Too many words!

You know that old demonstration of our everyday mistakes in perception? “Paris in the the spring.” When laid out on the page so that the line breaks after the first three words many readers do not notice the duplicate “the”.

Well I have begun to notice that people are doing a similar thing in speech. It isn’t “the” which gets repeated, but the word “is”. As in

The problem is, is the government has missed its target.


The trouble with that suggestion is, is it’s totally impractical.

Here is an example. In this two minute YouTube clip the speaker does it three times. It’s almost imperceptible, but she definitely slips in a duplicate “is” each time.

Is this new, or have people always done it?

Vehicle tax madness

I just received my vehicle tax reminder. The amount you have to pay depends on how much carbon dioxide (CO2) it emits per kilometre. As my car produces rather a lot, I have to pay a huge amount of vehicle tax.

You might think this is a good idea. Superficially it is. Penalise those who produce the most air pollution and save the planet! However,  Continue reading

RIP Mr Bernicoff

So, Leon Bernicoff has died. Sad news about the Gogglebox star whose guileless personality made him a viewers’ favourite.

I knew him only as Mr Bernicoff when he taught me history. So far as we were concerned, teachers had no first names, homes, or families of their own. As if they existed only during school hours and, like a holographic image from a sci-fi movie, disappeared into the ether at the flick of a switch every afternoon.

Except for a rare few like Mr Bernicoff. His wife June also taught at our school, which felt strange as it kind of broke through the fourth wall. But also you knew where you were with him. He had an openness of character and showed a passion for his vocation.

And though I very rarely need to recall the fact, it’s thanks to Mr Bernicoff I know that Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz introduced movable-type printing to Europe.

Thank you, sir.

Nuke the uke!

I was on my bank’s website today because I needed to query a transaction. In order to help me understand the bank’s process for dealing with disputed transactions I was presented with a choice of guides – either plain text, or a short video.

My mouse hovered over the video start button. In that moment my heart sank, and I realised that I would much prefer not to click, but to read the paragraphs of dull text instead. Because I never want to hear another jolly ukulele background loop in an online video. Ever. Again.

I went ahead and read the guide and sent the transaction query. Then I returned to the page containing the video. And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire.


Whilst watching TV yesterday I was idly channel flip-flopping between the Euro 2016 football and Wimbledon tennis. What struck me was the difference in behaviour expected of the players and spectators in the two sports. It’s time to mix things up a bit.

For example, to aid players’ concentration I think the football referee should insist on complete quiet from the crowd.

By the same token, I think it would make tennis more fun if after winning each set the player ran around the court doing an aeroplane, finishing with a spectacular knee-slide.


Discounts galore

This time, I’m not talking about the dubious two-for-one offers made by desperate retailers in times of austerity. I am referring to the propensity we have to discount some piece of information which doesn’t fit our reality, or which we simply find inconvenient.

This week there was a grim reminder of the consequences when humans exhibit this illogical behaviour. Continue reading

You read it here first!

Back in 2007 I wrote that if your intention was to ‘save the planet’ then simply using oil more efficiently was futile. This is because somebody, somewhere at sometime will use the fuel that you don’t burn.

Now the journal Nature has published research which takes this argument to its conclusion. The authors argue that huge quantities of fossil fuels must be left in the ground if the global temperature rise is to be kept under the 2°C safety limit agreed internationally.

That’s just not going to happen, is it?

Really …?

An articulated lorry passed me on the main road yesterday. It was an ordinary, anonymous curtain-sided trailer – ordinary except it carried signs on each side which said

Warning do not walk close to this vehicle at any time.

I think I’ll put one of those on my car.