Showing posts from September, 2011

What is a debt default?

To default on a debt is to stop repaying it. A sovereign debt default is when a country cannot make an agreed repayment on money it owes - as happened to Argentina in the early 1990s, for example. An early sign of a possible default is when the credit rating agencies downgrade the credit rating of the country concerned to 'junk bond status' - see here for a brief description (with audio) of what this means. What is a debt default? (mp3) What happens when a country defaults? Usually the national currency falls in value and this helps to make the goods of country concerned more affordable. International institutions like the IMF also arrange repayment plans or write offs/markdowns of debt. Why would a Greek default be such a big deal? It's a small country! 1. Because it owes massive amounts to some of the biggest European banks. They will lose money or 'have a hair cut' as financial traders put it. 2. Greece cannot devalue i

Has the meaning of amateur changed?

David Brooks writes in the New York Times: Over the decades, the word amateur changed its meaning. It used to convey a moral sensibility, but now it conveys an economic one: not getting paid. Source: 'The Amateur  Ideal' Brooks is referring to university sport in the USA but has their been a more general change? Is amateur now used largely in a pejorative way - as in 'amateur hour'?

What makes Philip Larkin one of the greatest poets in the English language?

Larkin outside the university library where he worked in Hull.  Larkin was not given to blowing his own trumpet (nor listening to ones played by the 'sour' Miles Davis). He was doggedly self-deprecatory, referring to himself as   “the dude/ Who lets the girl down before/ The hero arrives, the chap/ Who’s yellow and keeps the store.” Since his death, however, Larkin has been increasingly been recognised as the preeminent poet of his generation - heading  a recent Times poll of the best (post-1945) British writers  But what makes for literary greatness. According to Martin Amis there are two key qualifications: memorability and originality. I would add a third: humour. He married a woman to stop her getting away Now she’s there all day, And the money he gets for wasting his life on work She takes as her perk To pay for the kiddies’ clobber and the drier And the electric fire ... From  'Self's the Man' The Whitsun Weddings    Michael Dirda gives

What is a Google fight?

When you search to compare the number of results for two competing keywords. For example I wanted to know whether EFL or ESL was the most used term to describe teaching English as a second (or foreign or other) language. For those of you who won't sleep without knowing who won this epic Google-fight, ESL was the clear winner. Many thanks to Chiew @ClilToClimb for bringing this to my attention .

Why 'try and' rather than 'try to' in British English?

Jay Nordlinger writes: It is a curious fact that British people say “try and” instead of “try to”: “I’m going to try and make your party, but I may have to watch the kids instead.” They all do this: including the most literate and erudite. (I know this as an editor, of many sparkling Brits.) I was reading a Q&A with the novelist Howard Jacobson in the Financial Times . Asked, “How physically fit are you?” he answered, in part, “I try and walk.” As I said, curious. Any suggestions?

Why is English a 'weird' language?

According to linguist John McWhorter it's because the Vikings learned it badly!