cleavage, she has a terrific chest as well. She also produced a perfectly good movie in Mickey Blue Eyes. Can David Cameron match that?"
The Sun plays favourites in comparing Cameron and Gordon Brown, a contrast between "a grumpy Chancellor who has been picking our pockets for years - and a sunny optimist who offers a change of course".
The Mirror pokes fun at Cameron's softly-softly approach to policy: "If contestants on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? were asked what he believes in, they wouldn't get past the £100 question."
The Guardian opts for a more timely metaphor: "The Davids, Cameron and Davis, were wearing crisp suits... gazing into each other's eyes... giving firm and manly pats on the back... Suddenly we realised where we were. It was one of the first civil partnership ceremonies."
Fittingly the Times focusses on the guests, many of them "shiny, happy Notting Hill people. The air kissing may have broken all records for a political event"; and the Telegraph muses on how, just like at a wedding, the speeches went on that bit too long. And in so doing, does the groom - sorry, Cameron - "hint at his potential to become one of the great bores of today"?
YOUR LETTERS (FROM YESTERDAY) WEDNESDAY 7 DECEMBER 1020 GMT
I take it no one has pointed out to the International Red Cross that their new symbol is the standard NATO symbol for a hostile unit. Might this cause a few problems?
In the article about the skills gap in this country (Skills gap 'threatens UK future', 5 December) there was one glaring omission. Nowhere did it state the skills we're lacking?
Your article on mistletoe (Why is English mistletoe facing a crisis?, 6 December) had a link with a picture that looked suspiciously like a photo from The Office. Outrageous! What next, the budget speech, opening of parliament, the football world cup? We shall be (Brent) watching you...
Regarding Nick Robinson and his Return of the Weblog. Will this now spawn a mulititude of 'blog' related phrases? Blog-paper, Blog-roll to name but two. If so, were you to go searching for a particular blog, would you be 'blog-snorkelling'?
Stevenage Herts UK
I think the BBC has been cutting back a bit too much...isn't the picture of Nick Robinson really Eric Morecambe?
Your Science/Nature pages reported that "The UK government has announced it is to invest 108 euros (£73.2) in Europe's next mission to Mars." At that price, can I invest too?
As self appointed guardian of Monitor Weights and Measures, it has come to my attention that the Routmaster bus will shortly be retired from service. We are therefore left with a void in our collection of measures for both height and length. Any suggestions for replacement objects would be most welcome.
In Lawsuit targets Xbox 360 console, 6 December) the report says that "power supply and processors in the Xbox 360 overheat, causing it to freeze". Does it do cold fusion too?
Remember the Monitor's search for X is the new Y? Well, now at least there is a word for such DIY clichés - "snowclone". Coined by linguistics bloggers, the name refers to the template "If Eskimos have N words for snow, then X have Y words for Z.", and by extension to other fill-in-the-gaps templates (such as "have X, will travel" or "once an X, always an X".
WEDNESDAY 7 DECEMBER
To mark Carol Thatcher's win in I'm a Celebrity... - in which she garnered some 500,000 votes - we asked in Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz how many did her mother poll in 37 years of constituency elections? A quarter of you correctly answered that it was 252,801 from 1950 to 1987 in Dartford and Finchley (although her party got 40.4m votes while she was leader). Today's quiz is on the Magazine index now.
HOUSEKEEPING TUESDAY 6 DECEMBER 1820 GMT
Apologies for non-appearance of letters today. Blame the nursing of the infant blog. Double helping on Wednesday to make up for it.
PAPER MONITOR TUESDAY 6 DECEMBER 1100 GMT
A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
Sorry for late arrival. Paper Monitor has been on midwife duties to the birth of a new weblog.
But now with one's eye back on the ball, it's time for another charivari.
Best headline of the day - Daily Mirror on Carol Thatcher winning - "I WON LADY". Works on three levels, that headline. That's what Paper Monitor calls sophistication.
Worst headline of the day - Daily Mirror on Jenny Frost having a swim - "ATOMIC FIT 'UN". That's not what Paper Monitor calls sophistication.
Weird picture of the day - Daily Mail shows what J-Lo might look like in 10 years time. (If, that is, she covers her face in Copydex.)
Phrase of the day - Daily Telegraph introduces the harmless-sounding pastime of "bridge bashing". It's actually driving into a bridge. One bridge in Grantham has been hit 151 times.
Mystery of the day - Why oh why has the Daily Mail chosen to ignore Carol Thatcher's victory? Would "Thatcher wins!" not warm readers' hearts?
TUESDAY 6 DECEMBER
In Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked how David Cameron was related to the Queen, according to the family tree of Debrett's Peerage. Proving your aristocratic knowledge is well up to scratch, 52% of you got the answer - it's fifth cousin twice removed. Tuesday's quiz on Magazine Lane is published now.
YOUR LETTERS MONDAY 5 DECEMBER 1630 GMT
Dr Reece Walker (letters, 2 Dec) is drawing a distinction where none exists. Fission and fusion are both nuclear reactions, and the sun is therefore indeed a nuclear reactor as Mike Guest (letters, 1 Dec)originally said.
Ewan Mac Mahon, York
According to this story on your sports pages, Harry Redknapp is currently in limbo. I thought we'd established last week that it no longer exists.
Mark Gillies, London, UK
Marvellous! In today's BBC Sport on-line article over the burgeoning Harry Redknapp farce, we learn that Southampton FC's chairman is away duck shooting and cannot be contacted. I wonder if it was, therefore, deliberate on BBC's part to quote a comment from a contributor to 606 that the various parties are 'playing chicken'? Great value for a Monday, whatever the reason!
Neil Franklin, Southampton, UK
Re: Red Cross mulls 'neutral' emblem. It looks like Red Square to me!
Ainy, Baltimore, US
Surely picture three of the archbishop's enthronement deserves a caption competition!
Re: "'Gay weddings become law in UK" - I didn't know it was compulsory!
Essex withdraws from EastEnders - that map in the opening sequence is going to look a bit strange!
QJ, Stafford, UK
For only the price of a stamp, I suggest we all request the corrected Guardian weather page from last week, and also enclose a pre-order for next Wednesday's aswell...
Erol Fehim, London
Regarding 10 things, I was a bit worried to read 'quicksand and custard share the same physical properties'. As far as I'm aware, quicksand is thixotropic - it remains solid when not moved. Custard (and corn flour) have the opposite properties - they thicken when moved quickly.
Beth Fisher, Bristol
I was amused by the 10th thing we didn't know this time last week (10 things). The cicadas sound like typical teenagers to me....
Ann C, Orpington, UK
PAPER MONITOR MONDAY 5 DECEMBER 1045 GMT
A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
Oh it's a happy day for Daily Express readers today with a true double whammy.
Yes, it's the classic combination of front page story about Princess Diana ("Diana's death threat") with competition to win a "fantastic £41,000 camper van".
What more could anyone want - apart from a feature offering "Get slim for the festive season", which is helpfully tucked into the top of the front page.
For sake of reference, here are some other Express Diana headlines from last month:
DIANA DEATH CRASH SENSATION (28 Nov)
PRINCES TO RETURN TO KENSINGTON PALACE FOR DIANA SHOW (23 Nov)
DIANA'S WEDDING DRESS UP FOR SALE (17 Nov)
HAS DIANA CASH FUND BEEN SPENT WISELY? (17 Nov)
DIANA FUND PAYS OUT TO GYPSIES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS (16 Nov)
DIANA'S LAST PICTURES (15 Nov)
WAXING LYRICAL ON DISEMBODIED DI (15 Nov)
THE TRUTH ABOUT THAT DIANA INTERVIEW (8 Nov)
THE 'SPOOKY TRUTH' ON THE DEATH OF DIANA (8 Nov)
£6m SWINDLE OF THE DIANA FUND (4 Nov)
SHOULD DIANA MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN BE SCRAPPED? (4 Nov)
This excludes letters written about Diana and other stories, eg about Charles and Camilla, which mention Diana but do not have her name in the headline.
Still, it's not only the Express which has readers with unusually single-minded interests. The corrections column in today's Guardian has the following gem: "We regret that we printed the wrong weather page on Wednesday November 30 due to a production error. For the correct page, please write, enclosing your address, to Guardian Weather, 119 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3ER."
Sparing only a moment to consider who actually would need the correct page posted to them a week after the event, Paper Monitor has already reached for pen and paper to find out what happens. It will keep you informed.
MONDAY 5 DECEMBER
In Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked which kind of road name - lane, drive, avenue or garden - had on average the most expensive homes. The most popular answer (33%) was the right one - it's Lane, where properties on average cost £50,000 more than those on the very low-rent Drive. Monday's quiz on Magazine Lane is published now.
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