Sunday, June 13, 2010

There'll Always Be An . . .

We can all relax now.  The Queen's Birthday Honours List is out, and despite the recent political upheavals and an almost American-style (horrors) election, England is still England.  Maybe even more so.

I'm sure that we're all relieved to know that Catherine Zeta-Jones can now write "CBE" after her name and that Graham Nash, after years of labouring in obscurity, has finally gotten his name in the papers.  But the real awards, the ones that reassure us that some things are truly permanent, come a bit farther down the list.

Women with sore feet everywhere, and perhaps most especially the cast of "Sex and the City," are rejoicing in the long-overdue recognition of Tamara Mellon, who employed her ex-husband's Mellon millions to turn the work of an East End cobbler named Jimmy Choo into the highest of high heels.  Mr. Choo himself was not honoured, but that's what PR firms are for.

The two honours that most delighted me were one to Susan Gibbs, a public-address announcer at the Fenchurch Street Railway Station who was singled out for . . . for . . . for never announcing the wrong train?  For getting the platforms right?  For knowing what time it was?  And, of course, to statisticians Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis, devisers of the aptly named Duckworth-Lewis Method for -- let me make sure I'm reading this right -- for calculating scores in cricket matches interrupted by rain.  In other words, they came up with a mathematical model for calculating, um, scores in cricket matches interrupted by rain.  Wow.  There are no other words.

Unfathomably left off the List yet again was Edwin Upbridge-Welles, the creator of the Q-Free Modular U Generator, which allows the creation of infinite "u"s without having to use up a relatively scarce "q" each time, thereby allowing the Brits to continue such extravagant spellings as honour and favour.  I am personally refusing to attend any honours presentations at the Palace until Upbridge-Welles is a CBE at the least. Or maybe they could give him another hyphen.  Something, anyway.

Tim -- Sundays


  1. It is the necessity of needing a "u" after the "q" that needs some academic investigation. It makes the letter "q" so under-utilized (I wanted to be able to use a hyphen).

    Does anyone still remember the spelling rules such as "i" before "e" except after "c" or when it sounds like "a" such as in "neighbor" and "weigh"? The crowd barely out of childhood who run the means by which the internet functions make up all sorts of names that people accept as being reasonable in the English language. Why isn't creative spelling recognized as an art form? It would have made all those years I corrected papers so much more relaxed.


  2. Hi, Beth --

    You could have saved that hyphen for the criminally un-knighted Edwin Upbridge-Welles.

    There actually was a period in the educationally daft 80s when teachers in some school districts were asked to encourage baseless self-esteem by praising the "creativity" of what was called (honest) "invented spelling." So that would put Ms. Withers in the unenviable position of saying, "Oh, good, Leticia -- CT is a really creative way to spell CAT."

    There's no reason not to indulge in invented spelling unless you think writing might occasionally be used for communications purposes. Otherwise, why not use pr'pzz to spell "porpoise?"

  3. It must be 35 years since I was correcting a paper in which the student made a reference to Minimic Donald. When I finally figured it out, I knew he had not read the text book or he would have known it was "Benedict Arnold."

    Tweets and text messages are destroying language.


  4. Tim, ah, the hono(u)rs list. I can't talk about the preservation of our treasured language, but I can talk about arcane cricket stats.

    Ahem. The Duckworth-Lewis method (so famous it has an album named after it!!) is almost cosmically complex. Few people understand how it works, not least the players, and there are examples of teams walking off thinking they have won only to discover under Duckegg and Loser they have lost. Now they put the required score under the D/L method on the scoreboard so both players and fans have a clue what's going on (cue gag about no one knowing what's going on in a game of cricket anyway...)

    Basically, if you'll indulge this Englishman a moment, the D/L calculates how many runs a team needs to win in what time when a match is rain affected. Cricket teams take turn to bat. Team A scores 250 in the their alloted fifty overs. Then it rains. There is no time to for Team B to have its alloted 50 overs to overhaul A's 250. So, the D/L method calculates how many they have to score if only 25 overs are possible, and it will depend on a variety of factors. Then it gets complicated. However it has meant games start and finish on the same day, so no coming back the next day to play in front of half empty crowd, for a desultory few overs, and means people get their money's worth.

    That said, an honour is pushing it. I'm sure the South African team will agree...Michael or Stan might talk about their brush with the D/L method when they hosted the cricket World Cup

    Funny enough, one of my next posts was to be about cricket, and how the summer game gets elbowed aside in the sound and fury of a World Cup. Betcha can't wait....

    As for the Fenchurch Street announcer, she may well have been one of the 'people's honours.' Basically people can submit applications for ordinary Joes and Joanna's who have done years of service - presumably telling people the 7.07 to Chipping Sodbury is delayed in this case.