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.)

Do YOU really have TO SHOUT at me that WAY?

Recently received from my bank, notice of various changes to the Ts & Cs. Fine. But what’s with all the bolding?

Is it really necessary to harangue your customers (business customers at that) like this? Do you suppose we’re idiots, HSBC?

Calm down, cut the clutter, communicate. And stop addressing your customers as though they’re gormless children.

Insensitive I calls it

If there’s one thing more infuriating than a client ruining your copy….

…it’s a client improving it.

Chair of Border to Coast, Chris Hitchen, rewrote the draft I’d produced for his report, in the process making it even more human and engaging. For example:

“Not that this is all about the last twelve months. It started with a small group of visionaries scribbling plans on beer mats back in 2015 – a crucial piece of the Border to Coast origin story – and was skilfully nurtured by open- and like-minded local government councillors and officers thereafter. Progress really accelerated with the appointment of a permanent staff under Chief Executive Rachel Elwell and the move to our own office in Toronto Place, Leeds. Every time I go there, it feels right – a smart, modern but unflashy office, quietly humming with committed people who enjoy working together and delivering for their customers.”

Top copy!


A foggy day in London town…

Reading (more strictly, re-reading) Meditations in Green by Stephen Wright, I came across an excellent poser for the Gunning Fog Index:

And McFarland had crotch rot and Ellis malaria again and Cross worried about his feet and Samuels wet his bed and Trips sat all day in Ops reading The Mind Parasites where the flameproof-suited pilots bearing stained mugs of bad coffee came and went, the metal buckles of their seat harnesses jingling like tiny bells and Sergeant Anstin ran through the hootches at night with a flashlight searching for bags of dope and Lieutenant Hand hadn’t spoken to anyone for three days and Noll was out in the hangar trying to tattoo FTA on his arm with a bottle of ink and a hypodermic needle and the bomb craters on the film reminded Chief Warrant Officer Winkly of little pussies and someone cried himself to sleep and everyone hoped that Captain Fry would crash and burn and Hogan claimed he had never had this much fun in civilian life and hoped his home town was blown up so he wouldn’t have to go back to it anymore and Feeny counted his money each morning and evening and the woman in Cage 1 wished the Americans would kill her today and Boswell, who was leaving, asked Griffin how many days he had left and when he heard the answer said, “Do trees live that long?” and out on the perimeter girls from the nearby village bared their breasts across the wire, tiptoed in among the Claymores, giggled on the bunker floors, and Wurlitzer dreamed of bald monks in maroon robes descending stone passageways in the far-off temples of Katmandu, and a pack of stray dogs roamed up and down the compound searching for someone to play with.

Running it by the index reveals a score just shy of 58. Which, going by Wikipedia

“In linguistics, the Gunning fog index is a readability test for English writing. The index estimates the years of formal education a person needs to understand the text on the first reading.”

…suggests incomprehensibility at a first reading to anyone with less than 58 years of formal education. Oh. (Fog Index: 0.4)