Something New Every Day: Random & Newly Found Facts

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
12,109
Likes
13,430
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
25,655
Likes
25,295
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
Hans Zimmer, who wrote the magisterial scores for such films as Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049 is also responsible for the pan-European daytime TV quiz show Going For Gold!

And (some of you might know this, but I didn't) the theme tune to the BBC version of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy is a track by The Eagles (wait for the long intro to end and you'll recognise it).


More of lesser interest here:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/articles/78421261-1496-4f1d-aa04-55c339fdc644
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
25,655
Likes
25,295
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
To be fair, ‘begs the question’ kind of sounds like it should mean 'leads to the question', and I’m generally sympathetic to semantic shift - but begged questions are one of the most commonly employed of logical fallacies and therefore really need a name.
As every show off philosophy undergrad will tell you it has one: petitio principii.

Alas, the name is not English.
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
25,655
Likes
25,295
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
There seems to be no grammatical or historical basis in the idea that it is, or ever was, grammatically incorrect.
I'm no expert on Latin, but from my wandering around the linguistic foothills as a student it doesn't seem possible to split an infinitive in Latin, which is why it wasn't done. Put simply, the endings of Latin verbs change according to their grammatical function.

To take the principal parts of the first verb students typically learn:

amo / amare / amavi / amatus
I love / to love / I have loved / (in order) to be loved​

The second of these is the infinitive: ''amare: to love'--it's a single word, not a preposition and a verb that can be parted from each other as in English.

So this is a damned silly rule to adopt in English: "Don't split infinitives because in another language it wasn't possible"!

The point then is not whether you can split an infinitive but when it is a good idea to do so.

Clients were regularly reminded to update their anti-virus software.
Clients were reminded to regularly update their anti-virus software.
Clients were reminded to update their anti-virus software regularly.

The first and second sentences mean quite different things and the third is ambiguous. The second is clear in meaning, but it splits the infinitive 'to update' with the adverb 'regularly'.

I say that avoiding split infinitives (like avoiding sentences that end with prepositions) gives your writing a distinct style, but any attempt at elegance must be abandoned if it leads to awkward or ambiguous constructions.

The supposed (but not actual) injunction against ending sentences with a preposition comes (again) from the Latin. 'Pre-' (Latin Prae-) means 'before' and '-position' (from the Latin '-ponere') means 'to place'; the actual, then, objection is that prepositions should be placed before their objects (and if the sentence is complete you can't put an object there after your preposition). The technical term for this supposed sin is called 'Preposition Stranding' and (although he wouldn't have used such terminology) we probably have John Dryden to thank for it. Dryden was a truly great writer, but when you're bitching that Ben Jonson is abusing the English language (for that was the target of his criticism) you're probably on a hiding to nothing. He was a bit of a good writer himself...

I don't know the source, but the oft-cited example of 'preposition stranding gone mad' runs something like this:

The father of a little boy goes upstairs after supper to read to his son, but by mistake he brings the wrong book. The little boy, forgetting his lessons, asks, 'What did you bring that book that I don't want to be read to out of up for?
Ne quid nimis!
 
Last edited:

Mythopoeika

I am a meat popsicle
Joined
Sep 18, 2001
Messages
35,332
Likes
21,161
Points
309
Location
Inside a starship, watching puny humans from afar
And (some of you might know this, but I didn't) the theme tune to the BBC version of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy is a track by The Eagles (wait for the long intro to end and you'll recognise it).

Thanks - I never knew that! Funnily enough, you just answered the question that was in my mind earlier!
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
25,655
Likes
25,295
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
Mike Rowe (of later Dirty Jobs fame) worked as a tele-salesman for QVC.

The interview process involved the interviewer rolling a yellow pencil across the desk and instructing him to pick it up and convince him that he should buy it saying anything he liked, true or untrue.

Any candidate who could speak continuously for eight minutes was hired.
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
25,655
Likes
25,295
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
The Queen doesn't have any actual corgis any longer. She has owned thirty in her life, but the last has passed away.

In 2015 she elected to stop breeding them so that none would be left to be cared for after her death. The final one (named Willow) died in April 2018 and there are just two cross-bred Dachshund-Corgis ('Dorgis') surviving.

I don't mind those who hold the levers of the nation quietly planning for Her Majesty's death, but it's a little upsetting to think of the quiet preparations she and Prince Philip must be making.

And for those of stony heart, I give you this instance of distilled Britishness:

While lunching with David Nott, a surgeon who had worked in Syria, treating civilian casualties of the Civil War, the following scene took place.

"The Queen pressed for details, but he [Nott] couldn’t bring himself to tell her, and his bottom lip began quivering. At that point, “she summoned the corgis,” he said. For the next twenty minutes, Nott and the Queen petted the dogs and fed them biscuits under the table.

As the lunch came to a close, he says, she remarked, “That’s much better than talking, isn’t it?”"
 

James_H

And I like to roam the land
Joined
May 18, 2002
Messages
6,607
Likes
3,812
Points
259
Today I learned that dragonfly nymphs breathe through their anus. Gross!

What amazing fact did you learn today?
 
Joined
May 24, 2006
Messages
5,762
Likes
4,191
Points
244
The acronym 'OMG' first appears in a letter written in 1917 by Jackie Fisher, 1st Baron Fisher - First Sea Lord (1904-1910/ 1914-1915), and arguably the most influential individual in British naval history after Lord Nelson.

(The addressee was none other than Winston Churchill - the letter written a couple of years after the two had argued ferociously over Gallipoli.)
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
25,655
Likes
25,295
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
The acronym 'OMG' first appears in a letter written in 1917 by Jackie Fisher, 1st Baron Fisher - First Sea Lord (1904-1910/ 1914-1915), and arguably the most influential individual in British naval history after Lord Nelson.

(The addressee was none other than Winston Churchill - the letter written a couple of years after the two had argued ferociously over Gallipoli.)
I didn't realise until a couple of years ago, but Jackie Fisher has a group of devoted followers who talk about and promote his writing (I think there's a formal club--a bit like, say, Chesterton). I've only dipped into his autobiography (or was it his memoirs?), but I found that he could be extremely witty and horribly rude (sometimes in a ultra-dry fashion). He wrote and was reported to speak like Churchill on cocaine.

On peace through superior firepower:

The humanising of war? You might as well talk about the humanizing of Hell!...... The essence of war is violence! Moderation in war is imbecility!.....I am not for war, I am for peace! That is why I am for a supreme Navy....... The supremacy of the British Navy is the best security for peace in the world...... If you rub it in both at home and abroad that you are ready for instant war.....and intend to be first in and hit your enemy in the belly and kick him when he is down and boil your prisoners in oil (if you take any), and torture his women and children, then people will keep clear of you.
  • At the 1st Hague Peace Conference, May 1899!
 
Last edited:

Swifty

doesn't negotiate with terriers
Joined
Sep 15, 2013
Messages
24,727
Likes
29,348
Points
284
The Queen does care, you know. And she does remember even the little people she meets, not just the high profile ones.
She'll remember when she nearly ran me over in Burton on Trent on a zebra crossing in the mid 90's then .. and then just laughed God bless her.
 
Joined
May 24, 2006
Messages
5,762
Likes
4,191
Points
244
I didn't realise until a couple of years ago, but Jackie Fisher has a group of devoted followers who talk about and promote his writing (I think there's a formal club--a bit like, say, Chesterton). I've only dipped into his autobiography (or was it his memoirs?), but I found that he could be extremely witty and horribly rude (sometimes in a ultra-dry fashion). He wrote and was reported to speak like Churchill on cocaine...
Fisher is a very interesting and highly influential character - his name should really be as much a part of popular culture as Nelson's.

On a kind of aside, I've always thought he looked somehow as if he belonged to a more modern timeframe than his actual era; a clean-cut, boyish looking man with a slightly pugilistic air, whose face would not look out of place in the pub, or chatting about football on the TV.

And, although I'm not entirely sure what it is I'm latching onto here (or even exactly what I mean), his face has always struck me as somehow 'classless' - if that makes sense to anyone else.

Fisher 1.jpg Fisher 2.jpg

(In that first photo he reminds me of the Italian American actor Chazz Palminteri.)
 

Gloucestrian

Devoted Cultist
Joined
Jul 30, 2016
Messages
175
Likes
301
Points
64
Location
Gloucester
Perhaps he was a time traveller!

I agree that he was highly influential and that he should be better known, I was talking about him a few days ago to a friend who had never heard of him.
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
25,655
Likes
25,295
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
Perhaps he was a time traveller!

I agree that he was highly influential and that he should be better known, I was talking about him a few days ago to a friend who had never heard of him.
I think I first became aware of him through reading about Churchill and the Dardanelles, but it certainly wasn't at school despite my having 'studied' the naval race and the origins of the First World War.

The wikipedia entry has him being cited as the second most important figure in British naval history, but I think that's probably Drake.
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2015
Messages
8,869
Likes
10,726
Points
279
Fisher is a very interesting and highly influential character - his name should really be as much a part of popular culture as Nelson's.

On a kind of aside, I've always thought he looked somehow as if he belonged to a more modern timeframe than his actual era; a clean-cut, boyish looking man with a slightly pugilistic air, whose face would not look out of place in the pub, or chatting about football on the TV.

And, although I'm not entirely sure what it is I'm latching onto here (or even exactly what I mean), his face has always struck me as somehow 'classless' - if that makes sense to anyone else.

View attachment 11993 View attachment 11994

(In that first photo he reminds me of the Italian American actor Chazz Palminteri.)
His Wiki page is worth a read, an extraordinary fellow, quite something.
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
25,655
Likes
25,295
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
Most of our modern swimming strokes did not exist until relatively recently.

The first form of the modern front crawl wasn't seen in Britain in 1844.

Which makes me want to know about pre-modern swimming strokes. One never imagined there could be that much variation.

Fact gleaned from The Extraordinary Tale of Jack Renton: The White Headhunter:

 

Kryptonite

Stanley Unwin enthusiasty. Deep joy!
Joined
Sep 22, 2018
Messages
330
Likes
647
Points
93
Location
Glasgow

Analogue Boy

The new Number 6
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
9,431
Likes
7,127
Points
294
On the way home tonight, I was listening to Rob Newman’s stand up philosophy programme ‘Total Eclipse of Descartes’. He was riffing on the thought experiment of the infinite amount of monkeys with typewriters given an infinite amount of time eventually writing the complete works of Shakespeare.

I don’t know why it hasn’t occurred to me before but it has actually happened.
A little evolution resulted in Shakespeare actually writing the Complete Works in far less time.

And he did it with a feather.
 
Top