Friday, 29 March 2013

Heaps' law

In linguistics, Heaps' law is an empirical law which describes the number of distinct words in a document (or set of documents) as a function of the document length.

Heaps' law means that as more instance text is gathered, there will be diminishing returns in terms of discovery of the full vocabulary from which the distinct terms are drawn.


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Ear stretching dangers

The point of no return beyond which the hole will not return to normal varies

One danger is a blow-out, where ear flesh extrudes

Proponents say stretching should never hurt and that pain is usually a sign something has gone wrong

Reconstructive surgery to restore a stretched ear is possible but can be expensive

See full article on “Ear stretching: Why is lobe 'gauging' growing in popularity?” at

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Children react to sex education

Column 8 in the Sydney Morning Herald (yes, once again) has been printing some readers' anecdotes of what their young children said after they came back from school on the day they were told the facts  about sexual intercourse. Readers' accounts in Col. 8 are nearly always pretty funny, but with this theme, there were no less than three accounts provided which I thought funny enough to warrant a space here. I paraphrase some details:

Story 1.
8 year old girl comes home after "birds and bees" lesson. "Mum", she says seriously, looking her right in the eyes, "The family line stops right here."

Story 2.
Girl comes home as above. With her four year old brother nearby, she confronts her parents: "I'm not speaking to either of you. You did it TWICE!"

Story 3.
As above. Girl muses: "I can see my parents doing something like that. But not the Queen, not her…"

from alt.usage.english

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Ejection Tie Club

We run an exclusive Ejection Tie Club for all pilots that have used one of our ejection seats. Life membership of the Ejection Tie Club is confined solely to persons who have ejected from an aircraft, in an emergency, using a Martin-Baker ejection seat which has thereby saved their life.


Sunday, 17 March 2013

What is the origin of word “bistro”?

A bistro is a familiar name for a café serving moderately priced simple meals in an unpretentious setting, especially in Paris; bistros have become increasingly popular with tourists.

The word stems from the Russian word быстро (bystro) which means 'Hurry'. Russian soldiers occupying France after the Napoleonic Wars would frequently demand that French civilians serve their food quickly, shouting the word that evolved into the neologism 'Bistro' at them.


Thursday, 14 March 2013


Gobbinland is part of Oswaldtwistle

Gobbinland is the area of Ossy "above t' lamp". The lamp is the one outside the Carnegie Library on Union Road. The western boundary is the bridge over Cocker Brook. The northern and southern boundaries are probably the fields past White Ash and Duckworth Hill Lane respectively. It's all a bit vague but perhaps this website will shed some light on it, I am not an expert so this website depends on your input.

See full article at

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Feather of Maat

The Ancient Egyptians believed that when you died, you travelled to the Hall of the Dead.
There Anubis weighed your heart against the feather of Ma'at.
If your heart was lighter than the feather, you lived for ever.
If your heart was heavier than the feather then it was eaten by the demon Ammit, the Destroyer.

We still talk of "a heart as light as a feather" to mean care-free, and "heavy-hearted" to mean sad.



“Evil words and deeds made the heart heavy, and after death Anubis weighed your heart on a balance scale against the Feather of Maat. If your heart weighed more than the feather, the baboon-headed god, Thoth, tossed it to the monster Ammut to eat.

From The Book of the Dead, by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Spell As You Pronounce Universal project

SaypU: the simple universal phonetic alphabet

Wii aar bilding ɘ list ɘv wɘɘrdz frɘm ool langwijiz speld yuuzing ɘ simpɘl and singɘl 24-letɘr alfɘbet. This wud fɘsiliteyt kɘmyuunikeyshn in forɘn langwijiz and mayt meyk ɘs ool moor owpn tu ɘthɘr kɘltshɘrz.

We are building a list of words from all languages spelled using a simple and single 24-letter alphabet. This would facilitate communication in foreign languages and might make us all more open to other cultures.

This is a collaborative project that is being developed based on users’ contributions. Therefore, for this experiment to succeed, we need your help in adding, correcting and voting on the spelling of words in the database

See more at

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The idiots amongst us


My daughter and I went to the McDonald's check-out to pay our bill and I gave the clerk a £5 note.

Our total bill was £4.20, so I also handed her a 20 pence piece.

She said, 'You gave me too much money.'

I said, 'Yes I know, but this way you can just give me £1 back.'

She sighed and went to get the Manager who asked me to repeat my request.

I did so, and he handed me back the 20 pence and said 'We're sorry but we do not do that kind of thing.'

The clerk then proceeded to give me back 80 pence in change.

Do not confuse the clerks at MacDonald's in St Albans , Hertfordshire.!!



We had to have the garage door repaired. The GARADOR repairman told us that one of our problems was that we did not have a 'large' enough motor on the opener.

I thought for a moment, and said that we had the largest one GARADOR made at that time, a 1/2 horsepower.

He shook his head and said, 'Lady, you need a 1/4 horsepower.'

I responded that 1/2 was larger than 1/4 and he said, 'NOOO, it's not. Four is larger than two..'

We haven't used Garador repair since. Happened in MoorPark , near Watford .



I live in a semi-rural area We recently had a new neighbour call the Highways Department to request the removal of the 'DEER CROSSING' sign from our road.

The reason: 'Too many deer are being hit by cars on this stretch of road! I don't think this is a good place for them to be crossing, any-more.'

Story from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.



My daughter went to a local Kentucky Fried Chicken and ordered a Taco.

She asked the person behind the counter for 'minimal lettuce.'

He said he was sorry, but they only had Iceberg Lettuce.

From South Oxhey , Hertfordshire.



I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, 'Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?'

To which I replied, 'If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?'

He smiled knowingly and nodded, 'That's why we ask.'

Happened at LutonAirport



The traffic light on the corner buzzes when the lights turn red and it is safe to cross the road.

I was crossing with an intellectually challenged friend of mine.

She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for.

I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red

Appalled, she responded, 'What on earth are blind people doing driving?!'

She is a Local County Council employee in St Albans , Hertfordshire.

(And she's NOT blonde)



When my husband and I arrived at our local Ford dealer to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it.

We went to the Service Department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the Driver's door.

As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door-handle and discovered that it was unlocked.

'Hey,' I announced to the Fitter/Mechanic, 'it's open!'

His reply: 'I know. I already did that side.'

This was at the Ford dealership in St Albans , Hertfordshire.


From Robin B at alt. usage. english

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Pizza "with everything"

Virtually every English speaker in Montreal will refer to pizza with everything on it as "all-dressed" pizza.

In Western Canada, however, the standard is "deluxe'"pizza

In Atlantic Canada people usually say "the works."

In California, it's often a "combination" or "combo". Note that this will almost never include everything that's available. In particular, it's very rare for hot peppers or anchovies to be included.

from alt.usage.english

Sunday, 3 March 2013

No rest for the wicked

The phrase was originally expressed as 'no peace for the wicked' and refers to the eternal torment of Hell that awaited sinners. Not surprisingly, it derives from the Bible - Isaiah 57.

Its use in a figurative secular sense became much more common in the 1930s and it is now usually used for mild comic effect.

Extracted from

Friday, 1 March 2013

Bobby dazzlers and morgan-rattlers

Bobby dazzler? Exactly what does it mean & where does it come from?

Bobby dazzler means 'a striking or exciting person, especially in their dress'. I believe it to be from the northern counties of England. It is certainly still used here in Yorkshire. 

The OED has: "1866 - Morgan-rattlers... In Cornwall the word is frequently applied to things that are particularly striking or excellent of their kind. What a Lancashire man would sometimes call a 'regular bobby-dazzler', a Cornishman would call a 'regular morgan-rattler'."

I googled a bit more about "Morgan Rattler" which turns out to be a venerable fiddler's tune from the North, but migrating to Scotland and Ireland and the U.S. There's even a definition ("a loaded club") at