Is the phrase diddly-squat obscene? I’m wondering because the word appears in Boris Johnson’s latest newspaper column:
the reality is that in this negotiation the EU has so far taken every important trick. The UK has agreed to hand over £40 billion of taxpayers’ money for two thirds of diddly squat.
It’s not that I find the word personally offensive — I’d rank it as low- to mid-grade obscenity — but surprising and out-of-place. Even for the desperate-for-attention Johnson this seemed like a surprisingly inappropriate word choice, simultaneously childish and scatological, rather like an eight-year-old trying to impress with his newly acquired potty vocabulary.
But maybe the word has different connotations in the UK than in the US — or maybe even within the US opinions differ. To my ear, the “squat” here is a more graphic substitution for “shit”, and “diddle” has the slang meaning of illicit groping or intercourse. The OED tells me that the original form — apparently American — was doodly-squat, with “doodle” a now rare slang term for excrement.
Anyway, I certainly hear the word as scatological, but I wonder how others perceive it.
The Guardian has published an “exclusive” on the future of European science funding after Brexit. The key point:
A draft copy of the so-called Horizon Europe document, seen by the Guardian, suggests that the UK is set to be offered less generous access than countries with associate status in the current programme, known as Horizon 2020, including Israel, Turkey, Albania and Ukraine.
So why does the headline say
Brexit: UK may get poorer access than Israel to EU science scheme
Why Israel? If I had to pick a country on the list whose prominence in scientific research makes it seem insulting that they would have a higher priority in research collaboration than the UK, it might be Albania. It definitely wouldn’t be Israel. So might there be some other reason why The Guardian wants to highlight for its readers the shame of being treated worse than Israel by the EU?
- Bicycles and pedestrians are stationary objects. You need to pass them, especially when turning directly ahead of them.
- Electric turn signals are a major energy drain! Signals should be activated only after you are well into the turn.
- Opening the driver-side door should be done in one fluid motion, as rapidly as possible. Don’t look back!
- When trapped by traffic you are exposed to attack from the sides and behind. Protect yourself and your fellow drivers by advancing your vehicle to block the pedestrian crossings, which are points of major vulnerability.
- “Cycle lane” is just a newfangled word for “free parking”.* Double yellow lines are there to remind you; where no cycle lane is available parking on the pavement is recommended.
- Killing pedestrians is wrong if you’ve been drinking. Otherwise, you’re the victim. (Don’t forget, insurance will pay for the damage. Be bold!)
* There is some uncertainty about the origin of this odd expression. Most experts believe that it has its origin in the Italian sulla collina — “on the hill” — referring to the practice, brought back by 17th century travellers, of establishing resting spots for travellers on hills in the countryside. From there it evolved into the modern usage, meaning “a strip of land set aside for parking vehicles”.
The Guardian today knocks back the argument that UK vice chancellors are not overpaid — indeed, are grievously underpaid — when you take account of the extraordinary talents they must bring to the job, and compare them with the appropriate reference group of CEOs and American university presidents. They fill their remunerations committees with CEOs who will swear that no one worth their salt would get out of bed for less than half a million, and what can you do but pay what it costs to hire someone who can manage this huge and complex organisation and wheedle the high-class donors. (more…)
… at least, if you want to get recognised as religiously persecuted for your humanism.
looks like a parody of English pseudo-education mixed with English xenophobia:
A Pakistani man who renounced his Muslim faith and became a humanist has had his application for asylum in the UK rejected after failing to correctly answer questions about ancient Greek philosophers.
The Home Office said Hamza bin Walayat’s failure to identify Plato and Aristotle as humanist philosophers indicated his knowledge of humanism was “rudimentary at best”.
My guess is that he wanted to say he was an atheist, but recognised that that would subject him to discrimination here as well as in Pakistan, so he resorted to the more erudite-sounding term “humanist”, only to run into the buzzsaw of a classicist manqué.
From the Guardian:
I commented before about the strange role of clichés in British politics. Finding a use for the banalest of banalities counts in Westminster as the very essence of statesmanship. So now, the British position, after 18 months of intensive internal analysis of its policy and extensive diplomatic soundings on relations with Europe is — It takes two to tango.
Arlene Foster is sad! So sad 😦 Why is Arlene sad?
The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, has accused the Irish government of hijacking the Brexit negotiations to promote a united Ireland… She said: “The Irish government are actually using the negotiations in Europe to put forward their views on what they believe the island of Ireland should look like in the future.”
The sacred Brexit negotiations are being misused to promote a nationalist cause! Outrageous!
This is Burroughs’s naked lunch, the “frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork”, is something Britain — a declining power treated with far more deference than its actual power warrants — should have tried to put off as long as possible. Now it’s Britain that’s on the end of the fork. And it’s their own fork. (more…)
Economist David Blanchflower wrote an article for The Guardian inviting us to pity the poor underpaid university vice chancellors with their paltry sub-million-pound salaries. In discussing what an awful job it is, and why you
A vice-chancellor’s schedule is set for them. The job has a huge effect on family life. There are few places to hide and find privacy. You are always on show, even on the golf course.
Even on the golf course! Have these vice-chancellor-oglers no shame?
Oddly enough, the analysis by this economist, which included the striking phrase “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” — the monkey here being everyone who is not a vice chancellor — omitted any evidence that universities do indeed prosper from having non-monkeys doing the job. I mean, there are all kinds of jobs that are hard and important, but there’s a limit to how much you’re willing to pay to get just a tiny bit of extra talent (assuming that you can even reliable recognise those distinctions in the course of the hiring process). The suggestion is that you need to pay huge sums just to get one of the exceptional rare individuals who is even minimally qualified not to run the university into the ground. “In the end, there are few qualified and willing applicants.” I’d like to see some working-out on that problem.
I saw this headline in the Daily Mail yesterday:
Pity the poor NHS. Doing its job perfectly, but being cruelly let down by the shiftless population. To paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, perhaps it would be better were the NHS to carry out a root-and-branch reform of the British public. Eliminate waste. Get rid of the dead wood.
Ten years ago, still living in Canada, I had to look into the procedures for acquiring the right to work in the UK. As my partner is German, and would be working here as well, I had the right to live and work here under EU law. The procedure looked easier, and it would be free. Instead, I chose to spend hundreds of dollars to get my own UK work permit. Why? Looking at comments on various web forums I got the general impression that the UK authorities were generally hostile toward the EU. It seemed to me that I could have trouble if the laws or circumstances changed, and the UK bureaucrats felt that I had evaded their laws to sneak into the country under colour of foreign laws. I wanted to have my rights registered under UK law.
Here is what could have happened otherwise:
A Spanish woman who has lived in the UK for 15 years has accused the Home Office of treating her family like criminals after her American husband and the father of her three children applied for a permanent residency (PR) card.
In a three-year ordeal, the Home Office threatened to deport the historian Stuart Ross three times, suggested he was lying about his wife’s work as a Spanish language teacher and refused to accept a judge’s verdict in a Belfast court that officials had been wrong to refuse him a PR card when he first applied in 2013.