Thursday, October 29, 2015

5 things you (probably) didn’t know about Henry VIII

He is largely remembered as a bully who executed his opponents, oversaw the destruction of religious buildings and works of art, and killed off two of his six wives. But is this image wholly accurate? Historian Tracy Borman reveals 5 things you (probably) didn’t know about the former king:

1) Henry VIII was slim and athletic for most of his life

At six feet two inches tall, Henry VIII stood head and shoulders above most of his court. He had an athletic physique and excelled at sports, regularly showing off his prowess in the jousting arena.

Having inherited the good looks of his grandfather, Edward IV, in 1515 Henry was described as “the handsomest potentate I have ever set eyes on…” and later an “Adonis”, “with an extremely fine calf to his leg, his complexion very fair…and a round face so very beautiful, that it would become a pretty woman”.

All this changed in 1536 when the king – then in his mid-forties – suffered a serious wound to his leg while jousting. This never properly healed, and instead turned ulcerous, which left Henry increasingly incapacitated.

Four years later, the king’s waist had grown from a trim 32 inches to an enormous 52 inches. By the time of his death, he had to be winched onto his horse. It is this image of the corpulent Henry VIII that has obscured the impressive figure that he cut for most of his life.

2) Henry VIII was a tidy eater

Despite the popular image of Henry VIII throwing a chicken leg over his shoulder as he devoured one of his many feasts, he was in fact a fastidious eater. Only on special occasions, such as a visit from a foreign dignitary, did he stage banquets.

Most of the time, Henry preferred to dine in his private apartments. He would take care to wash his hands before, during and after each meal, and would follow a strict order of ceremony.

Seated beneath a canopy and surrounded by senior court officers, he was served on bended knee and presented with several different dishes to choose from at each course.

3) Henry was a bit of a prude

England’s most-married monarch has a reputation as a ladies’ man – for obvious reasons. As well as his six wives, he kept several mistresses and fathered at least one child by them.

But the evidence suggests that, behind closed doors, he was no lothario. When he finally persuaded Anne Boleyn to become his mistress in body as well as in name, he was shocked by the sexual knowledge that she seemed to possess, and later confided that he believed she had been no virgin.

When she failed to give him a son, he plumped for the innocent and unsullied Jane Seymour instead.

4) Henry’s chief minister liked to party

Although often represented as a ruthless henchman, Thomas Cromwell was in fact one of the most fun-loving members of the court. His parties were legendary, and he would spend lavish sums on entertaining his guests – he once paid a tailor £4,000 to make an elaborate costume that he could wear in a masque to amuse the king.

Cromwell also kept a cage of canary birds at his house, as well as an animal described as a “strange beast”, which he gave to the king as a present.

5) Henry VIII sent more men and women to their deaths than any other monarch
During the later years of Henry’s reign, as he grew ever more paranoid and bad-tempered, the Tower of London was crowded with the terrified subjects who had been imprisoned at his orders.

One of the most brutal executions was that of the aged Margaret de la Pole, Countess of Salisbury. The 67-year-old countess was woken early on the morning of 27 May 1541 and told to prepare for death.

Although initially composed, when Margaret was told to place her head on the block, her self-control deserted her and she tried to escape. Her captors were forced to pinion her to the block, where the amateur executioner hacked at the poor woman’s head and neck, eventually severing them after the eleventh blow.

Our September issue, out now, includes a feature on the fall of Thomas Cromwell, plus an exclusive interview with Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel, who claims Cromwell has been a victim of "intellectual shoddiness". It is available from all good newsagents. Alternatively, you can access the issue digitally.

Monday, October 19, 2015

From mic drops to manspreading: an Oxford Dictionaries update

NBD, but are you ready to fangirl over our dictionary update? Abso-bloody-lutely. We’ve got some awesomesauce new words – no, rly – that will inform and entertain whether you’re hangry or it’s already wine o’clock. Mic drop.

Mic drops, awesomesauce, manspreading, and more

Let’s pick that mic up again and check out some of the words that have been added to in the world of informal language. The mic drop in question can be a literal ‘instance of deliberately dropping or tossing aside one’s microphone at the end of a performance or speech one considers to have been particularly impressive’, but it’s more likely to be figurative – or an exclamation to emphasize a particularly impressive point: Nuff said. Mic drop.

If you want to describe something as excellent, you can use awesomesauce; on the other side of the coin, anything of a poor or disappointing standard is weak sauce. Weak saucecame first, and has a more comprehensible origin as a metaphor; an inadequate sauce would certainly let down an otherwise decent meal. Though awesomesauce clearly comes from the words awesome and sauce, the former is currently beating the latter in the Oxford English Corpus and Oxford Twitter Corpus.

Why say banter (‘playfully teasing or mocking remarks exchanged with another person or group’) when you can save a syllable with bants? (Be careful where you use it, though; the term might be recognized in the UK, but is likely to get bemused looks elsewhere.) And, speaking of brevity, the initialism NBD can take the place of no big deal, while rly is handy textspeak for really. SJW stands for social justice warrior, which is also added in this update. It’s ‘a person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views’, but the word is used derogatively, usually by those who do not share these views.

You may remember mansplain from last year’s update. It’s now joined by the noun manspreading: ‘the practice whereby a man, especially one travelling on public transport, adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats’. If you’re a gentleman reading this on the bus … can we suggest you arrange your legs considerately? Rly.

Manic pixie dream girl has been added from the world of film criticism: find out more in our video post.

Other informal terms in this update include brain fart, bitch face, bruh, butthurt, fur baby, MacGyver, mkay, rando, and stole.

Mx, Grexit, and other words in the news
Among the additions in the August update, there are those that relate to recent news and events. The blends Brexit (British/Britain + exit) and Grexit (Greek/Greece + exit) were coined in 2012, relating to potential departures of the United Kingdom from the European Union and Greece from the eurozone (those countries which use the euro as their national currency).

The honorific Mx has also been added to It’s used (in the same way as Mr, Miss, Mrs, Ms etc.) before a person’s surname or full name as a gender-neutral title. Katherine Martin, Head of US Dictionaries, recently spoke with the New York Times about the rising popularity of the term, which is first found in the late 1970s and has gained significant traction since. Hangry?

Some fanciful words relating to food and drink are also included in the August update. Beer o’clock and wine o’clock are humorous terms for the (supposedly) appropriate times of day for having your first glass of either drink. You might need to start the meal earlier if you’re feeling hangry: a blend of hungry and angry, meaning ‘bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger’. Anything snackable will come in handy.

English often forms new words using existing suffixes, and the realm of food and drink shows several such innovations. From the –y ending comes cheffy (relating to, or characteristic of, a chef) and melty (melting or partially melted); from the –ery ending, we get cidery (a place where cider is made) and cupcakery (a bakery that specializes in cupcakes). The latter is a venue where you’re unlikely to have the option of cakeage, which is ‘a charge made by a restaurant for serving a cake that they have not supplied themselves’, and another word created by the inclusion of a common suffix. The word is modelled on the pattern of corkage, where the same rule applies to wine. And if you can’t bring yourself to have the finest things in life separately, there is now the option of a cat café, where café patrons can eat while surrounded by feline friends.

Edible additions to from Australian English include Anzac biscuit, barmaid’s blush (typically red wine mixed with lemonade or beer mixed with raspberry cordial), battered sav (battered saveloy sausage), and lolly cake (a cake containing sweets, known generically as lollies in Australian and New Zealand English).

Friday, October 16, 2015

Mini Quiz

I realise this is the September quiz, but I thought it doesn't matter where the practice comes from as long as you are practicing.

Have fun!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Unicorns & Myths

Unicorns, trolls, fairies . . . Mythical beasts capture the imagination of both children and adults. And no wonder, for they possess magical powers and uncanny abilities. However, these creatures don’t really exist. Some grammar rules also have become the stuff of legends. They are figments of the imagination, just as fire-breathing dragons are. 

Today, let’s separate myth from reality. Here are five widespread, but totally incorrect, grammar rules.

Myth: Nouns can’t modify other nouns.
Dog is a noun. Police is a noun. A police dog is a dog used by the police. Using a noun modifier usually indicates that one noun is part of something else. The dog described earlier is part of the police force.

Myth: The only way to make a plural is to add “s.”
One adds -es to nouns ending in -ch, -sh, -x, -z, or -s sounds to make them plural. The plural forms of other nouns, sometimes called mutated plurals, have different spellings than the singular form. For instance, “child” becomes “children” and “woman” becomes “women.” Perhaps the most interesting plural forms in the English language originate from Greek and Latin. The -i ending, as in fungi, and the -a ending, as in phenomena, come from these foreign languages.

Myth: The rules about when to use like/as are inflexible.
Much to the chagrin of some traditionalists who believe that like should be limited to an adjectival function, it is commonly used as a conjunction in colloquial speech and writing. In casual contexts, “You’re behaving as if you need a nap!” is synonymous with “You’re behaving like you need a nap.”

Myth: Always avoid adverbs!
Some writers receive criticism about overusing “weak” adverbs such as “really” and “very.” Ernest Hemingway was the most famous proponent of this rule, yet even he used adverbs from time to time. Here is an example from The Sun Also Rises:
Romero’s bull-fighting gave real emotion, because he kept the absolute purity of line in his movements and always quietly and calmly let the horns pass him close each time.

Yes, it is better to use “huge” than “very big” to describe an object. However, when writing dialogue or describing actions, sometimes adverbs are essential. The trick is to not overuse them. 

Myth: Strict rules govern the use of since and because.
Since is a synonym of because, but some writers frown on using it in such a way. Occasionally, it can cause ambiguity: “Since he left, I was sad.” This sentence can mean that you were sad because he left or that you were sad at some point between when he left and now. As long as you avoid ambiguous phrases, you can safely use since as a synonym of because.

Vampires, centaurs, jackalopes . . . It’s fun to picture these legendary creatures. However, let’s not confuse grammar myths with grammar rules. We don’t need those erroneous rules to write about our next fanciful fabrication!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Capitalization Rules

Capitalization is the writing of a word with its first letter in uppercase and the remaining letters in lowercase. Experienced writers are stingy with capitals. It is best not to use them if there is any doubt.
Rule 1. Capitalize the first word of a document and the first word after a period.
Rule 2. Capitalize proper nouns—and adjectives derived from proper nouns.
the Golden Gate Bridge
the Grand Canyon
a Russian song
a Shakespearean sonnet
a Freudian slip
With the passage of time, some words originally derived from proper nouns have taken on a life, and authority, of their own and no longer require capitalization.
herculean (from the ancient-Greek hero Hercules)
quixotic (from the hero of the classic novel Don Quixote)
draconian (from ancient-Athenian lawgiver Draco)
The main function of capitals is to focus attention on particular elements within any group of people, places, or things. We can speak of a lake in the middle of the country, or we can be more specific and say Lake Michigan, which distinguishes it from every other lake on earth.
Capitalization Reference List
  • Brand names
  • Companies
  • Days of the week and months of the year
  • Governmental matters
    Congress (but congressional), the U.S. Constitution (but constitutional), the Electoral College, Department of Agriculture. Note: Many authorities do not capitalize federal or stateunless it is part of the official title: State Water Resources Control Board, but state water boardFederal Communications Commission, but federal regulations.
  • Historical episodes and eras
    the Inquisition, the American Revolutionary War, the Great Depression
  • Holidays
  • Institutions
    Oxford College, the Juilliard School of Music
  • Manmade structures
    the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, the Titanic
  • Manmade territories
    Berlin, Montana, Cook County
  • Natural and manmade landmarks
    Mount Everest, the Hoover Dam
  • Nicknames and epithets
    Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson; Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat
  • Organizations
    American Center for Law and Justice, Norwegian Ministry of the Environment
  • Planets
    Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, but policies vary on capitalizing earth, and it is usually not capitalized unless it is being discussed specifically as a planet: We learned that Earth travels through space at 66,700 miles per hour.
  • Races, nationalities, and tribes
    Eskimo, Navajo, East Indian, Caucasian, African American (Note: white and black in reference to race are lowercase)
  • Religions and names of deities
    Note: Capitalize the Bible (but biblical). Do not capitalize heaven, hell, the devil, satanic.
  • Special occasions
    the Olympic Games, the Cannes Film Festival
  • Streets and roads

Lowercase Reference List
Here is a list of categories not capitalized unless an item contains a proper noun or proper adjective (or, sometimes, a trademark). In such cases, only the proper noun or adjective is capitalized.
  • Animals
    antelope, black bear, Bengal tiger, yellow-bellied sapsucker, German shepherd
  • Elements
    Always lowercase, even when the name is derived from a proper noun: einsteinium, nobelium, californium
  • Foods
    Lowercase except for brand names, proper nouns and adjectives, or custom-named recipes: Tabasco sauce, Russian dressing, pepper crusted bluefin tuna, Mandy's Bluefin Surprise
  • Heavenly bodies besides planets
    Never capitalize the moon or the sun.
  • Medical conditions
    Epstein-Barr syndrome, tuberculosis, Parkinson's disease
  • Minerals
  • Plants, vegetables, and fruits
    poinsettia, Douglas fir, Jerusalem artichoke, organic celery, Golden Delicious apples
  • Seasons and seasonal data
    spring, summertime, the winter solstice, the autumnal equinox, daylight saving time
Rule 3. A thorny aspect of capitalization: where does it stop? When does the Iraq war become the Iraq War? Why is the legendary Hope Diamond not the Hope diamond? Everyone writes New York City, so why does the Associated Press Stylebook recommend New York state? There aren't always easy formulas or logical explanations. Research with reference books and search engines is the best strategy.
In the case of brand names, companies are of little help, because they capitalize any word that applies to their merchandise. Domino's Pizza or Domino's pizza? Is it Ivory Soap or Ivory soap, a Hilton Hotel or a Hilton hotel? Most writers don't capitalize common nouns that simply describe the products (pizza, soap, hotel), but it's not always easy to determine where a brand name ends. There is Time magazine but also the New York Times Magazine. No one would argue with Coca-Cola or Pepsi Cola, but a case could be made for Royal Crown cola.
If a trademark starts with a lowercase word or letter (e.g., eBay, iPhone), many authorities advise capitalizing it to begin a sentence.
Example: EBay opened strong in trading today.
Rule 4. Capitalize titles when they are used before names, unless the title is followed by a comma. Do not capitalize the title if it is used after a name or instead of a name.
The president will address Congress.
Chairman of the Board William Bly will preside at the conference.
The chairman of the board, William Bly, will preside.
The senators from Iowa and Ohio are expected to attend.
Also expected to attend are Senators Buzz James and Eddie Twain.
The governors, lieutenant governors, and attorneys general called for a special task force.
Governor Fortinbrass, Lieutenant Governor Poppins, and Attorney General Dalloway will attend.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reading about business meetings: hidden meanings-business English

Is the sun red or yellow?
Should you "crack a joke" at a business presentation?
Are such questions important?
Is it only language you need to learn?

Bildergebnis für image hidden meaning

International business people often invest time and money in improving their knowledge of foreign languages in order to be able to communicate with colleagues from around the world. Language, of course, is vital, but it is only half the problem.

There are hidden rules for playing the game of doing business with people of other cultures. It is all to easy to "put your foot in it" by making mistakes which can upset your foreign counterparts.

An American, greeting a mid-European businessman by saying "Hi Dieter, great to meet you!" may not be favourably regarded in a country where more formal modes of address are usual.

In the West, business cards are given a cursory glance and pocketed. In Japan, they are highly regarded, looked at closely and left on the table during a business meeting.

In Britain, most business presentations would include a joke.
In many other countries, this would be unheard of.
Will you cause offence if you refuse to eat something generally regarded as inedible in your country? Your counterpart may be watching your reaction when he offers you this local delicacy.

Small talk and relationship building are considered highly important in some parts of the world; talking about the weather, the wine and the local area come before business. In other places, people get down to business immediately.

It is important to know the way things are usually dealt with in your host country. Problems arise because we see things differently. It helps to be aware of how other nationalities perceive certain things.

The Japanese see the sun as red. It is an important national symbol which appears on their flag. When Japanese children paint pictures, they paint a red sun. European and American children paint the sun yellow. When children travel and see the sun painted in a different colour, they are surprised and find it very strange.

Adults find these differences harder to accept. Both sides may feel uneasy because they are unsure of the rules of the game in the opposite culture.

It is, however, very dangerous to have stereotyped views of what the other culture is like. Such views are often narrow and can cause criticism and intolerance. "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" and can encourage you to make predictions about what will happen in your business transactions. If your ideas are too narrow, you may be surprised at all the people you meet who do not fit into your pattern and who behave differently from the way you predicted they would.

Our ideas then, have to be flexible and constructed from thorough research and observation. We should also recognise that it is not only people's national background that influences their behaviour and personality, but also their particular regional background, their personal background and their company culture. 

Reading for meaning

When you read an article, you can often guess the words you do not know from the context.
Find words or expressions in the above article which have the following meanings:

say or do something wrong or inappropriate, usually as a result of thoughtlessness, and so cause an awkward situation
b.quick and not thorough
c.something to eat which is considered rare or expensive
d.having a fixed, and often incorrect, idea of what someone or something is like
e.inability to accept ways of thinking and behaving which are different from one's own



a. put your foot in it
b. cursory
c. delicacy
d. stereotyped
e. intolerance