On the same page

March 31, 2008

A guy I’m supposed to be working closely with at the moment told me today that “we’re on the same page”. It’s one of those trite business phrases I didn’t think people actually used, but it turns out they do.

We are so not on the same page. We’re not even on the same chapter.

Je Thames

March 28, 2008

The Sun newspaper is a British institution. Love it or loathe it, its cheeky chappy charm is part of the culture. The punning headlines are much imitated but seldom equalled – there’s some real skill going on there, the kind that makes it looks easy when it really isn’t.

Today’s front page headline is an instant classic, for a story about the French president and his new wife (or “Sarkozy ‘n Carla” as The Sun refers to them) photographed as they “canoodle” (does that word ever get used outside the tabloids?) on a river-trip in London:

JE THAMES

It’s not your standard pun, it’s even kind of clumsy, but somehow it works.

It also give an indication of how much trans-Channel relationships have changed since the day when their front page was addressed to another Frenchman:

UP YOURS DELORS

Series

March 16, 2008

London Mayor Ken Livingstone is planning to raise the congestion charge from £8 to £25 for “gas guzzlers” (a fabulously evocative term if ever there was one). And the people at Porsche aren’t very happy about it. Not only are they launching legal action to try and stop it, they’ve put up a website to get the public on their side.

It’s liberally sprinkled with pictures of Porsches in London as if to persuade us how bereft London would be without them. In one photo, some banker appears to have parked outside the Lloyds building, which I suspect would set you back a lot more than the proposed charge.

And then there’s the words. “Porsche believes this will be bad for London.” “We believe it sends out the wrong message about London as a place to do business.” And my favourite: “This increase will hit a large proportion of families that drive people carriers – the sort of people who use one large car rather than a series of smaller ones.”

Now, there’s a germ of a point in there: it’s presumably worse for the environment to replace a large car with two smaller ones. On the other hand, as most gas guzzlers you see bombing past have at least half the seats empty, you’d only have to replace them with one.

But it’s the word “series” that really does it for me. On whatever planet these people are from, families don’t just have one or two cars, they have a whole bloomin’ collection, probably dotted around the grounds of their stately home. It’s just another tiny indicator that perhaps this website might be more about self-preservation than righteous indignation.

Then again, maybe I’m just jealous. I only get to ride through the streets of London in a series of buses.

Scrammy eggs

March 8, 2008

Last Saturday morning, I awoke in pain. The head throbbed, but worse were the waves of nausea that coursed regularly through the system. It had been my 40th birthday drinks the night before and my aged body wasn’t used to the dose of beer that would have caused it no problem in its younger days.

Luckily, Steven was on hand to make a heroic dash to the shops for some eggs and  Taste the Difference bacon. While I grilled the bacon, he set about making some “scrammy eggs”.

I love the Australian custom of taking the first syllable of a word and sticking a ‘y’, ‘ie’ or ‘o’ on the end. It goes well with the whole informality of Australia that’s so refreshing to us repressed Brits. Some of my particular favourites include “cozzie” (swimming costume), “smoko” (cigarette break), “servo” (petrol station), “pokies” (gambling machines) and “the Salvos” (Salvation Army charity shops).

“Scrammy eggs” was one I hadn’t heard before. And Steven’s scrammy eggs was something I hadn’t tasted before. It was creamy and peppery and delicious. As the nutrients went to the aid of my suffering body, I felt good. I’d had a lovely night with lovely friends, and here I was having a lovely breakfast with the lovely man I’d be breakfasting with for years to come.

I was forty and hungover and happy.

I Can Has Cheezburger?

March 3, 2008

Now I realise I’m late to the party on this one, but I appear to have developed an unhealthy fascination with lolcats. For those unfamiliar with this murky world, it involves a photo of a cat with superimposed type representing what the cat is thinking. (And yes, it’s a combination of ‘Laugh Out Loud’ and ‘cat’.)

I know, it sounds rubbish – and lot of it is. But there’s something seriously addictive about it. A big part of it is the language used – a bizarre mash-up of baby-talk and the creative typing loved by the IM generation. ‘Your’ is always ‘ur’, ‘like’ is ‘liek’, the correct form of greeting is ‘O hai’, and as for the grammar – well, the biggest lolcats site is called ‘I Can Has Cheezburger?’ which kind of says it all.

Anil Dash makes the point that the language that’ s grown up around it is particularly interesting because it “has a fairly consistent grammar. I wasn’t sure this was true until I realized that it’s possible to get cat-speak wrong.” And somewhere in these unwritten grammatical rules lies the secret of its appeal – when I’m scrolling through pages of the stuff looking for my next hit, the ones that don’t have the right sort of language don’t appeal to me at all.

Try it for yourself. The best way in is to read this slide-show essay and to follow the links in it. You might find the lolcats a little twee, but I defy you to resist the lolrus – the ongoing saga of a walrus and his blue bucket. (I Has a Bucket. Noooo they be stealin’ my Bucket.) And the lolpresidents can be pretty funny too.

One final note. After hangin’ with the kitties, I clicked onto Evol Kween’s blog, to find a post containing the lolcat-sounding sentence “For realz.” Could such an ultra-groovy artist and horror fan have been seduced into this saccharine world?

I asked him. It turns out to be a hip-hop gangsta phrase. So maybe the cats are tougher than I thought.