Friday, 25 February 2011

Too many ads spoil the film?

Regulator OFCOM has announced a 12 month trial waiver of the restriction on the length of advertising breaks within films. Commercial terrestrial broadcasters will now be permitted to show up to 12 minutes of advertising per hour during films and single dramas – an increase of five minutes per hour on the current rules.

Ironically, this decision comes one week after the House of Lords called for a reduction in the amount of advertising permitted on cable and satellite TV, where 12 minutes of advertising per hour is already permitted.

Whether the OFCOM decision receives widespread public approval remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that for many people, the adverts are better than the programmes.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Vive La Révolution!

The world has witnessed some incredible demonstrations of people power in recent weeks. First Tunisia, then Egypt and now Libya.

According to the BBC, the man credited with the strategy behind the toppling of the Egyptian government is American Dr Gene Sharp who has written a book on non violent revolution.
“His central message is that the power of dictatorships comes from the willing obedience of the people they govern - and that if the people can develop techniques of withholding their consent, a regime will crumble.”
If Dr Sharp’s methods can bring down a government, he should be invited to Barnet without delay!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Learning a second language can delay the onset of dementia

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has carried out research which suggests that the onset of dementia is delayed for up to five years in bilingual speakers. According to linguist Dr Amy Weinberg: “Speaking more than one language protects the brain against cognitive decline and makes a person better at multi-tasking.”

The study appears to have been based on 211 Alzheimer’s patients which is a rather small sample size. It is not clear what, if any, conclusions can be drawn from this.

You can read more details here or download a short podcast here. Or watch the movie below!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Grammar lesson for today

The importance of correct grammar cannot be overstated. Many people who send text messages and e-mails, have forgotten the requirement to capitalise certain words.

Capitalisation is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Blogging improves literacy

A very interesting article in The Independent reports of a remarkable improvement in literacy amongst pupils at Heathfield Primary School in Bolton following a decision by the Headmaster to host online lessons as a consequence of the disruption caused by the bad weather last winter.

The percentage of pupils getting a higher than average score in national curriculum writing tests for 11-year-olds soared from just 7 per cent to 63 per cent.

You can read the full article here.

India Knight wrote a similar piece in the Sunday Times (13th February 2010). The article is behind a paywall, but you can download a scanned copy here.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Leave Radio 4 Alone!

There has been justifiable outrage at the suggestion by the BBC Trust that Radio 4 has become too elitist and must change in order to appeal to more ethnic minorities. Such a declaration is not merely condescending towards ethnic minorities, but also offensive to the 10 million listeners who tune in each week.

The report was prepared by David Liddiment, responsible for producing such highbrow drama as Between the Sheets and My Secret Desire.

Radio 4 is a beacon of excellence, renowned the world over. Nobody suggests that Radio 1 should start broadcasting in depth political interviews about the crisis in the Middle East in order to appeal to more erudite listeners, so why should Radio 4 change its output simply because of the prejudices of a politically correct imbecile?

The BBC is regularly criticised for one thing or another, but the quality of its radio output is second to none. It ain’t broke. Don’t fix it!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Fly Fishing by J R Hartley

The classic Yellow Pages advert has been updated with the J.R. Hartley character replaced by Day V Lately, a Disc Jockey in search of a former recording. It is a nice idea but it doesn’t seem to have the same warmth of the original with its melancholic music.

The most important question, however, is will the advert work? Are the people who still use telephone directories also downloaders of mobile phone Apps? Or perhaps the question should be reversed. Would people who download Apps also download a dedicated telephone directory App when a simple search engine will, more often than not, provide them with the information they need?

It is reasonable to assume that people who download Apps are comfortable using the internet. The new advert does not really give a reason why the Yell App is a superior product to the other search engines available - search engines which were not available in the days of J R Hartley, played by the late lamented Norman Lumsden.

Regional Dialects alive and well on Twitter

According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, regional slang and dialects are as evident in Tweets as they are in everyday conversations.

In many American cities, something is “sumthin”, but apparently in New York City Twitterers prefer to use “suttin”. LOL is a commonly used acronym for “laughing out loud” but in Washington, D.C. the cruder LLS is preferred (laughing like shit).

The study was carried out by Dr Jacob Eisenstein who said that:
“studies of regional dialects traditionally have been based primarily on oral interviews. Written communication often is less reflective of regional influences because writing, even in blogs, tends to be formal and thus homogenized. But Twitter offers a new way of studying regional lexicon because tweets are informal and conversational.”
The research was compiled based on the Tweets of 9,500 users during March 2010. It is estimated that there are over 100 million registered users of Twitter, so a sample size of just 9,500 is almost certainly not an accurate representation of the global Twittersphere. Accordingly, the research should be considered with caution.

Dr Eisenstein has presented his paper to the Linguistic Society of America. You can download a copy here.

Friday, 11 February 2011

The Language Wars

As part of its Evolving English exhibition, the British Library held a seminar on Monday entitled The Language Wars based on the book of the same name by Henry Hitchings. Unfortunately one of the main speakers, Simon Heffer, was unable to attend and his place was taken by Bernard Lamb, President of the Queen’s English Society.

Mr Lamb was not a very charismatic speaker and you could sense that the audience were starting to tire of him because his sole mantra was that there is a correct way to write and speak, but he did not adequately explain why this should be so. This was a particular disappointment to those of us who advocate the cause of prescriptivism!

The highlight of the evening was a performance by rapper, writer and poet Dizraeli who received resounding applause for his brilliant rap The 21st Century Flux. Applause from everyone, that is, except Mr Lamb who sat with his arms crossed throughout!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Are social networks blurring the lines of reality?

James Harkin, author of ‘Cyburbia’, has written an interesting article in the Daily Telegraph in which he suggests that online social networks are diminishing us as humans.

He says: “At its worst Facebook is a snarky, always-on slide show, like arriving at the worst dinner party imaginable – one where there's too many people but no one you really like, where everyone’s trying to come up with pithy quips and hand out fliers for their latest venture at the same time. Who are these people?”

For the full article, click here.

Texting aids literacy

According to an article in the Times Educational Supplement (and widely reported by lazy journalists in most national newspapers): “pupils who send large numbers of text messages are more likely to do well in school literacy tests than their text-averse classmates.”

This is based on research carried out by Coventry University.

However, according to the University’s website, the research involved just 114 children. It is estimated that half of the world’s population has access to a mobile phone.

Clearly, the test sample is too small to be statistically significant, but reporters are not a group renowned for letting facts get in the way of a good story.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Genes play key role in classroom performance

According to a report on the BBC website, researchers at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry claim that genetic factors are influential in children’s academic achievement.

Read the full article here.