H.M.S. Pinafore

H.M.S. Pinafore is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and a libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It opened at the Opera Comique in London, on 25 May 1878 and ran for 571 performances, which was the second-longest run of any musical theatre piece up to that time. H.M.S. Pinafore was Gilbert and Sullivan’s fourth operatic collaboration and their first international sensation.

The story takes place aboard the Royal Navy ship H.M.S. Pinafore. The captain’s daughter, Josephine, is in love with a lower-class sailor, Ralph Rackstraw, although her father intends her to marry Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty. She accepts her father’s wishes at first, but Sir Joseph’s promotion of the equality of humankind encourages Ralph and Josephine to overturn conventional social order. They declare their love for each other and eventually plan to elope. The Captain discovers this plan, but, as in many of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, a surprise disclosure changes things dramatically near the end of the story.

The song in the video below, “When I Was a Lad”, is Captain Corcoran’s tale of how he rose to his position of power as a sea captain without ever actually going to sea. It was seen at the time as a thinly-veiled reference to the politician W.H. Smith who had recently been appointed First Lord of the Admiralty despite having neither military nor nautical experience.

This is just a straightforward Read & Listenexercise – for pure enjoyment!
Why don’t you try singing along with the chorus?

When I was a lad I served a term
As office boy to an attorney’s firm.
I cleaned the windows and I swept the floor,
And I polished up the handle of the big front door.
(He polished up the handle of the big front door)
I polished up that handle so carefully
That now I am the Ruler of the King’s Navy!
(He polished up that handle so carefully
That now he is the Ruler of the King’s Navy)

As office boy I made such a mark
That they gave me the post of a junior clerk.
I served the writs with a smile so bland,
And I copied all the letters in a big round hand.
(He copied all the letters in a big round hand)
I copied all the letters in a hand so free,
That now I am the Ruler of the King’s Navy!
(He copied all the letters in a hand so free,
That now he is the Ruler of the King’s Navy)

In serving writs I gained such a name
That an articled clerk I soon became;
From clerk I followed the shortest route
To the pass examination at the Institute.
(To the pass examination at the Institute)
That pass examination did so well for me,
That now I am the Ruler of the King’s Navy!
(That pass examination did so well for he,
That now he is the Ruler of the King’s Navy)

Of legal knowledge I acquired such a grip
That they took me into the partnership.
And that partnership till then had been,
The one and only ‘ship’ that I ever had seen.
(The one and only ‘ship’ that he ever had seen)
But that kind of ‘ship’ so suited me,
That now I am the Ruler of the King’s Navy!
(But that kind of ‘ship’ so suited he,
That now he is the Ruler of the King’s Navy)

I grew so rich that I was sent
By a wealthy member into Parliament.
I always voted at my party’s call,
And I never thought of thinking for myself at all.
(He never thought of thinking for himself at all)
I thought so little, they rewarded me
By making me the Ruler of the King’s Navy!
(He thought so little, they rewarded he
By making him the Ruler of the King’s Navy)

Now landsmen all, whoever you may be,
If you want to rise to the top of the tree,
If your soul isn’t fettered to an office stool,
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule:
(Be careful to be guided by this golden rule)
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,
And you all may be rulers of the King’s Navy!
(Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,
And you all may be rulers of the King’s Navy)


Late Lament

Listening Practice

Esercizio di listening con una differenza!

Si tratta di un brano musicale del gruppoThe Moody Bluesche fu pubblicato come epilogo al più noto brano Nights in White Satin sull’album “Days of Future Passed” nel 1967. Il brano è una piccola poesia scritta dal batterista Graeme Edge e recitata dal tastierista Mike Pinder su uno sfondo musicale del London Festival Orchestra.

Il vostro lavoro è quello di ricavare il testo completo con l’aiuto della scheda sottostante il video dove ho fornito qualche parola chiave e il numero di parole in ogni battuta. Visto che si tratta di una registrazione originale, senza ripetizioni, servirà portare indietro il video per riascoltare. Vi consiglio di ascoltare il brano alcune volte senza scrivere niente prima di passare alla stesura del testo completo.

Mettete la vostra versione nei commenti (senza fare delle ricerche su Google 😉) e vi farò sapere com’è andata!

Sentitevi liberi anche di commentare la poesia con la vostra interpretazione del significato.

thegloom
faderoom
Bedsitterlament
energyis
wrestle
Lonelyand
suckles
Seniorwishyoung
Cold-heartedrules
our
and
decide
And

Listen and read with “The Conversation”

conversation

Ho scoperto l’altro giorno che il sito The Conversation ha ampliato la sua offerta per includere una sezione NOA (News Over Audio) che propone le notizie sia come lettura che come ascolto: un esercizio utilissimo per chi studia la lingua inglese.

Consiglio, come sempre, di usare questi articoli anzitutto come esercizi di ascolto puro, senza guardare il testo, cercando di cogliere più informazioni possibili, anche con ascolti ripetuti. Il prossimo passo è quello di ascoltare di nuovo con il testo davanti, cercando d’individuare e studiare i passaggi dove si sono presentate maggiori difficoltà nell’ascolto. Infine può essere utile fare un ultimo ascolto senza il testo davanti, vedendo se perlopiù si riesce a seguire tutto l’articolo dall’inizio alla fine.

La pagina con gli articoli già pubblicati si trova QUI


What the world can learn about equality from the Nordic model

conversation
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence

by
Geoffrey M Hodgson, University of Hertfordshire

Rising inequality is one of the biggest social and economic issues of our time. It is linked to poorer economic growth and fosters social discontent and unrest. So, given that the five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – are some of the world’s most equal on a number of measures, it makes sense to look to them for lessons in how to build a more equal society.

The Nordic countries are all social-democratic countries with mixed economies. They are not socialist in the classical sense – they are driven by financial markets rather than by central plans, although the state does play a strategic role in the economy. They have systems of law that protect personal and corporate property and help to enforce contracts. They are democracies with checks, balances and countervailing powers.

Nordic countries show that major egalitarian reforms and substantial welfare states are possible within prosperous capitalist countries that are highly engaged in global markets. But their success undermines the view that the most ideal capitalist economy is one where markets are unrestrained. They also suggest that humane and equal outcomes are possible within capitalism, while full-blooded socialism has always, in practice, led to disaster.

The Nordic countries are among the most equal in terms of distribution of income. Using the Gini coefficient measure of income inequality (where 1 represents complete inequality and 0 represents complete equality) OECD data gives the US a score of 0.39 and the UK a slightly more equal score of 0.35 – both above the OECD average of 0.31. The five Nordic countries, meanwhile, ranged from 0.25 (Iceland – the most equal) to 0.28 (Sweden).

The relative standing of the Nordic countries in terms of their distributions of wealth is not so egalitarian, however. Data show that Sweden has higher wealth inequality than France, Germany, Japan and the UK, but lower wealth inequality than the US. Norway is more equal, with wealth inequality exceeding Japan but lower than France, Germany, UK and US.

Nonetheless, the Nordic countries score very highly in terms of major welfare and development indicators. Norway and Denmark rank first and fifth in the United Nations Human Development Index. Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden have been among the six least corrupt countries in the world, according to the corruption perceptions index produced by Transparency International. By the same measure, the UK ranks tenth, Iceland 14th and the US 18th.

The four largest Nordic countries have taken up the top four positions in global indices of press freedom. Iceland, Norway and Finland took the top three positions in a global index of gender equality, with Sweden in fifth place, Denmark in 14th place and the US in 49th.

Suicide rates in Denmark and Norway are lower than the world average. In Denmark, Iceland and Norway the suicide rates are lower than in the US, France and Japan. The suicide rate in Sweden is about the same as in the US, but in Finland it is higher. Norway was ranked as the happiest country in the world in 2017, followed immediately by Denmark and Iceland. By the same happiness index, Finland ranks sixth, Sweden tenth and the US 15th.

In terms of economic output (GDP) per capita, Norway is 3% above the US, while Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland are respectively 11%, 14%, 14% and 25% below the US. This is a mixed, but still impressive, performance. Every Nordic country’s per capita GDP is higher than the UK, France and Japan.

Special conditions?

Clearly, the Nordic countries have achieved very high levels of welfare and wellbeing, alongside levels of economic output that compare well with other highly developed countries. They result from relatively high levels of social solidarity and taxation, alongside a political and economic system that preserves enterprise, economic autonomy and aspiration.

Yet the Nordic countries are small and more ethnically and culturally homogeneous than most developed countries. These special conditions have facilitated high levels of nationwide trust and cooperation – and consequently a willingness to pay higher-than-average levels of tax.

As a result, Nordic policies and institutions cannot be easily exported to other countries. Large developed countries, such as the US, UK, France and Germany, are more diverse in terms of cultures and ethnicities. Exporting the Nordic model would create major challenges of assimilation, integration, trust-enhancement, consensus-building and institution-formation. Nonetheless, it is still important to learn from it and to experiment.

Despite a prevailing global ideology in favour of markets, privatisation and macro-economic austerity, there is considerable enduring variety among capitalist countries. Furthermore some countries continue to perform much better than others on indicators of welfare and economic equality. We can learn from the Nordic mixed economies with their strong welfare provision that does not diminish the role of business. They show a way forward that is different from both statist socialism and unrestrained markets.The Conversation


The history of the English language in ten minutes

Gironzolando per la rete l’altro giorno mi sono imbattuto in questo simpatico video sul sito https://www.open.edu/openlearn/ che, in modo scherzoso e auto-ironico, traccia la storia della lingua inglese dai tempi dei Romani ai tempi moderni. Non è un brano facile e la lettura di Clive Anderson è piuttosto incalzante, ma tra video, trascrizione del testo e gli aiuti che ho fornito nella trascrizione, potrebbe essere un utile e divertente esercizio di ascolto e di lettura per studenti di livello intermedio. Suggerisco di cominciare dal video, ascoltando e cogliendo quanto possibile del racconto con l’aiuto delle immagini. In un secondo momento potete avviare nuovamente il video e seguire la narrazione direttamente con la trascrizione davanti.

[per sapere il significato delle parole evidenziate,
passaci sopra con il mouse senza cliccare]

Chapter 1

Anglo-Saxon, or whatever happened to the Jutes.

The English language begins with the phrase ‘Up Yours Caesar!’ as the Romans leave Britain and a lot of Germanic tribes start flooding in; tribes such as the Angles and the Saxons – who together gave us the term Anglo-Saxon, and the Jutes – who didn’t.

The Romans left some very straight roads behind, but not much of their Latin language. The Anglo-Saxon vocab was much more useful as it was mainly words for simple everyday things like ‘house’, ‘woman’, ‘loaf’ and ‘werewolf’.

Four of our days of the week were named in honour of Anglo-Saxon gods. They didn’t bother with Saturday, Sunday and Monday as they had all gone off for a long weekend. While they were away, Christian missionaries stole in bringing with them leaflets about jumble sales and more Latin.

Christianity was a hit with the locals and made them much happier to take on funky new words from Latin, like ‘martyr’, ‘bishop’ and ‘font’.

Along came the Vikings, with their action-man words like ‘drag’, ‘ransack’, ‘thrust’ and ‘die’. They may have raped and pillaged but they were also into ‘give’ and ‘take’ – two of around 2000 words they gave English, as well as the phrase ‘watch out for that man with the enormous axe.’

Chapter 2

The Norman conquest, or excuse my English.

1066. True to his name, William the Conqueror invades England, bringing new concepts from across the channel like the French language, the Domesday book and the duty free Gauloises multipack.

French was de rigeur for all official business, with words like ‘judge’, ‘jury’, ‘evidence’ and ‘justice’ coming in and giving John Grisham’s career a kick-start. Latin was still used ad nauseam in Church, but the common man spoke English – able to communicate only by speaking more slowly and loudly until the others understood him.

Words like ‘cow’, ‘sheep’ and ‘swine’ come from the English-speaking farmers, while the a-la-carte versions – ‘beef’, ‘mutton’ and ‘pork’ – come from the French-speaking toffs – beginning a long-running trend for restaurants having completely indecipherable menus.

All in all, the English absorbed about 10,000 new words from the Normans, but they still couldn’t grasp the rules of cheek-kissing.

The bonhomie all ended when the English nation took their new warlike lingo of ‘armies’, ‘navies’ and ‘soldiers’ and began the Hundred Years War against France. It actually lasted 116 years but by that point no one could count any higher in French and English took over as the language of power.

Chapter 3

Shakespeare, or a plaque on both his houses.

As the dictionary tells us, about 2000 new words and phrases were invented by William Shakespeare. He gave us handy words like ‘eyeball’, ‘puppy-dog’ and ‘anchovy’ – and more show-offy words like ‘dauntless’, ‘besmirch’ and ‘lacklustre’. He came up with the word ‘alligator’, soon after he ran out of things to rhyme with ‘crocodile’. And a nation of tea-drinkers finally took him to their hearts when he invented the ‘hobnob’.

Shakespeare knew the power of catch-phrases as well as biscuits. Without him we would never eat our ‘flesh and blood’ ‘out of house and home’ – we’d have to say ‘good riddance’ to ‘the green-eyed monster’ and ‘breaking the ice’ would be ‘as dead as a doornail’. If you tried to get your ‘money’s worth’ you’d be given ‘short shrift’ and anyone who ‘laid it on with a trowel’ could be ‘hoist with his own petard’.

Of course it’s possible other people used these words first, but the dictionary writers liked looking them up in Shakespeare ’cause there was more cross-dressing and people poking each other’s eyes out.

Shakespeare’s poetry showed the world that English was a rich vibrant language with limitless expressive and emotional power. And he still had time to open all those tearooms in Stratford.

Chapter 4

The King James bible, or let there be light reading.

In 1611 ‘the powers that be’ ‘turned the world upside down’ with a ‘labour of love’ – a new translation of the bible. A team of scribes with the ‘wisdom of Solomon’ – ‘went the extra mile’ to make King James’ translation ‘all things to all men’, whether from their ‘heart’s desire’ ‘to fight the good fight’ or just for the ‘filthy lucre’.

This sexy new Bible went ‘from strength to strength’, getting to ‘the root of the matter’ in a language even ‘the salt of the earth’ could understand. ‘The writing wasn’t on the wall’, it was in handy little books with ‘fire and brimstone’ preachers reading it in every church, its words and phrases ‘took root’ ‘to the ends of the earth’ – well at least the ends of Britain.

The King James Bible is the book that taught us that ‘a leopard can’t change its spots’, that ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’, that ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing is harder to spot than you would imagine, and how annoying it is to have ‘a fly in your ointment’.

In fact, just as ‘Jonathan begat Meribbaal; and Meribbaal begat Micah, the King James Bible begat a whole glossary of metaphor and morality that still shapes the way English is spoken today. Amen.

Chapter 5

The English of science, or how to speak with gravity.

Before the 17th Century scientists weren’t really recognised – possibly because lab-coats had yet to catch on. But suddenly Britain was full of physicists – there was Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle – and even some people not called Robert, like Isaac Newton. The Royal Society was formed out of the Invisible College – after they put it down somewhere and couldn’t find it again.

At first they worked in Latin. After sitting through Newton’s story about the ‘pomum’ falling to the ‘terra’ from the ‘arbor’ for the umpteenth time, the bright sparks realised they all spoke English and they could transform our understanding of the universe much quicker by talking in their own language.

But science was discovering things faster than they could name them. Words like ‘acid’, ‘gravity’, ‘electricity and ‘pendulum’ had to be invented just to stop their meetings turning into an endless game of charades.

Like teenage boys, the scientists suddenly became aware of the human body – coining new words like ‘cardiac’ and ‘tonsil’, ‘ovary’, and ‘sternum’ – and the invention of ‘penis’ (1693), ‘vagina’ (1682) made sex education classes a bit easier to follow. Though ‘clitoris’ was still a source of confusion.

Chapter 6

English and empire, or the sun never sets on the English language.

With English making its name as the language of science, the Bible and Shakespeare, Britain decided to take it on tour. Asking only for land, wealth, natural resources, total obedience to the crown and a few local words in return.

They went to the Caribbean looking for gold and a chance to really unwind – discovering the ‘barbeque’, the ‘canoe’ and a pretty good recipe for rum punch. They also brought back the word ‘cannibal’ to make their trip sound more exciting.

In India there was something for everyone. ‘Yoga’ – to help you stay in shape, while pretending to be spiritual. If that didn’t work there was the ‘cummerbund’ to hide a paunch and – if you couldn’t even make it up the stairs without turning ‘crimson’ – they had the ‘bungalow’.

Meanwhile in Africa they picked up words like ‘voodoo’ and ‘zombie’ – kicking off the teen horror film.

From Australia, English took the words ‘nugget’, ‘boomerang’ and ‘walkabout’ – and in fact the whole concept of chain pubs.

All in all, between toppling Napoleon (1815) and the first World War (1914), the British Empire gobbled up around 10 million square miles, 400 million people and nearly a hundred thousand gin and tonics, leaving new varieties of English to develop all over the globe.

Chapter 7

The age of the dictionary, or the definition of a hopeless task.

With English expanding in all directions, along came a new breed of men called lexicographers, who wanted to put an end to this anarchy – a word they defined as ‘what happens when people spell words slightly differently from each other’.

One of the greatest was Doctor Johnson, whose ‘Dictionary of the English Language’ took him 9 years to write. It was 18 inches tall and contained 42,773 entries, meaning that even if you couldn’t read, it was still pretty useful if you wanted to reach a high shelf.

For the first time, when people were calling you ‘a pickle herring’, a ‘jobbernowl‘ or a ‘fopdoodle’, you could understand exactly what they meant – and you’d have the consolation of knowing they were all using the standard spelling.

Try as he might to stop them, words kept being invented and in 1857 a new book was started that would become the Oxford English Dictionary. It took another 70 years to be finished after the first editor resigned to be an Archbishop, the second died of TB and the third was so boring that half his volunteers quit and one of them ended up in an asylum. It eventually appeared in 1928 and has continued to be revised ever since – proving the whole idea you can stop people making up words is complete snuffbumble.

Chapter 8

American English, or not English but somewhere in the ball park.

From the moment Brits landed in America they needed names for all the new plants and animals so they borrowed words like ‘raccoon’, ‘squash’ and ‘moose’ from the Native Americans, as well as most of their territory.

Waves of immigrants fed America’s hunger for words. The Dutch came sharing ‘coleslaw’ and ‘cookies’ – probably as a result of their relaxed attitude to drugs. Later, the Germans arrived selling ‘pretzels’ from ‘delicatessens’ and the Italians arrived with their ‘pizza’, their ‘pasta’ and their ‘mafia’, just like mamma used to make.

America spread a new language of capitalism – getting everyone worried about the ‘breakeven’ and ‘the bottom line’, and whether they were ‘blue chip’ or ‘white collar’. The commuter needed a whole new system of ‘freeways’, ‘subways’ and ‘parking lots’ – and quickly, before words like ‘merger’ and ‘downsizing’ could be invented.

American English drifted back across the pond as Brits ‘got the hang of’ their ‘cool movies’, and their ‘groovy’ ‘jazz’. There were even some old forgotten English words that lived on in America. So they carried on using ‘fall’, ‘faucets’, ‘diapers’ and ‘candy’, while the Brits moved on to ‘autumn’, ‘taps’, ‘nappies’ and NHS dental care.

Chapter 9

Internet English, or language reverts to type.

In 1972 the first email was sent. Soon the Internet arrived – a free global space to share information, ideas and amusing pictures of cats.

Before the Internet, English changed through people speaking it – but the net brought typing back into fashion and hundreds of cases of repetitive strain injury. Nobody had ever had to ‘download’ anything before, let alone use a ‘toolbar’ – And the only time someone set up a ‘firewall’, it ended with a massive insurance claim and a huge pile of charred wallpaper.

Conversations were getting shorter than the average attention spanwhy bother writing a sentence when an abbreviation would do and leave you more time to ‘blog’, ‘poke’ and ‘reboot’ when your ‘hard drive’ crashed?

In my humble opinion’ became ‘IMHO, ‘by the way’ became ‘BTW and ‘if we’re honest that life-threatening accident was pretty hilarious!’ simply became ‘fail’.

Some changes even passed into spoken English. For your information people frequently asked questions like “how can ‘LOL’ mean ‘laugh out loud’ and ‘lots of love’? But if you’re going to complain about that then UG2BK (you’ve got to be kidding).

Chapter 10

Global English, or whose language is it anyway?

In the 1500 years since the Roman’s left Britain, English has shown a unique ability to absorb, evolve, invade and, if we’re honest, steal. After foreign settlers got it started, it grew into a fully-fledged language all of its own, before leaving home and travelling the world, first via the high seas, then via the high speed broadband connection, pilfering words from over 350 languages and establishing itself as a global institution. All this despite a written alphabet that bears no correlation to how it sounds and a system of spelling that even Dan Brown couldn’t decipher.

Right now around 1.5 billion people speak English. Of these about a quarter are native speakers, a quarter speak it as their second language, and half are able to ask for directions to a swimming pool.

There’s Hinglish – which is Hindi-English, Chinglish – which is Chinese-English and Singlish – which is Singaporean English – and not that bit when they speak in musicals.

So in conclusion, the language has got so little to do with England these days it may well be time to stop calling it ‘English’. But if someone does think up a new name for it, it should probably be in Chinese.

English Meals

• breakfast • lunch • tea • dinner • supper •

Che il primo pasto del giorno si chiama breakfast (break “rompere”; fast “digiuno”) siamo tutti d’accordo, ma come si chiamano gli altri due pasti principali del giorno? Lunch? Dinner? Tea? Supper? La risposta è molto più complessa di quanto potrebbe sembrare e trova le sue radici in questioni geografiche e sociali. Nell’articolo che segue Richard Tomkins cerca, con una buona dose di ironia, di fare un po’ di luce sulla questione. Nonostante l’articolo sia vecchiotto, il problema non è stato ancora risolto.

ENGLISH MEALS
Richard Tomkins

“The Financial Times”
6th October 2006

We seem to be all over the place in our anxieties about food. One minute we are in a panic over obesity; the next, over super-skinny models. But why be surprised? Some of us are so confused about eating that we are not even sure what our meal times are called.

What, for example, is the name of the evening meal? Is it dinner, supper or tea? And if the answer is dinner, why are our children having school dinners in the middle of the day?

Or, to put it another way, if someone invites you to tea, what time do you arrive? And what, if anything, do you expect to eat? Some thinly-cut cucumber sandwiches and a piece of cake or a full-on hot dinner with dessert?

“It’s very complicated, really,” says Colin Spencer, author of ‘British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History’, referring to meal-time terminology. “It always conveys some social distinction. Food is so symbolic of where you believe you are within society.”

Nearly everyone agrees that breakfast is the first meal of the day. The confusion sets in after elevenses or mid-morning coffee and biscuits.

If you are a member of the lower classes or live outside London and the south-east, the midday meal is called dinner and is often the main meal of the day. But for the upper classes and metropolitans, the midday meal is called lunch and is usually quite light unless taken in a restaurant with friends or business associates.

In the evening, the lower classes and northerners come home from work, school or shopping and sit down to another fairly substantial meal called tea at about 6pm. However, the upper classes and southerners eat later and the meal they eat, called dinner, tends to be the main meal of the day.

For all classes and regions, supper usually means a late-night snack or meal, but some people use the term for the early evening meal if they have already had their dinner at midday. Afternoon tea – a pot of tea with sandwiches and cake once enjoyed by upper-class ladies of leisure – has largely died out but lives on in the form of the 4pm tea and biscuits that people of all classes enjoy.

If the system were not complicated enough, schools introduce even more quirks. By custom, at least in the state sector, all schools serve school dinners at midday and call the evening meal tea; so to avoid confusing the children, some parents temporarily adopt the breakfastdinnertea terminology even if it goes against their instincts. Another anomaly is that if your children eat the meal the school provides, it is a school dinner, but if they take in their own food, it is a packed lunch.

Another problem arises if the main meal of the day does not coincide with the meal you call dinner. The upper classes, for example, are thrown into turmoil when they find themselves eating their main meal of the day at lunchtime. Is it Sunday dinner or Sunday lunch? Christmas dinner or Christmas lunch?

Not surprisingly, research on meal terminology is a bit thin on the ground but last year, Geest, the fresh food supplier now owned by Iceland’s Bakkavör, did a survey that provided some insights.

Based on a sample of 1,000 Britons, it found that 53 per cent called the main evening meal dinner, 39 per cent called it tea and just 8 per cent called it supper. But within those figures, there was a stark north-south divide. In northern England, 68 per cent of those questioned called the main evening meal tea, but in London, only 5 per cent followed the same custom.

How did the divergence come about? In medieval England, everyone knew you ate breakfast when you rose at daybreak, dinner in the middle of the day and supper just before you went to bed, around sundown.

Things started to change with rising prosperity, urbanisation and industrialisation. The better-off could afford candles and lamps that allowed them to party after dark, and keeping late hours became a status symbol. For these people, dinner – still the main meal of the day – was gradually pushed back until it reached evening.

As writer Sherrie McMillan explained in an article in History Magazine, this posed a problem for early risers such as mothers with children: they faced an enormous gap between breakfast and dinner. So the womenfolk invented a light, midday meal called luncheon to bridge the gap, using a word with a disputed derivation.

Meanwhile, among the lower classes, working people now had to travel to factories to work so their midday meal, still called dinner, consisted of only what they could carry with them. Hungry again by the end of the day, they would have another substantial meal when they arrived home, calling it tea after the drink that accompanied it. Supper remained, for all classes, a bed-time snack.

Could we conceivably rationalise the names of our meals? Perhaps we could agree that dinner is, as it always was, the main meal of the day, usually consisting of more than one course. If eaten at midday, the terminology should be breakfastdinnersupper, as in medieval times. If eaten in the evening, the terminology should be breakfastlunchdinner, on the basis that breakfastteadinner makes no sense at all and to call tea a meal is confusing.

Good. Now, having solved that problem, all we have to agree on is what to call the dish that comes after the main course. Is it pudding, sweet or dessert? Or should it be simply afters?


Paraprosdokians

Capita a volte di scoprire, con piacere, qualche curioso termine sconosciuto per un uso particolare della propria lingua.  A me è successo ultimamente, grazie a Paolocon il termine paraprosdokian (per la pronuncia clicca QUI).

Se il termine è nuovo anche per te, ecco una precisa definizione presa da Wikipedia:

“Un paraprosdokian è una figura retorica utilizzata per dare una conclusione inaspettata e sorprendente ad una frase da cui ci si attendeva una chiusura adeguata alla prima parte del discorso. Accade allora che tutta la locuzione venga alterata nel suo significato complessivo e si debba reinterpretarla.
Il paraprosdokian si ritrova spesso usato nella commedia e nella satira dove, sfruttando anche il doppio senso di una parola, produce una inaspettata comicità.”

Bene, armato già da un bell’elenco di esempi fornitomi da Paolo, ho fatto un po’ di ricerche online e ne ho aggiunto altri per crearti un esercizio di lettura e, spero, anche di divertimento!

Per sapere il significato delle parole evidenziate,
passaci sopra con il mouse senza cliccare.
(PC only – sorry!)

  1. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  2. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery a lot easier.
  3. Some cause happiness wherever they go, others whenever they go.
  4. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.*
  5. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it’s still on my list.
  6. Since light travels faster than sound, some people seem to be bright until you hear them speak
  7. If I agreed with you, we would both be wrong.
  8. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
  9. War does not determine who is right, only who is left.
  10. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  11. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism, to steal from many is research.
  12. I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila.
  13. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  14. You do not need a parachute to skydive, you only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  15. I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.
  16. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and then say that what you hit was the target.
  17. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  18. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
  19. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting more difficult for me to find one now.
  20. On the other hand, you have different fingers.
  21. I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather, not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
  22. Always borrow money from a pessimist; he won’t expect it back.
  23. A bus station is where a bus stops; a train station is where a train stops; my desk is a work station.
  24. Do not argue with an idiot, he will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
  25. Sometimes I pretend to be normal, but it gets boring so I go back to being me.
  26. I like work, it fascinates me, I can sit and watch it for hours.
  27. I’m missing you, but my aim is improving.
  28. I’d like to see a world without plagiarism. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
  29. If it weren’t for the gutter, my mind would be homeless.
  30. A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.
  31. I asked God for a bike but I know God doesn’t work that way, so I stole a bike and I asked God for forgiveness.
  32. I wondered why the football was getting bigger and bigger; then it hit me.
  33. A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  34. Hospitality is making your guests feel like they’re at home, even if you wish they were.
  35. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
  36. Take my advice, after all, I’m not using it.
  37. My wife and I were happy for twenty years; then we met.
  38. Have you ever stopped to think and then forgotten to start again?
  39. A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.
  40. Women spend more time wondering what men are thinking than men spend thinking.
  41. I was going to give him a nasty look, but he already had one.
  42. Money is the root of all wealth.**
  43. If you think nobody cares whether you’re alive or not, try missing a couple of payments.
  44. I’ve had a wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.
  45. Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.
  46. Growing old is bad; not growing old is worse.
  47. I used to be conceited, but now I’m perfect.
  48. Nostalgia isn’t what it once used to be.
  49. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do.
  50. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
  51. In a marriage there is always someone who is right; the other one is the husband.
  • *Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
    Dove c’è la volontà, c’è una via.
  • **Money is the root of all evil.
    Il denaro è la causa (radice) di ogni male.

The Mountainside: a true story

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Many years ago, when I was still young and (more or less) innocent, there was a brief period in my life when I suffered from a recurring dream. I say “suffered” because although it wasn’t really a nightmare as such, it was nonetheless a little disturbing. In this dream I would find myself walking slowly along a narrow mountain path in some unidentified region of the world.

The mountainside was really quite steep, almost pyramidal, but the path itself was just about wide enough to walk comfortably along without suffering too tremendously from vertigo. As I made my way carefully along the path each night, with the mountain rising up steeply on my right side and dropping off sharply to my left, only one question burned in my mind: when would I finally reach the top?

I don’t know how often I had this dream, nor do I know how long it lasted each time, but I do know that it became a part of my life in that period. When I woke up in the morning, I would dwell on it for a while, always wondering when I would finally reach the top of the mountain, and then I would let it go and get back on with my life again.

One night, though, I awoke from the dream somewhat more brusquely than on other occasions and sat up in bed with the strange, almost incredulous realisation that I had finally found the answer. The path was not going up the mountainside at all, it was going around the mountainside. In my dream I was going round in circles and would never actually reach the top.

It was a life-changing epiphany for me. In that moment I was enlightened to the significance of the journey itself as opposed to the destination. My eyes were opened to the circular nature of existence. Imprinted concepts such as ambition and competition suddenly lost their time-honoured hold on me, fading to nothing in the brilliance of the sun rising gloriously over the horizon.

I have never had that dream again.


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