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What is 'whataboutery'?

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Photo by  Adi Goldstein  on  Unsplash Whataboutism or whataboutery is to respond to an accusation with a counter-attack. Mr X says Ms Y ate all the cakes in the cupboard. Ms Y responds: 'Why you hypocrite! What about that time Mr X ate FOUR slices of pizza...' This technique has a long history. In Latin it is expressed as tu quoque -  or  'you too'. As the video below explains, it was a favoured tool for 20th Century totalitarian regimes like the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.  On social media platforms like Twitter, sophisticated rhetoric is not required. If your guy is accused of (allegedly) feeding puppies to an alligator, remind them of the time their guy (allegedly) set fire to the children's zoo.  Whataboutery is particularly popular when linked to issues with opposing camps with entrenched positions e.g. the Brexit debate and the political polarisation in the USA.

Where does the word vaccination come from?

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According to legend, provincial doctor Edward Jenner once overheard a young dairymaid boasting:  “I shall never have smallpox for I have had cowpox."​  This eventually lead to Jenner establishing that smallpox inoculation could provide protection against its far more lethal virological cousin. With a scientist's precision, Jenner called this process 'vaccination' - after vaccinia  the Latin word for cowpox. The cow connection proved great branding - the alleged vanity of the anonymous dairymaid has amused children for two hundred years. It also proved a gift to the original anti-vax movement, who were deeply suspicious of Jenner's devilish new life-saver.  

What is Ulysses about? Is it worth reading?

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Mr Bloom prepares breakfast for himself, his wife & his cat. Photo by  Vital Sinkevich  on  Unsplash Ulysses (1922) is long novel in which, on the surface, very little happens. Over a single summer's day (June 16, 1904) we share the lives of three Dubliners: Stephen Dedalus  (a recently bereaved young graduate), Leopold Bloom (a middle-aged sales representative of Jewish origin) and Molly Bloom (unfaithful wife of Leopold and occasional singer).  All the action takes place in and around Dublin. Within this framework, Joyce experiments with a multitude of literary techniques in a daring attempt to find a literary form to express the complexity of the modern world. This demands a lot of the reader but offers rich rewards.  Read More

What does Auld Lang Syne mean?

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The words of Auld Lang Syne are of  uncertain origin . They were published in a posthumous book anthology of poetry Scottish (1796). They are usually attributed to Robert Burns, but he did not claim authorship when he submitted them to Scots Musical Museum  in 1788 . "The following song, an  old song , of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man." [8] This 'old man' has never been identified, nor did he ever earn a penny from one of the most sung lyrics of all time. Scots Auld Lang Syne is the written in Scots language  The literal translation of the title is  Old long since. In English this works better as  ‘for old times sake' - the theme is old friends discussing past adventures over several drinks. I llustration to Robert Burns' poem  Auld Lang Syne  by J.M. Wright and Edward Scriven. The world's best known New Year's Eve song is not specifically about Hogmanay . There are n

Why is the 26th December Boxing Day in the UK & Ireland?

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There is no agreement about this. We can be pretty sure it is not  because:

Where does the word quarantine come from?

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Photo by  CDC  on  Unsplash It is often assumed that the bubonic plague (black death) spread across Europe because the authorities did not understand the concept of contagion. In fact, it was widely understood that an infected person would pass their disease to others. What was not known was the precise transmission mechanism or what you needed to do to avoid contagion. It was obvious, however, that the disease was manifesting itself in particular localities. The key to prevention was isolation. You needed to keeping infected persons out your town, city or community. Who first used the term? In the 1340s the Venetian authorities in charge of the port city of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) issued the first quarantine measures. This was aimed  at ensuring that infected visitors did not mix with the rest of the population.  The edict established an isolation period of trentino giorni (30 days). This applied to anyone arriving from an area known to be affected by bubonic plague. This example