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Joe’s Cafe

Mobile Phones Dangerous?

25th September 2011 by Joe

mobile phonesSome scientists now say that

mobile phones are dangerous and

may damage our brains

or cause cancer.

But not all scientists agree.

What do you think?

The extract below appeared in The Telegraph today. The Telegraph is a daily British newspaper of supposedly high reputation. The inability of its writers and editors to write English, demonstrated below, will cast doubt on that reputation.

The Telegraph - example of poor English

The author of the above article is Dr David G Green, who is described as “director of the think tank Civitas”. I have always held think tanks in the lowest regard, and the outrageous and woolly thinking displayed in this article would seem to give weight to my feelings.

“The inability to speak a host country’s language reinforces dangerous divisions in society – and it is a very reasonable requirement of any immigrant.”

In this sentence the pronoun “it” refers back to “The inability to speak a host country’s language”. The writer is therefore saying that “the inability to speak a host country’s language is a very reasonable requirement of any immigrant.” What he means to say (however absurdly) is that ”the ability to speak a host country’s language is a very reasonable requirement of any immigrant.”

This would be comic if this display of bad writing were not at the start of so arrogant and racist an article preaching the necessity for immigrants to Britain to speak English.

Learners of English may take heart from the fact that some quarters of the British and American press, radio and television are full of examples of poor English. This is particularly true of the BBC and CNN, but it appears that the shortcoming is spreading to media of hitherto higher repute.

By William Blum (http://killinghope.org)

When they bombed Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, El Salvador and Nicaragua I said nothing because I wasn’t a communist.

When they bombed China, Guatemala, Indonesia, Cuba, and the Congo I said nothing because I didn’t know about it.

When they bombed Lebanon and Grenada I said nothing because I didn’t understand it.

When they bombed Panama I said nothing because I wasn’t a drug dealer.

When they bombed Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen I said nothing because I wasn’t a terrorist.

When they bombed Yugoslavia and Libya for “humanitarian” reasons I said nothing because it sounded so honorable.

Then they bombed my house and there was no one left to speak out for me. But it didn’t really matter. I was dead.

Footer versus footnote

2nd February 2011 by Joe

A reader writes: “Is the word ‘footer’, now used in documents and written on one of your pages, a correct English word? I think it was created by Microsoft, and I believe the word ‘footnote’ would be more appropriate.”

Let’s try to clear this up. I’m not sure whether the word “footer” was coined by Microsoft or not, but if it was it made it into my 1995 edition of Concise Oxford Dictionary. For the context that we are discussing, the two words can be defined as:

  • footnote (noun): a note at the bottom of a specific page usually about something on that page.
  • footer (noun): a piece of text or programming code repeated at the bottom of every page.

Footnote: the word “footer” can also be used in combinations such as “six-footer” (a man who is six feet tall) and “right-footer” (a specific kick in football etc).

For Sale ~ Apple Doorstop from $1

26th December 2010 by Joe

Apple DoorstopTake advantage of this New Year opportunity to acquire this never-before-seen Apple Doorstop, guaranteed to hold back the heaviest door, even in a strong wind. Exquisitely engraved with the famous Apple logo, this original doorstop will announce your sophistication and sheer good taste to your friends and other visitors. Give yourself a headstart in the Apple Doorstop stakes and place your bid now in the comment box below. Please also add a sentence of up to 12 worlds explaining why you should win the auction. A combination of the highest bid and most imaginative sentence will win the auction.

doorstop (noun): a fixed or heavy object that keeps a door open or stops it from banging against a wall (source: Apple Dictionary) Read on »

Everything will be OK

9th November 2010 by Joe

Everything will be OK

Just how much this post-riots message of hope in 21st-century Bangkok draws upon the similarly repetitive 14th-century “All shall be well” by Julian of Norwich one can but idly speculate.

post-riots: after the riots
riot (noun): violence and fighting by a crowd of people (often against a government)
draw upon (verb): borrow from; be influenced by
repetitive (adjective): doing something more than one time
shall be (verb): will be; future form of “be”; see shall versus will
well (adjective): ok; free from trouble
idly (adverb): for no particular reason; in a lazy way
speculate (verb): imagine; guess; form a theory about with no real evidence
all manner of thing: many different things; [in this context - everything]

The Prophet ~ Children

24th September 2010 by Joe

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

(Khalil Gibran)

babe (noun): baby
bosom (noun): chest
longing (noun): keen desire
strive (verb): try very hard
tarry (verb): wait; delay leaving
bow (noun): a weapon for shooting arrows (made from a curved piece of wood)
arrow (noun): a long rod with a sharp point that flies through the air after leaving the bow
archer (noun): a person who shoots an arrow with a bow
swift (adverb): fast
stable (adjective): firm, not moving

Question: Why are “He” and “His” written with capital letters?

Khalil Gibran (1883-1931), was a Lebanese American artist, poet and writer. He was born in modern day Lebanon and emigrated to the United States as a young man. He is most famous for The Prophet, a book of 26 poetic essays that he wrote in English, first published in 1923 and since translated into more than 40 languages. “Children” is the third of the 26 essays and one of my favourite pieces of writing, which is why I have included it here.

[This work is in the public domain in countries where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 75 years or fewer.]

Specially or especially?

7th September 2010 by Joe

Many people wonder if there is a difference between the adverbs “specially” and “especially”. Even native speakers aren’t always sure how to use them. In some cases they can actually mean the same thing, especially in informal speech. However, for the sake of simplicity, here are the basic differences between the two words.

specially: for a particular purpose:

  • I made this cake specially for Mary.


1. particularly, above all:

  • I hate my teachers, especially Mr Cain.

2. very:

  • That was an especially good meal.

Cannot or can not?

12th July 2010 by Joe

People often ask me whether they should write cannot (1 word) or can not (2 words). Read on »

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