Vote ME!

This election’s zinger suggests Labour have learned nothing from their decades spent on the wrong end of smart electioneering:

Now, whether or not you agree that it’s time for real change (underline for emphasis), you have to say it’s not much of a flag for the troops to rally under.

The right has this right. From Take Back Control to Make America Great Again, their words people seem to have grasped the essence of a great political slogan: that it’s not about persuading of, it’s about tapping into. An exercise in articulation, not explanation.

If you’re trying to convince people of a proposition (such as that it’s time for real change), you’ve fundamentally misunderstood the aim of the exercise. Winning elections is not about talking to people; it’s about speaking for them.

Michael Gove may have been utterly disingenuous when he said – as a paid up zealot for applied intelligence – that Britain had had enough of experts. But when did being disingenuous stand in the way of political success?

A tip for sloganeers: when you come up with a proposal, ask yourself one thing – can you imagine people sitting round in the pub this evening saying exactly that to their companions? If the answer’s no, get back to the drawing board.

No one said this stuff was easy. Those who do it well just make it look that way.

Hats off to Wusthof

Just received a response to my tear-soaked email to Wusthof after a giant cauliflower did for my favourite kitchen knife:

“All Wusthof items carry a limited lifetime warranty….Please note we do not cover returns for knives that have opened cans, pruned hedges or those that have not been used for their general suited purpose.”

‘opened cans, pruned hedges’ is excellent! Good to see humanity beginning to sprout in communication between companies and their customers.

“Promise, large promise…”

Just finished reading The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison – astonishingly good – in which Soaphead Church has a printed card to advertise his services:

“If you are overcome with trouble and conditions that are not natural, I can remove them; Overcome Spells, Bad Luck, and Evil Influences. Remember, I am a true Spiritualist and Psychic Reader, born with power, and I will help you. Satisfaction in one visit. During many years of practice I have brought together many in marriage and reunited many who were separated. If you are unhappy, discouraged, or in distress, I can help you. Does bad luck seem to follow you? Has the one you love changed? I can tell you why. I will tell you who your enemies and friends are, and if the one you love is true or false. If you are sick, I can show you the way to health. I locate lost and stolen articles. Satisfaction guaranteed.”

That’s what I call copy!

so clear, so simple, so obviously true

I remember once listening to some tedious Galenist lecturing on blood in Padua and the very next day being lent a copy of Harvey’s magnificent work on circulation. It was so clear, so simple, and so obviously true that it took my breath away. I have not had an experience like it since. However, even I could see that it was incomplete. Harvey demonstrated that the blood starts in the heart, circulates around the body, then returns whence it came. He did not establish why it does this, and without that science is a poor thing.

Iain Pears – An Instance Of The Fingerpost  


Can’t recall where I came across this – but I’m glad I did.

Mastermind specialised subjects
The following specialised subjects have appeared on the programme:

Aztec Mythology
The Life-cycle and Habits of the Honey-Bee
The Moomin Saga by Jove Jansson
Notable British Prisoners
Burial Grounds of London (taken by the 1981 champion, Leslie Grout)
The Vampire in British Fiction
The Eleventh-century Japanese Tale of Genji and Lady Murasaki
The Buddhist Sage Niciren

While the following were rejected:

Routes to Anywhere in Mainland Britain by Road from Letchworth
Orthopaedic Bone Cement in Total Hip Replacement
The Development of the Self-service Petrol Station, 1963-68
Cremation Practice and Law in Britain
Chicago Gangsters of the Prohibition Era – Christopher Hughes proposed this one, but the producers felt it wasn’t sufficiently well-documented.
The History of the Existentialist and Phenomenological Philosophical Movement
The Banana Industry
The History of St. Andrews University
The Managerial Career of Brian Clough – rejected during the Magnusson era, though “The Life and Career of Brian Clough” was eventually used in 2016.
Meteorology for the Private Pilot Licence
History of the World Since Jesus Christ – rejected for being, in producer Jon Kelly’s words, “a bit broad”.
History of Europe Since Jesus Christ – proposed by the same person after the previous subject was rejected.
The History of Loganberries
Perfect Squares to 992 = 9801
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend (as Everybody Knows)
The Natural Life of the Goldfish

I particularly enjoyed the juxtaposition of

The History of the Existentialist and Phenomenological Philosophical Movement


The Banana Industry

Loathsome transatlantic importations

Watching the final episode of Melvyn Bragg’s The Adventure of the English language I was struck by

Amazing to think that as recently as 1935 words like nearby and colourful were regarded as ‘loathsome’ interlopers rather than just English.

Also, what happened to ‘help make’? And when did ‘worth-while’ lose its hyphen?

You have to love the English language!

(Excellent programme too, by the way, for anyone with an interest in that sort of thing.)