This blog tries to be
a home for those who enjoyed posting
on the old BBC Word of Mouth Message board
— and anybody else with an interest in language.

If you want to start a new discussion, please do one of the following:

• Add your new point as a comment here (Click)
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Friday, 27 May 2011

Holiday break

I'm off on holiday until June 6th. This is unfortunate, since people tell me that the other Word of Mouth Board is closing.

If you're new to this Blog, have a look at what's been written. If you like what you see, do please add comments to old threads. If you want to start a thread, send me a message ― either in the Welcome thread or by becoming a follower and sending your text to me. I'll start some new threads after June 6th.

Some people have had problems signing in. All I can say is please try again. It may be necessary to make a fresh move to the Blog ― i.e. not using the Back arrow.

If you haven't done so, try creating a Blogger account here (click). This will allow you to be a follower, if you wish. It will also allow you to see all the recent comments, which is quite difficult otherwise.

If you're desperate to start a discussion, you could try posting the OP-equivalent as a comment on this tread.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Following us

As you can see, I've added two boxes headed SUBSCRIBE TO towards the top, above the RECENT POSTS. This is a Blogger feature I've just discovered. If you are signed up to one of the following

  • Google Homepage
  • Google Reader 
  • netvibes 
  • newsgator 
  • atom 
you can click

  • the Posts box to see recent posts
  • the All comments box to see recent comments

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Scottish People

Douglas writes

Alex Salmond wants a referendum on Scottish independence but who should vote?

Should the whole UK vote, should it be confined to Scotland or should it be confined to the Scots? 

It can’t be said that only the Scots have an interest in the matter but would the SNP accept that others are concerned?  

If all the UK voted it wouldn’t necessarily mean that it would be defeated.  There are many in England would say “Good riddance” as they think they would be well rid of Scots MPs at Westminster. 

If confined to Scotland, you would have a vote and I would not but it would be a matter of great concern to me. 

If it were to be confined to Scots, how would they tell who were and who were not? 

I don’t expect you would wish to find yourself living in a foreign land any more than I would.
Salmond is very fond of the phrase the Scottish people. Recently there has been talk of Scotland being an ordinary country. And of course people speak of the Scottish nation. But which of these different concepts equate to the Scots and how do they relate to an electorate?

If ever a Scottish nation state within the present boundaries were to be established, then I would think it fair that people resident in that state should comprise the electorate — just as people within the present entity are subject to Scottish Law and enjoy certain privileges vis-à-vis the NHS, university fees, professional teaching qualifications etc. 

But how could Scotland become a nation state? The usual method is by hostile breakaway, which seems inconceivable as things stand now. Yet if the residents of Scotland voted in a referendum for independence, they wouldn't be able to secede peacefully without the cooperation of the rest of the UK. I suppose that would be the time for a UK-wide referendum.

Another word to consider is citzenship. In the remote event of a velvet divorce, could Douglas and I choose to be citizens of one country and electors of another, while remaining British subjects?

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Our concept of fair is surely derived later in life from this early perception of what is unfairSo I reckon the choice of the Yes  campaign to
promote AV as fairer was pretty disastrous. The question voters asked themselves was:
Is first past the post unfair to me?
Yes, we are also capable of altruism. But if you campaign to bring equity to others, then you have make people empathise with the disadvantaged. Persuading Conservative and Labour supporters to pity the poor Lib Dems was never a starter.

Or is it possible to promote a more adult sense of fairness?


Another contentious word. On the old Board we discussed the wording of apologies and the sincerity or insincerity of the apology giver. There's a continuation on this other WoM-type forum. But I think we've missed an important perspective: what does it all mean to the receiver  of an apology?
  • Why do we want apologies?
  • What are the minimum ingredients to make us feel satisfied?
  • What considerations can make us dismiss an apology?
  • Does it really matter who makes the apology? Or when it's made?

Friday, 6 May 2011


This is a low-resolution copy of Bill Tidy's cartoon with the caption: 
"Well, lads, what are we going to do wi' rest of Arts Council grant?"
The birth of the Cloggies!

At my French class on Thursday, we read a couple of press items referring to patrimoine, which I take to be the French way of looking at what we call heritage. 

One item identified the target of populist politicians as a group which feared the loss of their material heritage of high living standards and the immaterial heritage of their way of life. Immigrants can be demonised as threats to both.

The other item reported that bullfighting in South-West France had been registered as an item of heritage.

But what really shocked me was our teacher's assertion that we in Britain don't have any items of cultural heritage because nothing has been registered with UNESCO.

So, what is heritage?


For all Americans speaking in the media, the killing of Osama Bin Laden is self-evidently an act of justice. For a good many speakers heard in the British media this was more like vengeance.

The split seems to be between those who define justice in terms of law and due process, and those who see justice as an attempt to rebalance the moral universe — good actions cancelling bad.

The two principles are complementary in normal circumstances — but these circumstances are far from normal. Do we have the right to question the Americans' conviction that justice has been done?

The show so far

Well, I'm extremely happy with the number of old virtual friends who have visited and written something. I'm less happy with the amount of discussion generated. This is clearly my fault. What I was doing wasn't working. Please let me know if you have any suggestions. Meanwhile, I'll try a number of short OP's.

I hope you like the changes I've made to the appearance. Other features and changes may be possible. Let me know if there's something you'd like me to try.