Posts

What is Lent?

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Lent is the word Christians use to describe the forty days leading up to  Easter .

What does Kabuki mean? How is this term used in politics?

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Kabuki  theatre is a stylized Japanese dance-drama tradition. Its origins date back to the early 17th century.  Key charecterisitics of  Kabuki  include  operatic plot lines, masks and heavy make-up. Shouting at other actors is encouraged. In the late 1960s Kabuki  became fashionable in avant-garde theatrical circles in the west, particularly in the UK.  David Bowie was an early enthusiast, learning a form of Kabuki  while working with mime artist, Lindsey Kemp. Bowie later borrowed heavily from the kabuki tradition in the creation of Ziggy Stardust. More recently,  Kabuki  has entered general English as a synonym for  theatrical. In the US, it is often used to describe politicians suspected of acting insincerely  to please their supporters and/or attract maximum media attention. Read More  (Medium

What is an izzard? Why is it pronounced differently in the UK & the USA?

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An izzard is the letter Z -  the 26th letter of the Roman alphabet.  Like the letter Y this was imported into Latin directly from Greek. It is pronounced zed in British English and zee in American English. This is because the British English version - also used in other English-speaking countries - derives its pronounciation from the old French zed  which in turn is based on the Greek zeta. Where did zee come from? Izzard was the standard pronunciation in the US until the early 19th Century. Gradually, however, the dominant pronunciation pattern (c=see, d=dee) was imposed. The word izzard has never been widely used outside the expression 'everything from A to izzard.'

What is a humble brag?

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"I am well aware that I am the 'umblest person going," said Uriah Heep, modestly.    Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

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.