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Friday, 15 May 2015

What is kabuki theatre? How is this term used in American politics?

Kabuki theatre is classical Japanese dance-drama with very stylised action, masks and heavy make-up. It dates back to the early 17th century. As in the original Shakespeare productions all the actors are men

In politics the term is used to describe theatrical behaviour - a dramatic press conference, for example - designed to get media attention rather than concrete results. 

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Monday, 11 May 2015

What is the subjunctive?

Not a tense but a mood -  the subjunctive is one of the most complex grammatical forms. It is used to describe a wish or suggestion.

 If I were a rich man (but I am not) I would ....

The subjunctive is used with modal verbs (could, should etc). Some of the rules around it vary but the key one is that it takes the infinitive without 'to' in the present tense e.g You should be okay.

For a very detailed usage and exercises go here

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Friday, 8 May 2015

Where does the word tycoon come from?

The word tycoon is derived from the Japanese word taikun (大君?), which means "great lord,". 
Tycoon entered the English language in 1857 with the return of Commodore Perry to the United States. Perry, a US sea captain,  played an important role in the 'opening up' of Japan to the West. U.S.  
The term spread to the business community, where it has been used ever since. 

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Friday, 24 April 2015

What is vlogging? And a haul?

Vloggers (or YouTubers as they popularly known) broadcast regular short videos on YouTube channels.  Anyone can set up a free channel - the trick is then to attract subscribers who regularly watch your broadcasts.

What is the appeal of vlogging?

Fame and fortune without leaving your house for the most successful. The most popular YouTubers have pop-star status amongst their fans. They are often known by their user names - PewDiePie, for example.

These, of course, are the lottery winners of the vlogging world. For most the appeal can be described in two words: free fun. 

What do YouTubers talk about?

Themselves, mainly. The appeal of the most popular YouTubers is that of an intimate friend who shares your interests and concerns. 

One popular topic is hauls (what I bought today) - here is an example.
Other staples include: 
  • How-to-make/do tutorials
  • Challenges (often involving food tasting - see above)
  • Pets
  • Pranks (elaborate practical jokes).

The best YouTubers are natural communicators with an instinctive sense of what interests and appeals to young people.

Are their rules? A code of conduct?

Not really. You are your own boss and only have to answer to your viewers. It is, however, advisable to consider the reaction of their parents if you want that advertising money to keep rolling in.

Who are the most popular YouTubers?

Zoe & Alfie (AKA Zalfie)
The King and Queen of vlogging are Zoe Suggs (Zoella - 8 million subscribers) and Alfie Deyes (Pointlessblog - 6 million). In July 2014 Zalfie (as they have become known) confirmed that they were a couple

Both component parts of Zalfie broadcast separately, though they largely share the same fan base. They sometimes come together for special posts like this one: 

The tone is generally friendly and upbeat, and there is a cast of friends and family who join in the fun. These include another popular YouTuber, Zoe's brother of Joe (ThatcherJoe). 

 A list of other popular YouTubers/vloggers can be found here.

But the videos are free. How do they make money?

Through advertising and endorsements mainly, though Alfie and Zoe have both had huge commercial success with spin-off books.

A good or bad influence on young people?

My view is that the best YouTubers are positive role models. They delight their young (largely female) without showing any of the mean-spiritedness that can characterise much of the online world.  

Having said that, if I had a pound for every time I've had to say 'please come off YouTube!' I could buy a house like Zalfie's .....

Friday, 17 April 2015

Where do emoticons come from?

The emoticon :)—a colon followed by a parenthesis—is a visual representation of a smiley face turned sideways. Although an emoticon may look like a smile, a frown or any number of facial expressions, it doesn’t represent a face, as many internet users assume. It’s actually intended to convey a feeling (“I’m happy,” or “just joking”).
This meaning is evident even in the first emoticon, credited to Scott Fahlman at Carnegie Mellon University. In a 1982 e-mail, Fahlman suggested :-) as a “joke marker” to indicate wisecracks or sarcasm in text communication. In this legendary e-mail, he also used the first instance of the frown emoticon :-(.

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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Where does the word baseball come from?

Surprisingly the word baseball originates from the country that famously doesn't play the game. 

The earliest reference to baseball comes in a diary entry of an Englishman. Surrey solicitor, William Bray, refers to playing 'base-ball' with his friends. 

But as Scyld Berry points out  the bigger claim that America's summer sport descends from the English game rounders does not 'get to first base'.

Another common misapprehension is that  cricket was always unpopular in the USA. According to this view, Americans could never warm to a game played over five days and often ending in a draw. But cricket 'was stronger in America than in Australia until the 1860s – stronger than anywhere else outside England'

More on the relationship between the rival summer games of 'two countries divided by a single language' here.

What is 'inside baseball'?
What is a curved ball?

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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Why do we say 'Good' Friday?

No clear answer to this question. Good Friday is the day of greatest sorrow for Christians but 'Good' here is meant in the archaic sense of 'holy'.

Good Friday, called Feria VI in Parasceve in the Roman Missalhe hagia kai megale paraskeue (the Holy and Great Friday) in theGreek LiturgyHoly Friday in Romance Languages, Charfreitag (Sorrowful Friday) in German, is the English designation of Friday in Holy Week   source

What is being marked by the word Good is the uniqueness of the event - rather any kind of celebration.

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